Monday, July 19, 2010

Inroads in enemy territory...

I've nearly exhausted my options in the living room. Most further progress involves persuading mom that it's not worth keeping hundreds of old VHS tapes and decades-out-of-date encyclopedias. To give you an idea of what it's like trying to help a hoarder:

Me: "I can't wait to get this room painted! No more ugly yellow walls!"
Mom: "This room just always seems depressing. We better paint it bright semi-gloss white. You know how dark it gets in here."
Me: "Gee mom, did you know that interior designers say that contrast, and not color, is what makes a room look dark? Even a small room painted dark blue will seem large if everything coordinates. It's lots of contrast that makes rooms seem small and dark, because it's aesthetically confusing to your eye."
Mom: "So what do you think? Should we paint the bookcase [full of VHS tapes] white too?"
Me: *facepalm*

This isn't the end of it either...

Me: "Mom, you're stopping just one step short of the real solution here..."
Mom: "I know, you think we should throw away everything and live in a ti-pi."
Me: "Well I just mean, you're thinking of how to disguise the problem, not solve it outright. When is the last time you derived and joy or pleasure from these? When's the last time you even watched one of the tapes?"
Mom: "I can't remember. Whenever we set up the system. So a few months ago."
Me: "A few MONTHS? Doesn't that tell you something?"
Mom: "I am not getting rid of the movies."
Me: *long deep sigh*

And you have these conversations every day.

Anyway, today I was having a giant urge to just....clean....something!

  • First I took down the light fixture in the hall and cleaned the bugs and dirt and dust and soaped off that weird grimy layer which stuff near the kitchen tends to acquire. Then I walked aimlessly through the house a half dozen times, looking for a project with a clear goal.
  • I set up the big mirror which I got for free off Craigslist above the mantelpiece. It still needs to be properly hung, but it felt good getting it up there. It should really increase the light in what tends to be a very dark room (high contrast from all the junk in there!).
  • I went into the dining room and began cleaning there for the first time. I cleaned up the office supplies area, a small black bookcase (are you seeing a trend here?) packed to the gills with all kinds of paper, bent up notebooks, chalk, pencils, old binders, at least 6 kinds of tape, a million tacky kiddy folders that belonged to me when I was in elementary school, and, get this, 38 used manila folders. My mom sure loves to save. I cleaned everything out, put back what we could actually use/what she would miss if it were suddenly gone, and then made a neat stack of all the remaining supplies and carried it over to the low-rent housing across the street from me. I put a hand-made sign on top saying "FREE school supplies. Take one or all!" I've had good luck getting rid of stuff this way, and it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy b/c I know people did the same thing for my family when we were little.
  • Then I cleaned up behind the other door to the dining room, which is next to the dryer (yes, the dryer is in the dining room...when you barely ever move around your house, spacial planning doesn't really mean the same thing) and thus is a haven for dust bunnies the size of greater Montana. I put away a couple of boxes full of expensive preserves mom bought forever ago and then forgot she had, and recycled the boxes. I rearranged all the crap that's back there so it actually fits. Tomorrow I'll ask my dad (a lot of it is clearly home project stuff that was bought but never started) what's good and what's junk.

So, both the entryways to the dining room are relatively clear. The first wall has French doors, one of which has not been opened in years because a bookcase blocks it. The other door at least is finally able to swing open all the way. Now to begin my 2-front war on clutter!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The porch is clear!

My dad dragged loads of the furniture that was cluttering up the side porch down to our local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store (sort of like a second-hand Home Depot) today. Not only is the porch almost totally clear, we got store credit for the stuff he took in! The porch looks great - before it looked like the back room of an antique store, stuffed with junky old wooden furniture.

The only downside is that he got rid of a desk mom wanted to keep (even though she has literally no place to put it) and she was really, really. Really. Really mad.

This could really set us back. Without the hoarder's consent, she sees this as an invading force, rather than a friendly set of helping hands. Urgh.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bring it on, 2010!

