Housekeeping Note: The Problem


If I seem to have been shirking my duties lately, it’s for a very good reason — but also a very boring one. Perhaps the most boring one. I’ve been getting my house in order, literally.

Don’t ask me why it took this look to see the light, but, talking things over with Kathleen in St Croix, I realized that I could no longer coexist with miscellaneous piles, bags, and other accretions of stuff in an already overfurnished apartment. It was clear that I need to live in a world where “catching up” is as uncommon as a triple bypass.

Not just catching up, then, but trying to obviate future catchings-up is what I’ve been up to. The going is very slow. (And the side effects! My mind set to Drudge, I’ve read little and written less.) But my working principle is to deal with each item on the list until it no longer exists. Until the contents of the bag or pile have either found a permanent home in one of my smallish rooms or been discarded.

That is so much easier said than done!

For example: there’s a quaint basket that’s full of photo albums. Not all the photo albums, mind you. Our wedding pictures are kept separately, and two albums of my favorite law school photographs (one black-and-white, one color) may be found, side by side, in the interstice between a bookshelf and a structural element in the bedroom — where they just fit. And the vast bulk of our photographs are housed in “shoeboxes” (actually pricier storage boxes from Exposures) and stacked in a purpose-built unit (also from Exposures) that reaches almost to the ceiling. The albums in the basket are truly miscellaneous. I don’t know what I’m going to do with them — especially the ones that I just inherited from my late stepmother. My inclination is to digitize the lot and toss the prints. But I don’t have one of those neat scanners yet.

And that’s just one problem. Two items on the list are heaps of magazines. Thinking about them makes me break out in the moral equivalent of hives. This afternoon, I went through a pile of Saveurs. I clipped very little, and what I clipped I put in a manila folder that I will purge in a couple of months.  The recipes that I haven’t used will go down the dumper.  That’s the theory, anyway. Mind you, the Saveurs weren’t even on my list, because the magazines weren’t in a bag. They formed a stack on the sofa, shown above. (The sofa, that is; I took the picture after the culling.)

By now, regular readers will by shaking their heads slowly: I sound just like someone who has sworn off drink — for the umpteenth time. And what arrests me is not that I’m promising yet again to keep up with the influx of printed matter. It’s that I believe, in some rock-ribbed way, that I owe you an explanation for what I’ve been doing, instead of writing up books and concerts and whatnot.

Or perhaps it’s just that I don’t want anyone to think that I’ve been out having fun. One thing is clear, though: I blog about The Problem in good faith. It may be boring, but I don’t know a soul who doesn’t face the same Collyer-esque nightmare. There’s something about the way we live now, some side-effect of our best intentions, that generates unmanageable middens of information. We live in The Information Age, after all! No one has ever had to cope with such pressures. It seems almost ungracious, if one is at all historically-minded, to complain about a vexation that does not involve death or dismemberment. Hey, I’m not complaining!

I’m just wondering if LXIV was right, this afternoon, when he saw Hedge Funds for Dummies in one of my book piles. He said that I can throw it away now.