Ask Unclutterer: Can a tchochke-free home be warm and inviting?

Reader Helen submitted the following to Ask Unclutterer:

In the process of getting rid of dust collectors around the house, I find that it can start to somewhat lack personality. I don’t really like having photos around and quite like having bare walls – I could quite easily become a minimalist. I have a couple of prints but these do look rather mass-produced. I’d love some suggestions for adding warmth and humanity to my home without adding clutterful tchochkes.

I’ve been in some minimalist homes that feel warm and inviting, so I’ve never been convinced that tchochkes are a requirement for comfort. Furniture size and materials play a larger role in creating an inviting environment than ceramic kittens.

As long as your furniture is appropriately scaled for the room, or slightly over-sized, you usually won’t feel like a space is bare or cold. If your furniture is right for the room but you still feel that the space is uninviting, a floor covering might be a better alternative for you than hanging artwork on the wall. A textured carpet could be all you need to warm up the space.

Personally, I’m against the idea of having tchochkes for the sake of having tchochkes. If you have a gewgaw or a decoration in your home, it should be because you love it and find it inspiring or entertaining or treasure it deeply. Your home is your refuge from the outside world, and everything in it should be there because you have consciously chosen it to be a part of your sanctuary.

Also, consider playing with paint color on your walls. A white with a hint of gray in it can feel clean but a little warmer than a bright white. Different shades of white in squares painted directly on a bright white background wall could be interesting, like Kazimir Malevich’s famous suprematist painting. Or, paint one wall in a room an intense, non-white color and keep the other walls white in sharp contrast. In our previous home, we had the walls painted like a Mondrian painting. Most walls were white, but if there was a small wall, we painted it in a primary color.

I hope I was of some help, Helen. Please check the comments for even more suggestions from our readers. Thank you for submitting your question for our Ask Unclutterer column.

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45 Comments for “Ask Unclutterer: Can a tchochke-free home be warm and inviting?”

  1. posted by Kathryn Fenner on

    Allow your eyes to adjust. We just painted our living areas ultra white, when they were more “Mondrian” before–one wall pale yellow, one egg yellow, one pale blue and one pale green. Took a few days but now I don’t want to hang anything on the walls. Less is more, but give yourself time.

    If you still want an offwhite color of white, BM Moonlight White is a decorator favorite.

    http://www.benjaminmoore.net/catalogsearch/result/?q=moonlight+white&x=19&y=13

  2. posted by Jen on

    As an artist, I don’t like to think of artwork as a tchochke. Beautiful art can awaken and inspire the soul. T think a massed produced knick-knack is something quite different than an original painting by a talented artist whose work one admires.

  3. posted by Michelle Williams on

    I find fabrics and plants to be easy and very appealing to have in my home, because of the way they connect people.

    Fabrics give dimension and texture wherever you put them: curtains, tapestry, table coverings, and throws and pillows. While it may not be your specific taste, IKEA certainly has inspired the use of fabric as decor wherever it is. The fabrics can be plain or vivid, rough or smooth and shiny. In my house these things are used for their intended purposes – shade, warmth, comfort, etc. – and not merely for decoration.

    Plants literally add life to any room! Most of mine are from friends; since I move so much, I give them away when I leave and ask for some when I arrive in the new place. I like the people I remember when I see the plants.

  4. posted by Katie on

    I’d second the suggestion for paint warming things up! As an alternate to white, I LOVE BM’s “Golden Tan”. It’s a gorgeous, soft, yellowy tan that is warm but not overly bright, changes throughout the day beautifully and works with a variety of decorating styles.
    I’d add that functional objects can add warmth and beauty to a room. I almost always cuddle up under a blanket while reading on the couch so I use a throw blanket that soft, beautiful and full of texture. It’s functional and used often, which meets my personal definition of minimalism. Same story for a lovely decorative white board where I gather my grocery, to do and meal planning lists in the kitchen. It fills some wall space, and I suppose collects a little dust, but I use it daily so it also meets a needed function and causes less clutter than a dozen scraps of paper would…
    Good luck Helen!

