THE BLOG

2011 Has Started - Isn't It Time to Get Organized?

01/20/2011 11:56am ET | Updated November 17, 2011
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You've probably got it. I certainly do. Most of us have one. It is that kitchen drawer, closet, basement, attic or crawl space, where you'll find everything that doesn't fit anywhere else like that years-old ball of string, a plastic stirrer from The Bellagio, a lock with no key or the broken toaster-oven you plan to get fixed - someday.

It's the clutter space, that catch-all area where we jam yet another piece of household flotsam into its maw. It gets uglier as the years pass and eventually morphs into a vortex of chaos, a tidy metaphor for an untidy life and - yes - abstractions have concrete meanings. If UN-attended, that mess can turn into DISREC (Dissosociative Subdural Reflexive Chaos) which means, you are one toke over the line, boss, and you'd better get it together.

But hark, a new year is on the menu and with it an eager resolve to cook up a fresh batch of control!

You, and by you I mean WE, should start clearing out that clutter space - throw out the keyboard to that computer we no longer have, heave those water-stained files from 2001. This purging can be invigorating, thrilling even - facing 2011 with verve and purpose. Doesn't this feel right?

Actually, no. According to expert psychological counsel, it's not really a very good idea. It's not only UN-necessary but de-cluttering all that clutter could have a negative effect on our over-all well-being which seems like a profoundly counter-intuitive concept.

A certain amount of clutter is in fact a good thing, they say. Because we all need a space, a holding area for the unknowns, the unexplainable and all the things that just don't seem to fit anywhere. For instance, you find a metal thingy on the floor. You're not quite sure what it is, where it goes, but you do know that if you throw it away you WILL need it someday. There's the shellacked and truly grotesque macaroni sculpture your 5-year-old did in kindergarten. It was her first expression of creativity. One day it'll be a museum piece. For now, it's not ready for primetime display. Into the clutter space with it.

Mental health experts explain that a clutter space is like an emotional over-flow tank, a safe place to put our stress because stress, like Kudzu, tends to spread if not contained. It's a space where we don't have to be perfect, a place to hold our imperfections.

The Navajo Indians of the Southwest know this. When a weaver creates one of tribe's closed-patterned rugs, she deliberately builds in a thin line breaking out of the closed pattern, creating a deliberate flaw in the design to remind us - we simply are not perfect.

In the interest of sound mental health, there has to be a compelling reason to clean out that clutter space - and it has nothing to do with any new year's resolve. Psychologists say that if you can't park your car in the garage because of the accumulated schmutz you probably DO need to take some action - but clearing ALL the clutter - no. We need that safe place to stash disorder. Or, to paraphrase turn-of-the-century psychologist and philosopher William James: the art of being wise is the art of knowing which mess to overlook. So, relax. Enjoy 2011 and embrace your clutter space.