The Case for Clutter and Untidiness

posted: 06/05/15
by: Courtney Reimer
Kids having fun in a pile of laundry

Everywhere you turn, there's someone or something (this site included) extolling the virtues of decluttering your life and your home. But recently there's been a formerly silent but growing minority of voices speaking up on behalf of preserving some of the chaos and extra items that take up space in your world.

I confess to being one of those people who feels like, at the end of a long day (and what feels like an even longer commute), the last thing I want to do is organize my junk drawer. And when the weekend comes, I would rather be enjoying some precious time with my kids.

While there are certainly advantages to having a tidy living space -- say, having a shorter hunt for your keys as you're rushing out the door -- I'd like to take a moment to praise a few points in the case for clutter.

1. Time is a precious commodity. You have a limited number of days on the planet, and how many of them would you like to say you spent cleaning versus, say, playing kickball with your family, or even just reading a great book? Heck, you could even read the cleaning-up book-of-the-moment, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, which argues that getting your house in order will free you up to "pour your time and passion into what brings you the most joy," but I'm of the school of thought that it's often better to skip the cleaning and get right to the joy.

2. Style is cyclical. The common rule of thumb is: if you haven't worn it in over a year, toss it. And there's certainly wisdom to this fashion and closet-keeping tip -- especially if you have limited space to work with. That said, I will always kick myself for letting my mom throw out that great jungle-print top that would fit so well with my spring wardrobe.

3. Cluttered space can be cozy. There's something comforting about a home that is a little less than perfectly clean. I know I, for one, breathe a sigh of relief when I visit a friend or family member and notice they, too, have a pile of mail on the counter in various stages of opened-ness. I settle into their sofa a little more comfortably when I notice a small stain on one of the throw pillows.

4. Things have memories attached to them. And sometimes it's easier to hold onto memories when we hold onto their corresponding things. That paperweight your dad kept on his home-office desk is surely rife with reminiscences about the times you sat there talking with him. Don't you kind of wish you'd kept it?

To sum it up, it's all about balance -- a balance between too much and too little. Of being the goldilocks of things and tidiness: not too cluttered, not too sparkling clean, just right.

As Dominique Browning so perfectly put it in a recent New York Times essay: "Some of us, rare breeds, tend toward the minimalist; some tip into a disorder of hoarding. Most of us live in the middle range. How marvelous it is to simply accept that, and celebrate it."