  5. posted by Karen Newbie on

    Erin, you couldn’t have summed it up any better: “Your home is your refuge from the outside world, and everything in it should be there because you have consciously chosen it to be a part of your sanctuary.” That is what it’s all about!

  6. posted by Zen friend on

    I second the fabric/plants idea. They add texture as well as color. My living room includes an animal print throw on the sofa and an elegant tone-on-tone fabric runner, draped and hung from a piece of wood in the style of a Japanese obi sash.

  7. posted by Michelle Williams on

    Jen, I love what you said about art. It is very personal and would of course bring a unique feeling into your home, just the way Erin described.

  8. posted by Susan on

    Definitely plants. We moved into our new home not too long ago and have not yet the heart to put holes into the pristine white walls… but no one would think of our house as cold because there are several plants in every room. They are good for the room climate, too, and remove harmful pollutants from the air.

  9. posted by Nihara on

    How about using food as a way to warm up your home? As a minimalist, you can appreciate food’s utility value — it’s not a tchotchke. Clear glass bowls of perfect lemons or oranges or clear glass canisters of cookies or biscotti can make your house look (and feel) like a home. If you’d rather have nothing around, how about just filling your home with the scent of food (like the smell of freshly-baked bread or cookies) or even just your favorite non-food scents (vanilla maybe, or cinnamon)? How about adding a throw to a chair or your couch (to make people feel like they could curl up with a hot cup of coffee and a good book in your home)?

    I don’t like clutter, but I do want my children to feel that our home is a warm and cozy place. Food is my trick. My kitchen is filled with fresh-baked treats (thank you Duncan Hines) and that always spells home to me.

  10. posted by Carol on

    I’m renting an apartment that I can’t paint but I found bringing in color in furniture and artwork warms up the room a lot. I bought a small loveseat in dark red and the fabric has a great texture to it. Above it I hung a one of a kind painting I bought from my church for about $40. It’s odd and probably not to most people’s liking but it’s definitely unique and has a story behind it.

    If new furniture isn’t a possiblity, perhaps a throw draped across an existing chair or couch? I also love the suggestion of plants. I have a couple on my desk at work and they do wonders to make the place seem less sterile.

  11. Avatar of

    posted by Virginia @ My Spinning Plates on

    “Your home is your refuge from the outside world, and everything in it should be there because you have consciously chosen it to be a part of your sanctuary.”

    I love that line.

  12. posted by Anita on

    I’m not big on having things around just for the sake of having them around, unless it’s something I enjoy looking at.

    As Erin and some commenters already mentioned, wall colour works wonders to liven up a room. You don’t have to paint the whole room a bright colour either; you can try:
    - an accent wall in a bright colour
    - a geometric pattern (in our current apartment, rather than find something to put up on the wall behind our couch, we painted a pattern of squares and rectangles in 3 colours. No extra “stuff” for the sake of having “stuff”, and it livens up the room)
    - borders (in my previous apartment, I painted 2 walls bright orange. But rather than have them be a big orange sheet, I left a ~3″ white border on all sides. It made the entire look looke bright and playful rather than heavy and… orange.)
    - if bright colours aren’t your thing, or you don’t want to have multicoloured walls, get the same paint colour in 2 different sheens/enamels – e.g. one satin/eggshell, and one semi-gloss or high gloss. Paint your whole room with the less shiny, then over it, paint a design with the glossier finish. It’s a subtle effect that will brighten and warm up the room without adding colour ;)
    - wall stickers/decals (especially good if you’re renting, if you want to be able to change your decor often, or if you really don’t like to paint. They come in a lot of shapes, sizes, colours and finishes, and you can just peel them off and toss them when you’re bored of one design)

  13. posted by Jessi on

    I think unpainted wood (in furniture or as part of the architecture) really warms up a home. Have you seen “Diana’s Innermost House”? It’s a tiny little home with white walls and furniture, but the all the wood in the space (along with the fire an candle light) really makes it look warm and welcoming. http://tinyhouseblog.com/timber-frame/dianas-innermost-house/

    I also want to reiterate that color and texture will make your home feel more inviting. It’s really easy to bring both elements in with utilitarian textiles (pillows, throws, dish towels, floor coverings etc). Personally, I think that all white rooms look stunning when you add lots of different textures.

