Or a "keeper."
Or whatever you call them in your family. You know the type; the ones who can't bear to throw anything away because they "might need it someday!" The ones who have kept every gift they were ever given - AND all the wrapping paper it came in. They have a decently clean bedroom, but woe to the person who should open their top dresser drawer, or get a peak at the mountain of boxes in the basement!
What is worse is a secret pack rat. It's really hard to be, let me tell you. Of course, everyone knows your secret, but you pretend they don't. You even develop a sort of warped pride about how neatly all your stuff is stored or stacked. And when you go through your closet and get rid of 2 skirts and 5 shirts....whew! You are really on a roll! Aren't you the perfect picture of a minimalist? ...Of course, you try to forget the fact that you stored those same 2 skirts and 5 shirts downstairs in a box. You need that comfort - it's nice to know they're down there in case you regret your sudden weeding of your wardrobe.
You also try to forget that you have clothes down there from the weeding of your closet that took place when you were fourteen.
My mental picture of a pack rat is someone who is messy. They have all that "junk" pouring out of their garage doors...their attic is packed to the bursting point...they can't shut their closet doors. Never do I picture a pack rat who has a neat bedroom or nearly-empty garage.
But I've come to the conclusion that it's all in the attitude. It's that worrisome nagging in the back of your mind - that urge to hold tight to what you have. And you can hold as tightly to 2 skirts and 5 shirts as you can to 200 skirts and 500 shirts.
I like the minimalist idea. I really do. Pictures of Victorian living rooms, with all that clutter, annoys me. They honestly thought that was pretty? You'd have to walk sideways to get out of the room without knocking over a lamp, falling into a chair, or bumping a picture off the wall. I much prefer the country look, where only what is used and loved is in a room. I like that saying "have nothing in your home which you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."
I used to like having a lot of knick-knacks and wall hangings, and all that sort of thing, but in the past several years my tastes have changed. Now, if I am not using it, or it doesn't absolutely make me smile and laugh for joy when I see it (like pictures of loved ones), I don't want it in my room.
So of course I'm not a pack rat...am I?
Well, the truth is....I still have all those knick-knacks and wall hangings and clothes and photos and calendars and lamps and whatever else I had when I loved packing my room with "stuff"! Even though I don't really need or care for those things any more, I keep them. ...Because I might need them someday.
So I might as well face the truth; I'm a pack rat. And I'm gonna do more than just publicly admit that; I'm gonna tell you my worse faults in my pack-ratting!
#1 - I'm pretty bad about keeping clothes, as I've already hinted. It's sad...but I've gotten a bit better in this area in the past year or so. I think I've gotten rid of 2 boxes so far. ...Don't ask about what's left.
#2 - And I'm pretty terrible at throwing fabric scraps away. I have a two scrap boxes, and they have scraps in them the size of threads. ...In fact, I occasionally keep scrap thread, too. Honest.
#3 - I'm even worse about keeping papers. I have a box in the basement that has school notebooks from when I was learning long division. ...No, not the textbooks. The papers I wrote my answers on. (You must understand I have a love affair with writing....and I guess I can't stand to see paper or books in the trash...even junk mail.)
#4 - But what I'm absolutely, positively terrible at getting rid of is files. My conscience has lots to soothe it on this point. They're computer files, right? That means they don't take up visible space, they don't clutter my room, and they are certainly something that I'd miss if my computer crashed.
...Well, maybe. I don't know. It could just be me. ...But I really think something is wrong with my computer. A little while ago I tried to play a song I had downloaded from the web, and windows media player wouldn't play it. The pop-up said "Your computer is too low on memory to play this song. Please try closing some programs and try again." I only had 5 programs up!
...Of course, I do have a lot of pictures stored on here. And I do have over a dozen books I'm "thinking about writing," and each book requires an average of 3 to 7 files....I don't know. Maybe I do have stuff I'm not using on here. I could probably do without the receipts for everything I've ever bought online. And maybe I wouldn't miss the internet program I switched off of. ...But what if I want to switch back?
Yes, I'm afraid I'm a pack rat. I hang on to stuff. It's really tempting to treat this as a kind of joke - lots of people laugh about their pack rat tendencies, and I could easily be one of them.
But is it right or wrong to hang on to stuff so tightly?
I guess it depends on where those feelings come from. I know that part of my pack-rattedness (what a word!) comes from my hatred of waste.
I hate waste with a passion. I can't stand to see perfectly good items being thrown away...like that piece of junk mail. Think of the cost of the ink and paper!!! And fabric - whew - that stuff isn't cheap. And you'd better prepare yourself for a lecture if I see you throwing a can away. Rinse it out and put it down in the bin in the basement, with all the rest of my collected tin cans. Some day we'll recycle them. I even reuse paper towels if they aren't too dirty.
But there's also a part of me that wants to keep stuff that I could give away to a good home. After all, giving away clothes to someone who could use them isn't a waste at all. ...So I can't blame my stash of clothes on a hatred of waste. That stash is being wasted right now - I can't possibly wear it all.
So it's a mix. Some of the causes of my P.R. tendencies are good, and some aren't.
So I can't tell you about the pack-ratted-ness of everyone else, but I know that my conscience squirms every time I read these words:
Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
(For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
I could have copied out most of this chapter (Matthew 6), but I thought it might be a little long. This whole chapter focuses on Christ telling His disciples not to hold so tightly to the world.
It's easy to say, "Oh, I'm not attached to the world. Christ means more to me than anything." But there's also a certain way of living that just seems so....loose. So free. So unattached. So unhindered.
I'm thinking of a certain family I know. They are so generous - not just with money, but with items and time and everything they have. I have never seen anyone treat possessions so flippantly - unless I count another couple who once let us have their home for several days (that's another story of God's provision!).
But this family constantly amazes and rebukes me with the way they live. Things flow through them, not to them. It's as if they own nothing. ...And you know what? I think that's what they think.
At first it seemed very scary to watch. ...But I kinda envy that freedom. They don't have to worry about what isn't theirs.
It makes ya think.