Packrat: The psychology of junk


When I was in the process of clearing out my house, I learned a lot about the psychology of junk. I am the first to admit that I'm not a trained psychologist, but I am a very good observer and, over the years, I've observed a lot of responses to clutter. It seems to me that resistance to getting rid of things can be chalked up to one of three basic perspectives:


When I was raising my sister Ella, I desperately tried to reduce the level of clutter in our house. However, it seemed that as soon as I took one thing out the front door, she brought three things in the back. Finally, as every flat surface in the place got covered with junk, I had a serious talk with the kid. It turned out that she simply felt more comfortable in a house that was packed. Where I saw a room full of potential hazards and health-code violations, she saw a space that was full of protection, barriers against poverty, and security against the outside world. Ultimately, we reached a compromise: I let her load up shelves with tons of stuff, but the floor and tables had to remain free of mess. For the most part, she honored our deal.