  14. Avatar of

    posted by tmichelle on

    Wonderful ideas. I especially liked the plant, fabric, and color of walls or furniture. I wanted to add that if you like sayings or Bible verses you could always put those on the wall to personalize a room without adding “stuff”.

  15. posted by Anne on

    OMG “tchochke”?!! What a bizarre word! I assume it’s American English for “knickknack”? I just love learning new words like these. Anyway, I agree that “tchochkes” should be avoided at all costs. I have a select few from my travels and a few that were given to me as gifts, but that’s it. And now when I travel I purposely avoid buying decorative objects just for the sake of it. Alternatively (as I used to do) you could buy the very cheap, but modern and stylish, made-in-China ornaments that are readily available these days and just throw them away when necessary (such as when moving home). I find that objects only feel like clutter when they are difficult/expensive/too valuable to throw away (and to hell with the green you-must-recycle-everything preachers!).

  16. posted by Karen (Scotland) on

    Frances over at MissMinimalist did an excellent post on this recently. (I have NO idea how to make a link – I’m sorry – and I’m too tired to work it out right now.) Worth having a read – it was about a month ago, I think – and it will add to the ideas already given above.
    Karen (Scotland)

  17. Avatar of

    posted by Sky on

    So many great ideas! I love my art on the walls but have very few things sitting around. A few throw pillows on the couch, a throw and a candle holder on the coffee table make my living room comfortable and a bowl of fruit on the dining room table is all I need.
    I love my kitchen counters clean and mostly clear.

    Jesse….”Diana’s Innermost House” is adorable!

  18. posted by Lisa on

    I guess I’ve never understood why you have to paint your walls white (or close to it) in order to be minimalist. Maybe I miss the point, but I thought it about possessions. If you’re going to have a couch at all, why can’t it be red? Why can’t the walls be blue? Why can’t a rug on a concrete floor have colors in it? I think is why I’ve never really identified very strongly with the “movement”.

  19. posted by Nisa on

    Tchochke is Yiddish! It’s a great word that’s made it’s way into American English usage. I have a tchochke problem myself, way too many of them. I’m whittling them down bit by bit and my rooms feel more peaceful.

  20. posted by Steve on

    It’s tchotchke isn’t it?

  21. posted by Missy P on

    Our house could certainly be considered minimalist. We have minimal furniture, but the pieces we have fill the spaces well. I don’t like things on surfaces unless they are serving a purpose, so our dining table, coffee table (nothing but a stack of magazines and a remote), and side tables don’t have anything on them. Clear, clean.

    I have started some small collections that have helped to warm up the house. I started collecting small reproduction Frank Lloyd Wright stained glass and hanging them in my windows. They are beautiful and take up no space at all. Find something that you love and begin a small collection that you love.

    “You should have nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris

  22. posted by April on

    Sounds like in your case you should focus on texture. If there’s metal, bring in wood (or plants). If there’s hard surfaces, bring in a something fluffy (like a rug or a throw). If your couch is leather, try chairs in a different material, like linen. If there’s lots of white or pale colors, bring in a few things in dark or saturated colors (and vice versa). Layering textures really helps warm a space, and it won’t produce extra “stuff.”

  23. posted by April on

    Also, good lighting makes a huge difference.

  24. posted by Jasmine on

    I grew up in a home that always had family photos on the wall. In fact, I’ve never been inside a home that didn’t have it, so the idea of lacking visible photos seems unusual. Not bad or uninviting, just different from my norm.

    Each person has their own way of giving personality into a home. For me, the photo of my little cousin dancing or my dad eating sugar cane with his bare hands and teeth are sources of joy and warmth. For others, their homes have amazing and beautiful artwork or sculptures. And for you, the personality could come from interesting colors and patterns.

