If your life includes reading, writing, and books, then it’s likely filled with piles of books and papers and other things you’ve cut out or printed for ideas and then there are all the little notes for inspiration and the notes of daily reminders and the cool rocks you picked up on the beach and…
Clutter can grow anywhere. It’s something you have to constantly work on, like the mail, because it keeps on coming.
That’s one of the reasons I love a hotel room. It’s usually devoid of clutter. I always take all the little tent notices about the cable channels and saving a change of linens and stick them in a drawer as soon as I arrive.
Speaking of little things I cut out, I have one that says, “Clutter is that stuff you don’t notice, use, or care about until it’s time to get rid of it…What if you need it someday? Why did you buy it?…Enough is enough. Clutter clouds your mind, trips you up, slows you down, and devours the stuff surrounding it.”
Would I rather be rid of all this stuff? Yes. Can I get rid of it? No. Now that it’s here, these things are important to me. I am buying less these days–not fewer books, well maybe even fewer books, but definitely fewer things.
I found a great post about clutter at Essential Prose—Unclogging Your Creative Space. There’s an interview with a “professional simplifier” who suggests taking small steps to de-clutter, and that as we do, “We become more aware of how stuff comes into our lives, and how much time and energy it takes to manage it all.”
It’s not that I’m messy. I know where everything is, and everything has a place. But the space for me in my study is getting smaller and smaller.
I certainly relate to this post. I know my psychological reason for being a clutterer, and I know how to de-clutter, in fact, that was supposed to be my summer project. Unfortunately, summer is almost over and I haven’t started purging yet. But I do believe it’s affecting my writing now, so I have to do something. Thanks for this post, it’s motivated me to reclaim “space for me.”
And thanks for the interesting observation in your comment on my perfect day post.
Thanks for this post, and the link – that was a good interview. The dilemma of people ‘wanting less clutter, but not being willing to buy less’ was particularly interesting to read about.
I’m definitely in the ‘prefer less clutter’ category; I can take a little of it, if it is related to my project. Too much, and, well, I become kind of obsessed with a new project: decluttering. 🙂 Even reading this makes me want to start cleaning things, but NO – I shall save that for my non-writing time!! 🙂
This post hit home for me too. The surface of my desk is covered with post-it notes with “to do” lists for daily tasks, as well as story ideas, story notes, etc. that I jot down until I can get them organized into a file folder. I’m pretty good about filing things when the sticky notes begin to cover too much desk surface, but clutter in my writing space definitely affects my writing. If there’s too much clutter on my desk it makes me not want to sit there and work. Aside from writing space clutter, I’ve also been trying to simplify in other areas of the house. Thanks for posting the link to the article at “Essential Prose.”
I love living in a small house mostly because there is just no room for new things. Every so often I’m out and I see something that would look so great….and I just walk on by because there’s no where for it to go. I have packrat in my genes so this a pretty big step…
I can completely relate — I don’t have tons of possessions, but I have the most difficult time paring down my collection of books and notebooks. I just found a notebook I kept when I was 8 years old, and finding it made me even more partial to keeping all notebooks… it’s a tough one for me. I’m also still attached to physical books, not ready to jump on the Kindle train :).
Thanks for pointing to my blog post!
Oh dear, I completely flip-flop about the problem(?) of clutter…I love your pictures and find them rather reassuring and inviting and would want to sit at any desk that looked like that. But in my own space I de-clutter, de-clutter, de-clutter all the time…maybe it’s a form of procrastination, who knows?
It’s always a challenge for me to strike a balance between a house that’s clean and un-cluttered enough to avoid overwhelming me, and at the same time giving myself permission to make a mess. My mom always told me that it’s impossible to create without making a mess, and I definitely find that to be true! Even when I’m just working on a proposal, the table where I work tends to be littered with calculators, swatches, books, charts, computers, diagrams, skeins of yarn…I suppose in an ideal world I would either have a separate room for all this or clean it up at the end of every day, but…yeah. It’s hard to strike the best balance for promoting creativity!
