The Anxiety of Clutter, Worship of Spatulas, and Other Stuff

Want to know what steals my serenity? 

Seven spatulas.

Lego pieces from a Star Wars (or maybe Harry Potter) build set.

Junk mail.

Almost-expired coupons for fast food we never eat.

Three bedsheet sets for when I change my mind.

43 single socks with matches eaten by the dryer (I’m sure of it).

24 Happy Meal toys.

18 stuffed animals.

Three dried-out toothbrushes from when she forgot to rinse.

Coffee cups with snarky sayings.

School activity sheets constantly fished out of the recycling bin by a sentimental, six-year-old packrat.

Books with spines never bent.

Photos with no frames.

Frames with no photos.

Decorative pillows adorning the floor.

A drawer of eyeglasses similar to Fred Sanford’s.

A mason jar of nuts and bolts to go with things never fixed.

An elliptical machine for hanging laundry.

A size six dress that says “someday”.

That whatchamacallit that goes with my thingamabob. 

By the way, have you seen my thingamabob? It was right next to his obscure, homemade tool that looks like trash, but I’m told is quite useful for those projects left unchecked.

Stuff: Imposters of joy I let into my home without a single, conscious thought. How did it come to this? Since when did life revolve around accumulating stuff (not even sexy, exciting stuff), followed by picking up said stuff? It’s as if I awoke one morning to hundreds of roommates that moved in unannounced to mooch off of my precious weekends and late weeknights after soccer practice. 

“Hey Chelsea. It’s me, again . . . the lone yellow dinosaur sock at the bottom of the clothes hamper. Still looking for my sister in here somewhere.” Did I just hear the dryer belch?

Why is this Bear Bryant stamp collection still staring at me?

Am I a bad mother for not keeping that eighth Halloween craft she made in Kindergarten?

How many Rubbermaid containers without lids should one person keep? You watch. As soon as I get rid of them, those lids will show up, laughing.

In the 1990s, stuff was at the peak of its importance in the American diet. And as a 90s kid, I ate that stuff up. For the holidays, my mom loved to do it up big. Christmas came out of a Sears catalog. My brother, sister, and I would have our big markers ready to circle anything we may find remotely entertaining in that 600-page gospel of stuff. We got most of it, too, along with a few other surprises. I must have been a good girl every year for Santa to bathe me with such glorious distractions. By January, I would hear my parents lamenting that they “had to do something to get by” as bills for the extravagant December show started knocking on the door.

And here we are again – the season of consumerism wrapped inside a Trojan Christmas horse. T’is the season to see folly. The season of crazed deal junkies rearing their haunches, eyeing the windowsills, and leaping through sliding glass doors to sift through red sale tags. Did you know an American child asks for a Ryan’s World Surprise Egg every seven seconds? Better hit the pavement early this year.

It’s the season of Ariana Grande’s I see it, I like it, I want it, I got it. It’s the “ONE DAY ONLY”, “BOGO”, “ACT NOW”, “Hurry before it’s gone.” We’ve added yet another 24/7, neon-lit Christmas to our carts with cheap down payments and unforeseen interest.

Even Charlie Brown’s sad looking Christmas tree, the one that represents simplicity and contentment with what we have? It’s priced at $14.90 on Amazon with free 2-day shipping for Prime members. Wait, it’s a Lightning deal for another five minutes. Strike now! Strike now!!!

I know by now you may be worried about my wellbeing with this impending, blackest of black shopping extravaganza upon us. Rest assured, I’ve taken extra precautions this year.

See, I had picked up that yellow sock of mine one too many times. I had walked into a pile of “deal with it nows” for longer than I could stand it. While my family of two-legged and four-legged loved ones looked to me for answers, acknowledgement, direction, love, I was distracted by stuff. Life-sucking stuff. Stuff that brought me nothing but anxiety.

After mixing batter for a batch of Mickey Mouse pancakes one morning, I stared at those seven spatulas (the ones that had seven separate reasons for existing) and I lost it . . . like apeshit crazy lost it. I could no longer allow my life to be cluttered with stuff that didn’t matter. Without more contemplation, I grabbed an empty box from the garage and started dumping everything I had picked up a million times before. I purged that kitchen of every item I couldn’t justify keeping. And then I washed, rinsed, repeated those steps in every room in the house over the last three months.

In a short amount of time, I purged half of my family’s belongings with their blessing (sometimes). And you know what? I don’t miss a single thing. Even now I can’t recall what it is that I removed, but I can tell you what was added back. 

Deep breaths.


Belly laughs. 


Conversations deeper than skin.

Needle on the vinyl.  

Dances in the living room. 



When I finally cleaned out that last junk drawer, you know what I finally found tucked away in there? You’ll never believe it. It was my thingamabob, just staring at me behind the container of thumbtacks and AAA batteries.

Come to think of it, I remember what I called it, now.

Let me introduce you to my old friend.

This is Peace, right where I left it.

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