Tag Archives: decluttering

Thoughts on Beauty and Clutter

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

-William Morris

This quotation, which is attributed to William Morris (and I confess that I did not fact check beyond that), is one that shows up in a lot of my digital haunts.  I see it on blogs, in Facebook statuses, and on Pinterest.  It certainly seems to resonate with a lot of folks in this age of over stimulation and mass consumption.  I find myself thinking about this concept as we move to pare down our household to our comfort level, wherever that might be.  I am pretty good at evaluating items on the useful/not useful part.  Lately, though, I have been rethinking the “believe to be beautiful” part.

The visual appeal of clutter-free spaces is certainly a strong one for me.  I am not one to pin things on Pinterest very often, but when I look at what I have pinned there, I see a lot of clean spaces and empty countertops.  Before I was interested in decluttering, I was interested in organizing.  As many who organize do, I purchased tidy little boxes to corral my things.  Fortunately, I have gifted, donated, sold, and recycled enough to reduce my need for quite as many containers.

Here is my dilemma: a year or two ago, I felt like I was in a pretty good place on my decluttering mission because I had peeked into most of the containers and made decisions to keep or pass on each of the items.  Anything that stayed had been deemed a keeper for the time being, which was going to be at least until my many transitions (housing/marriage/job/city status) had been made.  The “keepers” were put away in orderly fashion in their storage containers.  Things looked tidy on the outside.

Now, though, what I am really coming to appreciate is that perhaps the better threshold on the keep/toss question is if I would be willing to display something.  While I was proud that I had minimized many smaller keepsakes into what I called my “sentimental box,” I began to question why I was storing it.  So that I could pull it out once a year and look at it? So that I could still feel like I haven’t fully parted with something that I might feel guilty passing on?

I have decided to try putting more of these items out and in visible locations.  I won’t necessarily decide to display them forever, but I am noticing that there are some objects that I relish every time I see them, like this shell below.  I participated on a life-changing pilgrimage in 2006, the Camino de Santiago in Spain.  I carried this shell with me, and every time I see it I love the range of emotions that runs through me: pride in accomplishment, appreciation for humanity, gratitude for the experience, hunger to do another journey.

My Camino Shell

My Camino Shell

Other items, though, are ones that I find myself thinking, “Maybe I liked it better when that space was less cluttered.”  If empty space trumps an object in terms of what I find to be beautiful, it might be time to give that item away or at least think seriously about whether I should hold onto it!  For instance, these little wooden hearts.  I think they are well-made and interesting, and I have kept them because they remind me of a trip I went on with my college roommates to Woodstock, Illinois.  I bought them in a little gift shop there.  I still have the friendships, I don’t know who made these hearts, and while I still admire them, I would rather have empty space.  So, I’ll be finding a new home for these– and not in a little box somewhere in my house!

Wooden Hearts

Wooden Hearts

Could this strategy work for you? I’m still thinking through situations where this might not work.  Perhaps with painful memories, such as those related to the loss of a loved one? Also, my long-term goal would not be to display every single item I find beautiful.  I have too many letters from my family that I find dear, and I would prefer to keep the physical version of these rather than scan them.  Like this little gem from my then 8-year-old sister when I graduated from high school:

Letter from Littlest Sister

Letter from Littlest Sister

If you have any thoughts or tips on how to evaluate, store, or display sentimental and decorative pieces, I’d love for you to share!

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Little Things…

I loved this thought by Erin at Reading My Tea Leaves in her post “resolutions.”:

I know there are plenty of people who think that resolutions are silly.  Or worse, burdensome.  But I think that there’s so much hopefulness in the act of resolving to do just a few things better, or differently, or even at all.

A few little things that felt like small steps in the right direction yesterday:

  • A walk with my niece-pup, even if it was too cold for more than 0.80 miles. I’m eager to get home from school during the daylight hours to squeeze in more little walks.
  • Packing up our printer to get it ready for a new home.  It is missing a piece, and we have not been able to print with it for about 8 months.  The part is not expensive, but we have realized we don’t actually need a printer!  I’m thinking we’ll probably list it for free on Craigslist with a mention of what part it needs.
  • A free, month-long trial of Spotify Premium.  For the last two years I have put “more music” on my resolution list, but I’ve failed to make it happen. I don’t particularly enjoy seeking out new music to listen to, but I get a lot out of listening to music, whether it is familiar or newly recommended to me.  Fortunately, I have a friend who blogs about a number of things (mindfulness! photography! music!) and on Tuesdays she highlights new music.  Ashely blogs at Meet Me in the Morning.  Her blog is lovely, really.
  • A little self-imposed challenge to see the cost-per-meal of the big pot of Taco Soup we made on Sunday night.  We used all organic meat and veggies, and it calls for more meat than we typically cook with, so the initial bill rang in at a pricey $34 (including tortilla chips and avocado), but it will likely provide hot lunches for most of this cold week.  There is a tally going on the fridge!

