The Purging of a Pack Rat
By Jeffrey Worthen
October 4, 2005
I don’t live with my parents anymore, and for the most part, I have to say it’s pretty awesome. Following the “what you are supposed to do after you graduate from college” route, I have indeed graduated, found myself a nice little job and a nice little townhouse with a nice little fence and a backyard. I even get to pay my own health insurance! I finally feel as if I am beginning to come into my own as a full-fledged, real-world working adult. The problem is, while I don’t live at home anymore, approximately half of my earthly belongings still do.
See, when I moved out, I only took with me what I wanted to have in close proximity. I mean, did I want to hang onto my old MAD magazine collection? Of course. Did I need them displayed on my bookshelf in my new place? Probably not. I decided that I would use my old room as a free storage unit, not say anything about it and hope my parents would indefinitely ride the euphoric wave of having their only son finally, FINALLY be financially independent. I hoped they would be too busy celebrating the fact that they were free from tuition payments to notice or care that I had left behind enough old clothes to successfully open “Jeff’s Vintage Clothing Mega-Warehouse.”
Yeah, so apparently they noticed. Go figure.
Trying a different angle, I then tried to convince my parents that I was leaving so much behind so the pain of missing me was eased a little. Anytime they missed me, I calmly explained, all they had to do was walk upstairs, peek in my room, take one look at the open box of old hockey jerseys in the corner and smile. Unfortunately, this lovingly symbolic gesture was quite easily revealed as sheer laziness, mostly because I only live about 20 minutes away and still see my parents several times a week.
I don’t remember what happened next, although I’m fairly certain there was an intervention involved. I had to admit to myself what I had been ignoring since I was a kid. I was the kid who kept Bazooka Joe comics in my bedside drawer for months on end. I was the kid who came home from summer camp with his trunk filled to the brim with an “aluminum can collection.” (By the way, ants everywhere. Apparently I, being only 10 years old, forgot to wash out the cans before placing them in my trunk. From what I remember, mom was not amused.) I was the kid who, in middle school, never, ever threw out a punk rock flyer of a show I attended. Looking back at how I had accumulated mass amounts of junk, I finally had to admit it.
My name is Jeff, and I am a pack rat. And I need help.
I looked deep inside and realized it was finally time to start killing the part of me that thinks it’s necessary to hold on to my old clunky Sega Game Gear, “just in case.” I had to stop telling myself idiotic things like, “Jeff, you need the bags of free giveaways you collected from the Warped Tour these last eight years. There will come a time when you’ll be needing a one-foot long Mighty Mighty Bosstones sticker to, you know, really tie the room together.”
It was time to purge. Time to rid my life of those absolutely useless material possessions. Time to become best friends with the workers at the Goodwill Donation Station. Time to endure my mother’s obligatory lectures of “I bought you that because you said you’d wear it, and you wore it once!” and get rid of every shirt, sweater and jacket I knew I’d never wear again. “Less Is More” became my motto. Several garage sales ensued. I felt cleansed. The urge to go thrift store shopping still existed, but now I would only go when I had brought some clothes to donate, as if to not affect the newfound equilibrium of my closet and cause it unneeded growth.
I was slowly transforming into a minimalist, and it felt amazing. I was on the other side of the spectrum, looking back at the old me, the me who was weighed down, the me who couldn’t ever, ever find anything in his own room. I felt like I could move across the country with just a backpack, my health and my faith and be happy.
And here we are today.
Um, so we seem to be at the end of my little story. There’s no conclusion, not really an interesting ending like “And then all the townspeople met Jesus and were saved.” Nothing else really happened. I’m a pseudo-minimalist now. I have less stuff. Life is good. Yup.
Instead, I’ll try a moral, because a moral is a good way to end a story on RELEVANTmagazine.com. Let’s see. How about, having too many things you don’t need is inefficient and lame. Donate your old stuff to help those in need. Or, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Life is 10 percent what happens to you and 90 percent how you react to it? Slow but steady wins the race? Hmm.
“Moral: Less Is More.”