Unseen and tidy

This is what cleaning looks like sometimes.

Is it possible to have bipolar cluttering disorder? For every few months I have of haplessly watching my piles of things grow and spread across my apartment, I will have periods like last weekend, where I manage to get granular with my sorting and reorganizing. In the past few days I have accomplished some of the goals I’ve thought about for years with old files and hard drives.

The problem with digital clutter is that for the most part it is invisible: an organized hard drive looks no different from a disorganized one. But the emotional effect of it is vastly different. Clutter feels to me that my life is both oppressively present and yet ungraspable: there is stuff all around, but the thread of what I am doing and what I need to use for it is lost in the mess. All of my incomplete decisions are in front of me, competing for my attention. It becomes easier to just let an object drop and go on to the next thing, even though to do so means that I have also created a tiny addition to my fears about the future.

The clutterer lives in dread of that moment sometime in the future where the decision must be made, even thought that decision is one of liberation. There are times when I can genuinely say, no I don’t need this thing any longer and I can let it go, and that begins to grow my ability to move other things out of my life.

The difficulty in all of this is that is can come to very quickly resemble the binge/purge cycles of eating disorders. The challenge in all of these is how not to become stuck, to all ow both food and possessions to flow through my life in a way that is nourishing and pleasurable.

At least this week I was able to migrate my digital music collection and photo archive off of a mechanical hard drive that was performing erratically and onto one that seems more stable and capacious. In the process I also managed to discover archives for some earlier art projects as well as some personal photos that I hadn’t seen in ages. I got a chunky drive off of my desk, and felt a bit more in control

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