Off mic with Phil Smith - littLe triggers

Meetings don't just produce minutes. My house is full of bags, pens, pads and many badges with my name in pole position. I also have a rare collection of lanyards that the badges came with.

My style guru tells me that the trendy thing to do is to wear a lanyard from one organisation at the meeting of another. So when working for the welders your badge is held by a strap that says "Forestry Summit" in three languages. Of course this kills two birds with one stone:

  1. You show your colleagues you're in high and global demand.
  2. With luck your colleagues didn't get asked to do the other gig and now they can fret about it.

Anyway chez Smith is full of the detritus of meetings past. Enlivened during my winter break by turkey (hot and cold), brandy butter and the 6th series of the West Wing, I decided that something had to be done about all the rubbish crammed into the drawers of my bedside table, as I could hardly shut them.  My spring clean turned into something of a trip down memory lane.

Have you ever tried to do a major sort out of the kind of stuff we bring home? It reminds you of meetings and places that you'd forgotten. I came across a stack of badges and spread them out on the floor - my own interpreting life set out before me in all its fun and impermanence. I'd even kept plane tickets from past meetings - I can't imagine why because I spend my life at airports and on planes so the romance of travel has by now loosened its come-hither embrace.

I wonder if it's the ephemeral nature of what we do that turned me into a bit of a hoarder, unwittingly perhaps but a hoarder nevertheless. I perhaps wanted to keep some tangible reminders of a job that is essentially of the moment and produces no lasting monument. A bricklayer builds a wall and an engineer builds a bridge, but we create nothing you can put your hands on. I don't think it matters, but I can't help but wonder what made me keep the jetsam of international meetings stuffed into my bedside drawers.

I sat on the floor amidst all the junk and hardened my heart. It all had to go, the badges of me at double glazing conventions, a younger - and sleeker - me peeping from a badge from a meeting on merchandising marker pens - out it all went. I think the experts call this sort of thing decluttering your life and I realise I should have done it years ago.

Clearly there are things you can't throw away, such as drawings and birthday cards the children did at school, important letters and signed photos of Jenny Mackintosh. But generally speaking I started 2008 decluttered.

I couldn't bring myself to throw away something else. Many years ago I met a man in Delhi who told me my fortune and a few other things. In fact he seemed to know a lot about me and my family and he told me he had certain powers. It was a little eerie. He gave me a small stone as a kind a amulet and said it would bring good luck. Every time I do a major clear out this amulet turns up - even if I haven't seen it for years - it keeps coming back and in all honesty I don't think I can throw it away. Call me superstitious, call me what you like - well perhaps not Algernon - but I simply put the stone back into the drawer and I probably won't see it for five years.

So, apart from some emotional or superstitious attachments, I've have made a good start on de-cluttering. Now that I've cleared the bedside drawers I wonder if I could take six months off and tackle the attic. Or the garage that hasn't seen the car for years. You can all help by commenting favourably on my tidy appearance next time we meet and I'll promise not to show you up with an exotic lanyard.

Phil Smith is a freelance interpreter and a member of the Communicate! team.

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AIIC. "Off mic with Phil Smith - littLe triggers". March 3, 2008. Accessed May 29, 2020. <>.