This is a clip from the 1996 Sci-Fi film, The Arrival, starring Teri Polo, Charlie Sheen and Ron Silver. The alien drops off a ball that rises off the floor and sucks up everything in the room including a bird that got too close to an open vent louver. I very much wish it was this easy to get rid of clutter. I guess The Jetsons are a long way off, still.
In mid-1987 I was hired as a runner/mail clerk for a paging company. It was my first real job after college. I had a decently-sized work area with a desk, phone and postage/folding equipment. We used a lot of #10 envelopes in 500/ct boxes. I didn’t do a very good job of keeping the area tidy and got in trouble for it. One thing that exacerbated the mess was a compulsion I had for keeping those boxes for shipping. I didn’t think about the fact that we were going through envelopes at a rate that would guarantee a supply of boxes should I need to ship something. So I had them stacked which took up space and in my unconscious state I let it all crowd around me. My boss cleaned up the area one morning and left a note to just keep a couple of the boxes on hand. When I did that it got better. But the whole time I was there I struggled with the space.
The other thing I didn’t understand was how to manage people and their requests and I hadn’t learned anything about prioritizing. As a result, several types of clutter, people, noise, unprioritized tasks and stuff quickly became overwhelming. I straightened the place up several times while I was there but because the problem wasn’t being addressed it would get back in a pile before long.
Cleaning up by itself is only a temporary thing. It doesn’t matter whether the decision is mine alone or if I’m doing it as the result of someone else’s ultimatum. I have to wake up and become aware of myself, the space I’m in and my relationship to it. Maybe some people are naturally aware. Some are compulsively tidy and drive the people around them nuts with the compulsion. I know neatness comes every easy for some people. I’m not one of them. For me it’s a learning process and it’s not easy all the time. And I know I’m not alone in this.
I haven’t used mind-mapping extensively. I found this as I was looking illustrations of clutter. It is part of Volume One of Paul Foreman’s e-book series on mind-maps.
I started getting some things organized in my mom’s garage. Most of the boxes I went through contained stuff that belonged to me. I put that stuff out there in 1997 because I felt I needed to clean up here first.
Then I forgot about it.
When I told her I was pulling out all this stuff that was mine. She reminded me that I was supposed to come get it and never did. I ended up taking most to Goodwill and sold two more boxes of books to Half Price Books.
The house is a mess. Has been for years. I have a path from the bed to the bedroom door. There’s a path through the livingroom to the kitchen and front door. I can get in and out of the house okay. I need a pen or clipboard. I can’t find one because it’s been swallowed in the chaos that is my home. I head to one of the OfficeShack stores and buy another one or pack of several. And over the years the process repeats itself.
Years later I start to deal with my problem. Cleaning and clearing turn up two extra clipboards like the one already at my desk and two for 5″x8″ pads. I needed a clipboard. Because of the way I was living I kept losing clipboards. And now I have enough to share.
The same thing happened with padfolios. I have already donated several. I’ve found years-worth of pens, pencils, erasers and notepads. I stocked up intentionally on notepads. I like the grid rule and Cornell note style pads and once those disappear from stores after the school supply rush you have to special-order them.
In a few days I’ll have another bag or box headed to Goodwill. It will include clipboards, pens and other things I find around here that need to go.