Jeni Marinucci: Panic Button Years


Get Your Sh*t Together: In Defense of Clutter

Sometimes, a Person Just Needs their stuff

Decoding Clutter | Home Organization |

Getting Your Shit Together can mean different things to different people. For some, it's quite literal and involves learning techniques to help them keep more organized home and work spaces. Other people may already have that locked down, but perhaps needs some support with other not-so-fun adult tasks like paying bills on time or making difficult phone calls or offering long-overdue adult apologies. 

When it comes to organizing your stuff, your "clutter," I don't subscribe to the current in-vogue methodology — that trend being minimalism ala Marie Kondo, or the KonMari method. If it's working for you, that's great! I certainly understand the allure of the less is more principle and I will never be one who thinks keeping broken, unloved, or unneeded items is wise. This type of clutter blows fog into your mind and serves no purpose other than to add to the crap your family members will take a match to when your time on earth is over. Besides, I guarantee if you have 17 mixing bowls and three stand mixers, you haven't actually baked a cake in the last five years. 

It's impossible to give you a yardstick upon which to measure a standard for a universal clutter tolerance level. Some people like to have near-empty cupboards and tidy organized closets while others get a certain sense of comfort from towering collections of old books. If those books "bring you joy," then keep them, because visual clutter can be conducive to a creative work environment and I sort of understand this - my desk is organized but full. I have a corkboard on the wall in front of my desk and it is covered with little notes and pieces of kid's artwork and funny bookmarks and buttons I think are pretty. It is "clutter," and it is random, but it is wonderful and I use or admire something on it almost every day. 

I am not a clutter-lover by any stretch, but I do like my things visible and in sight. I don't hide everything away in opaque baskets and lidded boxes unless they are meant to be stored that way. I like seeing what I own and what I've collected over the years - it makes me feel good. It reminds me of my adventures and experiences and I try to buy only things I want to see time and time again, even if that means going without a can opener for six months until I found one that felt good in my hand and came in a colour I loved (red). Takeaway: Don't Settle. Settling creates clutter. 

And now it turns out that clutter lovers (or even clutter accepters like me) are on to something. Rodale's Organic Life ran an article recently, titled "The Surprising Health Benefits of Clutter,"  which quotes Columbia Business School professor Eric Abrahamsson and author of A Perfect Mess:

"Too much organization can become a distraction and hindrance to productive work. While most people agree that too much mess can be a problem, there’s a wide spectrum between chaos and order. Abrahamsson says, 'Most people simply assume they’re on the overly messy and disorganized side of the line and believe they would do well to drag themselves in the direction of neatness and order.'"

What Professor Abrahamsson says rings true: too often you can organize yourself into a tizzy and unless you truly love puttering (as I do) it can be all to easy to use "But I need to clean and organize!" as a procrastination technique to avoid doing other important things, like having sex or advancing your career or relaxing for a Harry Potter marathon you've been promising your kids since '09. 

So, is your clutter contributing to happiness or plain old "stuff fatigue"?

Real clutter — the bad clutter — doesn't get cared for. Bad clutter makes you mad without knowing why, stems your creativity, pulls at the sides of your brain when you're trying to concentrate, and pushes real live people out of the way. Collecting clutter by purchasing things you don't really want or need or are acquiring "for the meantime" will not help you feel happier or more peaceful. 

If you care enough to have or keep something, then you should care enough to keep it in good condition. And you should use it! Keep that stack of old books, but keep them tidy, and in a dry place, and READ THEM. If you neither care for or use something, ask yourself why you have it. You can still love a person and not love everything they gave you. (ahem... kid's art work.) 

For years I kept my "good" silver flatware up in a high cupboard, safe in its original packaging. I was "saving" it. For what, I don't know. I can't forsee how 18 matching teaspoons would have been useful in any sort of apocalyptic situation. Several times in the 10 years I kept it put away I had to go out to buy more, cheaper, "everyday" flatware because we were down to four spoons or six forks or no butter knives. I felt like I was doing the right thing, and that the one day when I took the box down to use at some fancy dinner party, that I would then be filled with the orgasmic joy only other people who deny themselves use of beautiful things until "one day" could understand. 

And then my husband and I separated. Dinner parties not involving frozen entrees and some tears were going to be a long(er) time coming. A few weeks later, I was no longer dining with the man I married, but I decided the time had come to  start at least using the flatware we had been gifted. For a long period of my life that box could have been considered clutter, because I didn't use it. It was taking up room on a shelf I could have given to other things, or left empty as an opportunity to future loved objects.  

You can transform clutter by reframing how you think about it and use it. Real clutter is the stuff that prevents you from getting things done because it's in your way - mentally or physically. You probably don't need seven hairbrushes in a four person household, but four different shampoos might make sense if you're a floral scent gal, but your partner goes for Citrus Morning and the two kids couldn't decide on one "No Tears" scent between them.

That makes perfect sense to me. 

In Praise of Clutter | Home Organization |