Now They Tell Me Clutter Is Good for Me?

by Ali West

I just read a post that says  researchers found that clutter is good for creativity. Just when I am trying to finally overcome its tyranny over my life.

The magazine, Rodale’s Organic Life, put it under a slightly deceptive headline “The Surprising Health Benefits Of Clutter”. There weren’t any real health benefits listed, although I suppose the idea that I would stop stressing out about cleaning and organizing might help my health.

It wasn’t until the end of the article that a difference was made about hoarding and ordinary clutter.

Still, it kind of makes a point about how media information tends to muddy the waters in order to grab eyes in the ever competitive world of publishing. The most benign reason I can think of that we are given so much conflicting advice.

Is Clutter Good For Me?

In the sense of day to day disarray, allowing things to look “lived in”, I would say, yes. That kind of cluttering probably is conducive to being creative. It takes an awful lot of energy to maintain a clean and organized house. Especially for those whose personalities aren’t gifted with the neatness gene. (It must be genetic!)

But in the larger sense, of having a household where it is a struggle just to get through a task because you can’t find things you need, of having a generally disordered life… no, that is not going to render health benefits.

The Larger Lesson

I think the larger lesson here is to eliminate the struggle. When the environment of our homes threatens to dominate our lives- either by obsessive neatness or blockades of clutter, we need to adjust what we are doing (or not doing, if we just let things get jumbled and messy).

It becomes a matter of freedom. We operate best in an environment of freedom, I believe. Free to create, free to live. It is a balance. Order is the background against which we produce change and create something new. For me, the clutter got out of its allotted space and began encroaching on my ability to function, and then to enjoy life.

At that point it is unhealthy and unwelcome. That is why I must unburden myself from the tyranny of things. Good, bad, and neutral. I just need more space in life, especially as I am entering the end phase of life.

I no longer want to spend so much time in the service of things.


I won’t be chucking everything, anytime soon, though. Perhaps I am too slow about it, but for now, making a clear path throughout this year. I am renewing the organizing of what I need (or think I do!), throwing away the detritus, and finding ways to give items into new hands is the way forward.

If you are struggling, like me, to maintain the course, let’s set ourselves small, obtainable goals that keep the momentum moving forward.

What Cluttered Area Is the Least Beneficial?

That is the question I am asking myself, right now.

For me, it is an accumulation of clothing that no longer fits. I think it is time to let go of “perfectly good” clothes.


  1. It takes too much time every season to manage the packing and unpacking of it.
  2. I am taking up too much space trying to manage all those clothes.
  3. I actually wear a small percentage of them.
  4. I finally see that I will not be making craft projects out of any of them. Not even the buttons.
  5. I will look better if I am not tempted to wear these things that -don’t fit, aren’t in style, are wrong for me.

There. An even 5 reasons to sort through and get rid of piles of closet clutter.

Is Clutter Healthy?

No. I’m not buying it. There is no danger of me ending up in the obsessive opposite of perfectionistic neatness, so I will not be unhealthy that way merely by organizing and getting rid of the clutter.

People like me don’t need excuses to let the mess multiply. I have a new rule: if it makes me uncomfortable to have too much stuff and the mess is blockading me in some way- it is too much clutter and it is unhealthy.


Bettering Ourselves

still life, bottles

Much of my life has been spent in the endeavor of bettering myself.

I have read and implemented, however temporary and incomplete, innumerable self-help books on many topics. I have made lists, and plans, throwing myself into everything from those elementary school years of memorizing encyclopedia facts, reading the dictionary and giving myself a “word for the day” to following organizational methods and pop psychology solutions.

Let’s add to that the diet and health, relationship and spiritual improvements made mandatory by the appearance of defects that can no longer be denied or swept aside.

A recent meeting with old friends brought another way we better ourselves. It is perhaps a more organic way, but certainly it is one that has quicker ignition and spurs us to put that inspiration to work.

The influence of better individuals on our lives.

