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In Defense of Clutter

By Liz Gray (from

Your stuff is not the enemy. This year, keep the tchotchkes and lose the guilt, instead.

Since I starting working here at HGTV, I’ve interviewed at least 20 professional organizers, who, collectively, could whip the worst Hoarders nightmare imaginable into tidy shape overnight.

But here’s the thing: I like having a cluttered home. Collections. A refrigerator full of photos. Colorful cookbooks. Yes, yes and yes. For me, more is more. Do I use some of the amazing techniques I learned from chatting with organizing pros? You bet I do! But that doesn’t mean I want to get rid of every item that doesn’t fill me to the brim with joy. (Sorry, Marie Kondo.)
It’s your home, not your uber-organized friend’s home. Here are 5 things to remember before you toss Grandma’s antique vase into the charity pile.
Clutter and organization aren’t necessarily enemies. Everyone has a system. For the super-organized, that system involves color-coding, label-makers and lots of bins. For you, it might involve piles of books sorted according to your personal author ranking system and a catch-all junk drawer. If you can find what you’re looking for, where you were looking for it, that’s a working system. Why change a good thing?
Your stuff shows your personality. You are not your stuff, but your stuff does help tell friends and family what you’re about. You’ll find coffee table books about Salvador Dali and a shell and rock collection gathered from travels in my living room. An empty surface is just clean…there’s no backstory.
Messiness (might) promote creativity. You’ve likely seen the study, shared by every messy person you know on Facebook: A messy desk encourages creative thought. Hey, it worked for Albert Einstein, right? Some people thrive in a messy environment. If that’s you, own it.
Your things reminds you of people you love. Sure, I could take a photo of Aunt Jean’s quirky shot glass collection, then donate it to charity. But I’d probably enjoy it a lot more if I got to share stories about said glassware while I was imbibing with friends and family. Cheers to clutter?
You like this stuff….remember? Tastes do change. But just because you don’t love something today doesn’t mean you won’t long for it 3 months from now when you no longer have that family heirloom. Or a grater. Everyone needs a grater, even if it’s sort of ugly.
As British design icon William Morris put it, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” So if you find junk drawers useful, and old Christmas cards beautiful — and yes, I do —  keep them around. After all, it’s not a magazine photo — it’s your living, breathing home. In the new year, focus on visually-pleasing presentations for your collections and knick-knacks. Clutter doesn’t have to be an eyesore.