The great clutter crisis


Despite what psychoanalysts might claim, not everything that is wrong with you is your mother’s fault. People have got to learn to take responsibility for how they turned out.
I blame my grandmother for this.


My grandmother’s home is like a museum. She lives in a beautiful old home stuffed to the gills with every imaginable antique, collectible and item of interest.

Her home offers everything from marble-topped tables to tins of salves last manufactured in the 19th century.

Wall space is shared among items ranging from an antique coffee grinder to an oak, crank-handle wall-hung telephone. The Smithsonian has nothing on my Gram.

Unlike many antique lovers, however, she also enjoys a unique relationship with her antiques. She has a distinctly hands-on policy. Nothing is truly sacred and from an early age, we — her heathen grandchildren — were encouraged to use and live among them.

What this means is that I can appreciate the finer things and then immediately want to set my coffee cup on them.

Thus, I struggle with my inner child’s need to hold on to — and use — every last thing that has ever come into my possession, and my outer adult’s desire to have a home that looks like something out of Metropolitan Home.

Never mind that I live in a 104-year-old house better suited to Victorian excess than 21st-century modern — I want clean lines and open space.

What I have is knick-knacks including but not limited to antique cameras, an arrowhead collection and a 5-foot tall wooden rabbit (if measured from toes to ear which is clearly the only way one should measure a wooden rabbit).

I have heard it said that you should have and display only that which you truly love. But what if you’re easy? What if you truly love everything?


I have tried from time to time to clear away the fragments of our past, collected and handed down over the years. To leave nothing but sparsely populated horizontal surfaces and clean, clutter-free corners in our midst.

Inevitably, someone will come in, look around and ask, cautiously, if we’re moving. Usually that’s my husband.

This morning, the spring-cleaning bug bit me. It comes without warning and each year, I worry anew that it will not come at all. I’m a firm believer that one must be in the proper mood to deep clean and reorganize your life. You can lead a person to a junk drawer, but you cannot make her purge.

I can ignore a cluttered closet or dust-collecting corner for months and then, suddenly, without warning, be unable to live another minute with such chaos. Such was the case today.

Armed with a cardboard box labeled “give away” and a newly minted sense of resolve, I took aim at our “mess.” I was a woman on a mission — until I was unable to put a single knick-knack or item of “clutter” in the box. Not one.


It is said that every picture tells a story and I can tell you that is certainly true. Over the years, I have framed and displayed a number of pictures drawn by my children.

What price to put on a masterpiece that is a blue crayon scribble with sticky-up hair and a wide smile titled “This is my mommy by Matthew, age 4”?

How about the one titled, “This is a picture of you and me huging (sic)”?

If you can purge, than you are made of stronger stuff than I.

On the table is a glass bowl full of “lucky stones,” so-called because since she was a toddler, our daughter has collected white stones as a treasured gift to me. A bowlful of diamonds could not mean more.

The antique camera? A 25-cent yard sale find that is an exact replica of the Kodak Instamatic my mother used to document my childhood. Just seeing it makes me remember one just like it in her hand.

The rabbit? The impulse purchase of a 20-year-old. I didn’t have a home of my own at the time, but by golly, I had a rabbit. All I needed was a house to go with it.

Fortunately, I later found just such a house, making this a fairly forward-thinking rabbit, after all.

More important, each item, if removed from its place, would probably cause me physical pain. Thus, our space remains happily cluttered. Knick-knacks and memories flow from every object and corner.

What others might call clutter, we call living a life. A wise friend said it best: Our home is designed to express — not impress. That said, today’s decluttering mission was not a total loss. I tossed out the cardboard box.

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