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Friday, June 20, 2008

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Truth in Decorating


Lots of readers have been clicking through my flickr set to photos of the new house, and a few have left some very nice compliments. Mostly these make me feel very, very good, but also just a little guilty.

Surely it goes without saying that the slice of life I serve up online is edited for public view. I don't go to the grocery store without putting some clothes on and—on a good day— brushing my hair. I don't let it all hang out here either. Not on purpose anyway (sometimes I miss a button).

But I can't betray people into thinking I have it all together in domestic stage management. Here, in the interest of truthiness, is how the unpacking is going in the back of the house:



The truly frightening thing is that it could well look exactly like this a year from now.

I notice I am procrastinating most over objects with sentimental meaning: photographs, art, memorabilia, bric-a-brac, and the like. It's incredible to me how much of our "stuff" falls into this category. I look at it all and think, what are we, the Smithsonian? I can feel the psychic weight of the contents of those frames and boxes, and frankly, I'm reluctant to unload it onto our living space.

I love the uncluttered feel and look of the front of the house, but I don't know if I'm ruthless enough to toss these things. Also, I know it isn't reasonable to expect to go on living in a catalog picture. Without a few personal items, a space can seem sterile, however pretty.

When we were packing up the old house, I wrote that the purging was a kind of yoga, a deep stretch. I need help with this next pose. What's your approach to sentimental objects? What's the golden proportion of space assigned to history and space left open to imagination and potential? And are you available this Saturday to just come and take care of it?



Blogger bluebird of paradise said...

do not throw it out!

11:17 AM  
Blogger reneedesigns said...

I wish I could help but parts of my house still look like that and we've been here way too long for it to be okay.

Purging is very difficult. I am a hoarder, you never know when you might need something. Of course then you'd have to find it, which could be a problem.

11:40 AM  
Blogger Jennifer H said...

I've come to believe that you shouldn't hang/shelve/put out anything in your house that you don't truly love. I do hang on to things that have sentimental value, but don't find that it's essential to put all of them on display.

Over the years, I've gotten very good at culling objects from our collective stuff, and that usually happens each time we move.

(Oh, and except for a few photographs, I'm all for digitizing photos or putting them into books vs. on shelves or walls.)

11:47 AM  
Blogger Me said...

With any luck we'll be going through this final "weeding" ourselves very soon. We did the preliminary weeding before we listed our house and I can't believe how much is left. I look forward to stealing any tips you get here...


9:34 PM  
Blogger elaine said...

Well, your piles of yet to be unpacked items are very tidy.

I'm not sure how helpful I can be but I'll share my own experience.

I live in a small apartment so don't have much space for storage.

When my granny died just over 10 years ago, I inherited her beautiful Lane cedar chest. In it I keep sentimental stuff -- photos, letters, birthday and greeting cards, school memorabilia, old linens, my granny's hairbrush and comb set -- items that connect me with dear ones.

When I open the chest and shuffle around (the last time was on my mom's birthday when I retrieved one of her baby photos), I relive the memories and the feelings are worth the effort and space needed to store the items. Maybe that's what determines whether something should stay or go -- is it worth the investment of time, space and attention?

My cedar chest occupies the floor of closet and I use the top surface as a bookshelf.

12:43 AM  
Blogger jen said...

I have a short bookshelf in my dining/living area that I display things on, plus the wall space above it, plus a small wall-mounted shelf. I keep all the special things here that mean something to me, and/or that someone special has given to me.

There's too much to fit in one spot, so I change it up with the turn of every season. I find that when fall comes I'm excited to get out the things I've missed, then by the time Christmas rolls around the items have become nearly invisible with familiarity - just in time for Christmas decorations. Then I change it up again for spring/summer.

I love unpacking and repacking that one tub, and finding special things that I'd nearly forgotten I had.

I have two other boxes in my storage area marked "decorations" that I haven't opened again since we moved in here five years ago. So? I think it's about time it goes to the Goodwill.

10:32 PM  
Blogger Assertagirl said...

I get very attached to sentimental objects...the easy chair in our living room belonged to my mom and dad when I was 3 years old, so that makes it well, too old for me to say now.

The other item I can't give up is my ancient piano that belonged to my grandparents as my father grew up on their farm.

6:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The very best advice I ever received on the topic is to consider taking a photo of the item, and saving and treasuring the photo but getting rid of the actual object. Usually this decision takes only a second - you know almost instantly when you consider the idea. Sometimes it's just the memory of the thing that matters, and sometimes it's the thing. Keep all the memories, but keep only the treasures that really matter.

8:19 PM  

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