Design 101

Class 1: Conscious de-CLUTTERing

It happens to everyone. The accumulation of possessions that clutter our homes. The somewhat tacky souvenirs you bought on vacation, the ornate knick-knacks inherited from Grandma’s city apartment, the homemade crafty gifts you feel you got to keep on display – you know what I mean. And the framed photos -all those framed photos!- taking up almost every inch of wall space and lining many horizontal surfaces. Nothing dates a house – and makes it a b*tch to clean – like an overabundance of “decorative” objects.

To begin a home decorating masterpiece you have to start with a clean canvas. You got to throw out, giveaway, and clear out!. And you got to be RUTHLESS. Here are a couple of tricks that I have found that help people part with needless belongings that they have become WAY too accustomed to having around.

1. Would you buy it now?

If you saw it in a store now (in its present condition) would you buy it? People hang on to things cause they remember how much they paid for them and feel it is like throwing away money to get rid of them. The solution? Donate it to a charity thrift store or sell it at a garage sale. If it is really worth some money have someone eBay it for you. Any of these solutions is less painful than just pitching it out.

2. Does it have sentimental value?

Take a photo of it. If its small enough put in a designated “Memory Trunk” (mine is a large Walmart Tupperware Trunk) that is stored in an attic or garage. If you think you will miss not seeing it displayed in your home, store it out of sight for awhile. You will be surprised how, after time, you find you won’t be missing it at all – and then you could take a picture of it and eventually either donate or sell it.

3. I can’t discard photos!!

Too many framed photos is redundant and frankly, most of your guests are not interested in seeing them especially after the first time. Even people living in your house don’t notice them after awhile. De-frame them and put them out in a nice album. They are easier to clean and won’t fade. Leave out only the ones you truly love and have the most meaning. Be discriminating!

4. What about small figurines, knick-knacks and miniatures?

These are notorious place fillers that add little/no decorative value but do add a lot of added cleaning maintenance. Don’t leave them scattered about. If you really want to keep them put them together in a one unit – like a glass enclosed case or doll house.. You can find a lot of knick-knacks at garage sales – REAL CHEAP. Nobody seems to want them – and guaranteed your kids won’t unless they can sell them.

5. Is the object just worn or junky looking?

Throw it out. JUST DO IT. Dusty fake floral arrangements, beat up toss pillows, dollar store candles, small wall signs with cliché sayings, the crap that is known now as “chachkas”. It will take some time to get use to the more “empty” appearance of your home but filling every inch of horizontal and vertical space with “stuff” just to fill it up is one of the most common mistakes people make in home decorating. Even if the things you own are basically quality, nothing can be appreciated if there are too many objects crowded together. Clutter cheapens everything. Less is more. I remember a scene in the movie “Gypsy” where the famous stripper’s mother tore off all the tawdry embellishments on her daughter’s gown leaving her with a simple, elegant dress she then accessorized with just a fur stole and long white gloves. Classy – even for a stripper. In much the same way, there is a lesson to be learned in decorating.

Keep it simple and use just a few good pieces. Then STOP.

The “stopping” part is the part most of us have trouble with. With stores like Home Goods calling to us like a sea siren, we love to keep up with our “nesting” activities by adorning our homes. But just by “conscious de-cluttering” you make your living spaces seem fresh and updated – without spending a dime! And another big payoff – it will look cleaner and it actually IS easier to clean!

OK! So… it’s the end of Class 1 – you know what your homework is!