Monday, September 14, 2009

The Packrat of Provo

I have been working at cleaning out my house for the past couple of weeks. I know that most people out there go through the cleaning process and don’t worry about it or think about it in the same way that I do, but as I’ve thrown out items that held value one time in my life a couple realizations came to me. First, I’m a packrat; and Second, I’m a collector.

I think probably the collector is the reason why I’m a packrat, but there has to be something else, some other drive. I grew up learning from my parents that you never throw away a gift. I remember my mother telling me that a present was someone taking a moment to think about you. “What if they came over and asked ‘where is the thing-a-ma-jig?’ What would you do if you couldn’t show them?” Now I know I could probably break the habit, but what do I tell my mother if she asks me, “Don’t you keep the gifts? What did you do with the lesson that I taught you?” So I keep things … everything … that people give me whether I need them or not. And I have a lot of things I hold dear just because people have given them to me. It makes for quite a mess in the house at times.

But the collector, now that’s gotten me into more trouble than my mother’s voice in my head. Recently I’ve discovered the collector mentality that I have. When I get into a music group I have to buy all their CD’s. When I get into an Author, I have to buy all their books. When I get into a Director I have to buy all their movies. <sigh> It makes me sound like a compulsive personality, and secretly I know I am. But these compulsions are only driving focuses when the opportunity arises. Sometimes these compulsions have made me spend lots of money on items that really aren’t fantastic, but because they complete the series I need to get them.

I have many items in my house that are completions and not items of worth. This thought came to me when I was organizing a set of CD’s I have been working on for over 15 years. Sony Classical created a series of classical music called the Royal Edition in 1991 & 1992. They are all conducted by Leonard Bernstein and the covers are all water color paintings by Prince Charles. There are 100 CD’s, most single discs, some double and some triple, of which I have 87 of them. Now the CD’s are out of print and can’t be found anymore, but occasionally one appears and I have to search desperately for the money to buy it.

So this realization popped into my head while organizing my set: “I collect things and get quietly obsessed about these different collections!” My greatest epiphany was not the collection of items, but my obsession for the collection of ideas … the collection of thoughts.

I collect memories. This act is not horrible, but at times these collections make me think life should always be the way of the past. There are the outlooks and thoughts about life that I have loved. There are the dark moments and mistakes that dwell there as well. It is these moments in my history that can occupy my life and make me think I am doing better or worse that the reality of the present. The trick about these collections is knowing what is important and what doesn’t matter. It’s taking the time to clean out my head’s attic so that better things can occupy my mind.

I heard from a person I admire, Ron Zeller, about a trick to getting your house in order. Clean a drawer in your dresser like God, Buddha or Jehovah himself was coming over to inspect that one drawer. The mere thought of doing that helps you start down the path of organization and cleaning that can put your life in order. So now I take that one step further for me as I have been cleaning my life, I mean house. Clean your collections so that Heavenly Father is coming to inspect them. The tangible collections and the collections of your mind, the memories, the mistakes. I’ve found out that those things I dwell, those things that have held me back are dissipating. All because I’m starting to break-down the packrat that I am.

Of course I still have the robot dinosaur that was given me by my friends. But those friends are important collections that I don’t think Heavenly Father wants me to give up. Plus … the best thing I can say to my mother when she asks “Why do you have a robot dinosaur?” is "You told me never to throw away a gift!” Gotta love mothers. :)

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