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Is it a sin to throw things away?

By Geniene P. (Contact)

Published September 22, 2008

    Why can’t my father throw things away?  Is it some old school sin like not finishing your dinner? He’s from that generation that survived the Depression, a WWII vet, came from immigrant stock – you know like your parents or grandparents.  Is it because he grew up in that era that he feels the need to keep every freaking thing since they had nothing growing up? Every magazine he gets in the mail (all 11 subscriptions!), every address label from the legions of charities begging for some part of his social security check (and shame on them for targeting people on that budget), every rubber band, closure to a bag of fruit, those dastardly plastic bags from every retailer, packaging from a box in the mail, the Sunday comics and the list could go on and on.  I’m sure there are those of you laughing because there is one in every family.  

    I moved into his house last year and began the clean up.  My dear deceased mother was probably elated somewhere out there to see someone finally throw the accumulation of stuff out.  Hmm, let’s see there were old, expandable window screens that fit the old windows (still in the basement) from 10 years ago, 6 radios (remember the kind we listened to police talk on the front porch), fans of various decades and sizes, suitcases from my parent’s honeymoon, cassette players and recorders, rusted tools, old canned goods in the cellar because “You never know when those crazy Ruskies might drop the bomb on us”, old garden chairs, holiday decorations, pieces of brooms for his garden, scraps of wood/metal/clothing because “You just don’t know when you might need something like that.”, I even found reams of the original wallpaper from this house built in the 40’s, and those bloody magazines, magazines, magazines.   Aaargh!  If anyone wants to lose weight – just take the ‘clean out an old house workout’ and the pounds disappear!  I can’t even tell you how much old chemical stuff is sitting around, waiting to be taken to the Green Team’s October 11th Household Hazardous Waste Collection.  I was so excited to learn of that event so I can safely dispose of things from his work bench and garage.  

    I regaled my cousins with these stories of what relic I would find from the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s (believe me – of no value to anyone) and they would laugh with hilarity because they had been there, done that with all of their parents.  Phew!  Glad to know that my father isn’t insane, just a typical old man.


1tylersclark(182 comments)posted 7 years, 4 months ago

I had a friend - now deceased - who lived in a penthouse apartment in Greenwich Village and kept absolutely every magazine he ever received. I stayed at his place a few times when I was in the city, and I remember stacks and stacks of magazines throughout the living room.

I have to force myself to throw mine away, telling myself I won't have time to read them. But sometimes I am just positive I'm going to get around to that one article that just looks so tantalizing right now.

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2joly1584(24 comments)posted 7 years, 4 months ago

There is a very thin line between packrat and compulsive hoarder. My mother's house has 2 bedrooms that are completely filled from floor to ceiling with "stuff"-you can't get into them at all. Her bedroom has a path to get to the bed-her dresser and closet are totally inaccessible. The rest of her house is limited in function because of the stuff. To the outside world she appears to be a "normal" person - she doesn't let people into her house to see the "real" her.

The circumstances hoarders grew up in have very little to do with their problem. Hoarders see things differently than most people do.

To get an idea of what I am talking about check out the website www.childrenofhoarders.com

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3projectgeniene(87 comments)posted 7 years, 4 months ago

Oh, my dad isn't that bad and is more of a packrat. In fact, he was a neatnik when we were growing up. We always stored food in the basement but it was consumed when the house was full of children. He just kept buying as if he had a household full. As for the magazines, he's always been a voracious reader but has totally over done it on subscriptions. Recently, he gave me free reign to throw away stuff since I live there and am trying to renovate the house.

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4KLibecco(84 comments)posted 7 years, 4 months ago

I have an anti-waste obsession. I also have a "you-don't-make-enough-money-to-not-be-thrifty" obsession. The result? I only save articles I want to re-read from magazines. Once I pull what I want to read again, I go through and cut out images and words to make collages for cards. I'll create homemade cards for friends and family by photographing the collages and having the photo store make cards of the images. They're not the best cards in the world, but I hope people see the thoughtfulness in taking time to make and write each card myself.

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