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It arose one morning from the bowels of my desk, a formless mass that spread and covered itself over anything I was looking for. "Who are you?" I asked.

"I am Clutter," the mass answered, "and I am here to confound your life. I am the things you refuse to throw out though you haven't used them in six years, the miscellaneous papers, phone numbers, business cards, things you accumulate and don't put away. I am the inevitable manifestation of your sloppiness. I am Clutter."

I grabbed Clutter and moved it from one end of the desk to the other. Clutter chortled. That's my favorite pastime. Moving from one end of the desk to the other. "What do you want?" Iasked.

"To frustrate you. I will resist all attempts to remove me, reduce me, or otherwise eliminate me. It's my purpose to hide whatever important piece of paper you need, whichever phone number you must call."

"I'm throwing you out," I stormed. Clutter shook his untidy mass sadly, as in pity.

"Not without looking through me to see if there's anything you really need," Clutter answered. "The odds are slim, but you won't take that chance. And while your sorting through me, I'll re-form in another pile."

"But you'll be smaller, more manageable."

"Not really. You'll decide to keep 90% of me, as you always do. And soon, new papers, numbers, documents will gather, making me more obstructive than ever."

"You won't ruin my life, Clutter! I'll start a filing system! Put a bit of you where you belong." Clutter gazed at me contemptuously.

"The last time you tried that, you created my cousins, Chaos and Disorder. It'll never work."

Clutter had me and I knew it. Attempts in the past to file things alphabetically had only created 26 piles of mess instead of one. I was desperate, so I decided to bluff. "I'll take a time management course," I threatened.

Clutter quite rightly ignored my remark. I wasn't dealing with an idiot, after all. "Then I'll buy a computer and store you on my floppy disks!"

"And within a month your disk-filing system will be in total disarray, plus you'll have another pile of papers waiting to be entered onto disks. Face it, you can't win.

Exasperated, I ran to the closet. "I'm getting some air. "Clutter had been to the closet before me. Shoes were scattered, shirts were unhung, clumps of pants and underwear lay strewn next to towels and a lawn chair. Socks congealed in small piles, looking like the waste product of some nylon-eating monster. Cliff notes from A Tale of Two Cities lay atop the heater.

"Clutter," I yelled. "You have crippled my productivity for the last time. No longer will I be late, no more will I miss appointments, never again shall I be overwhelmed by your size and withdraw into reading old magazines. I am going out to the store to buy a paper shredder."

I looked around for a long moment. "Now where did I leave my keys?"

Clutter burped.

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