1.10.2013

Clutter + the Modern Family



This week I've been examining the rooms in our little cottage and pondering what I can take away from each individual space.  Although it feels like I've already rid our household of so much extraneous clutter, there is still more that needs attention (apparently this is an ongoing process and not so much a one-time gig...).  To me, less stuff not only produces a sense of calm, but more room for fun as well.  It seems that when we have less stuff, we don't have an opportunity to feel burdened by it; as there is less to clean up, less to visually exhaust your mind and more time to enjoy life.  And while decluttering won't cure all of your problems, it will certainly clear your thoughts and provide a fresh outlook on this new year ahead.

I am fascinated with a book that came out about six months ago, called Life at Home in the Twenty-first Century: 32 Families Open their Doors.  Hear and there I've read excerpts (mostly about clutter and mostly in the NYTimes), and curiosity has officially set in.  I'm considering ordering it as a coffee table book / conversation starter for a future dinner party...(New Year's Resolution #4, "entertain more often...").



Here are a few interesting findings from this 5-year UCLA study that allowed anthropologists a peek into the homes of 32 California families:

1.  Too Much Stuff.

For starters, "The U.S. has 3.1% of the world's children," says Jeanne Arnold, one of the coauthors, "but buys 40% of the world's toys".

2.  Elevated Stress Levels.

Managing the volume of possessions seemed to raise mother's stress hormones.  Dads?  Not so much.
"Fathers tended not even to notice the clutter," Arnold says.  "They focused on the projects they'd done."

3.  No Easy Fixes.

Except quit buying--and maybe turn off HGTV.  "The standard of the tidy home as a measure of sucess and well-being is reinforced by what we see on remodeling shows," says coauthor Anthony Graesch.  "That standard in and of itself is causing us stress."

So, what do you think?  Are you surprised at all or do you think this sampling represents most families?



all images by me

Pin It '''''

20 comments:

marian said...

I think one of the hardest balances to reach is good, creative toys (especially if you have a season when indoor play is required - think 115 degree summers in Arizona), while not feeling guilty going to others homes with extensive collections or toys. It's also difficult when kids range in age (I have 6 kids 1-9 years old). Of course, it doesn't keep us from trying!

Starr said...

After reading this, I went to my husband (who is super involved with the day-to-day stuff of managing the munchkins) & told him about the finding that clutter raises women's stress hormone levels, while men focus on the task accomplished. Then I apologized for all the times I mentally think, "Is it so hard to put the butter away?" after he's made breakfast for the kids. I get irritated by the "little things" left undone, while he's focusing on the big chore (feeding the starving hordes) he's completed.

kalanicut said...

Definitely on the same track with you. I decided this week to get a storage unit, short-term until we move later this year, to put some of my long-term storage in. We need more breathing space around here! Once I started pulling stuff out that I don't need on a regular basis, I was shocked at how much more space we could have in this little space. I am also taking a load to the thrift store of things I always thought I'd do something with that I just need to purge. Looking forward to following your progress and continued quest for simplicity. Thanks for being such a good guide on this path!

Valerie said...

My husband has seen first hand my need to organize clutter as I almost broke down in tears once and he basically ran out to buy me a filing cabinet (good man!). There's nothing so relaxing as taking a load of stuff to the thrift store. I'm amazed at the statistics about the percentage of toys we buy. That's almost unbelievable and a real eye-opener.

Tracey Ayton Photography said...

I'm with you on the "de-cluttering" It feels so good to purge, stand back and look at the clean calm space that you created. Whenever I'm stressed, I find myself grabbing a cloth and wipe the counters .... heck, I'll bring out the cleaning supplies and start dusting everything in front of me. Crazy right? I think clean, calm and de-cluttering are certainly some of my favorite things. Such beautiful pics!

Lauren said...

