The Art of Clutter

Not to brag, but I’ve got a talent for clutter.



I had a revelation recently when I was visiting my son Alec in Burlington. He and his college pals are renting a 3-story condo near the UVM campus. A few weeks after Alec moved in, Evan and I spent two nights there, while Evan attended mmorientation.

I had a lot of free time that weekend. I walked down and had coffee at Starbucks. I cleaned up the kitchen, which wasn’t messy in the first place. I went and bought food and a few things for Alec’s room.

Mostly I sat and looked around at what little there was in this new place. It has so many closets and storage spaces. This is their first place, so they don’t have tons of extra furniture, books, old magazines. And this generation probably had less printed materials anyway due to technology.

Oddly, I found myself missing clutter.

You’d think with all the Martha Stewart, Real Simple, Family Circle, Minimalist, Clutter-Buster articles and Marie Kondo Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up mentality that I would be glad to see a tidy home where every room is clean and uncluttered.

But, no.

I missed my stuff. My papers, books, knitting, fabric, the multitude of items, which, I guess, ground me. Maybe all the clutter gives me a feeling of purpose, those dishes, that laundry, these forms, all those receipts, orders, articles, recipes, scribbled notes with ideas to unfold and bloom, like the flowers in the garden I never weed.



There can be an elegance to clutter. The angles, the haphazard way items are thrown together in no particular order. Perhaps they are exactly how they are supposed to be at this moment and nothing needs to be done to change them. Isn’t that a comforting thought?



A lot of our clutter has to do with the fact this little house has almost no storage areas. And also that my kids make a lot of art. When Dylan brings home all his pottery at the end of the year, of course I am going to try to make a centerpiece with most of it.

Pots made by Dylan


I like to think of myself as a gardener; as someone who is going to make a masterpiece out of this beautiful property where we live. But most of the time I don’t even get around to putting out the mulch and adding potting soil to the indoor plants, let alone planting a big old vegetable garden. So I leave myself reminders, tools in the way, so that I know what my hopes and dreams are, a reminder that, someday, I will do this.


Alec's Turtle Sculpture Emerging from the Weeds
Alec’s Turtle Sculpture Emerging from the Weeds

I guess it’s nice for me to realize after my trip to Burlington that maybe I don’t mind the clutter. That, in its absence, I miss it. That this is the life I choose to create. It may not be perfect, but it’s mine. I don’t need to fix it, except for maybe that one area in the kitchen…



  1. You have a bohemian heart.. Just like me. I have ” stuff ” everywhere.. Crystals on my mantle.. Hanging plants.. Little ” do-dads” in places just because you like it there. It’s ok.. It’s a sign of an open and creative mind.

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