Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How to find a place for things

A place for everything, everything in its place. ~Benjamin Franklin

My husband and I and my (then) young daughter lived in a 1920s cottage in the mountains that was just under 900 square feet* the first year of our marriage. Before we met and married, my husband lived there himself for 5 years.

The house at one point housed a family with 10 children. (So the story goes.) It was a tiny space for us, and so I frequently pondered how 10 children squeezed into the three tiny bedrooms upstairs. (I'm talking bedrooms that only fit a bed and a dresser. And that's it.)

It was a lovely house, a dream house, and I really enjoyed living there.

It was furnished with various tag sale finds and with our signature "flea market decor".  We had some nice finds there.

Upon moving to New York, we cleaned out a bunch of stuff from that house. We also decided to sell almost all of the furniture.

When I think back on some of the pieces we sold, I cringe a little bit. Oh, that piece would have been perfect right there! And so on. Alas, that was almost 10 years ago. Clearly, I need to move on.

I also think about the price we sold all that furniture for. Instead of doing it the hard way and piddling and peddling our way through a tag sale, we found an "antiques" dealer who bought it from us in one fell swoop. For a very cheap price. Lucky for her.

I cringe at the price, but I am also thankful that we got rid of all the "junk" that we did. It gave us much more room when we moved into our new home, a fresh start, and lots of "empty spaces". I just love empty spaces in homes.

I strive for empty spaces in my home because I want tidying up to be easy. A place for everything, everything in its place. You are not looking around for what you need. You have the basics, you have it in a certain spot, and you can find it. (I strive for this anyway.)

One of the more positive things about moving, (for me, anyway) is the throwing out, the disposing of our "junk". I love to throw out and give away junk. (Why did I even acquire the junk in the first place?) I am looking forward to that if and when we move.

The 17th century diarist Samuel Pepys is supposed to have kept his library in two cupboards called bookpresses. Once the bookpresses were full, he bought a new book only if at the same time he got rid of a book he already had so that the library never exceeded the capacity of the bookpresses. **

A simple lesson in finding a place for things... and how to create empty spaces.
"The reality is that for all of us, whether we live in a cottage or a castle, whether we shop garage sales or at the mall, space and time are limited. Having a tidy and pleasant house requires that we recognize those limits and live within them.......The fact is, there are a lot of lovely and useful things in this world, and our houses and our lives simply do not have room for most of them. We have to learn to say no, and to say no not just to things we don't need or want but also to things we might very well enjoy."~Margaret Kim Peterson Keeping House: The Litany of Everyday Life
*a rough estimate
**this quote is from Peterson's book as well.
***And...I'm on a break now...really!


Monica said...

I needed to read this today. I am going through closets and cleaning- trying to create some sort of order around here. I realize that we have far too much "stuff" to have a simple life. Most of it belongs to the children and they are overwhelmed when asked to take care of it. It's just too much.

"having a tidy and pleasant house requires that we recognize those limits and live within them...." I think I'm going to make this into a plaque:)

Thanks for the motivation.

The Arnold Family said...

You are the exact opposite of me... I tend to hold onto everything, cherishing every memory with it. This drives my husband nuts, so over the course of a few years, I have gotten alot better. I am getting to the point where I can look at something and be like, "do I really need this?" Slowly but surely.

TheNormalMiddle said...

I think empty spaces are spacious and roomy and make things look bigger than they might really be.

We just moved into our home after 8months of being in rentals (the crack house :) and my inlaws) and I tell you, moving here was so freeing because:

I realized that having most of my life in 2 10X15 storage buildings taught me I need very little. And now, as a bonus, I realize I want less too.

Why do we need 5 spatulas and 3 watering cans, and 100 knick knacks we don't even like?

The new house is so open and clutter free and I LOVE IT!!!!

I follow these guidelines when conssidering stuff:

1. Is it something that is special to me? Does it evoke a memory or something I do not want to forget?

2. Did someone give it to me as a gift? If so, do I actually need it, like it, or like #1, hold it dear?

If it is not functional or special it GOES AWAY!!!!

Honest to Ya~Ya said...

I wish I had some of the container plants and flowers that I gifted to family members before we moved cross country....sigh....

Nice post!☺

Teresa said...

Boy did I need to hear this! I am a pack rat. Thanks for sharing.

Beverly said...

I NEEDED this! I am going to reread it over and over before I declutter. I'm in the midst of a "reorganization week."

Miriam said...

*Smile* I'm taking a few minute break from sorting through our unfinished basement. So much stuff has accumulated down there - I nearly broke out in hives every time I thought about tackling it, but oh, it feels so good to finally get to it! I love simple, open spaces too - a little tricky to accomplish in our 1400 square foot house with a family of six! Back to it!

:..Rebekah..: said...

I love "a place for everything, everything in its place." This is how I try so hard to live, and if there's not a place or if it's not used enough, it's gone! But, unfortunately, I have also found myself pining away for things I have let go of. Oh well.....

dorothy said...

My dear hubby took the kids out this morning so I could do just that and here I am on the computer! Great post.

Susan L said...

I really liked this, Andrea! I, too, like space and room and a place for everything, so every spring, I do a ruthless decluttering of the entire house (I'm in the process now, and it takes me a couple of weeks to hit every single box, drawer, closet, cupboard...). It feels so good when there's not only a place for everything, but there's also space around it.

I keep thinking of your Sabbath posts, and today have had them in mind as I clean and work. I'm trying to make sure that everything that needs to be done before tomorrow really does get done so that I'm not bothered with unfinished tasks that will disturb my rest. And I like the idea of taking not only physical rest, but mental rest, too, from planning and that sort of thing.


Michele said...

I loved reading this! Thank you! :)
I have had similar thoughts lately in my "Simple Living" posts on my blog.
I'll be bookmarking your blog!

Simple Family Supper lady said...

I really needed this! I am going to do some "thinning out" again today. We have TOO much stuff! How does it happen so quickly?? I LOVE empty space, and have to thin down often!

NiallMacC said...

I have gone from collecting lots of stuff over the years to mostly only having things in the house that can be used... and I love it!


Monday through Sunday said...

Excellent! I am the same way...I was just thinking the other day all the things I have given away..instead of pining for them..I realize that almost all of it was replaced by wonderful stuff. We have never been in need of furniture or stuff! I like to say that we are a running river..not a dead sea (or garage) full of unused stuff!

Kim said...

Excellent entry!

Anonymous said...

Excellent reminder! We are going from a family of 5 to 7! I love extra room in my kitchen, closets, etc. and am continually striving to simplify and keep less. Wonderful!
Mary Brooke in Atlanta