Too Much of a Good Thing

runktrun(z7a MA)February 4, 2011

I have been busy packing up and de-cluttering my domicile and came to the conclusion that the amount and type of clutter in my home mirrored the amount and type of clutter in my landscape. Now don't get me wrong you're not going to see me featured on next weeks episode of "The Hoarders" but years of small additions to my family room (a growing stack of gardening books that there was no room for in the book shelves, new knickknacks, and of course those things found outdoors, a cool rock, hummingbirds nest, sharks tooth, ect.) had completely diminished my original interior design. I also suspect that years of building plant collections and compulsive nursery shopping have diminished my original exterior design.

In examining this topic I first tried making correlations between the elements in my interior and exterior design. Here is what came to mind (tell me what you think).

1. Perennials, Bi-annuals, & Annuals = knickknacks, bric-a- brac, curios

2. Hardscape =permanent structures in a room, fireplace, built in shelving/cabinets, flooring.

3. Shrubs and trees= furniture

Then I removed everything from the room which was no small feat but it needed a fresh coat of paint and a good cleaning anyway. The hardscape/fireplace & built-in shelving would remain the same but I opened my mind to changing anything that would ultimately assist in designing a room that would offer interest without clutter.

My next step was to tackle the bones of the room (Shrubs and trees= furniture) which was a lot harder than I thought. I had a couple of big stumbling blocks the first one was admitting to myself and Joe that years ago when I bought this big overstuffed furniture I bought too much of it for a typical Cape style home with smaller cut up rooms. The second challenge was the sentimental factor; the style of a family heirloom has worked against my over-all design as strongly as the sickly Mother's Day Kwanzan cherry tree does in my landscape.

The final step was to be honest with myself about my over abundance of perennials, bi-annuals, & annuals = knickknacks, bric-a- brac, curios. While examining this idea I asked myself one simple question...Why? I discovered that I buy accessories/flowers that I believe will add the element of surprise to my room or garden. Often this means purchasing something for its rarity rather than its contribution to the overall design. This drive to surprise is fraught with challenges, unusual knickknacks and flowers are most often rare for a reason and their presence in a garden or a family room without a connection to the overall design causes them to stick out like a sore thumb and again add to diminishing the overall design.

So as much as it was painful at first I packed up and removed some tables, chairs, a shrunken head, and most difficult of all a whales tooth, and it is like an entirely new room. This weeding process has made me look forward to thinning out my landscape next spring as well as the added bonus of lack of interest in any of the plant catalogs!

Do you see any correlation to the amount and type of clutter between your interior and exterior? kt

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spedigrees z4VT

Overall design be damned! I love all my accumulated antiques and unique items, both outdoors and indoors. Each one has a rich history intertwined with our own history. When I enter someone's home, I'm most attracted to rooms chock full of curios and treasures; they are so much homeier. As far as I'm concerned the bones of a house, ie built-in bookcases and wall space etc, are there only to support the flesh, ie knick knacks, books, photographs, art, etc, and as much of this as it can possibly hold so that one can look and look and always discover new surprises. (Yes, dusting is a challenge.)

I'm not sure I can draw analogies between my interior design and my gardens, but I like both filled to over-capacity with interesting eye candy and lots of color. My house is like a museum (which I love) and I'm working on turning my gardens into an outdoor version of the same.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 1:04PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

Good analogy, kt. One can have a visually rich indoor or outdoor room without a sense of clutter by (1) de-accessioning a whole bunch of stuff - give it away, throw it out, sell it; and by (2) making one object or plant the center of attention for a short time - placing a blooming potted plant in an important location, or bringing out a different beautiful curio each month, the way the Japanese do, in the tokonoma . Also, the grouping of objects or plants concentrates the "busy-ness" and leaves the rest of the space feeling more open and calm.

We must admit our weakness to collect, though; be it knick-knacks or unusual perennials. Perhaps we should learn to be more ruthless? Certainly we're ruthless when we're weeding and vacuuming. So let's also be more disciplined when acquiring.

