Abandoning the Pack Rat Creed

My friend Kathy Berken wrote a book several years ago about her experiences living in a L’Arche community in Clinton, Iowa. Titled Walking on a Rolling Deck: Life on the Ark, it is a worthwhile read for many reasons and her openness in describing her own growth through some extraordinarily difficult experiences is inspiring as well as instructive.

One of the the episodes she related was not at all unique to L’Arche community living and it involves a subject I suspect many of us can relate to.

Talking about one of the residents in the house, she described his tendency to take things home and stash them “in his sacred drawer alongside all the other crap he brings home.” It was her further description that I resonated with:

It’s a Junk Drawer. Pack Rats like us grew up with the family Junk Drawer. The Pack Rat Creed is: “Don’t throw that away because you never know when you might need it. The day you throw it out, that’s when you will need it.”

Sigh. How familiar I am with the Pack Rat Creed…and I have more than one “junk drawer.” Despite the fact that I don’t buy a whole lot of anything other than books, I seem to accumulate a lot of stuff.

I do throw away a lot of things. But it takes conscious effort to overcome the “you never know when you might need it.” (It is amazing how many possibilities the mind can come up with for potential uses for something that hasn’t been used for at least several years.)

I do think the conscious effort is worth it. I always feel better after I’ve trucked several big bags of things off to Goodwill or otherwise donated them. But there is always more, and I know I need to commit more firmly to abandoning the Pack Rat Creed.


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