Life and clutter

De-cluttering, like weight loss is often presented as a universal good. The ideal – of the tranquil, stuff-free home has some curious assumptions underpinning it, though.

The first assumption is that we have a lot of stuff we don’t need. Set yourself the challenge of getting rid of a hundred things! The second assumption is that the ideal living environment doesn’t have much stuff in it.

I imagine I’m not alone in finding largely empty, pristine spaces a bit intimidating. I like having things to look at – colour and disarray enhances that experience for me. I like the friendly feeling of being surrounded by life.

Not all clutter is created equally, but for me, life is messy. The table we work and eat at is fairly cluttered because it is also home to art equipment and books.  There’s a pile of things people are reading, or intending to read on the footrest. By the sofa, is the mayhem of a yarn stash being turned into things. In the bedroom, there’s a fabric stash I use for making, and rather a lot of books. There’s musical instruments, shelves of crafting gear, and the kitchen is a tad chaotic not least because food from scratch happens most days.

When looking at ‘clutter’ I think it’s important to look at the lifestyle that goes with the clutter. If you’re surrounded by things you don’t use and that are in the way, that’s an issue. If the mayhem is the side-effect of creativity, of people doing stuff (games, toys etc) then to get rid of the clutter is to get rid of the life. In a perfectly tidy home, with no piles of work in progress stuff, what would I do?

About Nimue Brown

Druid, author, dreamer, folk enthusiast, parent, polyamourous animist, ant-fash, anti-capitalist, bisexual steampunk. Drinker of coffee, maker of puddings. Exploring life as a Pagan, seeking good and meaningful ways to be, struggling with mental health issues and worried about many things. View all posts by Nimue Brown

18 responses to “Life and clutter

  • niffsoup

    Ha ha, indeed, ‘the Potionary’ is far from clutter-free!! I remember being told ‘a tidy room is a tidy mind’ as a youngster and thinking I really didn’t mind how untidy anything was, and that from such chaos comes serendipitous creativity and most wonderful invention… Long live chaotic, scruffy heaps and death to Ikea inspired sterility!

  • Platyzoa

    I agree! Some mess and clutter is definitely nice to have around and makes the house feel cozy and lived in. On the other hand, my mind usually feels messy and cluttered, and being surrounded by chaos inside and out makes me anxious, and that makes it hard to function. I think keeping at least some parts of the house clear and tidy makes it a lot easier to manage my internal chaos and feel like I have a sense of control and calm, which makes me much more creative and motivated. As you said though, the type of clutter (and the amount) makes a big difference!

  • piesandwich

    It’s always reassuring to hear the people who come round my house don’t want it too orderly 😀

    I think a big part of of the fear of “stuff” comes from traumatic events like moving house, or trying to sort out the possessions of someone who has died. I must confess, since moving and realising just how draining it was to go through years of overlooked rubbish and haul it along for the ride, I fear the clutter more than ever. The charity shops have been doing very well out of me lately.

    I even worry that if I do drop dead, and my rubbish I leave behind will be a nuisance to the people left behind. It might sound nutty and paranoid, but this was very much what my nan ended up doing when she died. Her house was terrible.

    As result of these experiences I find mess (my own that is) overwhelming and daunting, it really does fill me with dread. The book “Do androids dream of electric sheep?” conveys the oppressive entropy of mess and waste (or kipple as they call it in the book) really well.

    Having said all that, my house is hardly minimalist, I’m miles off striking the balance I want. I can always appreciate and enjoy other peoples crazy houses and eccentricities, but I see my own chaos as the physical representation of my own incompetence.

    I wonder if people in pristine houses have some of the same brain problems as I do, but are just better at doing something about it lol

    • Nimue Brown

      I guess there’s issues in there of what adulting is supposed to look like and what we think is expected of us. I get where you’re coming from on the house clearing side, I’ve seen how that can go…

  • Yvonne Ryves

    I don’t think cluttering is meant to mean tidy or minimalist in any way. It’s about getting rid of stuff that is not needed, not used etc and which is taking up space that something more meaningful might occupy if it was given room. The kind of stuff you are speaking of Nimue is that of creativity, interest and of enquiringly minds and so the last thing that you should feel you need to to ever is get rid of any of it. It is needed, used, wanted.

  • Yvonne Ryves

    Oh why can’t you edit these replies? The first line should of course have read decluttering 🙄

  • Tracy Kruse

    I don’t de-clutter. I de-junk. If it just is past it’s working life, that odd thing has to go if I cannot repurpose it in to art or to the garden somehow….but I have decided to embrace my MAXIMALIST tendency and enjoy the bevy of color and being surrounded with pictures and objects that have special meaning. I once did a major de-clutter and now I have nothing left from my high school days and only a few small items from childhood. And some of that would be fun to have…how much space does a box take up?

    • Nimue Brown

      Junk identification si definitely a thing, and working out what’s irrelevant, but yes, I’ve let things go, and regretted it, and then not regretted it, and then years later, randomly regretted it again…

      • Tracy Kruse

        Yes! I will also admit to being a book-a-holic. I have books Everywhere. And I actually read them. I devour them. And then I cannot part with them unless they are just awful. lol My husband has taken up hand tool wood working as a hobby and the first 5 projects are various bookcases. We all have our colors and crafts…and if not. Well that might just be the minimalist, a poor soul who has no hobbies, no interests, who goes to work comes home and watches tv. Then again some minimalists might be obsessive compulsives who have everything you or I might, but they feel compelled to ‘put it out of sight’ and clean some more. Maybe that is why people go to someones house and ‘peek’ in their cabinets….to reassure ourselves that they are just like us! Is there a myth to being a minimalist? What is the story there?

      • Nimue Brown

        Interesting question, and not one I have any idea how to answer.

      • Tracy Kruse

        Maybe the minimalist is the hero’s journey; only heading out without a backpack?

  • smithandskarry1

    Totally with you on this! Having to ruthlessly clear out all the things so that folks can come and view the house has not been a relief-bringing de-junk but a loss of the essential tools we use every day; books, toys, crafty stuff, piles of paper that are our works in progress… maybe I am just a cluttery person, even when I lived in one room it was cluttered! lol.


    Ha ha, what some may see as clutter is to me prized possessions! Great post

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