September 28, 2013

It's the ultimate American dilemma – your clutter or your life

What we own is crowding us out of our houses, eroding the idea of a home as a haven from chaos.

By HOWARD MANSFIELD

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But the decluttering gurus can only provide a material solution to a spiritual problem. They are confusing symptoms and causes. A cluttered house with a never-used piano or family dinner table buried under junk is a symptom of materialism run amok. It's not the cause. Cleanliness is good, but is it really next to godliness? You may be no more happy or wise in a cleaner house.

This mess is us. Forget the lists of seven simple steps that morph into hundreds of steps, forget the "in-home design consultation" with the California Closets organizer. The lesson that the lists seldom arrive at is this: Our lives are finite.

Take this advice from the decluttering coach who calls herself "FlyLady": Grab 27 things and remove them. Repeat. What's keeping you from living? Throw it away, step over it, push it into a corner, into the garage, barn, storage shed. Mice, rats, mold, mildew will have their way. Just go live your life.

Howard Mansfield is the author of the new book "Dwelling in Possibility: Searching for the Soul of Shelter." Mansfield, who lives in Hancock, N.H., wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.

- McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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