January 10, 2008

Behind the closed doors

“One cannot collect all the beautiful shells on the beach. One can collect only a few, and they are more beautiful if they are few.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh

The term pack rat is literally used to describe a sleek, soft-furred animals with big, bright, bulging black eyes. They belong to the rodent family. They have a blunt nose, small close-set ears and a long tail. They usually live in group, and will make nests wherever food and shelter can be found. Describing someone as a "pack-rat" usually implies to a person who keeps everything and has trouble getting rid of them (a compulsive hoarder).

A lot of people have tendency to save or collect things. We hoard, collect and buy more stuff than we have room to store. It is perfectly natural as some of that things might have a value or a use. However, this can obviously get out of hand as we live in a society that is bombarded with material things. There are so many things we need, from electronics to clothing to kitchenware. The list of must have items seem to be growing daily. I'd like to share the following stories to all of you and hope we can learn something from here.

Case #1 : My niece, L, refuses to part with her old, ripped up rhino soft toy, Mr. Hippo.
She has a room full of animal soft toys from a palm size dinosaur to a huge cuddly tiger which keep piling up and they take up space. The other day while chatting online with her, I mentioned that now she is no longer a little girl (she is 11 y/o), it might be wise if she donated / gave up some of her toys and keep only a few that she likes. But she wouldn't let anyone touch them and if her mom tried she would cry and become really upset. My sister once told me she has secretly try to discard Mr. Hippo and other old toys, but L found out and was very sad. The thought that Mr. Hippo & friends would suffer in a trash container along with another garbage made her cried. So, her mommy let her keep Mr. Hippo. And this has resulted in L having too many soft toys which she neither will discard nor giveaway!

Case #2 : my eldest sister, E, is a stockpiler. She always stock up on foods in large quantities. She also stockpiles on other things ... toiletries, candles, spare batteries, umbrellas, satay skewers ... because she thinks she may need them someday. Having a good supply of the things she need just makes her feel better. The contents of her pantry and refrigerators (they have 2 big fridges) are always full with food. I joked with her, one day when my place is flooded again...she should send a chopper to drop some supplies for me!

Case #3 : A good friend from the US once complained that his wife is a clutter bug but she didn't see it as a problem. For many years she bought things and bric-a-brac and had accumulated stuffs that is almost totally filling their house. Every drawers filled with all the things that she might or might not use this year, next year or ten years later. Things were not easy between them. Eventually he could not deal with the stuff or her shopping spree any more and they decided to call it quits and separated.

Case #4 : my good friend in Jakarta, a mother of three grown children, confessed that she has trouble throwing things away. She has plenty of outfits that she doesn't wear because they don't fit anymore, but she also can't give them away. I spotted there are 3 bicycles belong to her kids when they were young parked nicely inside her big house, there are more than 30 chairs all over the house, a pool table which nobody ever touch, probably a hundred of wooden statues small and big, and stack of old books that have become yellowish with age. She even told me she has a store room for appliances and knicks-knacks that is accessible to her only. While her house always looks neat and clean, behind the closed door, there's so much we view but don't see.

What can we learn from the above stories? I honestly believe that some of us are just wired that way and the best we can do is develop techniques to counter it. We can learn not to be emotionally attached to some of the stuff we have, and learn to refrain from buying new things obsessively. Sure it is very hard to balance the need and desire to downsize the things we love with the urge to keep, collect and accumulate. Perhaps we should ask ourselves, is this what I want most?


Ecky said...

Being a woman, I always feel than I don't have enough cloths but then I learnt from a friend than every time I buy new items I have to take same items and same amount of the old ones from my closet and give it to someone else, so there will be more space in there :)

Belle said...

true true! at least with the stuff i accumulate, i try to get rid of it once a year by shipping it to the needy relatives in the Philippines.