One person's clutter is another's treasures. I have disliked clutter, since I was an adolescent. In part, I reacted to my parents' inability to dispose of anything, whether it be napkins from an event, matchbook covers, plastic cutlery, containers, gifts not to one's taste, newspapers, old clothes. I began to associate the "stuff" with the chaotic anxiety drifting in my childhood home. During my mid adolescence, my sister (who is younger) and I decided to clean our room and keep it free of unwanted junk. For me, the organizing represented a refresh, a new start.
Actually, I remember starting this practice on a New Year's Day in the late 1960's. Furthermore, I felt that throwing or giving away unused, unwanted things would dispose of the tension I sensed in my house. My mother withdrew into silence and my father exploded in anger. My sister and I had to walk a tightrope to avoid the opposing reactions of my parents. Of course, as an adult I discovered that unloading the burden of my parents' angst took more than keeping a clean room.
A person I know has an office where she conducts business. It consists of several rooms. Each room is filled with tschatkes from her military service, travels and clients--Buddhas, rocks, driftwood, patches, awards, frogs, faded textiles, dusty vases, discolored photos, and books. Bookshelves filled with obscure titles line the walls. In addition to the dust and mold--achoo--I feel hemmed in by the chaotic jumble of knick knacks. Is my friend trying to recapture a past that won't return? Is she afraid she might hurt someone's feelings
by disposing of a gift from years ago? Or does she feel comforted by all the trifles surrounding her? Everytime I go to the office, I want to take my arm and swipe the stuff into a trash can. Of course, I can't. We are each allowed the freedom to create our own spaces, thank goodness.
I possess souvenirs, collectibles, and objects de art. What I value someone else might dislike. When I travel, I Iong to return home with a something which represents my experience. I struggle with the impulse. It seems immature. Why would I need a physical representation of a trip? I have my memories. Adventures and encounters flit quickly in time. Poof--the concert finishes, the guests leave, and a planned event celebrating a milestone ends in a flash. How do we deal with this reality?
I think we collect. I want that selfie from the concert at the Kennedy Center. At least, I do not accumulate napkins or programs. I must confess that I cut out my name from the printed program if I participated.
I have my standards, criteria, and rules. Periodically, I sit and look at papers and photos I saved. I prioritize and discard. Every few months, I walk through my apartment and look in drawers and closets. What I do not need, want, or use, I toss in a give-away bag. I am known to be ruthless, especially about bad or duplicate photos of the same subject and clothing that I hate. We make errors when we purchase items. Why keep the pants or shirt if it hangs in a closet season after season?
Clutter for me associates with anxiety. When I feel stress, I want to literally wipe a surface clean, get rid of what is laying around. If I am ambivalent about a keepsake I have held onto, out it goes. I know that I must deal with the cause of my nervousness. Nonetheless, I like an orderly environment, not a muddle of memorabilia.
Another of my rules is one in/one out. I try not to be rigid about the rule, since I have regrets about some things I have dumped. But if I buy new pants, for example, I like to be rid of older styles or worn out clothes. I donate and recycle as much as possible.
Oh books--I am an avid reader. Only memorable--excellent, worthwhile, meaningful-- works get a cherished spot in one of two bookcases. That is a hard and fast rule. I use the public library. When I cannot find a book there, I download it on my Ipad. Sometimes, I treat myself to a real book, nothing like the feel, smell, design, and texture of an actual volume. But, my rule still holds.
We accumulate articles for different reasons. I do not recommend living in sterile surroundings, void of character and charm. Memory, however, is more secure. Memory cannot be burned, stolen, or broken; it is portable, private, and personal.