Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Home Recycled Rules

I'd love to tell you there aren't any. I'd love to say "Oh, honey just do whatever you want and it will be fabulous!" But if you've seen enough makeover shows then you know that we don't tell women to dress that way. There are some basic rules to follow. If you aren't sure about them, there are a million Pinterest boards to help you.  Then you find your style within those rules. With that said let's talk about how to use our Home Recycled Philosophy within those larger decorating rules.

Look at every single thing and ask yourself "Is there another way to use this?"

Experiment with putting things together in a new way.

Give yourself permission to change a piece in any way you want. The Antiques Roadshow people are going to want you to make sure you don't have a priceless heirloom first, but that ugly dresser your mother in law gave you? Paint on, brave one!

Shop at the thrift store. Use your imagination to imagine what could be done with that hideous but solid 1960s sofa. I'm still grieving over a darling vintage French settee I passed on last year.

Get over old thinking that something someone else is throwing away is trash. You'll be surprised when you start to notice the kinds of things people are willing to set on the curb. The second part of this is to become familiar with where the hazard lights are on your car. You'll be using them a lot!

Get a little help from your friends. Over the years friends and I have had yard sales together to get rid of things we no longer wanted. Part of what happens though is lots of things end up being swapped around in our homes. You can do this with your adult kids too."You don't want that? I've been looking everywhere for one!" Try putting a pic on Facebook and see if anyone you know needs it.

Take a chance and break some rules that you thought were written in decorating stone, but are maybe just the way people have done things for a long time.

Mix things that you wouldn't necessarily think would go together.

Use images from magazines, blogs, and Pinterest to train your eye to see what good design looks like.

 Design your home for the life you actually live and not the one they are selling on the cover of your favorite decorating magazine. We don't entertain a lot, so first we don't need a gigantic house. The house we live in is plenty big enough for a couple of empty nesters and their dogs. Those dogs keep me from having expensive rugs. Most of the year the downstairs gets very little natural light so the walls are white to reflect the most light possible. My house is not architecturally interesting. There are no beautiful moldings so I've chosen to paint the walls and trim the same color. It keeps the space from looking choppy. Do what works in your space.   Be realistic about your life and what you need from your home. Make it work for you and your family. It's not a photo shoot. It's where your life happens.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Less Is More: How I Got Here

In the past 5 years I have been responsible for cleaning out the homes of elderly relatives 7 times. I have moved my mother four times, a cousin with dementia once and then single handedly managed her estate sale, and am about to tackle the mother in law wing of our house after her passing in May. This is in addition to delivering and retrieving things from hospital rooms and rehab facilities on countless occasions.

I am over things. Everyone's things, even mine. Of course if you are a regular reader you know that.

Here are the 3 personality types that I've dealt with in this process:

Child of the Depression: This mind set is really common among people who grew up during the Depression when there wasn't enough of anything. You'll often hear them say "But you might need it someday." The problem is that when they need it they can't find it amid the clutter.

The Collector: They have 3 complete 12 place settings of china and every serving piece ever made. Everything is in a set. Everything matches. Everything is really dated. They can't get rid of anything because they remember how hard it was to find it all.

The Materialist: The opposite of the Minimalist, this person seeks self worth and identity in material things. They spend lots of money on brands and labels. If this person is homebound QVC is their crack.

It is depressing to see how it all ends. Perhaps not a big deal if you have to do it once, liquidating other people's things repeatedly however makes the lesson stick. It is all too much. We often hear older people say that they don't want to be a burden to their children but few imagine the weight that cleaning out a lifetime of possessions will be.  And it all comes with guilt. That's the real burden. However you choose to do it, discarding another person's treasures feels wrong.  You agonize over every thing you touch-- Should I save it?

While cleaning out drawers, closets, and attics I've become immune to shopping. Going to stores and browsing as entertainment isn't the fun it once was. That thing you are so excited about taking home must be cleaned, cared for, moved, and eventually gotten rid of, if not by you then by someone else. I wish I had all the money back I've ever spent on items that a few years later ended up in my driveway for sale at a fraction of the price I paid. I've become much more interested in taking care of what I do have, or updating it instead of replacing it.

The other big shift in thinking came from traveling to Scandinavia, where minimalism is a way of life. Homes are uncluttered. Experiences and relationships are valued above things. The environment is treasured. Far from being stark and cold interior design feels well planned and orderly. Serene.  Less is more is more than a catch phrase. It's an attitude. And it's true.

Having sold or given away entire households of things has also revealed something else: The things you are keeping in a back room or attic are actually needed by someone else. I've given things away that were clutter to me, and had people literally jump up and down because for them it was a need.  We all need to be practicing better stewardship of what we own. That means that when it is no longer useful to us we pass it along to someone who needs it. Even if we have need of something we ought to be more realistic about how much of it is necessary. I found 4 funnels in my mother's kitchen and could not imagine why she needed even one.

If you haven't had the first hand experience of dealing with someone's estate then I would advise you to stop by a few estate sales this weekend. Walking through homes and watching strangers going through someone else's linen closet and kitchen drawers is sobering.

