Home Style

Spring is coming and for some of us, not a moment too soon. Spring is that time of year for renewal, new beginnings - like daffodils and crocus - for taking a deep breath and filling our lungs with fresh air. It's also a time when we open our windows and doors, allowing the outside in to nourish our homes' ambiance. It is the time many of us begin a thorough cleaning, and while we're at it, we may find some common decorating faux pas that should be cleaned up as well.

While it's only my opinion, with no empirical evidence to back me up, I believe that the number one decorating mistake we make is CLUTTER. Some of us say that we don't have too many things, we just don't have enough room for our things. I'm taking a risk here, but I believe some of those things that you don't have room for are clutter. While the word clutter may mean different things to different people, I am using it in the context of disorder, disorganization, disarray, confusion, chaos of things and generally a mishmash of STUFF. (A highly technical term.)

I used to think that I was not a 'clutterer'. I am. In the last 9 years, I have moved twice (and for the last time believe me). The moves started from a two-story, 4000 square foot home in Kentucky. The kids were growing up, we were into 'things' and everyone had to have SPACE for their STUFF. Suddenly, everyone left (without their stuff) and we had the opportunity to relocate to Florida. Since there was now only two of us, we opted to build a smaller home - smaller as in 1800 square feet! As I started the packing process, it hit me -'you're a clutterer and so is your hubby.' I purged, tossing out years of cling-ons, bringing to Florida the bare necessities.

Right. I got here and literally could not fit all our stuff into our new house. I purged again, swearing this would never have to be done again, and feeling both liberated and proud! Then, several years later, we moved again. This time, the house is 1500 square feet (if you round up 1480-something). Now it's a fact - we clutter and clutter and clutter some more. Stop moving you say? I have, but not for clutter's sake.

Anyway, I've taken a long route to prove my point, but we all have 'things' that are just things that could go 'bye bye'. We tend to acquire stuff with no sentimental value, least of all worth, and then try to decorate our homes with it. Tiny collections,(I did owls) that don't have a place of their own; photos that aren't cataloged, framed or in albums (I just finished doing all of mine before sitting down to write); small objects that friends or family bestow as souvenirs; or the cracked - but still good for something- whatsit in the drawer! General clutter - good junk - plainly put, too much stuff.

Collections can mean great things that have decorating potential. You may have a doll collection that you have accumulated over a period of time, an antique teacup collection, stamps, train sets, meaningful things that you take pride in. These assortments are the truly great ones, and are in no way defined here as clutter. Collections that are organized and displayed can be a focal point in a room's décor, providing a sense of who you are in your interior space. Defining ourselves in our surroundings is what we all strive for! That is Home Style, self-expression, not clutter. You can see there is a difference.

Organization can hide a multitude of sins. Case in point: magazines. If you like home decorating, you probably collect magazines. After all, they are a great source of inspiration, and a way to tangibly define our style preferences. When you collect them, they tend to get unruly! When we organize them into neat, manageable stacks on a coffee table, they suddenly appear to be more than just a bunch of magazines. Better yet, when we catalog them on a shelf, they suddenly become reference material. Purge, then organize.

Here's the second most common decorating error: hanging art or pictures too high on the wall. Remember one simple rule of thumb. When you look at that piece of art or photo, you should not have to look up to see it. The perfect height is slightly above eye level. That sounds so simple, but many of us don't think about the 'viewer' when creating the view. If the living room wall getting a picture is generally viewed from a seated position, sit down and see where eye level is and hang your pictures accordingly. I have a friend who has a small framed picture hanging at a 'seated' eye level in her powder room...it's quite lovely and a nice decorator touch. There are exceptions, like the dining room. Any art on the walls surrounding your dining table should be carefully hung low enough to be viewed at a seated level, but should not be so low that your seated guests either hide the art or become a silhouetted part of it. The other exception, a life-size oil painting, but most of us don't have that concern.

If you look around and spot clutter or a picture that isn't hung at just the right height, don't despair! We all tend to hang onto too many things, and hang some things a little too high. The easiest thing to do is re-hang those pictures, so start there. You'll get instant gratification once that's done. Then, when the first hint of spring comes to your house, make the time to get rid of the things you don't need or use. Donate them to a charity, recycle, have a yard sale, give your kids stuff back to them, lighten your load and simplify your life a little. You'll find that by conquering the clutter, your surroundings will be lighter, brighter and better organized.

Next time, we'll look at other ways to make our rooms appear larger than they actually are, and how to select items that we really love. We'll also look at one other common home decorating mistake - over-decorating! Remember, if there's a decorating subject you would like information about, or if you have a decorating dilemma, write to me.

Until then, best wishes for a speedy spring, and creating your own simplified Home Style!

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