As much as I talk about less, about purchasing less and striving for less and working toward less, I have quite a bit of more. My job, this brown swirly mix of writing and styling and designing and producing, creates a tornado of stuff. Daily, there are cardboard boxes arriving at the door, ready to be unpacked and photographed and kept, or passed along to someone else, whilst the tower of empty boxes and spilled styrofoam peanuts sit in the corner of the dining room in need of some cutting and de-packing and recycling by Tuesday morning. And so, as I write about less, about a sparse closet or toxin-free beauty cabinets, my dining room is camouflaged in cardboard from Wednesday to Monday, nearly always.

I don’t think this makes me a hypocrite; I think this makes me a human. I think this makes me someone that doesn’t see the other side of it, because she’s not in it. Because she has more, she can only think of less. And when she has less, she might hunger for a tiny bit more.

I write quite a lot about reducing, purging, de-cluttering, and not quite enough about the stewardship of it all. About what happens after you’ve taken a car-full of old CDs and receiving blankets and coffee mugs to the local Goodwill. It cannot end there, after all. The purge is simply the beginning.

I once believed that de-cluttering would make me happier, lighter, Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird style. I’d envisioned our family in a Spartan, sunlit space void of excess, not a power cord or plastic ninja in sight. We’d be surrounded by heirloom furniture (in perfect condition, naturally) with felt slippers that didn’t smell and showers that never molded. There would be no crumbs from the toaster, no stray rubber bands from the newspaper, no dust on the floorboards. Fresh! Clean! Minimal! Now we can travel the world!

And yet, it is my belief that this vision I used to hold close is far more destructive than the clutter itself. Because of course, I’d become a minimalist obsessed with minimalizing. More purging, please! More de-cluttering! More empty space! More of less, more of less!

And although I do believe that too much clutter can indeed steal our joy, I have come to know that our perspective steals far more than the clutter itself.

Can I peek at the cardboard tower and see gratitude for gainful employment? Can I survey the plastic ninjas and see creativity at work? Can I look beyond the mountains of paperwork and see productivity and purpose and a kind husband tackling taxes?

Indeed, things arrive into our home out of our own accord – paperwork and gifts and objects that carry meaning to us, or to those under our roof. And although we know all of the tricks (“One in, one out!” or “Snap a photo; rid the item!”), perhaps our rules and regulations are simply continuing our obsession with stuff. Perhaps we’re gritting our teeth as we purge, as we clean, as we reduce. Perhaps clutter isn’t stealing our joy – perhaps we are.

After all, a quest for less is still a quest.

And so, my new goal is this: to become void not of things, but of my attachment to things (and my corresponding resentment of things, and my sometimes corresponding resentment to the bringers and keepers of things). To acquire mindfully, to gather out of necessity, and to respect the things I have been given. To remember the weight of the Goodwill purges – the bulging of the plastic bags, the stuffing of the cardboard boxes. Remember the chaos, yes, but in the mean time – accept it for what it is.

To appreciate it, and to release what I need to – whether releasing the clutter or releasing the de-clutter.

Lynyrd Skynyrd Freebird style.

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  • THIS IS THE BEST THING YOU HAVE WRITTEN! I love this so much, especially coming from a successful blogger. Your honest voice is something I’ve always admired and appreciated, but recently the candor in the way you convey your current quest for balance is next level poignant. More. Please, more. xo

  • There are 2 different types of people. One who insists that everything must be in its proper place at all times and the other who dwells and thrives in a little bit of clutter. Although I would like to be a minimalist, I have accepted that I am the latter. This year, I’m trying to organize and edit my things. So it’s great to here your personal experience on this topic. Thank you

    • Ah, I hear you! My husband is the second, like you, and I’m the first. It’s a tricky balance, but one we’re learning to embrace. :) Especially when I suddenly need the user manual to our 1999 crock pot and he’s like, “I’ve kept it! Now on to finding it…” ;)

  • Ah, but my clutter steals my husband’s joy, which affects mine. But I’m getting my studio space back shortly which means I’ll have a lovely, awesome, wonderful place with a DOOR to store all my clutter, making me happy AND him happy. = )

    • Ha, yes – this is our opposite. Ken’s a packrat and I’m a minimalist, so we’re continually in a state of compromise. ;) So, part of me learning to accept the clutter is learning to accept his ways. ;) Accept, accept, accept! :) And congrats on the studio – yay!

  • yes, yes, yes … for myself i have done the disconnection part with the vast majority … but still have too much … this typically does not bother me a huge amount … however, we have had death and illness touch our lives to a significant degree the last year or so and it has made it painfully obvious that extra ‘stuff’ adds confusion and for me stress … i long for the simplicity of it all … life will play out and we just do not know what is around the corner … very much enjoyed reading your thoughts :)

    • I’m so sorry to hear of your death in the family. I’m sure any extra clutter has certainly made things more difficult to tip an already off-kilter balance and will pray for peace your way. :)

  • You are always spot on when laying out your thoughts and this post is te perfect summing of what I’m currently going through mentally but I don’t have the talent to summarize!
    Thnak you!

  • Thank you, thank you, thank you for these wise and wonderful thoughts. How lovely to see a photograph of someone’s space that looks like so many of our spaces before they’re cleaned up and styled for ourselves, for company, for posterity. And what a lovely reminder to enjoy the process as well as the conclusions–and to accept that the conclusions aren’t always perfect.

  • Just found your blog recently. Oh man I agree with this. My house is always a bit cluttered and I think in the states we have this weird obsession with perfection when it comes to the interiors and exteriors of home. And honestly, I don’t get that! For me, my goal is always, will people feel comfortable in my home? For us, entertaining is really important and having people in our home to eat and talk and laugh with is a necessity. However, I work full time, my husband works full time, we have a kid. And a dog. And, it is just not worth it to agonize over a little clutter. Do we try to tidy up regularly? Do we clean regularly? Yes and yes. But I don’t think twice about having people over when our house is messy or needs a clean. I mean, we would be missing out on PEOPLE and relationships? For what? And we get complimented all the time on how welcoming our home is and how people love to come over. For me. The key is comfy furniture, a nice bottle of wine, plenty of snacks and willingness. Willingness to always be available to people. Regardless of the state of the home.

  • Life is a process and eventually it will take us to the minimalist part of our journey anyway where it is just us without our stuff. Our stuff can be our avenue of connection if we stop and consider the nameless individuals behind the production of it. Someone somewhere assembled the morass of cardboard boxes that we later fret about breaking down.

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