Colette Sheridan: My staycation de-cluttering... and other self-improvements!

In today’s world, organisation is big business. From books to seminars to putting systems in place, everyone seems to want to be neat and organised, says Colette Sheridan
Colette Sheridan: My staycation de-cluttering... and other self-improvements!

EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE: Lots of experts have ideas like this for storage of books — but Colette Sheridan is on a different page!

SPENDING half of my staycation doing a cull on the detritus in my office may not sound very exciting.

But for a hoarder like me, it is a liberating experience.

From newspapers and magazines, plastic files in all the colours of the rainbow (for colour-coding something or other, never actually realised) and unused modems plus other bits of technology barely touched, the room I work in would depress even the most slovenly operator.

Needless to say, it’s the manifestation of a mental illness. Everything that’s out of kilter is pathologised these days.

In 2013, hoarding disorder was recognised. Only 2-5% of people have this diagnosis.

I’d rather not consider that my untidiness and inability to dump unnecessary stuff is a sign of a mind gone awry but I suppose it’s a good excuse if I ever need it.

While I would draw the line at hiring an organisational consultant like Marie Kondo to clear my room, I can dip in and out of the advice of such ‘experts’.

In today’s world, organisation is big business. From books to seminars to putting systems in place, everyone seems to want to be neat and organised.

Covid-19, where we’re thrown back on our own resources with less social contact than usual, is the perfect backdrop for losing ourselves in a massive overhaul of our living and working spaces.

There is really nothing quite as satisfying as clearing a desk. It speaks of orderliness and efficiency. Of course, it won’t last.

I tend to be of the Sigmund Freud persuasion, who was attributed as saying: “Don’t clean up the mess. I know exactly where everything is.”

Einstein was known for having a chaotic desk. He once said: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

If bright boys like these were lacking in the tidiness factor, it should encourage those of us who wade through heaps of papers to get to the one we need. We may not be geniuses, but we’re in good company.

However, a slob like me lives with a nagging sense of disappointment with myself. Why can’t I be like my sister, who would almost whip today’s newspaper from under one’s nose because she regards it as ‘clutter’?

She, apparently, has a Type A personality. People with this personality type tend to be perfectionists. Having everything in its rightful place satisfies their need for order and control.

But if, like me, you tend to be a bit negligent in your approach to housework and tidying up, it means you probably have more of a Type B personality.

More laidback than Type As, we are not motivated to achieve perfection but are more attracted to ideas and creativity.

Phew, and I thought I was a borderline societal outcast.

Seriously though, there is moral scoring attributed to being tidy. Tidy is good. Untidy is a poor show, a sign of degeneration, a deep-seated laziness and lack of pride.

But you don’t have to succumb to feelings of self-loathing just because you lack the tidiness gene. If, like me, you feel guilty about the mess you create, you can do something about it.

Ironically, while clearing out a drawer full of newspaper cuttings (both my own and those of other journalists), I came across an Echo article published in 2015 with the headline, ‘War on Clutter’. It was about two Cork women who are experts on de-cluttering.

They were quoted by reporter, Chris Dunne, who wrote: “We support the client emotionally and practically and endeavour to honour their living and working space.”

They spoke of removing “the anxiety and sometimes overwhelming feeling of decluttering and re-organising one’s home and working space.”

I would defy these declutterers to ‘honour’ my space when their instinct would probably be to blitz everything in it bar the furniture.

I gather books at a ferocious rate, between books that I review as part of my work and books that I buy. I don’t like the idea of the Kindle. There’s something about hard copy and remembering what page some particular detail is mentioned on. You really can’t beat a physical book.

But by God, the space they take up! What is an avid reader to do?

Charity shops tend to no longer take second hand books for hygiene reasons in this time of pandemic. There is the occasional second hand book shop that, I hope, still buys used books.

It’s a real dilemma, offloading books. Not to mention one’s attachment to them.

You may have no intention of re-reading a particular book but you are convinced that you’ll need it for reference purposes some day.

Oh, for heaven’s sake — there’s always google.

But who really wants to work in some book-free sterile space?

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