Tuesday, February 17, 2015

De-Cluttering and the German Mind

The de-cluttering movement is one of the more intriguing bits of contemporary culture. We now have so much stuff that people feel overwhelmed by it, and the bestselling self-help books these days are about how to de-clutter your house and simplify your life. Rather than needing things, or craving sensation, we are drowning in an avalanche of both. But of course how much stuff is too much varies from person to person, and culture to culture. Karen Kingston, a British clutter expert who consults internationally, offers some insight into the differences:
Not all of the world’s clutter is created equal. Ms. Kingston says that British clutter tends to include pieces of unwanted inherited furniture. (“Accept the love that was given with the gift but let the physical item go,” she advises.) Americans have fewer heirlooms, but can become sentimentally attached to new purchases, she says.

Germans are among the biggest subscribers to her de-cluttering courses. Though when a colleague emails her “clutter photos” from potential clients there, she’s often at a loss to find the mess. (In Germany, “It’s not so much that they have a lot of clutter, it’s more the fact that they want to be optimally organized,” Ms. Kingston explains.)

1 comment:

G. Verloren said...

The Germans do love their efficiency, and some of the furniture and home infrastructure designs that appeal most to my own sense of organization are either German, Italian, or Japanese space saving designs.

That said, I do think that we're going to be seeing shifts in what I would describe as "clutter tolerance" in the future.

Young people are growing up exposed to so such a deluge of stimuli, and they adapt to it naturally. We have toddlers who are more proficient with smartphones than their parents, and I've long noticed that generally the older a person is, the harder it is for them to "get into" modern computing and electronic devices. And while I'm not anything like of a doctor or psychologist, I do believe that our tolerance of clutter is tied to our tolerance for stilumi. The more natural it feels to be constantly "bombarded" by information and details, the less it seems people care about clutter.

Mess is another factor entirely. To extend the analogy, a computer screen packed with information reads very differently depending on how that information is organized. A messy screen can be a nightmare to parse, while a well ordered one can be a breeze, even though both have high information density and are highly "cluttered". The same I believe applies to homes and whatnot - a cluttered house is packed with things, but so long as it isn't messy I find many people aren't troubled by it.