Friday, July 26, 2019

Sparking Oy!

You’ve just read Marie Kondo’s book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing,”  and you’re getting ready to clean up your writing space/office. What things “spark joy” and what would you get rid of? Do you keep old drafts of stories/novels, e-versions, paper? Copies of your books, others’ books? Knickknacks? Etc.

by Paul D. Marks


Surely you jest.

I look at clean, almost sterile offices and rooms and I envy them. I want to be that way. I vow to be that way. But I will never be that way.

I am a saver, a packrat. Though maybe not as bad as some of those people who have thirty years of newspapers piled up throughout their houses and can barely make their way through the passages between them. Like the infamous Collyer brothers of New York, who died under their piles of “treasures”:

The Collyer brothers "treasures"
We’re always trying to declutter around here. And I admit, I’m the packrat, not Amy. I save everything, well almost everything. I’ve finally stopped saving (most) empty boxes ’cause you never know when they might come in handy. Somehow I’ve survived the withdrawal from that. But it wasn’t easy… I had to go to Boxaholics Anonymous.

I’m not sure why I’m such a packrat or why I might be so sentimental. It might have something to do with my father being killed by a drunk driver when I was about a year old. Somehow he made it through World War II, but the mean streets of L.A., even back then… So maybe that loss makes me want to save things that I can.

On top of that, I collect toys and Beatles stuff and some other things as well. And, of course, there’s books and records and movies and CDs. Though I wish I had more of the other kind of CDs, the kind that count as money.

Here’s the thing about the office. It might be a mess…but I know where things are. When I need something I generally know where to find it. If I put it away in a drawer or file cabinet, well, it’s out of sight, out of mind, out of memory. And it usually takes me forever to find it again. It’s like that scene in The Man on the Flying Trapeze, where W.C. Field’s desk is a mess of a mess, but he knows just where to find every piece of paper. Check out this clip from the movie, but the part where he goes to his desk is 3:49 minutes in:

And I like having things within reach. I still keep certain books (like a slang thesaurus and a guide to baby names) within reach, even though I might reach for them less now that I can look up stuff on the internet. I guess I like to have them there as a security blanket. And hey if the internet goes out I’ll need them.

Specifically as relates to my office, there are things I like: a handful of toy soldiers, my pic of Dennis Hopper flipping the bird from Easy Rider, lobby cards, Beatles (and other) album covers, photos of Keith Richards, Ray Davies, Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger that my brother took, and my old Underwood typewriter.

My Underwood Typewriter
I still have several old file cabinets, some pretty big ones, full of old scripts and treatments and nine drafts of this and ten drafts of that. I used to save early drafts of things in the pre-computer days in case there was a legal dispute. But I feel like maybe I should get rid of these drafts. I’m sure I could probably cull some things.

On top of everything else, we closed our storage space a while back, so now we have all those boxes cluttering up the hall. But who has time to go through them? Though we have been through some and I found some really cool stuff, like my sign off the train station at the last remaining MGM backlot, the top of a newel post that I took from a Victorian mansion in Bunker Hill (L.A.) before it was torn down and my Corriganville glass. (See pix)

Train Station Sign off MGM Backlot
Bunker Hill Newel Post
Corriganville Glasses

So, while many things spark ‘oy,’ many others ‘spark joy,’ but as long as there’s no real sparks, I’m good with the clutter.

My one saving grace in this regard are all the articles that have come out recently that talk about people with messy desks being more intelligent. This is a huge relief. And I, therefore, declare my genius.

And now for the usual BSP:

My story Past is Prologue is out in the new July/August issue of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. Available now at bookstores and newstands as well as online at: Hope you'll check it out.

Also, check out Broken Windows, the sequel to my Shamus Award-winning novel, White Heat.

Please join me on Facebook: and check out my website


Dietrich Kalteis said...

I agree with you, Paul. It's good to be neat, but it's also good to have everything in plain view where you can find it.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Dietrich. Great minds think alike :-) .

Terry said...

I make myself crazy. Every now and then I clean off my desk. Yes, I do. And I love it. It looks so great! An hour later, it's completely cluttered again. Right now I'm looking at a treasure trove of messy papers, half-read books lying open, coffee cups, brochures, little notebooks with "important" scribblings...and that's just the surface. I am one of the smartest people in the world, apparently.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

I keep my home neat and clean, but my desk is definitely cluttered. I'm another one who writes notes to myself. Okay, I'll clean up a bit now.

Susan C Shea said...

Loved the W.C. Fields clip! His paper piles are too similar to mine. And you're a fellow member of Boxaholics? I have a garage, fortunately....Good post as always.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Terry. I’ll clean off my desk, too. Only to A) not be able to find what I’m looking for the next day, and B) like you say it’s a mess again with new stuff in a few days. And it does, indeed, sound like you’re one of the smartest people in the world :-) .

Paul D. Marks said...

At least your home is neat and clean, Jacqueline. Our home is clean, but neat is another story -- too much stuff. The worst part is cleaning or dusting all those knickknacks. Enjoy your cleaning :-) .

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Susan. Glad you enjoyed it and the W.C. Fields clip. That’s one of my favorite bits of his. And I used to be a Boxaholic. Amy’s sort (mostly) of cured me of that. Of course, she’s “cured” me of other things, too, having made me get rid of souvenirs (things I took off various sets mostly, though I still have some) and old magazines, scripts and punk zines and stuff that I wish I still had sometimes. And yes, isn’t that what garages are for? We park one car in the garage and one outside and most of the garage is storage…

GBPool said...

I figure when the floor caves in up in my office it will be time to de-clutter. Until then... it's me with nine bookcases, eight cabinets, a drafting table, 2 desks, a marionette stage, and gingerbread house, a miniature Dickensian Village... What was that? The floor creaking... Oh, well. I'll enjoy it while I can.

Paul D. Marks said...

I hope it's not creaking too badly, Gayle. And a drafting table, cool. Maybe you can draft some plans to shore up the floor when it starts creaking too much :-) .

Sandy in St Louis said...

Between knowing folks with a messy desk are smarter (it's an excess of ideas made visible) and now be3ing told eating ice cream for breakfast is a good thing for our brains, you and I should e able to corner the market on brain cells. Are you ready? I will be, just as soon as put my latest genius buys from Dollar Tree where I can see them, find them, enjoy them.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Unknown. And I do think that messy desks and eating ice cream for breakfast makes for massive amounts of brain cells. So we're good to go. Enjoy your stuff from Dollar Tree :-) .