pack rat

Clutter has always caused me anxiety. My daughter’s bedroom falls somewhere between overstocked flea market and overstuffed dumpster. Walking in there for any reason nearly causes me to breakout in hives. She lives the life of a pack rat, and she lives it well. Her bed is more of a nest, constructed with every blanket, pillow, and stuffed animal she owns. Toys, markers, and lost socks keep company with broken Happy Meal toys, scraps of paper, and every Shopkin in existence. But, she is comfortable with this chaos, it doesn’t bother her in the slightest, and because her room is her space, chaos it is.

Her proclivity for collecting started when she was just a toddler. If something was given to her, she was keeping it—forever. Not much has changed on that front, and what was once a cute quirk has grown to be a waist-deep landfill. Alright, that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but OMG worthless crap is everywhere.

I try to be sensitive to her love for things. If she insists on keeping something, I don’t push the issue or force her to part with something, even if most would consider it junk. It’s her junk, after all. Who knows, she may end up on Antique Road Show one day with her unique collection of tiny useless erasers. I don’t want to begrudge her happiness, I just don’t know where we’re supposed to keep all of it.

On more than one occasion I’ve offered to help clean her room, hoping to liquidate some of her assets. She gladly accepts, because she’s six, and hates cleaning her room, but any unrealistic expectations I have are put into check the moment I attempt to purge anything. I once suggested she get rid of a Barbie with no legs, and you would have thought I asked her to donate a kidney. From broken toys to products information pamphlets, it stays—all of it. The cleaning process takes an eternity, and in the end, her toy box is still stuffed to the gills, and every storage basket is brimming with tchotchkes.

I wish I could say it stops at toys and knick-knacks, but it doesn’t. Her pack-ratting extends to school work as well—every piece of paper that comes home. We could decoupage our house with the papers sent home with a kindergartener. I have a keepsake box for her special projects, and things she’s really proud of. We give art to grandma for her fridge, and keep some for ours, but I’m gonna be honest, I throw away a lot of kid art. If she ever catches me, I’m gonna have to buy her a pony to make up for it.

I know this is part of who she is. She’s a creative girl who thrives on chaos and embraces the unusual. She sees the potential in everything and everyone—maybe that’s why she can’t part with a busted Barbie. I don’t consider myself to be a minimalist, but I like simple, clean, clutter-free spaces. There’s not much common ground between pack rat and neat freak, so for now I give her space to be herself. I let her keep her room however she pleases, even if this means mountains of unfolded blankets and a hundred scraps of artwork. She may be a pack rat, but let’s face it, there are worse problems to have than a little girl who loves her things.

Photo: Getty