You know which category you fall into. It’s rare to find someone who encompasses both. My husband Randy and I are extreme examples of each side, so trust me…I get this. At times, I’ve even wondered if our marriage could survive such challenging, pervasive, and teeth-gnashing differences.
Not sure whether you’re packrat or purger? Here are 5 questions to ask…
Can you sit in a messy room without getting hives? I take a deep breath each time I walk into my husband’s home office. Computer, television, CD’s, food wrappers, amps, cables, basses, soda cans, plates, bowls, a small refrigerator, electrical doohickeys, bags of mysterious “stuff,” Amazon boxes, jackets, socks, shoes, sneakers, etc. The inventory goes on and on.
If I were told I had to work in that space, I’d need a week to prepare. And by preparing, I mean taking out each item, sorting into “keep or toss” piles, wiping down the room, dusting, vacuuming, and then meticulously putting certain items back (yes, I’d toss/donate three-quarters of the stuff). Ah… that’s better, I’d think, sitting at the newly wiped computer screen. Now I can breathe.
Would you cross a room to straighten a crooked picture? Randy and I recently sat in a waiting area while I endured a hell so cruel I thought I might collapse. A crooked picture frame sat on the wall in front of me. Someone was sitting in the chair below the picture, blocking my access. I couldn’t straighten it.
I felt like I was being water-boarded. My eye kept straying to that horribly (okay, slightly) askew lower right corner. It taunted me. I finally asked Randy if it bugged him too. “What picture?” he asked, looking around, wondering what the hell I was talking about. Finally, when the person in the chair left, I hurried over to straighten the offending frame. Only then, could I relax. (Yes, my husband pretended he didn’t know me).
Do you empty wastebaskets everyday? If you asked, “What wastebaskets?” you’re a packrat.
Full wastebaskets give purgers the heebie jeebies. We need order, space, and unimpeded trash containers. What good is a wastebasket if it’s full or even halfway full? Sometimes I’ll even reach in and grab the only item there because I like the look of an empty garbage vessel. (God, I’m starting to embarrass myself).
What’s your first instinct when you see a messy pile of mail, CD’s and catalogs? If your answer is, “What pile?” you’re a packrat.
If your first instinct is to separate everything into groups (bills vs. junk mail vs. catalogs), and put the CD’s into a neat, alphabetized stack, you’re a purger. In case you haven’t noticed, purgers need order to feel safe and in control. Life has enough twists and turns. Danger is everywhere. Clutter throws us off.
Are you sentimental? Have you kept every greeting card ever received or piece of school art your kid ever drew? Do you have your wedding gown cryogenically stored in a bomb-shelter safe? Randy has boxes (and boxes and boxes) in the basement, housing collections of ancient things never used – yellowed newspapers, vinyl albums, coins, and political memorabilia. I’ve learned over the years to never cast a threatening eye in their direction. They stay.
On the other hand, I don’t keep greeting cards and have no idea where my wedding gown is. Photos make the cut, as do those cute handmade clay statues my kids made in grade school. But that’s it.
Maybe all this goes into our personalities. Randy’s a warm, engaging person. He welcomes objects like he does people, the more the merrier! I have my friendly side, but I’m more closed off. If there’s too much stuff, there’s too much distraction.
Like the The Sharks and The Jets in West Side Story, we now have turfs (although mine is admittedly bigger). Randy has his office, known as the “nagging-wife-free-zone.” I have… well, the rest of the house, which stays fairly neat.
And in all fairness, Randy doesn’t see the mess. His brain isn’t wired for that. On the other hand, mine’s designed to see any disturbance in the field, any blip on the radar screen.
I’ve said many times, if you put us together, you’d have this amazing person. You’d have the easy-going charm of Randy with the no-nonsense, heat-seeking missile organization of yours truly.
But alas, that’s not meant to be.
Just the other day, we stood in the kitchen mid-morning. The sink contained breakfast plates. Orange juice and milk containers sat on the table. Crumbs littered the counter. “Let’s give this mess a quick clean,” I said to Randy, wanting to get out fast.
My husband looked around, perplexed. “What mess?” he asked.
Are you a packrat or a purger? Comments are always welcome and if you feel inclined, please share. Thank you!