I love how organized you are Steph. I think the biggest challenge as the kids get older is giving them ownership of their messes. I will get the materials and create an organization plan that the kids have to implement themselves. They sort though all of their things now and are responsible for keeping their spaces clean. It's not as pretty as when I do it all but it is more manageable. Also, play dates helps since the kids want their house to look nice. The night before a play date they really clean their spaces. Mudroom, bedrooms and basement all included:)

Stephanie said...

Marian, you perfectly articulated something I think about too. And feel. It's hard to find that balance because you want your kids and their friends to have fun, but if you don't have a ton of toys (like say, some of your friends), then kids requiring a lot of entertaining are bored. I'm still trying to figure out that one.

Starr, that's a great point. I will follow suit :)

Kalani, I think that's a great idea. I wonder if you'll even forget all that stuff is in storage...:)

Valerie, I think we've all been in tears at some point about our own clutter/messes/junk/etc. Sometimes it takes a breaking point to get motivated. At least that's the case with me at times.

Tracey, you are not crazy! I like cleaning my counters too. Dusting? Another story :)

Lauren, I wish my kids were as motivated as yours to have the house nice during playdates. I need to work on the ownership thing. It's been on my mind for awhile. Thanks for the tip!


Beth @ Remarkably Domestic said...

I, too, have been fascinated by this book since it came out. The steep price is the only thing holding me back from buying it. I'm hoping they'll come out with an e-book version. :-) But the other thing, besides the "stuff" issue, that I find compelling is the way that many middle-class American children seem "helpless" because we don't let them do enough stuff-- or require them to. The story of the 9 year old who wails to his father, "tie my shoe!" resonates with me. I think the sampling is indicative of middle- and upper middle-class families in America, although since I'm from LA perhaps my view is skewed. We're constantly trying to get rid of more stuff.

MidlifeNavyWife said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel @ Dahava Design said...

Wow! Great post and your photos are stunning! This is my first time to your site and (FYI) I got here as I have a Google ALert set for "clutter." Your post showed up on that and I clicked through. I hadn't heard of the book you recommended but I'll have to check it out...it sounds interesting. Regarding your question asking if your readers "think this represents most families", I'd say yes, unfortunately, I think it does. My wife is a Professional Organizer and sees it every day. We have a podcast in iTunes called Simple Life Together and if our our listener stats tell us anything it's that clutter and simplifying life is a HUGE area of concern for so many people right now. Candidly, we have very little clutter in our home but we are consciously trying to edit what we have. This year we committed to what we call our Edit & Forget It Challenge...2013 fewer things in 2013. That's a lot of stuff to get rid of, but it is really making us think, evaluate, and decide what is really important to us. So, I think your title "Clutter + The Modern Family" covers a large chunk of the modern family demographic...but we're trying to change that. And I think just bringing awareness to it like you did here goes a long way toward doing that. Thanks!

Martha said...

i think i read this same article. good read! i'm also reading steve jobs's bio and he was so picky about good design and not having too much that he hardly furnished a few of his houses. it's inspiring me right now. i'm trying to live in the middle - not in either extreme.

Stephanie said...

Beth, I think the book is on sale at Amazon now! Double check me...there is a link to it within my post.

Daniel, what you two are doing sounds so interesting! I'm curious...do you have children? I find that adds a whole new dimension to all this :)

Martha, that's really interesting about Steve Jobs. I'm so curious now about how he lived. I think it's important that a home feel warm and cozy. Like a home should be! But, that it's somewhat edited. I am with you--there is a happy medium! It's my kids spaces that are killing me...#hoarders. But alas, that is part of being a kid. I don't want to give them issues that way (they probably already have enough!), so I let them have their junk. I remind myself that I did too when I was younger and then that changed when I matured. I just ask them to put it away so I can't see it! LOL.

Stephanie said...

Beth, I think the book is on sale at Amazon now! Double check me...there is a link to it within my post.

