Order is…essential in our homes, if, instead of chaos, we want a neat, smoothly functioning home and peace of mind. It can become every bit as easy to put clothes, papers, books, and other items where they belong as to throw them over a chair, on a table or on the mantle. It is all a matter of habit. ~Daryl V. Hoole, The Art of Homemaking, 1967
I am amazed at the impact leaving the ironing board up overnight had on us. I wasn’t finished with my ironing so I just left it up instead of putting it away. I rationalized that I would just have to drag it out first thing in the morning, anyway, so why not just leave it? When it is up, it is by the windows in the bedroom next to my sewing cabinet. And it changes the whole dynamic of the bedroom. When it is up, it makes the room seem smaller and less tidy. When I finished my ironing and put the board away, I noticed that the bed hadn’t been made as carefully and shoes weren’t in the closet where they were supposed to be. Even the dresser had stuff on top of it that hadn’t been put in the drawers where they belong. And that was just leaving the ironing board up overnight! Can you imagine the impact from having several more things languishing in “put me away” limbo-land?
You know, when we think of a zen-like atmosphere, we don’t conjure up a room with bills stacked on the table by the door or newspapers strewn about and toys flung far and wide. No, when we think of peaceful environments, we usually envision places were we can literally and figuratively breathe. We don’t have to create stark and sterile environments but as I look at mid-century and earlier snapshots and the Maynard Parker photos of the ideal homes for House Beautiful, I can’t help but note that everything is neat and tidy–there isn’t a lot of “stuff” filling up the space.
Mrs. Hoole, quoted above, continues:
Some people justify their untidiness by claiming that is takes too much time to be neat; they would rather do something “creative” with their time. Perhaps it does require a second’s more time to be neat and orderly initially, but ultimately considerable time is saved by not having to hunt for a pence, the mate to a shoe, or the other stocking.
She doesn’t mention it but the mental peace of mind also makes it all worth while. I have been in small cottages that felt liberating and in big houses that felt cramped. And the cramped environment all had to do with stuff–either too much stuff so there wasn’t a place for it or stuff that hadn’t been put away. When I feel the urge to just dump stuff on nearest flat space instead of putting it away, I gently ask myself my usual motivating question, “If not now, when?” The response usually leads to “when” becoming “right now.” And, if I dont’ have a place for it, then I know I have too much stuff.
In the Thirties and Forties, Fibber McGee’s closet was a running joke about not having a place for everything. Now we just rent storage units so we don’t have to deal with the chaos caused by too much stuff.