January, as we all know, is the time of self-inspection. It’s when we ask big questions, and drink green juice.
My first January question is this: why has a woman called Marie Kondo sold 4.8 million books telling us how to fold our socks?
As if I needed it, The Times’ Saturday feature on precisely this issue was a stark reminder that the world - especially the creative world - falls into two camps. The Messy and The Not. I say The Not, as opposed to The Tidy, because it’s hard, still, for me to see ‘Tidy’ as an active or desirable state; but then, I am in the early stages of recovery. To me, the new savannahs that have appeared in my bedroom and kitchen and work space (now - note - different things) still feel slightly forlorn; the negative space where the lovely stuff used to live.
Clearly, I’m not alone in both the inclination to hoard or the reluctant submission to a strong intervening hand. Especially given that it is my lot to live with someone - a tidy creative, of all things - who chucks indiscriminately and knolls his belongings to a frankly concerning degree. (It’s a verb. As is ‘To Kondo’, now, apparently. Eye roll. Big time.)
If I were to write the counter book, it would be something like this: The Art of Troughing: nest building, anywhere, from anything, in pyjamas.
But this is the great divide: those who believe a cluttered space equals a cluttered mind; and those who wonder if the unclutterers aren’t really just spending an awful lot of time making new clutter that looks like gantt charts.
Culturally, there is a great automatic prejudice against clutter in the same way that there is prejudice against introversion - a prejudice that seems to have everything to do with the corporate world, and ‘streamlining’, and ‘simplifying’, and desperately short attention spans. I have bad thoughts about neatness, and an automatic suspicion of those who flaunt it. I can’t deny it. In my messy mind, it’s always seemed perfectly obvious that what begins with rolling your T-shirts ends in, probably, Nazism.
And while I maintain this position mutinously - complaining loudly about the lost art of unexpected collision as I try to secretly reclaim my boots from the bin liner; defending the unlikely frisson of thoughts and words and socks strewn together - it is, I’m told, time for me to ‘get my shit together’ and ‘do some financial forecasting’.
Because the sadder truth, of course, is that after more than a year of freelancing, I’ve only just twigged: being self-employed takes more organisation - even, really, than being employed to basically professionally organise - at a time when there is a/ no one to organise you and b/ so much more at stake if you fail. Like your hopes and dreams. Validation. Your rent.
And maybe it is time. Even the Ancient Greeks reached a point of Kondo clarity. They invented the mind palace and the Library. I guess the least I can do is throw out my old mail.
But in this state of submission, there are several dreams I will continue to hold dear to my heart:
1. The benefits of the bed-desk will be confirmed by science.
2. That time will become a conceptual, rather than finite, force in our world.
3. It will become creative wisdom, like morning pages, to work exclusively in dark, preferably candlelit, rooms that at all times imitate the early/late divide when you still have the edge and it’s not 10am.
Until this utopia becomes a reality, I’ll play ball. I have filled in a timetable. I have bought The Organised Mind on Audiobook.
It is January, and I am full of good intent. But to the tidying gods: is there no in between? To the creative ones: ditto?
I bought a Nutribullet. Can that be enough?