The Sims is like a huge dollhouse you can tell stories in. Those stories can range from setting everyone on fire by removing the doors and installing a faulty stove, to playing out a ten-generation legacy. Clutter items, like paper towel holders, a pile of mail or a basket of fruit, help make your story feel a little more realistic.
The Sims 4 already has a large variety of clutter items available in the game, like toilet paper holders or plants. Players can’t interact with these items—you’ll never see a Sim wipe after using the restroom—but they do make your houses just feel a little bit more like a home.
Downloadable mods with more kinds of decorative items are also popular, especially for Simmers that upload their stories to Tumblr or YouTube. This mod, which is four non-useable bottles of wine, has been downloaded over fifteen thousand times. I’m not sure how many times players have downloaded this mod, which is a series of decorative diaper boxes and other baby related clutter, but this recolor of the mod has been downloaded over twenty thousand times. Similarly, this recolor of laundry room clutter has gotten almost ten thousand downloads.
Think about your own house and you might understand why people like these mods. No matter how clean it is, there’s probably a small pile of shit somewhere. Maybe you have old copies of The New Yorker piled up on the coffee table, or you rest your toothbrush on the side of the sink. Although real-life humans can use these things, there’s technically no reason for a Sim to have them. Magazines don’t exist in the world of The Sims, and if they want to brush their teeth, their toothbrush will just appear when they reach the sink. But not having these kinds of items lying around makes the houses that Sims live in feel like model homes.
To some players, this might not matter. You could just be here to have fun, maybe have a few Sims drown in the swimming pool. To others, not having clutter around makes their games feel incomplete. Popular Simmers like LilSimsie devote a huge amount of time to choosing and placing clutter for their homes. About three minutes into this video, narrated by fellow Simmer KiwiSimming, you can watch LilSimsie start placing clutter items in this apartment, gingerly rotating a coat rack near the door and picking flowers and plants for countertops. It’s tedious work, but the end result is worth it.
To me, one of the most interesting aspects of The Sims is how it forces me to think about how I live my real, non-virtual life. What I value more in-game tends to be a reflection of what I value, or fantasize about, IRL. My Sims usually work long past the time they should have retired, struggling to balance their home and family life up until their death. I also have realized that I’m just not comfortable without a little bit of clutter somewhere in my apartment. It just makes a place look more lived in.