What Would William Morris Do?

by Katy on May 31, 2008 · 2 comments

“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” 

William Morris, Textile and Wallpaper Designer, Artist, Socialist. 1834-1896.


If your house caught on fire, would you be able to list all your possessions for the insurance company? Most of us would be hard pressed to name everything in a single room, yet alone an entire house. 

Our houses are full, full, full to the rafters. There’s entire industries, profitable industries created just to help us deal with our excessive belongings. Storage facilities, closet organization systems, professional organizers. They’re all here to help you figure out how to deal with all your masses of stuff.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from minimalism. I come from a family with extreme pack-rat tendencies, Goodwill aficionados with a keen eye for cool stuff. And cool stuff we all have – piled atop all horizontal surfaces, filling our basements and attics.

When I started doing The Compact in January 2007, one of my goals was to de-clutter my house. I had read a lot of books on the subject, but it seemed that for every Goodwill donation run I took, a quick look into the store ensued. Two steps forward, two steps back.

I ended up reading two books that I found to be extremely helpful.

  1. “Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Collecting.” By David F. Tolin. Oxford University Press.
  2. “Clear Your Clutter With Feng Shui: Space Clearing Can Change Your Life.” By Karen Kingston. Piatkus Books.
Neither book is perfect, but I found the two complement each other well. I did have to turn off my critical thinking skills a bit with the “Feng Shui” book. Umm no. . . I will not be doing a colon cleanse as part of my de-cluttering. 

In total, I gave 19 donation loads to Goodwill in 2007. Not just 19 boxes -19 loads, some of which filled the mini-van. My 12 year old alone gave so many stuffed animals that a huge garbage bag was filled, and was almost too heavy for me to carry. (I kept the bag of course). 

The result of all this de-cluttering is that my house is much, much easier to keep clean now. I hardly ever go through the ritual of the unsuccessful hunt for household items. I end up spending so much more time now doing the things that I enjoy.

Is there “nothing in my house that I do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful?”  I’ll be honest, I’ve still got a number of un-useful and un-beautiful possessions, (an excessive number of vintage tablecloths comes to mind). but I’m getting there.

William Morris would be proud.

-Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”



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