Keep It Simple

By Lesley Myrick

Useful and beautiful are all you need

I don’t know about you, but I am so over “stuff.”

Given that I’m in a profession that’s all about selling beautiful things to clients for their homes, this is often a tension point for me. How can I encourage clients to buy more stuff when I find owning an excessive number of things to be overwhelming and a source of stress? I’m one who will happily clean out my closets and drive several boxes of clothing and housewares to a local charity to donate — often donating things that I thought were extraneous only to find myself needing them weeks later. My husband affectionately calls me an “over-tidier.”

Early in our marriage I would collect my husband’s coffee mug, dump the last of the coffee, wash it out and put the mug away in the cupboard. Shortly after, he would wander into the kitchen, confused as to why he couldn’t find his mug that he was still drinking from.

Over-tidier, you see. I couldn’t even let the poor guy leisurely enjoy his morning coffee without feeling the need to de-clutter and get it out of sight.

Physical clutter stresses me out. Piles of papers bring major anxiety. And don’t even get me started on the current trend of open shelving in the kitchen. I think having to stare at crooked stacks of bowls and plates daily would make me hyperventilate. There is nothing more satisfying to me than closing our cupboards to view a streamlined, uniform space. Am I Type A? Absolutely. A control freak? You bet. I know my limits, and open kitchen shelving is far outside my happy zone.

Famed English textile designer William Morris once said, “Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” I do my best to live by these words. The minimalist movement is a popular one right now, and for good reason. Both in fashion and interiors, people are craving fewer, better things.

Minimalism is an especially useful mindset to embrace around the holidays when the pressure to have more, give more and receive more is coming at us from all sides. Often we hold on to extraneous housewares (“I might need this third spaghetti strainer someday.”) or furniture (“But it’s an antique!”) or decor (“My aunt gave me this clock!”) because we feel we should — not because we truly love, appreciate or want it.

“Should” is one of my least favorite words, especially when it comes to interior design. That single word is the worst decorating advice out there. “Should” comes from a place of insecurity, fear, wanting to please others, being afraid to let your true self shine.

You know in your heart what you should do, so don’t listen to the “shoulds” of others. They’ll “should” all over you, and you don’t need to be covered in that crap.

Far too many decorating choices are made based on the expectations of others. Who are they to tell us what we need and love? We are the best judges of what should be in our own homes.

To be clear, minimalism isn’t about getting rid of almost everything you own and getting by with the absolute bare essentials. Having less isn’t a competition, and neither is having more. Rather, I approach minimalism as a filter through which I view my belongings. Do I need this item? If so, it belongs in my home. If not, I can probably let it go. This doesn’t mean I let go of all the impractical things. In fact, some of my favorite possessions are not totally practical, but for whatever reason I totally love them.

I recently purchased a decorative solid brass padlock shaped like a fish. It has intricately carved scales, a secret keyhole is covered by a fin (How cool is that — a secret keyhole!), and the keys look like they belong to a pirate’s treasure chest. Do I need a brass padlock shaped like a fish? Of course not. But I adore it, and it gives me heart-flutters of happiness, which to me is reason enough to make space for it in my home.

This for me is minimalism — keeping only what I really love and letting go of the rest. I’ve never felt happier in my home than when I’ve freed myself of what isn’t essential and allowed the things I use and love to take center stage. Even when those things are weird or impractical or not what others typically have. In fact, especially when those things are weird or impractical or not what others typically have.

Morris had it right: useful and beautiful things are all you need. Less stuff leaves more room, time and money for the people you love. And isn’t that what really matters in a home?