Clutter-Free Home Part II
Last week’s post Clutter-Free Home Part 1 received a great response. I got emails and comments from many of you who are dealing with issues of clutter. It seems many of us have the same issue. We have general control over the whole house but there are one or two areas that are our Achilles heel- the home office (mine), the dining room table or various cluttered drawers or storage spaces.
The good news is this is all manageable. I actually wrote last week’s post a few months ago and have since been trying out various techniques that Famille Chic employed in order to keep the clutter at bay. I am happy to report that slowly but surely these systems are working. Here are some of my thoughts:
What Constitutes Clutter?
Some of you brought up the concern that a home should not be stripped bare of character in the pursuit of banning clutter and I couldn’t agree more! I am not talking here about collectibles or treasured items. One definition of clutter is anything in your home that you don’t absolutely love.
Perhaps you received a housewarming gift from your well meaning neighbor, Gladys- a porcelain statue of a frog, let's just say. You don’t actually like the frog statue and it certainly doesn't go with your modern Zen decor, but you hesitate to get rid of it so as not to hurt dear Gladys's feelings. You decide to store it in your coat closet. Every time you open your coat closet you see the frog and feel feelings of guilt and irritation. That is clutter. (Honestly, this frog analogy is a bit bizarre, but hopefully you see my point).
Clutter is also an accumulation of miscellaneous things that do not belong where they currently are. Keys, cell phone and wallet in the middle of the dining room table are one example. Or a pile of unsorted mail on the piano is another example. Generally your gut can tell you what clutter is. You know deep down because to look at it aggravates you.
Once you decide where your pockets of clutter exist, it is time to tackle them. As with clearing out your wardrobe go slowly and do not take on more than you can handle in a given session. There is nothing worse than having lofty ambitions, pulling out the contents of an entire closet and realizing a half hour later you would like to be done for the day and go to lunch but have only sifted through 1/3 of your mess. Be realistic and realize that accomplishing one small task a day (be it one junk drawer, one pile of filing or one section of the closet) can boost morale and keep you enthusiastic about tackling the next day’s task.
Of course from a clutter stand point it would be a lot easier if we just lived alone and followed our own clutter management system. But then we might get lonely and life would be no fun. So we need to figure out a way to coexist harmoniously with our husbands or wives, children, pets or roommates without becoming a clutter-controlling tyrant.
As I have mentioned before I believe Famille Chic (and my Californian French friends) had the entire household on board with keeping the clutter at bay. It was not just the women concerned with the issue of keeping a tidy and orderly home- it was the men too. The men seemed particularly respectful of keeping their things in the proper place. So how does one ‘train’ members of the family without coming across as bossy, neurotic or a nag? Asking nicely, gentle reminders and subtle interventions are needed here. Saying things such as, Honey could you try to not be such a slob? don't work (trust me, I say this from experience). If asking nicely and gentle reminders do not work perhaps a sit down meeting is in order. If possible provide a cup of tea and a slice of cake at said meeting- anything to make the new system seem more enjoyable to the trainee.
I recently tackled our hall closet. Here are my notes:
Our hall closet was horribly stuffed. There were so many coats and jackets hanging in there, if a guest came over, there wasn’t room for their coat! So the guest’s coat and handbag would inevitably go on the back of a dining room chair- not a good look. Especially if they are over to dine and then you need to find a space for their coat once everyone goes to the table. The whole situation bothered me. I would dream about having someone over, asking if I could take their coat, and hanging it neatly in the hall closet. But in reality if I did that and opened the door, there was a very good chance that tennis rackets, umbrellas and other miscellaneous objects would fly out- embarrassing us all.
The hall closet should have only the coat you will wear that day. Since it’s just me and my husband (baby doesn’t hang her coats yet), there should only be two coats hanging and around 4 padded or wooden hangers for our guest’s coats.
Same with shoes. We were using our hall closet to store every shoe we’ve ever owned. There were so many shoes, they were piled on top of the vacuum cleaner (it is necessary for us to store our vacuum cleaner in the hall closet)- so every week when the housekeeper pulled out the vacuum, she would scream (and probably silently curse me) when a pile of excess shoes jumped out at her.
I ended up pulling everything out of the closet and as you can probably guess, a lot of it was headed for the trash can or charity bin. I found old travel pillows, receipts, 10 year old Ugg boots (!) and exercise equipment we’ve never used!
We can hold on to so much stuff- much of it we no longer want or will never use. And when you live in a condo like we do- space is precious. Here I was using valuable real estate in the hall closet to store old shoes that I didn’t even want, while necessary clutter that should have been hidden away in the closet (like handbags, keys, wallets, sunglasses, mail to be sorted etc.) was forming untidy piles on our dining room table.
Yes I call those things necessary clutter. Because they are necessary items we use everyday- they just need a home out of eye’s sight as they tend to be loose-leaf and unsightly (especially when stored in the incorrect location).
After going through the closet I hung an over the door storage unit to house our miscellaneous items… Now I just need to have that talk with my husband about actually using it! I better go get the tea and cake.
The statue above is located in the breathtaking shallow pool at the Getty Villa in Malibu. I imagine I would lounge like that knowing I lived in a clutter-free home...
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