I inherited, whether by physical or mental genetics, a packrat tendency. I'd say that I have only a marginally bad case of it, but ask my Mom - I've been married for three years and still have childhood stashes at their house. If something has sentimental value, is potentially useful, or potentially pretty then I want to keep it. So I keep clothes that I don't wear, but that are so pretty that I feel like I should. I store up years' worth of potential projects, because if I can think of something to turn a pair of Landon's old pants into, then I feel like I should do it. I keep cards and notes and snapshots because I can see the scrapbook pages that these could turn into, even though I. never. scrapbook.
I'm also a packrat of potential priorities. I am, officially, a stay at home mom, and without an outside job to structure my time I struggle with an excess of possible activities, and with knowing how to balance them. I have the baby to take care of, of course, and that takes up a fair amount of time. There is also laundry to be done, food to make, menus to plan, grocery shopping to accomplish, surfaces to clean, and trash to take out. And then there are books and blogs to be read, thought about, and commented on. Blog posts of my own to write. Things (so many things!) to knit. A piano to play. New friends to socialize with. I don't want to let anything go - I want to be a knitter, a mother, a reader, a writer, a musician, a scholar, a housekeeper, a wife, a seamstress, a gardener, and probably two or three other things that I'm not remembering right now. And I don't. have. time.
My packrat tendencies in both of these areas - stuff, and activities - weigh me down. Guilt, confusion over priorities, and simply having stuff laying around that I don't know what to do with clouds up the workings of my mind and heart. I know this intellectually, but I've also begun to learn it experientially simply by observing what happens when I get rid of things. When I throw away an unfinished (or unstarted) project, or donate clothes to Goodwill, I feel lighter. I no longer expend any mental energy on guilt for not doing or wearing those things. It works the same way when I grant an activity the priority level that it deserves in my life. When I decide that music is a hobby to enjoy when I have time, and not a priority to be devoted to, I can stop feeling ashamed for not practicing every day, and start enjoying the time that I do get to play. On the other hand, acknowledging that reading, thinking, and writing are a part of my creative vocation frees me from guilt about taking the time to do those things. Recognizing housekeeping as a practical vocation helps me battle against resentment on the one side and the pressures to make it my creative vocation on the other side.
Hanging onto unnecessary stuff and unrealistic expectations keeps me from fully devoting myself to my legitimate work and activities. Letting go of excess leaves me free to concentrate on what I am called to do, and what I find fulfilling. I want to learn to live lightly, dropping things that weigh me down so that I can run through this wide open life that Jesus has graced me with. I am free from so many externally imposed weights that limit many women in this world - oppressive political or family systems; grinding poverty; absent, unhelpful, or abusive spouses. If I can't drop the weights that I create for myself through packratting and vague priorities, then not only will I not be free to concentrate on what is central to my life and callings, but I will also not be free to help lift anybody else's burdens.