My (Mis)Adventures with Clutter

March 29, 2008
Amodini Sharma

I need my car keys. I delve inside my handbag. No go. Not there? I open the handbag, along its length, and look inside. Which is kind of awkward because I’m in the middle of a crowded theater lobby, crowds swilling around me, and I’m sort of balancing on one knee, the other bent so I can place my handbag on it. The Yoga “Tree” pose – only more artistic. The whole balance pose thingy is further jeopardized because my son is clutching a handful of my voluminous skirt, and is tugging in the opposite direction; he has to go the bathroom NOW.

Inside my handbag I see a pen or two. There is even a snack-bar (when did I put that in there?). There are various bits of paper floating around in there, some small, some big. Then there is a wad of tissues, my wallet, my phone and a little note-pad, a small comb, and 2 pairs of sun-glasses (quite pointless really – I can’t possibly wear them both at once). At such moments I wish I could just squat down wherever I am, dump the contents of the bag out, there, down on the ground, find what I’m looking, pick it up, and just walk away.

At one point in my life, I carried quite a large bag. It looked like a nice, curvy, leather sack. And it was (became) heavy. Since it was such a large, voluminous bag – it seemed to have oodles of space; things fairly leapt inside of their own accord. Need hairbrush? In the bag it goes. List of groceries? Should be in there somewhere. Paperback novel I was supposed to return to the library last week? Yup, in there. Several expired checkbooks? Half-eaten bag of popcorn? That blobby toy the kids love? Bag of jelly beans? Store receipts from the past year, of things I might possibly return? If you couldn’t find it anywhere else, it was quite possibly in my handbag. That thing was a store-all.

Then I graduated to a really small bag, a mini-bag really. Life got simpler. All it held (could hold) were the essentials – keys, wallet, phone. And little pieces of paper, yeah? How much space do they take? Every time I fill up the car, I ask for a receipt. But where to put all these receipts? I dream of the day when for a pack-rat like me, cars will be equipped with built in scanners that will scan your receipts in a second, leaving you free to trash them (or we could have built-in shredders).

A friend once told me that she discarded useless receipts immediately, like tore them into a trash bag right outside the store. Me, a pack-rat – I can’t do that, because what if, what if, what if I need it later? I’m pretty sure I have shopping receipts from 2004 – I just don’t know where I’ve “safely” placed them. And you know Murphy’s golden rule – the moment you discard something as unusable, you need it right after.

For all the talk we have on conserving our resources and reducing the use of paper, it’s almost like once you open the front door, paper (mostly junk) comes flying in. We’ve long since stopped getting the printed newspaper – we just read online now. But the mail brings advertisements and junk mail. The kids bring home tons of paperwork from school. And we seem to be throwing away more and more paper. Some of it ends up in my purse.

Despite my misadventures with space, I’ve stuck to a small handbag; it’s not like tiny, tiny, it’s still average sized. It holds all the essentials, and some “extra” stuff that I’ll put in once in a while. However it’s not a carryall, so when the zipper refuses to close, it’s a pretty clear sign that I need to de-clutter. So I’ll open the bag and throw away the “extras” (mostly junk which should have been discarded two weeks back).

Now if only de-cluttering my life and my home was that easy!

Amodini Sharma, based in the US, works as a programmer. Besides watching films, which she does a lot of, she also enjoys reading and writing. She blogs at "Amodini's Movie Reviews" and the "Review Room".
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March 29, 2008
03:51 PM


just saw a commercial

this leather bag for $19.99! it can organise all you can carry plus two bottle of water

reminded me of notes scribbled on the back of envelopes, bills, paper napkins that were tucked in my wallet

when it would not fit into the pockets i knew it was time to pick them out and consign them to a shoe box

which over a period....


ps: welcome to DC and keep them coming

March 30, 2008
03:21 AM

I think everybody can relate :) If you're really serious about cutting the clutter though, then try the five min rule - within five mins of bringing something into the house, you decide whether you want to keep it or trash it. It's the hardest thing in the world to get used to, but once you embrace it, you'll be shocked at the difference it makes.

Welcome to DC!

March 30, 2008
06:37 AM

I firmly believe that a a tidy desk or bag is the sign of a diseased mind!

Clutter is fun, think about the fun shopping in a chowk (doesn't matter which Indian city) compared to one of the swish malls which are springing up like weeds all over the bloody country.

You should see my wallet, Amodini, it is like a sentient beast which has a life of its own. It has changed my life, not least by making me walk with a decided list to starboard (think of a decrepit Mad Max who has had a mid life crisis and joined a bank)......

April 8, 2008
05:18 PM

I have a friend who has this giant handbag which has everything - even a toothbrush and tooth-paste ! Ultimately I don't think I need a carry-all, I need a bigger house :-)

The 5 minute rule sounds hard, but effective. I think maybe I could do it, but getting my kids to follow might be a task.

LOL ! I like your description - especially the "list to starboard" thing.

Dan Englander
April 19, 2008
05:35 PM

You should try Shoeboxed.com for your receipts. You can mail them to us and we scan them in for you and mail them back. Then you just access them online, and you can feel good about just getting rid of all the paper clutter.

Good luck in your fight against clutter!

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