You've reached the halfway point! As with any big project your enthusiasm may have started to wain, but take heart, this is an exciting week where your home is beginning to take shape. Week Four is about making your living room truly a place where you live, laugh, and relax — not just accumulate clutter — and about deciding how to furnish your home with comfortable, quality pieces. This is when decluttering and shopping go hand in hand...On Decluttering:
For those of you who have grown weary of the grease and grime of your kitchen deep-clean, organizing books and media is a welcome change. Bookshelves can make or break a room since they are often one of the busiest focal points in a room. An organized, well-edited collection of books and media establishes a sense of order within the room, whereas an overstuffed media storage unit can make the whole space seem cluttered and chaotic. Here are some foolproof tips to get you started and keep you on target...
• Start by bringing a trashcan over to the shelves that you're tackling.
• Remove anything from the shelf that is not media or display related, i.e. piles of old receipts, food containers — anything random that you may have absentmindedly placed on a shelf. Throw away anything that is clearly trash. Use your outbox for the random items that you rarely use. Form a separate pile for misplaced but frequently used items that you will put away in their proper places after you've conquered the bookshelves.
• Next, scan your shelves for books that no longer have personal interest: old school books, gift novels that you've never read, etc. Put the books that don't make the cut in the outbox. Having been an English major, I'm tempted to hold onto every novel I've devoured as some sort of academic badge. So many of them are filled with notes and thoughts that I jotted down while reading them, so they hold many personal memories. However, knowing that I will probably only return to about 25 % of them if that — and having moved 4 times in 4 years— I have learned to be ruthless what I keep. Besides the space benefits of decluttering, paring down possessions can also give you a unique insight into what it is you truly hold dear and, therefore, who you are.
• Follow suit with your cds and movies. Anything that you haven't watched or listened to more than once can safely be relocated to your outbox.
• Assign a title to each section of your shelving unit. For example: fiction on the top shelf, classic rock on the second, etc. Or if your into color coding your books, pick a color for each region of the shelf.
• Starting with the top shelf, remove all books and media, dust all surfaces of the shelves. After each shelf has been cleaned, return books and media to them in the order assigned.
We've found Maxwell's tip of leaving at least 10 percent as open storage to be a sure way to avoiding an overcorwded looking shelf.
•Place decorative objects in open spaces, leaving a fair amount of open space for visual peace. Real Simple came up with an excellent system for arranging shelves whether you have a ton of books or only a few. It has been immensely helpful in organizing all storage spaces in our home. Check it out here.
All though I've never considered myself much of a clothes shopper, home goods are a whole different story. I could easily whittle away the better part of a day darting from showroom to showroom in a heart-fluttering frenzy. However, it takes research and discipline to make sure you don't get caught in the snare of glitzy carbohydrate furniture. Like a good diet, our home —and budget!— is comprised of both. However, the emphasis— should be on the protein, the part that's harder to digest, that gives you the most fuel for your dollar, the sustenance. Protein pieces should generally be the furnishings that get the most wear and tear like the sofa, the bed, the dining room table, and the desk. Here are a few tips for helping you to make smart furniture choices...
•Elements of Protein Furnishings:
• Good bones: The basic standards of quality bones for a sofa are four fold. The first is a hardwood frame. Many inexpensive sofas have a frame of particle board, soft woods, or wood composites that wear quickly with frequent use. Generally mid-range stores like Crate&Barrel, Restoration Hardware, and Mitchell & Gold meet this basic quality standard. The second is that the hardwood is kiln-dried which ensures moisture isn't trapped in the wood which leads to warping. The third is sturdy joints. Generally, quality sofas and chairs have a mortise and tenon joinery with combinations of dowels, glue, and screws. The fourth is the spring. The best quality pieces have eight-way hand-tied springs. However many good mid-priced models have coil spring units which hold up well too. Avoid zig-zag wires which are usually found in the less expensive models.
• Durable Upholstery. Good choices for high traffic living rooms include leather, indoor outdoor fabrics, high performance, stain-resistant twills or canvases, and microfibers. If you have pets or children, having one of these will take a great deal of stress out of your life. The Livable Home is an excellent resource for quality furniture made to handle the physical demands of children and pets.
•Where to Buy Protein Furnishings: Most of our readers are huge fans of craigslist for good reason. Used furniture doesn't lie. Poor quality shows on even the most slightly used pieces. Even if you're not planning on buying a used piece of furniture, scanning craigslist for your dream item will give you a better idea of how it holds up than seeing it in a showroom. Look on craigslist for pictures of your sofa love and look for signs of sagging cushions, tattered upholstery, etc.
If you are looking for solid, classic pieces on a budget your best resources are obviously craigslist, flea markets, and thrift shops. Spring is also a great time for estate sales. Scan your local paper or craigslist listing for local tag sales or devote a saturday morning to driving around a neighborhood known for great yard sales. Check out Sarah's wonderful article for tracking down quality pieces on a budget for more ideas.
The key to furnishing your home is patience. We might be tempted to load an entire Ikea showroom into a u-hual and call it home, but personality comes with time and discernment. I have a friend who cut out pictures of the living room furniture she liked and taped it to the walls where she wanted the pieces to go. The reminder helped her to remember to set a side a little bit of money each month to save for her dream pieces, and within a year and a half her dream living room was a reality!
From our Curees:
Whitney (inkstainedwriter) made impressive progress during the first stretch of her home cure! The dining room needed some help. We had two brown hutches (one an antique secretary that we loved and one china hutch that we didn't). When the spring cure rolled around, I decided that it was time to tackle it. Our budget was small, so the changes had to be inexpensive. Replacing heavy, bulky pieces with low lying, streamlined versions virtually expanded the room even though the biggest piece of furniture, the table, remained the same. Way to go!
Paring down personal objects and planning out what new pieces you'd like can be overwhelming. I often fluctuate between wanting everything I see and not wanting to buy anything because I'm so overwhlemed with the choices. So, I'd like to leave you with awesome quote that I picked up from AT's Real Homes Book as you go about your decluttering and shopping research. It's helped me keep possession paring down and accumulation in perspective:
"In anything at all, perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away, when a body has been stripped down to its nakedness" - Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(Images: 1 & 3: Real Simple, 2: AT Boston, 4: Ana Kern via Decor8 )