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SPIRIT MATTERS: Maybe clutter is a sign of genius, or maybe not

A few weeks ago, my younger brother diagnosed me with one of what I’m sure he thinks are many character flaws.

He said I’m a hoarder.

I quickly retorted “No, I’m not!”

It was like we were kids again.

It was kind of cool.

But once I thought about it, I did have to begrudgingly admit to myself an element of truth to his accusation.

Oh, I’m not like one of those people on those cable shows where you have to walk through a six-inch wide trail between two sides of keepsakes piled precariously to the ceiling.

But in doling out his assessment, he reminded me of when I lived in Normal, how I had a corner in my “library/office” piled with papers. This was in the day when I printed out every single thing that inspired me, thinking I would refer to it again. The only problem was when I did want to look at something again, I could never find what I was looking for in my perfectly disorganized system.

As a side note here, I should assure you that the rest of my apartment was kept relatively orderly. Except for the dishes that would sometimes pile up next to the sink.

I didn’t like doing dishes then and I don’t like doing them now.

But I am a bit more mature now, and realize it doesn’t really matter if I “like” doing dishes or not. They must be done, even if someone needs to twist my arm to do them.

I was reminded of this little problem of mine this week, when I saw a post on Twitter by a Franciscan monk honoring one of his favorite saints, Maximillian Kolbe, a Catholic priest who volunteered to take the place of a prisoner sentenced to death in Auschwitz, who had a young family at home. Kolbe is considered a church martyr for his sacrifice.

The post showed a picture of Kolbe at his desk, which a-hem, looked pretty familiar in how scattered everything was as well as the various piles of books, and maybe old plates and glasses hidden somewhere in there too (who knows?)

I rarely comment on Twitter posts, but couldn’t resist:

I always pull out the old "Did you see the picture of Albert Einstein's desk on the day he died? And he was a genius!" when someone, not naming any names, gets on me about my disorderly inclinations. LOL

To which an editor of a fairly well-known printing press in the Spirituality/Religion genre responded:

We're not all Albert Einstein! I could never pull that off.


I was, however, comforted when a few other commenters noted their desks look rather similar to how Kolbe’s desk looked in said photo.

One other follower even chimed in, perhaps a tad tongue-in-cheek:

So what you're saying is, I can still become a saint if my desk is messy? LOL

To which the holy friar responded:

Indeed! I hope to have that be one of the things I’ll be patron of.

Today, being older and I guess not much wiser, I still have the same issue.

Only now I hoard books and rosaries.

My housemate, who happens to be a family member, who just happens to have given birth to me, is disgusted at how my books effortlessly pile up out of nowhere, all over the house, and constantly brings them to my room and dumps them in no particular order on my bed.

It’s a good thing I have a king-size bed.

I have to hand it to her. This act of throwing my books in piles on my bed forces me to act, if to do nothing else than move all the books to one side of the bed so I can sleep comfortably at night, and leave enough room for the dog to stretch out.

I’m kidding. Sort of.

Anyway, I recently parted with some of those books that were already stacked in bins against my wall, waiting to be donated somewhere, and some of those rosaries hanging on my wall, on which I had spent hundreds of dollars adding to my collection.

It’s a good thing this opportunity to give some of my belongings to those who don’t have the luxury of hoarding their favorite collectibles came up suddenly, without me having much time to consider what I was doing, or I might never have done it.

But I have to admit.

It did feel good to let them go.

If nothing else, it opened up a tiny sliver of space in my spirit, where things aren’t so cluttered and chaotic all the time.

In fact, it felt so good, I just might do it again, and allow that space in my spirit to grow a little bit bigger and wider.

One book, one rosary at a time.

SPIRIT MATTERS is a weekly column that examines spirituality in The Times' readership area. Contact Jerrilyn Zavada at to share how you engage your spirit in your life and in your community.

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