My dad has an entire workshop behind our house (which has recently expanded to include a plastic shed) in which he houses every electronic gadget (and every cord, wire, screw, plug, or other part to fix said electronic gadgets) known to mankind. There are boxes, drawers, and crates everywhere you turn, not to mention a flat-screen TV, surround-sound speakers, and two computers. (He has worked in radio, television, computers, and every other electronic medium you can think of - that's where it all comes from.) Amazingly - he seems to know the general location of everything. When the VCR wasn't working last night, one magic cable, plucked from the masses in under three minutes, did the trick. He is a pack rat, but, I admit, an organized one. He rarely throws things away, mostly because he thinks he'll need them someday. A lot of the time - such as in the case of user manuals, or various connecting cables - he's right. Other times - regarding twenty-some-odd pairs of plastic Walkman headphones, for example - he's just a plain old pack rat.
Mom is pack rat number two. However, like Dad, she's also very organized. Fighting clutter is her lifelong battle; she hates knickknacks and cursory gifts - she always says she'd rather get nothing at all than things she doesn't need, want, or even like (a sentiment with which I agree). She is constantly organizing, planning, and rearranging the masses of stuff which have found their way into this house (with the result that my room has become the oft-used depository, since I only live here part-time). However, in true pack rat fashion, Mom has a hard time conceding that our old things might not someday have value - if not for her, then for someone else. Everything has to go someplace useful - Goodwill, mostly, but also to relatives or friends, or even just in a box in a closet. If it still has wear in it or a potential, ten-years-down-the-road value, it's saved.
Then there's my sister, who takes the worst pack-rat genes of both parents to a whole new level. She's not terribly organized and certainly never throws anything away. Approximately one-half of the entire contents of her room are currently residing on the back porch - the better for us to be able to see her floor. (It's wood, we've discovered.) With Catie, we can blame it on the artsy gene. Everything that doesn't get saved for some other reason (sentimental value, etc.) has a possible value as an art project. However, most of the time, 'everything' ends up being stacked in one of the various piles on the floor and forgotten. She'll be moving out to Tallahassee in a few weeks - it will be an interesting transition. What will be deemed 'essential' and what will remain behind? Stay tuned.
My sister, by the way, is the real reason this topic has suddenly sprung to mind. As I was brushing my teeth at 3:30 AM this morning, I took it upon myself to count up her numerous bottles, tubes, and potions which have effectively taken over our bathroom. Both shelves in the (rather large) wall-mounted cabinet are jammed full (in fairness, Mom does have room to squeeze in one small stack of washcloths); then there's the shower itself and, of course, the back-of-the-toilet plastic box, with all its little wonders. In a cursory examination, I counted over 75 products. I disregarded such items as toothpaste and Advil which, let's face it, are rather essential. (However, I also did not dare to crack open the dragonfly-spangled makeup bag, which surely would have yielded yet another treaure trove.) Bottles, tubes, creams, lotions, colors, scents... surely she doesn't use all of it?
Then I came back to my room and took stock of my own inventory. Here it is:
Hair: 3 products. Shampoo and conditioner every night. The end. But, to be fair, I also own mousse (if I'm going out, and my hair has been cut recently enough, I sometimes spike it up, just for a change).
Makeup: 1 product. I do have one (extremely small) makeup case, but I crack it perhaps once a year. On a daily basis, I only use SoftLips.
Face: 4 products. I never used to use anything besides astringent, but due to swimming, I've had to make some changes. (Soaking your face in a pit of chlorinated chemicals for hours every day does not exactly promote a healthy glow.) So I use moisturizer morning and night, a cleansing wipe after swimming, an exfoliating scrub (in the shower) a couple times a week, and a tube of Clear Complexion for those rare cases when it's needed. (Luckily, Catie and I both won the genetic lottery when it came to skin.)
Body: 3. Body wash in the shower, baby powder for under my arms (prevents rashes), and deodorant (cue the Hallelujah chorus!).
Miscellaneous: 4. Lubricating eye drops, which Lasik patients are (ideally) supposed to use daily, perfume (I own two brands), and an Intuition razor, which has the soap built in.
Total products: 15. Exactly one-fifth as much as my sister.
Somewhere along the line, I seem to have missed the pack rat gene. In fact, if the three of them are pack rats, I am a woodchuck, in the sense that I chuck everything out - not only wood, and not only trash, but also unneeded school supplies, unused makeup, the occasional item of clothing, and, once, a valuable set of old coins. (I was nine. To this day, Mom still goes through my trash can.) I am the polar opposite of my sister - extremely organized and not at all pack-rat-ish. If I don't see myself needing something anytime in the near future (Math for Liberal Arts Majors class notes, ugly keychains, non-mechanical pencils) and nobody in the immediate vicinity wants it, into the garbage it goes.
Knowing the value of the trash can makes my life a lot simpler and more streamlined; yet sometimes I wonder which is really the better way to be. Because certainly there have been times when I've thrown things away, then wanted them later - or, worse, wanted things that I think I threw away but can't quite remember, so I tear my room apart looking for them. Usually, though, these incidents are so infrequent that my peace of mind more than balances them out. I'm happy the way I am, and the rest of my family is (I assume) happy the way they are. There are pros and cons to both ways, which means this post was essentially pointless. But still, in Robin-esque fashion, a closing question: are you a pack rat?