The Futility of Decluttering

Featured Photo by Jack Hamilton on Unsplash

James Brown-that’s what he’s playing out there in the shed. I assume it’s from the batch of old CDs I asked him to get rid of now that we stream everything. Instead, he just moved them to the shed, with our old CD player he also should have thrown out. I bet if I went out there now, I’d find all the stuff I cleared from the house these last few months.

He doesn’t understand how important it is to me to declutter now that we’re both home all day. Space is more important than ever. Minimalism is the way. Besides, we have everything we need on our devices. I can’t understand why he enjoys being in that filthy shed all weekend alone. But there he is — out in that goddamn shed — doing who knows what. Is he playing solitaire with those old playing cards I asked him to throw out? I mean, there’s solitaire on the tablet, for goodness’ sake. But no — he likes to use actual cards. Like my father. Dad would play game after game of solitaire on the old desk with no legs propped up on bricks- a makeshift coffee table in our rented flat after Mum left. He would watch sports on tv and play those damn card games for hours while I did my homework on the floor instead. But at least he stayed with me in the house on weekends, so I wasn’t alone.

If I go to the shed now, I bet I’ll see cards spread out on the workbench and my clueless partner will act as though there was nothing else to do today. Cards handled so many times they were now dog-eared and ripped, so you know which is the Ace of Spades. He better be the King of Spades today though, since the garden clean-up was on the list I texted him for the weekend. I will not text him again. I’m sure he can’t even hear his phone buzz with that loud music. I’ll have to go out there in person and tell him once and for all to take all that junk to the rubbish tip. And tidy the garden.

It was my turn to have my own declutter working party at my house when the lockdown came. Now the relaxed lockdown rules allow for a few visitors, and my friends are coming over at last. They’ll see I didn’t need help to declutter. I’ll create the minimalist home space I’ve been craving if it kills me. But I’ll kill him if he’s just sitting there playing cards when people are coming over after months of isolation. And if the clutter has only just shifted from the house to the shed, I’ll lose it.

And there he is… but he’s not playing solitaire-nor any other game. I can’t believe my eyes, but he is renovating my Dad’s desk, the only item I was regretting throwing out of the house. The only item I had kept after Dad’s death for some unknown reason. It seems my not-so-clueless partner grasps its significance. He is fixing it for me.

Our eyes meet as I stand in the doorway to the shed, and he looks up from sanding the fixed desk leg. JB’s funky outbursts underscore the moment. Then it hits me hard—a sharp pain in the middle of my chest; I can get rid of everything in the house, even the house itself, but grief will still move through me like a cluttering juggernaut.

© Josie Kirkwood 2020

Previously published in ‘Tempest In Under 1000’ on Medium 27 June 2020.

Flash Fiction is very short fiction, usually between ~300 and ~1500 words. Sometimes written to a prompt and tight deadline, these stories provide creative challenges. They also provide opportunities to write in different genres and can inspire a longer piece of fiction.