Good Clutter vs. Bad Clutter

Is clutter always bad? There are some sources that say so, maintaining that there is absolutely no way to lead a productive, low-stress life if you don’t have a place for everything and everything in its place. Downsizing in the word of the year when it comes to stuff, and the simplicity movement asks us to scale down, maybe even to as little as 10 personal possessions per person. But while clearing out the clutter – physical, mental, etc. – is definitely a good idea, it doesn’t necessarily follow that ALL things labeled clutter are bad for YOU.

Who says, for example, that clutter has to be ugly? We’ve all heard of hoarders by now, but just because stacks of newspaper and bags of bottle caps make headlines nowadays doesn’t mean that clutter can’t be beautiful. If your clutter is a collection of meaningful things you’ve acquired over the years – especially things that make you happy and are cute to boot – then you absolutely shouldn’t feel obligated to stash it all away just to adhere to the popular aesthetic. Still feeling overwhelmed by your stuff, even though you love it? Maybe the answer is looking at your collections or art or photos or whatever it is that gets you going as a challenge. As in, it’s time to ask yourself how to turn ‘clutter’ into something awesome by incorporating it into your space in a different way.

And in a way, your clutter is you, or at least a record of where you’ve been and what has touched you enough to save. I’m not talking about all the stuff that really ought to get put away, like clean clothes, but rather the little mementos of life, like souvenirs from your journeys, letters, gifts from the people you care about, and so on. That book you’ve read a hundred times. The pillow you sewed in home ec when you were 12. That kind of thing. Is it clutter? Maybe, but it’s also the stuff you’ve chosen to keep when you’ve probably discarded plenty over the years. Personally, I don’t think that all that needs to go in the bin just because your home might look a little more spacious if it was gone.

Just make sure that your good clutter isn’t suffocating you or cramping your style. Just so you know, good clutter CAN turn bad – like when it’s getting in the way, making it hard to do what you need to do, or stressing you out. The best way to avoid falling into the trap of keeping bad clutter around is to periodically take a look at your life. Do you need X, Y, and Z? Maybe not. Do you still use, want, or love X, Y, and Z? If the answer is no, consider getting rid of it so it doesn’t end up doing all those things the anti-clutter brigade warned us about.

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