The Paper Pack Rat

I am an obsessive-compulsive word saver. I keep anything printed. I own more books than the local library. My favorite authors’ ‘chef d’oeuvres’ are triple stacked on shelves lining my home’s hallways. So many guests have been knocked out en route to our restroom that I posted warning signs. Proceed at your own peril. Beware falling books!

I have file cabinets loaded with newspaper articles from the 70’ and 80’s and binders filled with columns, articles, books, screenplays and other half-baked ideas. My musings are stacked from the floor to ceiling in every corner of our house

Semi annually, I make a pact to get organized and head to nearest stationary store with best intentions. I buy cartloads of color coded folders and dividers, but never file a single story. Where do I begin? Consequently, I now have shelves filled with a lovely assortment of empty organizers in rainbow colors.

Worse yet, I also save every warm-hearted letter, card or poem anyone ever wrote me. My inspiration shelf is covered with kind words penned by family or friends.

If only I had confined my vice to the home front, I could cope, but my malady invaded my work place as well. Lesson plans, students’ portfolios, and professional journals are sprawled across offices in four different departments in the school where I teach. Now, in addition to my hubby, I drive my colleagues crazy, too.

If this illness was only confined to hardcopy, it could be manageable, but now I collect everything written in cyberspace. At work I have 400 emails in my inbox, some from people whose names I no longer recognize. At home I have double that number with another 500 saved in sent mail. There is no longer any blank space on my writing table or on my virtual Mac Book desktop.

Ironically, though I hoard ideas in fear I may need that article, quote, or comment, I would never find it again. I waste hours tearing up the house and school searching for the perfect phrase that aptly inspires or consoles, that I know I saved somewhere.

When did I become a word junky? I blame my grandma, also a writer, when she gave me my first diary in grade school. Naturally, I misplaced that too. However I wasn’t surprised when thirty years later, new owners of the house discovered my diary tucked on ledge in my former bedroom and mailed it to me. Like homing pigeons even lost words find their way home.

Not only do I collect paper print, but I also saved T-shirts bearing the logo of every team I was affiliated with during my forty year career. Therefore not only are my shelves filled, my closets are overflowing.

I debated starting a self-help group for chronic collectors, but we would never move beyond the initial confession, “My name is Pat. I am a pack rat.” Though I would be the first to admit my addiction, I am the last person on earth to know how to cure such an ailment. Alas blogger buddies, I turn to you for advice. How do you begin to part with a lifetime’s recording of memories. Any tips for how to let go of words?

Posted in humor.


  1. I laughed out loud when I read this. I knew EXACTLY what you meant. I have dusted your book shelves! But the written word is a gift that continues to educate, to inspire, to lift up and to make the world a better place. Let's hope that
    we always make room for the pieces that move us.
    Guess I'll just have to plan a trip to Switzerland to help get you organized.

  2. Oh that would be a dream come true. I'll even pay for your flight! But you have your work cut out for you. Why do you think mom never let me out of the basement!

  3. Pat,you are an addict. There is no cure. I speak as a fellow collector of magazines stories articles, cartoons, pictures, columns, and, from 1972 to today, journals (50 of them). The only remedy is the thought of how one's children will have to deal with these things eventually. Books! I have given away hundreds and hundreds. I cut up some of the journals. It's my eyes. I cannot read well any more, and there's no cure for that. Thanks for your clever blog which shows me a fellow sufferer. I'm from Sterling, incidentally, and know your family. Dian Fitzgerald

  4. Loving your admission to being a ‘pack rat’. This is the first hurdle! I could come over and help you springclean one holiday as I am very good at tlc house clearance. However, I would probably end up lining my own groaning book shelves with your ‘delete’ pile… mmm… maybe not such a good idea? Lots of love from one word lover to another xx

    • Oh yeah, Rachael that would be great if you came over and sorted me out. Organization was one of your many talents. Your shelves may be groaning but is each one triple stacked with books like mine. tee hee

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