  25. posted by JC on

    I think tchotchkes can be incorporated into a cozy minimal environment if displayed correctly.

    If tchotchkes cover every flat surface then it looks like clutter. If you have a collection concentrated in one area, framed or encased, or otherwise artfully displayed it creates a focal point of interest. But space around the collection/display is essential.

  26. posted by ELF on

    Alternatively (as I used to do) you could buy the very cheap, but modern and stylish, made-in-China ornaments that are readily available these days and just throw them away when necessary (such as when moving home). I find that objects only feel like clutter when they are difficult/expensive/too valuable to throw away (and to hell with the green you-must-recycle-everything preachers!).

    Oh dear. Are you the same Anne who a few days ago was just proclaiming that anyone who enjoys owning physical books is a hoarder unworthy of this hallowed website? Soooo . . . it sounds like those empty shelves of yours, after you destroyed your books, are being used to house cheap, disposable crap made in Third World countries with questionable labor practices. To hell with social justice and the environment!

    Really, you say the darndest things.

  27. posted by katrina on

    It sounds from your comment about ‘mass produced’ that you don’t mind having few things on display but you can’t see yourself reflected in the house. Perhaps as a former clutterer you’re still a little used to ‘quantity over quality’ with lots of things showing your personality in a home.

    What if you were to put a seasonal item on display around your home. For example, April is easter/passover/hindu new year/etc – there must be something you use in April that has some memory attached to it or just reflects your personality or taste. So consider displaying it for the month. One item is not clutter as it’s going to be returned to in its proper place at the end of April.

    The plant idea is a good one. I also like the idea of something edible on display – so perhaps a mild-smelling herb in growing pot in the kitchen. Perhaps parsley or chives. Sage and thyme are both a bit too strong smelling for indoors

  28. posted by Anne on

    @ELF

    I’m not suggesting people fill their homes with cheap Chinese-made junk. I’m just saying that, for example, young people or the poor, or anyone who moves home fairly regularly, shouldn’t feel guilty about buying a few attractive but cheap ornaments (which you’ve got to admit are readily available these days) to brighten up their homes and then ditching them if and when they move onwards and upwards. As I said, I don’t buy the cheap stuff anymore, but I’m not going to judge anyone who does. My comment about recycling was a reaction to the way, I think, the uncluttering movement has been hijacked to a certain degree by eco-fascists, militant vegans and anti-capitalists (although this site seems to stay mercifully free of such preaching). You have to strike a balance between being environmentally responsible and not burdening yourself with all the worries of the world. And as for Chinese workers, I don’t think there’s any shame in supporting them by buying their products as well as local/domestic ones.

  29. posted by JustGail on

    There’s been quite a few nice ideas here regarding color, textures, plants, and art. I read fast, so I don’t know if this was mentioned – have fewer decorative pieces, but go BIG. Instead of bunch of little tchotchkes scattered about, go with 1 big art piece you love, whether it’s a painting, sculpture or plant. I will admit for me it’s hard to convince myself to drop that much money on one thing just to look at. It’s so much easier to bring in little things over time.

    Give yourself time to get used to the new look. And let other’s know that it IS on purpose. Otherwise you will find yourself on the receiving end of a bunch of tchotchke gifts.

  30. posted by JustGail on

    Regarding the cheap junk, my opinion is unless you love the item don’t bring it in the home, because -
    1. once it’s in the home, people seem to have a hard time moving it out of the home
    2. the money you spend for it is that much less toward something your really love and may even hold it’s value
    3. it’s harder (for me anyway) to see in my head what the space could look like if there’s already a bunch of stuff in that space.
    4. there’s the cheap labor thing, right up to the employment of people in the stores that sell the stuff.
    5. there’s the environmental issues. Part of this can be resolved by donating items to charity re-sale shops, not dumping in the landfill (the old “one person’s trash is another’s treasure” saying), although that doesn’t help on the manufacturing end.

