Just throw it away!

My mother is a notorious pat rack. Not to the extent of there being tunnels between the piles of newspapers, but she has never thrown away a margarine tub until it is cracked, and Ziploc bags get rewashed until they are opaque. She has the instructions for nearly every appliance she has ever bought, and in many cases the original box (they say to keep it, you know!)

So we are preparing for the arrival of a new stove, the old one having bit the dust. Her second stove, by the way, is hooked up in the basement, for canning…she considered keeping this one, too, but it needs repairs. I’m sorting through the clutter in the living room yesterday (because they will have to bring the stove in through the front door) while she is tending to the kitchen. I am watching Oprah, and she has a segment on de-cluttering your home, which my mother stops in to the room and watches. Then she asks for my help in the kitchen.

She’s trying to pull one of the knobs off the stove. Apparently the knob broke a few years ago, and when she went to the local shop (let’s call it Smith’s) to get a replacement, they couldn’t find one to fit. It’s a long, convoluted story, but somehow, somewhere, my mom found a knob and replaced it herself, but she says Smith’s should have known (or ordered one or something) that the knob she found would fit. So she wants to keep her knob. I told her just to let it go, it probably won’t fit the new stove, and by the way, didn’t she listen to one thing the guy on Oprah said?

She says, no, I’m not giving them the knob, because they should have known this one would fit. And then she pulls out the old, broken knob, which she has kept, inside the packaging for the replacement knob, and slips it back on the stove. And puts the replacement knob back in its package.

So not only has she kept the broken knob for, oh, seven freaking years :smack: (and yes, she still has the receipt) but she still has the blister package it came in.

I swear, that knob and a 40-year-old margarine tub are going into the casket with her when she goes. And the opaque Zip-locs.

What piece of trash is your parent holding on to, despite complaining about all the clutter in the house?

<snerk> “pat rack” <snerk> Sorry… :smiley:

Not my parents, but my late husband. He kept everything. Old broken appliances that were grease caked and disgusting. “But it was my mother’s!” Old paint cans from previous houses he lived in. Every old software that was ever installed on ANY computer. Old appliance manuals for stuff that actually DID get thrown away. Clothes from the 60’s and 70’s.

After he died, I finally got to clean out and purge and throw away tons of stuff. I am clutter free, and much happier.

“Just throw it out!” is my mantra. I do save appliance manuals, but I go through them periodically to weed out the old ones. They are handy when you do need to order parts…

Not my parent, my grandparent. (And technically, she’s no longer holding on to it, because it was donated during the grand purge before she moved from the house she’d been filling with clutter for 40 years and into a one bedroom apartment.)

A dozen bicycling outfits. The bottoms were unmemorable. The tops were men’s work shirts–mostly white, with the collars and sleeves cut off. Grandma’d worn them while bicycling for a long time, then stuck them in the attic on hangers. Where they stayed for 20 years, before we removed them and donated them to someone who might be able to use them as rags.

My mother did an excellent job of decluttering the house when she sold up to move into a smaller place. Now she has so little space for storage, she isn’t able to collect more junk.

'im indoors is a totally different story. He has a floor-to-ceiling pile of magazines in the bedroom, actually it’s now three piles of mags because I made him move them from the landing. He swears blind they will be useful one day and flatly refuses to get rid of them. Same goes for the three filing cabinets full of assorted computer bits, most of which I’m told are broken (but could be repaired) or aren’t of good enough quality to put into another machine.

Every room in the house has an assortment of stuff that really should be disposed of but I can’t persuade him to do it. We don’t have a dining room any more because it’s full of odd bits of furniture, some carpet left over from the stairs, a bunch of bits of wood, boxes for every package Amazon have sent him over the last few years, and heaven only knows what else.

I suspect he may have a lost pygmy tribe in there too, but will we ever know?

My mother goes to garage sales where she buys tons of books, toys and clothing for my nephews (never Hallboy, but that’s another thread). All the stuff stays at her house, where it’s piled into huge piles of stuff so large that the boys can’t get through to anything without risking stuff falling on them. Instead, they tend to play with the same toys and read the same books at the front of the pile. Mixed in with all of this is the pet smell (guinea pig, birds and a dog) and so much dog fur that after I’m there for 30 minutes, I am wheezing so badly that I cannot breathe.

