Terri White mug

Last year, my student Kaleb showed his mom the essay he wrote for his homework. With a twinkle in his eye, he announced, “Here’s my essay for Mrs. White. It’s a bit snarky.”

Snarky! How many 17-year-olds do you know that use the word snarky? Not many. Not many adults either. In case you are reaching for your dictionary, here’s the def: mocking in an indirect or sarcastic way. The skills for a snarky essay require pure genius, a wild imagination, and loads of personality. That defines Kaleb to a tee. Although not loaded with pure genius, I do feel a bit snarky today — about several shameless concerns. Hence this essay. Hold on to your seatbelt! Not wearing one? Gosh, aren’t you the adventurous one! Pack Rats. Do they trouble you? While living in the country, Steve baited the mice, hoping to reduce the population. Our cat worked feverishly, but one cat can only eat so many. I suppose the local rat snakes consumed their share, too. But still. After all, we lived out in the boonies, their territory. Hence the bait — to the death.

However, when we prepared to move back to town, we discovered stockpiles of mouse bait tucked in our workshop drawers. You know, those drawers where you never reach to the bottom for those items. Those drawers. Ugh. Clearly, one country living experience I have not missed.

But pack rats come in an array of forms — usually people. People that I know. They shall remain nameless lest I step on too many toes. Err, step on piles of junk. Hard to know where the toes start and the stuff begins. For crying out loud, there’s even a TV show about hoarders!

Sound harsh? I guess. Remember, I’m feeling snarky. Just recheck the title of this hopeless essay. Okay, now I can’t stop laughing.

Do you remember those old horror movies when the villain threw his victim into a small room? Then the walls closed in on the poor soul? That’s how I feel in a cluttered space. Do-dads everywhere. Walls plastered with photos. Every nook and cranny stuffed with stuff. No open spaces, just paths to navigate around the room. That’s my horror story.

I think it’s an American phenomenon. I mean really? Who needs all that stuff anyway? Hoarders don’t even remember they own it. Or maybe they do. They might use it in 20 years, so why throw it away? Just build a bigger barn.

About 30 years ago, I picked up a friend who needed a ride. On the curb lay a perfectly good drafting table. I opened the back of our Pinto station wagon (remember that?) and stashed it. When I arrived home, my sons carried it into the house. An extra table for homework. A win-win.

Later, strolling in from work, my husband stopped dead in his tracks. He asked about the table. I relayed my account. Incredulous, he remarked, “YOU picked something up from the curb?”

To which my 14-year-old son (the minimalist) responded, “Yeah, Dad, but we’re using it NOW.” Oops! I just spilled the beans. THAT someone with the barn.

Flea markets. Yard sales. Antique/junk stores. Wal-Mart. Target. Stuff everywhere. It’s calling your name. Buy me!

Seriously, pack rats need a short leash. No! You cannot buy another widget! You rarely use the paraphernalia already strewn all over the barn, garage, office, closet, shelves. Are you really going to read those ten-year-old back issues of Vintage Guitar? How many empty plant pots do you actually need for next year’s seedlings? What’s in those boxes anyway? Don’t you know we have drawers for all those supplies scattered all over those shelves? I can’t walk in here with these piles of “treasures” stacked everywhere.

It’s endless. Parting with their beloved hoard is personal. Throwing them away is painful, traumatic, emotional. Like ripping out their hearts.

I don’t get it. The only items I remain emotionally attached to are family pictures or special gifts from loved ones. You’d need to shoot me to throw them out. But not mountains of stuff. Toss them out. I prefer space around me, not clutter. I cannot breathe in a hoarder’s house, barn, garage, or basement. My heartbeat rises. I even feel dirty.

So snarky. I’m feelin’ it today. Of course, I could regale you with other shameless concerns. How about the politicization of science and medicine? How about censorship? How about needing term limits on Congress? How about taxes? How about our troubled public schools? How about Big Pharma profiting from the elderly and promoting a drug culture instead of healthy lifestyles? The list is endless.

Bottom line for me, though? I can’t focus on all the “how abouts”. Life is too short, and there’s only so much one person can do. However, I can choose to maintain a positive attitude when faced with mountains of stuff. Mountains of shameless concerns. Of course, I’m just venting, and you get to read my snarkiness. Now that I’ve dumped on you, I feel like a new woman. Feeling positive, ready to save the world. Cheers!

Terri White is a veteran homeschool mom from the 80s and 90s and the founder/director of T.E.A.C.H. Cleburne. She can be reached at teachcleburne13@gmail.com.

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