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June 12, 2013 at 8:00 AMComments: 0 Faves: 0

Holding on to the Past: Pack Rat Behavior or Sentimentality?

By Anne Christen More Blogs by This Author

When I moved from my apartment, I was confronted by the mountainous number of things I’ve accumulated over my life. These include collectibles like teapots and teacups, antique glassware, hundreds of books, and other miscellaneous items. I didn’t realize until this moment how much stuff I actually have - too much, in fact, to do anything with. So, most of it sits wrapped in storage bins, tucked away in an out-of-sight closet.

Holding On

At this point, you’re probably asking why I bother to keep this stuff, especially when it’s packed where nobody can see or appreciate it. I can’t bring myself to get rid of any of it. While in the midst of moving, I threw some things away – like the wooden lighthouse from my mom with a sign that read, “Merry Christmas” – that continue to haunt me. I’ve never once used that lighthouse in decorating, and I probably never would have, but I feel consumed by guilt for having thrown it away. It was cute, and more importantly, it was a gift from my mom.

I was raised to place family above all else, and I strive to do that. Although they're far from perfect, and my relationships with them are sometimes rocky at best, I love my family more than anything in this world. So, when I receive a gift from one of them, I feel compelled to hang onto it for eternity. It’s like I’m holding that particular family member closer to me, somehow cherishing the relationship I have them through whatever present they gave me.

"For Sentimental Reasons"


I started losing family members at an early age. I was nine years old when I lost my grandmother, who, at that time, was the most important person in the world to me. Since then, I’ve sought connections to her and have found them in family pictures and household items she once owned. Now, whenever my mom gives me something that was my grandmother’s, I treasure it with all my heart. For instance, I have an orange carnival bowl on my kitchen counter that once sat in her kitchen. Now, every time I look at her, I instantly think of her.

It’s the same with my grandfather. While growing up, he bought me a bookcase that, more than 20 years later, I still have. As an adult, he purchased items for me – a popcorn popper, blender, salt and pepper shakers, and a pie dish that I won’t part with for anything. I can’t even imagine getting rid of these items. As with my grandma, Grandpa was the most influential person in my life at the time of his death. The lessons he taught me are still with me today.

The point of all this, I think, is that I’ve started to replace people with things. I feel those who are gone from my life are still here in some small way through the things I have of theirs. This means I’ve become a pack rat and have boxes of mementos piled wherever I can get them. But at this point in my life, whether they create clutter or not, I can’t get rid of these items. As for the gifts from my mom, even though she’s still here, I hold everything she gives me as testimony to our mother-daughter love. I know this sounds weird, but the things in my life are nearly as important as the people. They’re part of me.

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