Redheaded Rant: Clutter vs. Minimalism

I feel a redhead rant coming on. Buckle up, Sunshine.

I recently read an article that talked about how we should celebrate clutter. The "art" of clutter if you will. This was in direct response against a currently popular book touting the "art" of tidiness.

Editor's note: Not linking to the article because I refuse to give it more exposure.

I get it. There's now yet another organizing "guru" out there making you feel bad about yourself.

Perhaps one too many friends bragged about finally tossing out jeans she's had since the Nixon Administration. Perhaps you even saw a video and thought, "You're folding your freaking panties??!?!! Who the F*CK takes the time to fold their panties?!?!?!!!!"

And I'll admit, as helpful and fabulous as my industry is, sometimes we can also be pretty damn smug. Spending too much time on Pinterest or any other myriad of organizing sites can have you feeling worse than burnt chicken and cheap champagne.

But the pendulum swing to the opposite side of the spectrum isn't any better. Some the ideas sprouting from this op-ed are just plain wrong.

In this op-ed, the author says that clutter, much like weight, is programmed and no matter what you're just stuck with the level you're at.


Tell that to the people who have lost 100+ pounds and kept it off for years. Tell that to my clients that have gotten rid of 100+ pounds of clutter, felt so much better for it and are keeping it out for years and counting.

You make the choice to put healthy foods in your mouth or not. You make the choice to move your ass or not. You make the choice to allow junk into your home or not. You make the choice to get rid of the things you don't need from your house or not.

You have a choice.

Sometimes you slip. Sometimes you make the choice to go face first into a pizza because it's your favorite and why the hell not! Healthy habits don't have to be austere and sterile.

Maybe you see the most luscious end table that doesn't quite fit but by god you love it and so you're going to make it work. After all, clutter-free homes don't have to be austere and sterile either.

In the article, the writer talks about how excess books honor the writer sitting at his/her desk. Or the pottery honors the potter, sitting down at the wheel. Firing up the kiln.

Hey guess what?! Letting all of that stuff break and collect dust and not be used is NOT honoring the artists handy work. So if that's the lie you have to tell yourself then stop lying to yourself.

Lies don't look fabulous on you.

As I read this article, some of it was fine enough. I loved that she told the story behind many of her things. That's perfect and wonderful and actually honors the piece.

What ultimately set me off and inspired me to write this post was when she said she is going to INSIST that her children keep her things after she dies.

You speak of honor so:

  • What about honoring our children by not forcing our things upon them when they're in grief of losing their mother?
  • What about honoring our children's homes by not filling them full of things that they don't need?
  • How about honoring our current life - right now, before we die - by believing we are more than our things? That we're better than some collective purchases? Because we are.

You are not your things.

You are not in your things.

Forcing your earthly possessions onto your children after you die as this author wants to do is flat-out cruel and unusual punishment and here's why:

  • Guilt - SO much guilt. One of my specialties is helping clean out after someone has passed away. Adult children often already feel major amounts of guilt in letting go of their parents' possessions. Sometimes to the extent that the parents' things clutter up and suck up all the space of the home - bringing the child's life to a stand-still. They already have to deal with grief, and the after-life plans (PLEASE have your final arrangements taken care of!) and then here's your decades of worldly possessions that they have to figure out what to do with. And then you're insistent on the child keeping it??? It's mean. Just plain mean.
  • Money - Storage costs add up. Depending upon the size of your home, you're looking at upwards of around $200 a month to house your things. $2400 a year on housing things that nobody will use. Are you leaving your children $2400 a year to house your things in perpetuity? If not and they can't pay then guess what happens? Your things are going to be sold to the highest bidder. Someone will come by with a bolt cutter and take off the lock. Then people will peer in and start tossing around numbers until someone wins. They'll decide your worth based on what pokes out the sides. Because you decided that your worth is in your things, your value is now being decided by strangers at an auction for unpaid storage units. How much does that suck?
  • Energy and Time - Not easily quantifiable but no less real. First, we have the energy and time spent packing up the house. Then the energy and time spent renting a storage unit and moving everything to it. Then the energy and time of making sure that the bill is paid every month. Plus, the guilt of holding on to all of these things that we're not using and are a money-suck is an added energy drain. Then to put a crappy cherry on top of our shit sundae, we now have a monthly reminder in the form of a $200 payment that Mom is dead. Fabulous.

Ultimately it is pure, senseless waste.

I feel bad that this author feels she is her things. I wish I could shake her, and hug her, and bake her brownies, and pour her a whiskey and make her know that her value is far greater than any object she could ever force onto her children.

Every time an organizing book that's on the extreme side hits it really big (Certain "art of" book, I'm looking at you!) then there's always a backlash from the people who like to be surrounded by way too much stuff.

And you know what?

All of it is ridiculous.

Completely and utterly ridiculous. Having way too much is ridiculous. And yes, wanting to throw everything away is ridiculous too.

Seem strange to hear that from a professional organizer? Not when you know what I know...

Here it is:

  • If your home is making you crazy then make some changes.
  • If you feel good and function well in your home then keep it as is. If that happens to be cluttered, fabulous. If it happens to be minimal, that's fabulous too. Majority of people fall somewhere in the middle.
  • Make sure to never, EVER allow someone or an article or a book make you feel so bad that you try to twist yourself and your home into something that doesn't feel right to you. That's how you end up with backlash and then going too far in the other direction.

And if your parent tells you that you have to keep all of their things just because they don't want to let go of them, that's their issue. Consider this your permission to get rid of everything you don't want or need guilt free. Because you get to create a home that is happy and supportive for you!

Have your parents forced a bunch of their things on you? Have organizing and minimalist books made you feel so bad that you've taken a pendulum swing are are vehemently defending your clutter? Vent to us in the comments!

Melinda Massie - A Side of Fabulous

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