Re-Arranging Deck Chairs

The past few days, if I wasn’t sewing, I was cleaning out the filing cabinet.  I save everything!  Why do I do that?  I hate clutter and yet it surrounds me.  It’s so hard for me to throw anything out.

In 1969 when I turned 15 and could get my driver’s license, my parents bought me a Mustang.  I still have the business card from the car salesman.

That is sad!  I wish I had the Mustang instead of the business card!  I cannot throw this away.  Chad said . . “What? Is it like a 30 year old business card?”  I said “No, it’s 41 years old!” Back into the “Judy” folder went the card.  Some day I may clean again and come across it and smile.  Or, when we’re gone, Chad will have a dumpster delivered and dump all of my treasures into it without looking back.

I found this article out of the newspaper where we lived in KY that I didn’t even remember.  Not sure why this was in the paper.

I’m wondering what was the point in having my age in there!

Treasures . . a four drawer filing cabinet full of treasures.  I did manage to shred the 1989 income tax returns.  Seriously, I filled 4 trash bags with “stuff” from the filing cabinet and another cabinet where I keep “stuff”.  The garbage man drove away with it all this morning and I felt a little sad.

Why do some people keep so little and some of us keep everything?  Where do you fit in?  Do you keep everything or just a little?  If you have any tips to share with the packrats among us, I know I would appreciate it.


  1. 1


    You should organize like my mom made my dad (he’s like you – he might need it someday!) do in his office. She made him put everything he had in boxes. Labelled each box with what was in it, and then put empty boxes in the room too. Every time he used something, he put it in one of the empty boxes. At the end of (I think, for him) six months, everything that he hadn’t used he had to make a very cogent argument as to why he needed it – for him, there were a few professional things he could take to work, but most of it wasn’t needed. She proved to him that he didn’t NEED it, and might have even thrown away a few boxes without letting him see what was inside. I remember doing something similar in high school – I had kept bits and pieces of sets from all of the plays I did sets for…but did I need the broken piece of wood? I didn’t even remember what play it was from!

  2. 2


    We save it because we can – we love and want it because it was a good memory. I do not feel that I save everything – I have just organized everything I have saved and it no longer feels like clutter. Big difference. Judy C

  3. 3


    I’m afraid my husband and I are both packrats — we got it honestly our parents were packrats. We recognize we have this problem and are actively working on it. We have finally gotten the house presentable (some would question that) except for our bedroom and, well, I only let my quilting buddies in the sewing room. Earlier this month we spent several hours in the basement and emptied at least a dozen boxes. We ended up with 3 or 4 boxes of stuff for charity, a couple of bags of trash and admittedly we kept some stuff — but it’s put away where we can find it.

    If I didn’t want to spend this entire week working on my February UFO, I might just suggest we go spend another evening down there. Maybe I’ll suggest that for next week.

  4. 4


    I really don’t keep a lot of stuff (outside of my sewing stuff). If I’m not using it I will get rid of it and I keep very little memorabilia. I think not having kids is part of it. Who would want the stuff? It’s also partly genetic, my Mom doesn’t keep anything either!

  5. 6


    If nothing else, it brings back memories when going through it. I’ve saved all the cards our kids have given us and each year I think I’m going to throw them and each year I put them back and add some more. They take up most of a trunk. Some day they will be going through them and laughing and wondering why Mom saved them all and THROW THEM.

  6. 7


    I keep everything too. I was 30 before I learned that stuffed animals don’t have feelings and when they get old and dirty I can throw them in the trash and they won’t feel bad. I blame it on those clay animation Christmas specials! Remember the Island of Misfit toys? Well, I think everything has feelings and feels bad when it goes into the trash. Silly huh!

    I’m trying to work through the clutter, but it is a very slow process when you have mental issues to deal with at the same time. One day, one item at a time and I have to remember to stop bringing new stuff home!

  7. 8

    Linda in NE says

    You make yourself sound like a hoarder candidate & you aren’t. The things you keep have sentimental value to you and remind you of happy times.

    My daughter has told me her plans for our stuff when we’re gone & she and her brother have to clean out the house & garages. She’s going top get a backhoe & dig a big hole out north of the garages and throw everything in, then cove it all up.
    Or, maybe that was a threat?

  8. 9

    Rita says

    I’m not a saver. If I’m not using it, I have no problem giving it to someone who will. I have one box of special papers and drawing that my son did when he was little. My husband, on the other hand, tends to hang on to everything.

  9. 10

    Linda says

    We had a flood (rain…disaster in area!) a couple of years ago, my daughter came in to help her dad clean out (not sure why they didn’t do it while I was there!) but when I came home the rooms were cleared out…must admit, haven’t missed anything yet nor gone into the storage bins of the stuff they did keep…guess there’s a message in there somewhere!

