Foundations of an uncluttered life: Useful, beautiful, and in its place

The 19th century designer William Morris is attributed as saying: “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful” This quote is always great to keep in mind as you’re deciding which of your possessions you want to keep and which you want to purge.

  • Is it useful? Does the object make your life easier? Does it save you time? Does it save you money? Does it fulfill an essential need? Do you use it every time you can?
  • Is it beautiful? Does it inspire you? Do you associate a positive memory with it? Can you see it and appreciate its beauty? Does it help you to develop the remarkable life you want to live?

Another helpful quote to keep in mind during the uncluttering process is the Unclutterer motto: “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Combined, these two philosophies can get you on an uncluttered path. Good luck!

10 Comments for “Foundations of an uncluttered life: Useful, beautiful, and in its place”

  1. posted by TMichelle on

    I like these and keep them in mind when decluttering. I also get rid of anything that brings bad memories, like paraphernalia from old places of employment that were not good places to work. I don’t care if it’s a “nifty” hat, mug, golf shirt, whatever; it is junk and heads off to Goodwill for someone to use and appreciate. You wouldn’t believe how much stuff you can get rid of that way.

  2. posted by WilliamB on

    A lovely sentiment. If only roommate and I had the same definition of “know to be useful.”

  3. posted by reSPACEd on

    Ah, that definition of “useful.” In the book “Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things,” the authors talk about a woman who saved all the labels from her food containers so she could use them as stationery. It’s a tricky, loaded word.

  4. posted by Erin Doland on

    @reSPACEd — I agree. I think that is why asking yourself: “Do you use it every time you can?” is important. If you’re not actually using something, it’s clutter.

  5. posted by Eliza on

    Useful is definitely dangerous. I was about to send this link to my husband to help him with getting rid of stuff for an upcoming move, when I realized that every single piece of crap he has is “useful” in his mind. That word definitely cannot be part of the equation when we try to go through his stuff!

  6. posted by Kenneth on

    There is a theme that runs through many of the posts here that clutter is simply too much stuff. Well, perhaps it isn’t that simple. Some people don’t have enough stuff, you know. And there is a fine art to hoarding, if you mean having a lot of stuff on hand. In theory, you could buy six months of toilet tissue at one time, if you aren’t planning on a visit to the store anytime soon and don’t have generous neighbors to call upon when you run out of anything. Likewise, there is a fine art to being frugal. And I suppose there is a fine line to what clutter is.

  7. posted by Erin Doland on

    @Kenneth and @Eliza — Check out our post on “What is clutter?” to help with more specific identification:

  8. posted by Brett on

    With regard to useful, if there’s only a remote chance I might need it again in the future and I can cheaply or easily get a replacement, then it gets tossed.

  9. posted by OogieM on

    If there is a remote chance I can use it in the next few years, and I have room to store it then I keep it. Way too many times the replacements are neither as well built nor as cheap even counting the cost of storage. I’ve been burned far too many times on getting rid of stuff I didn’t find “useful” at that time only to be unable to find an acceptable replacement when a few years later I need the item. I’d say keep it if you have room as the newer things are almost never as good as the older ones.

  10. posted by Kat on

    That quote is ironic considering his elaborate designs, some of which he used multiples off in one room. He probably just wanted people to look at those and not “clutter”.

    It is a very good reminder though.

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