Solo Newsletter

Volume 11, no. 3

Clutter in My Closet

 By jennifer j. rose

People call me a clutter-holic, the missing progeny of the Collyer Brothers, a duo known for their crammed New York abode where decades’ worth of old newspapers were thoughtfully archived by Langley Collyer in the event his blind brother Homer might wake up one morning and read again. Alas, police found their dead, rotting bodies buried amid 100 tons of trash in 1947. Police and newspapermen called this collection of treasures, this core of the eccentric siblings’ existence, rubbish.

How bad is the mess in my office? Boxes of broken keyboards and modems repose in hope of future utility. A drawer filled with plastic hotel room keycards, saved in the odd event that those souvenirs might be someday as valuable as—well, the comparisons are without limit. The Windows 3.0 manual might be as important a footnote to American cultural history as a first edition McGuffey Reader. Out-of-print magazines spill out of the bookshelves and onto the floor. You just never know how useful an empty Altoids tin might be. It’s scary, and it’s dangerous. It’s so bad that not only can I no longer allow other humans to visit the sanctuary I call my private work area, but the dog’s scared to enter. I will truly be embarrassed should I drop dead in this office. Why, people will think that I’m one of those people. You’ve seen those Messy Office Competitions. Mine’s worse.

Support groups and self-help literature abound for people like us. My friend “ Mexico” Mike Nelson gave up a career of gadding about Mexico to promote a clutter-free existence through ClutterLess Recovery Groups, Inc. ( http://www.clutterless.org). Carefully couching the topic as a product of depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive, and attention-deficit disorders, finding deep psychological and spiritual roots, he thinks there’s a cure. He evokes meditation, Feng Shui, and even weight loss as solutions to clutter, insisting that it’s more than a matter of simply organizing files and sock drawers. Declaring it’s not a 12-step program, the group has affirmations, promises, and meetings that sure resemble most self-help programs.

Dare I risk shedding the irreplaceable valuables that others disdain as clutter? Paying one of those professional organizers to come and discard in a single weekend the flotsam and jetsam I’ve spent a lifetime accumulating makes no sense to me. But I know that something needs to be done. My new routine of forcing one object out the door the minute I introduced another only maintained the status quo; the situation demands more drastic measures. For every item brought in, two or more must find new homes—and within 24 hours. Last week found me running to a neighbor, arms filled with treasures, which I insisted she absolutely must accept. Whether she ultimately tosses my valuables in the trash or gets rich selling them on eBay is not my problem. I figure that I may be clutter-free by my 90th birthday.

jennifer j. rose, editor-in-chief of GPSolo, is sorting things out in Morelia, Michoacan, Mexico. She can be reached at jenniferrose@abanet.org

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