Debra-Lynn B. Hook: Who really needs personal help? Clutter freaks or minimalists obsessed with clutter freaks? | Way of life


Apparently I am morally deficient, a fact that comes from my packed room thanks to people who have made the analysis of such things an industry.

Inside my linen closet is a stack of pillow cases that could fit a large B&B instead of the two bedrooms currently in use. I have 67 tablespoons, enough glasses for five Thanksgiving tables and 32 bowls of cereal. My friend once told me that the crowded walls in my living room looked like an art gallery.

She didn’t mean that as a compliment.

Neither did another friend when she told me that if I ever wanted to clean the closet in the aforementioned bedroom, she would help me.

Ah, the reviews. The reproaches. The cascade of self-righteousness that hangs around such things as the ugly Christmas figures of my late mother-in-law that I keep but never use and the box of stuff I saved from my office, circa 1992.

My name is Debra-Lynn.

And I am not a minimalist.

Which not only puts me out of favor with decluttering queen Marie Kondo, but apparently deeply troubled.

The thing is, I don’t feel deeply troubled.

While I would never display such kitschy things on my fireplace, seeing the elves of Grandma Peg’s precious moments tucked away in the Christmas sheets every year keeps it in my memory. Likewise, my office, which can spark “good” memories of newspaper deadlines every time I open the box. As for my wardrobe, I’m van Gogh every morning, choosing from dozens of color and pattern combinations.

What if I don’t want help?

Also, what if I don’t think I need help?

Could it be that they are the ones who need some help making feng shui cat litter and taking care of everyone as well?

It is clear that Americans tend to overconsume. It’s clear that simplifying never hurt anyone – until it became a tool to separate the good from the bad. Triggered by Kondo in ‘The Magic of Storage That Changes Life’ 2014, minimalism has become not only a trend, but a far-reaching morality game, aided by millennials determined to leave less carbon footprints and by a multitude self-help books. , blogs and companies dedicated to the concept that less is better for the soul. Decorate like a poor man, you’re hip. More than three things on the fireplace, you are disconnected and a second-rate citizen of the world.

The way I see it, there are fine lines here between, say, clutter and hoarding or clutter and liking beautiful things. Some people make up for the void inside by filling the guest room with Hello Kitty lunch boxes that they never use. As for me, it’s not like I never throw anything away or my house still looks like Goodwill after a tornado (although sometimes the basement does).

Maybe it’s just that I like the things on the wall, on the fireplace, and on my nightstand. I like collectibles. I like knowing that a book that I started in 1996 but never finished is there if I ever want to go back to it.

At the end of the day, I’m stressed out by people whose house looks like a Target ad. I’m afraid to breathe for fear that something will fall.

I’m more comfortable with stuff, and maybe it’s worth watching. But I don’t think that means I need rehabilitation. Just because I don’t want to rummage through my closet and wonder if this shirt brings joy doesn’t mean I need therapy.

I don’t want you to tell me to do this either.

The way I see it, coexisting with spoons and pillow cases is as individual as the spoons and pillow cases we collect.

You stay on your side of the closet.

And I will stay on mine.

If I can get in there.

(Debra-Lynn B. Hook of Kent, Ohio, writing about family life since 1988. Visit her website at, email her at [email protected], or join the discussion group Facebook column from her Debra- Lynn Hook: Raising Mom.)

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