In defence of clutter

I read an article recently - in the August 2017 (issue 62) edition of The Simple Things magazine that really made me smile and nod along in agreement. The piece is entitled 'Mess is More' and talks about "growing evidence that tidying hampers creativity" - something I've believed for a long time.

mess article.jpg

I would say that I'm a pretty organised person, and like to keep my things tidy in the sense of having homes for everything and knowing where they are. But I am by no stretch of the imagination a minimalist. In fact, when I got hold of a copy of Marie Kondo's The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying after several recommendations, and started reading about her own and clients' experiences of throwing away the majority of their belongings, I nearly threw the book away in protest!

I do agree that the world in general does seem to have moved towards an attitude of materialism and buying stuff as a way of displaying wealth or success or whatever, but for me, the things I have around me are more about memories, sentiment, and especially creative inspiration.

The magazine article talks about the 'out of sight, out of mind' phenomenon and how "a clear-out can be cathartic and it is in the process of sorting through [stuff] that we have fresh thoughts, make connections and recalibrate." How many times have you started on a tidying spree only to find yourself sat on the floor hours later surrounded by long-forgotten memories unearthed from boxes, reminiscing about happy times and people and places?

I very much have this 'problem' - if I put things away out of sight I forget about them, and then get annoyed with myself when I find them again later and could have been doing something with them.

This is particularly true of anything craft related, but also things I've made, gifts I've been given, things I've brought back from holidays, photographs, and family memories.

Having these things around me and where I can see them regularly is a huge source of inspiration for me, and is why I have shelves displaying eclectic mixtures of items, as well as more organised spaces for my craft materials.

It can be a fine balancing act between keeping things visible to remind me that I want to try whatever it is, finding the time to actually do it, and not getting frustrated when I don't get round to it as soon as I'd like. I suppose you could argue that if I don't use something within six months then I'm not likely to ever do so, so I might as well not have that thing cluttering up my space, but I know that without these new and different things to think about, colours and textures to inspire me, and the potential to learn something new, I'd very quickly get bored and lose motivation to do anything much at all. When I think about this in relation to my HSP tendencies it might seem a little bit contradictory, but perhaps the trick is having found my optimum level of stimulation, and knowing when things have gone beyond that into untidy or messy territory and it's time for a clear out.

It's perhaps important to make a distinction between genuine 'mess' - a week's worth of dirty pans and plates in the kitchen, a laundry basket overflowing with clothes waiting to be washed, and inch-thick dust and cobwebs in every corner - and the kind of useful and inspiring 'clutter' I've been talking about. But then both sides of this coin are a matter of personal tolerance, and I certainly wouldn't want to make judgements without knowing and understanding a person's individual situation and attitudes. 

If you're like me and like a bit of creative clutter about the place - piles of fabric, baskets of yarn, files full of patterns, books, kits, vision boards, and assorted odds and ends - then I say embrace it! Use it to your advantage as a source of ideas - a colour from here, a motif there - and pull all the threads together into whatever you feel inspired to create next, in whatever way feels right to create it. And if anyone questions you on it, remind them that Einstein himself once famously said; "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, then what are we to think of an empty desk?" The man had a point.


If you're feeling a bit lacking in the inspiration department recently, or perhaps even overwhelmed by too many possibilities, why not join me for two weeks of Finding your Creative Focus. I'm hosting this completely free challenge in September and will share with you some suggestions for getting your creative mojo back and reigniting your creative passions. Just click on the big button below to find out more about the challenge and to sign up.