Set the "Clutter Bar" High
(or - Be the Clown's Mouth!)
Keeping your home clutter-free in today's accumulation-oriented world is a tough job. Several years ago, after hauling yet another trash bag full of stuff to my local Salvation Army, I made the resolution to be more diligent about what I allowed to come into and have a permanent place in my home. It's a challenge on a daily basis, particularly for someone like me who has a fondness for what my friend calls "tchotchkes", those pretty, fun decorative items that can overwhelm my space and double my dusting chore!
I was reminded about how narrow my parameters had become about what I now allow to take up permanent residence in my home when, believe it or not, I was enjoying a game of miniature golf recently with my family. Not being much of a golfer, I struggled to get my ball past the various obstacles in fewer than 10 or 12 strokes per hole! But the real challenge came at the end of the course, where, if you get the ball in the clown's mouth, you win a free game. Now, the clown's mouth is quite small and up a fairly steep incline, making the task for someone as unskilled as me quite a challenge. Even my golfer husband (whose motto is "drive for show, putt for dough!") struggled. As I turned in my club after yet another unsuccessful try (no free game for me!), I asked the young man behind the desk how many people usually win. He shrugged and said, "maybe one or two every twenty or thirty golfers." And that's when the light bulb went off. What if we made it as difficult for material goods to get into our homes as tough as getting the ball into the clown's mouth? Silly, I know. But just consider it. William Morris (a British designer, artist and writer from the late 1800's) said it well, "Never have anything in your home that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful." Those are high standards, but worth striving for. Consider how valuable your living space is. Take your monthly mortgage or rent payment and divide it by how many square feet of living space you have. That's how much you pay each month (at the minimum - without factoring in expenses like insurance or utilities) to live in each square foot of your home. Now consider whether what you store in that footage is worth what you're paying to store it, and if that space could not be put to more useful, or more beautiful purpose.
So how do you deal with all the stuff that threatens to overwhelm your home on a regular basis? Be the clown's mouth! Set the bar high for what comes into your home and is permitted to take up permanent residence there. With the holiday season approaching, the temptation to give stuff and get stuff becomes overwhelming. Decide what's most important, and only allow that in. Junk mail, plastic yogurt containers, outgrown, out-of-style clothes, broken stuff, plastic "tchotchkes" (think birthday party goodie bags...) - none of this stuff deserves a place in your functional, beautiful home. When your sister-in-law offers you bags of her discarded clothing, it's okay to just say, "no thank you!" When your child brings home yet another spelling test, worksheet or coloring book masterpiece, it's okay to admire, then recycle. You get to decide what comes into your home and whether you want to allow the clutter to occupy that physical and emotional space. Make it as difficult as winning a free game from that goofy clown! You and your family deserve the best living space you can possibly have, and to derive pleasure from every square foot of it. Set the "clutter bar" high, and you will move closer every day to having nothing that is not useful or beautiful in the place you call home. And that's better than winning a free game any day!
Next month: 10 easy tips to keep clutter from coming into your home.