Recently I wrote a post over on my blog about telling a story with your home. I talked about ways in which you can use your surroundings as a way to convey your family values and priorities. Today I’d like to discuss a key to simplifying—editing your home once your story is already being told. The idea of editing your possessions can be very useful when trying to simplify, so I thought I’d flesh out what “editing” in the context of homemaking looks like.
Editing Requires Distance
The most effective editing is done when you’ve taken a short break from the work that’s being altered. To gain this distance from your belongings, put things of questionable use away. Decide on a timeframe to keep them out of sight and out of mind—a few weeks, a few months, whatever you prefer. If, at the end of that time you neither needed nor missed those objects, let them go.
Editing Requires Discernment
By far the most useful piece of advice you can follow in writing and in homemaking is that given by William Morris, who said you should keep nothing that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. Look at your belongings candidly. Are they useful? Are they beautiful? Or are you hanging on to them because they’ve been there for so long you hardly notice them anymore? If something doesn’t meet the William Morris standard, pass it on.
Editing Requires Understanding of Story
You can’t edit a piece of writing without understanding the story being told. Think intentionally about the story you’re telling with your home. Is the story invisible beneath mounds of clutter? Define what you would like your home to say to strangers who walk in the door. The appearance of your house can communicate a lot about your family. For instance when you walk in the front door to our home it’s easy to see that our family is casual, easy-going, and that we love history and books. Once you’ve decided what story you’re trying to tell, if an object doesn’t serve the story, give it away.
Editing Requires a Lack of Sentiment
When altering a piece of writing, you’d never think to yourself “Well, this sentence isn’t that great, but I wrote it the afternoon Susie learned to ride her bike and we had chocolate chip cookies and it was just such a good day!” Certainly there is room for a little sentiment within our homes, but we can’t keep every object to which a happy memory is attached. This is why God gave us memories—so we can cut the clutter but keep the golden moments! If you have younger children and are tempted to keep every art project they create for you, ask them which ones are the most important to them. Or rotate crafts, keeping them for a week or two in a prominent place before sending them to craft heaven.
Editing Requires a Stopping Place
There is a point in the editing process at which you have to decide you’re finished. You can’t keep on editing indefinitely. Eventually the work has to be done. Though keeping your home is an ongoing endeavour, it’s important to know when to stop in that arena as well. Once you get on a roll it can be tempting to just keep getting rid of things and streamlining. No one wants to live a sparse and beauty-less existence, though. Think again about the story you’re telling with your home. It’s important to convey that story well, and you can’t do that with bare or purely functional surroundings.
What aspects of editing your home do you struggle with? What is the story you’re trying to tell?
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