The author, Wendell Berry wrote, “ Don’t own so much clutter that you will be relieved to see your house catch fire.” I am one that struggles with clutter. My natural inclination is to be sloppy. I like my stuff, and I like to surround myself with stuff. Just sitting here typing, I have an extra pair of socks, a couple notebooks, last week’s New York Times, a couple rolls of washi tape, some miscellaneous papers, five pens, and my coffee cup all within my reach. I can guarantee you that, once I get up, I am not going to put all of that away.
I am going to spend time this weekend, however, trying to restore order to a house that has reached the tipping point of disorder. Our dining room continues to have the table adjusted to fit 12 rather than the two of us. The various items that were pulled out or created for last week’s lobster fest remain where they were a week ago. I am pretty sure that we won’t be needing most of that stuff for another year. The bedroom is filled with between season mess. I have my tub of winter clothes that I have brought down from the attic. I have been pulling sweaters out of it and wearing them, but I have not taken the time to put any of it away or pull out my summer items to store. I wouldn’t be horribly embarrassed if someone walked in the house right now, but it is definitely messy.
There is for me a balance among order, messiness, clutter, and comfort. I am never going to be a person with empty counters and minimalist decor. I like surfaces that display things that I like seeing – photographs, dishes, books, momentos. I kind of like the way that our bookbags look thrown on the loveseat each day when we come home from work. The right amount of clutter says comfort to me.
There is research that shows clutter heightens creativity. One experiment randomized people and put one group in a cluttered room and one group in an empty room. Participants in both groups were given the same task. They had to come up with other uses for a ping pong ball. The answers were then rated for level of creativity. Both groups came up with a comparable number of alternative uses, but the group in the cluttered room had more creative answers. Other similar experiments show similar outcomes.
There is my license to clutter!