Friday, May 23, 2008

What we've learned from our Stuff

Putting Stuff Away. Not such a difficult concept. You take it out. You put it back. Nobody gets hurt.

Leaving Stuff Out. Also not a difficult concept in the present tense. You take it out. You’re done with it. The only one who gets hurt is the person in charge of keeping order, a task usually designated to someone who likes that sort of thing – at least that’s what the clutterers would have you think.

If you’ve got a lot of space, even if you have a modicum of space, such a system works for everyone except, perhaps and most likely, the person in charge of keeping order. She is likely to become annoyed or frustrated, sometimes downright angry at the injustice of having the shoulder the burden of the practice of Leaving Stuff Out. She may become bitter and be forced to resort to sarcasm and nagging. And, finally, she may decide to no longer keep order of Stuff Left Out not attributed to herself, just so she might have the satisfaction of listening to a random resident scream in frustration, “WHERE DID ALL MY UNDERWEAR GO?”

One would think that under these circumstances lessons would be learned and the concept of Putting Stuff Away would suddenly become clear. And the person in charge of keeping order would be vindicated of the “bad attitude (she) has had of late.”

One would be wrong. Because if you’ve got a lot of space or a modicum of space, Stuff Left Out can be shoved aside, worked around, done without or replaced until total chaos ensues, at which point Leaving Stuff Out becomes a Massive Decluttering requiring the use of sick days and a dumpster.

Having survived a Massive Decluttering, one would think that Leaving Stuff Out would become a thing of the past. All and sundry would vow to “never let that happen again” and Putting Stuff Away would become everyone’s new hobby.

There is a segment of the population for which that would be true. I don’t happen to live with that segment, but I hear they’re out there.

There is another, more subtle, concept of life that many of us of advanced years have picked up on: Life will keep presenting you with challenges of a specific type until you develop the quality required to overcome it. And each time the presentation will become more and more dramatic in an attempt to grab your attention.

So if you continue to Leave Stuff Out when you have a lot or a modicum of room, Life will ramp up the lesson and see what you do when you have even less space. Because Leaving Stuff Out when you don’t have a whole lot of room? An impossibility.

You can’t leave the bread out or you won’t have room to make the sandwich. You can’t leave your clothes on the floor or you will trip on them (or the dog curled up on them) on your way out the door. You can’t leave your underwear on the kitchen table or you will be forced to use it as a placemat.

And, suddenly, order is restored simply because there is just no way to Leave Stuff Out without causing immediate discomfort to the actual person doing the leaving.

You would think this would cause the Person in Charge of Keeping Order to celebrate, wouldn’t you?

In a way she is. On the other hand, she really kind of pissed she had to be dragged along to the Place Without a Whole Lot of Room for the lesson.


Jane G. said...

Oh boy. I am a big fan of Putting Stuff Away. I am also a big fan of Putting Other People's Stuff So Far Away That They'll Never Find It If They Continue to Leave It Lying About for Us All to Enjoy.

Gwynne said...

I'm with Jane on the one (and only one) in our house who loves Putting Stuff Away, I feel that I must Put Other People's Stuff So Far Away That They'll Never Find It (like in the dumpster behind the grocery store so they can't even dig it out of our own trash once they realize it is missing) in order to make my point. Because all the nagging and anger that it stirs up in me is completely lost on them otherwise.

Sisiggy said...

I did make a tidy profit in the old days by confiscating everything the Heirs left out and selling it back to them on allowance day. This was complicated, though, by Dirtman's side deals involving lawn mowing and other chores he (Dirtman) was supposed to be doing. Pretty soon I lost control of the rate of exchange and the entire system crumbled.

And I did at the time tend to appear like that Cheri Oteri character on Saturday Night Live. You know the neighbor lady in the housedress shouting at the kids whose ball hits her porch: "This? This is mine now. See? I take it!"