Okay, now that I have just said something so radical that some of you are literally falling off your chairs; something that goes against seemingly all current and popular way of thinking ... allow me to qualify!
But first, a moment of apology to those sputtering these, and other protests; "But I feel better when there is no clutter around!" "My parents/grandparents stuff is so out-dated .. and I don't want it!" "I have more time to go have fun without having stuff to dust!" And so on and so forth. In fact, I do hear this and more, all the time ... ad nauseam. It is pounded into my head constantly by posts on social media, magazine articles and well-meaning individuals. And I think these reasons resonate with people because there is indeed value in clearing out useless clutter. But grant me the opportunity to offer another viewpoint ...
Here's the thing. I love my "stuff"! It fills me with great joy to be surrounded by sentimental items. They jog memories that I thought forgotten. They provide a warm connection to much-loved family, friends and pets that have since passed - and also to my family history and heritage. And these items reflect back to me, a little of who I am, where I've been and what I believe in; thus providing a sense of grounding in a sometimes unstable world. Ironically, something that so many people are searching for these days in their sterile, uncluttered homes! But you know what many people also miss about keeping a little "clutter"? It saves money and helps the environment!
The definition of clutter has recently evolved to mean basically anything and everything in the home - except for only the most necessary and (usually) neutral items. Under current attack in the name of "clearing the clutter" are sentimental items, heirlooms and keepsakes. We are also urged to discard books, records, videos, CDs, DVDs, photos and documents that can be transformed (or re-purchased - Aye, there's the rub!!) into digital form. It has come to mean vilifying anything and everything that can't be used in the actual moment. It has come with the illusion that new products are always better. And it is this new definition of "clutter" that I don't actually see as clutter at all, but in fact, an attack on heritage, disdain for the generations that came before us, an inability to recognize quality household items that last and a part of the "throw away" culture.
Value in heirlooms
An heirloom is "a valuable object that has been owned by a family for many generations". Value is determined by you. And many generations can start with you too! This really comes home when you have a child. I take great joy in mixing up ingredients in my Mom's old robin's egg blue Pyrex bowl - but what greater joy is there to watch my daughter do the same thing?
Value in keeping hard copies of books, photos, music & film
Don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVE being able to take digital photos and have access to them immediately, without the need for processing or printing them. And I love scanning old photos, having the ability to restore them and thus prolong their survival. But printed photos in themselves, have a story to tell and are still necessary to safeguard your special memories. I have dozens of photos I need to print and I intend to do so. Once they are printed, I can view them ... all by myself! It is dangerous to solely rely on a device, that requires power and a provider, in order to view your photos or documents. The important ones really do need to be backed up on paper. And a lifetime collection of favourite books, films and music is expensive to reassemble on your devices. The old joke is that every time the medium changes, we all have to buy "The White Album" again! But it really is no joke. At 99¢ a song, that can really add up if you are a serious music lover. And I had gotten so used to hearing The Beatles on digital recreations that when my husband ran one of my old albums on the turntable; it literally felt like John, Paul, George and Ringo were singing right in the living room! I had simply forgotten the fantastic and superior sound of vinyl records and all the feelings evoked by hearing these chappies again, properly, ... and re-examining the much worn and loved covers of my 35-40 year old record collection - the best!
Not to mention the sheer pleasure of holding a real book in your hands, late at night, without the added distraction of "firing up" that electronic technology. Or cooking recipes from your Mom's, Grandma's or even Great-Grandma's recipe books! Sure, you can look up new recipes on-line and that's great (though I encourage you to compile these new-found recipes into a book of your own) - but what a joy and feeling of connection to see the scribbles, notes, clippings and long-ago food splotches in your Grandma's much utilized recipe book! I guarantee you will learn something you didn't know about your family by following the path they took in their kitchen on some long ago day.
Items that can be reused
This is huge for any one committed to "going green". Old clothes, linens, containers, craft items, school supplies - this stuff adds up and adds to the clutter. But what a savings to have these items on hand when a costume is needed for Hallowe'en, school plays or dress-up days! Old clothes that are in good shape should be donated but worn out clothes can be made over into a variety of items - like doll blankets, hankies, catnip bags or potpourri pouches! The rest can be cut into rags and used for all kind of tasks from polishing furniture to cleaning bike chains. School supplies and craft items can be sorted through and compared against next year's school list - often saving a fortune in buying all new school supplies each and every year.
This little fellow was made out of an old blanket from my childhood. I had kept it, even though it was worn and torn (literally falling apart) and couldn't be mended anymore to use as a blanket. Until inspiration came from my daughter on a rainy day from watching "Little Bear" cartoons. So with some of the good bits of material, we made this blanket over into something my little one could enjoy!
"Little Bear" stories and cartoons by Else Holmelund Minarik / Maurice Sendak
Reuse inherited items
Dishes inherited from older relatives are often discarded due to their "dated" patterns. But the high quality of these dishes is phenomenal and can not be matched by visiting Pier 1 or HomeSense! They also provide a tangible link to your family and while I truly understand creating your own style in your home - I think such decisions should be made carefully. Quality lasts - and that saves you money. It may be that certain pieces of an inherited set can be blended into your existing set - especially such useful items as extra platters and serving dishes (which don't need to match your place setting) and extra dinner and side plates for large gatherings. Or a full set of 2 to 4 basic place settings can be packed up, ready to accompany a young person to their first home - the traditional "hand-me-downs" that save money on that first apartment!
All of these practices and more make Mother Nature happy, save you money ... and reduce the demand on manufacturing.
So by all means, de-clutter your home of unnecessary items. But remember what clutter truly is - the old bills, the half-empty make-up jars, the books you won't read, the clothes you won't wear - the unneeded or outgrown items that can't be reused. All other things that you love and cherish, bring back good memories, or can be re-used - I encourage you to simply remember the old and wise adage to keep your home fresh and un-cluttered.
"A place for everything, and everything in its place."
Meadow Sweet Grove © V. Buchanan 2019
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