Friday, June 3, 2011

Homemaking 101: Order, Function and Beauty

I never intended it be three weeks after my last post before being able to write this one, but I do hope you're still interested in the  Homemaking 101 series.  Today I would like to discuss the importance of Order, Function and Beauty in the home.

I've already addressed cleaning and must say that truly I got the cart before the horse, because order should come first.  However, for the sake of just getting on with it, I'll share my thinking on this.  And since order goes hand in hand with function (which is followed by efficiency in motion, and savings in time and money) it seems reasonable to address it here.

I have this theory about clutter.  A cluttered, chaotic home often reveals  chaotic feelings and emotions.  Not necessarily bad emotions or feelings, but certainly an inability to control them to some extent, either due to immaturity or imbalance in life.  Now, I'm not a psychologist and admit this quite readily, but I am an observer of human nature and I assure you that again and again a home reveals what is in a person's heart, mind and soul.  I've shared many times that on surface my childhood home certainly appeared well cleaned but under the surface there were a lot of messes, clutter, dirt, unfinished projects and other things that ought to have been addressed and weren't.  That was also very revelatory of our life and relationships in that home.  

I've learned something else about clutter.  Clutter is not just a lack of order, but of understanding how your home functions.  While every person may use different reasoning skills in say, filing, a home pretty much functions the same for everyone.  It is meant to be a place to eat, sleep, relax and attend to relationships. It should be a haven for those who live within the walls of that home.  What we have to figure out is how to best bring order to the various areas so that it functions properly and creates that peaceful, calm haven.

So first comes order.  There's a great deal in that old axiom, "A place for everything and everything in its place."  Order means just that.  What we have fits into our home and is in a logical place of it's own.  If we need a pair of scissors we know where to look(sewing room, desk or kitchen) and we can find them every single time.  If we want a can of green beans they are in place on the kitchen shelf right where we can reach them.  If we must get dressed, our clothes are hung or folded and put away neatly and we need only walk to the dresser or closet and take it out and put it on.  Items are put in places that are logical. 

And if not logical at least put in place in such a way that it appears logical.  I'll grant you that my current auxiliary pantry in the guest bedroom closet is not logical.  It is however, an otherwise empty area meant for storage and the orderly arrangement of shelving and foodstuffs on those shelves appear to be logical.  

 I try to keep a few things kept in an orderly fashion. Three sets of sheets per bed, two sets of towels per bath suit our needs very well.  A seasonal change of curtains and comforters for the rooms and that is more than enough in my opinion.  It is the same with clothes.  I have a few all year round pieces, a few winter pieces, and a few light weight for the oh so hot spring/summer/fall season we  have here in Georgia.  But where I might appear unreasonable is the many books I own.  And the vintage magazines.  Oh yes, the vintage plate ware, too.  {cough cough}However, I have room for them all and they are all orderly. 

I will not sacrifice living space for storage, nor will I pay fees to store things I might not look at again in twenty years or even in two years.  And though I boast a shed all my own to store my overflow of pretty things, I keep it well ordered too.  I know just where to find the bin with Christmas decorations and where the wreaths for summer are kept.  I can even tell you exactly where the donation box is located and how full it is at the moment.  That's how orderly my shed is. 

Where I must battle daily is the urge to keep too many things. 'Someday' things, great aunt's sentimental things that I don't like, 'I might need it later' things. I inherited this thinking from my grandmothers who each handled it in different ways. It is a direct result of growing up poor during the depression. One simply did not toss a perfectly good pair of pants or a faded towel. Granny's solution was to pack it up and save it. Grandmama's was to use it until it truly fell to pieces in her hand, then put out one new item to replace it. I am equally torn between these two thought patterns.  Having read of lasagna gardening all cardboard suddenly became a must keep item for that someday garden.  As did newspapers to use as mulch.  It took a few times of realizing that the storage issue mandated I keep only enough to say do one flower bed at a time.  When the one bed were constructed I'd save enough to do the next. 

I keep order by continually decluttering.  Yes, even my books and magazines and lovely old china.  If I don't use it, haven't read it or don't like it out it goes.  If I bring in a new piece of clothing, I try to remove at least one and sometimes two old pieces, if only to put them into the house drawer for everyday wear.  Order requires a bit of dedication.  I choose to use the zone weeks to declutter areas.  Sometimes I cart out a whole box of things to donate or throw away.  Other times I might remove only one item.  Even when you are a dedicated frugalista, we continue to acquire something new to us and it is necessary to determine what we have room to keep. 

