Tuesday, February 16, 2010

My Clutter Achille's Heel

My mom sent me this article earlier this week from The Unclutterer in which the Unclutterer reveals her clutter Achille's heel. Mom wondered what mine was. She had already figured out my sister's: my sister doesn't have an oven door. She hasn't had one for a year. This says a couple of disturbing things, not the least of which concerns her diet. (BTW, she is a vegetarian. "Oh," you might think, "how healthy, all those vegetables." Nope. She is fueled by peanut butter, bread, and coffee. I don't know when a vegetable last touched her lips and probably the only time she's used the stove is to light a cigarette when she couldn't find a lighter. But even that's iffy because she doesn't smoke inside out of concern for her dogs' health.) Anyhow, the task of getting an oven door is her Achille's heel.

My mom says hers is "tax crap and filing." That's a good one. Here's your other one mom: the fridge. I'll bet it still contains Thanksgiving leftovers. That fridge should have a warning sign "Check the date, it's probably too late!" Many is the time that I have almost eaten something well past its due date.

I thought that I was one of the few that didn't have a clutter Achille's Heel. Then, as Philip was leaving to go running the other night, I saw it right in front of me on the stoop: the new Rochester phone book in a fading yellow plastic bag nearly covered by snow. Or at least it was new when it got dropped there three weeks ago. I look at it everyday when I go out to get the mail. That means that for 21 days, I have been ALREADY OUTSIDE getting the mail, with the phone book less than a foot from where I stand and I have continuously made the conscious decision: "Nah."

Who does that? It's not like it's even a big book. We're in Rochester, Minnesota, for God's sake. The book would barely stoke a fire. We even have a designated phone book drawer in our house so it's not like I'd have to tackle the additional excruciatingly complex task of figuring out where to put the book after accomplishing the taxing first step of actually picking up the book, bringing it inside and removing it from its yellow sack.

This would maybe be okay if it was an isolated incident, but then I remembered back to my apartment in Minneapolis where I actually moved in, got the complimentary phone books delivered to my stoop and moved out a year later with the same phone books—plus the newest releases—all in the same damn place.

And then, I remembered even further back to my place in Nashville where, not only did three sets of two phone books (one for each year I was there) live on my back stoop where eventually I put an ashtray on top of them, but there was an identical set of books that lived at the front door. That's twelve phone books, people. Horrifying, I know.

When I realized all of this, I kind of had a mini crisis because, I mean, what does that say about me that I can't take a freaking phone book to a trashcan or drawer? I examined all of the facets of this question. Perhaps there was something about phone books in particular, maybe a phone book trauma from the past? I tried to break down some of the givens of the equation in a rational manner to see what I could come up with:
1. Phone books are heavy and ugly. These are two qualities I dislike. But, the Rochester phone book isn't heavy, just ugly.
2. I don't dislike the color yellow. In fact, I'm quite fond of it.
And that was it. I couldn't think of one good reason that I didn't properly take care of the phone books except out of sheer laziness. But what an odd thing to be lazy about. I mean, I make the bed every day. Dishes don't languish in the sink. I pay bills on time and vacuum. But apparently phone books are like Kryptonite to my willpower.

Then I thought about how often I watch Hoarders and become so disgusted by the people that I can no longer watch the show (seriously, watching a psychologist sweetly praise a grown adult whose children have health problems because she won't clean up cat shit for throwing away a sheaf of rotting papers and a ball of dust makes me physically ill. These people are worse than drug addicts, and definitely more dangerous, in my mind).

The idea that I might now have to reassess my view towards hoarders in light of my own weakness was enough to make me go out right then, pick up the phone book and place it in its new home. Then I removed the old phone book and threw it away. Am I cured? Only time (and next year's phone book delivery) will tell.

--photo from here.


  1. Yet another reason why I love you. You see, I, too, abhor phone books, and I cannot really pinpoint a reason why. Ohh. Probably because it's 2010 and I haven't used a phone book since I was in, ohhh...about the 6th grade! Hey Yellow Pages, spare the forest, and I'll just google the number, okay?!

    Oh, and P.S. - You forgot red wine. I'm pretty sure that SKD gets all of the nutrients that her skinny little vegetarian body needs from red wine...

  2. Gee, thanks for telling the world that I have turned into Mamaw. Her out of date stuff in the fridge has been the topic of many a conversation between me and your dad. I was always whispering to you guys at her house, "don't eat that, don't drink that." The expired stuff in my fridge is um.....obviously......stuff I never eat! So, no problem! I get around to throwing it outeventually. I guess I mean to eat it since I bought it. Maybe that is my true Achille's heel. I buy food I don't eat and have to (guiltily) throw it out, so I delay.

  3. Oh crap. It *is* genetic. Mom, I am well on my way to a full fridge. A couple of weeks ago I left two bell peppers in the fridge because I felt guilty about buying them and then not using them. I kept thinking "Maybe I'll make something with them one night." Hahahahaahahahaahah, right.

  4. Okay, here goes. I know those of you who know me will find it hard to believe but I, too, have a heel. That organizing myth is just that. I have a problem with the never-ending mail, most of it junk and catalogs, a few bills here and there. Everyday it just keeps on coming. About every 2 months I clear off my very long counter that it always ends up covering and I vow never to let it happen again. I promise that I will deal with the mail on a daily basis...for about 2 days, then it begins to accumulate again. I mean, how many LL Bean catalogs does a girl need? Or Coldwater Creek? Or JMS ( Just My Size for those of you who aren't). I would never order anything from that catalog, how did they get my address? At least I'd never admit to ordering anything from them. So, truthfully, every 2 or 3 months I go through the stacks and make a pile for me and one for Bob. Thank goodness he gets the important bills out on a monthly basis and pays them. After I get my pile I sort the junk, shred the things that need shredding, really, checks from CitiBank? Then I make the pile that ends up on my desk on top of the stack from last time and maybe the time before. It's a curse, I know, I only hope it's not genetic. And I didn't even mention the bags that get filled when we have company, so they won't think I'm messy. Unfortunately, I know one of my daughters that does that too. Oh, BTW, I do recycle the catalogs, thanks to another of my daughters who encouraged me to quit destroying the planet with garbage.

  5. Oh my gosh, I'm bad with magazines, too. Maybe I have more Achille's heels than I thought. Maybe I'm just one big heel! I have piles of magazines and mail that sit onthe front table. I'm slowly getting better by now addressing the pile once a weak. But I dread it.