An acquaintance recently visited my home and asked me where all my “stuff” was – why didn’t I have anything sitting out anywhere? I have books on my bookshelves, a lamp on my end table, and two little cacti sitting on my dining room table. And that’s about it. I CANNOT STAND clutter.
I grew up in a home whose every square inch was decorated. There was a vase, faux flower, piece of crystal, picture frame, and inspirational quote on every shelf and nestled into every corner. It was a beautiful home, a home filled with love and visible reminders of places my parents had visited and memories we had made as a family.
When I struck out on my own and settled (as much as a young adult can settle) into a variety of abodes – dorm rooms, little apartments, my first real house, and then my first home as a married woman – I took my parents’ love for decorations with me. My second home was Hobby Lobby, and I was always on the look out for just that one.more.thing to complete a shelf, a room, my home. Honestly, the decorating bug had me in its clutches, even more so because my hubby and I bought a fixer-upper. Everything needed a fresh coat of paint, a new piece of furniture, and then – something to hang on those freshly painted walls and something to set upon the new piece of furniture. I couldn’t rest or feel complete until these tasks were accomplished, these rooms were decorated. And certainly I felt shame and embarrassment if friends came over and I didn’t have the perfect house in which to entertain them.
It’s taken us a few garage sales, but we have almost completely undone all the damage I did those first few years of our marriage.
And it was damaging. Damaging to our finances, damaging to our marriage. We were forced to take a look at the way we were living and at our priorities a few years ago, and this change in focus gradually seeped into every aspect of our lives. Suddenly, all the candlesticks and doo-dads were suffocating. They represented money wasted, and in a very practical sense, they were just one more thing to clean.
Strangely, one of the things I’d never really spent any money on during those years was pictures of my children or my family. I had a few large pieces (ask anyone who has been to my home about our life-size engagement picture and you are sure to hear the story) that we invested in. I even had dozens of empty frames I was saving for the “perfect” pictures and the “perfect” arrangement. When I turned my love for photography into a real-deal business, I once again became consumed with the need to get an aspect of my home “perfect.” What if clients came to my home and didn’t see huge, amazing, blow-you-away groupings of my children in perfect outfits in perfect settings? (Can you tell I have issues with perfection?)
For a long time, my walls stayed bare, naked due to my inability to decide, my fear of doing anything less than what I should, as a photographer, be doing. As I’ve learned, however, it’s okay to let go of what others think of me, to let go, even, of what I think of myself. I saved up some money and ordered some gorgeous canvas wraps for my family room that I truly, dearly love. They make me happy every time I see them, and on the business side, I love that I can provide this happiness for my clients, too, because I know exactly how they feel when their orders come in!
I can’t afford to put canvas wraps on every single wall of my home. To be honest, that would look pretty ridiculous, and I don’t want to. But as much as I hate clutter, I do want my children to grow up in a home where they see themselves reflected in the things that surround them. I’m working on that balance!
And so I took this as a challenge – to come up with inexpensive, simple ways to have pictures in our home. Pictures of real moments, pictures of memories, pictures that aren’t necessarily worth being canvassed but that are definitely worth seeing every single day. I didn’t want to build anything, decoupage anything, or have to ask anyone for help!
I made a mental list of places our family spends time, and the kitchen immediately came to mind. Given my distaste for clutter, our refrigerator is usually free from magnets and shopping lists and art projects. When we do start to accumulate these items, I swiftly go through when the kids aren’t looking and swoop everything off and into a manilla folder or – GASP! – the garbage. But I thought it would be the perfect spot for some black and white pictures – nice and clean and crisp against the white fridge. The only things I purchased were the prints themselves (I did order from my professional lab and have them mounted on matboard to provide stability) and silver magnet clips from my local big box store. This is seriously a 30 second project, and we get to look at these pictures a million times a day – win!
The second project I took on was just as simple! When my oldest son was born, I purchased one of those digital frames for his room – it was very cutting edge at the time. I loved the thought of his being able to see the faces of our friends and family every day, especially those we don’t get to see often. I honestly downloaded pictures to it once, and in a fit of de-cluttering, stashed it somewhere to be sold later at a garage sale. I still wanted him to have that feeling of being surrounded by his loved ones and memories, especially now that he is old enough to remember the things we’ve done and trips we’ve taken! He already had a bulletin board hanging in his room, so all I did was order 4×6 prints of him with his favorite people, and then stuck them to the bulletin board with simple, ol’ push pins we already had. Real memories, real pictures, displayed in a real way that he can enjoy them. This project reminded me that we often rely on digital images to preserve our memories but rarely take the time to display real pictures so we can enjoy them.
My next project is to find a way to bring pictures of the hubby and I back into our bedroom. I want a visual reminder of what we look like together, to help center us as we rush about our days taking care of the kids and work and everything else that kind of creep in and make us forget where it all started. I’m really excited about this one!
How do you display your memories? Are your family’s memories sitting in your camera, in your computer, on a CD in a drawer? I challenge you to look around your home and find the things that may be distracting you from a sense of peace, to find places that could use a little reminder of what is important and of what you love. At the end of the day, our home doesn’t have to be perfect. But if we create our homes with purpose, we just mind find that it feels perfect nonetheless.