The View From My Apartment 10
About clutter, I’m a man of two minds. In some ways, I actively support it. In other ways…well…I carefully organize my bookshelf and my CDs. Perhaps I suffer from a lame kind of OCD.
My wife just got back from India, and I was a good husband and I cleaned the house before she got home. Not that it was quite a sty, but I had been living the life of a bachelor, so things needed to be picked up. Of course, as soon as she got home, we had to open the suitcases right away—hey, there were presents—and so the clutter returned.
But that is easily remedied—she’s working on putting all the doo dads and such away.
The physical clutter is easy to pick up, because we see it, we touch it, and sometimes stub our toe on it. But, in the 21st century, there is a more insidious kind of clutter, a clutter that has no stench, a clutter that maybe isn’t really clutter, but…it is. I am referring to electronic clutter.
Last night, in an effort to not watch TV, and since I wasn’t particularly interested in working, I went through my hard drive, just to see what scripts or monologues or whatever (remember it was an attempt to find something else to do than work) I might find. I found a lot. A lot.
Letters to friends I don’t even talk to anymore, contact information that is horribly out of date, introductory emails, horrible writing assignments, etc, etc. A glut of electronic information. These are files that I haven’t opened in years and years.
I thought about it. It doesn’t hurt me to have it. I certainly don’t stub my toe on it, and if I don’t want to look at it, I don’t have to open those files. And these are small files, it’s not like they are taking up a whole lot of room. But—in the end, in the interests of organization and reality, I deleted them.
But then, I looked into my playwriting files. Into the folders of plays that I consider finished. Drafts and drafts and drafts, notes and notes. Endless doodles of scenes. False starts. Drafts that I will never look at again. What should I do with this?
I have no idea. It’s the clutter that is more than clutter. These old drafts aren’t the pieces of paper lying on my floor, or the coins that have fallen out of my pocket. These are the beginnings and mutant brothers of my work. Do I just chuck it? And if I do, it goes into electronic oblivion…it’s not like I can run out and dig it out of the garbage.
But…they serve no purpose anymore. Sure, someone could appeal to my vanity and say preserve it for the future…but…again, that’s an argument to my vanity. And believe me there’s enough bad work in these files I don’t need whatever reputation I have severely crippled by it.
I feel like I should dispose of them. Just go on a mad Guy Montag burning spree. (5 points for anyone knowing that reference.) Just go into the computer and delete, delete, delete! Gloriously sending those files to the recycle bin, bwah hah hah, and not look back! Just a clean simple folder for a play, story, or screenplay.
But, I’m resistant.
In some ways, I do feel bound by these electronic files that have no mass or mind. They reflect who I was at the time I was creating them. Not only are they pieces of my work, but, quite simply, they are pieces of me. Of who I was. Of where I was. Of what I was thinking. At that time. And that makes it hard to throw away.
But, I don’t read them. I don’t go in and examine who I was. That’s who I was. I’m not that now.
We all have tokens of our past. Objects that we have imbued with significance, with memories and emotions of a certain place and time. I have a Return of the Jedi blanket, I adore that blanket and when my wife is really nice, I get to use it. I’m looking at my bookshelf and I see a Darth Vader shampoo bottle from 1980. These objects transport us into our past, through memory. Sentiment is a powerful thing.
But these are real objects—I have to move Darth Vader if I want to get a book.
In the end—it’s all clutter. But is it worth saving? These electronic files take up a tiny, tiny bit of my hard drive. They could easily remain and nothing would change the function of my computer. Like I said, I’m of two minds.
So…what do you think? Should I purge? Should I keep? Help me solve this uniquely 21st Century problem!
For next time, and I promise it won’t be so long: My Trip to India! ALL of those new relatives! The Taj Mahal! The Wedding! And, of course, super-star Amitabh Bachchan!