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A masterful mess of man and nature. Photo by Julie Seyler.


I’ve noticed that a lot of my writing lately is under the umbrella of an ever-growing proclivity towards clutter. And that a number of my headlines contain the word, “mess.” It seems everywhere I go in my house, I leave behind a little bit (or a heap) of me. I don’t mean that I’m dirty, or sloppy, or don’t ever pick up after myself. I would never leave a mess in someone else’s house. I just love clutter. More than ever. While I’ve always loved the feeling of being snug and surrounded, and am a life-long fan of small rooms; big chairs (a favorite feeling is to be wedged between two people that I love in a big chair in a small room), as I get older, I’m becoming a downright master of the neat mess. A maestro. Many of my friends have stated that they, “Couldn’t live like that.” I say: Try it. Why spend half your life picking up and putting away things that you need everyday? It’s not natural, and not fun, to constantly pursue tidy and trim. The world outside our windows certainly isn’t orderly.

This doesn’t mean I’m not organized. And my love of clutter does not mean that I need a lot of stuff. I’m not a collector. I hate shopping. And I’m definitely not a hoarder. I have no problem purging my home annually of things that I no longer need or use. (Just look out my back door at the perpetual pile of things I don’t want that live next to the garbage cans.)

But a little self-study kicked an after I read an interview with Peter Walsh, an “organizing authority” (he’s been on Oprah!), in an article by Mary Beth Breckenridge, which was picked up by the February 14 Star Ledger. Apparently, “untidy spaces can mess with your head.” Says Mr. Walsh: there’s an “emotional component to disorganization.” He was also the organizational expert on the TLC series, “Clean Sweep,” a makeover show for people who are messed up by clutter. Another quote: “… that when people eliminate clutter, they become less depressed and more energetic.”

So I pursued this theory further. A little research produced a Web site called, the Institute for Challenging Disorganization, whose mission is to educate professional organizers and related professionals on the issues relating to Chronic Disorganization.

It has a free clutter-hoarding scale on their Web site – “an assessment measurement tool” … “to give professional organizers and related professionals definitive parameters. These parameters relate to health and safety.”

So, it seems, according to some experts out there – I’m sick. Chronically ill. Specifically: depressed, anxious, and I have a misplaced love of things over people. Wrong: I love a pile of people just as much as I love dirty dishes in the morning.

At least I’ve proudly come out of the closet with my mess. And my closets, by the way, (and kitchen cabinets, dresser drawers) are downright pristine – neat and tidy all of them. I always hang up my coat. I make my bed in the morning, and fold my clothes (sometimes I even put them in their respective drawers) at night. But that’s it. It’s what people see (on my floors, on the tables and desks) that they don’t seem to get. To me, compulsive neatness means you must be rigid, controlling, predictable. Isn’t that less desirable than: Untamed! Effulgent! And just beautifully messy.

I’d rather walk over and around myself all day, than pick up after. Really, at the heart of all this musing, is perspective:

I don’t see this as a pile of recyclables. I see it as, “Wow I love newspapers, and look how many I got through this week.”

I get to be awash in my work:
Me Library 2

You’ve seen my wall:

I’m having a party!:

My own special morning-after party:

Look at all the extra space I have to throw things!:

My best friend is a mess too:

So I have no worries that I will turn into that little old lady who is surrounded by decades of stuff. I’ll be fine, because I will always see disarray as creative chaos. I would be depressed and less energetic otherwise.