Knowle Parish Magazine: Mama Vs. Clutter-Monster

(Article written 14th August 2013, and published September 2013.)

My name is Elle and I’m clutter-phobic. More specifically impending baby clutter (although adult clutter isn’t much better). I am currently 18 weeks pregnant and shops are taunting me with multicoloured plastic, pink blankets, blue onesies and baby animals on everything. I walk into a department store and feel pressured by marketing that targets those of us who are terrified of doing something wrong and destroying our future child.

There are women across the world giving birth, wrapping their child in a nice blanket, unconcerned about the purity of cotton, letting them sleep in a simple wooden box, and cleaning their adorable little bottoms off with water. In contrast UK shops sell bath-hats to stop water getting on my child’s face; a squashy thing to pull the goo from a babies nose; or iPad games – because books aren’t interesting enough for the modern day newborn. When did looking after a baby become so complicated and so much about the stuff you had to buy before you popped or else risk the guilt of the Bad Mother of the Year title?

Currently hubby and I are attempting to clear out the accumulated unneeded stuff; we may have had the best intentions to become asian cooks, or create oil pastel masterpieces, or simply read more, but the truth is we haven’t. We are now a couple in a quaint little rented cottage, with more stuff than we can remember, a puppy enjoying the taste of everything, and a baby on the way. We have been extremely fortunate to have been gifted some of this, and had the money to buy other items, but right now what I would really appreciate is my space back, and a little to accommodate my bouncing bundle of joy.

This is my fight: limit the plastic, the duplicates and the impulse items as I birth and raise our child. You may laugh, scoff and shake your head at my naivety but I have a feeling this yearning for less stuff in our lives is growing. Why not go “vintage” and have reusable nappies? How about perusing Freecycle for secondhand onesies and offering up your extra teddy bear? The clutter monster does not need to win. Clear. Donate. Freecycle. Trust yourself that your baby doesn’t need a department store – they need you.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. Billie says:

    This is so interesting! I read your piece on ‘I’m not a minimalist but…’ too; it’s something I’ve come across this summer as well. Do you mean you’re not a minimalist because that is not the governing principle for organising your life? I’m interested in exploring the underlying issues of minimalism though. Does it have stuff in common with being an ‘ordinary radical’? (I’ve not actually read any Shane Claiborne but think – vague as it is – this might relate to his ideas?)

    1. EKMCronin says:

      It does relate a lot to Shane Claiborne and I would recommend his book Irresistible Revolution. What I tend to mean by not labelling myself as “minimalist” is that although I dislike stuff for stuff’s sake or hoarding/storing things that I barely use, I don’t like the idea of aiming to decorate in white-only bare rooms. I enjoy art and pieces of sentiment and use and beauty, but I don’t want to be ruled by them.
      I also believe that we could live in a comfortable home without half of the things that we are sold on a regular basis. As my article says, despite the shops and experts listing off hundreds of items our children *must* have, children have thrived with far less throughout our history, and actually the materialism of the last few decades has hardly done our generation much good. Kids now expect the latest toy or gadget and feel hard-done by if they are not given them.
      This sounds much harsher than I meant it, but the simple pleasures like creativity and imagination should be good enough without a long Christmas list of new stuff, for kids and adults alike.

      This is a lot like the “ordinary radical” life and I believe it could do us a lot of good, but I also understand that many people (parents specifically) find that lifestyle difficult to mimic out of worry for their children. It’s a shame but I don’t want to judge them for trying their best either.

      Long winded answer to probably a simple question 🙂

      1. Billie says:

        Thanks – yes, I agree absolutely with what you’ve been saying about Christmas lists etc! But I do think minimalism can have a lot of great insight as a principle, without being an artistic prohibition e.g. whitewashed walls! I do intend to read some Claiborne then!

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