My wife, Marsha, The Almost Perfect Woman, said, “What’s this sudden obsession with clutter? You just wrote a piece on clutter.”

Having prepared a reply beforehand, I quickly pointed out that the subject of clutter could not be casually dispatched in several paragraphs. There is not enough ink to satiate the public’s need to know more about clutter. As a topic for discussion, clutter is a bottomless well with no sides and might be compared to the world’s great religions or Donald Trump.

If it is true that you are what you eat, it might be argued that you are what you save. Your friends love you for what you have saved. You are defined by your clutter.

If you plan to make one good car out of the six junk cars in your dooryard, are you a thrifty Maine man who should be applauded for recycling?

And how many years do rusty cars have to be in your dooryard before your neighbors can call it clutter?

Ask, and each neighbor would give a different answer, because clutter is in the eye of the beholder. To some of us, having several wrecked vehicles in the dooryard is a powerful manifestation of wealth.


If you do not immediately throw away all leftover parts from whatever project you just finished and return your tools to their proper place, you have a good foundation for workbench clutter.

The clutter from last month’s project at your workbench should not be confused with the kind of clutter that accumulates at the entrance to your barn or shed, however, because that might have been dropped there by your grandfather 70 years before.

We have all seen a dusty horse collar or a buggy whip in the entryway to some homes. We should not assume that the inhabitants are somewhat lax in their housekeeping habits.

Families that have lived in the same house for generations have a different way of looking at what you or I might call clutter. There are those who clutter, but these folks had clutter thrust upon them. If you have seen a horse collar by the door every day since you were in diapers, it stands to reason that it belongs there.

A 1912 Klaxon horn and some ice tongs are part of the clutter in the entrance to my house, so I’m sporting newer clutter than my horse collar neighbors.

It’s true that I will never use those ice tongs or that Klaxon horn. But hasn’t something that has hung from a peg on your wall for over 100 years earned the right to stay there?


How does clutter accumulate? Fifty or so years ago, I bought several houses and their furnishings.

From time to time I’d sell a house, but before I did I’d bring home all the stoves and furniture. The day I found myself sleeping on a pallet under a piano because I couldn’t get in the bedroom, I realized that things were getting a bit out of hand.

But I didn’t dare sell anything. I had been single for 20 years and I knew that as soon as I met a woman who would marry me, she’d say, “What? You had a sleigh-backed widget and you sold it to Truman Hilt for $45? You fool. I’ve wanted a sleigh-backed widget since I was 12.”

So when Marsha first stepped into this house in 1988, it was so full of clutter you couldn’t even get into some of the rooms. Overcome with gratitude for a challenge worthy of her talents, she almost cried.

Remember when television crews would film garbage on the kitchen counter and clutter on the floor and show it on the evening news as an example of poverty in Maine? Everyone knows that clutter is a product of lifestyle and has nothing to do with income.

You put my wife or Paula Rytky in with all that garbage and clutter, and by the time the sun went down, there’d be a dumpster loaded to the gunnels out by the road and the place would be spotless before they’d go to sleep that night. If you live with a cleaner/organizer, you know that they couldn’t sleep until the place was spotless.


Put those who clutter in a million-dollar house on the ocean, and within a few days it would look like a war zone.

Could we clean up Maine neighborhoods by asking the clutterers to change houses with the cleaners every other week? We could institute the program here. My editor would be pleased to facilitate the correspondence.

The humble Farmer can be seen on Community Television in and near Portland and be visited at his website:

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