Confessions of a serial pack-rat.

So today all my stuff arrived, from Toronto.  Finally.  I’ll save the rant about the movers for another time, but I recommend strongly against Two Small Men with Big Hearts.

Anyways, the stuff I had shipped has been (for the most part) sitting in a storage unit in Oakville for the last year or so.  When I left Toronto for Sydney, I threw everything into storage that I couldn’t quite bear to part with… having given away or sold most of the ‘practical’ stuff like furniture.  In my two stops in the GTA this year (once in June for an extended stay, and then the brief weekend in October), I added some miscellaneous stuff, removing others, and so on.  I then arranged for everything to be picked up from storage and brought to me here.  The vast majority of it, it is fair to say, has gone unmissed in the year I’ve been away from it.

Not shipping it wasn’t really an option – there is various stuff mixed in there that was worth keeping, and even if only some of it was worth shipping I had to pay for a minimum 1000lb move, so there was no harm in shipping all of it rather than just some.  But now it’s all here; and I’ve realised (something I realised long ago, and just haven’t had the opportunity to do anything about) that most of it needs to be gotten rid of.  I spent the last year paying good money to store these things, and then paying to move them across the country.  I will not keep paying money to hoard stuff anymore, nor will I allow my life to be cluttered by it anymore.

But it’s hard to get rid of stuff.  I’m not quite at the level of needing to be featured on an episode of Hoarders, but I have always been a big packrat.  I keep things out of sentimental value, or out of “this may be useful one day” or, more common, “this is collectible and will be worth something in twenty years.”  So far, most of what I’ve hoarded has almost certainly lost value.

So, in order to help myself be rid of these things, and in an effort to prevent future hoarding, I’m publicly posting a selection of the things that arrived, many of which have been in storage for the last year (and in my various homes for the years preceding).  Perhaps if I “shame” myself with this it will be incentive enough to stop holding on to things!

