Clutter's Last Stand
Clutter's Last Stand. Don Aslett.
Adams Media, Avon MA. April 2005. 262 pages.
I would love to have a drink in a quiet bar with Don Aslett. He is obviously a great story-teller. How do I know? Because Clutter's Last Stand is a long rambling pep-talk and motivational speech illustrated by laugh-out-loud anecdotes. "It's time to de-junk your life!" Don bellows. I answer, "Yes!"
Aslett has a mission: he hates junk. He detests clutter. He wages a personal war against hoarding, mindless collecting, useless gadgets. His enthusiasm is infectious; his energy limitless. "A little of the Don Aslett magic" rubbed off on me too: while reading this book I tossed a huge box of unplayable ancient LP's. Thank you Don!
A handy removable insert inside the front cover offers Don's "clutter busters" for instant reference. Definition of Junk: "If it's broken, outdated, lost its mate, out of style, ugly, useless, dead or moldy, then it's junk. Dump or recycle it." Turn the page and we're off--for a fast-paced tour of Don's life and work, visiting friends, neighbours, relatives along the way, all the while learning how to set ourselves free from clutter.
I loved the stories of Don's early years on the family potato farm in Idaho, including the memories of ripped and moldy gunny sacks, perfect for storing useless junk, plugging gopher holes, bathing pigs. Aslett is no minimalist neat-nick: he confesses to countless lapses in his personal struggle against wretched excess: the eleven boxes of no-good-books ("A 1947 almanac") in his library; the briefcase stuffed with junk ("two pens that don't work"); the office atrocities ("the 1989 calendar note pads waiting to be made into scratch paper.") Imagine peeking inside the messy cupboards of "America's #1 Cleaning Expert"—50 years' experience in the industry and he still saves obsolete rubber stamps!
There are weaknesses to be sure in this long and sometimes overblown book. Don is opinionated (he hates high heels and fashion jewelry); verbose (into what category of junk does poor editing fall?); simplistic (world champion clutterers often need therapy, not just a helpful nudge towards the garbage pail.)
A farm boy at heart, Don believes in old-fashioned values (he heaps scorn on big diamonds, Ferrari sunglasses, impulse shopping). Often, his naiveté is charming; once in a while offensive ("As a whole, we're safe and well-fed and sheltered, surrounded with plenty of comfort, luxury and convenience.") Some clutterbugs struggle with problems more demoralizing than the worrisome second home, the tarnished silver in the buffet, the wrong bindings for the new skis.
With outspoken candor, Don takes aim at the values underpinning our consumer society. He has no patience with planned obsolescence, shopping as entertainment, retail therapy, credit culture, conspicuous consumption, fashion-for-fashion's-sake. His insights into tourist spending reveal a sad truth about modern life: "We often are so obsessed with mummifying memory with a souvenir that we're oblivious to the actual event or place we want to remember."
I enjoyed Clutter's Last Stand immensely. This honest, inspiring work deserves its popularity and success. As the author himself might say: "Read this book! Reclaim your life! You deserve it!"
Getting the clutter out of your life can and will rid you of more discouragement, tiredness, and boredom than anything else you can do. ~ Don Aslett, Clutter's Last Stand