Are you a Pack Rat or Minimalist?

Something strange happens when you realize you have to move. Suddenly your home filled with treasures and keepsakes starts to look annoying and cluttered. Why do we have all this junk? How in the world did we collect all these things in the past year? Every time I open a drawer, close a closet, or pass by a wall full of photos I think, “Oh geez, we’re going to have to pack that.”

Moving turns me into a minimalist. For the most part I have a cut-throat mentality. If I haven’t used it in a year, then I probably won’t use it in the next year. See-ya in Goodwill, high-wasted corduroy pants.

But then I go through some of my stuff and wonder if I’ll regret getting rid of it. For example…

  • Should I save the reply cards that people sent in for my wedding? Most of them say yes or no, but some have funny little notes to us.
  • I have saved all of my playbills since seeing my first Broadway Phantom of the Opera in New York. Is this just a waste of space? Or should I keep them for sentimental value?
  • Do you keep letters that people write you? Invitations to showers, weddings, parties?
  • Oh the books! There are so many!
  • How often do you keep magazines around? I usually throw them away a year after they’ve been read, but some of my cooking ones could be useful later.
  • I have a ton of mugs, but really only rotate my favorite 4 for my morning coffee. Should I get rid of the others that are just taking up precious real estate in the cabinet?
  • I have over a dozen journals since I started my first in the 1st grade. That first one is funny, but some of the others are just silly accounts of which boy I like and what I had for breakfast that morning.
  • How many spatulas are too many spatulas?
  • Should I keep my cap and gown from college graduation? Let’s be honest, that’s never going to get worn again, unless my kiddos want to play dress up in it.

Oh the decisions! What do you think I should keep or toss? Are you a pack rat or minimalist when it comes to keeping sentimental things?

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  • ah! i’m a total packrat! i tend to get sentimentally attached to silly stuff. a friend (who is a total minimalist) buys a bin for a certain category of keepsakes and ONLY fills that bin. no extras. i’m hoping to be able to employ that strategy in my new house! it must work, she has two teenage boys and a totally uncluttered house!!!

  • My thoughts:

    Yes on the reply cards. If the letters are sweet and thoughtful you should keep them, but if it’s “Happy Birthday, love, Mary” throw away. Keep the journals or consolidate. I keep all invites/wedding programs but you know I love anything paper.
    Indifferent to magazines & playbills (although I still have all mine from NYC). Maybe get rid of books that don’t have sentimental value or you might not ever need to read again (like “He’s just not that into you”). I try to get rid of/not buy mugs that neither A and I use/like. Keep spatulas… I’ve had a couple break on me. And I still have my cap & gown.

    I actually did a massive summer clean this past weekend (since it was too hot to go outside) and it felt so good to purge. I took a huge load to Goodwill. I have a big Tupperware container with old sentimental things and I try to get everything to fit in there.

    Have fun!

  • Oooh that’s a good idea. I like having a designated spot or bin for sentimental things, and the rest can be tossed. Thanks for sharing!

  • For books I limit myself to one little 3 shelf bookcase that we keep in the closet in the guest room for ‘must keep but not currently reading’ and 2 other shelves around the house for books that I am either in the middle of or can pick up at anytime and read again. (I have a slight addiction to books in case that’s not obvious..) but limiting myself to this space actually also helps me not spend as much since if I buy a new book I have to get rid of an old one. One shelf is specifically devoted to books I have out from the library as I usually have 9 or 10 out at any given time.

    For now, it’s a good compromise for me, but I think eventually we may need that closet (if that ever becomes a kids bedroom) and then I’m going to have to figure out which college rextb

  • I am ruthless when it comes to getting rid of clutter, much to the dismay of my pack rat fiance. I also employ the one year rule, but I also don’t get attached to physical objects. Photos, letters, journals, I tend to keep in a bin. They are fun to go through every 5 years or so. The journals, while sometimes painful and annoying to read, help me realize how far I’ve come in my life.

    My fiance on the other hand wants to keep everything, just in case. We will find little pieces of things that we have no idea where it came from or what its for. I want to toss, he wants to keep. He also has to touch and evaluate every item and piece of paper when cleaning things out. I am developing the patience of a saint, because to me it is a thing that takes up space, to him it is a memory. But this “important stuff” sits in a box, he has not idea which one or what else is in it, in the basement. Can’t be very important them in my opinion.

