Chapter 2 draws the lines to connect clutter, a busy schedule, and most of the other problems in life.
There is a word for the implied action you find in an unused possession or a delayed to-do item. That word is suspense. An action you are taking is suspended, or “hung up” in the original Latin meaning of the word. Movement has come to a stop and you are looking for it to start again at some point in the future.
When you look at the way clutter and a busy schedule come about, suspense is the direct link between them. Suspense comes about every time you make the future decisions I mentioned in the previous chapter. Suspense happens whenever you make decisions but do not proceed to take all the necessary actions. You can find suspense in every new item you put on your shelves and every new task you add to your to-do list.
If you buy a record, take it home, and put it in your record collection, these actions imply that you have decided to listen to the record later. Similarly, if you write an item on a list of things to do, that means that you have decided to do a task, but you have perhaps not yet decided when you will do it. The decision is made, but the action is not yet forthcoming, or perhaps there has been an initial action, but the more essential action is still to come.
A delay, or time lag, is a defining quality of suspense. You buy a record and put it on the shelf, then a period of time elapses before you take it off the shelf and listen to it. Or you schedule an activity for a specific time next week, and a week goes by before you get to the activity itself.
It is not just the action that is in suspense. In a very meaningful sense, you too are “hung up.” You are in suspense because the action belongs to you.
Until you actually take the action, it exists only in your imagination. Suspense is the connecting link you use to tie your imagination to the future action. You make sure you remember the future action, but it is more than a matter of remembering to do something. The future action becomes a part of you, occupying a space in your thoughts and a share of your attention. When you finally take the action, the suspense is resolved and the space it had occupied is released.
Suspense is a state of waiting, whether you are waiting to take action or just waiting to see how something comes out. However your attention is tied up in a future event, it can interfere with your action in the present.