I was asked, by someone old enough to know better, to explain what I mean by opposing the soul-cleansing movements of the new century. “Decluttering is the wave of the future,” he said. “Clearing your path. Freeing yourself of your past. Streamlining.”
Well, actually, Lysol loaf, streamlining was the wave of about eighty years ago, but I know what you mean. And I have no great personal aversion to cleaning out once in a while. I do it myself every five to eight years. My objection is just another manifestation of my dislike of books filled with “true facts”. So many decluttering gurus take the position that they know the only real way to live and you must follow their directives to the letter or become a (shudder) HOARDER. I shouldn’t let it get to me. After all, five years from now, they will all have been forgotten because their letters will have been shredded, their emails deleted, and their books discarded, as per their own directions. (And people will still read “The Littlest Angel” in December, a book which suggests that hoarders go to Heaven.)
Anyhow, as noted before, where would places like the Newberry—and especially its Book Fair—be without declutterers? Just last week a man sent the library an early 19th century book in German, which he had carried from address to address for years, even though he doesn’t read German. And do you remember my blog about that closet at the back of the cabin which the residents kept promising themselves for decades that they would one day clear out, and which turned up the Jane Austen first edition?
The fourth annual 25th anniversary Book Fair (coming up at the end of July, 2012: mark your calendars now) will be a better place for all the decluttering people have been doing lately. Where else would we have gotten that nifty Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles adventure book…in Hebrew? How else would we have come by two boxes (so far) of signed mysteries? And you should have seen the look of relief on the face of the man who asked me “You wouldn’t take all these boxes of magazines on model railroading, would you?” (Of COURSE we did. We took the boxes of magazines on full-sized trains, too.)
You understand, of course, that the Book Fair is a gift of the Newberry to declutterers. It’s reassuring to them to think that they haven’t given house space all these years to mere garbage, that someone will love that old Bulgarian-Russian dictionary (about two inches by two inches: just the size for James Bond to hide in the heel of his shoe) or the three extra copies of your uncle’s World War II memoir (he was a sniper) or even those old maps of Africa you’ve been hanging onto. (I believe these are all nineteenth century, but I have to run them past somebody upstairs before I pack them away for the Book Fair.)
So no, I have nothing against real declutterers. It’s just their self-appointed prophets, who heap scorn on the miserable hoarders. I cannot stand by and see hoarders vilified. First of all, all those declutterers who help keep us in business were hoarders to begin with, or they wouldn’t have anything to declutter.
Second, if it weren’t for hoarders, where would I get customers?