Monday, March 26, 2012

Clutter Control x 3

We all know what clutter is, but do you know that there is visual clutter around us that can be eliminated on a daily basis? Easily, with no stress. These three ideas will make your home feel less cluttered, today, without any effort at all.

- Keep your basic, disposable items clear or white (liquid/bar soap, paper napkins and plates, toilet paper etc). Your eye will always go to something colorful, so the less noticeable you can make the essentials, the more visual space you will create in your home. Promise.

- Go through your mail every day, and throw out all of the fliers and junk letters (no hesitating). This is a major stress for a lot of people, so to keep these bits and pieces in your home is a waste of time, energy and space. Try it for a few days, and you will be amazed at how much more relaxed it will make you feel.

- Give every single bedroom its own laundry basket/bin/tote/bag. So many people I know, complain that the dirty clothes never get picked up, or taken to the laundry room (even if it is right outside the door). This is the easiest solution that I know of. It will make everyone feel more organized, and, if it's not in, it doesn't get washed....

Thursday, March 15, 2012

What is a Domestic Goddess anyway?

When I gave my very first dinner party, I followed the instructions to the letter. I bought exactly a quarter of a pound of green beans (like the recipe said). I counted them out; there were 23 green beans - I needed five each for four people, so I threw the extra three away. I was so concerned about making such a good impression, that I cannot remember the evening at all.

Years earlier, in school, we had to take Home Economics. For me, anything that took me away from Math and Science was a good thing, but gradually it started to feel too much like work. The cooking was the fun bit, but afterwards, we had to deal with the mess that we had made; washing dishes, cleaning ovens and putting everything away on neatly, labeled shelves. I know it took longer to clean up than it did to cook. We also had to learn how to sew (which I was miserable at, and still am) and study the anatomy of farm animals, all while being constantly reminded about manners and which fork to eat your fish with.

At the time, I didn't think I was really learning anything, but years later I found myself thinking of little pieces of advice that my teacher had given me. Of course, there were practical things, like, "Always use sheets and blanket's that are made from natural materials", "Take your time..." and, my favorite, "Never bang your whisk on the side of the bowl, always tap it on your hand". (None of us ever knew why that mattered, but I still never bang my whisk on the side of the bowl without cringing and thinking of my teacher). 

Several years ago, I decided to contact my Home Economics teacher. A couple of letters and a phone call became an afternoon, and a visit turned into a friendship that I now treasure. Her home is quietly beautiful and comfortable, and there is always hot tea and something sweet waiting for us when we visit. We sit with her and her husband outside in the rose garden, and we talk about where our lives have taken us. We laugh about banging the whisk on the side of the bowl when I was 13 years old. Life has moved on, but her priority is still having a loving home that people want to return to.
After I had visited her recently, I went back to my mum's house, we talked as I helped her hang the laundry on the washing line.
"Don't you just love my new laundry basket?" mum said. "I had to buy it the minute I saw it. I know it's not practical (it was a small, wicker basket with a blue and white lining) but it makes me smile when I put the washing in it, and that's all I care about!". I knew what she meant.

When we had finished, we sat on the deck with a glass of wine and a piece of warm cake. The cake was a bit dry, but we had made it fresh that afternoon, so it really didn't matter at all. We wondered, outloud, about what we should do next; maybe we should re-pot the hanging baskets, or prune the tree, or maybe just walk to the beach and look for shells.

That afternoon, two amazing women made me realize that being a domestic goddess wasn't about the perfect house, or counting your green beans, it was about creating a home filled with love.... 

Photograph from Rosemary Washington's Blog

Friday, March 2, 2012

Transitional Decorating

Sometimes, we have to change our homes because something happens that we didn’t expect.
A lost job, a bereavement or illness, a divorce……We are left with bits and pieces of what we used to have; the task of sorting through memories, adapting our surroundings and making a new list of things that we never even asked for. It can be very overwhelming.
When we are forced to change, it never feels good, but there are ways to guide us through it.
 - Ask for help. If you need to sort through someone else’s personal belongings, don’t do it alone. The emotional connection may be too difficult.
If you are not ready to get rid of anything, and you are not rushed for time, just leave them for now. Stay in touch with friends, journey through your grief, and let them know when you are ready.
- If you are downsizing, try to be realistic about the amount of furniture that you will need. Keep the better quality pieces, and measure your new space (and your furniture) before you move (doors and hallways may be narrower than in your old home). Take a note of your new floor plan, including closets and extra rooms, and try to pack accordingly. Consider a garage sale, or donating to a charity that re-sells/uses the items. Children may find it even more difficult, so let them keep what is really important to them, and store the rest temporarily. This way they can “visit” their things, and make decisions as they get older.
- Blended and divorced families create their own paradox of opposites, ending up with homes that are both over-filled and half-empty. If you are combining two households, try to compromise the sentimental and the practical before moving everything in. It is much easier to do it this way, rather than have 9 people, 6 sofas and 3 refrigerators standing in your living room (for more information about how to blend homes, see this blog).
An almost-empty home is an opportunity (even though it may not feel that way at the time) to totally please yourself. Don’t rush your design decisions. Of course, buy what you need and love, but the space will feel differently when you are alone, and it may take a while for you to adapt. Time will allow you to see what you want, what you must get rid of, and how you want your home to behave.
As someone who has an emotional attachment to almost everything that I own, I write this week’s blog holding my breath, but knowing that we are so much more than our things….

Many thanks to Laura and Rob of  Sisbro Studios for the absolutely beautiful photograph at the top of this page.