You have a fabulous collection of something. Over the years, constant attention and love for your collection has turned it into an organic entity that grows bigger every year, like well-loved things, such as children and puppies, do. You also have a small house that unfortunately doesn’t grow at all. This constant tango between your stuff and your space seems like it will never end. And it won’t… unless you take action!
Some designers suggest you get rid of your prized possessions. Egad! The horror! Adding insult to injury, they often replace your collection with impersonal, catalog-like design which strangely includes knick-knacks disguised as “decor.” Even though these chachkas mean absolutely nothing to you, they’re ok because they work with the “theme.” Have you thrown up yet?
The problem is you can’t make it from your bedroom to your kitchen without tripping over something. Plus, the dust that accummulates on the beloved odds and ends, that you don’t dust as often as you should, aggrevate your allergies. So, after an especially rough night of sneezing and stubbed toes, you realize you need to do something. But what?
I call it the “clutter audit and shuffle.” Although you’ll need to take time to reflect on your collection and prioritize, it doesn’t have to mean you’ll have to part with your treasures or adopt an impersonal design theme. Best of all, it’s cheap because you do this yourself, avoiding “designers” who toss your stuff, and probably won’t have to buy anything. It’s mostly painless, I promise. I’ve even done a little cleaning of my own, shown here.
You need to admit to yourself you have a problem. This is easy if you can smell rotting food hiding out under the stuff. The next step is to realize and understand that no matter what you see on T.V., you cannot reorganize your house in one day, and possibly not even one weekend. Taking care of your clutter is going to take a commitment of time and energy and you must be ready to focus if you want success. However, don’t take too long or the clutter will just migrate to other places and start breeding. I like to give myself two weekends in which to get an average room done. And the more often you audit, the less time it takes to organize.
Step Two: Zoning the Clutter
The most important rule of collection management is to group like things together. This is especially key for people who have more than one collection. This doesn’t have to mean putting everything together in one room, but rather making sure things that are the same within a room, live near each other. To make groupings, you first have to gather all your things together in one place. This is accomplished by setting a neutral zone.
A neutral zone is a cleaned out corner of your house where you then gather your collection into one place. Even if the parts of your collection do not naturally go together, like towels and suitcases, put them together for now. Keep in mind collections can be clothing or office items, and not just knick-knacks. Once you get everything together, you come to a cross-roads. Did you even realize your collection was that big? Are there sub-groupings you can make? Do you really like everything in that pile? Is anything you’d part with worth a lot of money? Does anything need cleaning or repair?
After careful reflection, and depending on the size of the collection, there is usually some pruning you can do. If not, your other option is to rotate the display of the collection. Visually, you can only take in so much at a time anyway. Rotation means that several times a year you can open a box and reaquaint yourself with your collection, not unlike getting exactly what you want for your birthday. And because you are storing your pieces, it gives you a chance to clean them which will keep them in better condition over time.
Step Three: Putting Things Back
Hopefully during this process, you’ve made some space. Think about what pieces fit in what place best. You want to highlight your collection, so keep the things you like best at eye level. However, depending on the type collection and your utilization of creative shelving, you may be able to use the entire floor to ceiling space. There are many ideas and with a smaller collection to display, your display options increase. When you put your things out, take time to think about placement. If you do watch design shows, you can learn how to work with proportions, although a lot of it is based on how you feel and your tolerance of empty space or lack thereof.
There are a lot of benefits to living in a small space. Certainly economically but also there is a certain wellbeing one gets from being well suited to one’s space. Like the fit of a good shoe, comfy yet snug, you can have a lot of stuff in your small space. Just don’t let your collections take over your space. Remember, you both have to live together harmoniously.