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a fresh way to organize

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I’ve been working on organization for the past year or two, off and on when I have the time.  And I’ve been getting better and more proficient at decluttering and organizing with every pass.  I started with getting rid of the obvious items.  Then, I took it further and got serious and asked myself why I had certain stuff.  I think I just got used to the things around me, so I didn’t even think it.  But, if I don’t really love it or need it, why is it in my house?  Does it matter how much I paid for it or who gave it to me or how nice of a thing it is?  On a very rare occasion, it does.  Most of the time, though, it only dictates how I get rid of it.  Do I sell or donate the item or try to keep it in the family?  But I’ve decided I am not going to feel obligated to keep something that’s just languishing in a closet, drawer, cabinet, the attic or the basement.

I’m really done with that mindset.

So, I’m organizing in a fresh way.  It’s not only about making the things I have look neat and tidy.  It’s not about label makers and plastic bins with dividers, though those things are fun.

It’s about getting rid of anything I don’t use and/or love.  And, preferably, everything I have fits in both of those categories.

I worked on my kitchen this weekend…just tackling one drawer or cabinet at a time, so it didn’t get overwhelming.  It wasn’t the main thing on the Saturday plan, it was just a “hang out at home” day, so I worked on it bit by bit as time permitted.

Cleaning out the spice drawer was hilarious.  There was one spice jar that expired before my oldest son was born.  And he’s SEVEN.  AND A HALF!    Oh, goodness.  So, I went from having an entire drawer full of spices to having eight bottles.  I actually have two empty drawers and two empty cabinets after cleaning things out.  I’m even getting rid of my crockpot.  I never, ever use it and the fact that every American home is supposed to have a crockpot just isn’t a good enough reason for me to keep it.  (Don’t try to talk me into keeping it!)

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And the cabinets I cleaned out that still have stuff in them are pretty sparse.  It’s refreshing to be able to see everything!  I had four cans of cocoa in there.  I think I kept buying new ones when I was baking a recipe that called for it, not realizing I already had two, then three other cans.

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So, I ended up with a lot of trash, a few things to sell in the online shop and a pretty hefty pile for the thrift store.

I wanted to go beyond getting rid of things, though, so I hit the buffet in the dining room and pulled out things that were tucked away.  Things that I use for photo shoots and special occasions.  Now, they’re going to be every day work horses.  We’re using an ironstone plate with a beautiful antique butter dome as our regular ole butter dish.

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And I added the flatware we bought as newlyweds, that I’ve never really loved, to the thrift store pile and filled our daily silverware drawer with flatware from the buffet that makes me happy every time I pull the drawer open.

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Spoons like these beauties just should be used!!   (And, you know what?  I’ve had them in felt for about eight years and never knew they had the beautiful detail on the back until Saturday.)

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And have you ever seen a prettier spork?

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It’s so special as well, that many of these pieces are engraved with the monogram of my mom, grandmother, great-grandmother and great aunt.

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And I’m having a fun time figuring out every day uses for some of the exotic serving pieces and specialty flatware.  Who cares if I’m totally abusing the rules of etiquette by using a demitasse spoon for yogurt.  I’m over it!

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 I know I’ve been talking about this a lot lately, but there’s something liberating about cleaning and organizing like this.  There’s something really exciting about using things you really love and enjoy and getting rid of the things that you feel “meh” about.

I remember my mother-in-law telling me about her great-aunt’s house (I think it was.)  It was a beautiful, old Pennsylvania home that had some very formal rooms and a grand front staircase.  When her great aunt, or maybe it was her grandmother, was alive, no one was allowed to use the grand stairs.  They had to use the back kitchen steps.  When she died, a declaration was made that everyone would use the grand steps.  Every day.  My mother-in-law shared the joy of running up and down those steps that had been off-limits for so many years.

Why do we do that?

There are even some old homes in PA that have two front doors, seriously, three feet from each other.  One was for formal occasions and special guests and the other was for every day.  When did we decide that nice things needed to be in lock boxes, bolted up, stowed away, roped off and reserved?  A few weeks ago, many of you shared stories of relatives who died with homes containing beautiful clothes with tags on them, unused silver, boxed up dishes, etc.  They were being saved and cherished, but ultimately ended up in an estate sale or auction.

Oh, ladies, let’s not do that.  Let’s enjoy the beautiful things we have.

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…because spoons like these can’t be appreciated in a felt wrapper in a wooden box in a buffet.

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Comments

  1. Kitsy Smith says:

    AMEN BROTHER BEN!!!!!

  2. Two years ago we relocated from one state to another. I still have a garage full of boxes that have yet to be unpacked. I think the best thing I can do is use everything I love and get rid of the rest. I need to go through at least a box or two a day and then I could park my car in the garage in no time!

    What success that would be! Using all our lovely things daily and sharing them with others!

  3. Heidi says:

    Crockpots are great for soaking and removing paint from door and cabinet hardware without chemicals – it really works! Does that change your mind? ; )

  4. Well said! Things well used are the things that are well loved.

  5. Jenn A says:

    YES! I love it! Those spoons are stunning! I used to run receptions for a large organization and they had silver very similar to those beautiful spoons. I’ve always hoped to find some when I browse antique stores, but I haven’t yet. I think that using our pretty stuff can add a lot of delight to the simple things we do every day. What point is it to have them if we don’t use them!

  6. i’m on board with this – but I know I’ll have a problem with the “I need to keep this [whatever] because I do use it, even if infrequently”. How often is often enough to warrant keeping something? I fear I will find a reason to keep everything!

