If you’ve ever leafed through a copy of one of Marie Kondo’s life-changing books or actually tried the #KonMari method, it’s a pretty safe bet that you’ve purged a bunch of stuff. Her crackdown on getting rid of things has become a trendy take on organization. It reinforces the belief that less is more — especially when it comes to a clean home (bedroom organization hacks FTW), closet or Insta-worthy workspace. While we can totally admit that decluttering can feel like a relief, we’d be lying if we said parting with things we’ve collected over the years was easy. That’s why we were so intrigued when we heard about a different perspective, one that says clutter can actually inspire creativity and bring you joy. To learn more, we chatted with Christina Waters, Ph.D., the author of the brand-new book Inside the Flame: The Joy of Treasuring What You Already Have. Read on for six reasons why she always advocates for keeping some clutter around.

Artist in her studio wearing paint covered smock with paintbrush

1. Clutter stimulates creativity. As Albert Einstein famously asked, “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?” Christina echoes his sentiments, saying, “An eclectic landscape of paper, pens, plants, old photos, sketches and other items is like a bustling city, filled with cultural richness and sensory stimulation.” She even tells us that keeping stuff around has been proven to help feed your creative potential. “Pages torn from magazines, Post-its filled with poems, colored pens, a postcard from Rome — all of those things stimulate your mind and help keep it limber and flexible,” Christina says.

2. The things you keep reinforce your identity. We bet that if you strip a space of everything you love and have collected, you’ll feel like you’ve stripped it bare of your identity. Christina explains why: “The constellation of objects orbiting our workspace evolves and changes in sync with our desires, interests and lifestyle. This means that your ‘clutter’ actually acts as a mirror in which we can identify and reassure ourselves of who we are and what we like.” Whoa!

3. Familiar things preserve special memories. Think about the handmade jewelry box you picked up in Paris or the pillows you scored at an Egyptian souk, Christina says. “Call it ‘clutter’ if you must, but the critical mass of collected objects and souvenirs reminds us of irreplaceable times in our lives. Sentimental clutter? Maybe, but still packed with powerful emotions.”

woman at cluttered desk

4. Clutter forces you to be present. Christina admits, “My stuff, even if it’s as mundane as a stack of business cards or an antique vase, organizes and articulates my space.” She elaborates, “Basically, meaningful odds and ends punctuate a workspace, giving it different dimensions AND layers of meaning.” She tells us that you can read those objects as signposts to our spatial location and that objects in your fave colors can help ground you in the present. “Write a reminder and keep it in view. It will launch an action in real time,” she promises.

5. Your stuff can be a legit conversation starter. “The offbeat objects or unique trinkets that have colonized your life (or desk, walls and shelves) not only add their energy to a visual landscape, but they can also amuse guests and spark awesome conversations,” Christina reminds us. “You’ll get questions like, ‘What’s that little red thing?’ or ‘Where did you find that amazing rug?'” Let the convos and storytelling commence!

6. Clutter is FUN. It’s easy to forget that not every minute of life has to serve a specific purpose. Christina agrees, saying, “Having fun is one of the best ways of knowing that we’re alive, and it’s a much-needed antidote to any regimented, 24/7 work schedule. So, yes, keep that old love letter around, or the silly LED Easter bunny you love out.” These are ways that you can totally defy “adult drudgery” without any consequences at all. She proclaims, “Nobody’s stopping you!”

Does clutter impact your creativity? Tell us about how you work best and what your stuff means to you @BritandCo!

(Photos via Getty)