    I say, keep only the responses with funny/sweet notes, put in a book. Toss all invites unless they are super important to you. If they are important you will take the time to store them properly to easily look through or create a scrap book (maybe with a photo of the event). My take, if you don’t take the time to do this, they are not that important to you. It is also my take on collectables, if they are in a box in the basement and they are never displayed, they really are not that sentimental or important.

  • I say keep the notes and journals. I threw away all my notes that me and friends wrote to each other in middle school/high school and I regret it. :( Magazines, I don’t keep. I would give them to the library. Books, I keep. I don’t know why. I just like having them around. I might read them again. I still have my cap and gown! I don’t know why I will never use it. I also still have my prom dress too.

  • Oh yes! Textbooks and old school notebooks! That’s a tough one. Sometimes I think they’ll be useful, and other times I think it’s just a huge waste of paper.

  • Yeah, J tends to be a little more of a pack rat than me, and it’s frustrating when I want to designate a home for everything. But you are right — if they are really important to me, then they will be used or displayed somewhere. Otherwise, toss!

  • Yeah, there are some notes J wrote me when we first started dating that I should keep. And I think my mom has all my prom dresses. My goodness that thing is ugly! :)

  • OH, keep them all! Someday you’ll have a house with storage and kids who want to know what you read/saw/liked/dressed when you were young! My mom threw everything sentimental of hers away in our many moves and I feel like I would know so much more about her if I could have seen some of those things.

  • I would scan the following:
    – Reply Cards
    – Playbills (sentimental value really)
    – Letters, Invites, unless they’re REALLY sentimental then I keep the real letter
    – Recipes

    Books turn into e-books
    Magazines turn into e-magazines

    Then I’d keep the only mugs you want to really use, journals from your childhood, 1 or 2 spatulas and no cap or gown.

    Done! *dusts off hands*

  • The comments here are already such great advice!

    I’m a (moderate) minimalist myself, rebelling from generation and generations of pack rats and antique dealers. I never get rid of a lot at once; I wish I could! But I declutter everyday! I love only owning what I love and what looks fabulous. It’s a perfect time for you to declutter. Then, you can move less!

    Definitely respect your keepsakes enough to properly display them in a frame, shadow box, scrapbook or on a tabletop as part of a little vignette. This protects them! Also, could you just keep the cover of the playbill? I do keep a lot of memories myself. Keep those journals. I have an Italian penpal and have kept every letter in a beautiful box.

    How about tearing the recipes out of a magazine and placing them in a sketch book, notebook or binder? Or typing it up and saving in as a document or on this blog. Or you can pin its web version. Then, you could dispose of the magazine a month or two after having received or purchased them. Think about it, when they get to be too many, they could overwhelm you and you’ll become frustrated looking for a particular recipe.

    I like limits and employ different systems for different kinds of things. I like setting a space for a kind of thing and once it’s full, that’s it. Every time you add something, you have to take one item away. For example, my 28 pairs of dangling earings fit into my 14 spaces of my jewelry armoire. This might be something to think about for your spatulas. I also like limiting things like books, excluding cookbooks, to a set number. I have 100 books, which for me is decluttered! I’m not into eReaders just yet.

    Only have 4 mugs for you and some for J. Only own what you actually use and love.

    Donate the cap and gown. I donated my prom dresses to a charity that collects them for underprivileged girls.

    Every item needs its own home.

    I hope this helps!

  • Sentimental, though I’ve become quite ruthless in the past few years about not collecting stuff (concert tickets aside!)

    I’d suggest photographing/scanning certain things so you don’t need to keep the physical copies?

    I have a whole bunch of stuff in the corner of my room I meant to donate when we moved here in November. It’s still there…

  • Yes it can be hard to throw some things out but seeing that new place looking nice and tidy is worth it in the end. I have moved three times in 5 years and believe me everybody has a little pack rat mentality in them for things they like.

  • I used to be a packrat, but I’ve become more of a minimalist, partly due to constant movie and a hatred of dusting. I keep things that are functional, that are beautiful, and that have extreme sentimental value. For example, I only keep birthday cards with a particularly funny or sentimental message. If I enjoyed a show enough, I make a point of putting the playbill in a scrapbook, rather than a box. I do hold on to all journals, even those that are ridiculous or painful to read, because those were my thoughts and feelings and those should be treasured. Recipes from magazines get put in a binder, otherwise magazines get donated to the library or put on Freecycle. If I’m never going to read a book again or it has no sentimental value, it goes to the library or Freecycle. I keep the kitchen tools I use most often, and the rest go to Goodwill. I figure by the time the old ones wear out or break, something more high tech will be available. Caps and gowns can go, since I have pictures and a diploma.