For many people, spring is a time to start fresh and clear out the cobwebs, mental and physical. De-cluttering is big business these days and I, for one, have embraced the idea with open arms and lots of plastic bins. Looking back on my formative years, though, I can see that my sense of organization has always been faulty.
As soon as I was old enough to walk, I realized how useful horizontal surfaces could be. The floor was my first discovery. I had a large toy box, from which it was very difficult to extricate the Barbie who had an appointment with me for a dramatic short haircut. However, by emptying the toys all over the floor, everything became easily accessible. Taking the logical next step, I realized that putting the toys back was simply a waste of time if I planned to play with them again the next day.
I believe this behavior is not learned, but possibly a genetic characteristic that skips a generation, because I grew up in a house that was spotless and clutter free.
By the time I was in high school, the increase in autonomy further enabled my cluttering behavior. I’m sure there was an unspoken agreement with my parents that as long as the mess didn’t migrate beyond my door it was my concern.
After I moved away from home, things temporarily improved, but by the time my first son was born, the clutter returned with a vengeance. I had every new parent's built-in excuse of less time and more "stuff", and yet, despite all evidence to the contrary, I assured everyone that I was on the verge of getting my act together.
The thing that comforts me is that I am not alone. Many other people haven’t seen their dining room table in years either. We may manage to clean the table off periodically for family dinners, but slowly things begin to migrate back; yesterday's mail, a roll of duct tape, sunglasses, a cell phone charger. That sprawling empty space is just too convenient.
You know, I wonder if we might be approaching the problem from the wrong perspective? Instead of trying to tame the chaos, maybe we should view our clutter as a form of self expression, even artwork. Or, a permanent indoor yard sale without price tags!