January 25th marked the Year of the Rat in the Chinese Zodiac Calendar. Rats can be curious, smart, fierce, and intelligent. But one rat in particular, the woodrat – or packrat – shares another trait with humans. Our tendency to collect. We collect friends, activities, habits (good and bad), and things. Packrats, whether animal or human, collect items in their home that may not be needed or used but sometimes have personal or other value.
It can be difficult for some to resist the R.A.T., or resist the urge to Reactively Acquire Things. Those who display packrat behavior commonly retain clothes, nick knacks, paper, and intangibles like hobbies, activities and commitments that take up space and time in their life. Often, when people collect it is with the words might, would, could, or should in their mind. Intention matters. Do use is very different from could use. Could use takes space out of closets, drawers, and cars. It creates stress at home and work and can push you to relieve that stress in unhealthy ways. Most people have shopped to relieve stress at least once in their life. Any behavior, action, or activity can become a habit. Reactively Acquiring Things is one of them. Whether you packrat because of habit, guilt over waste, fear of what could happen, or because you are just not sure what to do with what you have, the path to overcome the need to collect is the same.
- Recognize the need to change – Recognize a specific negative result of your pack rat behavior. Were you late to a school event because your keys were lost on a cluttered desk? Did you mess up a project at work because you over committed yourself or didn’t delegate?
- Develop motivation – Keep it specific, every person wants a” better quality of life.” Do you want to make it to every soccer game this year? What about eat dinner with your family every night?
- Create systems of Change – Set up exit systems for items, Prioritize your schedule and let go of commitments and hobbies that cut into what matters to you,
- Create specific shopping rules to curb impulse buys – I use the 3 Day Rule and the 1 In 2 Out Rule, if it isn’t on my list I have to wait three days before I can buy it. If I buy it, I have to get rid of TWO items that are in the space where it is going.
- Try Alternative Soothing Techniques – If stress shopping is a habit, when you grab the car keys to head out, try stopping at an art gallery or park instead. Getting out of the house can be very de-stressing and stopping at a library instead of the thrift store means every that you bring into the house leaves in three weeks.
Adjusting and improving our behavior takes work and determination. It can be a long process, but the benefits are worth it!
Thanks for Reading!
Terry & Tess