In defence of clutter

 in defence of clutter

During the past few weeks the kerbs in our neighbourhood have been piled high with an assortment of unwanted junk. It’s the days of kerbside collection and slow ute drive-bys. I was tempted by a few items on those piles. Wicker bed heads crying out to be re-purposed. Chairs that could be comfy again with some new upholstery. All the discarded prams, grubby but otherwise perfectly functional. Abandoned, tiny, little bikes with owners that had outgrown them. Hundreds of dollars once spent and now forgotten. I felt a keen sense of wanting to rescue all these things. Then I remembered that my time was limited and anything gleaned from the roadside would probably end up in next year’s kerbside collection.

It got me thinking about clutter. About the very human practice of obtaining things and then seeking freedom from them.

The current season is one of minimalism. It seems everyone is trying to seperate themselves from their belongings. To live more simply. But I’m not sure about this obsession with de-cluttering. It’s funny how when you get to be thinking about a thing, you discover other people thinking about it too. This recent article struck a chord with me – Against anti-cluttering – it’s not just about joy.

I grew up in a house full of clutter. Curios, antiques, knickknacks and sentimental items cheerily crowded all surfaces. My parents house is still like that. No minimalism for them. And as a teenager I rebelled. I was about 15 and set about decluttering my belongings with a ruthlessness that would make Marie Kondo look sentimental. Handmade toys, favourite picture books, clothes I’d love to still own all donated to charity. Things that I didn’t feel an attachment to at that point but I feel a sense of loss over now. Things I wish I’d kept for my own children. I am thankful that my teenaged self paused before throwing out letters and diaries. I still have those today.

The houses I feel most comfortable and cosy in are full to the brim of loved and lovely things. They might not be the trend on Instagram on Pinterest, but it’s where I’d rather have a cup of tea. Perhaps it’s a throw back to childhood, but I love kitchens crammed with cookbooks, little objects from overseas trips, fridges full of drawings and postcards. Living rooms packed full of novels and photographs. Evidence of the people that live there. Evidence that people actually do live there. Even those pubs and cafes furnished by op-shop finds, where the clutter is completely contrived, appeal to me.

I realise that you can’t keep everything. I am not interested in appearing on Hoarders. But when I set about clearing things out, how do I know what my future self will miss? What seems innocuous now could become loaded with meaning in years to come. Where is the line? How much can you take away from your home before you lose some of its soul?

Maybe the trick is to only buy things you truly love in the first place, to be mindful with the gifts you give and to keep all things created in love (even if only via photograph). 

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Are you a minimalist or maximalist? How do you feel about clutter, clearing out and kerbside collections?


Linking up with Essentially Jess and IBOT

30 thoughts on “In defence of clutter

  1. Mandy / The Mandy Diaries says:

    Having spent the last few years down sizing myself and clearing out after my MIL’s passing, I have come to the conclusion that the trick is, indeed, to only buy things that you really love!
    I am not a minimalist and I strongly believe in having a home filled with tangible memories around me. Sometimes, we try to hold on to the people we have lost through things and the things you deem important at the time of loss, may not be the long term things you wish you had kept.
    Having said all that – I am trying to simplify and declutter my life and starting with my home is helping. I have learned some important lessons about stuff. One is that, just because someone important gave you a gift at some point in your life, it doesn’t mean you have to love it and keep it forever! Another is that, often times the things you value and think others around will value, are not the same!
    So, buying AND keeping only stuff I really love, is the key for me.
    Mandy / The Mandy Diaries recently posted…Weekend Escape with Apologies to Thelma and Louise!My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I think that’s so true in loss. I have seen people throw everything out when a loved one leaves and live to regret it. I have seen people become obsessed with things that once belonged to their loved one. I agree that simplifying life is a good objective.

  2. Vanessa says:

    I love your take on this – and I’m a little over all the Marie Kondo posts. I mean, if it works for you, then good…but I don’t think there needs to be a rule or systems for clearing out. Long story, but it’s not easy for me to clear out, but by doing it as and when I’m ready, I make much better decisions and feel better about it.
    Vanessa recently posted…Deficit of DowntimeMy Profile

  3. Emily says:

    Lovely conclusion. I am not anti-knick knack, but am definitely anti-stuff for the sake of stuff. Or stuff to fill space because you have space to fill. I discarded some things from my teen years a few years back and I really regret it. So sentimentality has a place. #teamIBOT
    Emily recently posted…Oh, the Blogs You’ll Blog!My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I don’t like stuff for stuff’s sake either – and I tend to give experiences now rather than things. Because we all have so many of the things!

  4. Hugzilla says:

    Yeah I like to think I maintain a pretty good balance. I love THINGS and I love to display things but they need to be nicely curated (WANK ALERT) or it just looks like disorganised clutter. Stay with me here (LOL) – you can have lots of things if they all work in harmony together and they don’t get in the way of having a productive household. Everything has it’s place in my house but open my hallway cupboard and you will see all the lovely things that just don’t need to be out all at once. Hubby calls it my “hoarders closet”. So yeah – I’m all for a bit of both…
    Hugzilla recently posted…YIKES! Is this the most gruesome kids book ever written?My Profile

  5. Kez Unprepared says:

    I like to think of myself as a sentimental minimalist. I HATE clutter at the moment. I just want everything to have its place and I want to feel the therapeutic benefits of throwing out/donating/selling a bunch of things that make me feel held back. I guess it depends on the memories you attach to your clutter, as to how you feel about it. I am in a phase where I just want to start again. I think I maybe wasn’t mindful of what I was buying/consuming/keeping in the first place and I think I want to move forward more thoughtfully. There are always the things I can’t bear to part with, but I want to honour them by making spaces to showcase/use them! x
    Kez Unprepared recently posted…The Happy List #38My Profile

  6. Nikki @ Wonderfully Women says:

    I really miss living in an area that does not have kerbside collection. I have a few larger pieces that I would love to get rid of, but as I don’t have a trailer I can’t get these things to the tip. I am a fan of decluttering but not to the extent of living in a minimalist home.

