In Defense of Having a (Slightly) Cluttered Home
A messy environment is actually good for your psyche.
Breaking news: Humans like stuff. Stuff they have. Stuff they like. Stuff they need.
But stuff just gets everywhere. Hence the trendiness of uber-organized spaces, hyper-cleanliness, and Marie Kondo-like thank-your-stuff-for-its-service-then-toss-it attitudes. But living in that state of constant tidying is exhausting.
It is not a moral failing to have a slightly cluttered home.
And you know what? Life can be better with slightly more stuff. Here are seven reasons why:
#1 A Messy Environment Is a More Creative One
Being too tidy will stifle your imagination. Science says so.
There’s a lot of research showing messy surroundings encourage you to break the rules of convention and think more freely, while a highly ordered house stifles you.
We’re not talking rooms full of empty cat food cans and closets crammed with so much crap you can’t open the door. We’re talking about a comfortable amount of disorder.
If you’re not convinced disarray fuels creativity, Google “Einstein’s office.” He dreamed up the theory of relativity in a room that would give Marie Kondo a heart attack.
If you share your home, chat with your partner and agree on the line between creativity-inducing clutter and chaos. Are the piles of “Architectural Digest” genius fuel, or a sign you’re a hoarder? Discuss.
#2 A Perfectly Tidy Home Isn't a Sign of a Happy Home
Your obituary won’t mention how tidy your house was (unless you’re Martha), so why dedicate your life to cleaning it?
“Your home will never be 100% clean and organized and lived in at the same time,” says Becky Rapinchuk, author of “Simply Clean.”
You want to focus on living in your home, keeping it functional and enjoyable — not perfect.
She recommends doing one task each day: Clean bathrooms Monday, dust on Tuesdays — you get it.
This allows you time to do the things that remind you why you bought your house, from porch swinging to reading-nook sitting. “Don’t spend more than 30 minutes a day on each task,” Rapinchuk says.
“If you don’t get it done, save it until next week. It’s just dirt.”
#3 A Little Dirt Is Good for You
People with super-clean houses have bleached and scrubbed all the microbes out of their house. But some of those microbes sent to that petri dish in the sky are actually good for you.
They strengthen your immune system and make your kids less likely to develop allergies.
Studies show that kids exposed to fumes from cleaning products are more likely to develop asthma, and may cause adults to be 30% to 50% more likely to get asthma, too.
The solution? Use natural cleaning products free of industrial chemicals.
And don’t clean so much. And maybe add a bit more clutter (and dirt) with plants.
#4 Plant-Cluttered Houses Are Healthier Houses
Sure, houseplants drop leaves, look unruly at times, and their pots scatter dirt, but you’ll breathe easier around them, and possibly live longer, too.
Many houseplants remove toxins from the air (devil’s ivy and peace lily are two examples).
And studies have shown that having a bit of nature indoors reduces the type of stress that causes deadly cardiovascular problems.
Plus, filling your home with houseplants is so trendy right now, a la #urbanjungle.
#5 If You Do Declutter, You Will Toss Something You Need Later
Disciples of extreme cleaning and organizing exclaim how happy they are to be free of their stuff. At first.
“All kinds of wonderful, valuable, and useful things get thrown out in the name of organizing,” writes Columbia Business School professor Eric Abrahamson in his book (with David H. Freedman) “A Perfect Mess.”
Instead of throwing out anything you haven’t used in a year, Abrahamson recommends evaluating an item’s value and ability to be replaced. Throw out that stack of Domino back issues. Think twice about tossing your first edition “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.”
#6 A Cluttered Home Can Be Stylish, Too
The backlash to minimalism has begun. Thank goodness.
Evidence? Jungalow style, a look that features rooms stuffed with artful clutter: houseplants everywhere, boho pillows, tribal rugs, mismatched furniture, tchotchkes on every flat surface, and walls full of macramé hangings and art. Your clutter is no longer clutter. It’s fashion.
#7 The Stuff You Love Isn't Clutter
It’s your stuff. Don’t let the cleaning and decluttering tyrants tell you what’s clutter and what’s not. Make your house please you.
Fill it with items that mean something to you and express your personality. Display your 25-year-old T-ball trophy, make a gallery wall of your child’s art, and stack your vintage vinyl collection on the mid-century mod end table you snagged at a garage sale.
Throw away the copy of “The Art of Tidying Up” that you bought in a moment of guilt. Now that’s clutter.