Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Clutter and the non-removal of clutter

Someone on Facebook this morning is lamenting the fact that every time he decides to have a big declutterfest at home, he ends up keeping about 95% of the stuff, and wondering why this is so.

As a veteran of many failed feng shui attempts, I can tell him the answer. It's because if you hadn't really wanted, liked or needed that novelty scratching post, bottle of cuticle remover, big warm lint-attracting coat, plastic tray that makes ice cubes shaped like the map of Australia, expensive pair of embroidery scissors, cheap reading lamp, decorative wicker basket, cute cat rug with paw prints on, horizontally striped tank top now three sizes too small for you that featured in a memorable day in 1986, pretty teapot you might use one day and combined clothes rail and shoe rack for the spare room which has no wardrobe, you wouldn't have bought them in the first place.

I find the remaining and successfully-discarded 5% tends to be things given to you by people who don't know you very well. Either that or broken.

12 comments:

innercitygarden said...

It's not the things I've bought myself I have trouble parting with. For me it's the crappy presents from people I am awfully fond of, and the inherited items, each of which takes on an aura of sacredness in light of the previous owner's death.

I've been known to pack books away into boxes and put them in the car, drive them around for a few months, always meaning to ditch them at a second hand shop, and then unpack them again at home.

Elsewhere007 said...

Absolutely re: the last thought, except I've been thinking of holding onto said gifts (e.g. folkcraft teapot in shape of witch) in case I rent out my place as a semi-furnished flat. Any excuse not to de-kipple!

(Have to admit to some weird OCD hoarding tendencies when it comes to old shoes.)

Deborah said...

We have found that shifting house 12 times in the 20 years we have been together has been remarkably effective in keeping useless clutter down.

Mostly.

Helen said...

This has been dear to my heart lately, as I'm off on school holidays looking after son (I work 48/52). There are a lot of old books and magazines and stuff which I just find too interesting to throw out, yet I never do anything with them. I'm thinking of doing a blog post on each category then offering them to any reader who has a collection or would appreciate them. I have some old inner-city Melbourne music mags from the early 80s post punk era; a first edition of Forum, found in an op shop with articles by Agony Arndt, Germaine and others; some early 20th century Girls Own Annuals and some other interesting but ultimately cluttery stuff.

cristy said...

I'm with Kate - it is the gifts that I find the most difficukt to get rid of. I have been pleased to find that I am actually getting better at decluttering. I think it comes from living with a man that loathes clutter. At some point it becomes easier to let it go that to expend the energy continually justifying the space it takes up...

Francis Xavier Holden said...

Minimalism is overated as a cure for anything much. Having lots of stuff around that might come in useful some day is good for humans. Life isn't about acting determined, focussed and in charge of your own destiny.

I have a friend who still has the ashes of her mother, and now her brother, in the boot of the car.

Pavlov's Cat said...

FXH, I'm generally in great sympathy with the 'usefulness' part of your comment. My reply to the minimalists' 'Less is more' is usually 'No, less is less.' And given the Kernt Economic Climate I'm even less inclined than usual to chuck stuff out. Throw away that large display jar full of decorative soaps given to me by assorted donors over the last 20 years? Never.

But if you could see the room I'm sitting in, or the three tea-chests of totally unsorted and miscellaneous jumble that had to go in the moving van from Melbourne 11 years ago even after months of work, you might have a better idea of what I'm up against in my own nature here.

Life isn't about acting determined, focussed and in charge of your own destiny.Hm. Do you remember the scene in Saturday Night Fever where John Travolta's little friend throws himself off a bridge to his death because his girlfriend's pregnant?

Ashes are different. Having them under the bed, on the mantelpiece, at the back of the wardrobe etc is a time-honoured honouring of the dead. And carrying the dead around with you on a daily basis is merely a metaphor made literal, the reverse of the usual process.

lucy tartan said...

a dead metaphor brought back to life.

Pavlov's Cat said...

Risen from the ashes, as it were.

Francis Xavier Holden said...

If you could see the room..Yeah well I'm currently almost tunnelling from the door to my desk at the moment. Although, in my defence, all the other rooms are mostly only a teensy bit below normal standards tidy.

I have never ever started putting piles of newspapers on the floor as mini towers.[I hope that doesn't sound too much like a prayer]


Life isn't about acting determined, focussed and in charge of your own destiny I was trying to say something like "Acting" in a self conscious, aware, modern, self help, TV kinda way as opposed to just being.

And yeah the ashes were supposed to be sprinkled. She's done sprinkled a bit of her mum in the ocean. But there's a lot left.

David Irving (no relation) said...

FXH, you sound a bit like my late father. (He did have the piles of newspaper though. It took me a couple of months to clear his house. Think of your children.)

I've currently got about 10 teachests of mum's stuff in my living room. (The rest is still in storage ... ) It's so hard dealing with the detritus of the life of someone you loved. What to keep, what to lose.

Fine said...

I think I'm pretty good at throwing stuff out and I find it quite satisfying to have an annual purge. But it doesn't matter how much I throw out, I'm surrounded by mess and clutter. I'm just a naturally untidy person who seems to be able to create a huge mess out of very little. My father's exactly the same. And like him, the dining room table actually substitutes a a filing cabinet. (I know that invoice is in here somewhere).