If we want a relaxed space, we must be vigilant. Vigilance is the price of liberty. (now, who said that?)


    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 3:21PM
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spedigrees z4VT

Just to clarify...
I consider clutter to be things out of place, nothing picked up, stuff strewn about. I'm not comfortable with clutter. Clutter is upsetting.

A room with every nook filled with collectables and every inch of wall space filled with pictures, but everything in its proper place is not clutter by my definition. This is a relaxing and enriching atmosphere to me. Blank walls and empty spaces are too sterile and desolate for my liking.

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 5:47PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

When I first saw the title of your post, I thought you were referring to snow, lol. Not that I think snow is a good thing... at least not anymore.

Once again you have made a most thoughtful and thought-provoking post! While I am much too mentally and physically exhausted at the moment from shoveling and chipping ice to think too deeply on this, I can draw one quick correlation.

Messiness. My house is messy. I admit it. I'd much rather spend my time doing anything but housework, and apparently the people I share my house with (i.e. my husband and kids) seem to feel the same way.

And, also admittedly, my garden is messy. I work three jobs in spring/summer/fall, and I'm the first to admit that I don't take the time to keep the garden properly kept. Not only weeding, deadheading, etc., but actual clean-up. If I weed, I might leave a pile of weeds laying there, or if I plant out seedlings, I may leave the containers in a corner of the garden instead of putting them in their place.

I'd say maybe I was just lazy, lol, but I really do think of it as a time issue. Can't say I'm lazy after shoveling a 100+ foot driveway every other day for the last few weeks. But maybe I'm just rationalizing, lol!

Great post!

    Bookmark   February 4, 2011 at 11:32PM
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Excellent topic, Katy; I agree with Carol that this is a great analogy. Like Dee, I think messiness is as much of an issue as clutter, but in some ways it's really different.
You can always pick up the weeds you've dropped on the lawn before an outdoor party; I wouldn't, though, go dig up the jumble of perennials that are turning my garden into a wilderness.

One point that eludes me though, is the concept of an overall design, either indoors or out! I suppose there is some design, intentional or not, behind both my rooms and my garden, but it's so minimal (path to sofa, path to lounge chairs) that it doesn't seem like the clutter is impacting it much.

Looking forward to thinking and hearing more about this!

    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 10:18PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Once again KT, you've presented an interesting topic and I am enjoying reading people's thoughts on the subject.

In my case, the living space inside the house does not parallel the gardens. I prefer neutral color schemes and a reasonably orderly, spartan look but a little clutter is always present, with pets and a teenager in the house. Also I have a lot of tools! However I don't have the "collector" gene and have never collected anything. Collections and knickknacks no matter how orderly look like clutter. Even with the seeds, I give away a lot of extras on the Seed Exchange.

Now outside, I like large showy flowering plants and lots of them, lots of color, and end up with more gardens and plants than I can maintain. There is definitely a rift here...

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 8:52AM
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sharbear50(6a Bella Vista)

Clutter, oh yes. I can definitely say I have plenty. When you are trying to pack for a long haul move (Florida to Connecticut)I find myself saying,"I don't need that!" Yard sales suck but we did it. Still a lot of uncluttering left to do. My yard definitely does have similarities to my home interior. Interesting post here. LOL

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 1:09PM
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I've been thinking about similarities between my interior decor and my gardens. I've come to the conclusion that with both, I have "public spaces" and "private spaces". One area that I show off for the guests, but another area that I can just enjoy by myself.

My front gardens I keep pretty prisitine. I only plant white flowers in front of the house. I'm good about dead-heading. I'm sure to have my spring pansies, summer annuals, fall crysanthemums. I make sure my front driveway is clean, my front walk is swept, my front door is clean, and I have appropriate seasonal decor in the front of the house. In my house, my living room is kept pretty pristine, my downstairs bath is always fresh and clean, and my daughters playroom (which unfortuneately is right of the front foyer) is always relatively neat.

