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Good Clutter vs. Bad Clutter

Huh? What? Wait a minute, is there really such as thing as good clutter and bad clutter?

Turns out, yes there is. Let's explore......

  • Don't put it down, put it away.

For-EVAH we have been taught, preached to, and been made to believe that clutter of any kind is a pathway toward unhappiness, messiness, depression, uncleanliness, and that if we want a quick fix toward peace of mind and happiness in our homes all we need to do is rid our spaces from clutter. Just so you understand where this is going, all of the above is true and will always remain true.

Peace of mind and serenity in your home is made possible by a good and constant declutter. Less to take care of, more time to enjoy your home and life.

In life, there are 2 sides to every story. The other side of getting rid of clutter is to not get rid of clutter, that has unbelievable meaning to you.

See, the thing is, good clutter items are heirlooms that have solid, hand-me-down history in your family or your heart. Something you agreed to hold sacred throughout your life and will hand over/down to your children or extended family one day. Something that provides a sense of connectedness, ancestry, and connection to people you never met or met only a few times but who impacted your life long before you were even a twinkle in your mother’s eye.

Good clutter adds richness and a sense of who you are and an aspect of coziness to your home that a new sofa just can’t do. Good clutter says something about you, the homeowner, and your family. My mother had expressed her liking odd and old looking beverage pitchers. She had maybe 2 or 3 at the time she told me about her fondness for them. Since that reveal, I have gone on to purchase so many more for her, different colors, shapes, styles, patterns, etc. She does nothing with them and I did not pick up on her love of pitchers, but her collection is large, and I will have to grapple with whether to hold on to it for her or not.

If you are passionate about what you collect, it is good clutter.

Good Clutter:

Good clutter is stuff that means so much to you and is organized and displayed lovingly and with great care. It tells a story of who you were, who you are and where your design intentions and life are going.  There is a sense of awe when you witness the treasured space of someone who decorates and appreciates their cared for items.

Good clutter sets a positive, inviting mood. The mood includes color themes, furniture and plant placement, best use of space and design elements. Nothing gets in the way of how the room/space functions. In fact, once invited into the bespoke space, you become a part of the design and intention.

Do you love to read? The library in your home would indicate that your love of books is vast and permanent based on how many books, topics, genres you house. Not all books are meant to be discarded. A special library might include signed copies of cherished stories.

Do you love art? Maybe you or someone in your family is or was an accomplished artist? Creating space for all the art types that live in your home makes for a lovely museum like quality and sense of appreciation.

Do you love to collect something specific? Baskets from around the world, elephants with their trunks up, unicorns, tapestries, or perhaps dragons with gemstones? These are all signs of good clutter.

Maybe one day you will outgrow your intense love of these things or some of the pieces of your collection and let them go, or maybe you never will. Your heart is grounded and your soul sings to have these items live and breathe in your spaces. In short, good clutter needs to be about the person and their love of what would be considered clutter to someone else. It should reflect the person collecting the items. Good clutter is constantly being re-evaluated, culled, re-arranged and added to.

"Letting go makes space for so much more than stuff." – The Unclutter Angel

Bad clutter is quite the opposite.

Bad clutter is made up of stuff that isn’t pleasant to look at anymore.

Bad clutter is piles of your favorite magazines that you have already read and have a habit of tossing into a basket that resides by your reading chair. Bad clutter is sofa pillows that suit your current color scheme or décor but won’t last. Bad clutter is junk mail that you just can’t resist so you save it to read through just in case there is a sale going on and you suddenly realize you need that item. Bad clutter is that same pile of junk mail that never gets looked at because you just don’t have time to do so.

Bad clutter is used tissues sitting on your night table because you haven’t had a chance to declutter your bedroom yet.

Bad clutter is delivery boxes that you want to save just in case you need to send a gift in that kind of box.

Bad clutter is hating that your kitchen table is the drop zone for everyone in the family and you believe you can’t keep it clutter free no matter how you try.

Bad clutter is holding on to clothing you never consider wearing but it makes you feel good to see so many pieces hanging in your closet.

Bad clutter is all the bills sitting on your desk and constantly finding yourself paying them late because you feel so overwhelmed just looking at the pile.

Bad clutter is never getting around to filing your paid bills and medical paperwork or any paperwork.

There was a time when I myself collected unicorns. It was actually an idea borrowed from someone I met one time that let me be a part of her dream world of unicorns when I was invited to see her collection. I was in high school, so I was very impressionable. I remember thinking I should want to collect something too. Since I knew she and I would never see each other after that one visit, I adopted her idea into my space. I loved the mysticism of it, the colors, the fantasy. I collected and was gifted books, tchotchkes, blank note cards, you name it. (People love to support their family and friends in a collection because it makes gift giving that much easier.) I do not collect unicorns anymore and quite honestly that “collection” phase didn’t even last through high school.

I realized that the collection I was creating had nothing to do with me. I adopted it because that girl I met one time displayed her collection so emotionally and lovingly. I never took the time to figure out what was just like me. To this day I do not have a collection of anything, and I do my utmost best to hold on to only a few things that have deep meaning for me. I've been decluttering for so long it has become a dangerous habit. I find I let go of things that maybe I should hold on to for a while longer.

Things like a book I enjoyed or that helped me through something. Things I enjoy using when I bake or decorate for an occasion. As I get older, I find that I let go of so much and never replace it. I think, in the back of my mind, I can’t take it with me so give it new life.

Bad clutter is mostly random items that have built up over time because you could not give it attention or care, it is not treasured and not considered important enough.


"Reducing stress and clutter, saving time and money and improving the overall quality of life." - Christina Scalise

Hacks that are helpful for bad clutter:

Think about style and design and colors for this exercise. The more of "you" you put into organizing, the more of your heart will enjoy the process and results.

**If you want to purchase something but are not sure if it will work for you, give it a 15-day test. Try it out in your originally intended space, move it to see if it will work in any other space, save the receipt, and return the item if it just isn’t working the way you imagined. No hard feelings, no wasted time or money. If you can try it before you buy it all the better.

**Create a command center in a central location to help corral mail, schoolwork, invitations, bills, memos, daily calendar, weekly menu items, shopping lists, etc.

**Label file folders to sort mail right away. Avoid piles from forming by creating a sorting habit as soon as you come into the house. Create a file for receipts, junk mail, bills, school notices, coupons, business cards, etc.

**Keep with you a “mobile” calendar, paper or digital, to make sure your home calendar of events is always with you, just in case of last-minute changes. Stay up to date wherever you are.

**Remember that any paper mail you get can almost always be found on-line. Discard the paper which prevents piles from forming and make a note to check out what you need to know, on-line. The other benefit of this digital method is that you can quickly unsubscribe while you are looking at their website which will help in reducing paper mail and digital mail.

**Keep a donation box wherever you hang clothes, such as the primary adult bedroom, coat closet, kids' closets, linen closet, laundry room, etc. This makes it super easy to donate when ready.

**Find a purpose for open drop zones or they will easily get filled up with whatever is in anyone's hands. Example: Your dining room table. If it is located near an entry door it will become a drop zone for all things. Keeping that dining room table clean and clear will always be a problem. Set the table. Give that drop zone spot a purpose and stick to it. Remember, don't put it down, put it away.

**Make sure to schedule, at least once per month, a time to declutter or stop spending in order to keep the inflow of stuff from just that, flowing into your home. Everyone works on their own areas and get stuff no longer wanted or used flowing out of the house. Most towns make available a dump day at their town dump yard. Match your declutter to that dump day.

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