The new buzzword is “de-clutter” and the new buzz phrase is “spark joy”. Suddenly everyone around is busy folding clothes rather than hanging them, hugging furniture to see if they get “sparks of joy” and getting rid of everything that doesn’t. I blame television, and a new serial of which I caught one episode. I now plan to get rid of my television because it is not sparking any joy in me.
What I find particularly disgusting is the advice on books. Keep just 30, says the expert. Hug each one in turn and if you get no spark or flash or spur of joy, then say goodbye. Yesterday I hid behind my sofa when I saw my wife approaching with outstretched arms. What if I didn’t spark joy? Would I be de-cluttered out of the house? But I need not have worried; she was merely drying her nail polish.
What is wrong with cluttering, I ask you. I grew up being reminded constantly about a place for everything and everything in its place. For some reason, nothing irritates an eight-year-old more than having platitudes thrown at him by adults who think they are helping. There were also endless stories about matter out of place and how a cluttered room was indicative of a cluttered mind. “But I like a cluttered mind,” I would say, and be sent to bed without supper.
In the decades since, I have not had any reason to change my (cluttered) mind. Unlike some friends who are at the top of their profession and know everything (in an uncluttered way) about their calling, my mind is full of tidbits of useless information, of half-composed poems, of yesterday’s quotes, of half-imagined insults, of thoroughly impractical ideas of bridge-building and lots and lots more.
“I don’t know if the sun rises in the east,” Sherlock Holmes once told Dr Watson, “but it doesn’t matter because I can always look that up. I know what I need to know.” Thus, he knew 140 different varieties of tobacco ash (or it might be 243, my mind is too cluttered to remember). I, on the other hand, am happy to carry around in my head what I don’t need to know. I know, for example, that butterflies taste with their hind feet and that Tom Sawyer was the first novel written on a typewriter. Stuff I couldn’t have known if I had an uncluttered mind.
Once in a while my highly cluttered room gets cleaned and organised, and I am thrown into a depression because I can’t find anything I want. Only the clutterer knows where everything is. I hug my clutter, and it gives me a spark of joy.
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