  10. 11

    Cherrie says

    Too funny! I inherited traits from both parents, my dad is a packrat and my mom is a neat/clean freak. So I am a very clean and organized packrat. There was a time I couldn’t afford to buy anything so I still hate to get rid of things you just might need. We live too far from stores to shop when you need something so we tend to hang on to stuff most people get rid of – you never know when (* * * *) might be needed. Bottom line is – ya do what ya do. : )

  11. 12


    Having just done a huge purge of our “stuff” a few months ago, I can say I “used” to be a packrat .. but am not anymore. We moved and were determined not to move all the clutter to our new place. It’s actually kind of liberating letting it go. I gave my kids their baby books and the mementos I had kept from their childhood. We had a huge “estate” sale and then gave the rest to charities. Anything that didn’t have a place to go in the new place we got rid of. It’s been six months, and there’s not one thing I wish I had saved. Guess that means I didn’t need it in the first place!!

  12. 13

    Vickie says

    I am and semi-keeper. I bought a filing system for my file cabinet, read all the laws about what has to be kept, seriously we had every check stub (now shredded). I keep thinking about the work to go through things after someone dies, and I really don’t want to leave the burden for my kids.
    I hung on to so many things after our last child was born. I am so sad I did, because most of it was tossed out because it no longer was wearable (dry elastic, which we call elastic snow; stained, just plain ugly) I bought a pretty “box” for each of my kids for momentos, what doesn’t fit is pitched.
    I even threw 2 boxes of stuff without opening them. I had not opened them in 6 years, what are the odds that I need it now. I really don’t like clutter, in the basement, out of sight out of mind.
    I think we all hang onto things because we want to be young again, does it matter who you got the car from or does it matter more that you had the car an the memories that you have … don’t need the card to remember. I loved the show on TLC, “Clean Sweep” … there are books about clutter … read them, pitch, and enjoy the living space you gain.
    I think every inch I gain is more room for fabric 🙂 HA HA HA

  13. 14

    Karen says

    I used to save everything – then I had to clean out my parents home in preparation for their move to a senior living apartment. They moved from a 3-story home to a one bedroom apartment. Needless to say we had to purge. In cleaning out the home they had lived in for 43+years we filled 30+ large trash bags with throw away stuff and endless boxes with giveaway/garage sale items. That was after we moved the stuff they were keeping, and the children/grandchildren got what they wanted. I decided then and there that I wasn’t going to make my children work that hard to clean out our home! So, I’ve been purging. I still have a lot of ‘treasures’ but I’ve also gotten rid of a lot.

  14. 15


    Well, I will certainly be of no help here as I’m facing a much bigger decluttering issue than you could possibly have. I did throw away a bunch of college papers this weekend. Why would I possibly keep them? They’re over 40 years old! Who cares that my professor in Western Civilization gave me a C+ on my midterm paper because it was the “best BS I’ve seen in quite some time”? Okay, I laughed at that one. Or the English professor who said, “You retort like a petulant child.” Eww……. Anyway, good luck! If you come up with any great ideas, holler!

  15. 16

    Dica says

    I’m a packrat also I’ve keep things from my child hood which should have been tossed a long time ago. But when i go through them I think of all the good memories these things brought me. My folks were pack rats also since they have been gone I’ve tried to hang on to alot of there stuff which makes my house more cluttered especially moms material scraps . Trying now to use all of hers to make scrap quilts in some of the older quilt patterns. Guess when I’m gone my kids will get a big dumpster and pitch most of everything. Such is life. Enjoy your blog Judy wish you new me better sometimes I would like to pick your brain about quilting.

  16. 17

    Carolyn Thomas says

    One thing you might do with those trinkets of paper is put them in a scrapbook. That’s often what our forebears did. I don’t mean the fancy scrapbooking that is a hobby nowadays, but just plain slap it in a scrapbook album, make a note about it underneath the item. I have a book of postcards from when I was in the Army and stationed in Germany. This scrapbook has been used several time by a friend of mine who is a teacher (history/social studies), so it came in handy. My husband’s first wife did up two or three while they were married, memoriblia from trips they took and such. While “I” don’t care for the stuff that’s in them, Husband can share those memories with his older son when he visits.

  17. 19

    SarahB says

    The more kids I have the less packrat-ish I am! I can only take so much “stuff” laying around before I go crazy trying to clean around it and then I tend to purge. Usually every spring and fall but some years it’s monthly. In the mean time, however, I keep EVERYTHING! Drives my husband crazy…. :o)

  18. 20

    Cynthia H., El Cerrito, CA says

    Maybe an article on “paperwork retention guidelines” will help. That way, you’ll feel more confident about throwing out at least *some* of the papers you find.

    memorabilia is so personal that the only advice I could give would be, If you want to keep it, make sure it’s protected from the elements. That will put some curbs on it b/c of the $ of containers! 😉

  19. 21

    Pat in Washington says

    Well, I’ll be no help – I just bought my 3rd filing cabinet today. One is for “my” stuff, one is for my genealogy stuff and the new one is for my mom & my brother’s stuff. My mom is 91 and has Alzheimers, and my brother is 56 & disabled and I handle their finances. I have some rental properties so they generate paperwork too. I have been to organizing classes and read lots of books, but there is just a lot of stuff I HAVE to save. So I go through and weed out stuff every couple years and call it good.

