Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Decorations: balance between bareness and clutter

A few weeks ago, my mother and I were invited to visit Mom's friends, a couple which recently did quite impressive renovations in their apartment. I walked in, preparing to admire their pretty new windows, doorframes and floors – and was overwhelmed by the amount of pictures, vases, porcelain dolls, and many other knick-knacks that covered every available space in the room.

Maybe it was the contrast with my own minimalist style, but I do think the room could have gained a lot from removing at least half of the decorations. It would make it look so much more light and spacious – and the remaining decorations could be viewed better, too!

I abhor clutter, and have more decorations than I could ever use at once. The solution, for me, is putting some of them away and changing them later. I have a few centerpieces which I try to rotate every once in a while.

Most of the decorations I use are not very elaborate or expensive. In the picture, you can see one of my favorites – it's a simple, clear glass bowl, filled with shells.



I would love to hear how you ladies find the balance between bareness and simplicity, between decorative ideas and filling your walls and surfaces with clutter. Any special tips to share?

34 comments:

Ron and Ginny said...

Over the years, I have had way too much clutter. I am learning that, to me, the most beautiful decoration is cleanliness. To have a bunch of decorations or THINGS either makes you spend all your time keeping them clean or you live in a highly decorated pig sty. So, my choice is to live with as little as possible and keep it clean. It is also much more relaxing on the spirit to have less confusion and chaos. :-D

Mrs Slaq said...

I agree with you, Anna. We are more minimalist than most people we know. We have a couple pieces of artwork on the walls, including a music-themed print given to me by my grandparents, and a Van Gogh canvas of Starry Night which was a wedding gift. I have other things I plan to put up, but I've dawdled. Other than that, I think my only actual decorative thing is a small, glass-doored 2 shelf hutch that I have mounted in the corner above my piano. It holds a few of my treasured music boxes. I find too much clutter makes it a LOT harder to keep the house clean! As well as feeling crowded and close.

Gothelittle Rose said...

I've found each person has her own level of cleanliness and clutter, and it differs throughout their lifetime. Sometimes someone keeps their area too bare out of a wish to follow a simplicity fad, or too crowded out of a wish to follow a more materialistic fad.

Personally, I don't like overclutter, but I don't like bareness except on surfaces that I regularly use, like my desktop or my countertops. My house would probably seem overcluttered to some people and bare to others. I just go with how I feel comfortable. I personally equate bare with barrenness at times, and I'll use a certain level of clutter to give my house a feeling of plenty.

Anonymous said...

Ron & Ginny said it quite well...that the best decoration is cleanliness. And even favorite decorative items can get out of hand!!

I like to rotate my decorations here & there throughout the year. Doing that not only helps to create a fresh feeling in my home, with interesting touches for the family, but it also forces me to deal with my things on a regular basis, weeding out what no longer serves us.

Books are probably the one area where I like the look of "much". But they occupy a dedicated space on one wall (alright...the whole wall!), & they are so useful to me, that I don't mind looking after them.

But really, overall, the best approach for us has to be "less is more", & some years ago I would not have admitted to that so freely.

Your bowl of shells is very pretty, Anna. Maybe there are even memories connected with some of those shells...?

Have a wonderful day,
Brenda

Tracy said...

I think that decorating is a very personal preference. Some like modern, some like traditional, some like antiques and country. People need to feel at home in their OWN homes.

AnneK said...

I believe in "Less is more." We moved into a new to us house and have been decorating for a while now. I will show pictures on my blog of my recent efforts. I am too lazy to type now. :D

Mimi said...

Through the years I have collected much more than I need...
My daughter is always telling me she will de-clutter and downsize my home... and I remind her that much of the clutter is things that she and her sister have given me...
Keep your space clear now. because when you have children it will clutter up with wonderful momentos from them and you will pack it away but never discard!!!

Anna S said...

