Monday, April 25, 2016

The Threefold Theory of Clutter Black Holes

Today I will attempt to describe, as scientifically as possible, the process by which my house was and is overtaken by clutter.  I call this phenomenon the Threefold Theory of Clutter Black Holes.

First principle: Flat surfaces attract clutter. 

Time and time again, it seems that any flat surface can and will inevitably provide a perfect place for stuff to accumulate.  I have tested this principle and it does not matter if the surface is clean and clear initially or frequently used or not.  The size and function of the surface does not seems to matter either: the surface can be a countertop, a floor, a sofa, the shelf of a bookcase, the top of a toilet tank, etc.  The items that accumulate are often on their way somewhere else but cannot or simply do not make it there and come to rest on flat surfaces, becoming clutter the very second in which they fail to reach a more appropriate destination.

Second principle: Clutter at rest on a flat surface will attract more clutter at an exponential rate.

Once a surface, such as a sofa, has been sullied by a piece of clutter, such as a paper bag intended for recycling or a single baby sock or an explanation of benefits that needs to be put in a filing cabinet, the entire surface mutates from its original utility-providing form into a clutter receptacle.  Any initial hindrances to the adhesion of the first piece clutter to the surface (such as the watchful eye of the person who just cleaned the sofa last night) is dramatically reduced once an initial piece of clutter is placed.  The rate of clutter adhesion to the newly designated clutter receptacle speeds up exponentially, due to the increasing physical and psychological mass of the clutter, until the entire flat surface is no longer visible.

Third principle: A flat surface covered in clutter reaches a point of critical mass at which it becomes invisible.

Once the clutter receptacle has accumulated enough clutter to make it both unusable for its original purpose and unrecognizable, it disappears from view and becomes a clutter black hole, a swirling vortex that sucks into itself more clutter and all human motivation for self-improvement.  This happens for a few reasons: the item is physically invisible under a mountain of clutter, the mind of person with hoarding problems has to shut down to protect itself from caring about the loss of their household item (kitchen table? what kitchen table?) and worrying about the clutter, and it becomes easier than any alternative to just add more clutter to the existing clutter due to the intense gravitational pull of the clutter black hole.  No light or warmth or good intentions for becoming a minimalist can escape the singularity.

I have lost many a surface to a clutter black hole and even a room.  We put a few items into our loft in the fall to get them out of the way and voilà, the room is still unusable!  Last winter, I spent most of the winter up there because it is our warmest room.  This winter, we barely used it at all, because it was too full of boxes of baby clothes and couches we moved from other rooms to make space for baby items and books without bookshelf space, etc., not to mention those dishes I may not have been joking about hiding in front of the stairs to the loft.  In my mind, the room may as well not exist.  When I remember it does exist, it just makes me feel bad for not fixing it sooner, so I’ve turned off my rocket thrusters and let my motivation cruise into the clutter black hole as well.  But more on that later.

Maybe you guessed it – the hall bench is also a clutter black hole and for that reason, it has proven very hard to finish cleaning it.  I have done dishes, vacuumed rooms, and cleared off couches, but have yet to finish tackling that hall bench.  It’s pretty low on my list of priorities and still hasn’t become fully visible after months of ignoring it.  I’m hoping to make some time for it later this week.  Armed now with my Threefold Theory, I can only succeed.  Wish me luck!


  1. Haha, this is such a fun post!

    Now when my work desk clutters up by the end of the day, I can explain it in scientific terms to my wife :)

    1. Thank you! Quoting the theory may also prove an effective way to warn her away from the event horizon...unless, of course, you would like her help in preventing its formation.