Somewhere in the world, there must be people who actually take a moment to unsubscribe from all those e-mails—newsletters and sale alerts and publicity blasts—that clutter their inboxes. Rather, I mean, than simply deleting them every single day. One doesn’t like to calculate the time costs of these things; it’s too depressing. It’s best to avoid the implications.
There are the discount offers, of course. Don’t we all get those? Dirt-cheap massages! Flash sales! Exorbitant shoes made merely overpriced! And wait—the sale has been extended! Here’s the Project Runway contestant you started following nine years ago because you were so moved by his tears when he was told to pack his things. And the headache-prevention newsletter you never seem to get around to reading; wouldn’t it hurt that aging hippie’s feelings if you unsubscribed? Surely she’d notice. Remember the one time you attended an adult Christian-education class at that Episcopal Church? They do. You think of the unhappy example of the Yiddish class you dropped out of in 2004. You were on that guy’s mailing list until he died last year.
This clutter is bad for the eye and surely for the spirit, too. I think we all know what Marie Kondo would have to say on the subject. But how to admit to yourself that you are never, in fact, going to take advantage of any of these discounted classical music concerts? That you are, once and for all, never going to learn couples knife skills or renew that meretricious subscription or catch that revival festival or take a spontaneous vacation? That you are pretty much set, as a person?
We will not speak of LinkedIn.
On Hoarders: Buried Alive there’s always one particularly depressing moment when the subject has to first show his or her home to the team of cleaners and shrinks. At this point, everyone is usually still civil; the subject is even reluctantly willing to have his space invaded, understanding that he’s about to otherwise be evicted or lose his children or have his home razed. And yet, this is when we see the illness most clearly. Because while there is usually some acknowledgment that it’s “a little messy”—you just have to walk over that bridge of dead cats and pee in that bucket—the shame is never what the rest of the world would consider appropriate. Anyone who has dealt with the disorder in loved ones has seen the panic that sets in when people are threatened with the loss of something that might have value, might still be edible, might be salable, even valuable! Indeed, if you have dealt with it in real life, the show is very hard to watch.
Because when you do, finally, work up the gumption to unsubscribe from that designer’s e-mail list, you get this: “We are sorry to see you go! Please take a moment to tell us why you chose to unsubscribe.” Every answer breaks your heart. It is so much easier just to delete, and walk over that bridge of dead cats to the corpses buried somewhere under the newspapers.
Sadie Stein is contributing editor of The Paris Review, and the Daily’s correspondent.