Apr 17, 2014, 09:59AM

The Hideous Clutter

I'm always surrounded by rubble, and the rubble comes from me.

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Me and my boxes. I'm in a new apartment, and it's my set-up morning, when I have to browse through all my belongings and decide what goes where. Boxes on the floor, on the kitchen table, on my bed. Boxes in the closet, a stash I left there a few weeks before moving in. I'm an idiot with boxes.

The thing is, I'm comfortable with managing them. A set-up morning is a morning when I get to make decisions: this goes there. I think out problems, because storage in a small apartment is a challenge. Something to do.

But I can't stand living with them. The crowding gave me psoriasis. I still have that, and now I'm back with my boxes again. There was a break of 10 days or so when I was living in my old apartment, trying to sublet it. My old apartment was tiny, a cubbyhole, but all my stuff had been moved out and the space was all mine. I loved the white walls and bare wooden floors. To look down the length of an apartment and find nothing in your way—that's a pleasure even when the length is short. No more.

All my clothing that needs hangers is lying on the floor. I don't know how long they've been in their heap, and I'm not sure how to check they're unwrinkled. Dimly, I estimate that they can't be unwrinkled. That's what hangers are for, aren't they, to keep delicate clothes off the floor? Le them sit and they go wrong. I think.

I don't even wear clothing, and here I have piles I can't get rid of. My new place comes with a closet that runs parallel with the wall, long and narrow. I have it stacked full with my boxes, which are full of dented old paperbacks and drafts of my novel. The closet is a bit of a fantasy for me; I dreamed about it in my old place, which was tiny and swamped by my belongings. Now here we are and I can stuff almost to my heart's content. The boxes and old books that plagued me are finally stowed away, without exception. But there're my clothes, the leftover. The ones that need hangers, and the t-shirts and socks and underwear and sweat pants. Where did they come from? They don't matter to me at all, yet somehow I'm stuck with them. Right now the piles take up half my bed. I have no easy place to put them, so they're going to stay while I try to get a night's sleep. That means they'll be churned about and wrinkled, and I'll fall further behind in my race to be normal and cope like everybody else. But I'm damned if I'm going to sort them out now. There's nowhere for them to go; the closet is full.

It's this thing I have of always being surrounded by rubble. And the rubble comes from me. I feel like I live in a permanent back alley full of fish bones and empty tin cans, and there's no reason for the mess except that I'm messy. Any activity of mine, including my attempts at organization, just gives my messiness a chance to let fly. The more I make an effort, the more cluttered and overrun my environment becomes. Hold still and I degenerate. Do something and I produce escalating complication and confusion followed by a physical inconvenience of some persistent sort. It's maddening.


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