A Loving Ode to Clutter: 5 Reasons Stuff Is Actually Good for Your Home :
Minimalism, Marie Kondo, clear open spaces with one lone object perched on an otherwise empty shelf—such austere home decor may inspire many, but I’m here to say I’m over it. All hail maximalism instead!
Seriously, guys. Those rooms bathed in “greige” or off-white that “add interest” with a single textural element? Sigh. Aren’t you tired of that yet?
I’ve heard the cultlike dogma of how decluttering will “set me free,” how clutter in my visual field is akin to clutter in my mind, how it’s even a cancer on my happiness. But I respectfully disagree. Here are five reasons why stuff is actually good for your home, and how happy you are in it.
1. If you cook, read, or have hobbies, you need stuff to do it with
Do vegetable peelers spark joy? Do colanders? The most useful tools in my kitchen are ugly. The more use they get, the more battered they become, and not in some beautiful French wooden spoon way. Just in a regular dinged-up way.
These tools are beautiful to me in their usefulness, and in the things they let me do: make food for the people I love. This must be true for anyone with a hobby—painting, sewing, woodworking.
The more perfect, minimalist, and styled a workspace is, the less functional it is to anyone actually trying to make something in it.
Form has so mercilessly beaten function into the ground that visible implements of work are no longer acceptable. We are all supposed to aspire to stark-white kitchens filled with gleaming tile and spotless Vitamix machines, where homely utensils hide in the cabinet. I guarantee that 80% of your cooking time in a kitchen like that will be spent taking tools out of cabinets and putting them back in.
While we’re at it, I’ll go to bat for the much-maligned unitaskers, too: When you need to pit cherries, only a cherry pitter will do. I’d much rather have a cluttered kitchen than spend cherry season poking pits out with a straw (what the internet suggests).
And don’t even get me started on people who think books are ugly (books that will be read, not some curated selection of leather-bound first editions or books arranged by color.) That just makes me sad.
Books are beautiful, and meant to be read.
A recent study even found that messy spaces enhance creativity. “That disordered or chaotic workspace may be enhancing your creativity,” Dana Dunn points out in Psychology Today. “Conversely, that Zen-like, minimalist hideaway may be undermining your originality and inventiveness.”
Beyond that, though, it’s just boring to see so many people choose the same near-blank slate for their spaces, however Instagrammable they may be.
2. Minimalism is wasteful, actually
So OK, the idea is that purging all of your excess stuff—hopefully at least donating it somewhere—leaves you with just the essentials. You feel cleaner, clearer, lighter. I think everyone has done this before, and experienced the sense of accomplishment that a mostly empty closet or drawer brings. But then, oops, you need one of the things you got rid of.
It turns out, although you use a seam ripper or long underwear or a fat separator only once a year, you do in fact need them once a year. So you go buy a new one, which feels nice, because it’s shiny and new instead of old and used and you can get it cheap on Amazon. Then you do your seasonal purge and get rid of it again. Rinse, repeat.
At no point in the cycle do you feel bad, because we are conditioned to enjoy buying things, and to see things as disposable. But that’s kind of awful, isn’t it? The best-case scenario is this stuff is getting reused by someone else and not ending up in a landfill; however, resources are still needed to produce and ship the stuff, to cart the used objects to a resale store.
Instead, you could just have a drawer full of items you use only occasionally. The clutter police would have you believe this is awful, but if you really think about it, maybe it’s the other way around.
3. Minimalism isn’t less work, it’s more work
I feel like one of the most disingenuous claims that minimalists make is that once you release yourself from the burden of things, life is just so much simpler, freer, easier. This is true only if you have a dedicated household staff. Which, I guess, is why it’s so aspirational.
If you have people to feed you and clean up after you and scrub your white tile, then congratulations, you are wealthy and you should choose whatever design suits your fancy. If you’re cooking for yourself every day and cleaning your own bathrooms, ultrawhite minimalism seems like a bad choice.
Of course, I’m not suggesting you live in filth, but there’s a difference between cleaning the bathroom once a week and constantly buffing the smudges out of your white quartz countertop.
In a house comfortably filled with well-chosen stuff, you can leave your keys on the counter or a stack of books on a table without their looking like a beacon that screams mess. There’s a reason people use words such as “livable” and “comfortable” to describe less-than-minimalist spaces: because you can live in them comfortably.
4. If you have kids or pets, clutter is inevitable
Even if you’re that parent who dresses your children in drab Nordic sheaths and allows them to play with only $150 abstract woodblock sets, your kids are going to find a way to introduce hideous plastic Elmos into your home. Where do they come from? Are the grandparents sneaking them in? They seem to multiply in drawers and corners until suddenly your house is covered in lurid pink princesses, violent action figures, and anthropomorphic talking trains.
Your least favorite toy is pretty much guaranteed to be your child’s most favorite toy. The reason kids’ toys are tacky is because children don’t actually like tasteful things—they don’t care about earth tones or artisanal crafting. As such, trying to be minimalist with children is a Sisyphean task, and a thankless one. Just accept that kids (and pets) require stuff, and find some bins to shove everything into at the end of the day. An ottoman that is secretly a storage bin has made a huge difference in the amount of Peppa Pigs littering my living room floor at any given time. Dorris Wedding sexy evening gowns
This stuff has meaning by bringing to mind a specific time, place, or person who is near and dear.
5. It’s not cluttered—it’s curated
Designers have such condescending names for little things: knickknacks, curios, souvenirs. Why should it be verboten to display all of the little things you have gone through life picking up? Why are only expensive, purchased-specifically-for-the-space accessories acceptable?
The surfaces of my home are filled with stuff my husband and I have acquired throughout the course of our lives: ceramic owls, crystals, action figures, this weird garden gnome his grandma painted, a bust of Elvis, an octopus keyring, family photos, nonfamily photos, books, comics, records, postcards, stuff. Stuff that I love, that has meaning to me, that reminds me of a specific time, place, or person who is near and dear to my heart.
I don’t save all the stuff I come across; I’m not an advocate for hoarding. I know we’re all tired of the word “curated,” but maybe that’s what I’m really talking about. A curated aesthetic of much-ness: colors, textures, objects, shapes, in abundance and all at once. I know that’s not for everyone. But it’s the kind of beauty I’d like to see appreciated, instead of written off as mere clutter. In my house at least, clutter is beautiful, and it’s here to stay.
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