Pile of paper documents and file folders in carton boxes.

The purchase of a new computer forced me to address the growing piles of clutter in our home office.

I searched for an Irish proverb that summed up the experience I'm writing about on this lovely St. Patrick's Day, and here's the closest one I found.

"May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far."

The only thing I'd add is: "and the awareness to know when it's time to clean up your mess."

The purchase of a new computer forced me to address the growing piles of clutter in our home office—which was weird because one had nothing to do with the other. We keep the computer and printer in the kitchen, not the room that has become an office in name only.

A better term might be storage room. Or trash heap. Or some other description that isn't fit for publication because I'm sure I muttered some non-niceties during the cleanup process.

For the better part of two weekends, I pulled stuff out of the closet and emptied desk drawers, reorganized shelves and shredded every bit of paperwork that contained Social Security or account numbers.

There was a ton of material that needed to be thrown away, including telephone books—because who needs those anymore?

Still, I couldn't have imagined that we'd end up filling almost a dozen trash bags—including several that were contractor size—with a sampling of stuff kept in the smallest room in the house. 

Lots of it was because my companion, Lou, still had tax returns from the 1980s, but his hoarding tendencies are another matter. He apparently never met a cardboard box he didn't like, because he kept every one in which camera equipment or other items had been shipped, should we need to return them.

Keeping the boxes for a few weeks isn't a bad idea. But if you don't purge regularly, you end up with the junk pile that we faced.

I shuddered to think of the old dishes, linens and other items we haven't touched this decade—or century—that are in the attic or outside storage room. Or, what's under the beds or in nightstands. 

Then I visualized all the appliances and gadgets my mother has acquired as well as what she inherited after the death of her parents and my dad's siblings. Her home is twice as big as mine, with an attic that no one's entered for a decade, so who knows what trash—err, treasure—might be hidden there.

The only thing more daunting than going through all that stuff is the thought that we'd have to do it when she's no longer among us—and I can't bear to even go there.

So, I leave you instead with another Irish proverb that's sort of related to keeping the peace in your household, be it cluttered or not.

"May the roof above you never fall in, and those gathered beneath it never fall out."

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Cathy Dyson: 540/374-5425


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