Why is there something rather than nothing?
This is one of the greatest questions in all of philosophy. Where did this dumb old world come from? Why are there so many stars? How did consciousness arise? How did there get to be platypuses or seahorses? Why are there dirty socks on my dining room table? (There aren’t, but there have been). The ontology of clutter begins when the first hominid made the first stone tool, and continues into the Space Age, when eventually we will have accrued enough space junk to form our own planetary ring.
Let us pause for a moment and contemplate the vastness of space. The final frontier. Which most likely is not replicated anywhere in our homes. We have stuff. It’s started to fade into the background and we don’t tend to notice it until we have to start digging through it looking for our passports or keys or something. It’s just… there, until we start asking ourselves why we even have it. Why is there something instead of nothing on my windowsills and on top of the TV and the microwave and the toilet tank and every other flat surface? When we start unloading clutter, it begins to reveal empty space, and that can feel a bit alien.
How does it feel to look at a bare countertop? What about the kitchen table? Does a section of exposed wall with no furniture in front of it seem strange?
Some people aren’t aesthetically comfortable with empty space in a home. It may seem sterile or bleak or too ascetic. Another problem is that sometimes the place itself is so uninspiring that removing the clutter isn’t a huge improvement. The mustard-yellow shag carpet of my first rented bedroom comes to mind… Likewise, a kitchen counter with a 6” diameter burn mark. One way to deal with ugly fixtures is to disguise them with art, rather than piles of random stuff, but we have to realize that’s the problem first. The key is to make it look intentional. Is it intentional?
It took a few years, but I have learned to be comfortable with a certain amount of bare space. I am grateful to have space in my closets and cabinets. It’s nice to have a bit of wiggle room on my bookshelves. Nothing can be a good thing to have.
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I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.