The scary side of clutter. 7

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LB20130324(closet)“Stuff that’s hidden and murky and ambiguous is scary because you don’t know what it does.”  -Jerry Garcia

We all know what Jerry Garcia is talking about in this quote.

It doesn’t take a mystic guru to figure out that every person keeps parts of their psyche hidden – and for good reason: it’s scary stuff and so we hide it away.

I know what you are thinking: “Oh, no… Daddy of baby with Down’s is about to have a philosophical introspective on the condition of man and his treatment of disabled children”.

Believe me, I am no stranger to a soapbox.  Today, however, I’m not going there.

I want to have some “fun”,  flip this quote on its head, and totally change the whole quote by changing the meaning of the word “stuff”.  (Yes, that IS my idea of fun). What if Jerry Garcia was talking about “possessions” or “clutter” when he used the word “stuff” in the above quote?

Yesterday, my wife and I cleaned our garage – we are at DEFCON 2 in our battle against the uninvited guests that are not chickens but that are eating our chicken-food (and, apparently, my baseball cleats).

In the course of cleaning, I was reminded how Momma Bird and I come at the same problem from very different angles, often winding up in the same place:

Momma Bird deals with “things” by putting them into cupboards and closets and shelves – so that the visible spaces are all clean and neat.

I  like leaving all my “things” out, so I have to deal with them or bury them with other things until I’m ready to deal with them.

For both of us, what is on the surface is nice and pretty, and what is below the surface is cluttered.

Another blogger has given me some inspiration to down-size considerably.  Before I can downsize, I have to become willing to part with a lot of stuff – stuff that is hidden and that, frankly,  I often have no idea what it does or what it’s good for.

For example, yesterday Momma Bird put a little black cardboard box on my workbench. The last 5 times we have cleaned the garage, I have resisted looking inside.  I know what’s in the box, I just chose not to deal with it. Each time, I’d stash the box somewhere new; delaying the opening of the box until some future date. Perhaps I was hoping that I would forget that I stashed it and we could move to a new house and leave it behind.

Yesterday, I got sick of that little black box, so I opened it.

Inside was a stack of receipts from the late 1990s that I was supposed to enter in some spreadsheet for some business.  Hidden underneath all of that was a scratch-off lottery ticket that I got from a relative on my birthday – 15 years ago.  It was a winning ticket – a not too shabby $20 – but I had always meant to send a thank you note before I cashed it in.

I never sent the thank you note, so I never cashed in the ticket.

Feeling guilty about never sending a thank you note, I  stuffed the lotto ticket it in my “receipt box”.  It eventually expired, and over the years it has moved from my desk, to my home office storage, and finally to the garage, where it became the little black box that I never opened or dealt with.

This is just a tiny example of how one piece of clutter became a symbol of guilt for bad manners. Or, better said, how my guilt for  bad manners manifested itself as clutter.

This week, try an experiment:  go to the spot in your house that you haven’t looked for weeks, months or years.  See what is hidden there, and ask what it says about you, or why you are avoiding dealing with it.

If you’re brave enough to post your conclusions publicly, I’d love to hear them in the comment section below.

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7 thoughts on “The scary side of clutter.

  • Kodiak My Little Grizzly

    Nice challenge…. Mine is not for lack of finding out as so much as time to deal with it all 🙂 too much of my clutter involves my time to respond by an action I don’t have time to do, deal with like file or trash it or reply to for some reason or other… I hate mail, paperwork, and clutter. And with a child with special needs, a single mom and 3 kids and a full time job it’s impossible to get it all done… That is if I want to feed my kids and get some sleep. 🙂

  • meredith0929

    My box is green. It sits in the corner on our kitchen counter and it is full of papers my kids bring home and mail and the random household papers that I detest seeing scattered about the house in messy piles.

    Under all of that though, is a stack of medical bills and all the receipts and statements for our HSAs that I must make sense of in order to file our taxes (fat chance that will happen on time).

    Sometimes, I go through the box, open the mail, pay some bills, but I hardly ever read the medical bills. Some even go to collections, but not because we don’t have the money to pay them. I say it’s because I resent the time and energy I must spend sorting out the whole mess, and I do, but that’s not the main reason.

    Really, I hate tubes and wires and needles stuck into my baby, so that she looked like some sort of cyborg. I hate thinking of the institutional green walls of one hospital in particular – the same murky, mint green often seen on prison walls in movies. I hate the technicians who lacked the skill to tap a tiny vein. I hate the blood draws and the EKGs and the x-rays and the ultrasounds. I even hate the hearing tests. i hated her screaming and crying through all of it. I hated it more the last time when she didn’t even cry, she just sat there forlornly in my lap and accepted people poking and prodding and hurting her. Rationally, I know that the worst of it is in the past, these people are helping her, the bills aren’t even from the same people, and that all of that did save her life, but I don’t care. I really just want to write profanities on the return envelopes and mail them back empty.

    My resentment manifests itself as clutter. I never thought of it that way before. Maybe my resentment manifests itself as dirty laundry, too.

    • Little Bird's Dad

      When the day comes that you decide to write profanities on the return envelopes and send them back, call me and Momma Bird.

      I let them go to collections, too. It’s a slap in the face to bill me $26 for an aspirin, refuse to negotiate a more reasonable payment, etc. if I, as a lawyer, sent my clients bills like that, not only would I be disbarred, but I would be lynched.

      Love your blog!


  • Diane

    Interesting challenge! I’m pretty sure there are a lot of boxes in every nook of my house. I’m afraid to go searching because I probably won’t like what I find! 🙂