Fordyce Maxwell: The afflicted simply don’t see clutter, they work round or adapt to it

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BIORHYTHMS? More daylight? Force of habit? Whatever the reason, and in spite of snow falling, daffodils on go-slow and temperatures hovering around zero, we’ve been spring-cleaning.

I favour the “more daylight” answer. Although I find throwing out, tidying, sweeping up and washing down satisfying at any time of year, spring-cleaning has an indefinable new-start edge 
to it.

The problem is knowing when to stop, because the urge to reclaim space, occupied by unwanted books, stored furniture, unused tiles, paint, wood, clothes, footwear, gardening accessories or – as has been said by my nearest and usually dearest – “any damn thing not nailed down” can get the better of me.

Then the memory of Connie Booth clobbering John Cleese to bring him to his senses in Fawlty Towers flickers through my mind and I pause to think that, very occasionally, I have regretted throwing something out that I turned out to need a few days later.

Even more occasionally I admit that belief of hoarders that if something is kept long enough it will come in useful.

But in my experience that happens about once in 100 times. So hoarding 100 items for years on the off chance that one might be useful is neither good sense nor good management of space and time.

And, not that I expect this to be a clincher for those who hoard, it irritates the hell out of me. Many times – often in newspaper offices as colleagues peered over, round and sometimes through tottering heaps of old notebooks, files, reports, press releases and the occasional sandwich wrapper – I’ve thought of starting a “de-clutter your life” business.

That is, charge a fee to go in with a roll of bin bags and clean up. What stops me is knowing that the resulting clean and tidy room or desk wouldn’t last because your genuine hoarder does not see the problem.

In newspapers – paperless offices my eye – the problem is paper. On some farms and crofts it’s old machinery, string and plastic netting, bent gates and broken hurdles. In some gardens it’s whatever can no longer be squeezed into a room. In many a garage, basement or loft it’s the accumulated junk and detritus of years.

The afflicted simply don’t see clutter. They work round or adapt to it as it piles up and the saddest appear in television programmes. Many more could. The satisfaction of being in control of your space, rather than it being in control of you, is unknown to them – as is the pleasure of spring-cleaning, regardless of the weather.

Twitter: @FordyceMaxwell

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