Brenda - yes, indeed, those shells were collected for us by my dear aunt. Her gifts were always so special and thoughtful, just like herself; sadly, we lost her a year and a half ago.

Terry said...

I tend to be more of a minimalist myself. With four kids, I don't want to have to spend too much time dusting knick knacks. My decorating consists mostly of centerpieces, a few paintings, and simply painting rooms in colors other than white or eggshell. It's important to pick colors that allow for changing decorations without repainting, but once you do it, it really adds to the character of the home.

Haus Frau said...

We're all so different in our decorating preferences, aren't we? :o)

My mother loves blasts of color and plenty of 'things' as well as large dark furniture. For a time she lived with us and was uncomfortable in my largely muted yellow and white (w/dashes of of other colors) that has little on the walls or on flat surfaces.

Open space and decorating simplicity feeds my soul and that of my husband. Our daughter is also simple in her approach but prefers **color** along with that simplicity..which she uses in her bedroom and in her plans for her own home.

Blessings...

Lean Not said...

A few years ago, a wealthy lady hired me to dust and vacuum her house every week. She had so many little fragile knick-knacks that it was really a pain for me to dust them! I would always think, well, this works for her because she can afford to pay someone else to clean all this stuff. But I would never want to create that much extra housework for myself!

Cleaning many small, expensive, breakable things takes a long time and was not enjoyable b/c it made me so nervous that I was going to break something. The same applies to the multiple little things I had to move to vacuum.

Every week, when I cleaned her house, it was cemented in my mind that when I furnish my own home, I will keep things simple and easy to clean!!

Michelle said...

One of the things I've learned from Flylady is that you cannot organize clutter, you can only get rid of it. By all means if something has sentimental meaning and makes you smile, keep it. If you really don't like it give it away so may be someone else will find use for it. For my wedding I got two casserole pottery bowls that were made by a local artisan. They were beautifully made but the color was a really ugly brown. I used them to hide dog treats until I decided I didn't really like them. After feeling obligated to hang onto them for 4 years, I finally took them to goodwill. Its nice the freedom that comes with that. Now I just have to tackle the paper clutter on a regular basis - its the bane of my existance right now.

Mrs. Jo said...

Clutter is something I'm always fighting! We live in such a small apartment and it seems that there are toys and kid's books everywhere all the time! I try to keep things clean by going through stuff once a month and taking unnecessary thing to the thrift shop or rotating toys so that there won't be so many to clean up several times a day. I'm not a knicknack person, but I do like photos and candles and so I have lots of neat framed photos. I usually have a few seasonal candles on the kitchen table or shelf. I like hand-made pottery and have a few neat goblets on display that I got for under a dollar at a yard sale. I love the clean, simple, yet homey look. However, achieving the "clean" look with two small children who are experts at making messes every minute of every day is tough!

Haus Frau said...

"Lean Not" reminded me of the keep-up of things. I'm so thankful to have to dust a small collection dotted here and there rather than spend seemingly hours of care on intricate and plentiful nic-nacs. Dusting my living room takes all of 2 minutes..max.

PaulaB52 said...

I don't like clutter. But I do want my home to look nice. I've compromised with myself. I have a cabinet in my dining room that is visible from the living & kitchen. I have two crystal vases that I'll put colorful seasonal candle in. I have some white lights that are wrapped in crystals. Sometimes I'll put a seasonal knick-knack in with the lights. It's one cabinet in one area of my house.

This frees up the rest of the house to be clutter/decoration free.

Rebekah S. said...

I completely agree, Anna! Great post!

Rebekah S. said...

I struggle with clutter a lot, due to the fact that my room is pretty small, and I have an over abundance of books, etc. Does anyone have any organization tips that they can share with me? Thanks so much for your help!!


Anna, I was so sorry to hear about your aunt!!

Kelly said...

