For the past eight weeks I’ve juggled various trial-and-error techniques in an attempt to achieve a clutter-light, or maybe even a clutter-free, life by March 21 – 28, 2010. (That’s National Clutter Awareness Week.) My family and I carted countless bags of linens, shoes, clothing, tools, and books to thrift stores. We surrendered significant parts of our beloved newspaper, magazine, cardboard box, plastic container and glass jar collections to the recycling center. With the help of newspaper listings, a consignment store, e-bay, and a citywide garage sale, we sold a motorcycle, a microwave, a toaster, a boom box, a television set, two TV stands, eight chairs, a sewing machine, a sewing machine cabinet, a food processor, and an old-fashioned portable movie projection screen.

Have we made progess? Yes. How much? I don’t know. A third of the time I allotted for this goal has elapsed. Have I dealt with a third of the clutter? I’m not sure. I don’t think so.

Looking around the house now, though, I spot the occasional empty space. If I squint and concentrate, I almost believe I can see phantom shadows of jettisoned objects, their edges defined by translucent lines, their insides hollow, like holographic images floating in space on an old sci-fi movie. Calculating the dimensions of the empty space I’ve gained would be the most gratifying way to track my progress, but my math skills aren’t up to that task. I did try counting and weighing but, besides being cumbersome, these techniques don’t adequately reflect the elation the absence of extraneous things produces.

Quantifying clutter (or its absence) may be as elusive as quantifying joy.

© 2009 Chery Fusco Johnson