After the carnage of Bury My Heart at Wounded Tupperware, I moved to the bathroom. The first target was the medicine cabinet, which was populated with 386 different types of cold medicine, Tylenols, Bufferins, Advils, Bayers, generic aspirins, boxes and boxes of Band-Aids, and a special Japanese cream potion for stretch marks. All of the medicine and creams were years—yes, years—past the expiration date. With one fell swoop it all went straight into the trash. In ten minutes the medicine cabinet went from being a pharmaceutical museum to a small but spacious area containing toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, floss, one package of Band-Aids, one unexpired bottle of aspirin for the headaches none of us ever gets, and a comb.
In a quick run to the kitchen I had the inspiration to check one of the kitchen drawers. And you know what? YOU HAVE ONE OF THESE DRAWERS, TOO. WORSE, YOU HAVE MANY OF THEM. It’s the kitchen drawer of death. It contains forty pencils, most of which lack an eraser, none of which is sharpened, and the remainder of which are too short to use. There is an even greater number of pens. You know—the pens that you pick up when you have to write something down in a hurry and then say, “Fuck, this pen doesn’t have any ink.” And then instead of tossing it, you drop it back into the DOD and root around for one that works. Over time—surprise—it fills up with useless pens.
The inhabitants of the Drawer of Death are warring for the limited space in a battle to the death of paper clips, binder clips, rubber bands, coupons, report cards from five years ago, old thank-you cards that were cute, class photos, Subway buy-one-get-one-free coupon sheets, Domino’s handy order menus (never mind that you order everything online), corkscrews that don’t screw very well, nail clippers that you don’t like enough to put in the bathroom and use, and my favorite, wooden Japanese earwax diggers.
This is the drawer that is so chock full of shit that it barely opens, or that is so heavy the bottom sags so that it doesn’t close properly. This is the “Let Mikey Eat It” drawer, where useless shit goes to copulate with other useless shit, resulting in a nasty procreation of crap that emblemizes all that is wrong with clutter.
I hit that drawer with a singularity of purpose: throw everything away except one of everything that worked. In five minutes the drawer had a pair of scissors, a pen, a pencil, an eraser, a notepad, a tape dispenser, a set of nail clippers, paperclip, a rubber band, a thumbtack, a magnet, a pushpin, and one wooden earwax digger. I can hear the shriekers now: “Oh my Dog! What’ll you do when you run out of paperclip.”
“I. Will. Buy. Another. One.”
The filthiest of lies
One way I had always skated around the evilness of clutter was by reminding myself that, “The apartment may be cluttered, but it’s not filthy. I’m a clean person.”
I thought about that while looking at my hands after playing executioner on the Drawer of Death. They were black with dust and dirt. It hit me: if you have clutter, you have filth in your home. You live in filth. Wow.
Next I targeted my toolbox, filled as it was with slowly rusting unused tools, and an assortment of pedals, pieces, wrenches, bolts, nails, pins, ball bearings, chain segments, hex wrenches, box wrenches, pliers of every variety, four kinds of hammers, giant files (What in the fuck did I ever by a giant steel file for? My teeth?), a massive hacksaw (prison escape?) crescent wrenches, screwdrivers of enough number and variety to deplete the Russian national vodka supply, plastic baggies with mysterious lockrings, bolts for strange chainring patterns, odd cogs, duplicate cogs, spoke nipples, spokes, pieces of various cadence monitors, enough plastic tie-downs to secure a naval fleet, strips of tire for boots that would last the entire South Bay cycling community for the next hundred years of sidewall punctures, picture hangers in quantity for a medium-sized museum, a prybar whose only possible use could be braining someone, a massive wood saw, five kinds of bike lube, three boxes of tubes that had rotted, six pairs of worn out cleats, twelve sets of bolts and washers for the worn out cleats, three sets of drill bits (I’ve never owned a drill), an exacto with no blade, a bottle of turpentine, four empty tubes of super glue, and the symbol of all symbols: a bottle of cleaning fluid covered in grease and filth.
With a tump and a bump I emptied it all, sorted out the few usable tools, reduced that small number by removing the ones I knew how to use, offered the keepers (along with a guitar peg tuner and a steel slide) to a good home on FB and heaved the rest down the trash chute. Then I set the huge red Husky toolbox out by the dumpster and replaced it with a small plastic one about the size of a large tackle box. Our neighbors had already been poaching the crockery set out by the trash cans, and the Husky was gone in the blink of an eye.
Is nothing sacred?
If the “thing” in nothing is a thing, then hopefully, no. If you need a physical object to conjure up the warm memory or to remind you of your affection, then perhaps the attachment really isn’t all that strong. If the only way you can feel good about yourself is through the physical objects that clutter your home, maybe it’s time to consider that…and all that it implies.
In my atheist family, nothing was more sacred than Christmas. Throughout my moves, there had always been a core of Christmas talismans that made it. Back at mom’s house in Austin, there were endless ornaments and mementos of Christmas past. Today they sat, tidily confined into two large plastic storage containers, courtesy of (where else?) the Container Store.
Within those hallowed plastic boxes that filled six straight feet of precious shelf space in our frightfully small closets were the treasures of my youth and of my own family. Ornaments made by hand in kindergarten. Ornaments given to me by my grandmother when I was a child. Precious creations by my own kids that hung on our various trees, year in and year out.
So I did the only thing I could do: I removed the handmade stockings that belonged to each of us, and set everything else out by the dumpster, including the plastic containers.
Fuck you, Christmas. Fuck you, ornaments. Fuck you, Container Store. Fuck you, things!
Back into the apartment I walked, staring lasciviously at the sleek, gleaming, open shelves. Twenty pounds lighter? Try twenty thousand.
Next I zeroed in on what was left of my blues CD’s. They represented musical continuity in my life from my earliest childhood, when the only records our family owned were Woody Guthrie Sings Folk Songs, the Lomax Leadbelly recordings, Blind Lemon Jefferson, a few Beatles albums, and a couple of 45’s: Tutti Frutti by Little Richard, Water by some old cowpoke, I Walk the Line by Johnny Cash, and Janis’s LP, The Pearl.
Fuck you, music. With the click of a mouse they were put up for adoption on Facebook, and then taken off to a new home, a new database, and introduced into new, appreciative, loving lives, to clutter my dresser and hang anchor around my neck no more…no more, no more, no more, and don’t you come back no more!
Next: Wankmeister hits a wall of resistance and stares down an attempted intervention