11.08.2010

The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris- #11 Clutter-free Home (or Clutter is So Not Chic)



I am not exaggerating when I say Famille Chic’s home was completely clutter-free.

There was no pile of mail waiting to be sorted through on the kitchen table. There was no accumulation of shoes and coats by the entryway door. There were no remote controls, game controls, errant CDs and other entertainment paraphernalia hanging around the living room. Monsieur Chic’s slippers weren’t in the middle of the living room floor. There was no diaper bag on the coffee table (OK now I am just describing my own home).

In short, Madame Chic kept her home completely clutter-free. Everything had a place and in the entire six months I lived with them I never saw anything out of place.

I also didn’t see Madame Chic running around like a maniac trying to pick up after her family and keep her house in order (and she did not employ a cleaner). She was the most calm and collected housewife I have ever seen.

I do have my theories on why French homes remain so enviably clutter free:

France is not a heavy consumer society. They do not constantly buy things and bring them into the home so they have less stuff to manage and ultimately find a place for.

French women tend to do the majority of the housework (France is a bit behind in this area). But having said that, French men seem to be very respectful of the home and do not leave a mess. Monsieur Chic and their son never left a mess around the house- I have a feeling that Madame Chic trained them early on the art of maintaining a clutter-free home. They simply didn’t leave stuff everywhere or anywhere for that matter.

They lead very disciplined lives with a lot of structure- they love a routine and rarely stray from it. So, for example, you would never see Monsieur Chic leave his pipe on the end table one night and on the kitchen table the next. He had a place for his pipe and it went in the same place every single night after he used it. No exceptions.

The French love to live well and living in constant clutter is the antithesis of living well. Clutter is probably the domestic equivalent of snackingit is so not chic.


Finding the path to a clutter free home is one of my life’s missions and trust me, the minute I figure it out I will share it with you. Now that we have a baby I am dealing with a whole slew of new clutter issues (like I said, the diaper bag is currently on our coffee table.) But for now, I am giving myself a free pass to figure it all out.

I do have a few systems in my home that are works in progress at keeping the clutter at bay (*please note these tips work particularly well for small spaces like apartments and condos):

A (hidden) place to keep one’s keys, cell phone, wallet, sunglasses and purse. This is preferably by the front door so that these items can be tucked away immediately. It is also handy to always have your keys in the same place so you never lose them…

A filing system to deal with the mail. Recycle the junk mail immediately upon checking the mail and store the bills and important correspondence in a receptacle or file folder (again, hidden away) to deal with at a later date.

Furniture that doubles as storage. We just purchased a large tufted ottoman that we are using as a coffee table. We love it because it opens like a trunk and stores all of our remotes, game controls and DVDs.

Encourage yourself (and any others that happen to live with you) to create a routine. For example, if you never leave your bedroom slippers in the same place twice, get into the habit of leaving them in the same place every night. At the foot of the bed, for example. This takes extreme discipline and can be applied to almost everything that you have: shoes, coats, newspapers, magazines, etc. …

…and lastly. When it comes to things like mail and dishes, it is best to deal with them immediately before they pile up and get out of control.

I would love to know… how clutter-free is your home?

Won’t you stay tuned for #10?


A typical Parisian bridge over the river Seine is pictured above. Do you spot the statue of the man on his horse? Those sort of ornate statues are laced all around the city of Paris... beautiful.


My book, Lessons from Madame Chic: The Top 20 Things I Learned While Living in Paris will be published by Simon & Schuster and re-released in the fall of 2012.

12 comments:

Beth Hazelton said...

Ugh...not very clutter-free at all. It is a constant endeavor to live as Madame Chic does. Please, please, please post the moment you figure it all out! I try, but I always fall back into the same patterns. Definitely not chic.

Fiona said...

Being clutter-free is an ongoing task for me. I dream of a sparsely furnished apartment in Paris... it always inspires me to declutter.

Thank you for another wonderful post in this fabulous series.

hostess of the humble bungalow said...

Clutter free is my aim...but a new kitten has created a wee bit of chaos....boxes, cat toys etc.

I do agree, deal with mail as it arrives and put everything in the right place.
Less clutter=happiness!

