Clutter + the Modern Family

• 10 January 2013

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


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