Interior Design a la Clutter

HOME    Got Clutter?

Low-Maintenance Living

Clutter is easily incorporated into any design scheme, be it Early Grandma or Fancy Smancy.

Simply start piling clutter into the area and before you know it, you will have a design “statement” that, while not unique, definitely represents your personal style.

Although clutter can mix with any color and design scheme, there are specific areas that tend to attract clutter first. These areas are often closed off to public viewing. When the decorator makes a visit, it's generally wise to steer the artist firmly away from those areas. Of course, decorators tend to be an independent lot and , sooner or later, he or she will probably demand entry into the closed areas. When that happens, brace yourself.

Clutter does not compute with most decorators, and when faced with something they can't deal with, they often get hysterical. To avoid this future design problem, check these clutter areas for design conflict before you are faced with exposing them to a less than enthusiastic audience.


Although it’s a safe bet that your decorator won’t want to climb up into the attic, it's an area you need to look at. Some people can turn their attics into lofts; pack rats find that option inconceivable. A determined hoarder will somehow get all manner of things up into the attic, but when it comes time to get it down, that’s different.

Crying that the task is physically impossible, they. throw up their hands and leave everything up there. It makes me think about natural disasters. For example, if there is a flood, you won’t be able to retreat to the attic ‘cause there won’t be room for you. If there’s an earthquake, all that clutter will fall on your head and kill you. Killed by clutter. What a way to go.


Some people turn their basement into a rec room and other people give it the wreck room effect. The clutter is boxed, bagged, and hauled down the stairs for indefinite storage. Next, people will start installing chutes so they can shove the stuff with one mighty heave to its final destination. When it’s suggested that some of the clutter be removed from the basement, the pack rat perversely reverses the attic argument and hollers that the stuff is impossible to get up the stairs. Beam me up, Scotty.


I suspect breezeways were originally intended to allow breezes to flow through. Six-foot-high stacks of clutter obviously block those breezes. Since the breezeway is sort of inside but sort of outside, the mice and bugs sort of set up house among the clutter, where they contentedly munch away. Eventually they get a little too comfortable — protected as they are from the elements. They then brazenly eye the inside of the house where, they speculate, there is even more clutter and , therefore, food and housing for them and their little families. Oh boy.


The carport is somewhere between the design of the breezeway and the garage. Not entirely protected from the elements, some clutterbugs pause before stacking clutter in this location. After the pause, they do it anyway. When the rain gets to the boxes, the boxes collapse in a soggy mess, the contents squashed to smithereens. The clutterbug usually surveys the scene with dismay but, lacking a place to stack soggy boxes of clutter, does nothing, leaving the boxes (and the contents) to suffer this humiliating state for at least another year or two.


Closets, especially spare closets, provide a fertile hiding place for all manner of clutter, not the least of which is outgrown and out dated clothing. Shoving stuff in the closet for now becomes a way of life for pack rats. Eventually every closet is full, and the only solution for future life on this planet is to move to a house with more and bigger closets. This is an expensive solution to a clutter design problem, but your decorator will no doubt embrace it enthusiastically. After all, the decorator will then get to start all over, decorating yet another abode for you and your clutter. Clients like you keep decorators in business.


People often don’t consider the design possibilities of their garage; clutterbugs are an exception. They eye the garage rabidly as they calculate how much clutter they can put there before the garage is full and they have to park the car on the street. Once that happens, they can get awfully creative. I knew a man who decided to get bids from a contractor on the cost of building a subterranean garage under his current garage, since clearing out the clutter was unthinkable as a potential solution to the problem. I always think of an Early American design for the garage because it really is the Final Frontier for clutter.


Some people have a shed “out back.” Nowadays you can buy a portable shed, which is what one woman I know did. When we tackled her living room, stacked knee-high with piles of newspapers dating back to 1966, she simply bundled them up, gave me a sweet smile, and hauled them out to the shed where she restacked them. Her clutter problem wasn’t solved, but when we were done you could reach the sofa and actually sit on it, which had been impossible before. Still another woman I know lived on a farm where she had a rather substantial chicken coop. She didn’t have any chickens, so she scrubbed the coop down and loaded her boxed clutter into the coop. These women opted for what some people call design alternatives, and it’s tough to argue with that.

Spare Room

The spare room ceases being spare when it's discovered by the pack rat. Everything and anything gets tossed into this room and when the room becomes impassable, the perpetrator simply closes the door and pretends it doesn’t even exist. This can be maddening to the average decorator who is dying to get in there and redo the room.

Under the House

I had never really considered under the house storage until I came face to face with it through one of my clients. I organized a major move for one client that involved several days of packing before the actual move. On the day of the move, she very sweetly asked the movers to get a few things she had stored under the house. Two guys trundled down to the spot and spent forty-five minutes bringing out what seemed to be an unending pile of stuff which we had to either repack or throw away since so much of it was ruined or badly damaged. Of course, since no decorator would be caught dead under a house, fear of getting caught is reduced substantially. Clutter can be stored there like dead bodies, rotting until the day of reckoning — that's , moving day. It’s a horrible way for clutter to die, and it gives me the creeps.

Whatever your design scheme, it’s never too late (as any decorator will happily tell you) to start over. By taking design principles from the get-organized-clean-sweep school, you can be your own decorator. Under all that clutter probably lies a space dying to be used, noticed, and enjoyed.

Top of Page | Prev: Seven Clutter Warranties | Next:

The Cost of Clutter

| Home