De-cluttered - by Cecilia Peartree

I often say life's too short for de-cluttering, and I still firmly believe it is - until suddenly time is too short not to de-clutter. I ran up against this problem at my day job recently, when we had to clear everything out of our office and move to a different, and not entirely preferable, one in the basement. There are two windows in our new office, but they might as well not be there, because the only tantalising glimpse of the outside world is of a tall grassy bank topped by a 6 foot high hedge. But I mustn't go on and on about that now. One of the few benefits of the new office is that the people responsible for refurbishing it have at last agreed that we should have light switches, which you would imagine are more or less essential in any interior but which we didn't have in our office upstairs for reasons I had better not even start going into here. Another benefit is that the room is so dark and cosy that everyone has begun to refer to it as the Bat Cave. I hope to develop super-powers any day now.

Anyway, I found myself having to tidy the shelves above my desk as well as the desk itself, and actually to throw stuff out. As I had been working in the same office, with a short spell in a neighbouring one, for over 27 years, an amazing amount of stuff had accumulated, from a plastic bag that had disintegrated in the drawer, causing havoc, to a Myers-Briggs personality profile someone had done for me when we did management training, assorted birthday cards, a good deal of spare stationery and a folder called 'The Chicago File' which I had created ages ago when making arrangements for my first trip to America.

I am generally a great believer in keeping things just in case they come in useful one day, and this approach has served me well in the case of work emails which I like to keep as evidence of other people's unreasonableness, apart from anything else. However I've now discovered how to archive off older emails into a series of folders which apparently don't take up any room on the mail server but which are still accessible. I believe the same thing may be possible with Yahoo mail but I haven't dared to try it yet, despite having about 10,000 messages currently in my inbox.

At home the result of keeping things just in case I need them is that I am unable to find them if I do need them, which I suppose defeats the purpose of keeping them in the first place. I've tried to pre-empt this with my writing by making notes only in a notebook, which there is slightly less chance of losing than some random piece of paper, and by having a folder on my computer called 'all writing' where I put absolutely everything to do with writing. Every so often the main folder looks a bit cluttered and I set up another sub-folder and re-organise things a bit. That's quite simple compared with the physical effort involved when you suddenly need a cat basket to transport a cat to the vet and have to turn out the cupboard under the stairs to find one, only to see three cat baskets later in a pile in the corner of the front room. Now that we only have two cats I suppose one of the baskets is redundant. But with cats you never know when another one will come along.

But I digress. I think this happens more and more as you get older, and in fact I have been considering just lately whether I should try to cut down on the rambling in my novels. Maybe my mind needs to be de-cluttered too? Or maybe that would rob me of all creativity - I tend to think it would.


baili said…
i often feel time is making fun of us .
it laughs over our hurries and tanglement .
we feel stuck and finally we pass ,time stays forever it keep passing us rudely and swiftly without caring about our feelings and desires to stay here and do more to be eternal which is not possible at least for now
Chris Longmuir said…
Ah! A person after my own heart. I live in a constant state of clutter but funnily enough, I can usually find something I want. The times I can't find something I want is when someone tidies me up. You note I didn't suggest I ever tidy up! I also have folders within folders within folders on my computer and sometimes that becomes a puzzle trying to remember where I filed something. And I've cracked the email folders and I have folders in my Microsoft Outlook and also in my online BTYahoo. Did I mention paranoid is my middle name? Anyway, good luck with the decluttering and enjoy the bat cave.
JO said…
I've just downsized. It's been a huge move for me, and the charity shops have done very well. But it's also liberating - sometimes I think I was surrounded by so much stuff it got in the way of thinking!
Thanks Chris. We are settling into the bat cave now - it has its good points!
Actually the cat basket fiasco occurred because of other people de-cluttering for me. I still can't locate quite a few things following that, but at least I can make my way through the house without falling over anything, which was the main aim!
JO - my mother used to say people should move house every 10 years to give them a chance to throw things out. we have gone way past that now.
Fran B said…
One is either a clutterer or a de-clutterer. We are born that way. No good trying to change . . .
Ann Turnbull said…
We too have lived in the same house for more than 27 years. I just checked the date in the diary and found a list of all the things to do by 9am, headed by "cat in basket". The new house was much bigger and I remember it looked very empty despite all our things, and I said to my husband, "We need more stuff," and he agreed. How unwise we were...
Fran, my father was the most brilliant clutterer I've ever encountered, so you're right, I was born that way.(why can't people inherit the best things from their ancestors instead of the weird stuff? maybe that will be my next post!)
Ann, the last time we moved, 'cat in basket' turned out to be one of the problematic things as one of our cats escaped through a very small upstairs window just before we got to that item on the list, which delayed the move a bit.

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