Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Unwanted Time Capsule: old magazines and the Clutter Goblin

I find myself constantly planning to write large, important essays that tie together the lowliest minutiae of my ordinary life with sweeping philosophical conclusions that explain how my past is affecting my present and such.  I sure would like to post such a thing, but this kind of ambitious thinking really does not do more for me than delay my posts and prolong the important work of clearing out my house and making a home out of it.  This is what you might call perfectionism and I really don’t have the time for it.

Since this is the second time I have taken two weeks to post and I have what seems like endless material to work with and years of working with it ahead of me, I thought I might as well focus on something specific again, just to continue writing.  I have been doing a lot of unrelated things with no particular timeline or focus, so I simply picked one to share.

This is an end table in our front room:

It started overflowing recently and I decided to go through the magazines that are in the little rack to the right on the end table. 

A cross section of what I processed that day, arranged in a pleasing way:

There were a lot of parenting magazines, a few college alumni/news magazine mailings, a few catalogues to various stores I’ve shopped once or twice, and a couple of random purchases from the grocery store about country music, celebrities or gardening.  I was kind of shocked by some of the magazines, because of how old they were.  It turns out my end table contained an unwanted time capsule.

The oldest magazine was the August/September 2012 issue of Garden and Gun, a magazine almost four years old and which I have no idea why I kept.  I do not own a gun and I have not gardened much since I was pregnant last summer or since I’ve had the baby.  The magazine covers a larger scope than what’s in its title, but I still could not imagine why it was in my house years after I had purchased it.

I was able to quickly recycle a lot of the magazines that I unequivocally no longer cared about.  The parenting advice still wasn’t that compelling, I wasn’t going to make any of the recipes after all, and I certainly would not find the information about the College of Arts and Sciences or celebrity marriages relevant any longer.  I happily tossed the magazines into a box that was already full of recycling.

I think the joyful noise woke the Clutter Goblin, a jaunty embodiment of my unhelpful attachment to material possessions, because he soon appeared on the scene and tried to convince me to keep the last few magazines.  Clearly, he had been hibernating out in the garage he finds so comfortable.  He rubbed his eyes with his dusty hands and wiped his eye crust on the little pair of pants he had made from used landscape fabric.  Then, he picked up that issue of Garden and Gun and danced around with it, twirling around in a dizzying little jig until I agreed to listen to what he had to say.

“The information in here might be important!” screeched the Clutter Goblin from behind the magazine, which was almost bigger than he was.  All I could see was the tiny hat he had fashioned from a crumpled pop can.

I acknowledged that I kept the magazine for some reason and flipped it open.  I saw an article about up and coming artists from the South and another about Julian P. Van Winkle III of Pappy Van Winkle bourbon.

“See, isn’t that fascinating?” said the Goblin. “You should keep it for that article about whiskey, for sure, now that your husband is into scotch.”

“It was probably more interesting the first time,” I said to him. “If it was that interesting, maybe I would have remembered something about it.  Besides, it’s not about scotch.”

“Well, what about the article about the artists, then?  When you have more time, you could look them up on the Internet and learn something about art.”

“But, C.G.,” I said, “I didn’t really feel the need to do that in 2012, so I don’t think I will be doing that now, either.  It was nice to read about the different artists, but making art of my own still is not a priority right now and I will not be buying any art anytime soon, so I don’t really think this is information I need.  I am going to go ahead and recycle this magazine.”  I walked over to the box of magazines to recycle and dropped it in.

“You are going to regret this,” said the Clutter Goblin as he stamped his dirty little feet.

“I don’t think I will,” I said.  “Magazines are supposed to be entertaining, not burdensome.  I’m sure I will get to buy more magazines in the future.”

“You should at least keep it until you blog about it,” he said.  He was standing by the box and looking down at the discarded magazine.  A few teardrops landed on the cover of the magazine. 

“No thanks,” I said.  I had already fallen for that line once with my old sandals, and did not want to do it again.  I wrote down the date of the issue.  “There,” I said, “I have everything I need.”

“But what about the whiskey article?  Wouldn’t Hubbs like to read that?  He likes more than just scotch,” he said.

“Don’t call him Hubbs!” I said. “Only I get to say that!” I snapped my fingers angrily and the Clutter Goblin disappeared, but the damage had already been done.  I picked the magazine back up out of the recycling and put it back onto the kitchen table.  When Hubbs came home, I asked him if he’d like to read the article and he said he would.  I then asked him to recycle it when he was done.  I hoped this would circumvent the blasted goblin.  When I got home from work, the magazine was gone, recycled with the others.  Looks like I beat old C.G. this time, even though I think I did end up keeping a few of the magazines.  I’m sure I won’t find purging them as difficult the next time I decide to go through them.

I also made an interesting discovery when I was putting together this post.  I misplaced the paper on which I had written the issue information and decided to try to confirm the issue date online.  It turns out that the full article about Julian P. Van Winkle III is available online, as are all of the pictures of the distillery.  Turns out I really didn’t need the magazine at all.  Take that, Clutter Goblin.  I’m sure I’ll see you again when I tackle the magazines in the basement, if not sooner.


  1. Oh gosh, we are in thrall to the Clutter Goblin at our house! I can totally see him convincing my husband that we really need to keep every receipt to every transaction ever, which is the only explanation I can see to explain it.

    1. Haha. That sounds exactly like something the Clutter Goblin would do! He would further encourage your husband to make sure the receipts are not organized in any way and preferably spread out on a flat surface like a couch so that you cannot use it. Bonus points for every receipt no longer legible!

  2. So true! Almost anything can be found online these days.

    1. I am thinking now about your post on Inbox Zero and the amount of electronic clutter I have, but if I don't bookmark it or save it or ask it to email me, it happily remains out in the aether.

  3. I like the way you dealt with the article and your husband. It can be hard to de-clutter with a partner but that's a very respectful way to do so.

    1. Thank you! I think it is definitely harder to declutter and keep things clean when sharing a home with someone else. At the same time, having to discuss these things with my husband has taught me a lot about how I view my possessions and about what plays a truly important role in our home and life together.