I try to only keep things that have a sentimental value or great story behind them.
My hubby though is a pack rat and there seems to be emotional attachment to everything he's ever owned. For example he recently got a new guitar case since the old one was falling apart. He then says, "I should keep that old thing for the memories."
I said, "No you shouldn't you can remember the past with out it!"
I've also made him follow this rule whenever we clean out a closet or attic space. If you find and item and think, "Wow I didn't know I had this." or "Wow I haven't seen this thing in a year. (or more)" Then throw it out. You were obviously living quite happily without it. This rule works for clothes, nick nacks, or any collectibles.
I've got tons of things in my attic from when my girl was a baby. I'm tackling that in the spring!
Kelly

Ashley said...

This is tricky for me, personally. My mom's house, to me, is cluttered. My MIL's house on the other hand, is barren!

I personally enjoy the level of "decoration" that we have and how easy it is to keep this home clean. :)

I am one of the only people I know of that doesn't have a "theme" to my son's room, and I like white walls. I recently purchased a new quilt for our bed, and as the quilt has deep, rusty red in it and the previous spread was blue, it has changed the whole color of the room! I enjoy accenting colors, like a white bathroom with blue towels and a blue throw rug.

But I have friends that paint murals and stripes and all kinds of things on their walls!

I find that if I spend much time at my MIL's, it feels cluttered, and vice versa if I spend time at my mom's!

We go through our house and garage several times a year and take lots of stuff to Goodwill that we find we aren't using or just don't like. I think this helps. :)

Katy-Anne said...

Decorating is an individual thing and I don't think that it is our place to judge that a persons home is too cluttered or too barren if they like it the way it is. A lot of people would say that mine is barren but cluttered, and I would agree, but they might not know that one of our rooms is cluttered because our book and CD's that we use ALL the time are still in boxes because we have no shelves yet and haven't got the money for them yet, and that I would love to decorate but don't even have $20 to go buy some decorations with. I am a person that wants to make my house pretty and clutter free, and I'm unable to.

Elizabeth said...

Clutter really gets on my nerves, but it seems to GROW (of its own accord!) in a house where a large family lives! :-P Okay ... maybe not, but it sure feels as if it does! Personally, I prefer a half-and-half approach. I like beautiful pictures on the wall and beautiful cushions and throws on the couch. I do NOT like clutter and knick-knacks! :-> I think books are great for adding elegence and interest to a room ... they're probably my favourite things to 'decorate' with!

Anna S said...

I agree: I have shelves upon shelves of books and they add such a lovely, cozy touch!

Wendy WaterBirde said...

Hi Anna,

Like some of the comments here have shown, we all have differnt styles of what feels like home. I'm like you, definitely a minimalist. And i know others who are the opposite, we really do have different styles out there. I remember years ago when i rented my first house and had it decorated very minimally, my family (who overall love the clutter style ) visted and felt sorry for me and my simplicity, appauled that things we "so bare", and surprised me by going out and getting me a bunch of rugs and knick knacks. LOL! I just couldnt get them to understand back then that i actaully ~~wanted~~ things minimal and simple.

With tips, the only one i have is the guideline i use when i sort through stuff: asking myself do i really love it or do i really need it?

The stuff we really need is the stuff we actually use in day to day life. If its been sitting there waiting for someday, or there are extras of the thing just becuase (seriously, how many dishes and such does one need? etc), then often it goes. There's exceptions, like for example i found this pitcher that is really good ergonomically for my injury and i keep a couple back ups for down the line, becuase it may be hard to find one later. Having back ups of stuff thats needed and hard to find makes sense, but having your cupboard so full you can hardly see in there becuase you have a million dishes that never get used etc, thast the stuff for me that goes. And sometimes there are things you have but dont use much that really are still important (in my case its my VitaMixer), that stuff makes sense to keep. But not stuff you seldom use that arent vital to you,they are i think just making it hard to enjoy the stuff you ~do~ use by putting clutter in the way.

