Housecleaning

I have impulses toward a clean, modernist living space but what I have is crap overflowing the top of my dresser onto the floor. A stack of out of season clothes slowly compacts and slides off the side. This impulse, I must admit, is mostly in my head.

Sometimes I think I could throw away half my possessions. My possessions in this case being clothes: always there is a multiple of things that aren’t right and a shortage of things I really need. Not books, oh no, books I could sort in rows and stack as long as I have room, and a little past that. Occasionally I make progress, bagging up the worn out and the stained and tossing them. I put all the cards that come in the mail in a box with a label, and we’ve decided not to keep every single holiday decoration.

It isn’t all my stuff, see, and that is where I can run into problems. Mrs 12frogs seems to have no such minimalist impulses. She’s a pack rat, and not very neat about it. I suspect she worries I wish to purge our place of everything, including her dear things. I think I want less stuff, she wants another room. What we probably need is both.

I want books, comfort, art, and not so much clutter. Not fewer illusions, possibly different ones.

I have a messy jumbled wave of artifacts pinned to the bulletin board over a neat and orderly desk. (Ok, fine, the desk is that way half the time.) The history of eroded domestic life smoothed by the ocean in the form of sea glass and beach pottery sits in a blue glazed ceramic bowl on the top of a bookshelf. I love them both for the colors, the textures, the contained chaos and random chance they represent.

As I type this, there are fat, zipped bags with clear plastic windows under our bed. Filled with flannel, cotton, and some wool. I should have switched out the clothes, but instead opted for a tactical raids. I freed a quarter-zip sweater with polar fleece lining the collar and the one with the yellow stripe I’ve had for at least a decade now, but left the turtlenecks behind.

I need to empty and refill the dishwasher. Vacuuming wouldn’t be out of line, but it’s not a crisis yet. Sift the litter box, because all the cats do is eat too much, poo, vomit… and be adorable, and curl up with us at night, damn it. Or I could lift my gaze past the laptop screen at the unread bookshelf arranged just so, with beloved items set out on top of it, and the art on the wall above it all.

Closing my eyes, I can imagine vast, clean polished cement floors with spotless, perpetually cat-vomit-free area rugs — just the kind of living space profiled in Dwell. Then I laugh, because that will never, ever be my home. Even if lived in that loft, I’d probably still have neat, folded laundry sitting in plastic bags in the hallway because I haven’t gotten around to putting it away yet. I will soon, of course, just not right now.

“Clean enough” is a shifting standard, a slippery slope, and I have to believe a less stressful way to live. Until the housecleaning I do is in my utopian loft space, our charming and eccentric clutter will do.

I don’t think my new watch is morbid

I can see why, at first glance, it might seem that way. It is “the most accurate wristwatch you can buy” not because of the mechanism, but the philosophy: “the hour hand reads ‘remember’, the minute hand ‘you will die'”.

No, really, it’s not morbid. It’s called The Accurate, and it came in a spiffy box via Royal Mail. The Mr Jones Watch people pay attention to packaging, and tell a good story.

new watch (day 352)

I’ve been looking for a watch for a long time now. Years, actually. I’ve seen some I like, but they all keep being not the right one. The Yes watches came damn close, but are expensive. They have one hand instead of two and track hours of daylight. See, what I’ve been after is something that doesn’t just tell me what time it is, but prompts me to think about time differently. One hand spanning the face every twenty four hours would do that; a graphical display of daylight hours left would do that; I think ‘remember’ and ‘you will die’ circling will do that.

The highly reflective face functions as a mirror, so when I glance at the watch and see the message I can, if I choose, see my eye reading it.

It isn’t about the fifteen minutes left in a meeting or the ten minutes I’ve been waiting for a train or the five minutes I’m already late or the eight minutes until the movie starts. It’s about realizing that time is life energy, and it matters how I spend it. I’m not interested in developing an overly obsessive, be productive every second mindset — that would make me pretty miserable — but in a how am I spending this day, this week, this season, and is it how I really want to be spending it mindset.

It’s about being present now, and remembering the future is uncertain but finite. We never really know what time it is.

Tyranny of the timestamp

I’ve been thinking about time management in social software. No, not in response to Ryan Carson’s post on being too busy to use the stuff. (Wondering whether or not MySpace will be the new LinkedIn in ten years is an interesting question, though.)

What got me thinking about it was the facebook feeds brouhaha. In a nutshell, feeds broadcast the details of what you do on facebook — add a friend, drop a friend, join a group, post a photo, etc. — and when you did it. Depending on your point of view, the feeds either allow for hyper-efficient browsing or encourage stalking.

Who wants to know a friend added a new favorite band at 2:07am or changed relationship status to single at 10:04pm? I think the when part really disturbed people. Yet, so much of what we do online feeds an obsession with recency.

Think about it: the latest blog post is first on the page, and permalinks often reveal the minute items were published. Instant message apps generally mark each conversational turn with the time. MySpace and countless other sites having blinking “online now” indicators. On flickr, the passage of time is relative, and comments are left a moment ago or a month ago. Email is all about when — when written, when received, when responded to. Whether you work for a big company or are part of a small distributed group, or have friends and family in different parts of the world, when someone is matters more than where someone is. (When my in-laws were in Tokyo, I had a widget on my Mac that displayed sunlight and darkness across the globe.)

Social software lets us do the same things with time we otherwise do without it: spend, waste, kill, save, or keep it. The difference is, it is social, so everybody can see not just what we do, but when we do it — unless we change the default settings and overrule the timestamp.