When is an item a significant object worth collecting or displaying on the mantlepiece — or saving to sell on eBay at a later date — and when is it clutter? And if it’s clutter, is it threatening your relationship? The subject of household clutter has been on our minds lately. Em was at a reading last week for the forthcoming book Significant Objects, a literary experiment that began its life on eBay. Basically, the editors (New York Times Magazine writer Rob Walker and Em’s old friend Josh Glenn of HiLoBrow.com) wanted to see if attaching a fictional backstory to a tchotchke would increase its value (turns out it did). We’ll write more on the book itself when it comes out next month.
Anyway, in an interview in the Home & Garden section of the New York Times, Glenn talks about the project and explains why he actually doesn’t have an abundance of objects, significant or otherwise, lying around his house (and he’d have a convenient excuse, as he and his editing partner raided flea markets and charity shops for the Significant Objects project): “I’ve been reading way too many women’s magazines for a client. And I think this is what they’re saying: ‘Stress causes cancer. Clutter causes stress.’ So, basically, clutter causes cancer.”
So that was a little tongue-in-cheek, perhaps, but therapists and the Wall Street Journal have his back. According to a recent article, clutter is as common a marriage issue as sex or finances, but it’s just not talked about as much because people feel silly or petty bringing it up. Because, really, how do you tell someone that their overflowing in-box or their sprawling collection of nodding dogs is a threat to your marriage? (Okay, maybe the latter should be a given.)