Holy cow. I am BEAT from today. Spent the whole hellishly hot afternoon (it was 102 degrees in my northern Virginian town today) lugging furniture around. My mom and brother helped. Here's what we got done:

  • Lugged crappy old junk-magnet coffee table out of the living room
  • Lugged the giant white pleather couch that was taking up the whole corner out of the living room
  • Loaded both the couch and table into the back of my dad's truck to be donated
  • Vacuumed the whole area behind where the couch was sitting - fallen drywall galore!
  • FINALLY got mom to sort through her old records, donate some (1/2 a box), and take the rest (2 boxes) up to her bedroom
  • Lugged the nicer coffee table from the porch INTO the living room - no drawers/compartments means no place to put junk!

I am so proud and so happy! We got so much done, it's ridiculous. My mac's battery's gone bad so it's tougher for me to use my isight camera to take pics of the progress (we don't have a digital camera) but I'll edit some in to this post tonight.

I really had to sit on my mom to get her to start with the records, but once she started sorting those, she got onto a whole de-cluttering jag and she - get this - SHE was the one who suggested we take the old furniture out! My family, which normally has the forward momentum of Mt. Fuji, actually got huge strides forward accomplished today.

The only bad thing about decluttering is how incredibly addictive it is. The more you do it, the more you WANT to do it. It's tough to be satisfied, even though I know the living room looks 300% better now than it did 6 hours ago, because all I can think about it how much better it will looks tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and the day after that...I am driven by a mental vision of my dream space.

Even my mom (the resident clutterer/hoarder/keeper/packrat/compulsive over-buyer) is happy with how things are going. I've finally got her on the clean-house bandwagon. The only hold-out is my older brother - he HATES change and insinuated today that I am a snake-oil salesman trying to trick the family into cleaning the house with my false promises that it will make their lives more enjoyable. No kidding. Sometimes I'm surprised we're genetically related.

We're getting close to seeing wall space now. My goal is to get the whole lower part of the house livable by the end of summer (August-ish) so that we can paint in fall when it's cool and not so insanely humid. The walls of the living room are currently a shade of cream-that's-gone-bad which my mom lovingly refers to as "funeral parlor yellow", and much of it is covered in my childhood crayon scribblings. Time for something new, clean, fresh, and pretty. Maybe a bright, Mediterranean tealish blue? I'll post some inspirational decorating pics as well. Many loves to all those decluttering out there! The journey is long (I know, earlier I was bent over a trash can outside fishing out change the vacuum cleaner picked up), but the pay-off (a smart, clean home) is so worth it!!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Less is more.

I love the spareness of Japanese design. Growing up in a house stuffed to bursting with overfull bookcases on every possible wall and cluttered floors, I long for simple lines, clear spaces, and bare walls. I adore any style which strips away the unnecessary and replaces it with perfect form/function balance.

I'm also a big believer in the idea that the best decoration is often no decoration at all. My boyfriend and I often get in tiffs over this philosophy - he's a collector of frivolous things, and I am a mercenary declutterer. It's tough, but we strike a balance.

I still love the occasional beautiful object, a single large glass bowl on a table for example, but the rule for me is that each object must give more than it takes. If it is beautiful, the beauty must outweigh the cost in money and care. Very few things are beautiful enough to pass this test.

To my mind, the most beautiful rooms contain the following elements:

  • Critical furniture (a bed, a desk, a couch, etc, according to the room's primary purpose)
  • One beautiful piece of art (a statement piece, to use the lingo - more than one, if they work in tandem or it's a very large room, but the rule prefers one)

And that's pretty much it. Don't get me wrong, I adore the grandeur of Versailles, but I'm happiest in a simple cottage in the French countryside. The right amount of less, is more.

I'm not a minimalist in the following aspects:

  • I like a very spare number of functional/loved objects (a couple of nicely hung and easily accessible pots in a kitchen, a shelf of best-loved family pictures in a living room)
  • I MUCH prefer several table lamps to a single ceiling light. In my mind nothing is uglier or more irritating to the psyche than the use of a central ceiling light. If it were up to me, they'd be banned everywhere but the dentist office. Aesthetics outweigh efficiency in this case.

Clearing the porch of some old furniture tomorrow (it's at least 75% covered in tables, chairs, and desks right now). I will do my best to take before and afters. Keep reading, keep writing, keep dejunking!