Lost in Space

In the late seventies my great grandmother was the oldest living person in Rochester, Massachusetts. She lived in a trailer outside my grandparents’ house and I remember her cruising back and forth from the house to the trailer even at ninety-six years old.

The trailer had a distinctive air inside. After so many years have gone by I can’t tell you if the smell came from cleaning products or moth balls or something else she used , but when I think of her, I’m immediately back in the flimsy trailer and I smell that same old scent that reminds me of her.

Today I’m wondering how much our space tells us about who we are. My youngest daughter is a good example. She hates change but lives in a house where the furniture, plants, and pictures regularly cycle in and out. The change is a source of stress that she can’t get away from until she grows up and moves out.



My environment screams temporary. My clothes are packed in plastic bins and stacked around my room. My desk, writing chair, and filing cabinets are squeezed into a room that was full before I arrived. If you look closely at the surfaces you’ll see that I’m working on many things at once. I’ve got five different notepads all open and half full of scribbles. Standing there for a few minutes you could tell a lot about my state of mind. I’ve tried many times over the years to organize and declutter, but it seems I default to a state of chaos where I can see lots of tasks at once. I’m comfortable in my clutter, for now.

My brother’s house is a more interesting example. He’s the focus of my new Deadly Junk
series and right now if you look around his place you’ll see Matchbox cars scattered all around the living space as they wait their turn to be listed on eBay. Those cars were a purchase I captured on my blog and in the first Deadly Junk book. If you venture into the spare bedroom or the cellar, you’ll find mountains of stuff he’s bought either at a yard sale or as part of an estate. His love for junk defines him and it’s visible everywhere you look.

You wouldn’t expect to find the massive television, the new furniture and all the cool electronic gadgets in the same house. All this stuff clashes with my brother’s love for junk. If you didn’t know my sister-in-law, you’d be puzzled about where it all came from. It would be hard to believe junk sales could pay for all that gadgetry. After following my brother’s hobby for several months I know he could afford those things with the money he makes selling junk, but that’s not the answer.


My sister-in-law is a contester. If you’re running a giveaway and you’re offering a good prize, there’s a really good chance she’s entered. She’s won two cars, countless televisions and electronics, and more gift cards than she can spend. We like to think she’s really lucky. Maybe she is, but a lot of it comes down to determination and the patience to enter thousands of contests. Her success fills the living room.

As I was sitting at the dining room table talking to my daughter this morning, she told me all about how she would create her first apartment to be just the place she wants to live in. I wonder if we all start out that way and how long it takes for our space to take control and begin to tell the world who we are.




12 Comments on “Lost in Space”

  1. Kim says:

    Great thoughts….it certainly makes you wonder.

  2. Kim Mullican says:

    I read somewhere once that creativity is messy… that those who are creative, cannot function in the area of someone with OCD. I don’t know… it works for me. I function in my organized clutter just fine 😉

  3. Lil Gluckstern says:

    I think we find the space we live in, and make it our own. I like the words, organized clutter, but I think people find the way that works for them, and when it no longer does, they change. Makes life interesting. 🙂

  4. Amazing post. Intimate and insightful. It got me thinking about our space and what people might think about us. Great stuff, CJ.

  5. Dave Ebright says:

    CJ – I’m a neat freak, OCD, the whole bit. I can’t put down one word if anything in my writing room is out of place. Good post.

  6. August McLaughlin says:

    Terrific post, CJ. I think (or at least wonder if) the larger the house is, the tougher it is to be happy–unless it’s full of loving people.

    I’ve also noticed that the happier and stronger I am, the more likely I am to upkeep a tidy, pleasurable home.

    • cjwestkills says:

      So true August. When I get frantically busy, my space becomes a mess. I’ve also noticed that a nearly empty space is very soothing. When I finally get settled again, I’m going to focus on creating a visually relaxing workspace.

  7. JoEllen says:

    I like things in there place, but in my computer room, it can be a mess sometimes, because I too sell on ebay, but things I once had in a shop I owned. The more things I sell the less boxes I have the better I feel because it’s less clutter. On the otherhand, my husband is a total messy person, which I never saw (even when we first lived together. Not until we got married did I start to see this. I don’t deal with clutter in a big way – I just loose it!

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