The “strangely compelling” pile

I let things pile up in my study. The piles usually have themes, but sometimes one pile is more miscellaneous than others. After many years of doing a periodic stop, cull, discard, file cycle, stuff in some piles would remain, forming sedimentary layers of future piles. Certain things never seemed to end up discarded or filed.

As I was going through another round of culling, I starting pondering one particular pile. The things in it–an old Demotivators calendar, several articles, some newspaper clippings, a few pictures–had survived several rounds of culling. They didn’t seem to fall into existing categories, and resisted attempts to figure out new categories. I was about to punt, and pass on to the next pile.

Then it hit me. The stuff in this pile, and the stuff at the bottom of a few other piles, was “strangely compelling”. That was it. No need to classify the stuff any further, no need to psychoanalyze. I labeled a clear plastic container “Strangely Compelling” and voila!, a bunch of random stuff had a home, and I could stop beating myself up about being unable to file everything in an orderly way. And with the “strangely compelling” filter, the non-compelling stuff that was mixed in fell right out.