Design Dilemma: Good Clutter vs. Bad Clutter
We’ve had it drummed into our heads in recent years that the key to happiness is to clear away the clutter. A spare, clean home provides a sense of peace and possibility. And there’s definitely something to it.Â But on the other hand, a little bit of what some would call “clutter” isn’t always a bad thing. “Clutter” provides a home with a sense of history. It can add a richness and depth that is pleasing to look at and cozy to live with. So we say that all clutter is NOT bad. You just have to figure out what’s good clutter and what’s bad clutter. Here’s our cheat sheet:
1) Good clutter says something about who you are. Love to read? It makes sense to have a house filled with books. Collect or create art? It makes sense to have walls crammed with paintings and rooms filled with sculpture. What’s bad clutter? The type that builds up that has NOTHING to say about who you are. You know what we’re talking about: the junk mail on the kitchen counter, the bedside table filled with beverage glasses,Â the bedroom chairs piled with clothes. Even the decorative dime-a-dozen “knick knacks” purchased for no other reason but that they “match.” This type of clutter doesn’t say anything more about you, other than that you’re a slob or that you’ve allowed only fashion to dictate what goes in your home. Below, a home chock full of stuff reveals the owner’s passion for art, travel and reading.
2. Good clutter is beautiful. Clutter is a lot of stuff that isn’t very nice to look at. But when stuff that you love is organized and ordered to help underscore its meaning in your life, it suddenly becomes beautiful. It’s the sense of order that helps provide the beauty because it’s clear that these are possessions that you truly treasure. In the photo above, there is a lot of stuff in one room, but everything has a place of honor. In the photo below, an extensive book collection is given a place to call home among plants and artwork.
3. Good clutter sets a positive mood. You know clutter is the good kind when you feel peaceful, curious, cozy and at home in a space. Above, a layered look that includes artwork, plants, books and rugs successfully creates a bohemian “salon” feel. Bad clutter only makes you feel anxious. Below, a more casual feel is achieved by allowing a restrained amount of clutter (i.e., stacks of books resting on the floor and tables, art prints leaning against walls.)
5. Good clutter doesn’t get in the way of functionality. If you have to climb around it, step over it or move it out of the way in the course of an average day, then it’s not good clutter. Bad clutter is the type that takes over kitchen countertops, making them unusable, the dining room table, making it unusable, the office desk, making it unusable.
6. Good clutter gets evaluated from time to time. It’s not just stuff collected from age 10, 20 or 30, and never touched again. Instead, from time to time, good clutter is culled, pruned, reevaluated, dusted, rearranged.
In short, good clutter is not just random detritus that has builds up due to lack of attention and time. That’s the definition of bad clutter. Instead, good clutter is treasured, carefully considered possessions that reflect who you are, as well as your vision for yourself and your home.