Is There Poetry In Clutter, Or Do I Just Wish There Was?

Today I feel like a doubtful tree - rooted, but not sure why. I feel like a too-loud whisper. I feel a lead plate resting on my chest, perfectly level. I’m dreaming of a breakthrough.

My bathroom has a huge built-in cabinet that, like every surface that’s ever been in my life, is a powerful clutter magnet.

It has two long shelves hidden by doors at the bottom, three large square cubbies in the middle, and a long shelf on top.

Before this new season of my life started, it had been fairly easy to control - a pair of glasses here and there, a few sticks of deodorant in the wrong cubby.

But once I began leaving my apartment on a regular basis, wanting to wear makeup more often, and acquiring samples and goodies from conferences and events, my things have sprawled beyond the single cubby I had allocated for them.

It’s funny, really - the more joy that has started to creep into my life, the less control I have over my bathroom, of all places. I like to think that it’s because I’m taking better care of myself.

There’s visual evidence everywhere of my makeup routine, my skin care routine, my yoga routine.

What’s that quote? Apparently Einstein said:

“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"

So maybe I’m onto something with this messy bathroom.

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What even is it all, and how did it get there?

Makeup. I’ve been learning more about makeup lately. I think it’s thanks to Instagram’s most dangerous feature: the “discover” page. I see women applying flawless makeup, making it look effortless with the time lapse feature on their phones.

I’m nowhere near that level, but I do like to feel like “one of the girls” every once in a while with a new product or technique.. Just today, actually, I bought a new $6 foundation brush because my old one - wait for it - was so matted together it was like a spatula. I’m sure it was at least seven years old.

I also have brushes that are at least ten years old - brushes that I took from my mom’s makeup drawer when I was in high school and was finally learning about makeup. I would dust any powder I could find on my face and feel so proud of my new womanly abilities. Since they’re powder brushes, they haven’t borne the brunt of time nearly as badly, but my husband went out of his way to remind me that it’s okay to get new brushes.

All of this to say, I use most of my makeup tools almost every day, and there’s not a lot of “special occasion” things in my makeup cabinet.

I had some Lady Gaga MAC Lipstick from (you guessed it) seven years ago, and when I wore it last week my lips started to tingle. When you’ve carried something with you for that long - between six different apartments and across the country, you can’t help but feel like you have to say a few words before you drop it into the trash. I didn’t, but I did make my husband watch me toss it.

Skin care. Man, if I could share the grief my acne has caused me over the years with you, I wouldn’t do it. I couldn’t do that to you, dear reader. Plus, you probably have your own stuff going on and I don’t want to add more misery to your plate.

I’ve been trying so many things to combat the inflamed acne on my jawline. I know it’s probably hormonal so surface treatments are never going to be enough, but it doesn’t stop me from trying.

I have a little bit of everything: the ultra-strength, bleaches-your-wash-cloths acne treatments, the witch hazel and coconut oil and aloe, the all-natural products with cute labels and delicious scents.

Once I use a new product for a few weeks and don’t see vast improvements, it usually just gets added to a rotation of random products that I use on a whim. Again, not the greatest strategy. How have I gotten this far in life with such a haphazard approach to so many things?

But there’s at least something nice about knowing I can choose between harsh and gentle treatments, skip certain products when I want to, or layer on moisturizers like a skier might layer on outerwear.

I’ve reduced coffee to one day a week (at most), and have increased my water intake. I sweat profusely every day in yoga and wash my face afterwards - but nothing helps.

The only connection I’ve been able to make is that it’s always, unsurprisingly, worse the day after I’ve had beer. Blech.

I can actually live without coffee, but a good beer now and again is bae.

Yoga. There’s evidence of my yoga practice in my bathroom too, and it doesn’t always smell very nice. After class, I come home and hang up my sports bra and leggings, since those take the longest to dry and I don’t want a moldy hamper.

There’s always at least two bras hanging, and I always have to remind myself to at least collect my bras before guests arrive. Not that I’d really care, but they do smell pretty sweaty. Oh, and just to give you a complete picture: some of my sports bras are ten years old, too. JESUS DO I LIVE IN THE PAST?

Then there’s the evidence of what I do when I get home and change for yoga class - there’s at least another real bra hanging out somewhere in the bathroom, and sometimes clothes that I’m just not emotionally ready to put in the laundry yet. They live there until I realize how dumb I’m being and just wash them, because man they do smell.

And then, there’s everything else. There’s toilet paper strewn about the restroom because we don’t have a roll holder (the apartment didn’t come with one, and we never got around to buying a freestanding one).

There’s jewelry that I put on and then take off because I’m always worried it’s too much. Seriously, can you wear dangle earrings with a long necklace? Is that possible? Why does it always look so weird?

There’s a pot with three bamboo shoots in it, because the other 12 died. There’s a picture of the bar my husband and I got engaged in. There's a nice lil pink basket that I still haven't decided what to fill with.

Literally airing my dirty laundry: the "why" behind my poetic bathroom clutter photoshoot

When I got my camera a couple of months ago, I really noticed how lovely the light in my bathroom was - but was mortified at how dirty everything else was. Instead of cleaning it and putting everything in order to make it look its best, I just decided to snap photos of exactly how it was.

And I started to wonder if there’s actually any poetry in this clutter, or if it really is just the disappointing product of a messy person. I don’t love the clutter itself, but I do love using each individual product, and how it all serves me daily.

I feel like clutter has a different energy in each room of the house - in a bedroom, it destroys restfulness, in the living room it destroys peace, in the dining room it destroys community, in the kitchen it destroys function, but in the bathroom?

Does it destroy productivity or hygiene? Does it destroy flow? Or, like I'm starting to believe, is there a little bit of poetry - a little bit of a glimpse behind the scenes of your beautiful life - that lives in your bathroom? There's an art that goes in to how each person chooses to present themselves, and the bathroom is where it all happens.

I prefer that explanation.

What does your house look like, right now? Can you find poetry there?