Banishing Bad Hair Days since 1997!™

Hair Pack Rat Disease!


I have lots of excuses about why I am a major packrat but most people just roll their eyes when I start to list them. My primary excuse is of course genetics. I come from a long line of packrats and it is just in my blood.

In case you have never heard the term, a pack rat is a rodent noted for its habit of collecting bright, shiny objects and leavning other objects such as nuts or pebbles in their place. The Pack Rat stores the objects it collects to decorate its nest.

Two days ago through a series of normal life events, I was forced to clean out the closet in my office at home so that the air conditioning people could get in there and work on my currently kaput unit. Since I live in Texas and it tends to get extremely hot here in May, I decided that cleaning out my closet was the lesser of two evils. Sweating bullets or digging through mounds of boxed up "stuff".

Once I was knee deep in boxes I had a change of heart but it was too late to turn back. I decided to suck it up and make the best of it. Conveniently I was loaded up with several new boxes of garbage bags that were begging to be filled.

Bizarre Hair Related Topics

If you have been visiting over the past 10 years, you may have noticed that I sometimes write about bizarre hair related topics. Hold onto your headbands, cleaning out my closets have opened my eyes to hair related clippings, notes and papers that have been buried in my closet for, well, ten years.

One of the first things I found in my hair clippings boxes, yes there are several, was an article from 1990 bemoaning the fact that every year the United States must dispose of 180 million tons of garbage produced each year. After looking at the boxes of junk piled in my closet, I at least felt exonerated that I was rarely contributing to the garbage that must now be many millions more that 180.

Ironically stuffed in with my boxes of "clippings" and 30 year old hair and beauty magazines, was boxes of empty, half-empty and completely full hair care products that I had been testing and then packed off in packratish fashion into boxes in my closet.

No, you should never use hair care products that have been packed away for ten long years. While most hair products such as shampoos, conditioners and styling products have a very long shelf life (some up to five years), I definitely would never risk a ten year old hairspray on my tresses.

Which bring the next question and the reason for my article. What exactly do hair packrats like me do with "hair stuff" that we have collected for the past 20 years?

Steps For Overcoming Hair Pack Ratitis

Listed below are my tips for dealing with mountains of hair related artifacts found in the back of a garage, top of the attic, hidden in the basement or stuffed in a closet:

1. Immediately toss any hair care products (shampoo, conditioner, styling products) regardless how long you have had them if the following conditions exist: - Product has an odd smell. - The product has changed color or looks cloudy. - The texture of the product has changed. In some cases hair gels will change from solid to liquid or vice versa.

When in doubt how long the shelf life is for any hair care product, contact the manufacturer. In some cases shampoo and related hair care products are okay to use up to two or three years.

A lot depends on how the products were stored. Hair care products that are stored in cool, dark places will historically last longer than those allowed to sit in sunlight or hot locations. 2. Recycle any discarded hair care products that are in glass, metal or recyclable containers. When in doubt about what you can recycle, contact your local recycling district. 3. If you determine that your newfound stashed products are still okay to use but you no longer have a need for them you have the following options to alleviate your pack ratitis: - List them on E-Bay or similar website - List them on a hair website that has a swap list - Throw a swap meet party and offer to trade with friends for other products you might like to try. - Use them for non-hair related options. Note: If you do decide to list them on E-Bay or swap them, be sure to provide detailed information on the age and condition of the products and whether they have ever been opened.

4. Sell old hair magazines and books on

If that is too much trouble for you to handle, pack them up and take them to a used bookstore and see if you can trade up. Most used bookstores will only offer you pennies on the dollar for used hair books, unless they are rare. However, many will happily offer you a lot more in trades as long as you haul off some of their books. 5. Make a "hair clippings" book.

This is a time consuming task but if you are not able to part with any old hair magazines that have special articles, get out the scissors, tape and a scrapbook or photo album. Cut out the "can't live without" articles and then slap them in your new book.

Organize your clippings according to topic. Some optional organization topics might include:

- Hair styling - Hair care products - Sample hairstyles - New hair care techniques

I currently have 26 different hair clipping books. I am always trying to wean them down but at least the stacks of hair magazines have gone on to other homes. Sometimes to avoid defacing the magazines I slap the desired article or notes on a copy machine. That way when I donate my old mags, there are no ripped out pages.

6. Donate Items

Consider donating any items that are still functional or with a remaining shelf life to a local shelter, thrift shop or other charitable organization.

Some charities like to collect items such as hair styling books or products. If you have hot rollers that you no longer use but are still safe and functional, consider donating them.

7. Garage Sale

Of course garage sales are a great way to clear out lots of things besides hair care products. If you find that having your own garage sale is too much work, partner with some neighbors and through a block sale.

8. Throw It Away

This option always breaks my heart. I am usually convinced that the minute I throw away that old hair styling book, the featured styles will instantly become popular. Never mind that the styles are probably 20 years old.

My biggest challenge is usually trying to figure out whether to pitch it, donate it or figure a way to reuse it.

Once I decided to "rescue" some shampoo that was rapidly aging but had a fabulous aroma. I used it to wash my pantyhose. Big mistake!. It turned out that the shampoo when used on other parts of my body resulted in an itchy red rash.


A pack rat is a real animal with a compulsion to collect a wide assortment of goodies. A hair pack rat is a unique creature, like yours truly, who hoards anything remotely related to hair. This hoarding can become troublesome with the stack of hair magazines is higher then you are or fills more closets than your actual clothes.

Although there is no known cure for hair pack ratitis, try some of the self-help tips listed below. The most important thing to remember with hair pack ratitis is that the unafflicted will never understand, so don't even try to explain.

If you want to talk more about this or other hair care articles on or anywhere else, please post a message on's Hair Talk Forums.

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