In the case of a new baby...let all of your ideas of go out the window and cuddle that wee one...all will return to order eventually.
Above all else Enjoy!

CashmereLibrarian said...

I think having a place for everything is key for eliminating clutter. But having small children is tough! And I do still have a lot of my grown-up sons' things. Luckily, I have a basement so I've stored unused, but "keeper" items down there in labelled bins.

Rebecca said...

Keeping the "dream" alive (as Fiona intimated) helps me...creating a mental picture of how I want it to be, and then dealing methodically (and patiently) with all that doesn't fit the dream.

Patient communication and inevitable compromise with adults sharing my space and EARLY training of children is also a key...

Julianne said...

This is one of the biggest problems that I can't seem to get a handle on. My family does not pick anything up after themselves and I have tons of paper and mail etc. that seem to multiply. My goal is to find a system to deal with this.

the gardeners cottage said...

i am currently living pretty clutter free. i could go for even less but then i think some may question my sanity. but our sons are all out of the house and i remember the days of kids clutter and all i can say is i wish you luck my dear!

~janet

Michael Rivers said...

Loving this series! I keep telling myself I need a place to put my keys, wallet and cell phone when I come in the door. Right now I throw them on the bookcase, but I know I could at least make it look better.

vintagedreamer said...

Merci, merci for this "french twist" on a subject that is my focus for the entire month of November. I am doing different projects daily to simplify and get rid of the clutter. During my process, I have found myself reflecting on things I have read about the French way of life and it's nice to see I haven't been far off the mark. Keep checking resources out there (there are so many)--you will find something that works for you and your family to create and maintain a clutter free, tres chic, world. (and I agree, having children does make it more challeging). Lovely post.

Rose said...

I don't like clutter but right now, after moving again, I'm afraid there is some. I'm a bit like Monica in friends- you know the episode where Chandler finds the junk cupboard? that's me- stuff all the badness into one place!

Pearl said...

I learned a while ago that if I do not leave things in specific places, I will lose them. Fact. Once I figured that out, I could make places for the keys, the purse, the whatever--and take pleasure in making that spot "right." Then I figured out that a large purse is just a place to stuff full and lose eveything--so, small purses and weekly purging. These small routines make my life better, and they help me strive for the uncluttered vibe of French homes.

The Daily Connoisseur said...

Beth- it is a constant struggle for many. I think help from those you live with is crucial. We can't expect to keep the clutter at bay all by ourselves!

Fiona- Oh I dream of it too- a sparsely furnished apartment in Paris sounds like a dream... I think we can make that dream our reality with our own homes... it just takes a lot of discipline and a shift of thinking...

Hostess- you are so right. I don't mind the baby clutter that much because I am enjoying baby so much! But every now and then when I have a moment to myself I look around a bit in dismay at the amount of stuff I need to find a place for. It's not really that bad. Most of my friends that come over ask me what on earth I'm going on about- but for me- it is a lot (of clutter). xx

Cashmere- oohh a basement would be amazing. Sadly not too many of those in California. Sorry I missed you when you were in LA but it sounds like you had an amazing time!

Rebecca- Thanks for the advice- I believe that is why they are so clutter free in France. Children are really trained to be respectful of the home from an early age and they have a good example to look up to with their parents. Yes, let's keep the dream alive please! :)

Julianne- It would be so much easier if everyone in the household is on board. Just imagine! My struggle is half the time I feel like I am playing catch up- cleaning up after other people's messes (Mr. Connoisseur are you reading this?) :)

Janet- lucky you! I always imagined you live a pretty clutter free life. Do you have any tips to share?? xx

Michael- I love baskets for this very reason. They tend to hide thing stylishly. Perhaps one on the top of your bookshelf?

Vintage Dreamer- Oohh I love that you're devoting the whole month of November to this subject! That is a surefire way to come up with solutions... best of luck!

Rose- I laughed to hard when I saw Monica's 'closet of shame'. I have a few of those... They do help to keep the clutter away- not so good for feng shui though :)

Pearl- I love your advice. A weekly purse purge is something I do too! Ever since I saw Amelie and that scene where her mother like to clean out her handbag. Also ever since I read Colin Cowie's book and he said he likes to look inside handbags to get an idea of what a woman is like...

 
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