Tough on clutter, soft on the causers of clutter

Tidy desks are a symptom of a lack of creativity, apparently

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The Independent Online

On Thursday evening, the launch for Brian Selznick’s gorgeous book The Marvels was held at 18 Folgate Street, the Spitalfields house that was immortalised in Dennis Severs’ book of the same name. The house is a five-storey time capsule: candle-lit, crammed with artefacts, literally chiming with the life of Severs’ imaginary, 18th-century family. 

At the launch, champagne was served and guests encouraged to explore the cluttered rooms, jostle among precarious stacks of china, squeeze past the guttering candles and generally clump about. Most people were overjoyed, if a little spooked. I, on the other hand, just desperately wanted to tidy up.

As a furniture retailer claimed last week that one in three arguments between parents is caused by the untidy state of their children’s bedrooms, I was reminded again that tidiness can be contentious. When you’re as  clumsy as I am, just standing still in a room that’s littered with breakable or losable things is likely to bring you out in a sweat. 

Other people are more laid back about mess, and will happily leave their laptop open on the floor with its cable trailing across the room, even after the time their wife trips and spills a vase of flowers on it. For example. 

This is a book that can teach even advanced tidiers


There are two types of people: those who can’t sit still until everything is in its proper place, and those who are very relaxed about untidiness. The two seem doomed never to understand each other, and I can see why so many family rows stem from it. But while the furniture company’s survey is presumably designed to sell storage solutions to stressed-out parents, most of the research I read seems to be focused on proving that tidy people are socially inadequate. 

Tidy desks are a symptom of a lack of creativity, apparently. An empty email inbox is a sure sign of a cold-hearted weirdo. It’s a wonder the people who commission these polls can ever find the results, so apparent is it that they are the messy (and jealous) ones. Whatever happened to mens sana and all that? I was delighted, therefore, to receive a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying: The Japanese Art, published last week. 

Here is a woman who understands the deep joy of knowing where all your stuff is, and knowing that you’re not about to tread on it. With such chapter headings as “Storing socks: treat your socks and tights with respect” and a geek’s loving description of finding the folding “sweet spot”, this is a book that can teach even advanced tidiers (Kondo is so advanced she even throws away her copy of The Art of Discarding). 

So, should you buy it for the messy person in your life? I don’t recommend it: people never change, and you know you’ll only find yourself tripping over it the next time you visit. 

Twitter: @katyguest36912