Orderliness is a component of style as well.  English country is an eclectic mix of furnishings and art and china that I adore and while it might appear random in nature, there is order.  All landscapes on a wall, all china pieces on a Welsh dresser, etc.  English country requires a dedication to orderliness and cleaning that Minimalism doesn't necessitate.   Minimalism isn't my style but it is beautiful because it is so serene and again, order begets serenity.

Simply put: order is peaceful and calming.  Clutter is chaotic and anxious. 

Now let's talk about function.  I've been in this home for 14 1/2 years.  Just last year, I finally got the kitchen to function in a way that suits me and the work I do there. This was accomplished by bringing order to those areas that didn't work.  

The trouble is that often when we're setting up our homes, unpacking boxes and shoving furniture into the proper rooms, we're in a rush to put things away.  We don't stand back and consider how a room functions before we start to unpack.  Once we understand how we want a room to function we can order the arrangement of furnishings to suit our needs.  If I had  to move again, I'd do things a little differently.  I'd stand in each room of my new home with a note pad and jot down my thoughts while it was EMPTY (which is essentially what I did when I redid the order of the kitchen last year).  I'd first take stock of what I planned to do in the room.  Then I'd look for the most logical places to put things based upon that function.  I'd note the lighting or lack of it.  I'd see how the sun lit the room nd how it progressed through out the day.  I'd stand near the window and determine how much heat or cold it let in a room.  I'd look at the most practical traffic flow.  I'd make notes of all these things, then I'd go back to my old house and determine just what could be used and what should be discarded.   

When I re-ordered the kitchen, I stood at the kitchen sink and thought about what I do in that area.  Well, I fill the coffee pot, wash dishes, rinse and load dishes in the dishwasher, prepare vegetables and fruits for cooking. I unload dishes from the dishwasher in that area as well.  I also serve meals on the counter between the stove and sink.  It became obvious that the coffeepot and dish drainer had to be on the left counter and I needed the dish soap and dishcloths to be handy.  I  should have knives and cutting boards in that area between the stove and sink and not on the opposite counter top.  It made sense to put the plates in the cabinet above the dishwasher which was between the sink and stove.  Now I unload the plates right into that cabinet from the dishwasher and they are at fingertips when I am ready to serve a meal. 

I went to the stove and stood there and opened the oven door and imagined myself cooking.  Why did I have the hot pads on the wall I couldn't reach once the oven door was open?  And of course, I never thought to grab one prior to opening the oven door!  What was the most logical place to store pots and pans?  I found for convenience sake that the little island cart was perfect for pots and pans.  All of them fit in that cabinet and I no longer had to open three or four cabinet doors to find them.  And that meant the cabinet I'd been using for pots and pans was now available to store all the appliances I use occasionally and which cluttered the countertop.

I looked at the unused counter space across the kitchen next to the refrigerator and realized that there was space for the mixer, the cookbooks, the canisters of baking goods.  The cabinet above which contained cereal boxes and snack foods were far better suited to holding more of the baking items, mixing bowls and measuring cups, etc.  The snacks were in two separate cabinets across the kitchen from one another.  I moved them all to one cupboard near the end of the counter where Chance could keep his eye on his TV program while getting a handful of crackers or a granola bar.  The cereal boxes went into the pantry cabinet below the baking center.  This is a deep cupboard but well lit since it's across from the kitchen sink window and the light shines right into it.  I can put a lot of pantry items in that cabinet and clearly see them, so it's truly a great pantry area.   

It took a few days to rearrange all these cabinets and items but how pleasant it is to work in the kitchen now!  It saves me time and energy.  It is easy to keep orderly, and it functions like a dream kitchen for me.  I daresay it's the best kitchen I've ever had.  There are only one or two things I'd like to change and neither of those are costly nor require major construction.  I'd like a bookcase at the end of the kitchen counter, and butt the little computer desk up against it.  I'd like to figure out a way to keep my plastics and glass jars more orderly. 

