By Angela Owens
Lurking somewhere inside me is a pack rat. I’m not sure if I was born with her, or she simply developed during my childhood. It really doesn’t matter, she’s in there and she’s a royal pain. When I was younger, she tried to convince me to save almost everything. From a stack of third grade Haikus, to movie ticket stubs, Playbills from every on and off Broadway show I ever saw, she convinced me were all things I may one day want or need. Growing up, this was not as problematic as it might seem. We lived in the same house for many years, with an attic and basement to accommodate all kinds of memorabilia. My inner pack rat was very spoiled.
Fortunately, when it came time to marry my husband, who was in the Army, I did not consult her; she would have strenuously objected. Being a pack rat is not necessarily compatible with Army life. We have an authorized weight allowance for each move and going over it can prove costly. Even without that consideration, the rate at which we move can make having lots of extra stuff impractical. To further complicate matters, my husband is the exact opposite of me in that regard. I call him the anti pack rat. He has no problem, whatsoever, getting rid of anything and everything.
Early in our marriage, our opposing pack rats squared off as we prepared for each move. Boxes, files, even my junk drawer, you name it; nothing was safe once the anti pack rat prepared us to meet our weight allowance. On more than one occasion, there were panicked trips to the trash can to retrieve important items that he mistakenly purged. (A wallet even ended up in the trash one time, but I’m not naming names.) This left my inner pack rat very confused and unhappy. Was nothing worth saving?
I realized at a certain point that unless I wanted each move to end with couples counseling, I was the one who had to change. I had to prioritize and organize. More importantly, I had to get control of, and somehow tame my inner pack rat. My husband, too, has worked on developing a better sense of screening items before they head off to the dumpster. Our respective pack rats have reached a truce of sorts. I’m more selective about what I choose to save, he is more generous about allowing some additional weight for purely sentimental items. The importance of compromise cannot be understated here!
It’s not all bad. While my pack rat has reformed to some degree, I do occasionally indulge her. My beloved kitchen junk drawer; full of useful, but mainly useless items is a case in point. That domain is mine alone and my husband knows better than to even think about touching it during moving time.
I’m also planning a treat for her one day soon, we’ll be reading through some Haikus from 1972 while sipping wine from a junior/senior prom glass dated 1980.
Angela Owens is an Army spouse of over 20 years and also a former Army officer. She and her husband, their four children and three pets moved to Brooklyn this past summer from Ft. Polk, Louisiana. The Owens have been assigned all over the country, to include Hawaii, and also in Europe. Angela was born in the Bronx, and raised on Long Island.
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