Decluttering & Decorating

I recently attended a workshop called, “Your Stuff, Your Story” which involved Peter Walsh and Nate Berkus, nationally known experts in the fields of organizing and decorating spaces.

The first thing they shared was, “It’s not about the stuff!” Yet most people in this country have more than they need. Somehow we have gotten the idea that the more stuff we accumulate, the bigger our houses, and the more toys we own, the better we are. 

Other lies we tell ourselves lead to clutter issues. Walsh identified two common types of clutter. One is Memory Clutter which is anything that represents a past person, achievement or event. 

Examples would include your trophies from high school, your deceased grandmother’s entire wardrobe, or an eight track tape of your favorite music from the ‘70’s you cannot even play anymore.

The other type of clutter he refers to as “I might need it one day” clutter. These are your “just in case” items like the jeans you haven’t been able to wear for ten years, the fondue pot you swear you are going to try out sometime, or the forty different screw drivers you keep in the shop.

When people talk about their unorganized spaces at home or at work, they use language like “being buried,” “drowning in my stuff,” or “I can’t even think when I’m in here.” Psychologically clutter is very stressful and at times debilitating. It also tends to shut off opportunities for connecting with family and friends.

To overcome or avoid this problem ask yourself these questions:  What is the vision I have for this space and for my life? What word describes the perfect feeling I want from this room? 

When you are clear about what you want from your space, every time you consider buying or bringing something new into it check with yourself and see if it will bring you closer to the feelings and purposes for the room or take you further from it. 

Challenge yourself by walking around your house with two bags for ten minutes a day for a week. Anything that does not serve you well put in either the trash bag or the giveaway bag. Walsh estimates most Americans do not regularly use at least fifty percent of what they currently keep in their homes.

Once you have decluttered, you will feel much freer emotionally and physically. Your environment will be clearer and so will your thoughts. Then you can revisit how you decorate your space.

Nate Berkus suggests we ask ourselves these questions when decorating our spaces: Who are you? Who do you aspire to be? What is the space for? What do you want this room to say? What is the one thing you love the most in the room?

Answers to these questions can help you create a vision for what you want the space to look and feel like. You can build your ideas around your favorite item in the room or create themes. He prefers to add many personal items like mementos from trips or photos of loved ones.

Berkus acknowledges that in his field there is always a recommended theme or color for a season. He strives to assist people in discovering their own preferences and decorating accordingly no matter what the latest fad is. He also admits decorating can fit any budget as it need not be extravagant or expensive.

The bottom line from these two gentlemen was we should all be “ruthless editors about what we allow into our spaces.” The goal is to live and work in space we feel happy and comfortable in. Our spaces are meant to be a personal reflection of our lives and values. We deserve to have space we can utilize well and enjoy. 

Remember you do not have to be a candidate for the next episode of “Hoarding: Buried Alive” to be someone who can benefit from Walsh’s and Berkus’ expertise. What is your space really saying about you? If you do not like it, change your stuff, and that will change your story. 

© - Cindy D. Whitmer (October 22, 2011)