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Mind the clutter

Even in my dotage, I’m of two minds about clutter.

On the one hand, I tend to do my best work with layers of clutter piled on my desk. On the other hand, I feel better when things are tidy and organized and I can find what I am looking for. BTW, it was Harry Truman, I think, who got sick of ” on the one hand/on the other hand” explanations, and suggested the adviser cut off one of his hands.DSC00886

But I digress.

I spent my working life in newspaper newsrooms where desks were infested with clutter. I refer to major-league trash and stuff on desks: old newspapers, pizza boxes, dried pizza crust, Burger King shriveled fries, remnants of doughnuts, cookies, empty coke cans, coffee cups with 6-day old coffee pocked with floating mold, pica poles, copy paper, plastic glue pots, well-chewed spearmint gum, candy wrappers and used Kleenex and napkins. That was the first layer.

They were all the same, these newsrooms, some worse than others. There was one exception. It was a freak of nature — the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel back in the time of Reagan and just say “no.” The desks were clear, clean as a whistle, just a phone and NOTHING else. It looked like an insurance office or a banker’s desk. I asked the guide. He said the neat-freak publisher commanded that all desks be cleared at the end of the day. This was as strange and unnatural as the sun setting in East. To issue such an evil edict also was the equivalent of mortal sin. Thus, it was certain that this publisher, like the vast majority of his ilk, was bound for Hell and well-deserved eternal fire and damnation.

For the moment, as I write, my desks — I have two, being prone to excess — are clear, neat and ordered. This happens usually twice a month. To tell the truth, it’s a bit deceptive. To create the illusion of neatness, I simply gather the layers of clutter and put them in a piles and stow them. Out of sight, out of mind — until I happen to run into the pile, usually on a chair or tucked in a closet. I try to forget about it as soon as possible.

DSC00888There is one sort of clutter one can’t do much about and comes unbidden with dotage. It’s in the mind. It becomes difficult with age to remember the name of that particular actor, song, place or whatever. Siri is my crutch. But it’s depressing. I would prefer to remember.

Alas, there are no cleaners, sweepers or nostrums to tidy up the mind. At least not yet. But there’s always hope. Now that the boomers are cascading into old age, I expect he pharmaceutical industry will develop a tidy-the-mind drug as soon as it pencils out. When and if they do, it’s a safe bet it will cost the earth plus 10 percent.

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