The day I almost gotten decluttered

A while ago, while consulting one of those American websites that has all the answers about productivity, life, the universe and everything, the internet gave me the following advice:

If you’ve got a pile of clutter on your desk, put it in a box and set it to one side. You’ll find out what’s important when you need to dig it out. When you’ve done with it, put it back and keep a clean desk. This will increase your productivity ten-fold, and make you a Better Person.

Okay, I’m paraphrasing. And possibly exaggerating slightly. But that was the gist. For authenticity I could have included the word “gotten” in the above paragraph, but I’m afraid I can’t see that word without feeling like I’m going to vomit.

Any road, I looked at my desk and realised it was a considerable mess, so this seemed like a good idea. I duly took all the crap from said desk and put it in a box. This variety of items included a stapler, staples (wrong size), cables, half a packet of batteries, some rawl plugs, a blank DVD (or it might be a CD and it might not be blank…) and miscellaneous other items too tedious to name here. I put the box on the floor where I couldn’t see it and had myself a nice clear desk. Great, I thought. Let the enhanced productivity begin.

The thing is, now there’s another pile of detritus on my desk: a component from the car my wife recently sold, a yellow tape measure, some post-its, £1.15 in loose change, miscellaneous pens and pencils, bits of paper that presumably have something important on them, a pile of mail that I need to deal with and the elastic band that held the mail together until the last time I looked at it, as well as numerous other items.

Having considered whether to put all this stuff in the box, get another box, or get a bigger box, I’ve decided that, well, quite frankly it can all stay just where it is. The study of every half-decent writer I’ve ever seen has been chaotic, so I’ll satisfy myself with the possibly delusional notion that this indicates potential on my part.

The previous box remains on the floor. It’s hidden under a roadmap, a couple of Jiffy bags, an empty DVD cakebox, a sleeping bag in a stuff sac, a two-thirds used ream of printer paper…

I’m a writer, editor, and Royal Literary Fund Fellow.
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A lollipop man without a lollipop, is just a man


There’s a lollipop man near us. A wizened, grumpy old sod who looks like Albert Steptoe. He wears a fluorescent yellow jacket and cap, both of which are at least two sizes too large for him. Almost every day as I approach he makes me stop to allow various mothers and kids to cross. I know he waits for me. I can see it in his eyes, shining red from beneath the peak of his cap. Waits until he sees me coming, then shoves out his stick.

At least he used to.

For some reason a pedestrian crossing was recently installed at his point of responsibility. Maybe it was just too dangerous when he wasn’t on duty. At school time he’s still there, though. They’ve just taken away his stick. Now he only has to press the button and wait for the lights to change, whereupon he escorts people across the road, with everyone concerned clearly feeling a bit daft.

I can understand that perhaps they don’t want to make the guy redundant. Not yet, anyway. And maybe they never will: there are loads of people in our neck of the woods who can’t operate a pedestrian crossing properly. Despite his miserable demeanour and quite obvious grudge against me and my 1998 Nissan Almera, I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for this bloke, in his oversized coat. I suspect that he may eventually be forced to retire due to RSI of the right index finger as a result of repeatedly pushing that button. No doubt suing Birmingham City Council for thousands.

My sympathy is only tempered by the fact that even without his stick, he still waits until he sees me coming to press his button. He’s just had to hone his timing a little.

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