Does a Cluttered House Create a Cluttered Mind?

  • Rachel Walsh
  • 07/18/20

My daughter, who is 7-months pregnant, is having a friendly conflict with her husband about decorating their baby’s room. He doesn’t seem to understand her need for a clutterless space or her need for organization. She wants the baby’s room to feel right. He wants the room to feel cozy. To her, feeling right = no clutter. To him, feeling right = stuff thrown together to feel cozy.

I definitely blame myself for my daughter’s needs, even though it was an innocent and unintentional infliction of my tastes which she inherited, and the same goes for her husband and his family’s influences. Much of what we view as cozy and comfy comes from how we grew up. But to people like me and apparently my daughter, who shares the same type of Type-A active mind, clutter and a lack of order = chaos and a restless mind that can’t quite accept that the colors don’t coordinate, that the order doesn’t seem to be just right, and that the space makes us feel anxious.

Like my son-in-law, I had a similar type of reaction from my sister who recently visited my house. She readily exclaimed that my house looked like no one lived in it. She felt it looked sterile. Of course my sister grew up in the same household as me, with a mom who was and is the most organized person I know. However as kids, what’s ironic is that I was a huge slob. My mother used to say that she couldn’t remember when she had last seen my floor. I don’t remember my sister ever being as slobby as I was. Now my sister is a mom to five kids, three dogs, about seven cats (I can never keep track), sometimes a ferret or rabbits or hamsters, lots of plants and is caretaker of our mother, who luckily has her own separate space in my sister’s house. My sister’s values have changed in that it’s much more important for her to spend time with her kids over keeping things looking perfect. I get that, and applaud that – it’s just not my way at this time in my life.

Once when my sister was away and I took over as caretaker of all of the above living and non-living things for a week, she asked me to help her organize her space. I cleaned, purchased organizing items (yes, The Container Store is my favorite store), and per her request, changed around her kitchen and reorganized the cabinets in a way that made a whole heck of a lot more sense – to me. I even took pictures of my progress and sent them to her, which she enthusiastically loved. Well, my efforts didn’t last for even one day. Once she got home, she put everything back exactly where it had been. So even though she knew it technically made more sense, it didn’t work for her. She couldn’t adapt to a new way even though she thought she wanted to.

So, I’m not saying all people need to be uber organized or have their home decorated just so to feel productive, relaxed and comfortable, but some of us do. When my space is off, I’m off. When my desk is cluttered, my mind is cluttered and I can’t decide what to do next. In fact, at the time I’m writing this post, I’m in the middle of a few cleaning projects, all of which are in my home office. I most definitely feel tense from the mess in this room, so much so that I am closing my laptop now and diving right in!

As a side note, my father, who was the self-proclaimed King of Clutter, told me of an encounter he had while at work one day. A boss came in and said “A cluttered desk shows a cluttered mind.” And my father, who was always quick on his feet replied, “And an empty desk shows an empty mind!”

Wishing you the ability to make your space just right for you.

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