I had intended this post to be an account of a visit long ago to the home and workshop of world-famous Ghanaian fashion designer, Kofi Ansah. I scribbled the detail over a decade ago, and was recently reminded of this visit by a sculpture I saw which bore some similarity to something this man had in his home. The hitch is that I cannot find that piece of paper, and must confess to not having looked properly in the most likely place. The main deterrent is a trip down other avenues in memory lane which I am currently disinclined to take, chiefly because it is so very time consuming.

Photograph of my photograph album

Instead, I shall tackle the vagaries entailed with storage of information and things, personal and professional. I was indoctrinated (weren’t we all?) as a child with the saying that there is a place for everything, and everything has a place. This is eminently practical: retrieval of things from their assigned place is far easier if that is indeed where they are to be found when not in use. It is also very useful if one cannot be bothered to turn the light on when entering a room to fetch something, and being able to reach for it without hesitation, pick it up and exit the room without stumbling over anything. I was taught this particular trick by my partner, who was blind for a period, but then regained sight.

This trick presupposes that you do actually have an appropriate place for everything. I have lived for the past three years without desk drawers. This minor inconvenience is now assuming gigantic proportions; my jack-in-a-box reflexes seem to have slowed down somewhat, and I find myself increasingly unwilling to put desk items away in a nearby cupboard. Once a week or so, out of pure love for a clear table top for working on, I do a re-storage exercise, only to discover that the very thing I need immediately requires a trip to the said cupboard, whereas prior to “tidying”, it did not. This is extremely demotivating. My perfectly designed office of former years no longer exists anywhere except in the recesses of my brain.

In Portugal, we have something we never had before: a pantry. It is about the size of the average booth in female public toilet facilities. It does not contain a vegetable rack, rows of neatly labelled homemade jams and pickles, nor indeed, tins of any description including the biscuit variety, or years-old containers of custard powder or sacks of sugar, or meal, or dried beans, or potatoes, or strings of onion or garlic, or bags of dog food. That would be normal, wouldn’t it?

Our pantry is the receptacle for such gems as empty suitcases (great travellers that we are!), a brand-new spare tyre wrapped in an old sheet, the iron and the ironing board, an assortment of brooms and mops hanging in a row on the wall, ditto dusters; a purpose-built kist containing cleaning and bathroom items (which cannot fit in the bathroom) and light bulbs on occasion, a spare gas bottle, a shelving unit with a few books and files and photo albums, and oddments – including, vaguely, the aforementioned scribbled description of the home of the fashion designer.  It is kept neat and clean, and keeps the rest of our small apartment neat and clean.  What it has not done is won a place in my mind map. Quite literally out of sight, out of mind. It’s narrow confines do not induce frequent visits beyond the kind where my arm extends inward to retrieve or put back brooms and dustpans and such. Who knows when I might venture all the way in to the back shelf to find one single piece of paper?

I am reminded of our super-organised phase when it was thought a good idea to file (snail mail) letters received from our fair number of correspondents. They were filed alphabetically according to (mainly) first names or nicknames together with their lovingly preserved envelopes in reverse chronological order. I never really liked this system. It seemed too clinical an approach to apply to friends – friends, moreover, who had actually taken time to write to us. In any case, where would I possibly have filed my scribblings on the wonders of Kofi Ansah’s drawing room? Possibly under the worst of all categories: Miscellaneous.

Whilst I was wondering how to reorganise the papers on my table, without the luxury of a few more lever arch files, I cleared over 4GB worth of photographs off my laptop onto a cute little red flash drive capable of storing 8GB. My working documents on the hard drive are in perfect order; one copy and paste will do the trick. I am merely agonising now over whether I should use the same flash drive, or invest in a separate one.

I do wish I could put everything on a flash drive.  Then I would have a neat little row colour-coded flash drives hanging on the wall. And a clear desk.

The word in bold appeared in the previous post.

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