Her kitchen counters are so piled with stuff (both dirty and clean dishes, empty bread bags, food, rags, dishcloths, tools, plants, pet food, etc.) that you can’t see the counter itself. When she prepares food, she has to shift the stuff to the kitchen table, which is piled with even more stuff than the counters. (I refuse to eat any food that comes from that kitchen. No way can the counters be clean enough to prepare food if she can’t even get to them the majority of the time.)

I swear there is so much stuff in her bathroom that the floor hasn’t been mopped since the Nixon adminstration. The basement? There’s a path that leads to the washer and dryer from the bottom of the basement stairs.

Typing this makes me want to cry.

Last summer I got a 20 yard roll off dumpster to clean out my dads house. Once again, it’s in the same condition.

It sucks. He lives 100 miles away, and no way do I want to spend any time in that house just visiting him. It’s a sty. But he gets mad at you if you try to help. Sometimes, I just put my foot down and go at it.

My mother doesn’t do the packrat thing.

In point of fact, she has been known to throw away items while people are still using them. Like the newspaper. My brother, father and myself prefer to read the paper out of order (for example, I typically read the funnies first, then work the crossword, then peruse the remainder). My mother reads it in order. Therefore, she will see me reading the funnies, and while I’m so occupied will take the other sections of the paper and chuck them.

She has also been known to patrol areas of the house and discard anything not actually in someone’s hand at that moment. Like the full, cold beverage I prepared and then left on the end table next to my chair while I went to the restroom. Or the full hot cup of coffee my dad left by his chair while he went to get the mail (or answer the phone).

She’s done things like donate books to charity or the local library that a member of the household is in the middle of reading. As in, the book was sitting on the coffee table with a freaking bookmark halfway through it and someone set it down and my mom happened to be passing through with her donations and it joined the rest.

The rest of us have turned semi-packrat in response. :stuck_out_tongue:

My father. After forty years of misery, she still won’t toss him out!

Book recommendation time! I just started reading Buried in Treasures: help for compulsive acquiring, saving, and hoarding by David Tolin. I’m pretty good at throwing stuff out, but I think it’s an interesting subject to read about.

A couple of days ago I was cleaning in my son’s room and I threw out the little trophy thing the school gave to all the kids who graduated kindergarten. I mean, really! Are we ever going to get all misty-eyed over this ridiculous little souvenir? I’m only embarrassed we’ve kept it this long. (The boy is 11).

A FOAF will go through her husband’s clothes and throw out items she doesn’t like. Even stuff he bought earlier in the day.


My parents were pretty good about throwing away our old toys, books, and games. A few years ago I took a nice trip down memory lane as I saw pictures of some of these items that we used to own. The pictures were in a book about The Beatles, in a section called Insanely Valuable Collectables.

Oh Lord. My son just had his birthday and my parents, at our suggestion bought him a new fishing rod and a tackle box. We knew about this ahead of time. What we weren’t expecting was that they would proudly trot out my old rod and tackle box from the '70s, which was the last time I went fishing. To top it off they also had an old tackle box my husband had passed on to my dad about 20 years ago.

I don’t know which is scarier, the fact that they still had those things, or the thought of what else might be hidden away somewhere.

My mother has broken kitchen stuff that’s older than me. I throw out the old food in the pantry for her once a year. She washes out Culver plastic cups and uses them to drink out of. She has plenty of glasses. She washes out Ziplock bags. I will not eat something she stores in them.

That’s exactly how I feel about going to my mom’s house, though she’s only 50 miles away.

Being in her house makes me physically uncomfortable, and I’ve told her so, but she still doesn’t understand why I don’t visit more often. With her, the problem is largely one of physical inability, but there’s a good dose of laziness in there, too. And – ready? – she has someone in to “clean” the house every couple of weeks! The woman does a crap job, and my mother is too passive (and apathetic) to say anything about it (Mom also gets distracted by trying to be everyone’s friend, and is incapable of being “employer”). The woman is only 59 years old and I swear that her house is going to wind up on Geraldo or something some day. You can’t do anything in that house without moving something out of your way, and that usually entails inadvertently knocking over a pile of crap. There is an entire bedroom upstairs that no one can get into anymore: it used to be a sort of den, with bookshelves and a reading chair and the family’s upright piano, but now it is filled with crap right up to the doorway (and a little into the hall).

