Most of us own too much stuff. For example, the average U.S. household contains about 300,000 things, notes the Los Angeles Times.
Of course, too much stuff is only a problem if it bothers its owner, and clearly it does: 54% of Americans are overwhelmed by their personal clutter, and 78% of us have no idea what to do with it, noted a recent National Association of Professional Organizers survey. It accumulates—in closets, basements, garages and more.
That explains why Marie Kondo’s books on decluttering are cleaning up—literally and figuratively. They’ve been translated into 40 languages and sold over seven million copies worldwide, noted CBS News in March. And her talk at the Chicago Humanities Festival last month filled the 1500-seat Harris Theater to capacity. Heck, she even inspired an admittedly messy woman to become a “dominatrix Donna Reed” cleaning freak, presumably to keep for her husband satisfied, then write an amusing “Modern Love” column in the New York Times about it.
But honestly, we’re not sold on Marie Kondo’s decluttering system. We went for curiosity’s sake, and it confirmed our thoughts that Marie Kondo and her KonMari Method takes paring down too far.
It’s easy for Marie Kondo to tell her acolytes to get rid of anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” But in truth, it’s just a charming way to push one of those extreme diets that doctors berate. The New Yorker calls her attitude toward keeping books that are still unread “almost barbaric.” Given the fact that some of us are still catching up on juicy novels we bought and never read (think “A Widow for One Year,” “The Goldfinch,” “After This,” “In One Person” and “All The Light We Cannot See”), we agree.
Then there are the realities of our profession. As luxury interior designers, our clients are anything but average and their “things” are often extraordinary and expensive. It’s hard for them, and us, to get rid of anything that doesn't’ “spark joy” or have an immediate use. We have many a tale to tell of heirlooms that get broken out of storage, refurbished and recycled for second homes or to millennial children who move into their own homes. And the same holds true for our own sartorial stash; we might break out a vintage designer dress after way more than a year of it never seeing the light of day, and then wear it to death.
Instead, we prefer to embrace that old adage that never lets us down: Everything in moderation. So when we help our clients pare down, we follow three simple rules:
Keep what’s really good.
Very little is actually sacred, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Be selective about what you keep. One rule of thumb is to stick to things you really like, or have important provenance in terms of style, fabrication, potential or perhaps even sentiment. If you aren’t sure about something, put it away for a while. If it's a significant piece but not your style, consider getting an expert opinion. One of our clients snapped a shot of a 19th century painting she inherited from her grandparents that was in storage, forwarded it to Sotheby’s and sold it at auction when they told her it would draw several hundred thousand dollars (and it did!). But she kept another piece she loved and had it appraised and insured. Who knew!
Figure out a good storage system for what you’re putting away.
Whether it's the crème de la crème of your child’s baby clothing, collectibles you want to rotate out of eyesight or extra dishes or linens, figure out a system that groups like things together and stick to it. You can line a room in your basement with Metro shelving on wheels (it’s extra deep and this way you can use both sides and roll it out for easy access and cleaning), and get plastic bins that can hold whole sets of china or dozens of books. Make sure you choose options that maximize space. And invest in acid free, archival tissue paper for wrapping fine clothing, textiles, artwork and collectibles.
Photograph what you have in storage and file it on your computer.
Ever wonder where something went? We take pictures of everything we put in storage, then file it where it belongs. For example, let’s say you have four storage areas: the basement utility room, the garage, a garden shed and a rental storage unit. Make a folder on your computer for each space. Then take pictures of everything in each one, making sure you open bins and shoot their contents so you can remember what’s in them. Then file the shots in the right folder. And don’t forget to update your folders when you remove or add anything to each storage space.
Unlike Marie Kondo’s KonMari Method, our system won’t give you a perfectly pared down home. But it can bring order to chaos, save you the money of buying something you already owned and make your children happy when they get some wonderful things from you that also come with sentimental memories. As for a home that’s pristine, that’s up to you. Everyone absorbed with this decluttering craze seems to forget that a place doesn’t have to be minimal and flawless to be clean and flawless for its owners.
25 May 2017