The Art of Clutter

How we live.

I  try to read both the  Sunday New York Times  and the Financial Times for the amazing House and Home section when time allows. I noticed that both have recently published articles about the joy of clutter and accumulation of items.

As an agent I spend a great deal of time helping Sellers get their homes ready for sale. I quite often go home thinking : I have got to get rid of my stuff! I get home, clean and tidy and then throw out some papers and then realize as I dust each one of my collectibles the memory of why I got them or how I got them comes back to me. Most signify something special to me –  of special times, of special people and of the times when I had no money and slowly saved to allow me to get something I really wanted . Each item has a  story that goes with it. Interesting of course possibly to me only but it is part of who I am and who I was.

So usually just throwing out the papers is as far as I get. When I read these articles ( posted separately ) I thought them worth sharing. They are both funny and interesting. We hear so much about purging and staging but not much about the art of accumulating your lifès events and  passages  through what you collect.

This is the New York Times article:

Let‘s Celebrate the Art of Clutter

Written by Dominique Browning is the senior director of Moms Clean Air Force.

We are in a collective, and most unfortunate, paroxysm of guilt and anxiety about stuff.

This is a cyclical event, and here we are, back in the eternal return of the same. We are being barraged with orders to pare down, throw away, de-clutter.

Magazine covers advertise formulas for how to get rid of things (most of which involve buying new things for this purpose).

Entire books (books we will soon enough be told to toss) cover the subject. And, even then there is an “art,” a Japanese art, no less, to doing so (and we all know that any Japanese art is the most artful art of all).

Entire companies are being built on the backs of a neurosis that makes us believe that the process of shedding is complicated to the point of paralyzing .

It is all pointless and misguided, and it is time to liberate ourselves from the propaganda of divestment.

I would like to submit an entirely different agenda, one that is built on love, cherishing and timelessness. One that acknowledges that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display.

And over the course of a lifetime, we forage, root and rummage around in our stuff, because that is part of what it means to be human. We treasure.

Why on earth would we get rid of our wonderful things?

It is time to celebrate the gentle art of clutter. We live, and we pick up things along the way: the detritus of adventure; the vessels of mealtimes; the books and music of a life of the mind; the pleasures of our daily romps through the senses.

In accumulating, we honor the art of the potter, sitting at a wheel; we appreciate the art of the writer, sitting at a desk; we cherish the art of the painter, standing in front of an easel. (By this litany ye shall know that I have many books, many paintings, many pots — and many more things I love.)

I can assure you that I know all about moving into less space, and different space. I am also here to tell you that stuff responds to mysterious forces at work in the universe in much the same way as do the moon and the tides.

No matter how much stuff you give your sister, still in her large house, so that you can fit into your cozier shell, within a few years I guarantee you will have new possessions winking happily at you from tabletops and bookshelves. And you will be glad to see them .

And yes, you will have bookshelves. Never enough of them. And more books, to replace all those books you gave away. That, too, is a law of nature.

The stuff we accumulate works the same way our body weight does. Each of us has a set point to which we invariably return. Each of us has been allotted a certain tolerance, if not a need, for stuff; each of us is gaited to carry a certain amount of weight in possessions.

Some of us, rare breeds, tend toward the minimalist; some tip into a disorder of hoarding. Most of us live in the middle range. How marvelous it is to simply accept that, and celebrate it.

These days, having moved several times in several years, I am still mourning the loss of a few things I ought never have given away. I am still overcome by object lust, from time to time. And I still want to fit yet another photograph or painting onto a wall.

Go ahead, call me materialistic. I’ll just wonder what you think you are made of.

I am not done with living. I am not done with my things. I love them, in fact, more and more each year, as I recollect the journey that brought us together. I will cherish them, till death do us part.

And rather than fret about my inability to get rid of things, artfully, graciously, or otherwise, I am not only giving in to the desire to keep getting stuff, but I am also fantasizing about how I am going to pass my things on to my children.

Who, I insist, must take them. Even though they are already, at the tender age of 30 (mere children!), worried about having too many things. They don’t know from stuff.

I want to affix labels underneath things, telling them that what looks like a stained and rickety table is actually a Chinese altarpiece from the Ming dynasty with rolled bamboo marble. And if you run your hand along the top of it, you can feel the gradations that come of hand-cutting and polishing marble.

And that staining happened because all that marvelous Chinese furniture of the upper classes was stashed in damp barns for decades, their legs in puddles of water, hidden from the authorities who considered them the artifacts of decadence and wanted them destroyed. That’s how powerful stuff can be.

“That tchotchke you think you’re going to put out on a tag sale table for $10?” I want to say to my sons. “That’s Nymphenburg. It is worth hundreds of dollars.” I found it at a tag sale for $10, and pounced.

I have started saying things to my sons like: “When I die, just please, rent a warehouse, and put everything away. You are too young to understand the value of what I have bought. Someday you will want these things, and you’ll only have to shop in your warehouse.”

Never mind that their homes may be full of their own things. I want to know, now, that forever after, I will be watching down on them from the walls and the shelves, having somehow transmogrified myself into my stuff.

Because I do believe that happens. We were meant to be together, and the cells from my sweaty palms, or the eye beams from my covetous gaze, will reside in my things forever.

That’s the idea, anyway.

There is a reason we talk about nesting. Next time you are out walking, take a close look at a nest.

Nests are full of twigs, bits of fluff, string, moss and bark. Stuff birds take home, and fit to a shape that accommodates their lives.

Some birds even press their warm bodies against their stuff as they are making their nests, molding them to the shape of their breasts, so that they file like… home

A home that is uniquely theirs and uniquely beloved.