Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

Because of some work that’s been done at my house I had to clean out
the attic (think mice chewing on twenty years of stashed “valuables”).
It’s made me realize how much my husband and I have collected over
time. I’m not just talking the normal detritus of a four-person family
(kids grown and flown). But the fact that every cupboard, closet,
drawer, and inch of the garage is so full I cannot find anything I am
looking for. Do you have any advice for a repentant collector of stuff?

Dear Packrat:
Just like neatniks or slobs, there’s two categories of people: packrats
and tossers. Packrats tend to keep three sizes of clothes in their
closets (their current size, one fatter, and one slimmer). Tossers get
rid of anything they haven’t worn in a year. That’s just one category of
household things, but you get the idea. Packrats keep out of
sentiment. Think your mother’s favorite casserole (don’t mind the
crack). They think in terms of replacement cost, and have trouble
driving by a garage sale. Tossers have problems opening a drawer and
think it’s time to have a garage sale of their own.

My advice: clean the attic (and store what remains in unchewable
plastic tubs). Then start on the kind of purge you should do annually in
your cupboards before Pesach and what we politely call spring cleaning
for the rest of your home and garage, Pretend you’re moving. Get rid
of things! Repeat: get rid of lots and lots of things. Recycle, donate,
Craigslist, or just toss. Decide if you really use something or are just
afraid you might need it someday. Given your nature, be ruthless,
though you may find that it becomes fin and addictive. Allow yourself
one “last box” which you can fill with all the weird odds and ends you
cannot figure out where to put, or can’t bear to part with. One
godmotheree says she carted the same last box through moves in
three states before depositing it on the doorstep of a local charity. I’d
be surprised if you don’t feel like you went on a successful diet by the
time you are done. And if you remain a packrat, you can start
shopping and collecting to fill some of the now clear and open space
you’ll make.