Cozy Clutter or a Place for Everything?

[Previous Suburban Farmgirl, October 2009 – October 2010]

What’s your decorating style (besides, I bet for most of us here, country chic)? Mine, historically, has been lackadaisical. Or as my mom liked to say, “lived in.” Having lived for 23 years with someone who had stronger stylistic preferences, these tended to influence the overall look. Now I’ve moved into my own rental house — just this past week and yes, I can still hear the rrrrrripping of packing tape on cardboard box in my sleep — I’ve had to figure out what goes where “all by self.”

It’s been fun. (Excepting the complete exhaustion…funny aside here about the effects of my sleep deprivation!)

As I’ve positioned furniture and filled shelves and drawers, it strikes me that that there are two camps of housemakers:



Those fond of a cozy clutter and those who believe there’s a place for everything and everything should be in its place.

The CCs find comfort in piles of favorite quilts and books, shelves festooned with accumulated curiosities. They can’t have too many shelves. Draped this, decorated that. Their bliss: If you can stencil it, stack it, or display a whole collection of it, so much the better., Motto: “Too much of everything is just enough,” as Bob Weir sings.

The PEs use the same materials but in more precise ways. Theirs is a look of clearer surfaces. They’re fond of baskets and boxes with which to organize. They can tell at a glance around the room when something’s askew or missing (or, more likely with kids, been left lying on a table or at the floor where they were last sitting).

I always thought I was a CC, but it turns out I’m a PE. (Not to be confused with being PC, which is a whole other story, and I’m not that either.)

Where I once took refuge in surround-sound stuff, I now find myself calmed by fussing through the house at night, returning errant cups to their cupboards and junk to the junk drawer. I smooth bumps out of the quilt on the bed. I drive my CC kids nuts!

Maybe this is just the function of a new house, but I don’t think so. I’ve changed. That said, I draw the line at a tidy desk. My office is a cocoon woven of clutter bits. In fact, I haven’t even unpacked it yet — almost hate to spoil the tidy vibe of the rest of the house!

Two other quick observations of my decorating style this move has made clear:

1. I love love love love bargains. Good ones, anyway. I scored a lovely Henry Link wicker sofa for $129 at a local used furniture shop. I’d gone to the shop searching for a dresser, when I heard it pleading please-please-put-me-in-your-lovely-new-screened-back-porch from its woeful spot out of place in the big barn full of 1940s maple and mahogany. Silly me, I still hesitated, and went back twice more before I realized it was right.

Then I found a quilt at a close-outs shop called Tuesday Morning that my sister-in-law tipped me off to, which cost $110 less than the very same quilt I’d been coveting in the Pottery Barn catalog. No, it’s not an heirloom or even handmade. I own several of those, but this one, too, called to me. So I bought the bargain version — which has turned out to be exactly the very same thing as the famous brand! (Although alas, there was only one sham.)  I do keep my favorite red-and-white antique quilt folded at the foot of the bed in case I get cold.

2. I also love re-using things for other than what they were made for. My former printer stand is now my bedside table in that image above. Wood matches perfectly and it perfectly fills the space.

And that’s an old tool chest in front of the sofa, below — I bought it in Knoxville, Tennessee, when I was still single in the mid-1980s. A table you can kick up your feet onto.


A utensil holder has become a napkin holder…

because I’m using some pottery pitchers for utensil holders!

Whether you’re a Cozy Clutter gal or a Place for Everything-er  — and I’d love to know what group is in the majority, and whether I’m destined to clutterify as time goes by — I’m wide open to your favorite decorating hints!

Leave a comment 0 Comments

  1. Marie says:

    I think I go through phases of both…if that’s possible. I have times when I go on whirlwind de-cluttering sprees and want to contain everything (I, too, use things for purposes which they were never meant – such as cigar boxes for TV remotes) Then other times, I find calm in the coziness of my treasures – the plates on the wall, the colored glass in my kitchen window sill, my random boxes of crafting debris, the haphazard blankets on the backs of couches. All in all, I would put myself on the fence between both categories of decorating style. My house is not overly "put-together", but it’s home! And the biggest compliments to me are the ones that come from friends when they say they feel "at home" when they come into my house.

  2. Emily says:

    Love your new home and you are lucky I don’t live anywhere near where that wicker sofa was because it’s beautiful. It really is perfect on your screened in porch.
    Enjoy your new home and embrace your new life!
    Thanks for sharing your stories! :o)

  3. Heather says:

    I think that I’m a bit of both CC and PE..I like cozy clutter, but there are certain parts of the house where everything has to be in it’s place. I’m still trying to "decorate" my home and I don’t know what my style is…I just know that I like anything Victorian, rusting, country, romantic, vintage etc…and if it fits in one of those categories I’ll add it to my home :) :)I loved your photos and those bargains you found. Those are fantastic!!!!

  4. Cheryl says:

    I’m mostly PE with small areas of CC in my home. I think PE makes for a more peaceful and functional home, but a well-lived-in home will naturally have pockets of CC. I hope my home always has piles of books and toys strewn about because this means people, even young ones, are LIVING here. :)

  5. Rosalie in NH says:

    My little house is a 1930’s fishing camp beside a beautiful river in NH. The house evolved to a year-round home with a deck and a wide river view. There were never enough closets. But time has taken its toll and the living room wing needed a new roof. I am amazed at how much stuff had to be relocated during the reconstruction project.
    I’d have to say I’ve gone from Cozy Comfort to Total Chaos. When the roof is done, the carpet pulled up and replaced with bamboo flooring and the dust has settled, I promised myself (at least in the new living room) there will be NO MORE CLUTTER. I will have graduated to PE.

