Natural Health

Healthy living, herbal remedies and DIY natural beauty.

Add to My MSN

I Clutter, Therefore I Am (Or How I'm Learning to Let Go of the Stuff and Love the Space)

4/4/2011 5:03:40 PM

Tags: clutter, controlling clutter, uncluttering, Bill Adler, Regina Leeds, Julia Cameron, Michelle Passoff, Joseph Cincotta, Robyn Griggs Lawrence

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailThe other day my son picked up a glass Buddha statue and fiddled with it, then set it down on another shelf with all my old photographs. When I pointed out that he’d misplaced it, he laughed. “Mom, even your clutter has designated spots,” he said.

When I got over feeling hurt, I took a good look around and saw that my son was right. (And I had to laugh, too.) I love all the knick-knacks and collectibles that I’ve brought into my home, but I have too many of them. They’ve become organized clutter.

This is particularly poignant to me right now because my book, Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, will be published next month. The book includes an entire chapter about clearing clutter and making space. I know a little bit about clutter, and I’ve let it creep up on me, anyway.

Clutter—especially when it’s perfectly organized—is stealthy, and it’s a burden. As Bill Adler points out in Outwitting Clutter, its very presence creates a paralysis that renders us incapable of doing anything about it. “One of the dearest signals that something healthy is afoot is the impulse to weed out, sort through and discard old clothes, papers, and belongings,” Julia Cameron writes in one of my favorite books, The Artist’s Way. “By tossing out the old and unworkable, we make way for the new and suitable.”

In The Zen of Organizing, Regina Leeds points out that an orderly mental and physical environment frees our souls to seek the highest level of creativity. Clearing space is a reflection of self-love and self-esteem—our willingness to give ourselves room to explore. The purpose of decluttering, says Michelle Passoff, author of Lighten Up! Free Yourself from Clutter, is to “harness the power of the physical universe—to bring your physical world in line with whoever you are or want to be.”

The task in front of me is ridiculously simple: eliminate, eliminate, eliminate. I need to pare down the number of items on each surface to three or less and say good bye to things that can’t find good homes. I need to remind myself that my stuff doesn’t define me and stop thinking like a kid reacting against Mom’s admonishments to clean my room. I need to see and feel the peace that comes with space.

Anyone want a glass Buddha?

doucette bedroom 

In this straw bale home in Vermont, architect Joseph Cincotta tucked the dresser into the wall, eliminating the temptation to clutter up its horizontal surface. Photo by Michael Shopenn

Related Content

7 Steps to a Clutter-Free Dining Table

When the dining table is laden down with mail, laptops and other clutter, the entire house feels mes...

Wabi-Sabi Wednesday: Clear Clutter

In a wabi-sabi house, space and light are the most desirable ornaments. Follow these steps to clear ...

Clear Clutter for a Happy New Year

15 tips to help you get rid of clutter once and for all and create a clean, serene home.

How to Keep Your Home Clutter Free

We’ve been living in the little house for nine months and one of the things I’ve noticed is this: If...

Content Tools

Post a comment below.


Julie Lineberger
4/5/2011 12:48:51 PM
Joseph Cincotta is Principal Architect for LineSync Architecture in Vermont.

Regina Leeds
4/5/2011 11:40:05 AM
I am honored to be included in this piece.

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 66% Off the Cover Price

First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Lighten the Strain on the Earth and Your Budget

MOTHER EARTH NEWS is the guide to living — as one reader stated — “with little money and abundant happiness.” Every issue is an invaluable guide to leading a more sustainable life, covering ideas from fighting rising energy costs and protecting the environment to avoiding unnecessary spending on processed food. You’ll find tips for slashing heating bills; growing fresh, natural produce at home; and more. MOTHER EARTH NEWS helps you cut costs without sacrificing modern luxuries.

At MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet’s natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. That’s why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.00 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.00 for 6 issues.