1/16/08

Hoarders and Pack Rats

It happens every January. As I try to figure out where to put all the “incoming” (Christmas gifts), I’ve got to figure out some “outgoing” before claustrophobia sets in. I need space, and by all means, I don’t want to become a “hoarder.” Hoarding is clutter run amok. Hoarders are people who have long abandoned any hope of parking their cars in their garages.

Another name for hoarders is “pack rat.” Pack rats in nature gather stray objects, particularly shiny things. Serious human pack rats tend to be older adults who live alone with no one to regularly monitor their hoarding. Hoarding becomes a serious problem when a person is unable to throw away large amounts of accumulated things; the clutter begins to significantly impair day-to-day functioning; or normal living and work spaces become unusable.

But maybe you’re not a hoarder. Maybe you’re just a “messy.” Messies don’t know where to put things, so their living space gets out of control. They may be lazy, but often are not. Maybe you’re a “collector.” That’s no problem unless collecting takes over your budget or monopolizes time that God wants utilized another way. Maybe you’re a “legacy guardian,” saving things for the next generation (even if they don’t want it). Akin to this is the “save-it-for-someday” woman who still has items sitting on the shelf, unused, 15 years later. Or maybe you’re a house-party consumer. You don’t want to disappoint your party hostess, so your home is packed with items you seldom, if ever, use.

We really need to get honest. Some of these habits can lead to frustration, wrong priorities, fear (of loss), guilt (from out of control spending), regret, embarrassment, or even lost opportunities.

The right choices to overcome hoarding are: (1) Recognize and admit the problem; (2) Embrace biblical truth about things, covetousness, and eternal values (Psalm 119:36; Colossians 3:1-4; I Timothy 6:6-8; Matthew 6:25, 31-33); (3) Take positive action steps to get the “stuff” and your life under control (seek help, if you need it); (4) Share your things with people who really need them; and (5) Set up safeguards to keep future “stuff” from taking over. Don’t be a pack rat!

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