Daniel, what you two are doing sounds so interesting! I'm curious...do you have children? I find that adds a whole new dimension to all this :)

Martha, that's really interesting about Steve Jobs. I'm so curious now about how he lived. I think it's important that a home feel warm and cozy. Like a home should be! But, that it's somewhat edited. I am with you--there is a happy medium! It's my kids spaces that are killing me...#hoarders. But alas, that is part of being a kid. I don't want to give them issues that way (they probably already have enough!), so I let them have their junk. I remind myself that I did too when I was younger and then that changed when I matured. I just ask them to put it away so I can't see it! LOL.

Daniel Hayes said...

Stephanie- Yes we do have children...a 5 year old and a 15 year old. You're right, kids do add a new dimension. But it's awesome to see them loving what they have instead of whining for what they want.

Carla said...

We are moving into a new season of life and recently decided less is more. We sold about 1/3 of our home's contents, stored about a 1/3 and now live with the remaining 1/3. We downsized our home by a 1/3 too, going from 3500 square feet to 2300. Life has never been more simple and yet so much more satisfying. Live simply, love generously.

Erin said...

Thanks for compliments on my home Stephanie. Right now we are in a rental and almost every room is a different shade of yellow. I really hate it, thankfully owning neutral furnishings has helped. I am definitely anxious to own my own home again.

I am a minimalist at heart, and do feel better living with less. That said, I do feel it is important to know what things you should keep, collect, etc...

For me, The best part about having less stuff is that it means less to put away and/or clean up. I think this is why some people assume I am such a neat freak. The reality is I know when to purge, and how to organize the rest.

stephmodo said...

Alrighty...Daniel, Carla and Erin, you all have officially inspired me. Thanks for the nudge (and great points).

tll said...

We are remodeling and the stuff in the crammed-packed 'guest closet' in the guest room had to go somewhere. And that somewhere was into my brand new craft room! Who knew I had hoarded so much stuff and no wonder I wasn't able to be free with my creativity (lol) with everything stowed away out of sight and out of mind like that! It helps that we are finally empty-nesters so we have an extra room to use just for crafty stuff now. I deserve it. In the meantime I went through other closets ferreting out other craft items and managed to fill 15 large green plastic garbage bags with no longer needed items to take to our local thrift store! Who needs that much stuff?? And where does it all come from? We had an unexpected emergency move from an overseas duty station back to the states many years ago and came back with nothing but 5 boys, us, and a cat. No car. No home. No furniture. No appliances. And since we had lived on a tropical island and this was a very, very fast move....no coats and it was January in Idaho when we got there! We had one more year left on our overseas tour and had planned to use that year to prepare to move back but circumstances dictated otherwise and there we were...standing in an airport on a Sunday afternoon with nothing, literally, but each other. That was 14 years ago and it has amazed me how quickly we have accumulated so much stuff/junk!!! Were we happier with less? Not really. Doing laundry for 5 little boys is difficult using a laundromat. Using a a fridge is far more convenient than an ice chest. But still we managed to accumulate so much stuff and have had it stowed away for so long and now that the kids are grown and gone it is time to move it along and let others enjoy what we no longer have a need for. Now THAT is less stress! Having things piled onto beds and chairs while my husband remodels is becoming stressful to me. I want things to be neat and tidy again. Less is definitely more! Sorry for the long letter; your thoughts have definitely motivated me to comb through what's out and purge what we really do not need anymore.

kbd said...

I should check out this book! I grew up in South Africa, where most middle income families have a maid (a legacy from Apartheid days, and worth its own discussion) but I am very used to living in a house as neat as a pin. Once I moved to the US and clean our home clean myself, as well work, do the laundry, and so on (luckily my husband loves to cook, so he does that and gets the groceries), something had to give. I've learned that I don't need a perfect home because there are so many more important things to spend my time and energy on. And yes, also because men don't notice a mess :)

Stephanie said...

KBD, that's so interesting. Thank you for sharing your viewpoint!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...