Fighting The Inner Pack Rat

Do you have too much clutter in your life?

If you accidentally put a newspaper down for a second, will it get so buried beneath all your other newspapers, magazines, take out menus, and just plain scrap paper that you would need a team of archaeologists to find it again? Then you may suffer from a debilitating disease that affects millions of Americans each year. You, my friend, may be a pack rat.

I know of what you suffer. I too possess that elusive pack rat gene. The urge to collect haunts me like nicotine haunts the smoker, and alas there is no pack rat patch to help. As a teenager, I couldn't bear to throw anything out. I wasted tons of energy collecting sports memorabilia. I saved videotapes of TV shows I didn't like. I even kept all my notes from school in a corner of my parent's basement. I'm not entirely sure where my diplomas are, but sadly I could probably still find my 8th grade chemistry notes.

I was well on my way to a life of pack ratting, but luckily this is not a tale of failure. Sure, I still collect some, but for the most part my condition is under control. On some days, I can even see my desk. That's how very cured I am. How did I do it, you ask. It wasn't easy, but for those who share this pack rat gene, here are some tips on how you too can learn to live a clutter-free existence.

  1. Move as much as possible.
    There is no better way to eliminate clutter than moving. No matter how much of a pack rat you are, when you suddenly need to leave your apartment in three hours, you will discard with abandon. Suddenly, you will have enough clarity to wonder why you could have possibly saved that remote control from your television that broke in 1991. Old college textbooks, magazines from the Bush Administration, and UFOs (Unidentifiable Fermenting Objects) will all end up in your trash can, and for once you will feel liberated.
    Personally, I try to move once a year just to keep my possessions at a manageable level.
  2. Keep your most useless junk at your parent's house.
    This may not be a cure, but it sure does make it easier to walk through your apartment. And if you're like me and have pack rat parents, your clutter will blend in with their clutter, and they will hardly even notice.
  3. Save everything on a computer.
    For the disposal-impaired like me, a computer is a beautiful instrument. I love it that I can save all sorts of useless information in such a neat little box as my computer. I may have copies of e-mail going back to 1993, but luckily they never get in my way. And as for my printer, I use it as infrequently as possible. Of course, my room is still a mess most of the time, but -- and here's my point -- imagine how bad it could be. If not for my computer, I would probably need to rent an extra room just to store my vast megabyte collection.
  4. Accept that your collections will never be valuable.
    Perhaps I'm just bitter because I was told my Rickey Henderson rookie baseball card has a bubble on it and isn't worth a couple hundred dollars like the books say. It is instead worth about three dollars. No matter that I can't actually see or feel the bubble; the guy at the baseball card shop assures me that it is there.
    Sadly, if you want to make money off your collections, you need to find someone willing to buy them. And we are now such a nation of collectors that your collections will never be as valuable as the experts claim. Do you really believe you'll be able to make a killing off your beanie babies in 20 years when millions of people are already collecting them now? Truth be told, collecting is just an excuse for being a pack rat.

I realize that stifling the inner pack rat may seem impossible at times, but you can win the battle. And, luckily, you have someone like me, who can actually sometimes see portions of his desk, to help you through the tough times. Might I suggest that you save this article to consult whenever you feel the urge to return to your pack ratting ways?

Just make sure you don't print it out. After all, the last thing you need is another piece of paper in your life.

Copyright 1999 by Joe Lavin (who would make a horrible President)
Joe Lavin's Humor Column is published every Tuesday at:
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Submitted By: Joe Lavin
Aug 3, 1999 13:34

This joke is rated: PG