Clutter, Be Gone!
Angels on Earth|Jan/Feb 2021
Fifteen minutes a day keeps the mess away
LINDA NEUKRUG

Stacks of magazines and newspapers, empty cardboard boxes, half-filled trash bags of clothes to be given away. Junk in every corner, nowhere to sit. How had my living room come to this? I stepped over a broken chair, some out-of-season decorations, plastic tubs full of who knew what. This wasn’t who I wanted to be. But maybe it’s who I am, I thought, plopping down on a sturdy tub.

Years before, as an idealistic young woman living in New York City, I’d dreamed of welcoming friends and neighbors over for coffee, impromptu. “Please, come in!” I imagined calling through the always open door of my cozy, clean apartment. It never happened like that. When friends came by, I’d ask them to wait in the hall. “Give me a second!” I’d call over my shoulder, rushing to shove things under the bed, into the trash, the hamper. I blamed my tiny studio apartment. How could there not be clutter when there was nowhere to put things? If I had enough space, surely I would get my act together.

That didn’t work out either, I reminded myself, shoving aside a box with my toe to reveal the dust bunnies underneath. When I moved to California, to a home with several rooms and closets, my mess had followed—and grew. I buried my face in my hands so I didn’t have to look at it. You realize, God, that I have no idea what’s in the tub I’m sitting on. But the couch was taken up by piles of laundry waiting to be folded. I was so ashamed. A grown woman challenged by the idea of making my bed in the mornings. What’s the matter with me?

A knock at the front door got me up off the mystery tub. I squinted through the peephole and saw my new neighbor, Debra.

I opened the door a slit to be polite, careful to press my knee against it, preventing her from looking inside. “Hi, Linda, I’m sorry to bother you,” she said. “My phone isn’t installed yet. Can I use yours?”

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