Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Packing Things Useful or Beautiful

I read a book recently called  The Joy of Less by Francine Jay.  Of all the things she suggested, the one I took away is this:

Instead of searching through your possessions for things you are willing to get rid of, select the treasures that you absolutely would not want to live without.  Then get rid of everything else.  I tried this on one bookcase in my living room a few weeks ago.  My first time through the books, I looked for those that I was ready to part with, and came away with three titles.  The second time though, I selected my absolute favorite books and set them aside--there were fifteen to twenty titles in that pile.  As I looked at what was left on the bookcase, I realized that I wouldn't really miss any of it. I cleared two big boxes of books out of my house that day, instead of the initial three volumes.  That experience really opened my eyes.  I was surprised at what a difference it made to identify treasures instead of trying to pick the things that I didn't need or want anymore.

Francine Jay insists that you must physically clear the entire space you are trying to sort through before making your choices, and then only return the things you love to that space.  I have not tried that yet--I'm pretty sure I would dump everything on the floor, where it would stay for another year or two, unsorted and trodden upon.  Jay says that when you clear a space and see how lovely it looks empty, it is harder to put things in it that you don't really love.  When the space is full, it is easier to believe that everything in it belongs and deserves to be there. 

When I go on vacation, I typically pack 5 outfits, a few books, and a few toys for each child.  I am amazed at how easy it is to do laundry, to gather our things, to tidy our room, when we have so few possessions.  Then when I get home I wonder why we have so many clothes and books and toys that we can obviously live very happily without.  When I'm packing, I tend to choose my favorite things.  I think Jay's method of living with less is similar to packing for a trip--choose your favorite things and then get the rest out of your house and out of your life. 

I leave you with this statement by William Morris, a nineteenth century British craftsman, designer, poet, and Socialist, who was the father of the Arts and Crafts movement:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."


Liz H. said...

i love "the joy of less"! so many wise words in that book! when we downsized to our 900 sq ft apartment, i realized how much junk we had been living with that we really didn't need.

Melinda said...

Andrea, thanks for sharing this important idea. I've had this same concept in my mind as an way to eliminate unneeded stuff, but it had never formed into such a coherent statement. I suppose the same idea can be applied to all of the busy-ness in my life. I could cold-turkey eliminate all extra-curricular activities, and then just add back in those that are most important to me.

Lisa said...

Awesome post, Andrea!! I couldn't agree more!! Life is much easier when we have less. :)

HW said...

It seems like so much more fun to look for treasures than to look for trash too! I must remember this because it has the ring of truth to it for many situations, not just cleaning house.

Also, I love it when you write. Thanks for doing it again. You are a treasure.

Suzanne said...

I was thinking about the beauty of space in regards to time. Boy I could use some decluttering there too. Good luck with your project. I've found creating an empty space simply provides a vaccuum in which to find other less beautiful or useful to fill in the gaps. Sigh.

LL said...

I also love your posts - thanks for writing again.

There is nothing I enjoy more than getting rid of all the stuff that somehow accumulates. I'm going to have to read this book (and then figure out how to get JC to read it!)