  • An envelope labelled “shred” (it was full of receipts from my stay in Montreal in October – these legitimately needed to be shredded, but it occurred to me that I basically shipped garbage).
  • A tube of Chapstick.  Still in its package, but I have no idea where it came from or what inspired me to put it in the storage unit with everything else!
  • Student cards from multiple universities.  I’ve had these since I was actually a student, and have been keeping them as a souvenir.  I still haven’t decided if I’m getting rid of them; they’re fairly small.
  • A box of buttons (mostly the political kind) and fabric badges.  So far, these are staying.
  • Two large banners from Sydney Mardi Gras 2011 (similar to these ones).  I got these for free from the New Mardi Gras people who had them returned to them by the city after the festival and then gave them away to anyone who wanted them.  Amazing souvenir (the municipal geek in me loved them too), which I had intended to put on a wall somewhere. I now realise my walls are too short – these things are about 3m tall which is higher than my ceilings!  I’m now trying to come up with alternative uses – I’m thinking maybe blinds…
  • Posters. Many, many, many posters.  Some from concerts I’ve been to, others purchased over the years at stores.  All completely inappropriate for adorning the walls of an adult apartment.
  • The sign from the cubicle I occupied when I worked on Bay Street (I didn’t steal it – we were vacating the floor so everything on it was being discarded anyway).  I sat at NE8.  And have a piece of plastic to remind myself of that.
  • A snowglobe from the closing ceremonies of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics… this was used as a crowd-participation prop and I kept it as a souvenir. The box has now fallen apart. I think it’ll sit on my mantle for now.
  • Trivial Pursuit – Genus Edition.  And a box of Greyhound-brand dominos.
  • DVDs. Or, rather, DVD cases.  I’ve had the DVDs with me all along, having put them in one of those CD sleeve thingies, and left the cases in storage.  I’m not even sure if I’m going to return them to their cases.
  • An Avril Lavigne Frisbee (promoting her album that came out 7 years ago). I’ve decided to keep this one, but to actually use it as a Frisbee rather than storing it.
  • A plastic tenor saxophone reed.  I haven’t played sax since 2002.
  • A “trucker hat” style cap from Sydney Mardi Gras. This was packaged as a gift with the t-shirt I ordered after my original order was lost.  If anyone wants this one, let me know!
  • Mugs, glasses, cutlery, & other miscellaneous kitchen stuff – useful, and kept.  Ditto on the tools, and the printer.
  • Two boxes full of framed setlists taken from stages at various concerts.  Many autographed by the artist(s), some in frames broken by the movers.  So much sentimental attachment, but only somewhat, and virtually no monetary value.  Not to mention bulky.  These may end up getting removed from what’s left of the frames and stored flat in a folder or something.  Or I should probably get rid of them altogether.  I dunno. This is hard!
  • Figure skates, mittens – the winter things I had no use for in Australia. Practical, and kept (and will get used soon!)
  • Five full bankers boxes of photos and paper souvenirs (like tickets, brochures, and a map of St. John’s, NL).  I’m tempted to take all the photos out, scan them (or have them scanned for me), and dispose of them – but then what would I do with the map of St. John’s? Or my ticket to a baseball game I went to in the 1990s?  Not to mention the many, many, negatives from the film cameras I’ve had.
  • A box of books.  This includes 10-year-old and now-outdated accounting textbooks.  And a copy of the CICA Handbook from 2006, also now horribly outdated. What do I do with these? Keeping them would be pointless; recycling them feels wasteful…
  • Two bankers’ boxes of various stuff from school. This ranges from notes from every class I took in university (there are boxes more of this going back to about grade three in my parents’ basement right now), to the paper booklets from the Chartered Accountancy examinations I took in 2006, to annual parking passes from Brock University, to about ten years of day planners.  I couldn’t tell you what I ate for lunch yesterday, but I can tell you that my homework due for Tuesday, October 9, 2001 was to read Chapter 5 of an accounting textbook.  A textbook that I still have.  This is getting embarrassing.
  • Two gold watches.  One is a relatively cheap Bulova that I got as an award in high school, but the other is a Movado I got when I was on the UFE honour roll – in speaking to someone who received a similar one this year, I was told it’s likely worth thousands of dollars… I honestly had no idea!  I’ve never worn either, as I don’t generally wear gold, and have never been one to wear really ‘showy’ stuff.  Both have stopped, likely due to the cold temperatures on the trip here, but otherwise seem to be fine.  I have no emotional attachment to either (the certificates are, if anything, more sentimental to me), and both are either personalised or specific to the organisation that gave them.  At one point I thought I’d gotten rid of both – I’m glad now that I didn’t, but still don’t know what to do with them.  I’ll never wear them – do I just sell them?  Is that ungrateful of me?
  • My high school “grad ring”… same story.
  • A necklace, I think made of silver (it was made by the Israel Government Coins and Medals Corporation) though it might just be metal, with a “Taurus” charm on it, given to me by my late grandfather.  I have no particular attachment to the necklace, or my grandfather for that matter, and have maybe worn it once.  Yet somehow can’t bear to get rid of it.
  • A box of clothes that I’ve kept as “keepsakes” – concert t-shirts, uniforms and promo shirts from various groups I’ve been a member of over the years, my neckerchief from when I was a scout, the manager’s tie from when I worked at Harvey’s…
  • A Sony DVD player… long story short, I had planned to sell this to a friend in Toronto when I left, she balked, and I got stuck with it.  It ended up in my storage unit.  Now it’s here. I haven’t used a DVD player in ages, as I haven’t had a TV in ages. I watch everything on my computer.  Anyone in Vancouver want to buy a DVD player?
  • Two bankers’ boxes of “Magazines etc” – random stuff I’ve collected over the years.  Newspaper clippings, magazines that some of my favourite bands have been in, publications that I’ve been in myself, a handful of papers with same-sex marriage headlines, and programs from countless concerts and shows I’ve been to.  Friends who have helped me move over the years always make fun of these.  I probably don’t need them, and rarely if ever look at anything in them.  Sigh.
  • Yearbooks – I’m keeping these.
  • Sheet music for instruments I haven’t played in years.
  • Postcards and Christmas cards I’ve received over the last decade or two.  I think I’m going to keep a few of these… one of them is from a friend who passed away a couple years ago and I just started crying when I saw it.