    I’m not saying don’t buy the cheap tchotchkes at all, but am trying to say don’t buy just to fill a space. It’s OK to have a gap in the decorating scheme until the right thing comes along. Who knows, the gap may BE the perfect thing, like a space between the books on the shelf.

  31. posted by Pammyfay on

    In the same line as warming up the house with fabric, there are some gorgeous art quilts out in the world today — tone-on-tone, or bright colors, anything you can imagine. I have seen some really stunning ones at crafts shows, quilt shows, and most quilters do custom work. Hung in a living room, it would really make your home warm and inviting!

  32. posted by Beth on

    Fresh flowers are a nice way to add color & life to a room – as big or small, formal or casual as you like, and when you don’t want them, they’re not there.

    Throw pillows are also good, variable accents that can really change the personality of a space. I have some whose covers I switch out seasonally, giving the room a slightly different color palette from winter to summer.

  33. posted by Helen on

    Thank you, Erin! I too loved the Sanctuary line – that is something I will keep in mind.

    @Anne, I find Tchotchke to be an odd word too, and I think it has an onomatopoeic fit to odd collectibles. Knick-knacks, doodads…

    @Missy P, I love that William Morris quote. I’m not sure that I’ll ever achieve it, because beauty and function don’t always go together (and certainly not in my budget!).

    I love the texture idea, Jesse and April – that could really work. I enjoy monochromes, and a co-ordinating rug, pillows and throw could be just the ticket – they are things we use anyway, though at the moment there’s no floor rug, and the throws are ugly and the pillows mismatched.

    Katrina, yes – it wasn’t even quantity so much as something affordable. Decorator and craft store sales, ‘dime’ store and thrift store items. They look ok (especially the African Gourd vase full of sticks) but they are also meaningless. And as Jen said, real art isn’t clutter. I think I’ll invest in a couple of decent pieces of art from a local painter. My daughter is getting into photography, I’ll ask her to create an abstract nature piece for me, and have it printed on a canvas.

    And I found missminimalist :)

  34. posted by heatherK on

    One painting idea that’s really nice is to paint wide horizontal stripes on the walls. It could be different shades of blues, browns, or whatever you like. In my guest room, I painted the feature wall a very dark chocolate brown, but left a 2″ strip of the ivory undercoat every 2 1/2 feet (so there are three ivory strips evenly spaced on the 8ft wall). It looks so nice and interesting that no artwork is needed.

  35. posted by Marrena Lindberg on

    I must confess that I love, love, love knickknacks. A Victorian would feel right at home at my place. Off-topic for this particular post, but I love that working to be uncluttered allows me to indulge in my knickknack proliferation without the clutter becoming overwhelming. Everything has a spot, and I don’t have piles of junk mail or random detritus of daily life hiding my knickknacks and making me feel overwhelmed.

    Most of the knickknacks I rotate seasonally and my kids and I really enjoy the change. Second half of each season everything seasonal is put away–so I am a six-month minimalist. On my mantle I usually also have more ephemeral signs of the seasons the first half of each season–fresh flowers in spring, seashells in summer, autumn leaves and a cornucopia of gourds and pumpkins and things in the fall, and of course evergreens and holly in the winter.

  36. posted by Pamela on

    Go to festivals and look for cool art you love by up and coming artists. Usually very inexpensive but really lovely. Only buy pieces that draw you in and you love. That gets you away from the mass produced prints on the walls to real art in a way that doesn’t break the bank. And who knows, you might discover the next big thing!

    For paint colors, look to nature. What works there will work in the home. Find something you love the color of out of doors and match the color. A sea shell. Some dirt. A leaf. A feather. A flower.

  37. posted by Janelle on

    People have different tolerances for the amount of stuff they live with. I love art and design, but I hate paper clutter and (the bane of my existence) toy clutter. I also will not put something in my house for “decoration” only. It must be functional and/or I must love it.
    I recently read about this book: http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/030746315X/associatizer-20/
    and want to check it out, but haven’t yet. Anyone else read this?

  38. posted by timgray on

    I found clean white walls = echo in the room. I need paintings or photographs on the walls as well as soft blinds or curtains to remove the sound reflections. It actually makes the house quieter.

