Are You An Emotional Packrat?


November 29, 2010   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Confession time, until a few years ago I was an emotional packrat. While I would tell others to let stuff go, forgive and forget, and just move on, I would keep adding to my emotional baggage and never dealing with it.

I would hang on to these thoughts and feelings continually replaying different scenarios in my head. Each time I would think of things I should have said (or perhaps should have avoided saying). I would think of what I should have done differently, as if this replay would change the outcome.

There is a lot of damage that can come from hanging on to, storing, and replaying all of these past issues. It can cause an enormous amount of stress, anxiety, and even depression in some cases.

So how do you know if you you’re an emotional packrat?

  1. You constantly replay past confrontations, conversations and situations in your head.
  2. You find yourself saying, “I wish I had said ______________.” Or, “I should have done _________.”
  3. You get anxious when you think of certain people or get stressed at the thought of running into someone in an otherwise completely nonthreatening situation.
  4. You find yourself worrying about what the other people are thinking of you.

So what can you do about it?

    1. Remember this one thing…
      You’d worry less about what people thought of you if you knew how little they did. This has been the single most effective thing to help me get over worrying about what other people were thinking of me. It really makes sense if you just think about it. How often do you think about other people? Your work mates, your hairdresser, your close friend? My guess would be not that often. Well, this works the other way as well. Just as you don’t think about, gossip about or otherwise worry about other people it’s unlikely that they are any different.


  • Aim for simplicity.
    There are people who absolutely thrive on drama. They love the buzz and excitement it creates. Personally, I can’t stand it. Drama adds unnecessary stress and complication to any relationship. Imagine someone always leaving stuff to the last minute and madly running around trying to get everything done on time? They try and suck you in by asking you to help out to get it done. The more you play their game the more you get sucked in and before you know it you’re just as stressed and excited as the one that started it. Aim for simplicity and don’t perpetuate other people’s games by playing along, engaging them or encouraging the behavior.



  • Admit you were wrong and move on.
    For most of us, when we do something wrong to someone else we feel guilt, regret and remorse. It’s nearly impossible to let that go unless you’re able to apologize or somehow make it right. This may require you to swallow your pride, “man up” and do the right thing. But, once you have and you have a clear conscience, release it. Even if the other person is still upset or unable to get passed it. That’s their choice.



  • Don’t do it again.
    You screwed up, we all do, and if you’re passed point 3 (above), don’t let it happen again. Learn from your mistake and avoid having to go through it again in the future. This is the most valuable part of screwing up! 🙂


How to stop being an emotional packrat.

    1. Don’t store it in the first place.
      When things come up deal with them. The advice given to every couple around the world “never go to bed angry” is applicable to everyone. Don’t let things hang for a prolonged period of time. Deal with them as quickly as possible so they don’t grow into something much, much bigger.


  • Be picky.
    It’s okay to be choosy when it comes to who you hang out with, what commitments you agree to and “games” you play or don’t play. If there is one person in particular who tends to aggravate you more than anyone else consider reducing your interaction with them. If there is a drama queen (or king) in your midst don’t react, don’t engage and just let them figure it out. You don’t need to take it all, or even part of it, on board and you don’t need to help them every single time.



  • Be okay with being you.
    You’re not perfect, nobody is, and that’s okay. Don’t apologize for being who you are and instead be confident with being who you are. Try not to take so much on board.


There’s a lot of talk these days about decluttering and simplifying our homes, schedules, and work environments I think we should also add our emotions to that list. Don’t you?

Written on 11/29/2010 by Sherri Kruger. Sherri writes at Zen Family Habits, a blog celebrating all things family. Sherri also writes on personal development at Serene Journey, a blog dedicated to sharing simple tips to enjoy life Photo Credit: TheeErin

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