An Unclean Mind (Is Not What You Think)

January 17, 2018

Someone I know was recently accused of being unclean. Which bothered me.

When you ask Google to define unclean, a whole stack of ugly words pop up like: dirty, filthy, grubby, foul, impure, tainted, adulterated, mucky, soiled, begrimed, and unwashed. Which then made the accusation bother me even more.

When asked about his messy desk, Albert Einstein is quoted as saying, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?”

Roald Dahl wrote his most imaginative children’s stories from a cluttered writing hut that he boasted was only cleaned when ‘a goat broke in and defecated on the floor’.

Like Einstein and Dahl, there are many unclean others, like Mark Twain and Thomas Edison. The unclean habits of these most creative and brilliant minds, are only matched by those who are considered leaders of the modern world of technology. Both Steve Jobs’ and Mark Zuckerberg’s desks were not easily found under paper scraps, books, magazines, wrappers and tangles of electrical cables.

If you give serious consideration to my five minutes of research, you could easily propose an unclean mind belongs then to those who possess unbridled creativity and potentially above average intellect.

Based on that, you have my promise, I will not look down my nose at your mess. (But I can’t promise I won’t cringe at soulless precision and order, or cold empty spaces.)

I like the dust that circles, and the clutter that colours.

I look back to when my children were small, when drawings were pinned to walls (or drawn on walls), toys were scattered in walkways, and mounds of washing contained spades of dirt dug from our backyard, which resembled war torn Beirut. I’d warn visitors to please leave their shoes on, and be careful sitting on the couch because you might end up with Barbies hand up your bum – it’s painfully sharp after it’s been chewed. I miss these days.

Even though my children are grown, nothing has changed.

If you’re visiting me today, step over that vacuum cleaner in the hall (gathering dust), ignore the perpetual basket of folding beside the couch, and yes, my shoes are exactly where I need to find them – or not. There might be dishes on the sink because we eat – every day. There are still random Christmas decorations here and there, and that lazy-Susan on the bench, I have no use for but it came from my mother-in-law and I can’t bear to throw it out. Oh and if you’re looking for anything important (spare keys, bobby pins, the battery from the smoke alarm, or that prayer card with the lovely poem from a funeral we attended last year) it’s all in that giant bowl on the bench.

(And if my mother is reading this, YES, I promise to put the battery back in the smoke alarm so you won’t worry.)

At my house you won’t get soulless order or cold empty spaces. What you will get is hugs, conversations about books, music, that new television show or that hot yoga class. You will be challenged over your views and interrogated about your day. And you might be conned into reading the start of my next short story. But don’t worry about that smoke alarm… my clutter hardly ever spontaneously combusts.

Kim Horwood on Facebook
Kim Horwood
Kim Horwood is an Executive Officer in the engine room of a large school, who credits surviving the day-to-day crazy with a healthy post-it-note to coffee ratio.  Mother to the Fabulous Four and wife to Mr Ed (a human, not actually a horse – which you will only ‘get’ if you’re over 44), she has a Diploma in Business Management, a Certificate III in Education, and is a member of the Qld Writers Centre and The Writing Room Ashgrove.  Kim has had short stories published into anthologies, an 8-word story appear on goa billboards, and her carrot cake won first prize at the 1995 Gladstone Show. She has a Young Adult Fiction manuscript waiting to be published and loves car karaoke, fairy lights, and reading in bed. Should you wish to contact Kim, you will find her on Facebook or via the following website: