Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Luxury of Clutter

Alas, spring is in the air, and with the season comes the awakening desire to tackle all that clutter we've stowed in the garage and in drawers and under desks and in closets. It's a never ending battle. Clutter seems to gather like dust and you just have to deal with it.
There must be more clutter in America than in any country in history. As I drove to the re-cycle center this morning I began thinking how clutter is really a luxury, it's a symbol of our wealth and success. Think of the efficiencies required for impoverished people to raise a family in a two room house. There is simply no room for all this baggage we store.

Our refrigerators and freezers are so large that as much food often goes bad as gets eaten. This simply doesn't happen in rural Mexico, Haiti or Pakistan.

As a writer I have developed the bad habit of believing "someday I will use that article" or that folder of notes, doodles, ketchup labels, or whatever. As an artist, too, it gets difficult to let go of the rest of this debris, because it does glisten and glitter so. And these rocks, wires, pens, notebooks.... eeek.

Worse still, my mother is a clutterbug and my brothers share the trait, so the battle appears to have potentially deep genetic origins. At least the case could be made that I should be excused for this propensity.

Let it be known I am not excusing myself. The battle cry has been raised, and I've taken my stand. To the wonder of many eyes my desktop at work made an appearance this past month and has remained partially cleared for several weeks. There are no mags on the floor and amazingly this cleaner office has not hindered my productivity.

On the home front, well.... I don't have any old eight track tapes tucked away. Little by little I will chip away, and occasionally get my gumption up to fling a few things into the trash. If it feels good, I'll do it again. Like shedding pounds, it's not the binge diet that wins but the lifestyle change that makes a difference.

Sometimes you find things you hadn't seen in a while. For example, I just came across this self-portrait I painted about 26 years ago. (click to enlarge)

In the end, if we don't deal with it, someone else will have to. As we all know too well, you can't take it with you.




Recommended readings: Clutter's Last Stand by Don Aslett, Organizing from the Inside Out byJulie Morgenstern. Or just do a Gogle search and fire up your motivation with whatever stokes you.

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