When does uncluttering become sterilization?

The point is different for each of us where uncluttering becomes a end in itself. My goal is to unclutter my life so that I may better experience what is meaningful. It isn’t to remove all complications, messes, untidiness, or frustration. Most days I enjoy the Unclutterer blog because it points out changes I can make as I strive toward my goal. However, there are days when it turns me contrary and makes me want to save old newspapers and string, pile unread books on the living room floor, strew clothes around the house, and leave dirty dishes on the counter. Yesterday was one such day.

A reader wrote to complain about the newspaper clippings her mother sends her via mail. The reader feels the clippings are clutter and would like her mother to send links via email. She also worries about the environmental impact of the mailings. Balderdash. An envelope with clippings is no worse than a letter. Perhaps we should do away with physical mail altogether, but electronic media also has an environmental cost. The clippings are clutter only in the way the daughter deals with them, and that is in her control.

I don’t know either the reader or her mother. Perhaps her mother sends clippings about getting a breast enhancement surgery or the dangers of obesity, but I think that is not the case. Nor is there any hint the mother is a compulsive hoarder. Barring any psychological problems, and assuming the daughter doesn’t want to tell her mother outright to stop sending clippings, this seems a case where changing one’s outlook is the best solution.

My mom was once a big letter writer. She was the glue that held friendships together by making sure communication happened. She still has close friends from her childhood, high school, and college. Now, at 83, she is less able to write letters for a number of reasons. Now, instead, she clips articles (and my horoscope!) and sends them in the mail. It is her way of staying in touch, letting me know she’s thinking of me. The horoscopes say she hopes for success and happiness for me (she doesn’t send bad or boring ones). I don’t always read every one, nor do I save them. (Except the horoscopes. For some reason I find it charming and have a perfect place to save them where they’re out of the way.)

Aside from the emotional connection to family, it is still a grace and pleasure to receive mail that has tangibly traveled from here to there. So, keep sending the articles, Mom. I love you, too.



  1. Amy P said

    Very true. I keep postcards for a similar reason – they were sent with a purpose. Of course, it helps if they look pretty!

    • Nancy said

      Yes! I save postcards. I have a secret desire to make an art car that is covered in postcards. And letters. Which I rarely receive (but rarely send).

      • Nancy said

        Um. I mean I save letters, too. Not for the art car, though.

  2. Love Nancy’s idea for an art car. Put out some kind of blanket announcement-request online for postcards and I bet they’ll come pouring in.

  3. Steve said

    My mom, who lives in Albuquerque, regularly mails me boxes of books. The latest box includes one that I’d recommend to you. Check out ‘Mike Butterfield’s Guide to the Mountains of New Mexico’. I particularly like the sections detailing the Gila Wilderness and the Organ Mountains near Las Cruces. Gorgeous reading.

    Steve R.

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