There’s nothing quite like considering a massive downsize to make you rethink each and every thing you own. Many of us know the quote by William Morris, “…Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
Except that it all was useful and beautiful at one time. And some of it still is. I think.
The problem is that over time, some of it….ok, a lot of it…although still useFUL was not USED. Or perhaps the beauty of it was marred by necessary upkeep.
Case in point: cabinets full of homeschooling supplies. Unifix cubes, plastic bears, stringing beads, pentominoes. Tangrams, magnetic letters, Cuisinaire rods, and pattern blocks. Boxes of crayons, markers, and flashcards. Lined paper, unlined paper, graph paper, handwriting paper, drawing paper. All of it very useful and very well organized onto shelves and into clear plastic shoeboxes with matching white lids, stacked…you know…beautifully.
Can I tell you how many times we’ve used those things with the last five children in post-kindergarten? I don’t know. But it turns out that grabbing handfuls of legos to count or beans to sort was easier and more fun, and so we did. And all we used was copy paper and college-ruled. Meanwhile, all of that stuff was taking up valuable cupboard and shelving space, and worse, I just felt so pleased with my organizational skills that I never pondered a more important question.
Useful? Yes. Beautiful? Yes.
Which led to another question.
If those extra things that I took such time and care to ORGANIZE aren’t really doing anything for me, and I emptied those cabinets of them, what would I put into those deep and “valuable” spaces?
I’ll tell you what I’d want to put there right now: NOTHING.
But stuff grows into the spaces we have.
When my husband and I were young, we drove a little Honda CRX that we used to jam pack full of camping supplies. But once I bought the larger sedan, not only did I not have to jam pack it anymore, I had SPACE.
And what do you want to do with SPACE? Why, fill it up, of course.
I didn’t have to get by with one cooking pot; I could now have room for the big set! I didn’t have to sleep in a teeny tent; I could now have the super-duper one that I could stand up in. And throw in some chairs. And a bigger cooler. With more food of course. Weird we couldn’t find room for the dog anymore, though.
The same scenario finds itself today in other areas. I have a very lovely and useful crock of wooden spoons; I use my favorite three all the time, but the crock is filled and I’m constantly rifling through for the ones I really want. I have dozens of cookbooks (and believe me, I’ve decluttered those at least twice!) but I regularly use only about six of them, and still check out more from the library besides. I use the same 9-10 colored pencils out of 48, wear the same jeans out of four or five, and keep shoes that I only wear once or twice a year. If I remember I have them.
My kids play with the same toys every day (hello, Legos!) and have boxed collections of other games and such collecting dust.
Nicely organized, though. Beautifully, even.
It’s not that collections are bad. But maybe when everything becomes a “collection”, when the answer to the mess and the chaos and the clutter is always, “I need to get more organized and get some more storage bins/closet space/better labeling/more shelving….” then our stuff, regardless of how organized or even pretty it all is, enslaves us to container-stores and zippy bags.
The more you have, the more you have to organize, store, manage, dust, maintain, repair, replace, and redo.
So I’m UN-organizing some things. I’m tossing the recipe binders full–FULL–of clipped recipes that I *organized* into seasonally appropriately foods. I’m adding most of those colorful and useful homeschooling manipulatives to the massive and growing garage sale pile. Do I really need eight winter scarves? Fifty-four tea cups? A ton (literally, a TON) of books?
And don’t even get me started with how many grocery bags full of those plastic sheet covers I have now (for sale: cheap) that I’m un-organizing.
Are you feeling buried? Maybe you don’t need bins or plastic sheet covers or ten steps to get your home organized. Maybe you just need a really good garage sale or a trip to Goodwill or a rented dumpster.
Perhaps a little less of a load to deal with can be both useful and beautiful. Even if you do decide to keep your 48 colored pencils.