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marie kondo

Enchanted Spaces: Living Room Reveal

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I am very pleased to unveil a new series, Enchanted Spaces, which is all about perceiving space in a more magical way. I’m in the middle of tidying and revamping my house, and will focus on a concept from a different fantasy novel for each room. Bear with me here: I’m not a designer or a photographer, just a girl with a passion for re-imagining space. First up: the living room.

I have also been changing up the rooms of my home to reflect different climates. The feel for my living room is desert.  I had considered doing a before and after picture, but the problem with this was that I am a firm advocate in slow decorating and wabi sabi.

Slow Decorating is a concept I got from a lovely book called Simple Mattersalthough I am not sure that she uses the term by name. The idea is to buy simple, quality pieces that will stand the test of time and not to rush one’s decorating or to follow a trend. Think of a simple, quality, shaker-style wood dresser found at a thrift store that will never go out of style.

Wabi Sabi is a Japanese concept based on three principals:

  • Nothing lasts.
  • Nothing is finished.
  • Nothing is perfect.

Think of a beautifully simple old cracked pot that has many stories to tell. That’s Wabi Sabi. Pinterest is full of examples. 

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So, needless to say, there was no “drastic makeover” to show. The room is tidier and cleaner, things are in slightly different places, and I swapped a few things from my bedroom and this room. Most of the belongings I have I accumulated slowly over a long period of time; some actually belonged to my mother and grandmother and even my great-grandmother (for more on my “stuff story” read this post). The only new items I acquired for this reveal were a tapestry of my mom’s that my sister gave me as it didn’t match her stuff and a beautiful tree branch that I found on a walk.

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Family piano, mom’s tapestry from India, digital photo album
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Pottery my mother-in-law gave me, found tree branch

The concepts of slow decorating and wabi sabi reminded me a of the book (and film) Tuck Everlasting, which is precious if you haven’t read/seen it. It is about a family that doesn’t age, and about the importance of growth, change, and the juxtaposition of life and death. In particular, I thought of this quote:

“Everything’s a wheel, turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish, and the wood thrush, too. And people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. That’s the way it is.” ― Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

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Canvas top from a decorative box (hides thermostat); dream-catcher from Cherokee Festival

My husband recently asked me why I read the same books over and over again. I explained to him that it wasn’t the books that changed; it was me. Therefore, I perceived the books differently and picked up different things about them. Similarly, I don’t look for drastic changes in my spaces, but as I change, I pick up different nuances, swap a coat of paint, add a new pitcher from a trip, take out that shelf that no longer speaks to me.

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Work in progress; childhood dresser re-vamp (Anthropologie knobs)

So you see, to me a space is something that is never remaining the same, but always evolving, moving, changing, and being re-imagined and perceived differently. It is a sense of growth that really makes a place interesting, but slow growth. I want my spaces to grow with me, neither faster nor slower than my own personal journey, because they are a part of me and a reflection of my own life story.

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Antique family steamer trunk; new-ish jute rug (Marshalls)
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Couch hand-me-down, pillow from my sister (Ten Thousand Villages), puppy (animal shelter; limited edition!)
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Mirror from my wedding registry, elephant jar (inherited), souvenir pitcher from my sister from Hungary
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Decorations from my wedding (Anthropologie), Simple Matters book

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Any thoughts about your relationship to space? What does your space say about you, or what would you like it to say?

 

The Guilt Box: Minimalism and Baggage

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I am re-sharing this post from my old blog because I will be referencing it frequently for an upcoming new series, Enchanted Spaces, that is all about re-imagining home. This post explains a bit about my unorthodox “stuff story.” Enjoy!

Let’s talk about baggage. No, not emotional baggage. Physical baggage. When my grandmother died, all of her belongings and her mother’s belongings, including several rooms’ worth of large pieces of furniture and boxes and boxes of glass and china, went to my mother. A few years after my mother died (when my father moved), all of that stuff, along with many of my mother’s belongings, were divvied out between my sister and me, which meant that I ended up with half of four generations of furniture, china, photos, quilts, clothing, and more at the bright young age of 23.

What I’ve discovered is that I am the master of manipulating myself into keeping things that I don’t want or need, much of which have no emotional or monetary value for me (insert dramatic Hoarders soundtrack here). Here is my logic: “Oh, but there is a label on this handkerchief that says it came from my grandmother’s friend’s mother; I can’t get rid of that!” Or “Well, I don’t actually like this sweater, but my mom wore it at some point in time so I should keep it,” or “This doesn’t hold any fond memories for me, but I feel like I need to keep it anyway.”

I have gotten rid of things here and there, so it never felt like this was a serious emotional problem deeply affecting my quality of life, but at some point I looked around my home and realized that almost none of my belongings were actually things that I picked out or purchased myself. Truthfully, I have accumulated the type of belongings that many people don’t have until their late fifties, and even then have had much more time and emotional space to cull through them. Most of my furniture was willed to me. Most of my clothes to this day are hand-me-downs from someone.

On the one hand, my gratefulness for having been given these items far overpowers any frustration that I have with it, and truly, there are many things that I have that I absolutely love. Still, the strange thing is that at it has taken me until my late twenties to stop and ask what my personal style truly is, and what I want my belongings to look like, or even what kinds of belongings I want and need in my life. I used to believe that having these items was saving me money as well, and I’m sure some of the smaller, more useful items were, but the thing is, items that take up physical space mean more cost in moving and storing those items, especially for someone who has moved several times like I have.

I recently read the popular book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. I won’t go into everything the book says (you can read it if you haven’t already) but there were four pieces that I took away that were the most helpful for this type of baggage:

1. Only keep things in your life if they “spark joy” in you.

2. When you get rid of belongings, thank them for the place they have had in your life and the things they have taught you. Sometimes an item’s purpose is to teach you what you don’t like.

3. A gift’s purpose is to show the gratitude and love of the giver. Once the gift has been given, it’s purpose has been filled. 

4. If you are keeping something purely for sentimental reasons, consider taking a picture of the item instead. 

I am now immersed in a deep process of tidying up. And here is where I have created a method that Marie Kondo may possibly hate: the guilt box. It’s label literally says “Stuff I Feel Guilty Getting Rid Of.” Everything in that box are things I am keeping not because I love them, or because I find them to be useful, or because they have great sentimental value, but simply because I feel guilty getting rid of them.

What’s the point, you say? Well, the point is that everything outside of that 2x3x1 box in my life brings me joy. I’m allowing myself that much baggage, that much guilt, that much “but what if I need thing X?” or “but so-and-so really loved thing Y.”  In allowing just a little bit, I can quell any anxiety, guilt, or fear I have about getting rid of other belongings; if I can fit it in the guilt box, I can keep it. And, I’m hoping that by being brutally honest about the reason I’m keeping things, I can become more discerning about what I keep and what I discard.

What I have found through this is that I have a true love for many of the things I have in my life that were given to me, like my grandma’s beautiful quilts, much of my mom’s jewelry, and some absolutely beautiful dresses and cardigans that I was given by my in-laws. I hadn’t noticed how much I appreciated those things before because I hadn’t had the physical and emotional space to savor their beautiful history and fine craftsmanship. Now that I am starting to identify the types of things that bring me joy in life, I am hoping to truly savor my home, and to discerningly bring only things into my space that truly enchant me.

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