Like many New Yorkers, I love my spacious home. I even like my own bed. But I’m often distracted. One glance up, and I’m lost: laundry piling up on my knees, an almost invisible pile of writing doodles, the smell of mustard emanating from the pot of raspberries still hidden in my bedroom refrigerator. There’s lots of stuff: piles of books I’ve never yet read; a heavily-worn tablet given to me as a present; a library pass I didn’t ask for. I wonder if I’m getting rid of it just so I can have more. I’m just one of many people who find it hard to physically do the basic chore of organizing our possessions. The simple tasks like putting away your coats and your laundry leave you wandering aimlessly through a house without feeling like you’re living in it.
Clutter keeps us from the comforting reality of familiarity. Loneliness is oftentimes worse than isolation, but most people simply don’t think of it as an emotion when the prospect of solitude drives them crazy. Loneliness never really occurred to me until my friend Sara and I were out exploring New York on our bicycles one weekend. Our bikes were matted with dirt and at least one half of the chain was missing. As we pedaled down the streets, Sara said to me, “I’m alone out here. Nobody ever wants to talk to me.” At the time, I didn’t imagine I might be lonely, and I never imagined it would be as profound as that conversation.
As always, I have completely different perceptions of my home from my next-door neighbor. We both know very little about each other, which only exacerbates the ever-present conflicts and misunderstandings. It never occurs to me that I might be living too far from her. Perhaps there are issues that need to be resolved — things I can’t just add to the mess that I do nothing about.
Perhaps if I had a better system for organizing my apartment, I’d make the times when I’m most lonely less harrowing. Maybe instead of wasting so much time looking at piles of clothes, I’d take out a stack of paperback books I’ve read already and read them out loud — and then take the clothes off to put them in my closet. I could maybe spend a little more time cooking food instead of just looking for it. I could do more work on improving my health and finding a simpler and more effective answer to how I want to spend my time.
I could really use a firm new system, and that’s why I’m willing to try a new app that’s been recommended by friends. KeepItHidy is an app that allows you to categorize your belongings into piles: this is the pile with music playing, this is the pile that needs to be folded, this is the pile that no one is allowed to touch. The app even lets you add details, such as the book you’re reading, and if you’re at home, the weather.
As of this writing, I’ve had a handful of different music or TV shows that I still haven’t yet finished. I have a feeling that if I put them in this pile, it will take me a few days before I’m able to finish them. I haven’t had time to think much about them, and at some point there’s going to be a point where I no longer have time to spend listening to them. But I don’t want to write them off because they don’t have their own pile. I want to finish them, so that once I finish them, the pile will be more like a collection of books I want to read than a pile of clothes that may or may not fit.
A heavy bookcase at home is already enough of a shame. That I can’t have at least a bookcase full of books to look forward to whenever I want to read is a cause for a great deal of sadness and regret. The satisfaction of my own sacrifice and body noise for something like listening to some music to listen to is somehow good enough to make me feel like doing my laundry does not seem like such a low task after all.