Personal Essay on 'Useless Clutter'

This is a writing sample from Scripted writer Musa Paiko

An isolated LEGO brick. A single flip-flop. A doll with one of its eyes missing. These are a few of the many items that crowd our homes as 'useless clutter'. Although upon deeper inspection, they are more than just clutter, they are in their own way, signs of growth, proof of living, and a mark of change. For example, a friend of mine was an avid Marvel comic fan, and still is to this day. Early in his childhood he would devour pages of Iron-man, scavenge each rectangular portal for stories of Captain America, and could even recite every storyline from Red Skull. Obviously, he built up quite the comic collection, but as he grew up, he became more and more disinterested in the older comics. I saw some comics he used to read and laughed when comparing them to the new ones. The older ones were more light-hearted, cheery, and had an optimistic outlook on life but the newer ones, the ones he bought as he got older, were more morbid, involved more atrocities and if nobody dies a horrible death in the comic, then it certainly wouldn't be in his possession. He even began reading D.C comics which are renowned for their serious nature and morbid imagery, and mangled bodies, and violent deaths. It was like having a 'Strawberry Shortcake' book series next to the 'Grizzly Tales for Gruesome Kids'. I can find the older comics parading his room, laying strewn about in every which way.

This idea is very interesting to me. I could look at how useless clutter in our lives as a catalog of our development. A sort of retelling of the past. From the stark difference present in the different genres that my friend was reading(whom I had not been in contact with for several years ), it allowed me an insight into his preferences and tastes. Like vertical lines by a doorpost, slowly ascending, portraying the height a child was throughout many periods of their life. Old CDs can act as a record of someone's musical tastes. A deflated, punctured football could convey a person's previous sporting inclinations. There are digital footprints and browsing history and criminal records, but if I wanted to really know who someone was, would the contents of their home be a mode of truly understanding them? Would their collections and 'junk' reflect their morals, their tastes, their lifestyle, and their preferences? Would everything they own tell their story in its entirety? Or at least to some significant extent?

Yet useless clutter isn't necessarily an 'old item'; it can be a nasty habit that inhibits your progress or a past ex-partner who nags and pesters you. It could be a reoccurring nightmare or the same nonsensical dream from last week. 'Useless clutter' could mean a persisting thought of self-hate or feelings of anxiety. What is useless clutter to me? I suppose it would be anything present in our lives that doesn't add positively to them but has the potential to take away from our lives as well. I guess it would be something that's just there. Like the LEGO brick, the flip-flop, and the doll. They don't have any negative impact on us but, at the very least, they have the latent ability to do so. A LEGO brick offers excruciating pain when stepped on. A flip-flop can be tripped on. A doll can occupy much-needed space. If I were to define useless clutter, it would probably be on that basis. But obviously, I'm no Oxford-Dictionary.

People who hoard everything they come across or purchase are glaring examples when it comes to useless clutter. Imagine this: You are thirty-two years old. You live in a housing estate, a swipe of a leap card away from Dublin City. Your house is quite small but is made even smaller by your 'prides of joy': the many items you could not bid farewell to over the decades. These objects add to the walls of your house, further restricting the living space, but you don't care. You just have to keep that old cabinet. You couldn't bring yourself to part ways with the dollhouse that met you in your first decade of life. Your bottle collection adorns the old table you've buried in the corner of your living room. Although you don't live there, your collection does. These named items with their distant relatives are in the robust and rampant city that is your living room. Each item hustling and bustling in its own way. The city itself is only a subset of the hundred, no, thousands of items you have deemed too valuable for the skip. You wonder what causes your many visits to the hospital because of breathing problems. You wonder why people never visit your home. And in the fleeting chance that they do, they never make it past the door without coughing vigorously and complaining about the smell. But you know that it absolutely, one hundred percent, has nothing to do with the hordes of items you have amassed in your home. Sounds repugnant right? I hope you visibly recoiled or, more likely, scowled at the very principle of hoarding, highlighted by this hypothetical situation.

People who hoard are those who thrive off of the term 'useless clutter', unwilling to let old items go, and eager to add more to their collection. Determination is never absent in their conquest to gather all that they stumble upon. Maybe it stems from our cave-dweller ascendants' 'hunting-gathering' methods or its roots are found in our need to milk the whole value from every single one of our possessions. Besides these two reasons, no other excuses cross my mind for why people would find it so hard to let go of pointless possessions, in a futile process of stockpiling items that will eventually be dispersed. It makes no sense to me at all, but people will be people I suppose.

I hope you can understand from the previous hypothetical scenario that, as living creatures, we need to get rid of our waste, but also our unprofitable junk. It only makes sense. The same way we don't egest our food and gather it as something valuable is the same way we shouldn't allow our junk to build. Up and overrun us. I find it jarring to see some take pride in 'squirreling' their household items but even more so when I see people constantly limiting themselves. It disappoints me to see people amassing negative thoughts, staying in toxic relationships, having no ambitions, or remaining in a job they don't enjoy or don't deem as worthwhile. These problems, this 'useless clutter', can weigh people down when it builds up. So it is adamant that we clean up and clean out our living spaces, rather than gathering a pool of this needless junk. Would I say my life is free from this clutter? Ost certainly not. But I can say I'm not a hoarder which counts for something at least.

Written by:

Musa Paiko
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