I’m in trouble if the the pack rat gene is inherited

You may die, but your stuff lives on.

The last few days brought to mind comedian George Carlin’s riff about stuff: “Your house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it.”

You can say that again.

It’s what we’re dealing with as we try to get my mother’s stuff of all kinds under control.

clearing the houseI stared yesterday on two closets. I moved out the clothing first, which will mostly go to Goodwill or one of the groups who sell to Savers. This was hard. In the last several years, she had a few favorite, easy to wear shirts. I tried not to pause to take in each one. If I did, I would never get through the job. On the other hand, I had to check every pocket because my mother always told of hiding bits of jewelry and then forgetting where it had been safely hidden. It was a slow process, but the clothing pile grew. Bonnie will do another cut through it, pulling out nicer items to go to her church thrift shop.

I previously mentioned the genealogical files, papers, publications, notes, history books on specific counties, correspondence with other genealogical researchers, photos of long dead ancestors, notes about distant cousins discovered through detailed digging, and on and on. It’s not like this is all in one place. It’s everywhere. I’m not finished going through the second closet and have already found lots of things that, for now, are just being piled up in one spot for further evaluation and sorting.

In amongst all this are bits of personal correspondence, more papers from Carey D. Miller, photographs and negatives. Yesterday I found boxes and bags filled with old recycled Christmas gift wrapping, plastic bags so old that some had biodegraded in place, newspaper ads for various “investments” carefully clipped and set aside, even boxes of empty boxes. Pieces of broken or damaged jewelry, most of the costume jewelry category. Newspaper clippings going back 40 years or more, including things like yellowed columns by the late Sammy Amalu, Bob Kraus columns about Hawaiian places or historical figures, feature stories about places she had been and people she had known. And did I mention the two hefty stacks of obits? When you are 98, most of your friends have already departed, and she faithfully kept the information about all of them, it seems.

Need I call attention to the humming bird’s nest my sister brought back after a visit with my dad’s relatives in California 59 years ago?

–> Check out today’s small photo gallery featuring this small house of stuff.

13 responses to “I’m in trouble if the the pack rat gene is inherited

  1. I’m looking forward to more photos, photos, photos from an earlier era. Love those. Landscape, city, people, fashions, hairstyles …

    I have some old photos of my mom at Pearl Harbor, from the late ’40s or early ’50s. She’s so young and skinny and adorable, but there’s a wistfulness, maybe even a sadness, in her expression that I can feel in my heart every time I look at it.

  2. I suspect you may be stuck with the keeper-hoarder gene. It definitely is passed along. My maternal grandma born in late 19th century was a notorious pack rat and her son, m dad, carried on the tradition and left it with me. My wife and I have periodic blow ups over what I “keep.”

  3. I chuckled when I read your entry today and thought my mother was not so different than others like her. When my mother died several years ago, I went through the house (she lived there close to 60 years) and encountered clutter as you have. There were old bills carefully noting paid dates, Mother’s Day cards received, her senior citizen group ukulele song sheets collected in several binders, Christmas or birthday gifts saved for future uses. I had to check all the mail she kept because there would be $5 or $10 that somehow did not get mailed. But among all the clutter, I found pieces of paper or photographs that showed me a side of my parents that I had not known. There are gems hidden in ordinary.

  4. The gene is here to stay in my family so I imagine there is at least a hint of it there. I must admit to being excited by the search for “treasures” among the stashes. You just never know and I’m sure you’ll probably find more smiles than sadness in the “stuff”.

    After all, a legacy is a good thing to have, even if it’s a bit over the top. *smile*

  5. I love that Mutual Telephone pin. I worked for Mutual Tel/Hawaiian Tel/GTE Hawaiian Tel/Verizon for many years. There are probably still World War II surplus metal office desks with Mutual Tel property tags floating around the company today. But most people have forgotten that Mutual Tel was “THE” telephone company in the ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and into the early “50s.

    • It’s really a badge. Heavy, substantial. More than a pin.

      • I figured that out after looking at it a little more closely. It was hard to get a sense of scale with nothing else in the picture. I think, but am not positive, that it was a badge worn by the guys who went around collecting the coins from coin telephones.

        • Aha!

          Thanks for that info.

          • It was the badge our grandfather wore in the years that he was THE Country Collector for the telephone company. That was why he took our mother off to live at Haleiwa for at least a year — he was collecting on that whole end of the island, from Waipahu around to at least Kahuku. My sense is that it was personal telephone bills as well as maintaining the pay phones, but that is an assumption and I could easily be wrong. Our mother was about 8 at the time.

  6. I used to be a pack rat- but over the years I have winnowed down possessions greatly- but when I saw the photos you posted, I immediately starting culling old files , papers- filled 6 bags of shredded stuff just today.

    Tomorrow I start on the storage locker.

    You have a great adventure ahead- and a huge amount of work- I hope the sadness will be tempered by the treasures you will discover along the way.

  7. Ian, You are not a pack rat. You are a member of the Rat Pack of Kaaawa, a very select group of Windward carousers, noted for their wild parties on Chinaman’s Hat.

  8. I inherited the gene. My husband has it too. And hopefully your entry will inspire me to start culling also.
    I am so thankful that my mother moved from the house she had lived in for 35 years to a small one bedroom unit in a retirement home.

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