The stuff we really love is the stuff that has value ~in itself~ to us. The sort of stuff where look at it and you feel a bond, it actually makes you feel warm and good. If its more something kept for sentimental reasons, like it reminds you of an event or memory or person, then except for the really important ones you can just take a picture of these sorts of things and put them in a little photo album to hold the sentiment without having to hold the item itself.

Another idea might be to look at ancient peoples, like the Inuit for example, for inspiration. I know that idea wont be for everyone, but somehow when i look at ancient homes like that in their simplicity, it really inspires me to find new ways to simplify my own.

Well, Peaceful Week : ) Wendy

Kristi said...

Probably one of the hardest things for me is paper clutter. I will get a counter/desktop cleaned up, with the exception of one stack of papers that I don't know what to do with. I need to sit and brainstorm a while till I come up with an organization method...

I tend to lean towards having clutter but I am really working to overcome that. Speaking of which, maybe I will go and clear out a few things while the kids are napping this afternoon. I'm glad you mentioned this subject! It's good to have a little reminder now and then.

Laura H. said...

I love simple things. I love the song Simple Gifts. It applies very well.

The thing you mentioned on Perennial is on http://caraashley2007.blogspot.com a segment of it. Let me know what you think. I also sent you an email, discribing in more detail!

Laura H.

Anonymous said...

I love art, so my walls are pretty full, but I limit myself to one wall per room. I think it makes my house look so pretty. I just sit and look at the pretty pictures I've collected over the years and remember all those memories.

However, I love empty surfaces-- so my desk and tables are (usually) clear and I don't keep things on them.

The fact that I despise dusting helps. :)
~Emily

Kelli said...

Clutter drives me crazy too and I really don't like to dust. ;0) I do the same thing as you, rotate and move things around a lot. I love your pretty shell centerpiece!
Kelli

Candy said...

I think its lovely!

:)
candy

Jordin said...

Fun post!

I like a 'simple' look. I display things that are very special and that's about it. I don't have a lot of collections/knick-knacks on display. My best decorating idea (and others', too, it looks like) is CLEANLINESS. ;)

I agree with some of the others, though--it's really about what your family likes. After all, you have to live there and feel comfortable. :)

Brenda said...

Boy! You hit on a hot topic here! I am learning to declutter and be more minimal in my decor. I just LOVE the way the homes look on Designed to Sell on HGTV. I know if someone is living there, there will be more things around, but still.
For us, allergies and asthma have made us re-look at how much we have sitting around. It's much harder to keep dust at bay when there is too much stuff around.

Anonymous said...

what do you do when you are a minimalist and hubby is a compulsive hoarder???????

Anna S said...

As a matter of fact, I have this problem right now with Mom - she just can't bring herself to throw anything away, even if she hadn't used it for years! So we follow a simple rule: if she found something she forgot we had, obviously we don't need it.

Mrs. H said...

My house is involuntarily minimalist. There are no decorations anywhere, save one doll, and a houseplant. I hate it. But I'm no good at decorating. Whatever I do looks like clutter, even a single candle on a doily.

My husband is a bare bones minimalist. He would have everything stark white and bare/empty. (That or he'd have it cluttered with "useful" things like flashlights and hammers.) In such a space, I cannot relax. I want to scream and run from my own home.

I'm sure there's a happy medium in there somewhere, but I can't find it.

Emily (Laundry and Lullabies) said...

My natural inclination is toward minimalism. However, with two children (2 and 7 months) there is no such thing as "no clutter" in my house right now. Not only are toys generally out on the floor, but there is just so much STUFF that is required for children! I'm having to learn to live with that. :) On the other hand, I have to be able to live in my own home without going nuts. My solution is to go for clean lines and little color (except for the toys, of course!) So our house is decorated in light to medium wood tones, cream, and light seafoam throw pillows. I try hard to make sure that everything has a home, even if it isn't currently in it. It helps to know that it CAN be put away. :) And then I try to keep surfaces clear. It is hard to find the right balance, often, but worth trying for it!