Sunday, October 19, 2008


How you arrange the space you live in is both an indication of and an influence on your interior psychological life. No big surprises there, I suppose, since people have been saying that sort of thing for a long time. Still, I liked this piece in the Saturday grauniad because it had some sensible things to say about how that general thesis might play out in modern home-stylings.

I've always thought I'd like a pretty minimal kind of space, but on the other hand I can't do without having lots of books around me. Too much stark emptiness is a bit cold. Thinking a bit more, I think I have worked out that what really annoy me is clutter on surfaces -- tables, shelves, etc. These can have things on them, for sure, but they have to be neatly arranged and I have to be able to see the surface somewhere or other. Jumbled piles of stuff or -- worse -- piles arranged with smaller things underneath and holding up larger things just annoy me. I can't bear them, I mean, and find it hard to feel relaxed if I can spy something like that out of the corner of my eye. Of course, when the pile of stuff is someone else's then the problem is much worse; I can't just go over and bin what's not needed or rearrange what is. Instead I have to ask, beg, nag, and the like. And that often just makes that other person less inclined to cave in to my odd sensibilities. (Some 'handy' marriage and clutter tips can be found here. See, that's better now, isn't it?) The serious point is, however, that this is not just a whimsy on my part. I think it is a genuine and deep-seated bit of my psychology. Living around clutter doesn't make me acculturated; it just makes me constantly stressed.

There is a whole industry ready to cater to me, it turns out, which I discovered just be googling 'clutter'. And it's pretty clear that we are supposed to think that an uncluttered life is supposed to be some kind of ideal -- based again on the idea, I imagine, that a cluttered house is the sign of a cluttered and disorganised mind. Instead we ought to pine for an ideal of white furniture, bleached floorboards and one glass vase on a single glass table. (Try this site, for example. Yes, get rid of your crap old sofa and piles of magazines and you'll be a happy stylish person with plenty of time on your hands to pose in a white outfit with a smug look...) That's much too far, of course, and the grauniad article is surely to question whether it is really possible to live happily in that kind of environment. So I don't want an empty box to live in. I suppose I just what control over what clutter is there and how, precisely, it is cluttered...

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