The de-cluttering chronicles

The first step in Warren’s new de-cluttering programme, is to get Marie Kondo out of your life. This is the underfed-looking, perpetually smiling, ridiculously cute young Japanese fashion gurvi who, after taking a course in how to write a self-help bestseller, wrote, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Now, we are alerted, she has written an illustrated coffee-table version, under title, Spark Joy. According to my informant, this latest instalment includes instructions on how to fold underwear and shirts.

I refuse to buy it. Coffee-table books are exactly the sort of clutter we do not allow in the High Doganate.

You see, I was born and raised as a de-cluttering expert, myself. My father was an industrial designer, after all. He gave me my first tips in how to make things disappear, the way they did in the Bauhaus. He was a spatial organizer of the first water: “Ship shape and Bristol fashion!” he would call from the bridge. Anything that fails to “spark joy” in the High Doganate is already gone by sundown. This includes vital bureaucratic forms and court summonses, or would if I did not have an ancient oak cabinet as a depository for all such things as spark the opposite of joy whenever seen. (The folders that contain them are filed in the graphic art drawer.)

Few shirts and little underwear clutter the High Doganate, because wall, floor, and closet space is reserved for books. (Ceilings are left clear, for sorting.) Among the proposals of this “Konmari,” as she is called by her followers, is to jettison all books that have not been read. Too, all those which have been read already. The one you are reading may be kept, but only till it is finished, lest it create a temptation to re-reading. I would certainly apply this principle to self-help books.

But every book I have retained, sparks joy; and their spines alone may trigger an imaginative recollection of the contents, and the times and spaces among which it was once read. As Coleridge said, books are corporeal, living things; at any moment their wings may re-open, for another flight into one’s soul.

A correspondent in western Massachusetts was recently married. She moved in with her new husband, together with fifty cartons of books — an amount he may have deemed excessive. My advice: any number of cartons that can be counted, is too few.

“Have you read all these books?” I have been asked by visitors, so many times, that I have run out of clever replies. Among them: “Are you insinuating that this is all I’ve ever read?” … Or, “Dear me, yes, good point. All my other flats are like this, too.” … Or: “No, I can’t read, but I hired a highly literate interior decorator.”

The other day I was asked this by a policeman. He was gathering information on a burglar who had happened to pass my way. I hope he doesn’t report me for hoarding. Apparently there are now laws against that; Twisted Nanny State never sleeps.

I wish to be fair to the Japanese wench, however. Simplicity of life ought to be encouraged. Her idea, before tossing old nostalgic items, to conduct a little ceremony over them, is hereby endorsed. And I feel for her, in the clutter of money and fame that must come with her bestsellers. But really, my father knew best: “It doesn’t matter how much you own. It matters that you can find what you are looking for.”

A Catholic view must be largely pro-clutter. A man at his joyful work will be surrounded by the projects he is working on. And in the evenings, surrounded by his joyful family. Or for Mass, hustling them all over to a church that is full of joyful equipage.


[I have proposed an addition to the world’s clutter at Catholic Thing today, over here.]