  20. 22


    i keep some stuff but after i see it for a while and get sick of looking at it…then i have a major cleaning and throw stuff out by the bagfuls. then the cycle starts all over again. my sister has a system….it goes from the house to the garage….after the garage is full….it goes to the pool house…..once the poolhouse is full…it goes to the trash. i guess that gives her ample opportunities to retrieve something if she needs it. LOl

  21. 23

    Sarah Stevens says

    I do my best pitching when I’m in a bad mood – no rationalizing why I should keep this paper, or few inches of lace, or piece of clothing. With the mood I have been in for the last 2 weeks I should be living in a completely empty house.

  22. 24


    I have this tendency too, but I do not like it and have been fighting it all my life. I used to keep every scrap of paper that ever touched my fingertips. It was somewhat organized but way out of line. So little by little I gave up small things. First it was grocery store and gas station receipts. Then I would get rid of some old bills, very old ones. Magazine collections went, one or two at a time. Then one day I bit the bullet and decided to throw away all old checks, old check registers, old bill stubs (from phone, etc. that are not necessary to keep). I had a fire going for two days. I miss only one thing from all of that – my very first check register. I was such a kid when I was young! LOL. But even missing the darn thing, I can still see it in my minds eye.

    In my better moods I realize that I do not need to hang on to stuff to have memories. Anything can trigger a memory. I might not have control of my memories, but as long as I have my mind, I am always remembering something, and that is all I really need.

    It is an iterative process. Lately I have taken to throwing away SOME fabric scraps – not because I don’t think I can use them, but because I think it is the right thing to do.

  23. 25

    Mel Meister says

    I’m exactly like you. I save everything. And, occasionally I need something I’ve saved, but maybe I can’t find it now. But, maybe I can!

    I have all my old clothes from high school. Now, I don’t fit in these clothes anymore, well, the earrings still fit! A hot iron fell on one of the bags of these clothes and I had to throw some out. Broke my heart!

    I find incredibly old business cards, photographs, receipts from vacations.

    I honestly don’t know what the answer is for sentimental people. And yes, my son will come in and throw it all out if my husband doesn’t do it first. I just can’t do it. I would be following the garbage man down the street in my car!

  24. 26


    I have the hardest time with throwing away letters and correspondence, and of course pictures and kid’s art projects. I had my kids go through all their school stuff and keep what they wanted. They could keep anything they wanted. Then I put the things I wanted to keep in there too. We have an ongoing “giveaway” pile that gets taken away every couple of months so old clothing and unused household items get cleared out regularly. My MIL kept everything and has passed it on to us and it is really hard for me to get rid of her vintage linens, aprons, Christmas decorations, etc. But I have no trouble losing things like her husband’s wallet, belt buckle and old socks! I have a big container of all the clothing I made my girls and son, but otherwise clothes go to charity regularly as they go out of style or get a bit worn. We still have way too much stuff and need to purge again as all our storage in the house and garage seems full, but we do keep on it! When my kids finally all get settled out of the house, their treasures will go with them.

  25. 27

    Mary Jo says

    I tell myself that some of what I save is history…Like the letters I wrote to my grandmother almost 60 years ago. They meant enough to her for her to save them, so I will save them too! My mom is not a saver of that type of thing, so my kids will never have the pleasure I had when I found out that those little letters meant enought for my grandmother to save them. Thus I now save every thing I can from MY grandchildren. In this electronic age there is not much to save anymore. Emails just aren’t the same as a letter written by a little 5 year old!
    I have discovered that if I put things such as clothes, shoes, etc in a box, date the box and if I haven’t used the things in it in a year, I don’t even open it—it goes straight to a charity.
    All of this came home to me last year when we had to clean out my sister-in-law’s house when she passed away. Most of what she collected was to the rest of the world just junk! She had clothes that were from the 1950’s! It took several months, several dozen truck loads to the dump and about that much to charity. So now I think about what my kids will have to go thru when I die. I don’t want them to have to deal with all we had to deal with last year.

  26. 29


    I’ve been trying to follow the advice of Marla Ciley, She says, you can’t organize clutter. So if we want to have peace and order in our homes we have to get rid of the clutter one baby step at a time. If you love it or use it – keep it. If it’s just there because you haven’t done anything with it – then it’s clutter. I have a lot of clutter that needs tending to. I should get off this computer right now and declutter for 15 minutes, but like Scarlet – I’ll think about that tomorrow.

