Confessions of a Clutter Addict

Confessions of a Clutter Addict

Nancy Mitchell
Mar 9, 2016
(Image credit: Nancy Mitchell)

My name is Nancy Mitchell, and I'm a clutter addict.

I'll admit that I am a huge hypocrite. Because the truth is that while I make my living writing articles about things like the 10 commandments of a clutter-free home and how to bust clutter by adding a basket to your entryway, I still don't feel quite comfortable in a home that doesn't have a little bit of well, stuff.

I think it all goes back to my childhood. You can correct me I'm wrong, but I'm convinced that no child is a minimalist. As a kid, I loved stuff. I collected stuff. I had collections of collections. I delighted in the cheap doodads that you get in Happy Meals and birthday party gift bags, because I found joy in sheer acquisitiveness. At Halloween, I disdained candy in favor of stickers and erasers and spider rings. I wanted stuff you could keep.

My mother, of course, was on the other side of this equation. She was constantly trying to get me to get rid of things, a stance I found baffling and at times cruel. To me, to surround oneself with wonderful things, the best toys and lots of them, was the definition of the good life. When you're a kid, I think, the world can sometimes seem really big and a little overwhelming, and there's a lot of things you can't control. Stuff, on the other hand, is constant. Stuff is reliable.

Of course I've slowly grown out of this — it helps that, since then, I've moved about 42 times — and now my perspective is a lot closer to my mother's. I live in a 250 square foot apartment, and I can be downright ruthless about getting rid of stuff. But still, the default state of my apartment is something less chaotic than 'tornado' but far short of totally pristine.

What I've come to realize, after countless baskets and boxes and clutter-busting solutions, is that maybe I like being surrounded by a little bit of clutter. Every time I move, I feel so much satisfaction in putting things out on tabletops and shelves. I love that feeling of nesting, of investing a space with my personality. When I get to a hotel room, I feel the urge to open up my suitcase and spread my stuff around, to make the space personal somehow. To me, the perfection of open floors and empty tables is bland and weird and off-putting. I have this in common with kid Nancy: I don't hoard stickers, but I still have a need to be surrounded by the detritus of a life well lived.

So I'm trying not to be hard on myself when my apartment isn't quite perfect. The truth is that when I come home and there are a few things out on the counter, or a couple of boxes on the floor — these are some of the things that help me feel at home. They're like little bits of fluff in my nest, taking my apartment to that place of cozy clutter and perfect imperfection. Everyone's mileage may vary, but I think I'm ok with my place being just a little bit on the messy side.

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