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digital video depression
by patrick clapp

My company is moving their Raleigh based offices at the end of the month and the past few weeks have featured several cleaning days in an attempt to smooth the transition. It feels much like incessantly flicking at a bedsheet that refuses to lie properly; every wrinkle gone summons forth a confounding clone. In this case, the clones are documents...documents documents and more documents, all of the paper variety, and most of them need to be forwarded one final time through the industrial shredder truck that visits each Friday morning.

The enforced house cleaning attached to upheaval combined with a move brought to the front of my mind the memory of a prior move of my own. That delightful endeavor occurred about a year and a half ago. It involved, among other things, deciding which documents in my boxes and boxes of documents documents documents needed to come with and which needed to sally forth. I enlisted my then archivist girlfriend (she is still an archivist but no longer my girlfriend) in a quaint but much needed 'library date'. I fed her a delicious vegetarian dinner - she showed me her 'system' for weeding.

Clutter abounds. There are all types and they war with each other for attention. Clutter can be hastily made piles of bills, last week's crazy project, the 'that receipt is in this pile of receipts' jumble, and two of my least desired - the box 'o papers from school and that damn Netflix movie I have yet to watch.

Ooooh, that pesky third Netflix movie! It sits immobile and collects dust at the edge of your coffee table. It lies half-opened atop your entertainment center next to a season one DVD set you borrowed from your friend and are 'going to watch soon I promise'.

Flixclutter - it is as dastardly as two manila folders stuffed with materials from four different classes. Flixclutter saps your energy and effectively reduces your Netflix efficiency by 33%; an entire slot of unlimited rental power absorbed by a two ounce paperweight. Walk into your home after a day of work and it snags your eyes. Sigh, you do not feel like watching it tonight, maybe this weekend, or Monday at the latest. Flixclutter lies sound like excuses you give that friend you don't really want to hang out with who always devours three more hours of your night than you wished. Flixclutter lies sound like rationalizations - 'I feel like a comedy tonight, that drama is over two hours long'. And the worse part of flixclutter is the guilt you feel about holding on to a movie for two weeks, three weeks, a month, two months?! Some poor kid out there has been waiting for that movie, that paperweight that when lifted reveals dusty right angles of Greek precision. The flixclutter lies, the flixclutter dust, the flixclutter guilt - there is a solution.

Return it.


Walk over to the thing, seal it up, and set it in the key basket by the door.


Get rid of it, and get rid of it now was the core philosophy behind the vegetarian archivist's weeding system. It became a fun game - if I could not come up with a category for a particular document within two or three seconds she laid claim to it and threw it in the trash pile. If I had a category - 'uh ... uh ... computer manuals! ... uh ... uh ... utility bills from three years ago!' - she placed it in a pile. One pile for each category, neatly stacked, awaiting a final disposition into hard shelled accordion filing boxes. No manila folders (and I barely got away with keeping bills that old).

Many people believe that archivists are all about saving. Not true. The real talent to the work of the archivist is destruction. Archivists prune and weed and throw away and clear much more than they save. The example I was given, when I made this assertion, was the following: 'If you are going through the things in your dead grandmother's house, and you happen upon her stack of eighty crappy records that you remember from your childhood and they hold some special place in your heart, throw out seventy-nine of them. You only need one of them to remind you that you loved your grandmother. The rest is garbage.'

The same holds true for your flixclutter. That irritating albatross of a third movie is the physical representation of flixclutter. There is another kind, a digital dust bin - your queue. How many titles are in your queue? I had ten last month, then I went nuts. In one night of left-clicking passion I increased my queue eight-fold. Eighty titles. Eighty?! Digital flixclutter. In the next month you are only going to watch the top ten if you are lucky. Ditch your queue. Throw it out. Now.