  6. Melanie Theisen says:

    I’m definitely PE, so much so that the last thing I do before I can sleep is to put everything away! I do like my collections, but they are neatly displayed, by season. I have different stuff I bring out for each season, so there’s not too much and I get a change of scenery every 3 months.

  7. Tammie says:

    Hi Paula,

    I enjoyed your post. It sounds like you are doing quite well!
    I recently moved and after being a CC for many years, decluttering was such an emotional journey that I believe it turned me into a PE!!! (Only time will tell though right?)
    Your new house looks lovely!
    Enjoy the journey.

    Tammie

  8. Marilyn Collins says:

    Hi Paula,
    Your house looks lovely, real comfy and inviting. You have made your new house a home for you and your children. I tend to be a little of both. Certain things are left untouched but like you I do tend to smooth out wrinkles in quilts, blankets,etc. The wicker sofa is beautiful. Congratulations on getting such a lovely treasure. I enjoy hearing about your house and home and family.
    Marilyn

  9. Sandy says:

    We must all have some of each in us! Parts of me are CC and some PE. Wouldn’t I love to be PE! I am always trying. I used to be PE, but after a year of being sick I seem to have turned into CC, trying to get back to PE now that I am finally well. For some of us, our brains really function better in an organized space.

    Ooooh, I love that wicker sofa! Wonderful find.

  10. victoria says:

    Hi Paula, I can see how moving into a new place can change the way you feel comfortable. I go back and forth from CC to PE. Mostly I consider myself a PE gal, I definitely love the way my cast iron looks on my wall and since my kitchen is bare with no cupboards or storage space, I reused old wine crates and made some nice rustic looking shelves to hold an array of my favorite things. My newest repurposing spin? I took my glass cake plates (all of them have a different design) and created a chic headboard. Congrats on your wonderful thrifty finds and your new home!

  11. KimberlyD says:

    I am both, my whole house is PE, except my bedroom, it is major CC. Love the wicker sofa, I have always wanted one, but don’t have a porch screened or not. I have to small patio’s which I layed the blocks myself and I use one of those small spools for a table, you know the kind that wire is wrapped around. Also love that little wooden table and chairs in front of the bow window. Enjoy your new place, and finding your own style! I didn’t realize my own style till I had my own place also.

  12. Vicki says:

    I am a PE. I have things, butall the things all have a place.
    Clutter or things out of place drive me nuts. I admit, I am a basket user.

    Love your house.
    -Vicki

  13. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    sounds like our consensus is, whether CC or PE, what matters is that it feels homey! (:

  14. Sheree says:

    Timely article for me. Currently packing many, many possessions to move to another state. Baskets – yes. Items arranged together – yes. Too much stuff – never! but too much stuff out at the same time :-) Hoping to move to an old country home with a basement, attic, and out buildings! I presently live in a beautiful new home with none of the above options. What was the builder thinking?? Love the thought of seasonal decorating. Can hardly wait!

  15. Denise says:

    Hey Paula
    Good to see/hear your move is done. Looks like you’re settling in well.
    Love the homey feel your new place gives.
    Fantastic find with the wicker lounge – your instinct was right on target.
    I was a CC but now am a PE -helps on the sanity front when life is so full on. I am in a real declutter mode at the moment too – not sure why but soul cleansing.
    I tend to change accessory colours depending on the time of year too and re use things for things other than their original intended purpose.
    Currently I’m into the colour orange, never really went for it before – I know it’s been your favourite colour for forever, but has become mine – maybe since its such a warm colour and winters now here so warm colours make me feel warm and cosy too.
    love reading your blog
    Thanks

  16. Denise says:

    Hey Paula
    Good to see/hear your move is done. Looks like you’re settling in well.
    Love the homey feel your new place gives.
    Fantastic find with the wicker lounge – your instinct was right on target.
    I was a CC but now am a PE -helps on the sanity front when life is so full on. I am in a real declutter mode at the moment too – not sure why but soul cleansing.
    I tend to change accessory colours depending on the time of year too and re use things for things other than their original intended purpose.
    Currently I’m into the colour orange, never really went for it before – I know it’s been your favourite colour for forever, but has become mine – maybe since its such a warm colour and winters now here so warm colours make me feel warm and cosy too.
    love reading your blog
    Thanks

  17. Juliann Leonard says:

    I am definitely a PE girl though this is not always obvious to my partner, Kevin, (who is much more precise)…prowling the house at night to put things back in their places is something that really resonates for me! Right now, I tend to have more general places for everything since my flat is so tiny but, I know that over time (and at K’s urging), everything will find its place and all will be right with the world!

  18. Shery says:

    Your home is so welcoming…with just the right amount of accent decor.

    I think ‘simplify’ because I like the basic idea…but I just can’t go there. I like ‘stuff’ and at my age, I have a lot of it!

  19. carolj says:

    I think I’m a PE with slight leanings to CC. I was looking at a magazine today and thought, "Oh, that room is so pretty." Then I realized that even though the children of the homeowner were pictured eating popsicles in the den, there was not one personal touch to the room. No family photos, no collections of shells or rocks, no books with titles showing. I do believe that some order is essential, and I have a husband that proves that clutter can be orderly, but despite HGTV and shelter magazine photos, a home is made to be lived in and loved in. We need to keep the pictures our children colored on the refrigerator, the worn-out-from-use throw on the back of the couch, and the muddy shoes by the back door or under the coffee table, and we need to be grateful for all the things connected to these "treasures," even the muddy shoes.

    Happy new home!

  20. SuburbanFarmgirl says:

    Yes something to be said for my mom’s line about looking "lived in."

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