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Useful or Beautiful

Today has been a crazy day with impending deadlines for work and personal stresses. While taking a break from the hustle and bustle I noticed the most recent item in my RSS feed.

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


- William Morris

(originally via mnmlst.com/quotes but I found it via swiss-miss.com)

My wife and I are actively downsizing our home and have had several ongoing conversations that go something like this:

Spouse 1: 'Honey, does this go in the Goodwill pile?'

Spouse 2: '…… No, [insert relative] gave us that for [insert occasion].'

Each of us has played both of those roles; sometimes it's hard to get rid of the things that don't follow Mr. Morris' rule of thumb simply because of who gave them to you. How do you have those hard 'time to get rid of it' discussions about the things that aren't so beautiful and definitely not useful?

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4 Responses to Useful or Beautiful

  1. Visitor February 9, 2010 at 9:45 pm #

    Family heirlooms can be given to someone else in the family who would like to have them. My siblings and I believe that there are not enough family heirlooms to “go around” since there is only one of each item, and some items get broken or lost over the years, and with each generation there are more cousins to share stuff. So, we have the responsibility of sharing family heirlooms and we cycle them around. It’s not like I need to “own” great-great-grandma’s thing-a-ma-jig. There’s not any value in legally owning something that will never be sold anyway; whether it’s worth $1 or $100 is immaterial; it’s the sentimental value that counts. Also our cousins subscribe to this theory. It’s sort of a way to redecorate, when you cycle the items around. We have a few cousins especially who didn’t seem to get many heirlooms after a series of deaths/remarriages/moves, and so for my cousin’s wedding, we gave her a variety of family pieces, in this case, to keep. It meant a lot to her and cost us nothing and we have the peace of mind that heirlooms are in the family, in the possession of someone who cares about the items’ history.

  2. Bo Roe December 9, 2009 at 7:27 am #

    “My family has gotten used to my ways as well and has stopped giving me so many things for holidays and started giving experiences or gift certificates.”
    I think this is KEY! How on earth do you have that conversation though when the way friends and family around you show their love and appreciation is through the giving of stuff?
    The other aspect of ‘time to get rid of it’ that’s tricky is when it’s a family heirloom thing. Sometimes items have no useful or appreciable value other than the fact that they once belonged to someone you care about. Talk about open up a big can of worms…

  3. Jackie December 8, 2009 at 2:12 pm #

    I have the same problem – that’s why we have too much stuff, too. However, I’ve started by taking the things that never see the light of day and letting them go – donate them, give them to a friend, sell them – however they go is o.k. Peter Walsh says that if something is important to you – then you should honour it. Not stuff it in a box and leave it there. I’ve been trying to take that to heart and am slowly putting out the important stuff and letting go of the rest. If you don’t use it – lose it. ]

  4. lauren December 8, 2009 at 9:39 am #

    Bo, good post. This can be tough. Over the years, I have tried to release the guilt of getting rid of things people have given you that you don’t use or wouldn’t have particularly picked out for yourself.
    One thing to focus on would be the other people who could use it who then indeed might think it was beautiful – say a ornate serving dish for a woman & her family getting back on their feet, or a hand-crocheted sweater for someone at a shelter.
    Ultimately, it is a great exercise to do and get in the practice of. Additionally, if people know that you are in the practice of minimizing, they might catch on in their gift-giving.
    My family has gotten used to my ways as well and has stopped giving me so many things for holidays and started giving experiences or gift certificates.
    Good luck!

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