It’s happening again. Closing in on me.

Six months ago I moved into new office space. Big cheery window. Pared down filing cabinets (12 drawers down to 4!!!). Pitched, shredded, looked over 30 years of stuff, kept only what I needed and what the bookshelves would hold.

Tiny CD player, stacked CD’s, coloured boxes for envelopes, cards, business cards, bookmark cards for my new business training program. Fax on its own shelf, minor bulletin board (because all it does is hold stuff I never look at), work in progress files on one part of my credenza, everything else filed or boxed or pitched into the blue box.

I was feeling pretty good. The photocopier even tucked into a closet so I don’t see it unless I need it.

Martha Stewart would be proud.

That was six months ago.

Now I’ve got six plants crowding each other, files piling up everywhere, a box of tax information under my feet, another box of teaching tools sitting outside the cupboard holding the photocopier because there’s no room inside. The table is full of everything. My filing system on the credenza has failed. My desk holds piles of things that I’m going to do something with.

EEEgads! It’s happened again. Clutter.

Clutter stifles creativity. Just ask Don Aslett. He wrote a nifty little book (Clutter’s Last Stand) awhile back that says business people can commit junkicide. “I’ve watched people with brilliant talents of every kind not be able to use an ounce of it because the clutter in their lives smothered and hid their ability.”

He actually gives you a test for the home front to see if you truly suffer from the disease.

Hoarding cute little film canisters? Keeping bubble wrap (in case you re-ship)? Stockpiling empty whiskey decanters and cologne bottles because they make cute collections? (I do all of this!)

Aslett says that until our junk inflicts pain or inconvenience on us, interfering with our lives, we don’t think about shedding it. It just sits there, growing as mine has, until we stumble over it or somebody makes us account for it.

He also espouses the 80/20 rule, that 80% of the space on our shelves is occupied by stuff we never need [until we get rid of it] and 80% of our family fun comes from 20% of the games and equipment and puzzles we’ve got jammed into our closets. 80% of our reading enjoyment and information comes from 20% of the material in our bookcases.

I come by this honestly.

When my dad died a decade ago, we gave ourselves a leisurely year (we thought) to sort through various workshops, tool rooms, lofts etc, trying to gather up what could go to auction, what to landfill, and what could become loving treasures in our own homes (you know what THAT means). We found an entire cabinet with boxed items neatly labelled DWR. Easily 60 boxes. A toaster. An iron. A soldering iron. A ratchet set. It went on and on. Puzzled, we were. Very puzzled. Until one of the kids hauled the toaster inside to make... toast! Only one side worked.

Aaaah. DWR. Doesn’t Work Right.

The world is partially filled with basements and garages and closets holding items that could be fixed. I’m checking my office now as I write this. Nothing broken in here that I can see (except maybe my spirit as I survey the damage). Aslett asks you to tick off the items you’re likely storing as things you’ve recently fixed. Shredded cassette tapes. Hair dryers. Pot or pan handles. Toasters (see my dad!) Christmas tree lights that don’t. Lawn chairs with rotted webbing. Dead flashlights. Loose headed hammers. Defective clocks. Broken strollers. Umbrellas with one cracked rib. Sagging screens. Shaky card tables. Injured musical instruments. Unstrung rackets. Any of these hanging around your place? I’m beginning to get a complex.

I used to feel that I was trapped by sentiment. You know what I mean... the egg shells from my daughter’s first Easter. The little hand print Kid One made in nursery school. (you can bet HE doesn’t remember it). The bicycle boxes under the front stairs each stuffed with nursery school, kindergarten, and grade school art. (They’ll take it with them. Unlikely, since their bikes are still here!). The complete set of Rupert, Noddy, and Beatrix Potter. (I stand my ground. THESE?must remain. They’re treasures.) My grandmother’s set of leather bound encyclopedia that stops at 1929. (I took Kid One through the history of flight in one of these books and it climaxed with the dirigible!)

I’ve got a long way to go. I guess this office is just the doorbell of warning!

Got a blue box?

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