Finally – one of the hardest things to deal with – three large boxes of CDs.  By my latest count I have somewhere in the area of 550 CDs.  Some of them are certainly keepsakes – I have some that are limited edition, and other still that are one-of-a-kind.  And a handful of them are autographed.  But I suspect most of them aren’t worth preserving, despite the fact that they’ve been a major collection of mine for quite some time.

Music has always been my thing so the attachment to the physical things is easily explainable.  But last year, before heading to Australia, I ripped my entire collection to MP3 format and have been listening to it in iTunes ever since.  I haven’t really missed the physical things.  But I’ve been moving them from place to place, year after year, and accumulating them for so long.  I think the moment that finally made me realise that at least a majority of them need to go happened this week.  I was in HMV downtown, which is closing.  It’s a massive superstore (formerly a Virgin Megastore); three stories of music and DVDs.  In the half-hour-plus that I spent there, I couldn’t find one thing I felt was worth buying – anything that I did see and want I knew would be available digitally.

I think with a lot of these things, particularly the CDs, I’ve held on to them for so long thinking they’ll eventually be worth something, or will be rare.  I’m realising now that their “worth” is not what I expect it to be.  The financial worth of most of this stuff (with the exception of the watches/jewellery) has likely dwindled to very little over the years.  And the personal/sentimental worth isn’t ever what I think it will be – every time I’ve purged stuff I’ve never missed it.  I might not be able to get rid of all this stuff right now, but I do hope I can get it down to something much more manageable!

Please leave your thoughts in the comments – I’d love to know what you think is worth keeping/eliminating and/or your experiences with purging!  Any tips on monetising some of this stuff would be helpful too!

13 responses to this post.

  1. Hey, as far as the t-shirts go, I had an AWESOME t-shirt-quilt made up a few months ago with a bunch of my old shirts from Guelph. It’s a great way to save the shirts that you can’t bear to part with, but know you won’t wear!


  2. Posted by Andrea on 2011/12/04 at 8:10 pm

    If I were you, I’d definitely keep the set lists (even if you de-frame all but a few favourites) and concert tickets… neither of which take up very much room. I think those are thing we will look at years from now and think it was really neat to still have them and remember.

    As for posters… I also have TONS! Mostly from concert venue walls, which I don’t necessarily want to hang up, but I like. I bought a large zippered art portfolio (from an art supply store) to put the posters in. The portfolio hots LOTS of posters and slides easily behind a piece of furniture or in the back of a closet.


    • ooh, these are great tips — even if you are enabling my hoarding!! haha. What does the art portfolio look like / how much was it?


      • Posted by Andrea S on 2011/12/04 at 8:47 pm

        My portfolio is about 2’x3′, made of a flexible plastic…inside there are a couple pockets to hold small posters and lots of space for the larger ones. There is a zipper around the outside and handles on the top to carry it (imagine a giant flexible, zippered binder, sans-rings) I think I paid about $30 for it at Michaels. It looks like these ones:


        • that’s not so bad. Though it still involves spending money on storing things again!! haha. I’ll keep it in mind though, it’s not a bad idea 🙂


  3. Also found: Constitution and by-laws of the Brock University Students’ Union, Inc. circa 2002-4. Along with the student health insurance policy agreement/report with our self-insurance administrator. Why I have these things is beyond me.


