By Margaret Lucke
I walk into my office, carrying a tray with three mugs of tea. My Muse and my Editor are already there, waiting. My Muse is perched on a pile of papers on my desk. My Editor has moved books off the spare chair in order to sit down. I look around for a place to put the tray and finally balance it carefully on a stack of magazines.
"Our topic this week on The LadyKillers blog is clutter management," I tell them. I hand them each a mug.
My Editor snorts a laugh. "But clutter management? Not so much."
I feel a bit hurt. "What do you mean?"
"Take a look around." She sweeps her arm in a wide arc, splattering tea as she goes. Her gesture takes in the whole office. I do as instructed and see loose papers, file folders filled with more papers, books, plants, spiral notebooks, a sun hat, books, pens, pencils, papers, a tangle of rubber bands, books, charging cords for various electronic devices, the devices themselves, a Bananagrams game, books, papers, more books …
"All of that," my Editor pronounces, "is clutter."
"Is not." I'm pouting.
"Is not." I look to my Muse for support. She's busy filing her nails. I forgot to mention the nail file in the list. "It's, um … it's a creative organizational system."
"Oh, please." My Editor rolls her eyes. My Muse giggles behind her hand.
"Okay," I concede. "Maybe things have gotten a little out of hand. I would straighten up the place, but that seems kind of overwhelming. I'm not sure where to begin."
My Muse slides down from the desk and begins pacing the room, stepping carefully to avoid bumping into the various obstacles that litter the floor. She is rubbing her hands in anticipation. "You know that Japanese lady who wrote the bestseller on tidying up?* She says you should gather everything in the house that belongs in the same category and place them in a big pile."
"And then you light a big bonfire," says my Editor.
My Muse flashes a frown at her. "No, silly. What you do is go through the items one by one and see which ones spark joy within you. You keep those and get rid of the rest."
A scary image springs to mind: all of the random papers in the house in one big heap, pushing up through the ceiling. Very few of them would spark joy, and I'm sure some could be discarded. But others need to be kept for various reasons, like the possibility that the IRS might want to look at them someday. I suppose, though, that I could make them more orderly. Maybe I should invest in more file folders.
The opposite is true of books. Almost all of them spark joy in me. Simply the fact that books exist is one of life's great positives, in my humble opinion. Still, I have clung to a number of them that I'm not likely ever to reread. It might be a gift to release them into the world to find new readers.
My Muse and my Editor are watching me expectantly. I look around the room again. The space is, I'm forced to admit, filled with clutter. How did it get so out of hand? I don't know about the sparking-joy part, but maybe all three of us could work more happily and productively in a neater space.
"All right," I tell them. "Tomorrow we'll start tidying up."
"Yay!" They both cheer and clap their hands.
"But no bonfires."
My Editor looks disappointed at that, but all she says is, "May I have more tea?"
* The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, published by Ten Speed Press, 2014