Dear RV Shrink:
I am having problems with a couple of pack rats in and around my RV. One of them is a furry rodent and the other one is my husband.
When we first started spending winters in the Desert Southwest we noticed many other RVers using various lighting around their rigs. While on our nightly speed walk around the campground, it reminded us of the TV show “The Great Christmas Light Fight.” We finally were told that the reason for all the lights was to fend off pack rats that would nest in engines or chew electrical wiring.
I don’t know if lights work or not, but my husband has no doubts. He has lit up the night sky with rope lights, solar flame lights, flashing LEDs, and motion-sensing floodlights. He never throws anything away so we have bins bulging in our motorhome. Before we were full-timers our garage looked the same way. He would go to the dump with one load and come home with two.
So, my question for you is two-fold. Do pack rats damage RVs, or is this a vicious rumor started by lighting companies? Also, should I stealthily start jettisoning some of my husband’s collection of “STUFF,” or just let it go and see how much he can cram into our rolling home on wheels?
When he gets into a hobby or interest, he goes “all in.” My biggest fear is he will become interested in lapidary and we will end up with a “Rock Star” bus, or worse yet we will be known as the “Rolling Stones.” I’m tired of living with a hoarder by the border. Help me please, but don’t use my real name. —Magpie
The Rolling Stones might be your salvation. They say a rolling stone gathers no moss. I am not sure about rat lights and all the other things your husband clings to.
Let’s start with the easy answer. Yes, rat lights work. I know for a fact that before I had rope lights under my rig I had a pack rat nest and none since. That is enough proof for me. My friend, parked right next to me this year in Arizona, ended up with $1,400 worth of engine wiring repair work. He is now lit up like a Christmas tree. (Well, his RV is, anyway.)
As for your husband’s excessive hoarding, it may be genetic. Just as that innocent little rodent can’t help himself, your husband might just have a chromosome linked to compulsive hoarding. He is most likely thinking he will need one of the items he is hanging onto in the future. In my lifetime, I have noticed this with people that lived through the Depression of the ’30s. My dad would even keep bent nails once he extracted them from a board.
You might try reasoning with him. How about a little “spring cleaning.” Go through everything and make him explain his reason for hanging on to it. Tell him you will get better mileage if you get rid of some ballast. See what he’s carrying that would be considered dual-purpose or redundant. You may be surprised how much decluttering you can do by working together on this project. It sounds like you must have been successful when you sold your house and had a garage to clear out.
You might want to suggest some light-throttling also. It doesn’t take an airport runway lighting system to discourage a pack rat. Consider the neighbors who are near you looking for some dark sky experiences. There are fewer and fewer places to enjoy the night sky. Having some light polluter parked next door can quickly ruin an evening of sitting around a dark campfire watching the stars drift by. You should have no problem if your husband is only half-lit. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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