Nov. 7th, 2010

terriko: (Default)
A friend posted this article entitled "red winkle picker regret and the dark side of decluttering" to twitter, and I've been mulling over it for a couple of days and I still don't know exactly what I want to say. Here's the core of the article:

When I started questioning, I noticed something - The Religion of Decluttering is the kissing cousin of The Religion of Thinness.

Both have at their core the original sin of too-much-ness. Both have congregations that are filled with a large majority of women (no surprise since the teachings are largely directed at women). Both have their morality tales (Hoarders, Clean Sweep, Biggest Loser). Both have had me as a devoted member.

And, I will audaciously claim, both of them have a well-hidden shadow side that is about pathologizing the feminine in favour of celebrating the masculine. Think about it - bodyfat is inherently feminine because of it's necessity for pregnancy and childbirth. Yet women with uber-low body fat percentages are admired (even though many of them stop menstruating). Gathering beauty, making a cozy home, aka nesting- no matter whether it's done by a man or a woman - is an activity flavoured with the feminine. Yet shelter porn makes us think that a lived in house is unattractive. Think of the energy of throwing out and discarding compared to the energy of taking in and welcoming.

I call this the attack on the breasts and nests - part of a subtle backlash against the re-balancing of the feminine and masculine.

So... is it anti-feminine? I don't think it has to be: my mother's going through a decluttering phase that largely seems to be about making sure no one else has to do it for her later if she's ever incapacitated. I think you could say that's almost the epitome of feminine in a way. And I suppose the same is true of losing weight: it doesn't have to be a pathological pursuit.

But I'm not sure I can deny that the parallels between losing weight and decluttering are particularly stark when it comes to the potential hit to one's self esteem: Not pretty enough, not a good enough housekeeper -- these are things that plague a lot of women. Both the pursuit of pretty and the pursuit of a clean home can be about erasing one's identity, be it smile lines or those cute knickknacks you found in a thrift shop.

And here's where the whole decluttering thing freaks me out again: isn't it, for many folk, mostly about throwing things out? Isn't that pretty much worshipping the other side of consumerism, the very thing decluttering advocates pretend to abhor? I grew up in a family of pack rats, but my parents could almost always produce the pieces necessary for any project we wanted or needed to do, be it ancient springs or a piece of fabric the right colour, or whatever. (I grew up in a type of hack culture, long before I learned the meaning of the word hacker.)

I guess really this article reminded me that I'm proud of some of my clutter, and I like being able to go to the basement and find something that I can use to solve a problem rather than having to buy something new. Sure, maybe I could ditch a few more broken things that I haven't gotten around to fixing, give away more of the clothes I don't need, but I don't want my house to look like shelter porn any more than I want my body to look like a super model's.


terriko: (Default)

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