Here's the take away:

No one gets out alive and you can't take it with you. Plan now to leave your children a few things that are actually valuable or hold some real meaning (to them, not you). Beyond that leave them with wonderful memories, stories, and life lessons.

You might want one of those lessons to be living simply.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Home Recycled Philosophy

Why philosophy and not style?  Style in terms of decorating is just a distinctive appearance or design Philosophy is the study of general problems, like knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Our homes, for better or worse, end up exemplifying our priorities. For instance I have a compost bucket on my kitchen counter and recycling bins in the carport because not being wasteful is important to me. I have maps, globes, and atlases in almost every room because travel is my favorite way to gain knowledge. You'll see no clutter (except in my husband's office) because I've had to deal with so much of it that belonged to other people. More about that tomorrow! If clutter is your biggest problem Ruth over at Living Well Spending Less is doing a 31 day series on conquering it. 31 Days to a Clutter Free Life. There are also a lot of other bloggers tackling clutter during the 31 day writing challenge. Click here if you need help in that area.

When I was a kid my mother's idea of decorating was to get rid of everything in a room, go to the furniture store pic out a complete trendy set, and make payments on it. We aren't going to do that. Here's what we're going to do instead. 

Get rid of anything that doesn't work for you and your family or your lifestyle, and things that are of poor quality. Also keep your house free of items that you are keeping out of guilt or that have a negative memory attached. Don't let go of a classic piece of well constructed furniture unless you just don't have room for it. "They don't make 'em like that anymore" is a saying for a reason. My quest for simplicity and order prevents me from storing things for someday. The goal is a home with fewer very high quality (note that I didn't say expensive) and interesting things and not a house full of accumulated items that mean nothing.

Avoid trends. While I generally avoid furniture stores unless I need something standard and practical like a mattress or sofa.   I don't purchase the latest style.  Ever. This goes for my wardrobe as well. Classic and well constructed are the order of the day.  The exception I would make? Kid's rooms. You are going to redo those several times before it's all over anyway so be careful how much you invest there. If you must have this year's hottest thing purchase it in something easily replaceable like a duvet cover or a paint color. Never a sofa. Ever.

Don't try to Impress. Your home is the setting for your family's story. It's going to be the backdrop for milestones, cherished memories, your worst days as well as your best ones. Fill it with things you love. Display things that have meaning. Showcase items that come with an interesting story.Your home should be a comfort to you; sitting on furniture you're making payments on is going to stress you out every time anyone relaxes on it. Avoiding debt is definitely part of my overall philosophy.

The Home Recycled Philosophy is about editing, prioritizing, salvaging, and expressing.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Home Recycled

Welcome to Restoration Spring and the series, Home Recycled! I'm on a quest to declutter, simplify, and make the best use of what I have. I'm over being enslaved to the tyranny of new. If waste makes you cringe and if you have more imagination than money then welcome home.  Scroll past the list (which may change a bit) to read the post for day one. Here's the list for the month but the posts won't go live until that day.

2. The Home Recycled Philosophy
3. Less Is More: How I got Here
4. The Rules
5.The Real Purpose of a Yard Sale
6. Home Recycled Field Trip
7.Repurposing a Dresser
8. A Room of Your Own
9. Framing It
10.Naturally Free Decorating
11.Let's Talk Chairs
12.Tools of the Home Recycled Trade
13. Style Influences
14. Two Dollar Insect Art
15. Displaying Collections: Your Home as Storyteller
16. Composting to Reduce and Reuse
17. Makeover Time Table
18. Table Top Clock Part II
19.  Making Over the Kitchen Island and Using Scrap For Trim
20. Salvation for Cute Candle Containers
21. Recycled Ideas for Walls
22. From China Cabinet to Accessory Closet
23. From Drop Cloth to Drape
24. A Dresser Mirror Stands On Its Own
25.The Recycled Wardrobe
26. From Beer Bottles to Juice Glasses:Recycled Glass
27.Recycled Post on Recycled Glass in the Kitchen
28. Easel Rescue and Makeover
29. From Lampshade to Wreath
30. Why Stained Paint is My New Favorite Thing
31.Home Recycled, Always, The End

 I love this idea from WWII. Make do and mend was a popular slogan but I'd never seen this one. Renovation helps the nation. We could add that it helps our finances and the planet. And it appeals to those of us who want to live a simpler, slower, saner life. It encourages creativity and imagination. I never get the satisfaction from purchasing something in a store to decorate with that I do when I put interesting objects on display or makeover a piece of furniture.

This isn't a series for anyone who is trying to impress visitors with expensive decor or brand names. These projects and ideas are going to appeal to people who want to create interesting and inviting spaces to live in,  who want to express themselves through design, or who want to salvage beautiful and well made things from the past. Those who want a home with some character where everything has a story. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I never buy anything new, but am so much more deliberate about it than I used to be. Part of wisdom is knowing where it's okay to let yourself spend extra. Where I've purchased new I'll point that out. Along the way please feel free to comment and share pics of your favorite recycled piece from your home!