Ross Murray's Border Report
Ross Murray
Ross Murray
is a freelance writer living in Stanstead, Quebec. You can reach him at
Posted 03.16.06
Stanstead, Quebec


Jasmine is my co-pilot

I don't think ours has ever been one of those houses where other parents warn their children never under any circumstances to eat anything that falls on the floor, notwithstanding the trusted Three-Second Rule. Even though you can take all the hair our dog sheds daily and make your own shitzu, I'd still say our house is clean.

But if you look closely, you will see our house is overflowing with things. Not grandmother's-house things like Hummel shepherdesses and sad-eyed porcelain cats. But clutter things, spare part things, toy things.

On the shelf by the kitchen sink, for instance, where a "World's Best Lummox" statuette might normally go, is a little dish. This dish contains, among other objects, a bird call and accompanying vial of resin, a bicycle brake, a domino, a penny, a screw, a suction cup, dice, magnets, marbles and - just to keep you on your toes if you think about rooting around in there - a couple of thumbtacks.

Still in the kitchen, you'll find several larger bowls and/or baskets filled with junk, junk mail, and junk food.

Make your way to the TV room and you'll find bins of toys that have lost their parts and vice versa.

You'll note that most of these things are in receptacles. However, clutter is not as inert as it would appear but is in fact constantly expanding outward, like a glacier or Alec Baldwin's stomach.

For example, as I write this, beside my computer is a Dollar Store Chinese finger trap, a rubber snake, and a noise-activated magic wand. It looks like the leftovers from Elton John's Oscar party.

How did they get there?

Well, some doodads just appear, the way a garden can suddenly sprout rocks and missing teamsters. Others hitch rides with children and pets, like cheap plastic burs caught on the socks of consumerism.

The other day I reached into my coat pocket to find my keys and instead pulled out a two-inch plastic figure of Jasmine from Disney's Alladin. I don't know how she got there.

I wasn't home at the time so I put her back in my pocket. Later, I pulled her out in the van and stood her up on the dashboard like some kind of exotic St. Christopher. But she kept tipping over. I didn't want to leave clutter on the dashboard so back into my pocket she went again.

She's still there. Every now and then I pull her out in the middle of a conversation and make her talk in a Senor Wences voice: "Jasmine no like your tie. Is oooogly."

We've attempted to de-clutter our house. But it's a bit like saying you're going to compile into binders all those recipes you've clipped out of Panicky Parent magazine. Eventually, the accumulation becomes so great that the mere thought of tackling it is too overwhelming. It's as daunting as trying to reduce global warming or the number of award shows on TV.

Plus, nature hates a vacuum.

When we do de-clutter, it isn't long before the space has been filled anew with Barbie parts. For this, I blame cheap Third World labour and the irresistible allure of dépanneur Surprise Bags.

As well, there is the Universal Truth that if a promotional toy for costs 25 cents at a garage sale within a 2-kilometre radius, no child under 10 will be able to resist buying it.

It seems like I'm blaming the children for our accumulation of stuff. This is partly true, just as it's partly true that we have not painted the living room because there is still a high likelihood that a child will affix Pooh Bear stickers to the fresh paint. But that doesn't explain the divot remover in the dish by the sink.