There’s Accidental Hoarders and There’s Packrats

The Accidental Hoarder isn’t really an active collector of stuff. It is more like the stuff came to her. By not making decisions, her default setting became: everything can stay.
The Packrat, on the other hand, is an enthusiastic pursuer of stuff. He has a purpose for everything, generally in his own mind, but the things he collects have some future life as spare parts, unspecified resources, or just curiosities. I know this for a fact, having been married to one for almost 48 years. The reason it has lasted 48 years is that I have learned to treat his collecting with respect, although with a lot of light joshing. As a result, he has decided that he has a problem and wants to take care of it himself. One thing to know about Packrats is they don’t like to let things go.
The Accidental Hoarder is looking for some help in making decisions but wants the end result of not having Billy show up with his seventh grade camera crew to film her house. This person, often female, but could be male, is visually overwhelmed by the scale of everything.

This is where I come in and suggest that she: look, see, imagine, and show.

  • Look – when Edna, my hypothetical Accidental Hoarder, just looks at a room, it all appears to be “stuff”.
  • See – then she sees that “stuff” can be sorted into categories like: keep, sell, donate, throw out.
  • Imagine – Edna imagines how the room would look if it were clutter-free.
  • Show – Edna wants to teach (show) Billy about his heritage and the significance of the things she keeps.

To further help Edna, I suggest that, as she stands in the doorway of a room, to section the room by thinking of the room as a clock face with her position as 6 o’clock; the wall facing her as 12 o’clock; and the right and left walls as 3 and 9 o’clock respectively. Her strategy will be to pick a segment of the room such as from 6 o’clock to 8 o’clock as a beginning point and ignore the rest of the space. She could even throw sheets or dust covers over the other areas to keep the visual distraction to a minimum.

Harriet Vaughan

About Harriet Vaughan

I am a Senior Move Manager, working with Senior Citizens and their families when it is time to downsize or just make the home safer and more comfortable for aging in place. I help these people make decisions about what to keep, throw out, donate, or sell. I also offer workshops on "Getting Things Done When You Are Over 60". I write about how to overcome memory lapses and how to use your physical energy well. I have a degree in Home Economics from the University of Maine. I live in Coopers Mills, about 14 miles east of Augusta. I have been married for almost 50 years to my husband, Chuck Vaughan. Our business is called Legacy Years Transition Services.