Since we moved I have not even hung anything on the walls and it is closing in on two years. All that empty space feels too good!
My desk on the other hand hardly has space for me and my little laptop 🙂
Thanks for the fun photos!
By the way, Cynthia, your clutter looks terribly organized to me!
Linda and Dory, it’s interesting that you find clutter in your writing spaces affects your writing. I’m wondering if it affects mine. Tomorrow I might try taking everything off my desk and just putting it on the floor where I can’t see it to see if that changes anything.
Emily, you bring up the other side of this issue, the fact that sometimes clutter can promote creativity. Really, seeing papers everywhere and books open on top of the printer and on the floor does help to bring out my creative or “wild” side, which I’m just now realizing as I type this. The “mess” somehow overpowers my logical self. Cool.
Owlandsparrow and waggledance, the two “picture names,” both of you seem to be able to really get into the fun of de-cluttering!
Lindsay, I think one of the reasons I’m drawn to the small houses in the blog header is for exactly the reason you mention you enjoy living in your small house–there’s simply not room for a lot of possessions.
Zoe, you bring up a side of this issue I thought about but didn’t get into–saving things for their sentimental value. Notebooks, letters, pictures…how do we keep that aspect of “things” in check? Thanks for your great post on the subject.
Jennifer, It is interesting how good empty space feels. It’s difficult to understand it, but it’s true. Why do we rush to hang pictures? Is it more of a need to find a place for things? And my clutter is very organized. It’s not messy. There’s just so much of it.
Thanks for all the great comments. Here’s a little snippet from Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping that I thought of after I had written this post:
“There’s just so much of it.”
If this is how you feel about your writing place, well, may be it’s because you need more space to work… and put some new…
“Notebooks, letters, pictures.”
I just love the way you express your feelings about this private and secret place of your. It’s look and sound like a garden where words keep growing day after day and travel from page to page.
I love your clutters.
Thanks for this great post, Cynthia. It actually made me start to clean up my clutter (or, rather, organize my clutter). I am sitting here surrounded by piles of drafts. I found a slew of them from 2007 I had forgotten, along with the clippings, notes, and photos that inspired me to write them. Also found my complete New Yorker DVD set buried under a pile of Zoetrope All-Storys. If I can make my clutter look as neat as yours, I will feel accomplished.
I live inside a cluttered brain. My thoughts wander faster than Amelda Marcos changes her shoes. I write lists and do everything not on it. I’m so scattered, I feel like bird seed in the wind–who knows where I’ll seed myself for the day. For this, I must, must, must have a clear space. I must strike a balance somewhere and it seems de-cluttering is the only thing I can control.
I never was a shopper. Materialism was never an issue with me. But paper piles. Where do they come from? My desk is also in the guest room so I frequently clean the room to prepare arrivals. However, if I leave two pieces of paper out, they breed to millions the next day. I can’t keep up.
Mireille-Thanks for reading the post and the comments and for leaving a comment. I love your analogy of my writing space to a garden where words grow and travel from page to page. Just beautiful. I hope you’ll be back!
Teresa-I have to keep my clutter organized or it makes me crazy. So when the piles start to overlap or I have to start using the floor for piles, I de-clutter, which I actually enjoy. I have to feel like the master of the piles! And it is such fun to find things I’ve forgotten about. Thanks for adding to the conversation.
Tricia-The main character in The Painting Story also loved to make piles and she read an article that said the piles we make represent the contents of our brain! So pile, pile, pile to unclutter your brain.
Ohhhh, that’s where all the papers come from.
You really don’t need all that stuff. All that clutter is making you stressed enough to blog about it. I’m a professional de-clutterer, and stuff is psychologically dangerous in high quantities. Check out “clutter busting” by brookes palmer. great book, changed my life.
Eliza, thanks for leaving a comment and for the book suggestion. I’ll check it out.