All hail clutter: Why spare and spartan isn't always the best, and how to keep your apartment from being a mess

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We'll admit it: We've embraced the cult of spare and spartan living. We've Marie Kondo'd our closets (and shared tips and videos with you on how to do so); enlisted experts to organize our apartments and extolled the virtues of living a clutter-free life.

And yet, writer and ex-House & Garden editor-in-chief Dominique Browning's recent New York Times essay on our "pointless and misguided" attempts to rid ourselves of our stuff is hitting home. She calls on us "to liberate ourselves from the propaganda of divestment" and acknowledge "that in living, we accumulate. We admire. We desire. We love. We collect. We display."

In short, being alive means having experiences, which often translate to gathering items that speak to those experiences. I am, therefore I collect. Besides, per LifeHacker, science is conflicted about whether decluttering actually makes us more efficient. (We are, of course, not espousing becoming a hoarder, which has less to do with owning items that are part and parcel of being human and living in this world, and more about having a disorder that's classified in the DSM-V.)

But how to keep the items we love without living in a mess, which is especially relevant in this city where space is scarce? The key, it seems, is controlled chaos. Here, some rooms that can provide inspiration:

This room featured on Houzz clearly feels well-loved, but is far from disheveled. Note the neat bookshelves and carefully aligned framed prints.

Another fantastic apartment, this one on Ardor NY's blog. In fact, the writer says she's not some "crazy minimalist." Just someone with a good eye and a way with keeping her collectibles in appropriate groupings so there's a sense of order even in a small apartment.

And finally, a 242-square-foot apartment that's anything but claustrophobic (hat tip to HomeDit for the find), thanks to respectful use of vertical space and multi-purpose furniture, like a Murphy bed that switches to a couch.


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