Clutter, part 1

I know it's a topic I harp on a bit, but it's because it is something I deal with fairly constantly and I think other people do as well. I just don't think it's healthy to live with clutter and I'm really trying to stem the tide, though sometimes it does feel like an uphill battle. My war against clutter seems to go in cycles, so why this renewed interest? A couple of reasons.

I am a magazine junkie, though I have a love-hate relationship with many of them. I find magazines the perfect thing to look at and read when I have a few spare moments. Often they don't require much in the way of brain power and I like looking at pretty pictures. I used to subscribe to several shelter magazines, but over the years stopped the subscriptions for my own mental health. I found that looking at these types of magazines too often created an unhealthy mental attitude of dissatisfaction. While many of the homes featured in the magazines were beautiful and occasionally I did get a good idea or two, mostly they just made me feel badly about my own living situation. Now, this is really crazy because while I call our home the Big, Ugly House, there are really many parts of it that are beautiful and unique and I know it is a privilege to live in such a house. I have been thinking about this a long time now, and am embarrassed to say it has taken me more time than it should have to figure out the real reason for my dissatisfaction.

It was clutter.

Or more precisely, the lack of clutter in the photos in the magazines. Sometimes I would look at a photo of a room and not even really like the color or the style, but found myself envying the owners of the home none the less. And it was all because there was absolutely no clutter anywhere. No toys strewn about, no piles of papers, no piles of anything period. Perhaps a few interesting objects artfully displayed to look at, but that was it. Mostly is was clean and clear surfaces. The juxtaposition of the photos I was looking at and the view which met my gaze when I looked up from the magazines was jarring.

I know the owners of these homes don't usually live like the photos. I know they were styled for the photographs and that the piles of stuff were tucked away out of sight. I know that living in a house means that things are used and left out. It's what gives things a homey and lived-in look. (Don't the house photos in magazines seem almost too antiseptic... as though real people don't actually live there?) But there's a difference between comfy and lived in and cluttered and crowded. I find it is just too easy to cross the line.

Once I realized the cause of my house envy, it became a fairly simple thing to do something about it. If it was the clutter which was the difference (and perhaps the walls without chipped paint and children's scribbles, but that's another story), then I could do something about that. So that's what I've been working on. I have been slowly working my way through the clutter and getting rid of a lot of it. It has to be a slow process because while I would love to spend a week dedicated to the process and get it all done at once, life just isn't going to allow that.

Every day that I can, I have been choosing one area to work on. Sometimes it is as simple as just putting things away. Laziness really seems (at least for me) to play into a big part of the clutter, especially if something is already piled high with stuff. A counter that is absolutely clear is much more difficult to leave something out on than one that already has several things left on it. Other times it's just because I have too much stuff. We have so much more than we really need and there are various reasons for this (I'll talk about this in part 3), but truly the easiest way to not have clutter is to get rid of the stuff. If you don't have it to begin with, you don't have to find a home for it. In theory, it's really simple.

Simple until it's time to actually get rid of it. But I think it helps to keep the picture of those clear surfaces in my head. When it's done, even if it is a little bit, it seems so much nicer. I can look at it and take a deep and contented breath. It feels good. It's worth the small bit of angst at the severing of the ownership of the thing.

On Monday, I'll write about why if you have a child coming from trauma that this decluttering is essential and Tuesday will be what clutter says about our relationship with God. Fun stuff. (Even better is knowing what I'm going to write about for two more days.) If you need more about stuff right now, I did another series about it in 2011. Stuff, part 1: Lessons from the playpen; Stuff, part 2: Lessons from the too-small house; Stuff, part 3: That's entropy, man; Stuff, conclusion: The hard part.


Janet Sedano said…
I'm visiting from the blog roll at

We live in a fairly small home, so clutter can build up quickly. Especially by the front door. Mostly shoes. Our home doesn't have much storage space, so that doesn't help. It was worse when the kids were little because of all their toys. I know my husband doesn't like to come home to a messy house. So I especially try to pick up and look nice at least an hour before he comes home. There are days that I could easily stay in my jammies all day!
I'm looking forward to your follow-up posts!
asian~treasures said…
Oh, we're living the same battle. Clutter fills my house & makes me crabby. We cleaned out my grandma's & my aunt's house in the last year & too much made it's way to my home. And, my HoneyGirl from a hard place...well, I'm looking forwrd to what you have to say about that. :)

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