By: 5 April 2018
I can’t believe it’s not clutter

Patrick Walker contemplates ‘spring cleaning’ and whether clutter is best left alone

To my mind, the English spring is sufficiently indistinct and variable that any idea of ‘spring cleaning’ could safely be put back at least until May. By which time the longest day will be in sight and any clear out can be left for the long winter evenings that will follow, or perhaps even to next spring.

But somebody in my house has other ideas and it was before Christmas—let alone the first daffodil—that I started not to find things. It is true that a significant part of my life has been dedicated to looking for credit cards, car keys and other important items put in a ‘safe place’, but now I can’t even find my favourite coffee cup or my walking boots. Furthermore, concentration on the search is hampered by the persistent whine of Mr Dyson’s latest instrument of audio torture. At least when the vacuum cleaner had a cord, the sound of it being plugged in gave some warning and chance for escape: now I am assaulted by the noise at the same moment as my feet are peremptorily lifted from the floor.

But after many years of practice, I am getting the hang of it. Basically, anything  I own that is not in a drawer or cupboard is clutter. Anything that is in a drawer or cupboard more than 25% full is also clutter. More than one item on a hook is clutter. I am clutter. And so my challenge each year is to persuade her not to throw out the clutter, and perhaps even that clutter has its charms.


Patrick Walker is an independent mediator:

At least I have one ally, for a glimpse into my step-mother’s kitchen would reveal that in some households, the only thing that prevents the accumulation of more clutter is the inability of any floor, surface or drawer to accommodate so much as a further rubber band. But my protestation that she and my dad are very happy with it that way cuts no ice chez moi.

A few items are more difficult to categorise. My phone charging cable is clutter, but hers, which looks surprisingly identical, is not, because it spends some of its time coiled so tightly that every wiry sinew must be at breaking point. Anything stored in bulk (batteries, for example) is also unnecessary clutter, unless of course an appliance actually needs new batteries. If my store includes the right one, this clutter gains a temporary reprieve, but if not, the end is nigh.

It may be that I overstate the case just a little, and perhaps I see more of her point of view than I want to let on. But when I do finally throw something out, I inevitably find myself needing it within a week. And that is my excuse for a shed bulging with timber offcuts, bike parts of every description and boxes of screws in particularly useless sizes.

Of course, when we conquer space, not only will there be more room for clutter, but Venus can be set aside as a retreat for minimalist living. Mars (and much of planet Earth), on the other hand, can be administered in a more relaxed way and with a helpful sign reminding us that “organised people are just people who are too lazy to look for things”.

I’m off to find my walking boots: the coffee cup got smashed in the clean up operation.

This article originally appeared in issue 150 of Leeds & Yorkshire Lawyer