  7. Enjoy all the beauty at your fingertips…:) I do this way of decluttering and reusing things for the past couple of years. People dying and leaving things behind made me think that “why? Am I going to take it with me to the other side?”. Last year when I pulled my fine china out of boxes (we don’t have china cabinet or buffet) into the everyday cabinet in the kitchen and started using it every day for myself, my mom had almost a heart attack. I have never regretted though.

  8. Love this post and agree with everything you said, as usual! One bit of advice that I learned from selling sterling and other flatware as a bridal consultant for years….if you are going to put it in the dishwasher be sure to NOT use citrus scented dishwashing liquid. It can cause pits and discoloration.

  9. Vicki Strange says:

    My Grandma used to tell me that you should never have anything you don’t use. When you save your ‘good china and silverware’ for special occasions, who is more special than family and what is more special than dinner with your family. So, my boys grew up eating on our prettiest dishes with our sterling flatware and decorative glasses, with embroidered lap napkins. When my family comes over for dinner (parents, sisters, aunts, etc), they all get tickled because I use the ‘good stuff’ and not just paper plates and paper napkins – they joke and say they feel ‘special’. And in my world………..they are!!!

  10. Ms. Mike says:

    What a wonderful post. This was a great motivator for me to get to gettin’ in my kitchen cabinets. While I don’t have an online store, I’ve decided to rent a booth at a local fair and sell what I can then donate the rest. I’m such a dishaholic that getting rid of any dishes is painful, but you’re right, sometimes it’s just necessary to do a purge through our homes. Thanks.

  11. What is the name of the design/brand of your lovely silverware?

  12. lisa sraders says:

    Marion.

    AAAAAAAAMMMMMMMMEEEEEEENNNNNNNN. :) You tell ’em, girl. Oh, how I wish we could just hang out together for a spell… blessings!

  13. Janet Purcell says:

    I remember an old lady once telling a story of the beautiful expensive dinner set and glasses that was a wedding gift. When her husband died years later they had never, ever been used. So she gathered all the family and had a wonderful picnic by the river with all the very expensive unused crockery and glassware. They had a wonderful time and created rich memories which she wished she had have done when her husband was alive. Life is too short to save things for special occasions – every day is special.

  14. When my father died, my brothers, my sister and I all went through his things. I was shocked by all the unused items that he was saving because they were “special”. Those things went completely unused and now he would never be use or enjoy them. Since then, I do not save anything because it is “special”. If it gets ruined or broken, at least it was broken because it was being used and loved.

  15. That spoon in the photo is soooooooo gorgeous. I love the Pottery Barn flatware too. and Isn’t getting organized like the best best feeling in the whole wide world!!! When your perfect new home manifests you will be so organized and ready to grab stuff and go!

    Cindy

  16. Sharon says:

    Thank you for the post. You are correct in all you said. I plan to read it every morning to keep me motivated as I work my way through my very full house.

  17. joanna n. says:

    thank you for this challenge…& for clearing up the question i’ve had in my head as to why our house has 2 front doors right next to ea. other! =)

  18. Hope Allen says:

    Well said MMS !!! My Grandmother would always tell me: Don’t stash the beautiful special pieces away – use them and enjoy their beauty everyday!! I have to admit – it is hard at times but then i hear my Grams words and i say: Yep ! Why NOT?!! So glad you are doing the same :) and the flatware that you have pictured – just beautiful!

  19. Barbara J says:

    Love this!!!! Use or lose it, applied in a new way!!

  20. Sarah Boynton says:

    Who is the maker of the set & do you know the pattern? its beautiful!

  21. marian says:

    It’s repousse by Kirk Steiff

  22. The lovely pattern with the floral pattern on the back side of the spoon is Durgin’s 1893 Chrysanthemum. One of the loveliest spoons in the Art Nouveau era of sliver.

  23. Karen says:

    Hi Marian!

    This brought tears to my eyes!

    Before the hubs and I got married, his mom kept telling me not to worry about registering for silver. She told me no one ever uses it or wants to clean it and it was too expensive to ask for as a gift. She reminded me they had plenty to hand down someday. A couple of years later, his sister was getting married and her mom insisted she registered for the same pattern she had. She then received all of her mom’s flatware – two complete sets of 8 place settings plus two complete sets of all the serving pieces!

    Thankfully, an aunt said she wanted to give us a spare set of flatware.
    I had no idea what it would look like but I really appreciated the thoughtful gesture.
    I am so grateful it was your same lovely floral Repousse pattern by Kirk Steiff! It’s simply stunning!

    Thank you so much for reminding us to enjoy beautiful things everyday!

    P.S. I don’t have them but someone told me the sporks were Ice Cream spoons. 😀

  24. I cheered while reading this blog! Keep and use things that make you happy everyday! Thank you for your openness -terry

  25. Tracie Jones says:

    You need to write another book! :)

  26. Keiry says:

    As I was reading your article I was reminded of an episode of Little House on the Prairie when Charles works to earn an old set of China for his wife and at the end of the episode the wife is quoted saying that special dishes like these were not only to be used on “special occasions” but used everyday for “special people” which was her family. We place such importance on things and not people sometimes.

  27. Really appreciate this post! My husband and I just got married and as we were purchasing dishwater and silverware, we realized that we wanted to be able to use whatever nice set we registered for everyday. It’s such a joy to use the nice things that we own!

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