Useful & Beautiful

Years ago, when my husband and I moved into our first house (still the house we’re in now) we didn’t know how we wanted to decorate. I’d grown up with antiques my parents had acquired while traveling overseas. My husband had decorated his apartment with modern furniture. Our house had been a rental, so all the rooms were painted white (except the odd half bath anyway) – which gave us more freedom to wait and figure it out. Then a few years ago we became fascinated with Arts & Crafts or Craftsman style – maybe most famous in the Midwest from Frank Lloyd Wright. We lived in a bungalow after all.

When Craftsman style was popular here in the United States, it was approximately 1910-1925. It encouraged originality, simplicity of form, local natural materials, and the visibility of handicraft. You might be familiar with a quote from William Morris,

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

Is there actually a good reason to have anything in our homes that is not useful or beautiful? When was the last time you really looked around your home to notice what you might not appreciate anymore?

You might even say to yourself that anything that doesn’t fit in one of these criteria – useful or beautiful – could be clutter. Can you imagine the simplicity your life could have if you had only useful and beautiful things around you?

We all need the useful things. I wouldn’t give up my vacuum or washer and dryer for anything. I’m quite attached to my bed. Yet, I do wonder about my cell phone sometimes – is it really that useful? Our lives are certainly more filled with tools today than they were 100 years ago. How often do you think about whether things are actually useful to you? I think about it, as my husband and I joke “I am the dishwasher in our house.” That’s something “useful” we don’t even have. I don’t mind it; I even appreciate it. We contemplate a push mower sometimes – although we’ve not made that leap.

I appreciate that the “believe to beautiful” part too since it leaves it as subjective – it doesn’t have to be beautiful to anyone else (although it avoids the spouse issue!). I’ve been in homes filled with framed artwork from their children and grandchildren – where it wouldn’t be beautiful to me as such, yet I imagine it was absolutely beautiful to them. This also allows the variations we all can have about how sparse or filled an area can be – one can be beautiful to some and downright uncomfortable to another.

In an earlier post I mentioned that I want to spend time monthly to review a room in our home – to evaluate it – to see what is no longer useful or beautiful. We’ve done that some, there’s a box of décor items we’ve pulled out a couple of rooms. Now we just need to decide if we want to put them up somewhere else or if they need to move on to somewhere else altogether.

How much excess stuff do you have surrounding you? Is it useful? Is it beautiful? Start by asking these questions – then you can have some things you can pass along to someone else.

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