Monday, October 10, 2005

The Big Amorphous Blob of Clutter

Amorphous Blob
Originally uploaded by Rozanne.
What a frickin’ disaster. I seem incapable of keeping my office tidy for any noticeable length of time. What is perhaps most puzzling is why I hang on to empty FedEx boxes and envelopes for weeks and months before tossing them. And notice also the higgledy-piggledy arrangement of books on the lower shelf and the neglected “In Box.” There are even things that have nothing whatever to do with my job, residing in the amorphous blob, like the Collegiate Cheerleader Doll I “won” at a party a year ago and cannot bring myself to get rid of because I think that it might be worth something if I put it on eBay. Not that I’ve ever checked eBay to verify that it’s worth more than 99 cents. Not that I have any idea how to sell stuff on eBay. Not that I would ever get around to it, even if I did. So there the doll remains snug in her box with her diploma in Cheerleading, sandwiched between several gigantic 3-inch locking ring binders sent to me by a client and filled with crap left over from a project I worked on a year ago.


Why the hell don’t I drop-kick all this stuff into a gigantic dumpster and/or the mother of all recycling bins? Because I can’t. I might need it someday. But, you know, I really won’t. And this realization a MAJOR BREAKTHROUGH for me. It is OK to throw stuff away. I think the reason I have this clutter-amassing problem is genetic. My dad’s house overflows with New Yorkers, Sports Illustrateds, and tchotchkes related to his many hobbies. His girlfriend, I’m sorry to say, aids and abets by bringing him purportedly cute little presents all the time. You have to tunnel your way through a mountain of Beanie Babies—which, as we all know, are going to be worth a fortune one day—to get to his kitchen sink. Think I’m kidding? You don’t even want to know. He has a garage sale every year, but it doesn’t even make a dent.

My mom had clutter issues, too—she was a fanatical clipper of articles and coupons, which were “organized” into various tattered folders held together by fetid, disintegrating rubber bands. My mom, at least, at some point recognized her clutter problem and tried to do something about it. I remember library books with titles like Clutter’s Last Stand appearing in our home from time to time. Anti-clutter crusades were embarked upon. Rules were made, feebly and briefly enforced, and then abandoned. It must have been a real uphill battle since her husband and all four of her kids suffered from the same malady--and weren't ready to help themselves. (You have to want to get over your clutter addiction!)

The photo I’ve posted is really the biggest trouble spot in the whole house. I actually don’t have that much stuff. If you were to go into the living room, you would be stunned by its starkness. A couple of sticks of furniture, a row of photos on the mantel, two or three pieces of art on the wall. I’m quite proud of the lack of enervating clutter in that room. It’s the closets and drawers in other rooms that reveal the true depth of the problem. It is in these places that you will find the lawn debris pickup schedule from 2002, the cosmetics that were used only once, and the Christmas gifts that were spectacularly inappropriate for me but that are brand new and therefore too “good/valuable” to be thrown out or donated.

I need help! So, like my mom, I have turned to a library book for salvation. My book is called Lighten Up! Free Yourself from Clutter by Michelle Passoff. I mean, I can figure out that the lawn-debris schedule needs to go in the recycling bin, and I think I will be able to rid myself of that without enduring any prolonged mental anguish about whether it was the right thing to do. But what I’m hoping the book can do is provide me with a systematic framework for getting the task done efficiently, without my collapsing into despair over the enormity of it. I’m hoping also for some pointers on how to deal with the currently undealable things like those Christmas presents. In a nutshell, I need her to give me permission to purge and to outline a workable game plan.

I haven’t gotten very far into the book, but there are some cringeworthy New Agey aspects to it. For example, she suggests contemplation and visualization exercises to help you “begin to see yourself taking steps toward where you want to be....Breathe in thoughts that do not support you and breathe out vibrant and creative thoughts. Good!”

Holy crap! At least I’m not that mentally crippled by clutter. But she does have a point, there is a mental/emotional baggage component to clutter. And she does have some very valid and enlightening points to make. They may seem obvious, but sometimes it’s helpful to have your face rubbed in them, for example: “In its most basic form, clutter is garbage. On average, three-quarters of the piles of paper on desks and tabletops are things that just have not yet been tossed.” Brilliant!

Another that really hit home with me is: “Indecision turns into clutter.” There is so much stuff that I really don’t know where to put or what to do with. The amorphous blob pictured above is a perfect example. What I think the book will do is give me the tools and motivation to address the blob (previously too overwhelming) and dispatch it forever. And that will be very, very freeing.

Even more freeing (my...this post just goes on and on) will be tackling the spare bedroom—a beautiful room that looks out on the garden and is currently—and appallingly—being used as a junk room. Clutter of the indecisive variety is stored all over the floor of that room and on the bookshelves. I hang my head in shame over that, because I’d really like to use that room for my office instead of this windowless basement office where I spend the better part of my waking hours. It is just pure lunacy that I haven’t done anything to make that happen in the four (nearly five) years we've been living here!

OK. I will now this very minute start “taking steps toward where [I] want to be.” I’m off to make an inventory of each room and its clutter, but before I do that, I am going to take this box of paper (which weights 35 lb [if you must know], left over from a project I finished two years ago, but which I had been thinking might possibly come in handy for some other project that may sometime in the future cross my desk) and put it in our recycling bin. And that will be supremely satisfying.


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