The essence of puttering


I’ve always operated under the assumption that puttering about with no real mission is a waste of time bordering on sinfulness (idleness and all that).  Now I discover that puttering may be the gateway to creativity and may even be very good for our health.

So, today I’m puttering and proud of it. I feel better already just thinking of a day of puttering without pressure or anxiety.


Part of the pleasure of puttering is free association.  The essence of puttering for me is rearranging furniture or the items on my living room mantle or bookcases or moving a painting from one room to another. 

Writer and interior designer Alexandra Stoddard says puttering is a quiet, private act which can bring the difference aspects of our lives into sharper focus and help identify our needs.  I may begin my day of puttering by arranging my extensive rock collection


A nice rainy day (like this one in my area of the country) is the perfect weather for puttering so here I go.  There are some rules for creative puttering:  1) No “To Do” list allowed.  This pastime is not like heavy cleaning or decluttering.  It’s about letting your spirit move you to do this or tweak that.   2) It should be performed alone with a minimum of distractions.  I cut off the phone and the television.  3) Music helps get you in the mood.  Today I’m going for Gregorian chants but next time it may be Keb Mo’s tribute to Muddy Waters. Whatever works for you.  And 4)  Be forewarned that puttering can be the catalyst for REAL work.  You don’t move the living room sofa without discovering a disgusting accumulation of chewed up dog toys, dirt, and unspeakable detritus. 

Puttering is over at that point and work begins.  You sigh and go get the vacuum cleaner and spot remover and rest assured you can resume puttering when anxiety returns.

One thought on “The essence of puttering

  1. Hi Emily, My mother, who passed away in the 70’s, taught me the art of puttering. She was a teacher, the mother of 6 children, and wife of a farmer.
    In the late evenings she would head out to the side yard to her small garden she called her “puttering spot”. It wasn’t the big, family garden,but a small area to which she would escape the stress of the day. When I was rasing my daughter, working full time, and going to college at night, I too had a small garden spot that became my puttering retreat to ease life’s stresses. It was a life saver.

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