Sweeping with the Enemy or a Broom with a View
When I was still a cable subscriber I spent most of my viewing time toggling between TNT and HGTV. I watched so much Law & Order and Mission: Organization, sometimes when I fell asleep I dreamed of Briscoe and Green investigated murders in between helping homeowners declutter and organized their suburban homes. As a decluttering/organization junkie, what I often found disappointing was the shows never did a six week – forget six months – follow up to see how well those cookie cutter “organizational” system solutions were holding up. I’m a vertical stacker, with a “hide it in a box” approach to organization. Yet, these organization shows featured solutions I know I wouldn’t be able to sustain. I don’t subscribe to the “zone” theory of room arrangement or organization, mostly because it assumes a lot of commonality about the way folks use their space at best and at worse it tends to be overly dogmatic and prescriptive regarding how folks ought to use their space. If you aren’t big on cooking – I’m not – why would you need to organize your kitchen the way a foodie might? If you don’t have tons of dinner parties, there’s no need to turn otherwise usable space into a carefully curated shrine to someone else’s opinion about the appropriate use of that space. I had more dinner parties before I had a table in the dining room (see what I did there?) than I do now. I also take issue with the concept of single use furnishings. I don’t have a “dining” table. I have tables throughout my place that also work in the space that could be currently considered the dining room. Though truth be told, I eat 90% of my meals seated on my Click-Clack using a Lack side table. Sometimes I even – gasp – eat meals standing at the kitchen counter while flipping through a magazine or book!
Organization shows ask occupants to conceptualize the kind of person they’d like to be, rather than the person they are. This aspirational framing makes for dramatic reveals, featuring an array of attractive furnishing, storage and organization solutions, but how do those people actually live in those new spaces? Naturally, I advocate a different approach. Some people don’t find super clean homes inviting. Some people enjoy a bit of clutter. Some people love to clean; other people hate it. Universalizing the idea of “home” as a place that must be orderly and uber clean as though it’s the only way a person thrives in their living environment is pretty fatuous. I enjoy cleaning, but I don’t impose my standards on other people, nor do I think my level of home interaction is realistic for folks. Homes and decor needs to serve the people who live there currently and not the people they aspire to be. If your space becomes overwhelming, the last thing needed is some outsider’s intrusion into your life. For one thing, they aren’t YOU. In addition, they don’t LIVE there. You live there. You know what areas are the most inviting (to you) and what areas you avoid. You know your deal breakers and things that aren’t a big deal to you. I am not a person who cares about fine crockery or cookware, but I am somewhat picky about cheap pillows! I need a certain kind of cheap pillow, which seem only available during back-to-school season and January “White Sales” and I time my purchases accordingly. I own 30 pillowcases and four fitted sheets. I do not like books on bookcases and keep mine tucked away in baskets or attractive boxes (I love looking at other people’s bookcases). If I can’t imagine four uses – other than its intended use – I don’t purchase it. I prefer to have guests sleep in my bed since I’m a night owl and would rather have free range of the rest of the house, and for the most part, I don’t really sleep in there when I don’t have guests. Yet, I want a cool looking bedroom, mostly so I can stand in the doorway admiring it on my way to the Click Clack where I usually sleep! These revelations about my living environment were discovered through trial and error. I got quite the lesson early this Spring when I realized I hated my carefully decorated home office! Now it’s been reverted to its Room of Broken Dreams status and most likely it’ll become some kind of guest room.
If you're about to embark on a new decorating/organization project, in the middle of one, or feeling underwhelmed by a completed project – stop. Grab a pen and pad and start writing about the things in your space that frustrate you and things you feel obligated to change, but are unnecessary based on your existing lifestyle needs. Like a lot of things in life, sometimes it's helpful to let go of the tail-chasing aspirations and obligations and embrace the realistic desires, whose simplicity and sexiness just might surprise you. I have a friend who owns tons of extravagant and luxurious linens, a decadent bed, gorgeous glassware and the rest of her place is pretty bland and spare. She’s one of the most house happy people I know.