Sunday, December 30, 2007

Keeping the Useful and the Beautiful

Simple Abundance book cover

The most-quoted statement related to organizing must be this one from William Morris: "Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

Thanks to Mary Knippel, I'm reading Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. The entry for May 16 is a commentary on the Morris quote, and seems appropriate for this time of year, too. Here is just a tiny part of that entry.
Ask each possession, are you beautiful? Useful? Is it time for you to move on? You will undoubtedly come to an object that is neither beautiful nor useful but has sentimental qualities. Create a new category (sorry, Mr. Morris) on your clearing list. But use restraint. Does it really tug at your heartstrings? Would you mourn if it disappeared? ...

How can more good come into our lives if there is no room for it? The way we create the vacuum is by giving away what we no longer need or desire but what can serve others ...

Deciding to simplify our lives and bring order to our homes by sending on the objects we no longer love to new, happier incarnations with people who will genuinely appreciate them is the way to open ourselves up to receiving an abundance that will perfectly suit us.


Claire Josefine said...

It is a popular quote, isn't It? I confess to using it in my book, too.

I prefer to reword the third category into a positive question, though. Instead of "will I mourn it?" I ask clients: "Do you love it? Does it make you smile?" Because joy is a legitimate "use."

(Of course, this third category becomes sticky with hoarders, but that's a different topic.)

Also, passing along those things we neither love nor use does more than make room in our lives. It enables those objects to find their way to people who can use and love them. I reframe clutter clearing from "letting go" to "sharing with others," to doing a mitzvah, a good deed.

Claire Josefine

author of The Spiritual Art of Being Organized and Following Raven, Finding Ground: A Road Trip in Search of Home

Founder/moderator of the Simple and Sustainable Organizers Yahoo! group

Jeri Dansky said...

Claire, I use exactly the same question: "Does it make you smile?"

I'll often put items up on Freecycle for my clients, and then pass along the notes from the people who wound up with the items. It makes my clients feel much better about letting go of an item when they see how much it meant to someone else to receive it.