Cut the Clutter; Corral the Collections

Congratulations to those of you who’ve gone to battle against the excess in your home and brought that clutter-dragon into submission.

“Divide and conquer” is an appropriate description of this first phase of purging, while the next phase is well-defined in yet another battle expression: Strength in numbers.

During your home’s decluttering and editing process, you may have found that a certain mass – or pile of similar objects – sailed through the “love” criteria.

Behold: Those are your collections.

Whether they’re aware of it or not, most people have some sort of collection; not necessarily a wall-to-wall display case packed with sports trophies or dolls from around the world.

I have heard of designers, who, for the sake of  aesthetics, advise a client to put away collections, as they don’t really fit with the home’s “ambiance” or decor.

To me this is backward, as you home’s decor should reflect you and each family member’s personality — no better way than to bring those multiples out in a way that can be enjoyed.

Initially, when asked, many people will say they don’t have any collections, even take pride in not being overtaken by some strange impulse to buy miniature glass clowns.  However, you may surprise yourself  during the purging process when themes begin to emerge.

In my home I was stunned to see how many white dishes I had; from settings for 20 of plates, bowls and cups, to nesting mixing bowls, various pitchers and a little white ceramic creamer cow.  I use them all, but all this ware had been stored amongst the other wares.  I liked the way all that white dishware looked, and had an epiphany to feature this theme as a design element. Bright, white paint on a boring, shelved breakfast nook buffet, with new funky nickle knobs, proved to be a casual-yet-dramatic display for all my “whites.”

This is just one example of how something as boring and neutral as white dishes can have so much decorating punch.

Look for themes in your home.  A client of mine sheepishly admitted she just couldn’t bear to throw away a wine cork.  She confessed this in a manner that seemed to expect me to call the mental health hot line.  My curiosity was piqued, and I asked where she kept them.

“All over, here and there. . .” she said. This is quite typical for objects that haven’t been realized yet as a collection.

Let me pause here to explain why I didn’t recommend she throw away these corks.  Each cork – collection over a more-than 20-year period, had a date and names of the people who shared that bottle of wine.  Those corks were touchstones of happy memories spanning decades, yet she felt humiliated in keeping them.

The happy ending to this story is an enormous glass urn filled to capacity with hundreds of corks, on display for all to see and appreciate, with new corks joining the collection every week.

Collections celebrate our individuality and uniqueness, whether it be masses of rocks and sea shells collected on trips to the beach with your kids, souvenirs from Scotland, or rolling pins, fishing lures, or even hats.

Gather these sentimental keepsakes from their dispersed hiding places, and unite them in one area.

I’m a big fan of clear glass jars for smaller items like matchbooks, marbles and shells.

Think big.  Over the years, I’ve had a thing for hotel soaps, lotions – you know, all the little prizes.  I love their miniature forms and the the memories they leave from that trip. On display on a bathroom shelf in my home is a tall, stately clear vase of all those cute little toiletries. When as one, they seemed insignificant, piled with others of like kind they make an attractive and functional bathroom feature for overnight guests.

Shadow boxes are an excellent way to display sharp or fragile items, such as fishing lures.  Stores like Michael’s and Aaron Brothers Art Mart are excellent resources for a variety of sizes. For example, I recently saw a design show that featured a display of old corsages in a shadow box.

How about photographs? Framed photos are often overlooked, and they’re usually one of the first design elements I tackle when working with a client on a redesign project.

One of my favorite things to do is to remove all the pictures from the frames, take them to a local office supply store and have them all copied in either black and white or, my favorite, sepia tone.

Another trick is to encourage uniformity in your pics by keeping a flow in the dimensions.  I usually do a combination of 5-by-7s and 8-by-10s, which could mean you ask the printer to reduce some pics or enlarge others to conform to these new sizes. Purchase one theme of frames, whether all black (they don’t have to be identical styles, just color) white, metallics or wood.  Then, instead of having a mish-mosh of photos scattered all over your house, you can designate one area for display, whether grouped on shelves or hanging on one wall.

Have fun discovering that you do indeed have a collection or two (or more!) and know that there truly is strength in numbers.

(Editor’s note: This column is part of anewscafe.com’s ‘best-of” collection. It was first published on Feb. 20, 2008.)

Shelly Shively grew up in Redding and attended its public schools, from Pine Street School to Shasta College. She is formally trained in the art of re-design through the IRDN (Interior -Re-design Network). Shelly is a freelance artist, illustrator and muralist. Shelly Shively can be reached at leinanishively@gmail.com

Shelly Shively
Shelly Shively lives in Redding. She is Interior re-design network certified. Among her specialties are real estate staging, furnishing vacation and new homes, and the art of interior re-design where she transforms and refreshes clients living spaces using their existing belongings. Shelly is also a freelance artist, illustrator, muralist, Whiskeytown kayak volunteer and curator at O Street Gallery. To inquire about a consultation, she may be reached at 530-276-4656 or leinanishively@gmail.com
Comment Policy: We welcome your comments, with some caveats: Please keep your comments positive and civilized. If your comment is critical, please make it constructive. If your comment is rude, we will delete it. If you are constantly negative or a general pest, troll, or hater, we will ban you from the site forever. The definition of terms is left solely up to us. Comments are disabled on articles older than 90 days. Thank you. Carry on.

5 Responses

  1. Avatar Celeste White says:

    I love your philosophy of decorating and design, Shelly. Sometimes I'll go into someone's home that's been designed by a decorator and it seems to be missing the hearts or souls of those who live there, that a certain stylish or tasteful "look" was deemed more important than the things that make the homeowners unique, as you say. I love the way you promote surrounding ourselves with belongings and furnishings that express and honor our tastes, memories, and experiences–creating a home instead of merely decorating a house.

    And great (and well-written) tips, too, for corralling these heifers! Thanks!

  2. Avatar Shellyboo says:

    Thank-you for your response, Celeste…I found myself laughing at the image of "corralling those heifers"…for some, it is metaphorical,…yet, others, speaks literally…moo! Love it!

  3. Avatar Judy says:

    OK, Shelley. What shall I do with my cookie jar collection? They are all over the house, plant shelves, every room. Yes, even bathrooms. What in the world was I thinking when I started this??? Help!

  4. Avatar Shellyboo says:

    Judy, it's not so much, "what shall I do with my cookie jar collection?", but, "What has your cookie jar collection done to you?"! It does seem that your collection has grown to the point of excess, and is becoming a source of frustration. Cookie jars, unlike a collection of souvenir spoons, take up a lot of space!

    I recommend a cookie jar summit meeting. All of them, from every nook and cranny in your household. Still loving them? This is an ideal time to cull the favorites from the "not so much". What remains should be the cookie jars that have earned a place of status in your home, and, given the nature of the collection, would be logically displayed in the kitchen or perhaps the dining area. Consider removing doors from one or more of your kitchen cabinets, painting the interior an interesting contrast color, like apple green, blue, or cocoa. Arrange your beloved cookie jars on those shelves, and you will find new appreciation for your collection. If you don't have a spare cupboard, perhaps you can install a wall of shelves, or even purchase a bookshelf or hutch solely dedicated for your jars. Regaining control is a reminder that your love for cookie jars, is indeed, a collection, not an obsession.

  5. Avatar Canda Williams says:

    Shelly, I'm so glad you encouraged me to keep my lighthouse and kaleidsoscope collections when you did my redesign. The kaleidoscopes look wonderful in the glass-enclosed shelf unit, and the lighthouses look wonderful on the shelf. I also love what you did with my shell collection. You're incredibly talented, Shelly. Thank you so much for your fabulous redesign. Our home is now a cozy and inviting place to relax!