Silly Season – or - how to love tidying?
Here we are in August in London. In a perfect world we hard-working dealers would now relax and go on holiday having done more than enough business in the first half of the year. But sadly the world is far from perfect. In fact we seem to be faced by a world burdened by an unending catalogue of misery. The list of woes is seemingly endless; the killing of innocent black people in the USA by their own law enforcement officers, the unstoppable rise of Donald Trump, the global tragedy of displaced people through civil wars, the terror that increases every day because of IS, the casual and everyday racism that seems to have become tolerable and acceptable in Britain since we narrowly voted to leave Europe. There is more and more to get distressed by - even jolly old sport is racked by scandals and ‘cheating’. To top it all - business is tough too. What do we do to remedy this situation? My answer is that we should all tidy up.
Tidying puts things in order and for the majority of people it means throwing quite a lot of stuff away. The computer age instead of freeing us from paper has drowned us in it. As paper accumulates even the most avid filer-away will discover on review that a fraction of what has been kept needs to remain. The joy of many full bags of recycling being taken to the dump is hard to define. It is like have an enema - unpleasant beyond description - but you are cleaner and feel better afterwards.
Once you have purged yourself of unwanted paper you need to seamlessly move on to printed-paper. Look at all the catalogues you have accumulated over the years. For me endless auction and dealer magazines together with random sales brochures need to be evicted from my shelves. Books come after magazines and though often beautifully produced I know an awful lot of books will never even be opened or have lain fallow for more than a decade - off to the charity shop. Suddenly shelves are emerging like buds in May. A clear shelf is a thing of beauty.
From the fresh white of an empty shelf I look round my store to assess the random fragments of potentially ‘useful’ things I have accumulated. Several carloads are taken to the dump and some are given away to become cruel clutter for some poor eager fool to accumulate and have to deal with later.
Then - on a roll - I dive into actual furniture and decide on disposing of bits that have settled in positions around the house and store without my permission. Furniture can do that. Sometimes things creep into the house and hide because you don't know what to do with them. You look behind a door and you are shocked to see what is hiding there. Yesterday someone asked me about a friend whether he was a dealer or a ‘real’ person. I think the remorseless accretion of ‘stuff’ is a problem for both the human race and ‘dealers’. My friend in Norfolk Tony Fell is a dealer and he has an annual evacuation, which is the ‘swap shop’. Rather like the Grand Vizier offering to exchange new lamps for old we dealers would rather have a fresh new white elephant than an old one. You never know – someone might buy it. Vans all over the country are filled and driven to the cricket pitch at Stow on the Wold. There in a feverish couple of hours people swap their unloved items for others that they invest new hope into. One mans sow’s ear is another’s silk purse. For many the greatest joy is not the new opportunity but simply saying good-bye to something you have had for too long. Tony is the master of the ‘long swap’, which is when an object has to be swapped through several hands before it gets to its new home. In extremis often a dealer gets satisfaction from throwing something away in a skip that he or she bought for proper money. The principle is getting freedom from the albatross around the neck. The day closes with a celebratory lunch followed by ritual humiliation as we all play cricket. It is worth it.
So now you have separated the wheat from the chaff. You have to order what remains. The model for me is to consider how quickly you could move out. If you could easily pack and be ready to leave for another home in a week you are a black belt in tidiness. If you cannot imagine moving because sorting everything out would be an unimaginable nightmare - you are in need of intense therapy.
Applying order begins with small steps; I always begin by getting everything of the same ilk into the same space. It sounds bafflingly obvious but you would be surprised how often people don't do this - because they are used to where things have historically always been. That task achieved I would recommend wiping everything and putting things in boxes. The process of wiping is not cleanliness - it is holding it in your hand. If you handle an object even if it just an old biro or a jar of jam you reevaluate it and you decide whether you want or need it.
Whether this process takes place at home or in the office the clarity of mind and purpose that this undertaking requires can lead to a new approach to life and business. Taking the baggage out of life and making only what you can use or need hang around - may inadvertently improve business by filtering out distractions. When we return after the summer break maybe a little more order and tidiness will make the world seem a more positive place. Maybe life won’t seem so bleak.