  4. RECEIPTS!!! OMFG I kept every receipt from every single CD I’ve ever purchased. WTF is wrong with me?


    • oldest of the receipts is from Sam The Record Man in the Pen Centre, dated February 19, 1997. Seriously, 14.5 yrs ago, from a now gone store


    • Out of sheer interest, I added all these receipts up. That’s 13 years or so of CD purchases (I’m certain there are some missing from the last couple of years), and excludes all digital music purchases. Grand total: $7,860. Fuck that’s a lot of money. Well spent at the time, but wow, that adds up.


  5. More finds from this week (these were mixed into some of the boxes described above — there were some worthwhile things to keep in them, but I had to laugh at myself for keeping these):

    A glow stick, thrown to me by one of Nelly Furtado’s dancers at her concert at Massey Hall last decade.

    Two copies of the March 2000 issue of Teen People.

    A page I photocopied from an economics textbook that analogised (at length) growth in GDP to Alanis Morissette’s vocal amp. I’m keeping this one. It’s kind of ridiculous.

    Three copies of the Ryersonian from December 1, 2004.

    Calendars from 2003-05 – including ones of Justin Timberlake, Madonna, Dawson’s Creek, and the Hubble Telescope.

    2007 Annual Report of Brookfield Asset Management.

    A copy of Blender magazine from December 2006.

    A copy of the inaugural (and one of only two issues released) issue of FabStyle Quarterly.

    Countless photos from the 90s. I need to find a way to minimise the amount of space these take up – which might involve scanning (which sounds like a huge project).

    Maps – circa 2006-2008 – of various parts of Eastern Canada (Charlottetown PEI, Newfoundland, Halifax NS, etc).

    CAA TourBooks – circa 2004-2006 – covering most of North America.

    Pride Guide from Pride Toronto 2004.

    A surprising number of autographed Wave CDs.

    Amongst the school notes (all of which have been recycled):
    – Parking permits from every year that I attended Brock
    – Two years’ worth of agendas & minutes from Brock University Students’ Administrative Council meetings.
    – The contents of my high school locker from 2001 (and 2000). There were at least three photos of Lance Bass. Not even kidding. Also – since these didn’t take up much space and had some pretty awesome memories attached, I kept them.
    – numerous 3.5″ floppy disks (now serving as coasters)
    – electronic versions (on CD-ROM) of a number of the items listed above that I also had in paper form

    … yeah. I’m a recovering hoarder.


    • I’ll also highlight an accomplishment: As of tonight, I’ve narrowed all of the stuff above (which consisted of 18 boxes, one big plastic bin, and one small plastic bin) down to:
      – one small plastic bin of keepsakes weeded out of the mess described above (including publications I’ve been in, and certificates I’ve received – things actually worth keeping… the setlists all came out of the frames and are now in one small folder)
      – half a box of CDs by some of my favourite artists, including CDs that are autographed and/or limited edition
      – the posters… Andrea’s suggestion will be taken and the ones I still want to keep (I haven’t weeded through them yet) will be narrowed down and kept flat.
      – one box of clothes – I like Catherine’s suggestion, and need a blanket, but having one made is expensive. It’s not out of the question though … either way, I simply haven’t had time to go through this box.
      – stacks of photo albums. I haven’t figured out what’s being done with these. I think ultimately I’ll probably end up scanning them and discarding the physical photos (with a few minor exceptions)… but for now they’re sitting on my living room floor.

      Even if I don’t get rid of the photo albums there’s still more than enough room for all of this in my storage unit in my building.

      I also have a whole bunch of “to get rid of” stuff on my living room floor, which I need to find homes for. I’m hoping to sell the CDs en masse, I just need to find time to get to some used CD stores nearby to see if they’ll take two bankers’ boxes full of CDs. I have a stack of empty binders which a friend (who is a student) has agreed to take. A handful of clothes and miscellaneous stuff will make its way to Value Village. And there’s a stack of books from which I need to remove and recycle the completely out-of-date ones, and will likely donate the remainder to the library.


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