So back to that list: stand in each room and determine what functions the room needs to serve.  I enjoy reading.  A good reading lamp is necessity in bedroom and in the living room.  Obviously I need to be able to position a chair and lamp near an outlet.  Kay helped me to set up a lovely little bookcase next to my chair that fills a wallspace that was formerly empty.  Now I have my journal, dictionary, Bible, reading material, home keeping notebook and coupons near at hand.  Chance doesn't care to sit across the room from me, so I put a chair just opposite the table that holds the reading lamp.   

We've had such rotten luck choosing comfortable sofas and so seldom have more than two guests at a time in our home that we decided to give away our last sofa and instead put in two more armchairs.  Were I to shift the room about a little, I might fit in another armchair.  We require tabletops to hold coffee cups, so there's a table between each set of chairs.  It's unconventional but as a friend remarked "Well, so are you and Chance!" lol  The living room suits us.

For years we lived with half the living space empty.  Why?  Because it was meant to be a dining room but Chance didn't want a table atop the carpeted area.  So we tried to make it a study area but there wasn't enough light even with the two double windows and a good overhead lighting source.  We tried a desk in the space but it seemed to collect clutter constantly.  I tried to make it a reading nook but the lighting was again an issue.  Now we've finally moved the dining table into the space it works beautifully.  You see that's what that area of the room needed to function properly.  Chance uses his laptop there and likes that he can watch TV at the same time. 

So, function is part logic and part what you want your home to provide.  And sometimes it's a matter of living in the house and figuring out work areas, rest areas, privacy, etc. 

Now let's talk about beauty.  It's only been in the last five years that I've had the home I want .  It is beautiful to me because it looks lived in and lovely at once.

In the past, when I lived in  rundown homes, when I had little money to spend on things, I used what I had.  A handful of wildflowers and a mason jar, a quilt to cover a scarred plaster wall or a dining table, sheets as curtains (still a favorite for sheer thriftiness).  I may not have had much money but I had an eye for pretty things and I found them in dollar stores (source of many many sets of dishes in the past), thrift shops, happily used whatever I had to make things look as pretty as I could.  I never wanted a perfect house, I wanted a cozy looking home.  An old army trunk for a coffee table with a big basket of nuts upon it in the fall invited guests to prop up their feet and have a snack too.  My books on shelves added warmth to the room, even though they were stacked two deep at the time.

Often my home furnishings were cast offs from other family members.  They needed to be cleaned, painted, minor repairs, but they were welcomed and I polished and used them for years and years.  I arranged them in as pleasing a manner as I could.  I did my best to make the imperfect things beautiful.  I wasn't above using a pretty plate as a wall hanging, framing a magazine page as a picture to hang upon the wall.  I strove to use the things I had to add beauty to my home. 

My point is this: beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  And home, of all the places we must spend time daily, should be as lovely as you can make it.  If it's beautiful to you and it makes you smile, you've accomplished something indeed. 

I want to urge you to make all the rooms of your home as attractive as they can be.  Bedroom, bath, kitchen, even the laundry and back entry.  Paint is cheap, soap and water are cheaper still.  There's almost always a scrap of fabric large enough to curtain a small window or make a pillow or pretty pot holders.  I was so inspired this week by Rhonda at made the sweetest bird pot holders.  V has made the most beautiful dishcloths I've ever laid eyes upon.  Check her blog here:  .  Look what Tammy has done with her bathroom:  Aren't things lovely in these homes, yet not one of the projects cost big money.  A little time was all any of them required and that is often the way when it comes to making  your home beautiful.

Order, function and beauty...Makes a house a home.


BelleDiabolique said...

I am just so not good with order and pretty. My version of order is usually not very orderly or logical. Except my kitchen. That's my favorite place in the whole house. I love, love, love, me a nice kitchen. I want things where I know where they are and can get to them right when I want them. I, if I'm honest, get downright territorial over my kitchen.

Colors, aesthetics, the niceties that don't serve a function other than being pleasant, those are the things I have the biggest problem with. My ex husband used to have to approve my outfits before we'd go anywhere nice. Not because he was weird like that and wanted to control how I dress, but because I honest to goodness can not color coordinate to save my soul and would go out in public looking like I'd picked my clothes out at random in the dark.

Balance and flow also are not things that I know how to create. I can recognize it when I see it somewhere else, but my mind just doesn't visualize things for spaces very well and doesn't see how something might work better, or just look more pleasing in a different arrangement.

residency said...

Love this post... you are very inspirational, fyi.