    • Robyna says:

      Oh, we LOVE kerbside collection – not only useful, but the THEATRE that goes with it is awesome as well. I can’t quite imagine not having it.

  7. Bel says:

    I remember going to a seminar a while ago about raising children and the speaker made a point about how lots of children these days don’t feel connected. She said that in a minimalist world, children had lost their history, therefore their own self identify and a feeling of connectedness. She asked us to think back to our family homes, full of photos up on the walls and adorning cabinets and bookshelves, to our homes today where minimalism ruled and photo filled walls would be considered clutter.

    It’s something I’ve always thought about since then.

    • Robyna says:

      See, that’s what I am talking about. My eldest son loves seeing his picture up – although my youngest (2.5) is now asking where his pictures are. Must do something about that.

  8. Deb @ inner compass designs says:

    I love to declutter but am totally a maximalist. I love to have things around me. I am visual so if I put it all away I would forget I had it. The decluttering though helps to freshen things up and make the good stuff more visible.

    • Robyna says:

      There is that – when the amount of clutter actually detracts from an treasured object’s original meaning and why/how it made you happy. Fine balance perhaps?

  9. Tegan says:

    I swing between being massively sentimental about everything to then throwing things out with abandon. I don’t see the point in minimalist living for me to be honest and it just feels very cold and clinical. It’s not a way that I would feel comfortable with. However I also know that those people would probably feel suffocated with all of my stuff too.
    Tegan recently posted…BPD and MeMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I think I am a bit of a swinger as well. And my maximalist self gets quite cross at my minimalist self for throwing things away. My husband is definitely a minimalist and if he had his way, most of my stuff would be sold on eBay.

  10. Cathy @lifethroughthehaze says:


    I wish you lived closer! You could help me upcycle my house! I have no money to actually do anything so that means making the best of the furniture we currently have but I hate it and the more time I am here the more time I am hating it!
    Oh btw we have plenty of clutter you would feel right at home here! The more minimalist I try to be the less I can through away!
    C xoxo
    Cathy @lifethroughthehaze recently posted…When were you last happy?My Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I LOVE up cycling things, but quite often it doesn’t quite turn out as I imagined it. I hope you find some ways to bring things you love into your home.

  11. Beth at says:

    I like a good balance of sentimental meaningful items, warmth and cosiness with at least *some* surface space. Hard rubbish days make me cross sometimes, like are people seriously that lazy they would rather chuck perfectly good things in the bin than donate to charity or give them away on Gumtree? I know around our area good stuff ends up at the Recycle Shop at the waste management centre and I understand not everyone has a trailer or car space to get rid of bulky items but a lot of places / Gumtree buyers will pick up if it’s any good. For genuine broke-down junk it’s a great service.
    Beth at recently posted…Posh Picks: BootyliciousMy Profile

    • Robyna says:

      I think a lot of people view hard rubbish collection as a sort of neighbourhood donation scheme. We certainly see a lot of people helping themselves. An enterprising sort down the road set up a garage sale from things they had found.

  12. Shauna 'Round the Corner says:

    Oh Robyna I have written about this many times. I didn’t realise what a hoarder I was until I moved house a few months ago and the amount of sh1t we had accumulated was overwhelming! Six months on and I am still trying to sort through boxes and get rid of stuff because we just don’t have room for it all or need it all! But I do get it wrong a lot – have thrown out stuff and been wanting it later. Just can’t get it right lol. But then there are things I just can’t bear to part with. I too like cosy but not too cluttered. It’s my nemesis!!! :-/

    • Robyna says:

      I think moving regularly is such a great way to keep clutter to a minimum. It’s that hard balance between cosy and cluttered isn’t it?

  13. Kathy says:

    I really think it is always about the emotions and the memories. It is never clutter if it brings a smile to your face but at the same time, if you can’t see the precious things for the stuff that gets in the way. I also think it is seasonal. In winter I seem to want the sense of clutter and cosiness whereas in summer I feel like a clean-out.
    Kathy recently posted…The good C wordsMy Profile

  14. Flat Bum Mum says:

    I am torn between the two! I love minimalist in my mind but in real life it just isn’t very practical. I do feel the weight of clutter though. It makes me anxious to be in busy or cluttered spaces. I prefer streamlined places. I have a few things I wish I had kept but it doesn’t keep me up at night. My brother however has NEVER forgiven my mother for accidentally de-cluttering his old star wars toys. hahaha. Bron x

    • Robyna says:

      Oh wow – yeah, I don’t know if I would have forgiven that either. I don’t love being surrounded by clutter, but I do like the things I love to be around me.

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