Is it Useful and Beautiful?

Over our Christmas break, I began a mass war-on-clutter/organize-my-life project. I’m not one to make “new year’s” resolutions, but it seems like the holidays are a time of year I end up pondering what has been going well, and what changes I ought to make in the fresh new year. This year, the two words at the top of my list are simplify and de-clutter.

“Stuff” is not bad. Of course we should never value things above people, but when kept in it’s place, I see nothing wrong with enjoying and appreciating the things we have. I really like my house. I enjoy the way I’ve decorated to make it feel both comfortable and pretty. I am absolutely tickled about my new KitchenAid mixer in a delightfully pretty retro blue color. Our schoolroom has oodles of bookshelves — and books — and that makes me smile. It’s all good, and I’m very blessed.

However, I’ve been thinking that the more stuff I have, the more I’m tied to it. For instance, the bigger the house, the longer it takes to clean; the more clothes I have, the bigger my laundry pile gets. So I spent the last weeks of 2011 cleaning out and organizing closets, giving away bags and bags and bags of things I like but don’t need from my kitchen and elsewhere around the house, and re-evaluating nearly every thing I own. As I did so, this quote kept coming to mind:

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” — William Morris

If things didn’t pass the test for usefulness, or if they weren’t beautiful enough to bring me some joy, they are now out the door. Gone.

This applies to more than just things. In this clean-out process, I found toddler spoons in the back of the pantry, and came across photos from just a few years ago where my baby still looks like so little. Now, she’s eleven, and looking much more like a young lady. Where did the time go? How is my baby that old already? Time is short, and I’m not willing to waste any more of it!

Even more important than de-cluttering and simplifying the things in my home, I’m wanting to do the same with my life and with our homeschool. Lately, I haven’t left time for the truly fun, live-this-life, memory-making things. Nature study, for instance. The nature studies we did in our first few years of homeschooling are some of our happiest memories, and they were days I knew my daughter learned much in a way that made a permanent impression on her. She made a personal connection with things in the world God created, and we shared those memories together. Some of the art projects we did together rank pretty high up there on our happy-memory list, too. And we spent much more time reading aloud together. We still do these things now, but not as often as we used to. I want that to change. I believe these sorts of opportunities to be both useful and beautiful, but other things have “cluttered up” our homeschool days. I don’t like that.

So this year, this month, this week, and this day, I’ll be working on de-cluttering my life of the things that distract me or draw my attention away from where it should be. I’ll let you know how it goes…

(And by the way, happy new year!)

-originally published January, 2011

Jamie is a wife, homemaker, home educating mama, adoption advocate, and professional photographer. Her blended family includes three kids: one by birth, one by marriage, and one adopted as a teen. She tries never to venture too far from a steaming hot cup of tea. Visit with her at See Jamie Blog!

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14 thoughts on “Is it Useful and Beautiful?

  1. Is it useful and beautiful. I like this standard. Surely makes us focus on what is important – when we purge the clutter! Love this post, Jamie.

  2. Love this post. I have been pondering the same lately — and actually was the nature of my post today as well. It must be the “after Christmas and now it’s January” mood. :)

    I love your measuring stick of is it “useful and beautiful” — a wonderful way to determine whether items “deserve” a spot in one’s home.

    Off to start assessing more of the stuff in my home. :)


  3. Great post!!! I’ve been feeling this way lately as well and have slowly been working on this. I need to get busy and get more of the decluttering finished so I can enjoy my days and activities that bring me joy:) Thanks for sharing!

  4. We used to be pretty consistent with nature study too, but then this year busyness seemed to take over. Just last night I started thinking about how we need to add it back in, so your post is very timely and motivating.

  5. GReat post Jamie! I have been feeling much the same things and spent a lot of Christmas break purging and reorganizing to use our space better. I have also been realizing I need abd want to spend more time encouraging and pursuing my children’s hearts and woild love to start some bstirred more focused nature studies! What do you use?

  6. I am going through a big decluttering project right now and I’m using the same criteria to decide what to keep and what to toss. Since I live in a very small space, I also ask a third question, “Does it have a home?” I spend way too much time looking for things and shuffling them around – I want the beautiful and minimal look I used to have …. can’t wait to get back to it. Like you, I find a cluttered home tends to go hand-in-hand with a cluttered calendar. I want free space in my days as well as on my kitchen counter. ;)
    Good luck with your project …. I’m right there with you, with Hefty bag in hand.

  7. The bigger the house, the harder it is to clean: amen! That’s one reason we downsized to house number three. Bigger houses are also more expensive in more ways than one: heating and air conditioning, to name two. Our big house was always chilly; we wore fleece all winter! Anyway. I salute your organization as well as your (perhaps even more important?) examination of your things and how they relate to your life.

  8. Happy New Year to you too! Good to know you will start to get away of the things that will distract you. I will start doing that too. Could you give us a tip on how to battle against distractions in life?

    Thanks for the post! Lovely details!


  9. I love the quote about only having things you need or love. I read that a few years ago and it stuck with me. I can still have trouble decluttering sometimes, because I do really love something, but don’t have room for it or I can’t quite get rid of something because it was from family..

    Another thing to remember is that every single thing we own requires some of our time. Even if we’re just moving it from one pile to another!

    We are currently in the process of working on and then moving to another house. Moving certainly makes you go through everything and sort and evaluate. I keep coaching myself that when we move, not to start filling up our home with too much stuff…