Declutter Week Four: Living Room and Dining Room
You may have noticed that there was no decluttering going on at Chez Blueday last week. This is because I worked for four days and was exhausted. I must admit, put like that, it doesn't look terribly exhausting, but I don't think I have ever worked four days in a row outside the house ever, and I got halfway through a post on Monday night and fell asleep! And I certainly did nothing around the house other than basic tidying, laundry and dinner. I am very impressed at the work all you full time working mums do, especially those who sometimes have the energy to write to us all at night as well.
I have been watching old episodes of Kirstie's Vintage Home recently while doing the ironing. And something I have noticed is that while all the decorative touches she adds and creates are lovely, really, the significant difference happens when those rooms are decluttered. It is not just a matter of moving things around and storing them more efficiently, it is the fact that a good three quarters of the stuff in those rooms is gone by the end of the make-over, that creates an end result which is so peaceful and inviting. Not only more peaceful and inviting though, also more adult. A living room that is very cluttered really has the look of a teenager's bedroom. It is as if the things in the room are more powerful than the person who owns them. This is a feeling I have often had, especially in the years when my house was dreadfully cluttered. I was completely overwhelmed by my 'stuff', which meant I had effectively handed over my power to a bunch of inanimate objects. A clear, calm, deliberately arranged room sends a powerful signal - I am in charge here, and my things are here because I have chosen them, not because they have just cluttered themselves all over the place.
In one of the episodes I watched, a couple had a very cluttered house, but a very clear idea of the aesthetic they were after - 60s retro. It turned out that they had quite a lot of lovely pieces of 60s furniture, and that they were also very knowledgeable and competent at buying good pieces secondhand. At the beginning of the show though, in their living room cluttered with baby gear and daily detritus, they looked terribly helpless, and you couldn't see that they had any aesthetic at all. It was literally hidden under the clutter. What decluttering revealed was a confident and knowledgeable young couple with an adult room which showcased their talent for design.
Two or so years ago we had our whole living room and dining room gutted and rebuilt to add double glazed windows, insulation, new floors and less walls. We lived for a whole winter with the master bedroom as our only living space. It was quite... cosy. When the day came that we could finally move into our 'new' spaces, I only moved about a third of the 'stuff' back into the rooms that had originally been there. It was about then that I started my 'war on stuff' as well, so very little now lives in either room. They are not large rooms, so having very little in them except furniture makes them quite calm spaces to be in (well, let's be honest, a lot of daily nagging needs to go on to achieve this outcome. I have hopes that it will be only, oh, five more years or so before the nagging becomes internalised, and the shoes, hairbrushes, craft-work, tea cups and toast plates all magically find their own way back out of these spaces).
Now, I would really like to add some more Kirstie-style decorative touches these rooms - especially one large bare wall in the living room, but the fact that it is a lovely clear and calm space after I have whipped around and tidied every morning, and plumped the cushions, well, that makes me happy. The only things that are stored in this room are invisible. Magazines, DVDs, CDs, all tucked away in the coffee table and the cupboard. My sister-in-law taught me the value of lamp-light for a living room, so every evening I close the curtains and light two lamps. The soft light is very calming. I noticed when the children were small that soft lighting after dinner, and no TV, helped them settle ready for bed. That is not what always happened in our household - but when it did, bedtime was much pleasanter! Even now, the ten year old is much calmer when we have soft lights and music and a story instead of the overhead light and television. It is also an excellent way for adults to relax and wind down. Soft lights and no visual stimulation tell our brains that it is time for sleeping. Maybe this is why I am usually in bed by 9.30pm. Or maybe that is my inner nana!
So, jobs for the living room this week:
Sweep the ashes out of the fire place for summer.
Take all the covers off the couch to wash them. I have never done this. I hope I don't shrink them! I had all the cushions made with zips when the couch was re-upholstered, but I have never been brave enough to unzip them. I was going to have the couch cleaned, but maybe I can do it myself...
Um, I think that is it. Oh, there is a pile of magazines on the ottoman that I keep meaning to give to a friend. Must do that.
