While most of us observe the May holidays of Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, National Pack Rat Day on May 17 largely goes unnoticed. What does not go unnoticed is the tendency of many people to hold onto unnecessary items.
Studies estimate that about 19 million Americans are compulsive hoarders. That is twice as many people as those identified as dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Even many people who are not compulsive hoarders also hang on to stuff they don’t need.
The favorite thing for people to hoard is clothing and books, but hoarders are even known to save up junk mail, used food packaging — even pets. Not being able to throw things away can create an obvious fire danger. Less obvious is that compulsive hoarding is often associated with obesity, respiratory problems (related to dust mites attracted to trash) and failure to stay on medication.
So tackling a cluttered home, garage, or yard not only can improve the look of your property, it could also improve your health. Tackling a years-long habit of hoarding can be overwhelming, but people can take steps to keep things in check and maybe even clear stuff out.
Here are nine rules to unpack that pack rat in you:
1. The replace rule. If you buy something new, you must get rid of something old. That means if you buy a new pair of shoes, you need to donate an old pair to the local thrift store.
2. The copy rule. Scan and save a digital version and toss the original. That’s an easier way to keep mementoes such as theater tickets, sport programs, even a birthday card from your favorite aunt.
3. The eStatements rule. Once upon a time, banks would send people their cancelled checks. People would file them in shoeboxes and sometimes never threw them away. Now many people don’t even use checks and banks make it easy to declutter by offering free eStatements that include images of your checks. At Zions, you can access eStatements for a rolling 18 months. You can also save a PDF copy that you can store digitally for longer periods of reference.
4. The move rule. If you haven’t used something since the last time you moved, there is a good chance you don’t need it. Get rid of it. If you haven’t moved in five years or more, do some spring cleaning and look at those older items. You can make money doing a yard sale with stuff you never use.
5. The duplicate rule. Do you really need 20 pairs of reading glasses or eight ice cream scoops?
6. The flee the flea market rule. Yard sales are like quicksand to hoarders. Best rule is to stay away, but if you must indulge, you must follow the replace rule and get rid of something old for every new thing you bring home.
7. The safety rule. Not all collecting is bad. If you collect rare coins or jewelry, it’s a good idea to keep it in a safe deposit box. Your bank is a lot more secure than the shelf in your closet.
8. The help rule. If you really want to tackle your clutter, ask a trusted friend for advice. A fresh set of eyes can notice stuff you may be blind to: “I think you can get rid of this dot matrix printer.”
9. The money rule. If you are going to hoard something, money is actually a good thing. Money in a savings account will be there for your future needs. Also, saving instead of spending money means less stuff around the house – a win-win!
Another little-known holiday is coming up on May 20: National Be a Millionaire Day. If you follow the rules above, you improve your chances of one day being a millionaire. The key for most millionaires is not winning the lottery, it’s spending less, so you can save more. So declutter and bank your savings.