copyright 2001 Linda Marcas - All Rights Reserved

Crank's Corner: Commentary by Linda Marcas

                        A Compulsion For Clutter

    Sometime last week, I saw a TV show that featured one of those annoyingly perky
organizational-skills gurus, the ones who have all the answers about getting rid of the clutter in
your life, and, presumably, thereby making your life better.  I think they are very clever people,
not because they know how to clean out a closet or clear off a countertop, but because, by
convincing you that your messy closets and countertops are a bad thing, they can sell you their
advice book and help you clean out your wallet!  It's all part of a plot, a conspiracy, an
insidious plan concocted by tidy and organized people to fool those of us who are less
obsessively fastidious about our surroundings into thinking that we are somehow bad, wrong,
or lazy.

   The indoctrination starts early in our lives, with endless repetitions of those tidiness
mantras,"pick up your toys," "clean your room," "make your bed," etc..  What's the first thing
Mary Poppins makes the kids do, before she'll take them for a walk?  Tidy up the nursery,
that's what!  Easy for her to do, with all that magical finger-snapping and clothes that fold
themselves; I've tried snapping my fingers at my laundry, and it justs sits there in a stubborn
heap.  I bet yours does, too.

   Tidy tyrants want everyone to live by the maxim "a place for everything, and everything in its
place," but, for many of us, the reality is more like "a place for everything, and everything
someplace."  Don't believe the propaganda pandered by the Perfection Police, that the
physical clutter of one's surroundings indicates a similar mental clutter in one's mind; it just ain't
necessarily so.

   Granted, I sometimes mis-place things; everyone does.  But why make clutter out to be the
culprit, when simple carelessness provides a sufficient explanation?  Having a key rack won't
help you find your keys if you left them hanging in the front door.  The question is, does clutter
cause you to lose anything important, compared to just letting a batch of unclipped coupons
expire because they ended up stacked between last year's tax forms!

    'Fess up: have you ever put anything away "in a safe place," only to be unable to find it later
because you forgot what that safe place was?  If you'd left whatever-it-was sitting where it had
been parked "out of place" for the six months before you put it away, you'd know where it was
right now!I have a compusion for clutter; I create it wherever I go.  My piling system is far
larger than my filing system.  I have a quick and handy method for clearing off the kitchen
counter when I absolutely have to; I just throw everything on it into a large paper bag that I
plan to sort out "later."  At this moment, I have four or five of those bags sitting around, waiting
for "later" to arrive.  The bills and other Really Important Papers get their own bag, so I can
plop them back out onto the counter as soon as possible.

    Any horizontal surface is at risk when I'm nearby.  The washing machine is usually safe,
except for a couple of jugs of detergent perched on its edge, but only because it's a top-loader
and I use it several times a week.  The dryer, on the other hand, currently supports two bins of
rags, a box of lint, four pairs of shoes, a dead computer mouse, a picture and frame awaiting
re-assembly, an empty trash bag, assorted articles of clothing (some keepers, some bound for
the thrift store), printouts of jokes friends have sent me on-line, some empty envelopes that I'm
saving because of the art project I plan to do someday with security envelope paper, some
curtains, an empty detergent jug, a small empty cardboard box, rags that don't fit in the bins,
and a box of Spic and Span.  That's what's on the dryer, and this building has 5,000 square
feet of space.  The possibilities are mind-boggling.

    Clutter is a way of life.  Some people get rid of stuff they don't use, while others amass stuff
they might find a use for "someday."  This is as it should be, a law of Nature, the Yin and Yang
of stuff.  The very Cosmic Balance would be upset if everyone got rid of all their unnecessary
stuff; where would we put it all?  We'd have to shoot it into space, where its combined mass
would affect the gravitational field of the planets and, ultimately, cause the Universe to collapse.

    Therefore, all you Tidy Types, please desist from your efforts to convince me and my fellow
Clutter Queens that our way of life is somehow inferior to yours.  Stop trying to make us feel
inefficient, and inept.  You need us, whether you acknowledge it or not.  We don't ask for
much; we don't expect to see any talk show segments on how to clutter up your home, but we
would like first rights of refusal on any stuff you might be getting rid of.  Meanwhile, we'll
console ourselves with the knowledge that we know the Secret of Life.  Life is Messy; don't
clean it up.