Determined to Declutter (or: The Stuff That Matters)

Posted: 4 March 2014

Sooty likes my stuff, as long as it's comfortable.
Sooty likes my stuff, as long as it’s comfortable.

“Stuff is everything” – Malcolm Lee Bradford.  

It wasn’t until we moved house last year that Bradscribe realised how much stuff had amassed after a whole decade living and working in Southeast Asia. The wife groaned, not hesitating to admit that it would bring great pleasure to set it all alight.

Years to build – seconds to burn…  

Even the removal men complained about the sheer weight of my stuff. Typical, lesser mortals such as these do not comprehend or appreciate the value of our stuff. Stuff is powerful; stuff is relentless. It can gather and multiply unexpectedly, like an expanding and amorphous malevolent thing from a sci-fi/horror B-movie.

Naturally, those of you writers like me who revel in research will understand that when we collect our sources in various forms, it causes a seemingly insurmountable amount of stuff to just build up at an alarming rate.

No need to fret about your stuff on your own, my friend.

Determined to conquer the curse of my clutter, it was tackled systematically, so gradually the volume of stuff has been significantly reduced. Too good to be true? Not at all; if my stuff can be controlled, so can yours! Read on…

My former office; not my stuff. My stuff is more attractively laid out.
My former office; not my stuff. My stuff is more attractively laid out.

“Every time I have moved house, those first few days  – when the space is empty… are intoxicating. But… the clutter returns with all the vigour of a virulent strain of mould” – Emma Beddington.   

Of all the most incredible remarks this blogger has ever heard is: “Why do you have so much stuff?”

Yes, my jaw hit the floor when that preposterous statement was uttered. Honestly, how can anyone begin to explain this question, let alone answer it?

Everyone has stuff: such is the rich tapestry of life, different people have different types of stuff. After all, the only reason we buy/rent houses is so that we can have somewhere safe and spacious to store our stuff. When we go out, we usually end up buying more stuff. When we visit friends’ storage areas homes, we judge their stuff; and the only reason we go on vacation is, invariably, to accumulate more stuff… isn’t it? This seems to be quite obvious.

However, there comes a time when we all have to step back (if there is room amongst all that stuff) and assess how to reduce some of it. For starters, there is never enough time to read everything we have; realistically, if you have not looked at a certain item in the last four years, then you probably never will. In other words, it wasn’t that inportant; discard it pronto.

This stock photo reassures me no end; my office will NEVER look like this. Honest.
This stock photo reassures me no end; my office will NEVER look like this. Honest.

“You can’t have everything. Where would you put it?” – Steven Wright.  

Looking for answers on how to manage your stuff? This blogger can help.

The moment when Bradscribe noticed the sheer stuff overload came when he was annoyed to find… that nothing could be found. The most satisfying strategy to take was to halve the number of book projects in progress. Wherever possible, notes and papers no longer relevant could be discarded; some data had taken ages and lots of time and energy to acquire, so it was agonising to let go… but let go you must. Be strict.        

Don’t abandon your work for a day endeavouring to attack all those piles and pillars, mountains and mounds of stuff. Believe me: you will get nowhere; after hours of sorting, sifting and scrutinizing stuff, nothing will look like it’s been sorted out! Most importantly, the office will certainly end up in a messier state than when you started!  

But do not fret, Dear Reader (and Fellow Writer/Researcher), here is a handy tip on how you can declutter effectively:

Just take one hour a day (two if need be) to deal with a little bit of stuff at a time. Select a pile: deliberately sift through the tatty yellowed morsels at the bottom of it; chances are you will find items you thought were lost/forgotten forever. Stay sane. Enjoy the clear-out in gradual stages…

Every little helps.


Concocted a week ago, but due to noisy neighbours and other needless distractions (not to mention technical mishaps), this post was not published until 28 January 2014.

Modern technology: enough to drive you round the bend or up the wall?
Modern technology: enough to drive you round the bend or up the wall?

“It has become appallingly ovious that our technology has exceeded our humanity” Albert Einstein.  

At last, my return to the Blogosphere is complete.

After revelling in the joy of having mastered the art of blogging and all its little technical inticracies, this writer was stumped to find that his latest post, albeit a mere first draft, not only failed to save properly, but disappeared altogether, zapped into that darkest and most perplexing of all mysteries: the limbo of cyberspace. Where it took hours to produce one blog, it only takes one nanosecond for one computer to erase. What the deuce?!

Was Bradscribe grounded before he could even contemplate reaching the heights of blogging greatness? Let me hasten to add that there are no worries here about WordPress: the finest blogging site available in the known universe; no, this is merely my Rage Against the Machines. Too many times whilst ploddin’ away on ANY writing task, the screen would freeze, the cursor would disappear, or the mouse refused to function. Several times during the last two months the need to chat and unwind with my wife took hold, but – would-u-adam-n-eve it – Skype would not work either… ha!

Alas, this is a reminder of essay-writing at university: “technical faults would NOT be accepted as an excuse for late essays” read the bold & official form, yet that’s the one excuse which caused two of my essays to be late – dammit! 

In those days, students would congregate in computer clusters, fiddle, fluster and fidget for ten minutes until the whole unit crashed; now, of course, every student has their own laptop and tap away to their heart’s content, safe in the knowledge that it is their device and incapable of malfunctioning!

'Puter or paper - sometimes it's jeasier to just go with the latter
‘Puter or paper – sometimes it’s jeasier to just go with the latter

“Technological progress has merely provided us with more efficient means of going backwards” – Aldous Huxley.   

Since my first tentative steps into wordprocessing, countless unutterable problems have tampered my work and upset my frame of mind. How can this be?

Rare conversations with Technophiles presented some classic odd moments: they just could not fathom how that which grants them immeasurable pant-wetting pleasure can fix me with such utter toil and hardship. Sometimes they look at me as if this great writer had just farted next to them in the same elevator. Why should they derive such joy from technology that ultimately frustrates me?? Never did the mind boggle more…

At some point, these whizz-kids must have encountered the same, or similar, problems – at least found themselves in a university cluster… which crashed.

I cannot be alone!

Sometimes it's better to just sit back & not dwell on modern tech stuff...
Sometimes it’s better to just sit back & not dwell on modern tech stuff…

“One machine can do the work of fifty ordinary men. No machine can do the work of one extraordinary man” – Elbert Hubbard. 

Of all the insufferable…. Hang on, there has to be a logical solution to this annoying situation (without lobbing the laptop outta the window.) There have been days when all you can do is sit back and guffaw heartily at the sheer irony and commonality of tech mishaps. It is strange, sometimes distracting, for this 20th century boy to see the proliferation of tech devices. While a lot of people can’t do without them, to me, it’s a case of: Keep your friends close, your tech gadgets closer.

And another thing… There is nothing more deflating than the term: ‘upgrade the system’ – is there, arguably, three more calamitous words in the English language? In this writer’s experience: certainly not. Whole streams of work, work hours, or even the entire day, have been lost because some “expert” considered the best plan of action would be to “fix” what was NOT broken.

This post will end here (before the wrath against anything new, shiny and/or complicated escalates) with Bradscribe happily and humbly lying back to reminisce about a simpler time of typewriters and longhand scribbling…