    We had the office as a minimalist room, it felt like we were in an echo chamber.

  39. posted by L on

    I agree with everyone else regarding plants. They are a great way to add life and texture. Figure out what kind of light you have before shopping for them, though. If you buy a gorgeous plant, but have inadequate lighting for its needs, then you’ve just wasted your money.

    THat said, there are so many striking and unusual plants available in your local nursery. Succulents like jade and aloe have amazing shapes and are fairly easy to grow. I would definitely think about getting a big bold plant instead of many small plants, like maybe fiddle leaf fig or some other tree that works with your available light.

  40. posted by Jenna on

    Large open spaces (like great rooms) tend to feel a little less cozy just by virtue of the big open space. To combat this, you could try rearranging the furniture into smaller, more intimate groups. You could also add some type of room divider, like a decorative screen or a see-through shelf unit, that would help create enough of a closed-in feel that you feel more cozy, but that you can still see through to keep the open feel of the room. Even just setting your furniture at a different angle can help soften the feel of a room than if everything is perfectly straight.

    I agree with others that warm colors and inviting textures are great ways to add personality without adding more “stuff.” My couch is bright red and really helps fill up the room with color and warmth.

  41. Avatar of

    posted by JuliaJayne on

    Janelle, thanks for the link to “Undecorate : the no-rules approach to interior design”. Sounds like my kind of book. My library has it, so I put it on hold.

  42. posted by Layla on

    I’ve read somewhere that textures (for example natural wood texture) can make it look less sterile even if you don’t have that much stuff. I think it was over at missminimalist.com.

    Personally, I’m not against having things that are purely decorative if you think they make your house look nice. But not too many – how many is “too many” depends entirely on the person. An amount of decorative things, that doesn’t overwhelm. Optimize it to make sure you’re the most comfortable possible.

  43. posted by Sylvia on

    Carol said, “I’m renting an apartment that I can’t paint” — I’m also a renter, and it has occurred to me recently that I CAN paint, as long as I’m willing to repaint back to white before I move out. This might not work for an entire apartment, but it doesn’t take long to paint a wall. We’re the ones spending our lives in these spaces, after all. As long as no permanent damage is done, I say, go for it!

  44. posted by Jeanne on

    Sylvia and all other renters,

    YOU CAN’T PAINT THE WALLS.

    That apartment is someone else’s property. They own it. It’s theirs. That apartment does not belong to you! Yes, you live there. No, you can’t mess with someone else’s apartment! You can’t install a new door or windows or replace the yucky carpet in the bathroom. (Unless it’s actually necessary, like for your safety and protection.)

    If you don’t like the decor, just ask your rentor if it would be okay to make some changes. It they say it’s not, then you have to work around it (like actually washing the walls and ceiling). Or, take it how it is!

    If it comes down to it, just leave.

    Don’t do something illegal. You may get away with it. But understand that you are disrespecting the ownership of the owner of the apartment you live in. I’m not trying to seem hateful, but you need to know that the apartment you occupy BELONGS to someone else.

    Anyway, if you contact your rentor and request permission to make some changes, they might let you. And if they don’t, then, don’t!

  45. posted by Jeanne on

    Sylvia, renters, and Helen,

    Here are some ideas pertaining to the original post for those who can’t paint their walls.

    I don’t consider myself a minimalist exactly, but whenever I have visitors, they ask me if I just moved into my house. It doesn’t bother me, but it’s true that I don’t own a lot of things. How I make my home beautiful, pleasant and comfortable is:

    1. I clean very, very thoroughly. So, I actually broom everyday and mop once a week, wash the walls and ceilings like once a year, wash the windows, etc. I try to keep things as sterile and sanitary as possible. However, I never use “antibacterial” types of cleaning products (such as Lysol) because they are harmful, not to mention unnecessary. Exactly how clean you keep your home depends on how much time you have and whether you can hire help or not. But, when you sit one a freshly cleaned toilet, you immediately feel much more at home than when you sit on a questionable one. Same thing when you notice the polish on a wood desk or the distinct lack of dust and dirt accumulated on the baseboard tacked onto your wall. Cleaning by nature requires people, so you will find it has an extremely warm and inviting effect on your space. By far, cleaning is my number one tip on how to make a space inviting and homey.

