The Good Clutter


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Recently, the New York Times published an article called “Let’s Celebrate the Art of Clutter.” As you can imagine, we perked up at the idea of embracing the meaningful chaos in life. Being at peace with your stuff is half the battle in creating a happy and healthy living space (ok, it’s probably most of the battle). Here’s an excerpt from the piece, written by blogger Dominique Browning:

…Over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure.

Why on earth would we get rid of our wonderful things?

It is time to celebrate the gentle art of clutter. We live, and we pick up things along the way: the detritus of adventure; the vessels of mealtimes; the books and music of a life of the mind; the pleasures of our daily romps through the senses.

In accumulating, we honor the art of the potter, sitting at a wheel; we appreciate the art of the writer, sitting at a desk; we cherish the art of the painter, standing in front of an easel. (By this litany ye shall know that I have many books, many paintings, many pots — and many more things I love.)

We love it!

We love it!

We most certainly applaud Ms. Browning for recognizing that the things we pick up along the way make our home a reflection of who we are. Here’s our take on her point of view (with some ShipShape additions):

  • Browning is right to say that we honor the artist when we feature their pieces in our homes – and that includes everything from a book, a painting, a vase, or even a tchotchke picked up at a street market in one of our fabulous travels. But let’s make sure we recognize that the items themselves are not special on their own. It is our memories that are special. When you see that tchotchke, you might remember the sweet, salty air of Venice, Italy, and the little shop you popped into before your dinner on the waterfront (getting hungry yet?). You remember the person you were with and how you wanted the day to never end…. and that’s how you will feel when you see this item that others might think was simply junk. What brings a smile to your face should always have a place. 
I can taste the pasta now

I can taste the pasta now

  • That being said, if you attach a time, place, and relationship to every item in your home, you will never win the clutter battle. There is no embracing the special significance of items if they are blocked, hidden, or obscured by mountains of other less meaningful items. This is most likely why Ms. Browning’s article calls it “the art of clutter.” It is an art form, even in its most chaotic sense. You must edit, and rearrange as needed to maintain your sanity (and space!). RememberIf you treasure everything, everything you treasure is of no value. 
  •  Browning also writes about a clutter “set point,” which she explains as: “The stuff we accumulate works the same way our body weight does. Each of us has a set point to which we invariably return. Each of us has been allotted a certain tolerance, if not a need, for stuff; each of us is gaited to carry a certain amount of weight in possessions.” Yes, we agree, BUT (and that’s an important BUT), your set point isn’t only about tolerance or ability to fit items in your home, it’s also about comfort. Your set point should be a reflection of the amount of space you have, AND your sense of freedom over your stuff. Just because it can fit, doesn’t mean it does fit.
Some might say "too cluttered," but we say, "if it's you, go for it."

Some might say “too cluttered,” but we say, “if it’s you, go for it.”

Finally, Browning’s article closes with this:

There is a reason we talk about nesting. Next time you are out walking, take a close look at a nest.

Nests are full of twigs, bits of fluff, string, moss and bark. Stuff birds take home, and fit to a shape that accommodates their lives.

Some birds even press their warm bodies against their stuff as they are making their nests, molding them to the shape of their breasts, so that they feel like … home.

A home that is uniquely theirs, and uniquely beloved.

Well, that’s certainly something we can tweet about.

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Got your own feelings on “good” clutter? Email us, tweet us @sylviashipshape or post on our facebook page! We’d love to hear from you!

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