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Perfect Little Pack Rat

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I am an email pack rat.

I had nearly 7,000 work emails, and Outlook politely reminded me today I was running out of space.

These occasional reminders help me purge. (Force is a more accurate word.)

I saw things in my email box from as far back as 2010. Surely, I didn’t need most of that stuff.

Email is our office’s lifeline, so having such a huge number of emails isn’t unusual, but 7,000 emails, in my opinion was way out of hand. I didn’t really even notice it until I got my little warning.

I’m actually glad I got rid of a lot of stuff. It was a bit of a relief.

In the bowels of my email, there were even emails to my ex, and I even found my (canceled) bridal shower guest list. Ouch. I even had a hard time deleting those. God.

I  had also stumbled across an email exchange with a close friend detailing my wedding jitters and my fears of moving clear across the country in the name of love for a man who wasn’t completely acting right at the time.

My friend gave me some powerful words trying to remind me of who I was, am and to never lose that and how I never lost that with any other man I was in a relationship with and that was not the time to start.

Reading those emails now, was a great reminder of just how far I’ve come. I’m proud of myself.

Some of those emails reminded me of other painful things.

It reminded me of my obsession with having to keep and document certain things that I didn’t think were right on the job, or proof of professional wrongdoing in case I had to go to the last resort of filing a complaint with HR to handle an out of control co-worker who was single-handedly trying to make my professional life hell.

Those emails reminded me of how paranoid and powerless I felt and how I was literally dissecting every negative thing this person said to me or about me, and ready to assume whatever positive thing they said, there was some sort of evil angle. This person was controlling me. They were winning.

Then I saw the emails where my fortune was starting to change and with the help and encouragement of others, I was able to remove myself from a toxic work situation and even start doing new things outside of my original job title.

There it was, the ups and downs. My performance reviews and my vacation requests. I kept every thing for years… just in case.

Just in case.

I won’t front, even in this 5,000 email purge (still have about 1500), I still kept the most egregious stuff, and this person isn’t even in my department anymore. But I just can’t help it.

Just in case…

Holding on to things seem to be in my nature. I have a lot of crap in my house. In my car. My desk isn’t as bad as it used to be. One of my co-workers always had a snide remark about my desk. I told her it’s a carry over from my reporter days.

Every reporter I knew had a desk full of stuff. You couldn’t even see the desk at a certain point. Books and press releases, phone books, style books, dictionaries. Coffee cups, snacks. You were always on the go, hence the car had a lot of crap in it because you’d often have lunch and dinner there. You’d take phone calls there, do full-out interviews there, take notes, lie to your editor that you were on your way back to write. It was your real office. That’s where most of the real work took place.

So yes, old habits die hard.

As my friends found out on my 30th birthday weekend preparing my home for the party, I am a pack rat. I keep old magazines, and all kinds of paper. You will find convention laptop bags and family reunion tee shirts from the last 10 years in a closet someplace.

Every time I’ve had to move, that was the time I’d call on the help of impartial friends to get rid of things when I wasn’t looking. Just because I love Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, it doesn’t mean I need to keep the bag my bengiets came in, but the memory makes me happy. It reminds me I was someplace special, even though I have pics. I’m really crazy.

I’ve been training myself to get rid of junk mail as soon as I get it now, so it won’t pile up and then I have to spend most of a Saturday shredding my name and address off and disposing of it all.

I may have some kind of emotional disorder, I may have inherited packratism from my mother who keeps everything, but her problem is she just doesn’t know where she put it all anymore.

Like a true person with a problem/addiction, I claim I know where it all is, when in fact, I stumble upon things I’d forgotten about in surprise.

I’m clever though.

I semi organize my crap by purchasing organizers, shifting the crap into neat little boxes, so the crap isn’t all over the floor. Go me! Organized chaos!

I don’t think I’m a hoarder, because at a certain point, I do get sick of some of the crap in my house and I pick an area and just toss with reckless abandon.

When I was in the brunt of my emotional pain last year, I went to see a psychiatrist. And how did she describe me?

She said on the outside, I looked like I had it together. Nice clothes, great shoes, good-looking. I had a great education and a seemingly great career path. I was self-aware and well-adjusted considering all of the things I had been through.

But I had all of these deep, painful things going on with me and somehow I managed to put them all in these lovely boxes, stacked them perfectly and kept stepping with my head held high. She said that if I kept on stacking the boxes in their neat rows, one day there were going to be too many for even I to handle and continue to organize neatly out of my way. In fact, she warned they were all going to fall down. On top of me.

She told me, I was going to have to eventually open each and every box and deal with what’s in each and every one in order to truly be happy.

I hope I’ve begun to do that over the last several months. I certainly do feel happier.

So yes, I was professionally assessed as the ultimate (emotional) pack rat, even in a metaphorical, Freudian kind of way. But I’m working on it.

One email, one magazine, one piece of junk mail at a time.

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