What decorating books say about clutter

I’m in the midst of another evaluation of my many books, and this time I’m eliminating the home decorating books that I haven’t looked at in ages. But as I was reviewing those books, I noticed that a number of the authors weighed in on clutter and organizing. The following is some of their advice.

In Meditations on Design, John Wheatman wrote:

Some of my most satisfying projects have not involved the purchase of any additional furnishings. I always begin by editing what is already in place. I help people discard the items don’t work and organize the ones that remain so that everything comes together and makes sense — functionally, visually, and financially. …

Weed out unnecessary possessions. Give fresh life to the furnishings you’re tired of by moving them around.

And in his book entitled A Good House is Never Done Wheatman wrote about being creative with storage containers (and he has a number of photos to illustrate his point):

Where do you put a sponge, a scrubbing brush, or a kitchen tool? … There is no need to restrict your choice of storage containers to what you find in the kitchen department of a home decor store. Expand your horizons to embrace antique shops, yard sales, and second-hand shops.

As a firm believer in using spare coffee mugs as pen and pencil holders and as toothbrush holders, I totally agree with Wheatman when it comes to thinking creatively about containers.

Wheatman also wrote about something that I often encounter:

I have yet to hear a good reason why the handsome table in your dining room can’t double as a desk during the day.

I’ve worked with people who thought they had to use their designated office space and the desk in that space for office-type activities, when their natural inclination was to work on the kitchen or dining room table in a more spacious and attractive room, sometimes with a lovely view. Unless you’re doing extended computer work that calls for an ergonomic set-up that the table may not provide, I agree with Wheatman. Go ahead and use that table, as long as you have an easy way to put things away when you want to use the table for eating.

Danny Seo has a clever anonymous quote in his book Conscious Style Home: Eco-Friendly Living for the 21st Century:

A clean desk is the sign of a cluttered desk drawer.

But he goes on to emphasize the importance of uncluttering:

What you’ll begin to notice as clutter is banished from your house is that treasured objects … suddenly reappear once the clutter is gone.

Overaccessorized rooms are too busy, distracting, and unnerving to spend time in. Psychologically, clutter makes us feel weighed down or even overwhelmed. The message is unmistakable: Keep it simple.

4 Comments for “What decorating books say about clutter”

  1. posted by Lisa on

    One of the great pieces of advice I got from a home decor website is to take photos of your rooms. You see things in a different way in a photo- things that don’t belong in that room, things that prevent the room from looking its best, and all the detritus of day to day life, like dead houseplants, shoes that tend to pile up in one spot, etc.

  2. posted by Julie Bestry on

    I have to agree that spaces and tools don’t have to be used as defined. If you’re not a formal dinner party kind of person, there’s no reason your “dining room” can’t be emptied of furniture and renamed the “fitness room” or the “play room.” Nobody will go to jail for not following the architect’s plans, nor will, as you said, anyone get in trouble for using the dining table for crafting or work.

  3. posted by Boya Badana on

    Another great idea. Decoration is my love.

  4. posted by Odette on

    A La Mr. Wheatman — After our last move, I didn’t have an “extra” drawer to use as a junk drawer. I now have a beautiful handmade covered casserole dish (which was hiding in the cabinet unseen) as the repository of pens, paperclips, etc.

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