Some of those qualities are those who are kinder, those more accomplished, those with sharp intellects, or depth of thinking. Some qualities are those of practiced and gracious service to others, characteristics of perseverance or diligence, dependability and loyalty, mental and emotional flexibility. The list is a myriad as human beings themselves.

As we rub shoulders with individuals or groups of people with these characteristics, the skills and motivations rub off on us… or at the very least, the desire and vision to rise to a higher bar.

We are spurred and sparked. We become better.



This isn’t to say that there are “classes of people”,  although I think we often have the perversity of mind to think so. It is the appreciation of what other individuals have to offer us in light of their unique qualities, and a reflection on what we contribute to those around us.

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”

My level of thinking is raised by conversations, reading, hearing whatsoever is of value. It reminds me of the focus of this blog:
Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true,

whatsoever things are honest,

whatsoever things are just,

whatsoever things are pure,

whatsoever things are lovely,

whatsoever things are of good report;

if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.


One place I believe we find these things is in the friendship and relationship to those around us that exhibit the better qualities we wish to have.

Connection is that most basic of human needs, but we have a wide variety of ways and people to whom we connect.

I believe, now, that there are two ways to connect in ways that we can better each other. One is in finding those individuals that bring out the best in us, and that tends towards an exclusiveness in our relationships. The other is in finding the best in each person we encounter. That inclusive factor is not the more superior way, but it will certainly be the more common of our experience.

I do think there are times we need to steep ourselves in positive relationships and atmospheres. Times when we creatively brainstorm with those who engage with us creatively. Times when a peaceful and supportive atmosphere is necessary.

But whatever the need of the moment may be, it is my thought that we should most highly prize those whom we have found to be an inspiration and encouragement  to us to better our lives, our selves.

Cherish those in your life, appreciate their contributions … especially when they have helped you to become a better person.

Whom have you found, and why do you think knowing them makes you a better person for it?


The Word for 2015, And Spiritual Direction

In Review

Last year I had no significant focus word, even though I sought one. Instead there were practical directions, some from many years in the past that molded the decisions and directions.

I decluttered to organize and simplify my life, (and get rid of the guilt and insecurity that a cluttered and dirty environment produces).

My entire year geared towards the plans of my family to rendezvous for Christmas at home in Ohio.

There were some large detours along the way, and the timetables took several rewinds and delays. Still, as I write this at the end of 2014, the progress and accomplishment was quite amazing (considering we are twelve very independent minded people with equally independent minded spouses and busy lives). It turns out I did not need guiding words or specific resolutions.

I look at this past year, and it was full of answered prayers of the past.

Unsought, But Welcome Word

I have a faithful prayer partner, who I have met with every month for the past five to six years. During December, while praying, the word “Alignment” came alive and stood out as the keynote of what God would be doing with us this coming year.

So often we pray for God to come into our plans, hear our desires, and cooperate with our hopes.

But the idea contained in the giving of this living word of direction was an inner desire (that almost seemed to be born at that moment, although it wasn’t new):

to become aligned with what God wanted, be in on His plans and cooperate more fully with Him.

I wasn’t seeking direction, it was premature in the expected timing of a New Year’s set of resolutions- I was still in the midst of working on the present!

But almost as a gift, the word of Alignment took form

It has the feeling for me of adjusting and fine tuning, although I am aware that large portions of my habits and actions should make drastic change.

Some things which come to mind are:

  • Returning to remembering grateful prayer, from grace said before meals to “giving thanks in all things”. I’ve gotten very sloppy, neglectful, unmindful.
  • Being more regular in church. I miss having this in my life, and the feeling of obligation has practically disappeared. I just want to connect more in corporate worship and service.
  • Returning to a regular daily prayer time. Time when I can meet with God, not just flyby prayers as I hurry on my work schedule.

Those are a few things this word is inspiring for me at the moment.

I want to explore what it means for my blogging, my goals in gardening and the home, the trips I travel, my steps to better physical health.

How may I align with God’s revelation to me, with His purposes?