You remember the unfortunate Mr. Dumpty. A fall from the wall rendered him broken, and despite best efforts by all the king’s horses and men, broken he would stay. It’s a cautionary tale but the warning is not about the dangers of fragile eggy figures perching on walls. The lesson is about how we deal with things crowded, mangled, and obsolete. As the English would say, Humpty Dumpty had become a dog’s breakfast. We’ll just call him clutter.
It feels a little harsh to call Humpty clutter, but once he cracked, that’s exactly what he was. No longer any good. Just a mess to be cleaned up and disposed of. That he was such a good egg and looked so dapper before his fall makes it even harder to admit that afterwards, he was reduced to clutter. And such is the case with our things. (You knew this wasn’t just a nostalgic bit about Mother Goose.)
Some things are born as clutter, like the oversized sombrero that looked fun in the marketplace but looks less fun as you struggle through security and truly regrettable as you angrily stuff it in the overhead bin. But the path to clutter is typically more gradual. Fully functioning is downgraded to balky. Balky becomes broken. Important parts go missing. Cords vanish. Mated pairs get divorced. Sparks fly when the switch is flipped. It doesn’t take any special training or talent to make the diagnosis: Clutter.
The physical brokenness of the possession in question is usually obvious. Our emotional attachment to the “clutter-in-waiting” is more complicated and harder to admit. The progression from “love” to “disgust” goes something like this. (To help with this staging, I’m thinking of the clutter formerly known as “bread machine”.) Love fades to ambivalence. Ambivalence becomes disregard. Disregard mutates into disgust. And disgust should spell the end of that bit of clutter and in the case of the aforementioned bread machine, it did.
When we use terms like serviceable, all parts together, and good working order to describe our possessions, you can be certain they are not clutter. They are things we need, use, and likely love. They are things for which we have adequate and appropriate storage. They are our valued possessions- the inanimate equivalent of our peeps.
As an antonym for clutter, there are oodles of verbs, but I come up empty-handed on the noun. So maybe an antidote for clutter will suffice. Consider this a refresher on a topic that often needs refreshing. Be as careful about what you let into your home as whom you let in. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Clutter is an intruder, so bar the doors and ignore its insistent knock. As to the intruders who made it in before you improved security? Pack ‘em up and send them packing.
Even Mother Goose knew Humpty was hopelessly scrambled and had to go. And while Ms. Goose is silent on this, I imagine that the king’s horses and men turned things over to the king’s ladies to do the mopping up. Minimize your mopping by confining the dog’s breakfast to the dog’s bowl.