Things on My Kitchen Table

In my email in-box, these lines from Toni Morrison’s Paris Review interview appear:

I have an ideal writing routine that I’ve never experienced, which is to have, say, nine uninterrupted days when I wouldn’t have to leave the house or take phone calls. And to have the space—a space where I have huge tables. I end up with this much space [she indicates a small square spot on her desk] everywhere I am, and I can’t beat my way out of it. I am reminded of that tiny desk that Emily Dickinson wrote on and I chuckle when I think, Sweet thing, there she was. But that is all any of us have: just this small space and no matter what the filing system or how often you clear it out—life, documents, letters, requests, invitations, invoices just keep going back in.

For a single mother who often works at home, clutter is a major issue — and I don’t mean the Marie Kondo kind of clutter with too many piles of perfectly fine clothes or an overstocked kitchen.

I simply mean the clutter of living. On our kitchen table when I came home from work yesterday were bowls of just picked blueberries and green beans, a full coffee thermos I had forgotten, opened mail including a jury summons and a pay stub, a tube of hand lotion, an unopened packet of spinach seeds I intended to plant that evening, a $5 bill, a list I wrote for the 14-year-old (mostly checked off), what appeared to me as a random assortment of dates on a scrap piece of paper, a wildflower identification book, a half-eaten cucumber surrounded by a sprinkling of salt. And a fingernail clippers.

My daughters were cooking dinner, and the dining room table was set and (mostly) cleared of clutter. Life without clutter would be sterility, boredom, an emptied-out house. Or so I tell myself.


By Brett Ann Stanciu

Brett Ann Stanciu lives with her two daughters in Hardwick, Vermont. Her creative nonfiction book, Unstitched: My Journey to Understand Opioid Addiction and How People and Communities Can Heal, will be published by Steerforth Press in September 2021. Her novel about rural life in Vermont, Hidden View, was published in 2015.


  1. I love it! You turned the word clutter (I am great at cluttering) into something promising. Thank you. I’ll remember your post whenever I look at my dining room table!!

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