As an academic (as much as I loathe using that word), I think I can sometimes see value in things that others might consider clutter. However, as commenters on the story mentioned, those things must be archived in an organized manner to be useful. And really, if something isn’t useful, then it’s clutter. I think things get really tricky here, though, when different people define useful. For me, useful means that it has physical, spiritual, emotional, or academic utility.
For example, my broom has a lot of physical utility. I haul it out
I keep a lot of academic books in my home office because I use them on a very regular basis as reference material. I think a lot of people would argue that there isn't a great deal of utility in copy of a 100-year-old treatise on the historical evolution of the Spanish language. For me, there is, so I hold on to it. I do not, however, keep my syllabi or the majority of course notes from my classes because they have not been useful to me beyond the end of the class.
I don’t consider myself an overly sentimental person. I have been known to throw away pictures and I almost never keep birthday cards or invitations because they are not useful to me. However, I have been very interested to read my ancestors’ journals–for example, my great-great-great-grandfather’s diary of his travails with the pioneers offers a really interesting view of his personal experiences and sheds light on the experiences of others. The key, though, is that there aren't 300 journals crammed in a box in the basement–there's just the one. It’s well cared for and holds a place of honor in my family. So for me, it’s not clutter.
I think it ultimately comes down to defining what is useful for an individual. For me, reading about my ancestors has shaped who I am in some ways. In terms of my professional life, accessing the works of my predecessors in the field has shaped my line of research. Having access to those things is useful for me. Having access to a pile of my old movie ticket stubs or syllabi is not useful to me.
I think there’s a need to distinguish garbage from clutter. I would also add that from that clutter, a collection of the best or most interesting treasures should also be distinguished and the rest, frankly, tossed.
What do you think? What's the line between garbage/clutter/treasure for you?