    2. I use a small oil lamp at night. I fill it with cinnamon oil, and it smells so good. I just like it. The spicy scent and the warm light of the flame are extremely pleasant to me. I don’t find much pleasure in knick knacks or framed pictures, as some people do, but I do find it very pleasant I use this cinnamon oil. Think of things you enjoy. It might be a painting to contemplate, a plant, fresh cut flowers, candles, or a small water fountain. It might also be a nice corner by the window, or if you’re lucky, a balcony or patio to enjoy the outside air. These are all examples of things people find expressly pleasurable. If you don’t like being in your home, it’s probably not because it’s too empty. It’s probably because it’s just not pleasant to be in. So think of things that are pleasant and use them. Obviously, don’t buy tons of candles and water fountains. Just one bunch of flowers from the supermarket should provide adequate gratification for the kitchen, living room, or bedroom. I mean, imagine your living room, devoid of picture frames, stacks of DVDs, tacky lamp fixtures, unnecessary rugs and window treatments, decorative objects, etc. So, just your couch and your TV, more or less. Now, add in a vase full of fresh flowers. Voila. Your uninviting room is now very inviting.

    There are things that provide immense gratification. In the home, they might be beautiful gardens and ponds, views of the outside, maybe pets if you’re a pet person, amazing works of art, even a hot cup of perfectly brewed coffee. Your treasured possessions, too. For me, my piano. This is the category of things that have the unusual power of making you feel very good.

    There are things that provide some gratification The range of gratification is broad in this category. You can start by thinking of cheap, trendy items that you get tired of quickly. Those fall into this category. Flea market finds, souvenirs from your travels, collections of stuff, not quite amazing artwork, cute little knick knacks, all might be interesting, but they don’t feel awesome when you use them (“use” might be just looking at them and thinking about them, you know, “using” them as decorations). The nice, ivory, wall-to-wall carpeting throughout your house will also most likely provide you with some gratification, even if you don’t think about it that much. Well made furniture also will be gratifying. So, think of this category as all the things you see in catalogs and at the mall, things that you see and then want to buy.

    There are things that don’t really provide any gratification. Sturdy chairs, white plastic trash cans, your collection of forks (you know, the ones you use to eat with), etc. Your trusty old couch probably falls into this category, unless it’s from Pottery Barn or covered in chinchilla fur or something. Probably your linoleum floors as well.

    Then, there are things that upset you. These are the dirty clothes on the floor, the papers everywhere, stupid things you never use, clutter, useless stuff, cheap decorations and old items you no longer need or want.

    Obviously, you want to get rid of all the “bad” things that have staked their claim on your home, or organize them so that they are out the way. But it can takes critical discernment to differentiate between the other three categories because the “some gratification” category is so very broad and fuzzy that it kind of leaks into the other two.

    Your home will be more pleasant when you spend less time using the things that give you just some gratification and more time using things that give you extreme gratification.

    However, extreme gratification can be very expensive. Beautiful and stimulating are desired by everyone. Therefore, examine your finances as well as tastes critically. FIgure out what you want. Find out how to get it and whether compromises will be necessary. For example, you might sit down and think and realize that what you really want is not a poster of a light house or bags of seashells from the 1DollarStore (which you have a habit of buying but never open). What you really want is to live by the beach! Obviously, there might be a chance that is not possible. So compromise. Instead of wasting money on silly beach-themed home decor, you can plan to save up the money for an actual trip to the beach every year. Or, you might find it a good solution to buy an actual, high quality painting of your favorite beach, that you find truly inspiring and will actually appreciate. It sounds simple, but we as consumers fall easily into this “buying useless junk” trap. So, make a conscious effort to only keep and use things that you truly want to keep and use.

    3. I’m tired now, so I’ll stop for today.

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