As we walked into this home where we stayed in Venice, I knew it held a great lesson for achieving the balance of creating a peaceful, uncluttered space but not going so far as to make it feel cold or stark.
This was a house full of treasures and interesting things to look at. The study held walls full of books, fabric on the walls, a portrait and architectural drawings, a fireplace, mirrors, drapes, flowers, a desk, bookcases, a rug, and two couches (one floral). It was so inviting, and somehow, even though the room was full I didn’t feel overwhelmed like I sometimes do in a crowded space.
If you picture a pendulum where on one side you have completely uncluttered (some people feel it is too impersonal, cold, and boring) and then on the other side you have huge collections of tchotchkes, deals, and stacks of personal mementos, most people desire to be somewhere in the middle.
There is more than one way to accomplish balance, but this room had a trick for it. A shortcut, if you will.
Your eyes have several spaces to rest. The coffee table is empty. The desk has only a lamp and my computer. The side tables support lamps but that’s it. The chairs don’t have piles. It’s ready for you to make good use of the room.
To follow this approach in your home:
Clear the bed in your bedroom, putting away your clean laundry.
Clear off your desk in the office, putting the stack of papers in a drawer or in a tote bag.
Take those things (the projects in progress) off your dining table and put them back where they should go.
Keep one kitchen counter free of stuff like papers, kitchen appliances and canisters.
Remove the clutter from your coffee table, taking the remotes and magazines and setting them aside in a basket.
Clean off the top of your dryer in the laundry room so you have a place to fold clothes.
If it seems unrealistic to clear off every horizontal surface, clear the main surface in each room. Your nightstand might have a stack of library books on it, but at least the bed is clear, even if you did move the pile of clean clothes over to the chair.
When you have clear surfaces, your room is ready to be used. You can come in and set down your drinks and popcorn bowl on the coffee table. You can eat dinner at the table without sitting next to the paperwork. Your bed is ready for you to stretch out on it. The room welcomes you. It’s not a place to hold your stuff, it’s a place where you can live.
And if by chance you are on the decluttered side of the pendulum with a desire to move a little more to the middle, making your home feel more warm without adding a bunch more stuff, we’ll talk about that too soon enough. That’s actually the place I’m in, but I did find lots of ideas in Italy.