Time and space – Observations from an Uber-slob.

In my last post, I let slip that I had a bit more time than I used to. Some readers may ask "does that mean that we’ll soon be seeing new Chronicles of the Witch Queen material?" Or not. It’s not like that website had hundreds of eager readers when it was still updating daily. The answer, I’m afraid, is "no", anyway. I’ll start the site up again when I’m sure I can do a decent job of it.
Over the past few years while working on my comics I’ve let a lot of things go to hell. The most important of those things is still being dealt with by the cleanup project – yes, I think of it as a project.

At the risk of boring you to death with tales of rooting through shelves and drawers and dragging out huge bags of paper… actually, I don’t think that’s boring at all. I find removing all the clutter and cruft that’s been accumulating in my flat very liberating. Also, there are companies out there that offer advice and help to the incurably untidy, so there must be something interesting to say about it, especially from the perspective of a master-slob.

In that other post, I mentioned that I was making headway, but the shameful secret is that the things I was managing to clear up were all overflow spaces: the main desk, the disused old desk, the disused drawing board, the floor. All of these were covered in paper, and piles of it. They’re now clear, mostly. Clear enough to use, anyway. But the places where paper legitimately should go, the bookshelves and archival safe, are still overloaded, one of them with about double the weight it should maximally support. So I’m looking at their contents wondering if there’s anything in there that might not pass the "what if I moved house?" test. Digging through some promising areas, I found quite a bit of handwritten (i.e. illegible) work by myself such as old term papers, as well as handouts from my University days. I kept those all those years because I was never sure which of these I would want to use again in my later career; it’s now clear that only the medieval and renaissance literature stuff has anything to do with what I’m doing now, so that stays and most of the rest of it goes. It’s not enough to keep those shelves from groaning, but it’s a start.
I’m also looking at my unsold minicomics inventory with my mind on the same question, "Would I take that along if I moved house?" I’m not sure I would. But I’m uncomfortable with the implications of that. A few years ago, Indigo Kelleigh announced that he would destroy any of his old Circle Weave minis that he didn’t sell by a certain date. I was shocked by that… it’s just not something I could imagine myself doing. I suppose I’m like a Terry Pratchett dwarf in that – always wanting words that are written or art that is produced to remain (Note to self: Is it wise to post this somewhere where Adam will read it?). These days, I’m not so sure. If those old, unsold books are dragging me down, perhaps I should let go of them. Before I get to that point, though, I will try to sell them at a deep discount. I’ve already updated my Small Press Swapmeet listings accordingly and will announce a proper Spring Sale when I am ready to start taking preorders for the Headsmen mini.

Okay, about those master-slob observations. I’ve got two.
One: I suspect the minds of tidy people work very differently from those of folks like me. For tidy people, seeing a piece of rubbish or a stray sheet of paper lying somewhere is a constant annoyance and an eyesore. Until they remove it, they are bothered by its presence. When, on the other hand, something is cluttering up my space, I stop seeing it after a while. It becomes part of the background. This can take on an extreme form. When I got the extra bookshelf in December, I overhauled many things in the house and started "seeing" clutter again in quite a few places, for long enough to get rid of some of it. I threw out an old laser printer that I hadn’t used in a year or two because it had been malfunctioning. But it wasn’t until this week that I finally threw out the large cardboard box that that printer originally came in. That box had been slightly more useful than the printer because I could keep stuff in it, but I had already emptied it of said stuff back in December. Until I started the most recent bout of cleaning, I didn’t "see" the box. Somewhere between my eyes and my brain, the connection got lost and with it the notion that in front of me was a large piece of clutter I could throw out.
Two: I’m trying to prevent slipping back into my old cluttery ways by not buying a lot of stuff for the time being, and by processing any incoming mail immediately. That’s harder than it seems: most of my snail mail is from my bank, my insurance company, the housing corp or the local government. All of it can be divided into the following catagories:
* Useless mass mailings. Those make up the majority.
* Useful mass mailings. That is, mailings whose purpose is clearly to advertise, but the offers contained in them are such that they may save me money, improve my insurance coverage or – best of all – reduce the overall amount of incoming mail.
* Documents I have to keep: Updated versions of my insurance policies, or bank statements, or, in one memorable case, an apology from the housing corp for a mistake they made.
* Documents I may not need to keep but which I need to take action on. "Comply with this regulation or Else" mail from the local government, or the thing that the housing corp later apologised for (a complaint about the neighbours’ polluting their back yard with garbage and dog shit had been sent to me instead of them).
Both my bank and my insurance company are very bad when it comes to sending me stuff I don’t want and don’t need. It’s not a big problem right now, but when I was in a state of constant hurry, I would often leave mail from them unopened for a long time, having got burned too often on the content-free feelgood magazines that are apparently the latest, greatest thing in corporate PR. As a result, I’ve occasionally missed out on real offers that were useful, or on information that I really needed to know. Human beings are not good spam filters and spam filters that mimic the learning habits of human beings don’t work. The only exception to that is Google’s spam filter, which takes into account the experience of many many users. Unfortunately, I don’t see that translating back into the meat and rock world.
One or two more observations popped up in my head while I was working on this post, but they’ve slipped my mind again. I’ll post them separately when they pop back up, hopefully in shorter posts than this one.

In addition to cleaning, I’m also using the time I have now to work on my tax returns and get lots of exercise. Once I’m done with those things, I’ll get back to Chronicles of the Witch Queen.