After a restful break and a conference on Monday, I’m looking forward to getting back in a routine with school today.  Students will join me tomorrow– I can’t wait to meet this semester’s fresh crop!

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Decluttering Challenge, Round 7: 132-146, and a Decluttering Tip

Here is another batch of things I’ve decided to declutter.  I selected and photographed these items several days ago, but I’m just now getting around to posting them.  For the last few days, I’ve been out of town visiting my boyfriend.  I think when I return home after three or four days of being gone I’ll have fresh eyes for spotting clutter.

As of this post, I am 40% of the way through Mrs. Money’s Declutter Challenge 2011.  I can’t even begin to predict how the rest of the challenge will go for me!  Up until this point, the challenge hasn’t be all that much of a challenge. Sure, it double-dog-dared me to actually get going, but I haven’t had much trouble finding things that I’m ready to part with.  There were two false starts (I thought I was ready to part with the brown herringbone flats and one black skirt pictured below, then I changed my mind post-photo), but I haven’t had as much as a second thought about anything I’ve parted with, other than a “goodbye and good riddance.”  I’m curious to see how long it will be before I feel a bit more resistance as I try to find things to declutter.  The fact that I’m feeling this way makes me particularly glad I’m participating in the challenge; if I am not bothered by parting with these things, why in the world have I lived with them for so long?

In addition to the thoughts on the benefits of the Declutter Challenge that I posted here, I’ve found that I have another benefit to add, which I first articulated this week in a conversation with my boyfriend.  My boyfriend is about to move onto a small organic farm to spend a year as an apprentice.  He’ll be living in a little building on the farm property, and he won’t have much room–or need–for a lot of stuff.  He is trying to limit the amount of stuff that he’ll store at his parents’ home during his year-long stint on the farm, so he has been working on decluttering.  I gave him this piece of advice:

Give yourself a goal of a number of items to declutter, even if it is very small, say, five items.  The benefit to having this goal is that the wheels of your mind automatically start turning to find the five things you’re the least interested in keeping. The mind quickly looks for the path of least resistance; this is infinitely faster than picking up items, piece by piece, and evaluating their individual merits.

Many organizers suggest that you should start with a drawer or a closet, for instance, and examine each item as “keep, toss, repair, relocate, etc.” Sure, that can be productive, but if you’re looking to make a big change quickly, eliminating all the extra mental strain of an elaborate decision-making process can help you build momentum. Perhaps once you’ve cleared away a good bit of the clutter using a goal, like “declutter X number of items,”  which could serve as a major revision to your living space, you ccould use the sorting method (keep/toss/relocate/repair/donate) to edit and fine-tune your remaining things.

As far as my computer objectives go, I made a little headway this week by purchasing an external hard drive.  I ended up going with this one.  I’ll post more on my computer organizing objectives and my progress soon!

Here’s what’s on the chopping block this week:

132-134.  Magazines. First, I’ll see if any friends want these; if they don’t, I’ll check with the local YMCA and see if they could use them.

135. A black skirt. Yes, there are two pictured; one is a pencil skirt I’ve had for ages that has never fit me that well. I have another black pencil skirt that I’m keeping.  I’ll consign this one. The other skirt is one that is slightly A-line; I like it, it’s a little small, but I’m going to give it a little while longer before I pass on it.  My sister gave it to me when she lost weight, so if I decide it’s not for me, I’ll give it back to her, and she can consign it (or whatever).

136.  Repaired stuffed dog. Little Sister’s pup (my niecepup!) loves this stuffed dog.  Unfortunately, she loved it to pieces, and there is no longer a nose.  I stitched up the gaping wound, and sent this stuffed one back to be subjected to more love from Baby Bells.

137.  Polka dot tote bag. I was given this six years ago; it’s in good enough shape for someone else to enjoy, but I think it has a little too much wear to try to sell it.  I’ll donate it.

138.  Necklace. This is a donate; I’m pretty sure the gold isn’t real, but I suppose I should double check first.  If it’s gold, I’ll probably sell it.

139.  Eraser. Mom’s going to take this one for her classroom; or, I suspect, her sudokus.  She has a tendency to fill over-eagerly, requiring an eraser; on crosswords, though, she’s definitely an ink-pen pro!

140.  Button to consigned pants.

141.-143.  Buttons to items I’ve given Littlest Sister. I’ve passed these on to her in case she needs them.

144.  Spool. This wasn’t really mine, but it has been hanging out in my sewing box for years; I returned it to its rightful owner, my mom.

145.  Capless seam-ripper. This got tossed.  :/  I have one that’s in good shape, my family has seam rippers, and I didn’t think it was safe to donate it with a sharp point and no cap.

146.  Small jewelry bag. Donated.

146 down, 219 to go!


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