The insidious nature of clutter

In my head I’m pretty good at managing clutter. When my grandfather died I had to clear out a lifetime of his belongings, including heavy suitcases of grade school exercise books dating back to 1926. So yeah, compared to my grandfather I am good at managing clutter.

But now I have had to clear the house in order to sell it I have to face I do not have my shit together.

I received a Lamy LX pen for Xmas. It came in a lovely presentation case. I still have the case in the top drawer of my desk. I do not store my pen in the case. The pen lives on my desk and I use it every day. The case is the very definition of redundant.


Everyone has one of these drawers, right? Right?

Why do I still have it? For some sense of completeness? A fear I will one day want it and find it absent? Why do I have six large rolls of double-sided tape? Why do I own four laptop bags, none of which I use? Why have I saved old planners? Who do I think I will be accused of murdering five years ago, and so will be required to accurately describe my activities and whereabouts on June 14, 2012? I’m hoarding post-it notes like I’m afraid 3M will not only go out of business, but take the technology with them.


I have packed three cartons of blank journals ready to go to the storage unit that’s costing me $179 a month. There is no shortage of blank journals in the world.

Important note: I haven’t sewn anything in three years.

Some of it is perfectionism. I’ve told myself I need 15 shades of red sewing thread because if I sewed a garment with the incorrect shade of red then I’d be a pitiable loser who should die in a fire.

But more of it is I’m clinging to a scarcity mindset, rooted in a deep-seated childhood fear of not having something I would be required to produce. And fear of ignorance: of not knowing what I should have. I felt such anxiety at the thought of having to ask to borrow a pen, protractor, or pair of compasses I always made sure I had multiples of everything I would need. I would never risk the chance of having to talk to someone and be rejected. I didn’t have friends at school, and I’ve put that down to my social awkwardness. But it’s likely it also stemmed from my belief that to need help, support, or, in fact, other people at all, was a symptom of being ill-prepared and weak. I wonder if I might have been so desperate to prove my utter independence I never left room for anyone to offer mutual, supportive interdependence.

I live in a prosperous, happy country. I have enough. I do not need to cling to objects through fear.


4 thoughts on “The insidious nature of clutter

    1. i did read that a few years ago, but I think I wasn’t ready to listen to all of her advice. I just requested the sequel, ‘Spark Joy,’ from my library. I’m ready now.

  1. I almost included this in yesterday’s linkity – guess I should’ve:

    I think Konmari is too extreme for most of us, realistically, and that in being so extreme, it can trigger hoarding. There needs to be a balance. If you get rid of everything and end up buying new thread every time you need to mend something, for example, that’s as nonsensical as having all the thread.

    I like Unf*ck Your Habitat a lot more than Konmari, for its sheer practicality.

    Random – from “Up Up Up Up Up Up” by Ani DiFranco:

    “And just when you think that you’ve got enough
    Enough grows
    And everywhere that you go in life
    Enough knows”

    1. that DiFranco quote is perfect, absolutely perfect. I’m going to condense a selection of thread colors into one box to kee and get rid of the rest. It seems like a reasonable compromise.

      I’m having some complex feels about that tumblr post. Yes, absolutely there is a link between categorizing as ‘hoarding’ and socioeconomics. I guess it’s about my stuff getting in the way of me living a life *now*. I think I need to concentrate on immediately reducing my consumption, and using up and appreciating all of the things I have. And supporting makers of all kinds with the money I save.

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