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The "Pack Rat" Syndrome

Updated on August 12, 2015

It Could Happen to You

Webster defines a pack rat as “a bushy-tailed rodent of western North America that has well-developed cheek pouches and that hoards food and miscellaneous objects”. It is otherwise known as a Wood Rat.

However, that’s not what this article’s about. Webster also defines a pack rat as “a person who collects or hoards, especially unneeded items”. “BINGO”!

Some people just can’t throw things away. You’ve seen them. The ones who have garages packed so full everything is in there… except their car.

These are those that have to wear safety helmets to open a closet door and crossing their living room is like running a gauntlet. Women and men have been equally guilty of this compulsion.

What causes some people to hang on to an item even though it hasn’t seen the light of day since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock? More theories abound than facts. It is commonly thought to be physcological in nature.

For instance, many people who lived during “The Great Depression” had little material possessions. They could ingeniously find uses for virtually anything. They had no choice. Therefore, any item having the remotest chance of ever being used was stashed away. Most people of this era carried on this trait even after the depression was over. Sometimes their offspring inherited the obsession.

But how does that explain “packrats” in today’s’ affluent society? Again, possibly they grew up in poor families and had to make do with whatever.

Or, maybe they’re just cheap! That’s right! You couldn’t pry a nickel out of some peoples’ hands with a crowbar.

What kind of things does a “pack rat” save? Porcelain elephant statues with embedded clocks too obscene to put in a living room, rolls of ugly colored cloth bought at a yard sale, clothes which might come back into fashion or whatever. It makes no difference to an addicted “pack rat”.

The afflicted person having this syndrome, if married, is usually limited to one per household. Picture this scenario: A newlywed couple rent their first apartment, a single bedroom having limited storage space. Therefore, living space is already restricted. One spouse is a “pack rat”. Soon the other spouse is tripping over things as soon as they walk through the door. The couple decides moving into a two bedroom apartment will remedy the situation. They’ve treated the symptom, not the cause.

In no time this apartment is also crammed to capacity. So, now what happens? The uninfected partner declares martial law.

“General rule of thumb number one” is instituted. “If something hasn’t been used in the last two years, toss it.” The clear headed person has put their foot down…which is promptly stomped on. War has been declared.

This war could last for decades if the “pack rat” refuses to relent in their obsession. But eventually the problem has to be resolved. So, an ultimatum is issued. “Nothing else comes in unless something of equal assessment goes out.” Once again the ruling is ignored. So, to make room for the “treasure” of such immense value which must be kept at all costs…one spouse packed their things and left.

Plenty of room in that apartment now!!

Note: The story you have just read is true. The husband moved on to roomier pastures.


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    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      3 years ago from Florence, South Carolina

      By the way, It was me who left for more spacious pastures. I had warned her for years someday she'd wake up and I wouldn't be there. Ya'll think she might have not believed me? She is in Seattle, Washington. I'm in South Carolina. Think about that. It's as far as one can go away from her without leaving the continental United States. I have also purchased train tickets to Canada, just in case she comes looking for me. :O)

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Ah Yes. We are dealing with my own pack rat issues these past few months. the good news is we have made progress.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      This sounds just like my mother when I was growing up! My sister and I would wait until she was napping, then start throwing things away. She would wake up and notice the bulging trash bag and have a panic attack. My sister and I would watch in disgust as she combed through the garbage to reclaim the most useless stuff; 5 year old calendars, broken cups, bald paint brushes, totally dried out glue containers, e.t.c. This is a terrible disorder of the mind and people like this are almost impossible to live with. Your article brings back some memories for me.......

    • JY3502 profile imageAUTHOR

      John Young 

      8 years ago from Florence, South Carolina


    • crazybeanrider profile image

      Boo McCourt 

      8 years ago from Washington MI

      LOL. My train of thought as I was reading was one of the spouses is going to have to go. And lo and behold. Loved the hub. I can always find a grin in your hubs. Keep up the great work.


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