Only the necessary and beautiful

Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. – William Morris


This is a minuscule corner of my minuscule kitchen in my minuscule house. The uniformity and functionality and zen-ness make me happy. It is the only section that looks this organized in all 1500 square feet of space we call home. I use this small pantry every day, and I love how I can tell at a glance what requires replenishing, especially critical ingredients like dark chocolate-covered almonds.

By nature, I’m a fairly organized person, but lately I’ve been making a lot of stuff. And stuff seems to beget more stuff and…well, the house is a disaster. Try as I might (okay, I’m not trying too hard), I can’t seem to contain the chaos and my crafting is taking over every available space. It’s bringing back a lot of memories because this is the way I grew up and truth be told, it’s the reason I became minimalist in my leanings because my mother is a maximalist to the maximum degree. Judging from the current state of things, I’m a minimalist only in theory. I’m becoming worse than my mother and at the rate I’m going, K will certainly be an ascetic.

Things are a little out of control. I would show you pictures but it’s so unbearably embarrassing and I’m not that brave. So instead I’m showing you how organized I can be when I set my mind to it.

Initially I used the basement as my “studio” and affectionately dubbed it my Craft Cave. But the light is so much better in the living room and upstairs bedrooms that I slowly gravitated toward working wherever the sun shone its weak rays (this is the Pacific Northwest after all).

Another reason I don’t like the basement is that about two years ago the pipe burst twice within three months (un-affectionately dubbed as the “pooplosions”) and this was nothing short of traumatizing for me. I was lucky and none of my supplies were affected. My love of storing everything in plastic containers came in handy, making clean-up relatively easy. I started to regularly sew in my bedroom upstairs, cut fabric in the living room, paint/draw in the kitchen nook – if nothing else, I am getting a lot of exercise going up and down the stairs and moving around the house. But oh, the mess.

These are First World Problems of the ultimate frivolous variety, I know this (although cleaning up after the burst pipe felt anything but first world).

The other day, my neighbor came by and asked if we had any extra clothes that would fit a kindergartner. My neighbor had come to the perfect place knowing my penchant for sewing kiddie clothes, but the reason for the request was that her friend’s house had burned down and the family was left with nothing but the pajamas they were wearing.

We’ve all contemplated the question, “What would you take if your house was on fire?” But this family actually faced this scenario and discovered that they had no time to take anything. Not a thing. I don’t want in any way to make light of the family’s loss – my heart aches for them immensely and though it sounds like they were very lucky to have emerged from the burning house unhurt, they lost everything. Because of this story, I looked around and realized that so few of the things in my cluttered little house would compel me to risk the extra minutes it would take to grab them in the midst of a raging fire.

I gathered clothes to contribute and also made a mental vow to clean up my act. Recently via multiple blogs, I came across this post and it also made me evaluate my possessions with more scrutiny. One of the things about crafting that I didn’t realize is that you start to see possibilities in everything and have a hard time parting with anything. I’ve always loved that William Morris quote (who doesn’t?), but what do you do when you think everything could be useful, even that 1/2 inch square of neon green felt from a failed DIY Christmas ornament? I am, however, feeling motivated to tackle the chaos. So from here on out, it’s only the necessary (i.e. useful) and beautiful. I am purging. Simplifying. Being ruthless. Suggestions? I’m all ears…


10 thoughts on “Only the necessary and beautiful

  1. Found you through Pinterest.. Love the use of jars for storage. Where did you get these with the white lids? Thanks!! 🙂

  2. That’s the thing about First World Problems. While it’s so important to keep the bigger picture in perspective, when we’re experiencing problems, First World or not, they consume us entirely! And dealing with burst pipes sounds like a pretty big nuisance – glad that’s all behind you:)
    Your jar organization is so beautiful – and practical to boot! Love the idea that you can see what you’re low on by a quick glance.

    1. So true, Lucinda – you’d think I was trying to cure cancer given the amount of thought and effort I’m putting into trying to get my house back in order :-).

  3. This post really tapped in to things I often think about. Why do I have so much stuff? How can I best organise it, or at least arrange it so I can see what I actually have? What the hell will happen to it when I die? (which leads to: ‘I had really better find all those old letters/diaries and burn them before it’s too late!’) I still think about my childhood favourite Little House on the Prairie, which described a childhood almost devoid of possessions, and my kids are fascinated when I tell them stories about the author of Mao’s Last Dancer, who had only one marble for a toy. While poverty is not something I aspire to, the thought of a simpler life free of the burden of possessions d0es have its appeal.

    I think the acquisition of things is an inevitable consequence of adopting a non-nomadic lifestyle. If we were aborigines setting up a new camp every few months we wouldn’t want to accumulate possessions. But once we settle somewhere permanent it’s all too easy (indeed, necessary) to gather items that fulfil every need, whether big or small. Or at least, that’s what I tell myself so I don’t feel guilty about having so much!

    Good luck with your purging – but remember, it is right and proper to collect (hoard?) potential craft materials!

    1. I am so with you on the burning of letters/diaries, Marisa! And oh yes, the pull of a simpler, streamlined day-to-day is strong, but you’re absolutely right about craft supplies. Viva la crafting!

  4. Oh Sanae, last time I saw the photo above on Pinterest but I never know that’s your pantry! I’ll pin it once I have done this comment. I like minimalist style too – being simple and clutter free – talking is so easy but the fact I have lot of stuffs scattered around in my house. Time for me to get organized before school starts next week!

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