Once upon a time, while I was in high school, there was a young man who was delving into some truly nasty occult practices. After a near fatal accident, he decided he needed to get rid of the books. My parents had an old well on the property that my father was trying to fill. In a frenzy, everyone brought out their rock albums, anything that might reek of satanism. When several kids ran into our house, to grab my science fiction books and Beatles albums, my father told them to get out of the house. You don’t burn books, especially Arthur C. Clark!
I feel the same way about the narcissistic trend to commit to de-cluttering one’s life during Lent. The object is to fill forty grocery bags over a forty day period, with junk, and get rid of it. I’m not quite seeing why this is a good Lenten practice, but then I’m not on the mommy track. I’m probably not a good person, either. Don’t get me wrong, everyone needs to cut the crap. Having just moved, I threw a heck of a lot away, and am still giving stuff away – a hell of a lot more than forty bags. I just did not know it was a thing of virtue – and religious devotion. Oh, and I certainly did not need to chuck out twenty bucks for an email course on the subject.
If you read the narcissistic blogs on the subject, the self-involved individuals doing the challenge are looking for reassurance on Facebook. They are there to help others, to email back and forth, and to participate in forums. It is not a spiritual practice. Sorry, but there’s nothing spiritual about getting rid of those unwanted busted potato peelers, or tossing out all those beer bottle caps which accumulate in a kitchen drawer. Then again, I don’t consider myself a spiritual person. I’m a very strong believer in Christ, but far from spiritual. To me, when someone claims to be ‘spiritual’ it is code for self-important.
Our society seems to be obsessed with forcing people like moi to cut the clutter. I like my clutter. No, I’m not a hoarder, though I feel like one now because I’m living out of boxes. I’ve allowed myself to be made to feel as though there is something wrong with me because I’m not throwing things away – things I want to keep.
One of the problems with today’s throw-away society is people buy junk. I chose to buy nice things. I had the choice of children or jewelry, Louis Vuitton, and shoes. I chose the jewelry, Louis Vuitton and shoes. A person can buy good quality for the same price as junk. The problem with good stuff is you don’t toss it. It doesn’t break. You don’t send it to the dump. I have art, pottery, and about twelve hundred pieces of pink depression glass.
Then there are the books. I’m being made to feel like there is something wrong with me because I am a writer and have books. What is wrong with having books? Why must I get rid of them? Is there some rule that states books must be dumped? My research books have now been boxed (not my idea) and piled into a huge stack I cannot access. My work desk is in a location I cannot reach. I have no work space. Evidently there is something wrong with me for not just making things work.
I’m becoming very bitter about the clutter thing. Writers live with clutter. It is an occupational hazard. I don’t tell people how to run their businesses. I wouldn’t dare go into someone’s home and take their life apart. What gives people the right to think they know more than I do? The real problem is that I’m told there is something terribly nasty about me for not being thankful for the help. I am thankful. I am also so frustrated I no longer know how to cope. I’ve gone from a good eight hours a day as a working writer to less than a half hour. I had so many plans, but I had clutter. I’m not allowed to have clutter. I don’t care. I just want my space to write. It is in ruins.
The real problem here is that I’m no longer taken seriously as a writer. It has been so long since I’ve published, thanks to family problems, that I’m basically a non-person. Organizing clutter is not a spiritual practice. It is a practice designed to hurt those of us who enjoy our clutter.