Jobs for dining room:
I have some lovely old wooden file drawers from The Man's work next to our dining table. They are our craft drawers, filled with all the children's art supplies. We always do art at the table, which means it has to be cleared away before the next meal. This is vital. Once we had an art area in another room. We used to be able to close the door on art mess. That was a big mistake. Only having craft where we must confront its messiness three times a day is a lifesaver! We put away a lot more consistently now. However, these drawers are becoming over-stuffed, and a lot of them don't even shut properly any more. It is time to reorganise them. I will get Posy to help me. She loves rearranging things. Then maybe we can have fun making Christmas craft. Ha ha. I wrote the words 'fun' and 'craft' in the same sentence. Don't worry, fun crafts will likely never feature on this blog again:)
Another job that confronts me in the dining room is the surface of the dining table. A few weeks ago Posy had a hissy fit about an art project, and threw it across the table in a rage, spattering acrylic paint everywhere. Now the surface of the table is covered in a fine splatter of paint that won't come off. There are also numerous scratches, paint stains from previous art projects, dents and various mysterious stains that could be anything, up to and including blood. I am not quite sure how to tackle this problem. I could refinish both the table and the coffee table, which has similar issues. I actually can do this, but would have to take them outside, and it would take days. Maybe when The Girl finishes exams it could be a mother-daughter bonding project. I expect she will be thrilled about that. Meanwhile I think I may have to reframe the table as 'rustic' and 'well-loved'. Unless anyone has a magic acrylic paint removal recipe?
Who would like to join me in making the living room and dining room presentable for the holiday season (or in Australia, just in time for the children to come home for the summer holidays and mess it all up again for six weeks..).
Oh, and here is my very best tip for making the dining room look organised. Push the dining room chairs in neatly. Or nag someone else to. Makes all the difference. Ditto plumping cushions in the living room, and folding the blankets neatly. My floors are a disgusting sight right this minute, but I'm hoping anyone who visits will only notice the splendidly plumped cushions!!
Monday: Did any of you ever read What Katy Did when you were a child? Do you remember the part where Katy finds her little brother's diary and reads it out as entertainment on their picnic? Most of his entries read - Forgit what did. Describes my week exactly. So, Monday - Forgit what did.
Tuesday: Forgit what did.
Wednesday: Even though my dementia is increasing by the day, you will be happy to know I can remember what I did today. I cleaned out the fire place for summer. Hurrah! This morning I visited a giant wholesale supermarket for the first time. I believe it must be the place that supplies a lot of the local cafes and restaurants. Enormous catering packs of all sorts of unlikely products such as giant tins of pineapple slices and the most enormous bucket of Vegiemite you have ever seen. Well, in between stocking up on giant packs of choc bits I found one of those old fashioned wooden banister brushes with the black bristles. They used to be made of horse tail hair or something, but this one was coconut fibres. It is absolutely marvellous, and I used it to brush out the fire place, feeling exactly like a Victorian house maid. I have so much fun some days, it just kills me.
Anyway, after I did my chimney sweep impression I pulled all the covers off the couch and put them through a delicate wash cycle with eucalyptus oil in the fabric softener compartment. I had my heart in my mouth, and all fingers and toes crossed, because who knew if I would shrink the covers and never be able to get them on the cushions again? They dried beautifully in the sunshine, and I brought them in just in time for Posy to get home from school to help me with the zips. It looked like a close thing there several times, but we finally got the covers on, and now I have ABSOLUTELY banned anyone from eating anything on the couch ever. That lasted for half an hour until I found Posy eating toast on it and watching telly. Which she will not be doing again in a hurry, I assure you.
Thursday: Washed all the cushion covers today. As I was hanging them on the line I noticed that one of my nice linen ones had a label which said 'Dry Clean Only'. Eeek! However it all ended well, without shrinkage or other disaster, so don't believe everything you read. I have a bit of a collection of duck feather cushions - SO wonderfully fat and heavy and satisfying to plump! A couple were a lucky op shop find, the other two quite expensive. I took them outside and gave them a good bashing, to release a winter's worth of dust into the backyard. They really needed that. I also washed the couch throws and vacuumed under all the couches. Oh my goodness, it has been some
Friday: Have completely ignored all spring cleaning duties. Yesterday had some shelves put in the study, and am determined to finish painting them this weekend. Not helped by a student-free day at school today, Posy and her Gang of Three who can cause more mess and havoc than any children I have ever met, with a sleepover thrown in. Aargh! A pox on the Department of Education!