De-cluttering as Therapy

Every once in a while I get fed up with having to navigate a Parris Island worthy obstacle course getting to my desk, undertake veritable archaeological digs to locate a pen, and relocate stacks of papers the size of an Easter Island mo’ai to free enough space to move my mouse (with said relocation usually resulting in part or all of said stack falling off the desk and into St. Anthony’s bailiwick). There are, of course, advantages to being a pseudo-hoarder. As you stroll into the office at 8:37, you can always claim this is your fifth cup of coffee and you were in the loo or replacing the toner in the printer when your co-workers arrived at 7:30 sharp. Of course, since I work at home and there is very little satisfaction in trying to pull the gabardine over my four-year-old’s eyes, my advantages are primarily in the custodial arena: my desk never needs dusting – in fact, I rarely get more than a few hundred microns of dust on any single stratum of papers – and the glass desktop never gets fingerprints on it. Notwithstanding the convenience of one less cleaning task, I occasionally notice the best intentions stirring up from within – wholly unbidden, mind you – and I fantasize about casually placing a reference book or a pad for taking notes on the desk without the need to undertake a detailed structural survey to determine the new center of mass and recalculate all the frictional forces (including the dynamic component so I can estimate, should the static frictional forces be overcome, how far away the book will land and the likely damage that will be incurred). And so I begin. The objective of stage one is a decrease in the entropy of the system both overall and on a per stack basis. This is achieved through the recursive process – akin to the solution of the famous “Tower of Hanoi” puzzle – of reforming the X existing, unordered stacks into Y new, ordered stacks based on a lexical analysis of meaning and nuance of the text on each page. Once this is complete, it is a simple matter to label Y hanging folders with appropriate titles and place each stack in its own hanging folder. A flawless plan, if ever there was one, with the single assumption that the first stage can be completed in finite time and by expending a finite amount of energy. Extensive calculations have demonstrated that this assumption is valid only in the case where the office is a closed system. In practice, apparently, a closed system can not be achieved even after closing the door and heating/air conditioning vent and removing from the wall all electrical cords and ethernet cables. What happens, in practice, is that I start on several of the unordered stacks – remove the lid on those stacks, so to speak – when an undeniably Stygian sleep overtakes me.

Our bodies remember. Our cells retain memories which can be released during body work. I’m convinced that office materials contain the same latency. When I hold a piece of paper, it absorbs vibrational energy and the atoms retain that energy as it lays gathering dust and then layer upon layer of material above it. When I excavate down to that paper, its vibrational energy – my past energy – is re-emitted and I experience, in both a psychological and physiological way, the experience of that past day. This mechanism is no different than undergoing therapy or analysis. The difference lies in the consciousness of the act; in analysis, I know that things from the past will be brought up and I brace myself – not always successfully, albeit – to withstand the onslaught and attempt to cope. While organizing the office, however, this onslaught is not expected and so is not prepared for. I am caught totally unawares by the anger I felt 4 months ago as I placed that credit card bill on the stack but the anger is there assaulting me and my natural defense when being overwhelmed is to go to sleep, hence the visit from Morpheus which invariably follows my delving into my past.

So, perhaps, if I can let my my office clutter take me into my past I can get clues to what is going on today. Maybe I should tackle the chore with a full pot of strong coffee!

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