A house isn't a home without clutter

A few newspapers or soda cans strewn about give a home that cozy, lived-in feel.

Suddenly everybody is worried about clutter. There are books, magazine articles, TV shows, and even PTA discussion groups about how to get rid of clutter.

Well, I think people should calm down, because if you stop to think about clutter, you realize that a house without clutter is absolutely boring.

Take, for example, the showcase house I toured recently. Every year, our local interior decorators work for months painting and papering and creating glamorous rooms in a beautiful big house.

But when they finish, the house seems as stiff and artificial as a museum. No one would ever want to live there, in my opinion, because it's totally unhomey. It's a perfect example of a house without clutter.

So after I got home from viewing the latest effort, I began to think about what could be done to make that lovely house feel like a nice cozy home. To help the decorators of the future, I've made a list of suggestions:

1. I think they should put a big stack of newspapers and magazines beside the overstuffed chair in the living room – old ones, worn and dog-eared.

At our house, old papers and magazines I can't bear to throw away can always be found in the living room because I'm absolutely certain they contain things I'll need to know. Someday.

2. All those big, green, healthy plants in various corners around that decorator house aren't homey. To be honest, I think they are showoffish. They make me feel uncomfortable. It would help if some of those plants were wilted and scraggly – as though someone had forgotten to water them. They would be much more realistic that way.

3. The dining room table shouldn't be too bare. At our house, we eat mostly in the kitchen, so the dining room table is where everybody puts things they don't know what else to do with and where everybody looks when they're searching for something they can't find – such as an overdue library book or the invitation to Cousin Karen's wedding or the recipe for Martha Stewart's six-layer Crimson Christmas Cake that I'd planned to bake last December before time ran out.

And where would the extra set of car keys be if it wasn't on the dining room table? To make a house look like a home, the decorators should clutter up the dining room table with a few odds and ends.

4. There is something about a refrigerator door without magnets, notes, photos, clippings, and invitations that is downright depressing. It gives you the feeling that life is dull for the folks who live there. Refrigerator doors should definitely be covered with things that make you feel that life is stimulating and exciting.

5. The desk in the den is too tidy. The decorators should scatter a few bills on it, some letters waiting to be answered, a report card, and maybe even a few motivational mottoes such as "Snap out of it" and "Don't whine."

6. If I were an interior decorator, I'd really work on that teenager's room. It's much too neat and clean. I'd toss a few candy wrappers around on the floor, rumple up the bedclothes, and throw some dirty gym shoes in the corner. A teenager's room without clutter is definitely not homey.

7. In the laundry room, I would set up the ironing board and leave it. I realize there are some women who fold up their ironing boards each time they finish using them, but I don't believe in folding up ironing boards; I think it's a waste of time. You know you're going to be using it again soon.

And I'd suggest they add a clothes basket heaped with clean laundry waiting to be folded. Laundry rooms look peculiar without clothes that need to be folded.

8. I'd also scatter a few empty soda cans here and there around the house in unexpected places. I'm always finding empty soda cans on the mantel or behind the sofa or even in the shower. I suspect other people do, too.

Thoreau said (I'm almost certain it was Thoreau): "You should decorate a house by living in it." All of us could definitely learn a thing or two from Thoreau (or whoever) about making houses feel homey – with clutter.

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