Considering our vision of what we want our space to feel like and express, how critical is beauty in your environment? All of us have things that we find beautiful. This is part of what we want to surround ourselves with and these things often inspire us. Or at least we hope they will. It might even be a criterion that is high on your list of importance – wanting your space to be beautiful – although it’s not important for everyone. The work you do in your home – organizing, cleaning, purging, decorating, repairs, etc. – are at least somewhat about making your space also your home. It can be important to decide when aesthetics are the highest priority for your time and energy.
As I’ve talked about before, beauty – in the eye of the beholder – can be one of the criteria for whether to keep things in your space or if it’s time to let something move on to be appreciated by someone else. One of the other primary criteria is whether something is useful. If something serves a function in your life – that is important.
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris
Recently, I’ve found that professional organizers frequently use this quote as a guiding principle and I talk more about this in Useful & Beautiful.
Notice which comes first – useful and then beauty – this is about priorities. Those parts and pieces of things in our life that keep us moving forward are most important. If we try to dismiss how useful something is, often we end up with more complications. Similarly, making things attractive does not translate into things being useful. It’s potentially a sad truth that creating a space and system that function well for you might be “unattractive” – according to your criteria.
Yet, what is most important? Is having a space that is perfectly beautiful yet is more effort to use effectively something you’d choose? If you’d choose beauty over function, I’d be curious to know what that desire is about for you. Consider times past when the living room might only be used when guests are visiting – that space requires little more function and can easily be beautified. When we’re actively using a space, the function of it might mean that it’s less beautiful – at least in the traditional sense.
How do you value the effort needed to use your things? Consider the differences between things that have been simplified and streamlined for function compared to things where it’s harder to use, requiring more effort and time. It can be tempting to focus on the aesthetics and decide you’ll just make it work – somehow. We try to convince ourselves that if it’s just beautiful, we’ll be motivated to expend the extra effort and time to work around less functionality.
A caveat – this talk about beauty in a space will depend on how you define beauty. Each of us can have a different opinion about what things detract from beauty in a space. Just as your vision of beauty might not match other people – a challenge when your partner has their vision and it’s quite different. If they’re unconcerned with the aesthetics of the space, then the way beauty is defined – by either of you – won’t be an issue.
I’d encourage you to make it functional first (often this process takes time) – create a way that it supports you so things are simplified – and once you understand what aspects you need, you can look for ways to beautify it. Personally (which is to say that I don’t put this on my clients), I think about the beautifying process at the end – as the icing on the cake – the fun and final steps in creating systems, a sign of succeeding in the bigger goal of making things functional.
By postponing the beautifying of your space – you can learn your tendencies and make accommodations for them that directly connect with beautifying. It’s likely that wherever you spend most of your time in your home has “not beautiful” evidence of you. Yet, you’re living in this space and functioning, so it’s not surprising. Once you’ve ruled out some other reasons things collect in places – like it not having a home, requires too much time and effort to get it back to its home, etc. – it might be that you simply need to have a space for these things. Creating a space for these things hanging around could mean a decorative (and functional, of course) container or piece of furniture – at least when your priority is on aesthetics.
Being more concerned about beauty over function can be another part of why we lose things. When someone is most concerned about getting things looking pretty, the decisions about where to put everything else can be rushed. Even when you take your time making decisions about where to put things away, your options for storing things are based on beauty – getting it out of sight.
Remember, when you make function the highest priority, you can then probably find ways to beautify it. It can be surprisingly easy to focus on things that are “easy” – rather than on what is most important – whether that’s this function and beauty idea or something else. Beauty can feel easier, whereas trying to figure out function for yourself and space can feel daunting. Consider finding one small area that you know needs an improvement in function – focus on just that for now. As I say over and over – experiment, set up something new and try it for a while and see what happens. There can also be beauty in the experimenting with function. 😉