WHAT IS CLUTTER? Clutter is anything that lies or sits there without immediate use or promise of value.
WHERE DID THE WORD COME FROM? Clutter has Middle English roots meaning “clots,” “heap,” “coagulate” or “pile.” The earliest known appearance of “clutter” was a Welsh legend about a nobleman who died after drinking too much mead and then sat there for eight days before anyone noticed he was dead. A servant asked, “Hoo izzat?” His wife said, “Izz Mr. Clutter. He worthless rat. We must bury he.”
HOW MANY FORMS OF CLUTTER ARE THERE? At least 4,516, according to the IICC (International Institute of Clutter Counters) based in Hickory Dickory Dock, a seaside Maine village founded by retired physicians named Dock.
WHAT ARE COMMON EXAMPLES OF CLUTTER IN A TYPICAL HOME? Unwashed dishes, un-hung-up clothing, unpaid bills, candy wrappers, old magazines, untouched Bibles, hairballs, cigar butts, rancid coffee cups, hair curlers, paper clips, toothpicks, empty beer bottles,
WHAT PERCENTAGE OF HOMES ARE FREE OF CLUTTER? An estimated .00047 of 1 percent, at last count.
WHERE ARE THESE HOMES? No one is sure. However, 37 American houses have been reported clutter-free. They are all abandoned, and most are said to be haunted.
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET RID OF CLUTTER IN A HOME? Burn it.
BURN THE CLUTTER? No. Burn the entire home. A less destructive method is called stacking or piling. You gather up all paper clutter in a stack, and then work your way toward the bottom, one item at a time. Toss all non-paper items into a trash can and set it on the curb. But first pay all non-paid bills. Sort all the fundraising appeals you have received; choose your five favorite charities; write them a check; toss the rest.
WHAT IS AN EFFECTIVE ANTI-CLUTTER MOTTO TO PRACTICE? “A place for everything, and everything in its place.”
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MY FRIENDS TOM AND ALICE maintain as lovely and uncluttered a home as anyone would ever imagine. How do they do it? I asked them. Here are some of the rules they try to live by.
1. Clean as you go. Clutter thrives on “I’ll get around to it later.”
2. Finish what you’re doing. When you begin Neatness Project No. 14, do your best to complete it before attacking Project 15.
3. Throw away what you don’t absolutely need.
4. But keep other people and organizations in mind. The clothing, tools, furniture or food you are about to discard could be welcomed by the Salvation Army or other groups.
5. If you’re not a pet-lover, don’t get one. But if you do decide to adopt a dog, cat or chipmunk, plan ahead. Organize. Think of what your new guest might need. Does a pet usually bring clutter? Does the sun usually rise in the east?
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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN CLUTTER AND TRASH? As a rule, clutter is what collects in a home. Trash is what clutter becomes once you've placed the clutter on the curb for pickup.
WHAT IS “HOARDING”? It’s the name of a TV program featuring persons who cannot or will not ever discard anything that has once entered the home. (Side remark: My sweetheart Carolina Moon has a small home filled with 3,000 books. Her favorite quote: “If it’s books, it's not hoarding.”)
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WORLDWIDE, WHICH NATIONS ARE LEAST TRASHY OR CLUTTERY? Opinions vary. Friends of mine recently attended a German rock concert with 80,000 fans. The crowd reportedly left behind not one item of trash. Other travelers say that the French are not nearly as fastidious. Of such rumors are European conflicts sometimes born.