Near the top of every New Year’s resolution list, it seems, is the determination to declutter and organize our lives, starting with our homes. There is a whole industry that has emerged to help us do it. There are books, videos, and podcasts sharing the virtues of minimalism and suggesting we will be infinitely happier living with less clutter.
They say if we haven’t used something or worn it in a certain amount of time, get rid of it. It suggests things automatically become clutter and that clutter is bad. “Less is more,” they say. But sometimes isn’t having more better? How do we part with all the things that are wrapped up in wonderful memories? These are the bits and pieces that make up our lives. They speak to us every time we pour tea from a hand me down pot or stop to look at a framed photo from a favorite trip. We find comfort in the things we cherish. And that’s where the better resolve lies, keep the things you love close and don’t hold on to the things that don’t bring you comfort and joy. It is ok to hold on to a coat you will never wear, just because you think of someone you loved every time you see it hanging in the closet.
Perhaps a better goal for the new year is to have a tidy house. Being messy is never a good thing and we agree a dirty house can cause unneeded stress. Stacks of papers need to go. Scan what you need to keep a record of and then shred, shred, shred. Piles of clothes, toys, and dirty dishes don’t work in any decorating scheme. Put things away and if some things don’t have a home, make a place for them. Organize your things and keep spaces clean and neat. Every January, big box stores stock up on containers in every shape and size for a reason. Don’t forget to buy the latest gadget to organize all the tangles of wires from your electronics too.
You want your life to be filled with coziness, not chaos. But a tidy house can be filled with good clutter! Fill your spaces with all the items you can’t imagine parting with. From bookcases of collectables, to stacks of books, to artwork of all shapes and sizes that fill the walls, don’t take a lot of stock in the idea that a room should only have minimum of art, accessories, and mementos. Keep collections together and display them where you will enjoy them. Take extra items you want to keep but not display all the time and find a closet (clean it out first) to store them. Rotate artwork and accessories from time to time. Change your surroundings any time you feel like you need a fresh view.
If you appreciate a more stark, bare aesthetic, where the even the furniture in the room is art, you are not alone. But even when creating a sleek, more contemporary design, don’t buy into the idea you have to get rid of stuff, just to get rid of stuff. Resist the pressure to throw away something you love. No one needs to approve of your style but you. You must, however, have room for all your stuff. When the closets are full, and the attic is full, and you no longer have room for your cars in the garage, it’s time to reevaluate how much wonderful stuff you can keep! It may be time to pass things along to family and friends.
A synonym for clutter is medley. The word suggests an assortment of things that meld together into something new and better. We like thinking of clutter as a medley of memories you gathered through experiences over time. When the time comes that someone else is dealing with your belongings, make it as easy as you can for them. Share the stories of what things mean to you now, it will mean so much more to your loved ones later. Make a list of the people you want to have your stuff when you are no longer here. Or better yet, mark things as you make decisions. Write “throw away” on the boxes they don’t even need to sort. That will be a gift when the time comes. Until then, resolve to keep a tidy house and surround yourself with meaningful clutter that inspires you every day.
Holly Harrison has been a licensed interior designer for over 35 years. Shannon Stage has spent nearly 20 years in the giftware industry. Together they own Sassy Bird Interiors in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.