Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Clutter

People have many strange addictions.  I didn’t realize clutter was mine. 

As much as I hate clutter it’s interesting that I have so much of it.  Even after spending a day organizing clutter, clutter still reigns supreme.  This may always be the case. 

I have come to accept a lot of it.  The alternative would be to purge memories.  Or at least those things that someday may be useful.  The rule is that if something hasn’t been looked at or used in a year then get rid of it. 

Rules were made to be broken!

The bookshelves are overflowing with books.  Books are stacked two deep on many shelves.  Another bookshelf is crammed full of books, magazines, scrapbook paper, scrapbook supplies, among many other items.  It would take a psychiatrist to convince me I don’t need these things.  And even then I wouldn’t listen. 

To throw away these bookshelf items would be the equivalent of having a food fight in the Louvre. 

The rest of the clutter can’t be helped either.  We need a better storage system for all the cords, electronics, cords, important papers that never seem to get filed, cords, and more cords. 

The size of living space has nothing to do with it.  Regardless of tiny apartment with no storage, house with a basement and garage to accumulate clutter, or whatever, every horizontal surface is covered.  Vertical space is stacked as tall as possible without precariousness. 

My parents bought me a headboard with built in storage when I was a kid.  I remember looking at the three large divided spaces.  It felt so empty and as much as I tried to keep myself from doing it, I rushed to fill the space.  Soon each of the three compartments were stuffed full of things.  The top of the headboard, being a horizontal surface, soon housed many knickknacks and other various dust collectors. 

When I pride myself on organizing the clutter in my life, all I’ve really done is arranged the clutter into neat little piles.   But it works and that’s all that matters.  If that’s all it takes to calm my racing heart and inspire creativity, then it is worth it. 

This morning I walked downstairs to a beautiful sight.  The rugs were straight.  The floors were visible.  The carpet and furniture felt so tidy.  The office looked foreign in its cleanliness.  Dishes didn’t take up all the counter space.  Those few moments of quiet serenity nourished my very soul. 

Soon the kids would get up with their bounding energy.  Soon the toys would make their daily parade downstairs.  Soon the blank computer would call to me.  Soon the neatly stacked scrapbooking supplies would entice me to dive in, once again creating the clutter I had just put away. 

I will surrender to the call of creativity.

I find that the most fascinating thing about taming clutter.  The peace and calm lasts only so long before it is overpowered by the need to create. 

I used to keep my bedroom messy because it kept my brother and sister out.  But I have to admit I did like it when I cleaned my room and they would naturally find their way into my room to talk, laugh, and do headstands in front of my full length mirror.  Something about my clean room inspired our best ideas. 

Every time I organize my kids’ toys I feel like I should be committed for insanity.  The end results are amazing in spite of the conflict I feel during the project.  This time I asked them to help me and when they balked at the idea I was secretly relieved.  I basked in my cleaning frenzy. 

When I finish, they discover toys they forgot they had.  They play so much more creatively and cooperatively.  It doesn’t last long before they resume their bad habits of tossing toys wherever just so long as the floor is empty before bedtime.  They are getting better at putting things back where they belong.  I believe they recognize the joy that comes from everything in its place and try to make that feeling last. 

My love/hate relationship with clutter is therapeutic to me.  I hate it enough to do something about it.  Then I feel like I’ve accomplished something big.  This inspires all of us to play harder and create better.  That brings back the clutter and the cycle continues.  What would I do without clutter?  I need it to survive. 

7 comments:

  1. There is a way to be tidy and well organised all day long and still be creative. I'm both a professional singer, a songwriter and an author, and I assure you it's not only possible but easier and more liberating. I'd never get that quicksilver of inspiration down in concrete form if I was stumbling around looking for my tools.

    But the real clue to your problem is in your post. It's that you just feel happier when there are lot's of 'things' around you. It seems you don't like bare space. If you could get to the bottom of that feeling, I think you'd find your clutter problems would ease up a lot.

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Sheila. I think everyone is different especially when it comes to creative inspiration. I love making clutter when I create and I really enjoy cleaning it up when I'm done. :)

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  3. If I were to abide by the "one year rule" my home would resemble a magazine spread -- at least in terms of the cleanliness if not the pricey furnishings. While I wouldn't consider myself a pack rat for most items, I do have too many boxes of old papers. Every attempt that I make to go through them takes a lot of time, so I eventually stack the boxes back up and leave them for another day.

    Isn't it wonderful when you can see the floor? My youngest can spread her toys and dolls around in a millisecond, but the chore of picking them up falls on the other end of the time spectrum. You would think that someone who hates clean-up time as much as she does would try to avoid those situations. No chance.

    I do feel better and maybe even more creative if my mind is not split between what I am trying to accomplish and the mess that surrounds me. But I can rarely do both in one day, as attacking the clutter tends to make me want to nap before doing anything else.

    I'm glad that you got to enjoy your "few moments of quiet serenity." Ray

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  4. Ray, I also have too many boxes. I got rid of a lot when we moved but the boxes of paper have to stay. I think it depends on what is in your boxes.

    My mother in law convinced me that I didn't need boxes of college notes to prove I went. She also convinced me that unless I could use the teaching stuff with my kids I would most likely replace it all if I ever went back to teaching. She is wise. But the essays and short stories from over the years have stayed.

    I totally hear you when you say "Isn't it wonderful when you can see the floor?" My kids can also fill a room with toys in record time and I see no end to the toy war! How do kids not understand the consequences when it comes to toys? I was probably the same way as a kid!

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  5. Speaking as the mother-in-law. I don’t do so well at the elimination of clutter myself. I was much better before I worked full time but now I mostly tread water. I often threaten my husband that I will build his funeral pyre out of his stacks of papers and other clutter.

    I too need the opportunity to clutter when I am being creative. That would be okay if I had only one project going on at a time but I never do. I think our clutter defines us. I would have serious misgivings about someone who is ALWAYS neat and tidy. If I walked into their house how would I know who they were?

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  6. Very true, Dawn. A house that is ALWAYS neat and tidy feels like a hospital - cold, impersonal, and like you shouldn't be there. You know I'm a little obsessed with cleaning but you also know my house is not often spotless.

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  7. Good news! I recycled a whole stack of old papers today. One small step toward decluttering.

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Now that I've shared my thoughts, what are your thoughts?