Sunday, March 15, 2009

In Praise of Clutter

American life has become sanitized. Antibacterial cleaning supplies--wipes, dish soap, hand soap...even toys. Super exhaust fans in kitchens so you cannot even smell dinner cooking. Air Fresheners plugged into every room so the whole house smells like lavender fields or citrus groves or Christmas... And then there are the anti-clutter fanatics who believe all signs of real life must be swept away into clearly labeled plastic bins.

Maybe it is because I grew up in a big, old, cluttered filled, rambling house—The first floor was just the kitchen and dining room with an ancient brick floor. A fire almost always going in the big fireplace at the far end of the dining room . The doors constantly opening and kids and neighbors pouring in to hang out by the fire...kids draped on every chair...adults drinking coffee, talking and smoking...yes, smoking. It was a crowded, smoke filled life with the smell of fire wood, cigarettes, coffee and cooking... And there was always stuff...an animal skeleton that was found in the woods was placed on the mantel because it looked so cool. Old etchings mixed with school projects mixed with found objects from the city...a gauge, old newspaper type, an old typewriter for kids to peck at etc.

Pottery barn, Target and other stores have trinkets you can buy to put on your shelves and coffee tables for display that look like travel souvenirs from another time. It is odd that you can buy clutter, but when you have collected things from your travels, from your life—it is viewed as clutter to be boxed away. Just like the removal of the real smells from our homes that are then replaced with fabricated scents from the store.

Sometimes I wonder how much of our real lives are being usurped by some pre-fabricated “ideal” life marketed to us by big industry. I wonder how many of our dreams and aspirations are placed in our heads by the media and this whole idea of clearing away our clutter is actually a way to clear away our authentic dreams for something pre-fabricated by Walmart or William Sonoma or whatever.

Why does everyone suddenly want granite countertops? Why does everyone need Viking stoves? Why does everyone need two bathrooms for every person in the house? Why have our dreams become material and not event driven? My dream is for myself and my family to live in Spain, Italy or France for year—not a large flat screen TV in every room. My dream is to have time to write, not time to clear away every little bit of my personality and put it in a plastic box in the attic. My dream is to walk along the beach with my daughter and collect shells—not buy her $100 Abercrombie t-shirts from the mall.

Are you living your dream or someone else’s?

7 comments:

JGH said...

Amen to that, oh goddess of clutter! Great post. I'm always amazed when I look at the magazines and catalogs showing pictures of what our homes are supposed to look like. They look like nobody lives in them! Wouldn't it be great to see a magazine full of pictures of homes the way they REALLY look when the photographers aren't around? I'd totally buy that.

But maybe the unclutterers aren't out to strip us of our souls, but just help us rid ourselves of stuff like microwave bacon fryers and baby wipe warmers and dishes that are sitting on the shelf never used, waiting for "special" occasion. Some of us need a little nudge! Of course the stores probably don't care as long as we're buying more stuff- and more stuff to put our stuff in.

PS. I need a Viking stove ;-)

LazyMom said...

Okay...it is true--I covet marble counter tops and good design...but how could I ever give up my deviled egg plate in the name of de-cluttering?!

Blue Iris said...

Coffee, cigarettes, wood smoke ...
It brings me back to my childhood when I escaped my family's Saturday-morning-cleaning ritual that wasn't complete until even the cat smelled like Spic & Span.

A whiff of coffee, cigarettes, and wood smoke makes me feel warm and fuzzy all over, like I'm back in Lazy Mom's Mom's kitchen.

The ideal is to live by your own designs and don't let clutter get in the way of enjoying life ... and NEVER use Spic & Span.

PPBS said...

A Cry For Help

LazyMom said...

OMG! Are you being held hostage in Pottery Barn?!

PPBS said...

No, I'm free of organization and at peace with my clutter. I meant the purchase and use of such a ridiculous tool is in reality, "A Cry For Help". I saved the image with intent of posting a blog entry about useless attempts at clearing clutter, but you beat me too it!

Anonymous said...

All you need is an English Mother to set you straight!
Saturday morning cleanings,we each had a room to clean in the house and if you didn't pick up your toys from the stairs they were thrown out!
Other than that we were free to express our artwork on our formica kitchen wall and create culinary delights to our hearts content, as long as the parents got a taste.