Without planning to, I have just completed a national poll -- actually you might even go so far as to say an international poll -- that establishes clearly we are a world full of pack rats.
Some weeks ago I wrote a column about attending a workshop on scaling down clutter. At most, I got a handful of comments from fellow clutterers in my reader sphere, but then I put part of the things I learned at the workshop in action - recycling.
Why waste a few good words, I thought, when Suzanne Beecher asked me to sub for her vacation by writing the column that appears daily on her online book club website for libraries and publishers. I recycled the clutter column, and it appeared on the website Oct. 16. I received more than 150 responses. Since two responses were from overseas, I must consider clutter an international issue.
The one closest to home came from Sylvia Norton of Sutherlin, Ore., who said her garage is her storage shed and the car is banished to the driveway. In reference to a comment I made about having a barn overflowing with stuff, she added, "Thank the Lord we don't have a barn."
I'd like to give my readers chapter and verse from all the e-mails, but my editor won't let me clutter up the newspaper's pages. I will selectively quote from a few, like the one from Stephanie Cull (that's her name not my play on words for a clutter column) of Concord, Ohio, who simply wrote "pack rats applaud you." Or this one from Anne Sullivan-Reed, who said she is an editor who has been cleaning up clutter in other people's writing for years, but admits filling the basement, attic and garage with a time capsule of the past 30 years.
Only rat packers can understand Dorie, who says she goes on a cleaning binge, but "the stuff multiplies and grows back." Blaize Clement, the author of the Dixie Hemingway mystery series, said she has a desk large enough on which to park a Volkswagen, but "I manage to clutter ever inch of it."
Glenna Stites, a professor emeritus from Overland Park, Kan., observed, "I have started going through 12 file drawers in my office, but cannot see even a dent yet." Carol Welch, a librarian from Erie, Pa., said she has had little success in cleaning paper debris because she fears "what if I shred the wrong thing?"
Mary Akers, author of "Women Up on Blocks," writes from her Western New York home that she is the pack rat in the family, but fortunately her husband is the "tsunami that periodically clears it away." But Janie Jones of Texas had the opposite experience when she went on a business trip and returned to discover her tsunami husband had cleaned out her kitchen and in doing so tossed all her spices and herbs, adding "the man does not cook but he felt these items were useless."
Jennifer Yarough of Texas said my comment that the clutter in our lives will become the responsibility of our children motivated her to take "a second look at my own stacks and storage." Marion Lillie, who said she just turned 92, worked as a correspondent for a weekly newspaper in Bayside, Idaho, and collected a five-drawer file cabinet of memories, which she now uses in writing stories as part of the Idaho Writer's League in Coeur d'Alene.
Martha Troxel of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, wrote that tossing things sounds like a good idea "until a person has to do it." Marylee Muntz of Northern Indiana said she and her husband have moved 10 times in their married life and downsized each time, yet "I look around and wonder what my two children will do with all this stuff when we are gone. Everything has a special meaning and each has a story behind it, but I am sure it will not have meaning to anyone else."
Nancy Austin said she was late replying to my column because she was busy "sifting the clutter on her kitchen table which somehow magnetically works its way up from my basement office and finds a flat surface on my table."
Perhaps the best message in all these column responses is that my clutter pales by comparison to some others.
Bill Duncan can be reached by writing to P.O. Box 812, Roseburg, OR 97470.