Visualize Curated Abundance

Congratulations to our two winners of our giveaway of The Summa Domestica: Order and Wonder in Family Life! If you are they, an email will be in your inbox!

You rest, here are two codes for your consolation: for 10% off one set of The Summa Domestica at Sophia Press, use the code Summa10; for 15% off of two sets, use the code Summa15 (but you will not be able to use both — one or the other please!) FYI it is better for the publisher and for me for you to buy it from them directly (or from your local bookstore).

My guest-room dresser, so fairly minimalist!

I had intentions of a post here, chock full of photos demonstrating a new slant on my decluttering method, but I got sick with the flu (the regular old flu) just after posting last week’s post and have been incapable of doing more than just zoning in and out and having ideas that seem pretty darned smart, but may just be the ravings of someone who has watched too many minimalist shows on YouTube while in this state…

In my book I have a whole section on how to achieve the The Reasonably Clean, Fairly Neat, and Comfortably Tidy House (which I first wrote all about here on the blog — see the menu bar up above to find it or click that link). And I show you how to declutter, giving you my secret to start.

The dresser in what was Habou’s room; I have taken away many of the things that were here.

That secret is based on the idea that you must start with the end, or goal, not with the stuff. I think every other method ignores this! Right now, based on it being January AKA The Time of Purging, I think that the idea of minimalism is going around, and the best sellers are telling you to chuck all your things so that you can be your best self, free of all but the most minimal belongings.

But I don’t want to have only one plate and spoon per inhabitant in my home; I want abundance! (And I know by now that I will default to abundance no matter what I do!)

My dresser; you can see what I mean about not being minimalist! I like to see my stuff. But it also has to be pretty!

The answer isn’t to swing the other way to maximalism, or stuff for its own sake. And it’s certainly not to ignore the very real stress of having every surface and drawer and cubby crammed with things.

The abundance has to be curated. To do that we need to know what the purpose of everything is, yes, but also we need to see things arranged in that satisfying orderly way and then eliminate, or curate, the rest.

If we begin with the beauty of what we are trying to tidy, or if it seems more appropriate, the prettiness or even usefulness of it, I think we will get further. I think the problems will solve themselves.

So if my dresser is piled with random things because it’s a handy horizontal surface in my bedroom, it doesn’t matter how many times I take each thing off and put it in its place, throw it away, or donate it. The problem is that I have stopped seeing (or have never seen) my dresser as a pretty or beautiful spot.

Once I take everything off my dresser, I must pause. I must wipe the dresser down and polish its surface. Then I can ask myself how I would like this surface to look — and replace on it only the objects that bring me delight and create a scene that is pleasing to my eyes. Obviously, the dresser things relate to getting dressed and undressed, but it should all be fitting and orderly.

I long ago decided this about my dresser (yes, when my children were very young, so don’t think this is a grandma thing), and then I made a rule: nothing would be put down on my dresser that did not belong there. Not a stray sock, not a hairpin, not a tissue, not anything! At the most, something could be there for a matter of minutes while I took care of whatever else I had to do, but then it had to be put in its place.

I had to make this rule because the dresser top is the most instantly cluttered piece of furniture on earth! You could easily have a whole basketful of laundry there, along with medicine bottles, magazines, broken shoelaces, barrettes, and the rest of the detritus of life.

Yet coming into one’s bedroom and glancing at a pretty dresser with one’s jewelry box, perfume, and assorted little boxes is right up there with a made bed in providing a sense of peace. Tidying it up after the inevitable messiness has occurred is not really a problem when you have established a vision of how you want it to look — you simply remove what doesn’t belong. And the things that are not on there really will take care of themselves — or rather, you will figure out how to get them where they have to go, because you won’t give them room where they do not go.

Horizontal surfaces in general need to be subjected to this treatment and I’ve watched too many demonstrations that pay no attention to the importance of aesthetics to remain silent any longer! If you start at your messy dresser as suggested by all the gurus, simply by holding up each thing and deciding what to do with it, you will never get to the real organizing principle, which is your beautiful dresser top. Or whatever surface it is that we are considering.

(I address the issue of countertops in this post. Try my kitchen table method — it really works. Putting stuff on counters creates chaos! Don’t put anything on the counter that doesn’t belong there!)

As to inside the dresser/hutch/cabinet, where the abundance resides, the curating has to happen as well. But the same idea obtains: take everything out, wipe/vacuum/lay fresh paper, and first put back what you want to be in there. Do it pleasingly (and here, Marie Kondo’s idea of rolling rather than stacking works so that you can see things when you open the drawer, though I feel she never quite actually explains that, I feel). As you choose items to return to the receptacle, you will necessarily make determinations about all the items. And thus the process will simply be undergone: throwing away, donating, or re-homing.

Visualizing curating your abundance — starting where you want to end up and then working with what’s left — helps you achieve the balance between having what you need and want and not paralyzing yourself with stuff, although of course, stuff being what it is, you will have to revisit it all on a regular basis until you die.

My method gives you permission to have enough things — plates, books, blankets, crafting supplies, pajamas, scarves — for a generous, creative life with lots to choose from and many people coming and going. But not so much so that you become trapped by your belongings and unable to be peaceful as you make your way through your day. Visualize first, then curate your abundance!

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