The latest adventure? She got a new bed the other week – one of those adjustable ones – and “didn’t feel like arguing” when the guys said that they couldn’t take the old one away (!). So she let them put it downstairs (she has a split-level). Where, I have no idea, because a) I can’t imagine a queen-size mattress and boxspring fitting anywhere downstairs, b) she didn’t bother to ask them where they put it, and c) she hasn’t gone down there in a month (she recently had knee surgery). It’s probably in the hall outside the laundry room and guest room, blocking the door to at least one of those rooms. She assumes that she can donate it to Goodwill, but – typically – she has done no research/verification. So I made some calls on her behalf the other week, and guess what? Not only doesn’t the Goodwill near her accept used mattresses, lots of places don’t accept used mattresses. The only way that old bed and boxspring are leaving her house is if she gives them away on Craigslist, but that would freak her out because she’s so insecure and passive around people she doesn’t know.

<pauses to catch figurative breath and calm down>

Whenever I offer to come for a weekend and help her throw some shit away, she always says, “Let me see how much I can get done on my own first.” And, of course, she never gets anything done. She really needs a much smaller place, but her house needs so much work before it can sell and she definitely doesn’t want to move any time soon. The whole situation is incredibly frustrating, and is the source of much tension/many arguments between us. :frowning:

I’m kind of anal retentive about my own housekeeping, and some of that comes from my dad but I know that some of it is a direct response to my mom!

My grandmother was a horrible pack rat. Broken beyond repair furniture. Inoperable small appliances bought that way at yard sales (she wasn’t a morning person, but loved her some yard sales so only got the junk), the dress she wore to my parents’ wedding about 15 years after the divorce - you name it. Also, she was afraid to go down cellar after a certain point and allowed food in the extra fridge down there to fester for years. But the worst was when the family was moving her and my sister found that she had packed up an ashtray full of butts - and this was a good 10 years after she quit smoking!

My wife being of Chinese ethnicity, I almost have to use force to get stuff thrown out.

A, sadly former, good friend of mine is a hoarder.

She has 16 cats, three dogs, two large (one over 100 pounds, one about 50) tortoises, two hamsters, and about 10 (pet) mice. In addition to the animals, she has thousands of books, little objects she wants to use in art projects, bolts and bolts of fabric and just plain junk. With all of the pets, many of these things are stained with urine or other biological products. (Thank the gods, all of the cats and dogs are fixed.)

The house smells awful. There is only a narrow path to walk from room to clutter-filled room.

Unfortunately, her husband’s health has failed and their house is in foreclosure. They are moving to another, much smaller, house in a rural area. I hope she gets rid of much of the stuff, as much for her as for her spouse and pets.

Our falling out was because of her hoarding behavior. She adopted two mice, they ended up having pups. (Poor sexing techniques strikes again.) She asked me for help with them and I declined - the mice I work with have suppressed immune systems, a “normal” infection could wipe out the colony. I did suggest that she contact a local fancy-mouse group, but she didn’t. Three more litters were born. She kept all of them. At most, she had 30 mice. Now, the population has declined due to old age and a cat-instigated massacre.

A neighbor of my mom and dad’s was a notorious pack rat. When he finally died a couple years ago, his wife came up to the old house (he still owned it and wouldn’t sell it) to clean it out for sale and the work crew she had filled up THREE of the biggest roll-off dumpsters you could get into the driveway. THREE of them. And she had to come back six weeks later to finish because even those three didn’t cut half the clutter they got rid of.

Kittenblue, would your mom notice if a few things here and there simply disappeared? Maybe you could take a carload or two of old things away while she’s not looking. Stuff from the back of the heap or half a stack of magazines.

An interesting thing I ran across in the book said that one of the reasons packrats don’t throw out obvious trash is because they are very disorganized, and there’s a good chance that they would do something like put their car title or their most recent paycheck down on a pile of papers, then later toss down a magazine or something on top. Thus, they are afraid to throw things out without having first gone through them carefully, and of course they never get around to it.