  27. 30


    I save waaaaaayyyy too much to. And every time I throw something out, I need it within a month!! Why is that? Makes it very hard to change my ways–and they *do* need changing!

  28. 31

    Sandy says

    Judy, we could be sisters. (Okay, I would have to be the OLDER sister, lol.) I still have the paperwork for my first brand new car, a 1970 Mustang and it was under $3,000.00 tax and license included!

    I have the card from the motel where we spent our wedding night on October 14, 1972. It was room 221. Also, the size 10 dress I wore as my going away outfit (I wore dresses back then…..haven’t had a dress on since 1997! ** smile**.)

    I am a packrat and proud of it. I am prepared! I will be ready if I find I need something. Now, is that such a bad idea? Ha! I just wish DH didn’t collect and save so much stuff. How is Vince in that area? A saver or a tosser?

  29. 32

    Darlene S says

    Judy, you are definitely related to me too. I’m a “saver” of most things. I too have my first car purchase receipt from 1965, my report cards from college and my mother saved my report cards and papers from grade school and high school. So you see, I get the pack rack gene naturally.! I do go through drawers and boxes every so often and try to get rid of “some” things that have just piled up. I have started shredding old check book registers, utility bill receipts and very old tax returns but still need to do a lot more. Maybe later this week when the weather changes back to winter I’ll get right on it! Ha

  30. 33


    After my mom died in 1992 in the house she lived in for 49 years and where I lived for the first 19 years of my life until I got married, I sold the house with everything in it. All my childhood stuff she’d saved, all the furniture, everything. Sometimes I think about some of it but I’ve never regretted it. I just never looked back.

  31. 34


    After years of a nomadic military life, both in childhood and as an adult, the clutter always got culled. But it’s creeping back, and making the time when you don;t HAVE to is a stumbler for me. I do get to a point where I can’t live with it anymore and have a purge. It feels good to be able to breathe again, I must do some more soon 🙂 There is something rather liberating in the purge process, both the sense of achievement and the amaizing sense of mental space. I’m learning, a little and often!

  32. 35


    A small question. What does saving or not saving have to do with ‘Re-arranging Deck Chairs”? Just curious.
    I am a thrower, and the hub is a saver, and the saga continues… Soon, I will be making my fortune on ebay-while he is at work….opps! WHERE did that go??
    I bet he wont miss any of it…but will love the money from it…

  33. 36

    Suzette says

    I’m not a saver. I watched my Dad “save” everything and then have to buy new widgets or whatever because he couldn’t find the one (or 4) that he already had. Twenty years as a military bride reinforced my anti-clutter personality-who wants to move all that stuff every 3 years. I think the gene skipped a generation because my daughter is already exhibiting signs of pack-rattyness (she’s 16). Anybody want a mountain of Beanie Babies?

  34. 37


    The business card caught my eye because my father’s favorite car was a ’57 Ford Fairlane that he bought in Detroit while visiting his brother with no money down! Their old car had broken down on the trip. The dealer made a phone call to dad’s bank and the deal was settled with a hand shake. So, I’m glad you kept that business card. So many memories in one tiny piece of paper!

  35. 38


    Think old fashioned scrapbook is a good idea, I have made them for holidays etc., postcards, menus, sugar papers all go into them and it is great to look back at them

  36. 39

    Karla says

    I am a clutterbug and keep a lot of things that I don’t really need. I don’t let anyone other than me and the dogs in my sewing room. I have material everywhere some that I inherited when my mom passed away. I hang on to it because it is her’s and I can’t bear to let it go just yet. So my sewing room looks like someone threw a bomb in there and shut the door. I have quilts partially done on my design board which when I go on vacation this next week I plan on finishing. Maybe one day I will get it all clean and cleared out.

  37. 40


    Oh my gosh Judy…..we are doing the same thing. I have been going through my files that have been in boxes since I closed my shop 9 years ago. Funny thing is the 4 drawer legal file cabinet is empty sitting right next to the boxes with all the files.

    I am separating into 4 ways. Stuff to be shreaded, items to be sold
    (patterns and leaflets), items I want to keep and the largest is the items I am just putting in the garbage.

    Next I need to do the same with my fabric, books and……..

  38. 41


    I’m a major pack rat too. I did go thru some stuff and threw a lot away recently. I wish I had put some in a box, like my brothers baby pictures, which I could mailed if he didn’t royally piss me off. I was given all the family pictures to take care of, thousands of pictures with no names on them, and no “lifeline” to who they were. We have been making copies on a disc and tossing. Gave my daughter her baby book and she proceeded to take a few pictures out and tossed the rest. The other 2 daughters, I’m copying than will give to them. Need to let the stuff go, I think it is causing me to be depressed with all mess. Maybe tomorrow….