Creative Clutter

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Lately while driving, I’ve been listening to Happier At Home by Gretchen Rubin. This  entertaining narrative is a sequel to The Happiness Project, the chronicle of her endeavor to improve her day-to-day outlook, over the course of a calendar year.

One of the ideas that’s resonating with me the most is Rubin’s unwillingness to give in to the clutter-clearing mania that periodically sweeps through our culture. While she spends some time organizing and simplifying her family’s apartment, she also recognizes the beauty and joy that objects often bring to her life. It’s an interesting stance to take, since clearing clutter is generally seen as a virtue, in contrast to extreme hoarding, like that of the Collyer Brothers, who weren’t vilified but certainly were pitied.

I don’t think I’d be classified as a hoarder; I do have a lot of magazines, but we can still walk around the house and I haven’t fashioned any of the stacks into booby traps. If that doesn’t make sense, go back and click that Collyer Brothers link!

I think we’re somewhere in the middle of the ascetic to hoarder continuum. I usually don’t mind some material chaos, especially in my own little studio area. I like having supplies close by, and a variety of media because you never know what will be inspiring on a given day. And of course there are many stacks of books. I go through clutter waves; a few months of stacking and piling and randomness building up, and then a few weeks of organization, but the purpose of the organization is just to set the stage for the subsequent months of creative buzz.

Sam is even more comfortable with chaos and clutter, and he often questions why he should organize his room. I know I’m supposed to be strong and crack the organizational whip, but really I have the same question. If a person is able to find what they want, when they want it (and he generally does), what’s the harm in letting him use an extremely loose system of organization?

IMG_9175Could it be possible that randomness and disarray might trigger alternative ideas and solutions to problems? Maybe our desire to reuse and recycle will come in handy someday.

What’s your reaction to clutter? Do you love it, hate it, or find yourself somewhere in the middle? How does the type of clutter change your reaction (i.e. papers, toys, household items, etc.)?

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2 thoughts on “Creative Clutter

  1. I would put you and yours way up the scale towards being organized. Not even near the middle. I had a fine time last weekend reorganizing my studio space. I still have stuff I could give away, but now it’s down to harder decisions. Next comes my clothes closet. I’m excited to practice greater awareness for what is really functional and fun and pass on the rest. You’re right about some randomness generating creativity. I love the Einstein photos.
    The Collyer brothers story is sad and alarming. I’m reading The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. So much of what we do is habitual and unconscious. It frees up the brain for other things but can sometimes become dangerous and destructive as in the case of the Collyers.
    I pray for balance and grace.

  2. Just this past week or so I stumbled upon, and read, both of the “Happiness” books by Gretchen Rubin! I ate them up so quickly that I am still digesting. I loved what she had to say about creating little shrines (your photo is beautiful, btw). For my whole life it’s been pounded into my head to get rid of any “messy” clutter- even (or especially) if it causes pangs of longing. Only in the last couple of years have I found a happy balance. My guiding rule is that it’s not technically clutter as long as it is organized. Perhaps I still have too much stuff about the house, but at least it’s all cleared away in it’s own bag or box!

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