Less House, More Home

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I recently came across an article on the beautiful Cottage Hill site where interior designer Meghan Kirk explains her creative process. When helping her clients with their homes, she asks them to choose descriptive words that “capture their core values and cherished memories”. Perhaps there's a favorite trip your family went on that was life-changing or a fond memory that you never want to forget. What values do you hold close? What feelings do you want your home to embody and exude? For me, those words are warm, simple, timeless, and present. I want my home to be a place that I, and others, can be still. A place free of distractions so that we can appreciate each and every moment together. Maybe for you those words would be family, bright, bold and joyful. Or cozy, peaceful, and airy. Think about it! What words would you choose?

This will help the other pieces fall into place. When looking for things for your home, think of those descriptive words and ask yourself whether or not they align with those items. I believe this way you are only surrounded by things that bring you joy and not by random things that don't hold any meaning. When you are intentional (or in other words, picky!) about what you bring into your home, it becomes a space that you actually want to spend time in and retreat to, and therefore a space you want to welcome others into as well.

Another thought: We are constantly being bombarded with beautifully styled images on Instagram and Pinterest of those "perfect" houses. It's easy for me to let others (aka strangers on the internet) tell me what my home should look like. Trends and styles are always changing. You honestly can't keep up without going broke or completely bonkers. That's the thing though - why do we feel like we need to keep up? I don't want to give our culture or "things" that type of power over me. It sucks the joy out of life when we are always looking for the bigger, better, or newer. The fact is, a year from now, certain styles will lose their popularity. So focus on things that you truly love and want to be surrounded by for years to come, no matter who says it's in style or not. The next time you're looking for something for your home, ask yourself if it's because you truly love it or if it's because you've been seeing it everywhere on the internet and feel the need to prove something.

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This sounds nice, doesn't it? But how do we truly achieve this? Here’s something that is currently helping me:

Have you heard of the book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing” by Marie Kondo? I finally got around to reading it and boyyyy it's good. It was eye opening for someone who thought she was a tidy and orderly person (my friends know me as the person constantly getting rid of things). It was refreshing, especially when so much of today's world is revolved around "stuff" and accumulating more and more.  The author is, as some may call it, quirky. She is talented and intelligent but she does say a few things that personify items a bit too much for my taste! She also has her own rituals that I won't be imitating (I checked the book out of the library and someone had even penciled in "OCD lifestyle" at a certain point in the book, ha!). Regardless, she knows what she's talking about. She does an amazing job at going deep and specific, dissecting each and every aspect of tidying while still making it simple and achievable. She has dedicated her life to decluttering and organizing and has done the hard part for us by using decades of trial and error to come up with the KonMari method. This book is good for anyone who feels neck-deep in stuff or for someone who feels like there's room for improvement. Chances are, you'll take away several bits of information that you've never heard of before! Here are some main points that I took away:

Discard first, intensely and completely. Before tidying and organizing, it is important to discard. Her clients get rid of bags and bags of items (I think the most was nearly two hundred garbage bags!) before going on to any other step. She has a specific order of things to start and end with. "Does it spark joy?" is her motto that she has us ask ourselves with each and every thing. This makes organizing so much easier later on because there is obviously less stuff to put away. “When we really delve into the reasons for why we can't let something go, there are only two: an attachment to the past or a fear for the future.” How many times have you thought to yourself, “I might need this down the road...”? This mindset can turn your home into a storage shed of unnecessary boxes, papers, gadgets, etc. If you are only hanging onto something because of the "what if's" or a yearning for the past, let it go if it doesn't spark joy. She walks you through any and all excuses or roadblocks!

Sort by category, not location. Like many people, I usually tackle one room or closet at a time. The problem is that people keep things of the same category in different places throughout the house. For example, I had boxes of ornaments in one closet, Christmas supplies in the patio storage, and other holiday knick-knacks in the cupboard above the fridge. If I were to tidy up one of these areas and then be done, I would have no idea how much or what holiday stuff I actually have. The KonMari method explains that if I am sorting books, I need to take out ALL the books. This includes books hidden away in drawers, on a bookshelf, in closets, everywhere. (With her clients, she is so strict that any item found after this category is thrown away! This makes people triple-check everything.)

Dealing with guilt when discarding. Like I said before, she's quirky. She talks to her possessions and tries to treat them with respect, as if they are living things. She did make a great point that I resonated with though. People have a difficult time getting rid of certain things because they feel guilty. Maybe they spent a lot of money on a dress but never really wore it because it looked better in the store. Maybe they were given something by a friend and they feel like they need to keep it, even if they don’t love it. The author explains that just like people, things can also teach us lessons and serve a purpose even if they're not in our lives forever. Even if that lesson was as simple as "I learned that you are not my style or not the right fit for me". If it doesn't spark joy but you're feeling guilty, appreciate the lesson and let it go. She helps people to see that their purpose can be fulfilled after using it once (or never) and it's okay to let it go. We shouldn’t open up a closet or drawer and see that “thing” reminding us that we don’t use it or don’t wear it. This has helped me feel lighter and less tied down by things or guilt.

Designate a place for each thing. As she puts it, “clutter is caused by a failure to return things to where they belong". When there is a specific place for each thing, it is extremely simple to put it back exactly where you got it. Clutter begins and accumulates when we start storing things in places because it's the nearest drawer or it's the only place something fits. Keep similar items (in the same category) in one spot. You'll realize how much you have and you won't buy more than you really need because you see everything right in front of you, in one place.

Ignore other de-cluttering techniques. We've all heard those numerical rules: If you haven't worn it in a year, throw it away. Get rid of something every time you buy something. Clean from the top down, etc, etc, etc. She has heard of everything and has tried everything and from her own experience, has learned that those rules are not successful in the long run. It actually makes me sad for all of those people that might have gotten rid of things that made them joyful or that they truly loved, but threw it away simply based on a length of time. I appreciate Marie Kondo's method of simplifying without getting rid of anything we enjoy. You should hear some of her clients' stories after working with her - their lives are changed drastically for the better!

Do you feel overwhelmed with clutter and in need of a clear mind (and home)? I highly recommend giving this book a try! Have you read it already? Tell me what you took away from it!