My wife, Kate, and I have had our most serious arguments because of extreme clutter, spawned by her deep-seated neuroses.
Our condo had become a colossal trash compactor.
I hired a professional organizer, Sally Wigglesworth.
When the tidy guru arrived, we were battling over my wife’s insane number of dishes and pots, enough to prepare The Last Supper, including fondue and five desserts. “We never have more than four guests. Darling,” I said.
Kate caressed a dented little saucepan. “You beast,” she said. “Each of those pans represents an emotional moment in my life.”
“In Chile, this is what my mother made hot chocolate for me in. This copper-bottomed saucepan is a sweet remembrance of my happy childhood.”
Ms. Wigglesworth whipped out a digital camera. “You can keep photos of all your stuff and then when I get rid of it, you can still have an album of your memories.”
“What about my husband’s junk?” asked Kate.
“Leave it to me. You leave for the weekend,” said Ms. Wigglesworth.
Kate, sobbing, agreed.
We returned on Monday. We had been de-cluttered. No dried-out ballpoints shoved into drawers. The filing cabinets did not bristle with decade old shopping lists. No shoeboxes were crammed with useless lotto tickets.
Initially, I was concerned that Ms. Wigglesworth had replaced my three computers with a tiny laptop.
My two thousand books, rare editions — all gone. My dozen antique watches were now only a single Timex.
Our clutter guru explained the importance of minimizing, that time was an illusion and one could access any classic on the internet.
Kate fretted about the disappearance of her teapot collection and the Siamese cat.
At first it was difficult for us to live in such a minimal world but we bravely took part in the life-altering transition.
With only a few possessions, we never lost anything. We spent Zen weeks considering the joy of nothing. As close to heaven as earth could be.
At first, we looked through our “memory albums” of our possessions, and then finally we took a single photo of the albums and kept only that wallet-sized picture. It was more than enough.
Ms. Wigglesworth’s fee was five thousand dollars, a pittance. She had transformed our cluttered lives.
The fifth day of each month, Ms. Wigglesworth returned to strip us of any new and unnecessary temptations.
Once we bought a second toothbrush. Ms. Wigglesworth spirited it away in a heartbeat.
And then tragedy.
Ms. Wigglesworth vanished.
Our home again became the dwelling place of packrats and in desperation I drove to Ms. Wigglesworth’s estate.
That mansion had not a blade of grass out of place on its three pristine acres. A single rose bush with one bud attested to the world-famous guru’s Spartan philosophy.
Alas, our tidy guru had been killed in a freak accident in her own mansion.
The authorities pieced together Ms. Wigglesworth’s death.
Apparently her home was impenetrably constipated due to hundreds of computers, books, watches, rugs, filing cabinets, and on and on that she had confiscated from her clients.
A rescue team used the Jaws of Life to burrow through junk, piled ceiling high.
A twelve-foot wall of National Geographic magazines had collapsed on Ms. Wigglesworth. Trapped beneath the glossy pages, the organizational guru starved to death.
She is survived by 22 Siamese cats.
By the way here is a great website that really helps you declutter. Honest.
And this is worth a look.
Here is something I wrote on organizing your life.
Heck, some people can live with only 100 things.
The truth is if I had to choose between Kate and her clutter or no Kate at all — I’d take her with her baggage.
I can only hope she never reads this.
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