Some time ago, I read an article about how Vastu and Feng Shui strongly recommend that you get rid of ‘clutter’ in your home and at your workplace.
‘Keep everything neat and clean’ it said, promising positive energy and prosperity.
I stood up and looked at my table and then surveyed my room at work. After which, I thought about my desk at home where I would possibly be finishing this piece.
What would an unsuspecting soul see?
To him or her it might seem like an explosion of objects like papers, actions figures, mugs, books, post cards, concert ticket stubs and a whole lot of other meaningless junk. Like a dog in heat had done some serious moonwalking across my desk.
Well that’s because it is not their clutter to be familiar with in the first place.
This is my clutter. These bits and bobs are my milestones in supposed junk. My punctuation marks in a sentence that stands for my life in that space. My constant companions in an evolving world of creating, re-creating and crafting my ideas.
And like my fingerprint or my DNA, this clutter is unique to me. Only I know what the pattern is. On a soft-board with over a hundred things pinned to it, only I know where the Iron Maiden concert ticket stub is and what it meant in my life’s journey. The postcard, which I so thoughtfully filched from that restaurant in London and placed in a book so as not to get it dog-eared. The piece of paper with my ‘name’ on it, that a taxi driver had carried to the airport for me to identify him. Why I kept that was because they hadn’t merely misspelt my name, but given me a new one altogether. How I recognized it as mine is another story. Would one really throw away a memory like this?
To me, all of it is a part of a superbly subconscious pattern. Possibly one of the few truly unique things in a world where not much is really unique any more. Not shops, not clothes, not hair, not food, not airports and most certainly not behavior.
I admit I have felt the occasional need to get rid of all the clutter and adopt a minimalist vibe, pretty much like those you see in Scandinavian design books. A line here, a box there, an empty space dotted with a single couch and small painting in the distance and I have rejected this idea every single time.
Without my clutter, I’d possibly feel like a lost soul, walking blindfolded in the middle of the Sahara desert, without a compass.
I love the warm hug your clutter gives you when you walk in. It’s like a bunch of memories coming alive to tell you, “Hey buddy, it’s good to see you. You’re right where you belong.”
And when I switch jobs or houses, I don’t try and replicate the clutter from scratch nor do I move it like an art installation. I start over. Some of the old fellas still find pride of place. But then some new blokes join them. Slowly but surely a new one is born, unfolding itself like a flower blooming. One fine day when the mind pauses to observe that space, I see the pattern.
Now take a good look around you. Your desk, your room, your cabin or wherever it is that you find you’ve accumulated pieces of memories. This is your alter ego, your doppelganger, your twin and your very own self.
That is not clutter you see there, ladies and gentlemen. That is you.
Sainath Saraban is NCD at Leo Burnett. He loves Samurai Manga, beer and Indian cinema among a million other things. He is very glad that he is right-brained and left-handed, and not the other way around.
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