'But I might forget what I wanted to watch!' If you wanted to watch it, you either would have floated it to the top of your queue, or will remember it when the time comes to add another movie. You are just giving those choices at the bottom of page three false hope. There once was a day when you would see those choices, when you selected a movie, it moved to the bottom of your queue and you had to manually float it. Now Netflix has a button you can press immediately after adding the film. Admit it. You have not looked at the bottom of page three in two years. It is probably filled with documentaries and tear-jerkers - but you have yet to become bored enough or depressed enough to go digging.

Flixclutter is a plague that preys on your soul. So send that third movie on to its final destination, and reroute a river through the stables of your queue. Then grab a box of papers from your college years and sort them into piles. Open that red letter you just received today and pop that comedy into your DVD player while you work. You wanted to watch that one anyway.


more about patrick clapp


tracey kelley
8.21.06 @ 12:48a

Wow. New lexicon. Flixclutter. Love it!

erik myers
8.21.06 @ 9:00a

This is the exact thing that keeps me off of Netflix, really.

3 DVDs at a time means that there's one that sits around on top of the television for 2 months, and any less than 3 DVDs isn't financially feasible for our watching patterns.

mike julianelle
8.21.06 @ 11:26a

I think the best strategy re: Netflixclutter is to IMMEDIATELY send back whatever DVD you don't feel like watching when you get it, and get the next one. Put it back in your queue if you want, but increasing the turnaround time is important if you want to keep the subscription practical. Of course, this strategy is easier said than done...

jael mchenry
8.21.06 @ 12:21p

Ooooh, that pesky third Netflix movie! It sits immobile and collects dust at the edge of your coffee table. It lies half-opened atop your entertainment center next to a season one DVD set you borrowed from your friend

Spot-on except for the furniture: the third Netflix movie is on the entertainment center and the season one DVD set is on the nightstand.


I don't even want to say how long the third Netflik has been in the house, but I can tell you this: when my boyfriend and I were both finally around at the same time, in the mood to watch a movie, not too sleepy, curious about Network... I couldn't find the DVD. Looked around for 15 minutes, no dice. We watched Season 2 "Arrested Development" instead. Turns out I was using the Netflik as a bookmark.

I'll send it back tomorrow, whether or not I watch it tonight. I think your column has finally guilted me into confronting the issue.

patrick clapp
8.21.06 @ 12:24p

heheheh. Excellent, jael, glad to be of service. (And thank you for the response)

alex b
8.21.06 @ 4:17p

This is hilarious. I just cleaned my room last night and found two Netflix DVDs I meant to return a couple of months ago. They're still on my desk because I swear I will watch them!

jael mchenry
8.22.06 @ 11:44a

Okay, I didn't send the Netflik back today, but that's ONLY because I couldn't find the envelope. I'll send it back with the next one I return. Honest!

russ carr
8.22.06 @ 12:07p

You still haven't watched Network?!

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly has been on my desk for about a month, now. It's tough to make time for a three hour western.

mike julianelle
8.22.06 @ 12:15p

Russ, I was thinking the same thing about Network. Sheesh! We have Paper Moon and Polanski's The Tenant on our bureau.

patrick clapp
8.22.06 @ 12:27p

Big Fish is on the edge of my coffee table, but I swear I am going to watch it with someone soon (and I have only had it for a week or two so it isn't that bad). ...yeah, only two weeks. *grumble grumble* clutter *grumble grumble*


katie morris
8.22.06 @ 12:57p

Patrick, your advice is spot on! I signed up to get two movies at a time (unlimited movies per month), and that has saved me from the dreaded Flixclutter. Right now I only have 10 movies in my queue, so i don't have to rearrange their order all the time. The rest of my movie list is still written on a sheet of legal paper. I know, I'm such a Luddite.

sarah ficke
8.22.06 @ 3:52p

I'm afraid I'm the guilty party when it comes to Flixclutter. It takes a lot of convincing to make me watch a drama I'm not in the mood for, and so Fight Club effectively killed our Netflix subscription (and graduate school, and living near an awesome video place).

brian anderson
8.22.06 @ 4:01p

The problem with a Leone spaghetti western like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is that it's a three-hour movie that feels like a six-hour movie. (Not in a bad way. It's just monumental.)

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