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Is it useful? Is it beautiful?

February 2, 2011

surveying his clothes

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

I actually like to do the laundry. I like it because I like clothes. I know this makes me a little crazy but I really don’t mind getting all the clothes clean because I appreciate them all. Some of my clothes I have had for 20 years I like them so much. I’m trying to move the entire home in this direction—only having things somebody has a passion for because if you have it, you have to take care of it. If you don’t have a passion for it, you won’t want to maintain it and you’ll be resentful about it. And, if you don’t maintain it, it’s a waste of resources and it clutters up your home.

Each new thing brought in needs an assessment: how much time will this take to maintain? Do I want to do it? I’m asking the question of exiting things too. So often this question goes unasked, around here, and everywhere. If something is really useful, you want to take care of it because you need it. If something is really beautiful, you want to take care of it because it brings you pleasure.

I often keep things for nostalgia purposes. The last few years though, I have let go of a lot of things, (but not everything!) My friend told me the other day she is getting rid of a bike she loves but can’t use and will repurpose part of it into a new bike. She is taking photos of it to remember it instead of keeping the bike itself. I like the photo idea.

Another idea is making things or buying handmade. Making things ensures you love them and take care of them because you can decide exactly what you want and you can make them of good quality. It gives you insight into how beautiful something can be and how long it can take to make and what it takes materials-wise to make it, so you can appreciate the object so much more. I know I appreciate the little red shirt so much more than if we bought it. Even Lukas said yesterday that he didn’t want to get it dirty! (haha, a nice thought!) Then he also wore it two days in a row, another testament to the attention something handmade is more likely to receive.  I know, it all takes time. I notice though, that Lukas also loves this kind of maintenance work (dishes, sewing, knitting, cleaning) and is much happier when it is going on. Another reason I like to do it!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 7, 2011 3:25 am

    I love the quote you started out with. Love that it contains both useful and beautiful, because sometimes beautiful is more important than useful. I also love your thoughts about resenting the things you have to take care of that you don’t love. Wonderful thoughts in creating a home you love. Thank you.

  2. karen hess permalink
    February 7, 2011 6:04 pm

    M, Thanks for your comment! It’s true—when I feel like not cleaning, it’s usually because there are things hanging around I don’t want to take care of! You might know this, but William Morris (the quote) was a designer in the Arts and Crafts movement, which was big on everything being beautiful, “even” when it was also useful. Needless to say, they were into handmade everything and the Arts and Crafts movement was probably the only art movement in recent history that was all about the home’s beauty. K

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