September 8, 2014

In Defense of Clutter

Simplify, edit, less mess, less clutter, clean, purge, organize... these are some of the repeated themes that cycle through my anxious brain in those far too many hours spent staring at the ceiling, begging my eyes to close. I can't stand the piles of papers and books that accumulate on every available horizontal surface, I'm defeated by the unstoppable weeds that overtake our tidy raised garden beds, and the never ending laundry is just depressing. Each time I try to innovate a new system for storing toys or jam another sweater into my tiny closet, I want to get rid of half of our stuff and discover a lighter and simpler way of living. 

After weeks of being way too busy, and then fleeing our house half-packed for a camping trip in a manic frenzy, we landed at my mom's for a few days. My childhood home, where collections of rocks and shells mingle with potted plants and talismans from every imaginable religion. There's peeling paint and lots of imperfections, piles of books that exceed my own, and a jumble of cast-off toys for the children.

The gardens are no more orderly, but no less delightful; flowers interspersed with herbs and lettuces, pumpkin vines snaking through the whole plot. It's a place that verges on messy, but somehow my mother's magic steers it towards effortless instead, and we all feel at ease whenever we're there. 

While I was sitting barefoot on the cracked back stoop, watching my boy dart through his own secret overgrown garden paths to count his pumpkins and munch on wild chives... I had the thought that this whole objective of 'simplifying' is a load of crap. The real art is in knowing how to let things be free without overtaking, not in constantly trying to sort and shape and whittle everything down until it all fits neatly into its container...

... Then I got home and picked right back up with my frustrations at all of our stuff and dreams of greater order. But I do feel less stressed about it. Because those piles of books and papers really are okay. I've got way better stuff to keep me up at night.


  1. I so hear you! its like round and round the merry go round trying to chase that weasel of order. That's momentary if ever achieved. I definitely haven't figured it out yet lol. so thanks for saying its a load of crap! ;) x and i sometimes wonder if its ever possible for the artyfarty to ever find that neat streak ;) i think if i had to choose i'd take the art over the order any day.....xx

    1. Yes Carolyn, I don't think I've ever acheived my goals of order! I'm just not sure we're all cut out to make that work :)

  2. "The real art is in knowing how to let things be free without overtaking."
    Speaking to my conflicted heart.

  3. YES! It is the clutter that makes up portions of our lives-- memories are made in it, ideas are born in it and creativity indulged by it. Embrace the clutter mwahahaha! Of course, I am a cupboard shover-- sweeping piles of books, notes and what have you into over stuffed drawers and overflowing trunks. It is a battle isn't it? Between the desire for clean surfaces and the life lived while the clutter accumulates? Sigh...

  4. I love your sentiments about your mom's house, but it's easier to feel free when the clutter isn't your responsibility. That's what I love about hotels! A fresh canvas that I don't have to clean. I love books and art but I too am constantly struggling to organize!!!