A law of physics in my office/art studio is this: If there is a surface, it will be covered. No matter how many tables, countertops, stands, file cabinets, or shelves are in this room, I will manage within three days to accumulate piles of papers, baskets of business cards, and an airspace filled with the ever-present floating lists (all of which will land on every surface to spawn offspring).
Snippets of information that Time blurs from vital to vague has me playing How Sticky is That Sticky Note? Can I toss without following the breadcrumbs of brain cells to discover why I wrote it in the first place?
In any given pile might be an AARP membership renewal, a compilation of art ideas that I want to license, a recipe print-out, a journal, and a letter from my mother’s cousin, stuffed with clipped-out feel-good cat articles from her local newspaper. Even this example fails miserably to capture the sheer variety and nonsensical nature of these piles. If only they were as meaningful and aesthetic as the Watts Towers!
I can’t tell if I am an archivist or an archaeologist when I dig into one. And, by the way, there are several. At least. Sometimes I feel truly insane that I cannot simply annihilate them. There was a time when I relished this process, and within a day, my workspace transformed into a pristine utopia. Now I start, make some progress in tossing or recycling (but wait, don’t I need this?), get sidetracked, get overwhelmed, and admit defeat. (The pile is still there, but I’ve squared the corners a bit. It’s neater).
I discovered in the book Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things, that I am not alone. There is a term for what I do: churning.
And so, I face my piles of stuff, yet again. An hour for each one seems do-able. No more clearing it all into a shopping bag when I get tired of looking at it. I’m coming clean.
My name is Sharon W. and I’m a churn-aholic.