I grew up in a museum. Okay, not a *real* museum. Ask anyone, however, who came to visit my house in the 70s and they’ll tell you, “That home was clean with a capital C.” My Mom, Shirley, insisted that everything be in its place – like a museum. God forbid she would allow her kids to cook in her kitchen. We’d just make a mess! It’s why the utility drawer in our kitchen was such an anomaly. Unlike everywhere else in the house, this drawer WAS a mess! Rubber bands and twisty ties and screwdrivers and blue chip stamps and random pennies all mingled together like pigs in a sty (minus the mud). Here was the only place in our home where you could just toss something in say, “There, it’s put away” without worrying about precise placement and organization. Being somewhat of a cluttered person myself, I loved our utility drawer while growing up. You never knew what you might find there if you dug around long enough. “Hey look, a box of matchsticks! What’s that, a superball? Hey, who put that guitar pick here?” I like to think of that drawer as our Las Vegas. This was the place where no rules applied—a place you could go to escape all the order and discipline in your life. What happens in the drawer stays in the drawer.

My appreciation of chaos and disorder is probably why I enjoy the Udvar-Hazy Center so much. Opened in 2003 near Washington Dulles airport, the museum is essentially an annex to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum (NASM). Encompassing a massive airplane hangar, the Udvar-Hazy is a jumbled, higgledy-piggledy place, sort of like the V&A museum in London (Wow Place #171) – except with vehicles that fly. I mean, sure – all the planes and spacecraft are labeled and organized in some fashion. But that’s not the impression you get when walking in the museum doors. Rather, you’re greeted with an onslaught of stuff: bi-lanes on top of balloons, jets crashing into lunar modules. It’s like stepping into a giant aerial battle, with vehicles swooping down from the rafters like the Red Baron engaging Snoopy in a vicious dogfight. It’s chaos incarnate, and I love it!

When you finally get used to the clutter and disorder, however, the Udvar-Hazy definitely impresses with its vast, grand collection of aerial exhibits. I find myself drawn to not only the artifacts from the early days of flight but also to today’s sci-fi-like spacecraft: particularly the space shuttle Discovery. It’s a majestic creature, with sleek, aerodynamic lines. That we could create an engineering marvel like this gives me some small piece of hope for the human race.

(What are your thoughts about clutter? I’m guessing people are fairly split on the topic. If you’re Marie Kondo, I’m not going to ask you to stop being neat and organized. I wish I WAS a bit less-cluttered, to be honest. What I am saying, though, is consider setting aside some place in your life where you can “let your hair down” – some place where you can be natural, real and authentic, without fronts or pretense. It could be hiking in the park. It could be skating at the ice rink. It could be having lunch with a close friend. We all need an outlet where we don’t need to “keep it together”—a place to toss our emotional twisty ties.)