In the backyard, that is more private space. I have lots of color, the gardens don't necessarily have a color scheme (or any type of theme for that matter). I'm not the best at keeping up with the weeding or dead-heading. I'm not one to pass up "free plants" - so often I don't know what is a plant or what is a weed until it blooms - case in point, I spent a lot of time nurturing a golden rod plant last summer - not quite sure what it was! On the inside of my house - the upstairs is the private space. The Master Bedroom is a cluttered mess, my sewing room is strewn with projects, I'll admit I could scrub the master bath a bit more often.

But - I must say that I enjoy being in my backyard more than my front yard. I like sitting out on the back patio in my pj's drinking my morning coffee, watching the birds at the feeder. (I'd never just sit in my front yard at all). I also like spending time in my not so pristine upstairs - though kinda ugly and in desperate need for renovation, the MBR is comfortable and cozy. The master bath looks out on the skating pond and I don't need to cover up the window.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 4:30PM
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Ouch! You've been peering over my shoulder again, KT. . .I find your analogy
to be spot on !

Oddly enough, I have been editing my household AND my gardens for about
a year now, and never realized the correlation of the two until you pointed
it out. The "clutter" in the house wasn't completely self afflicted, but you DO
tend to accumulate too much when, 1. parents pass on leaving lifelong collections to be disposed of (mistake there was not dealing with it IMMEDIATELY, instead letting sentiment get in the way); 2. you are the sole beneficiary of a dear friends' estate; 3. you attempt to combine two complete households into one; and, 4. like most folks, you retain every book, vinyl record, tape, CD, vase, picture, knick-knack, dish, on-and-on ad nauseum, because they hold "memories" or "you just might need them someday". . .

Fortunately. that all changed abruptly, when I decided to COMPLETELY
re-build the interior of my bungalow, partly because I was now semi-retired,
partly because I was weary of living in a semi-finished space, and partly because there was the outside possibility I might be selling and moving back to my NE roots. At the same time as all this was happening inside, everything on the outside was also in crisis - for over a decade, I had
followed a carefully considered plan in my landscape, crafting a garden out
of practically nothing, and being blissfully happy in the process. At some point, several years ago, it all went sour: perennial combos weren't working any more, too many projects were started and never completed, the infamous
"pot ghetto" was getting larger and larger each year, and the usual "Mother
Nature" complications were developing - the perfectly placed small tree was
now bigger and casting shade into a sun border, shrubs were outgrowing
their alloted spaces, and as the gardens got more complex, the extra work
that required, grew exponentially.

That final component -extra work - was the deal-breaker. . .last season, I began carefully editing out excessive perennial plantings and substituting
flowering shrubs (and grasses) that require little or no pruning, a plan I
expected to continue this season. But it's KT's "1-2-3" analogy that will be the "light bulb" moment illuminating the future of my garden. . .since
hardscape = permanent structure, THAT"S where I'll put my effort this
season, finishing all those hardscape projects that actually "define" the
garden, just as I've been concentrating on new walls, floors and permanent
fixtures inside the house. The shrubs really are the "furniture" of the garden
(and they are moveable!), so I can hold off on doing too many more until the
hardscape is satisfactorily completed. . .and, of course, the perennials and
annuals really are the bric-a-brac, the curios, the final "decorator" element.
As such, they can just remain as they are until everything else is done.

Thanks, KT. . .a little clarity was just what I needed !


    Bookmark   February 6, 2011 at 5:56PM
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okay so when I paint a room, I get a huge decorating rush. I am really into color on walls and need a lot of restraint to keep it sane.

What is the paint analogy with exterior design? How do I get an exterior broad brush changeover as easily as interior? is it the sky? the lawn? the house color? the leaf color?

ah... exterior painting happens each season.. winter=white, spring=green, summer= red,blue, yellow, pastels, whatever, fall=orange,red,yellow,brown

no brush cleanup required!

what color did you paint the room?

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 11:58AM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

You all made such interesting points but some trouble makers (lol) have crushed my unstated theory if the amount and type of clutter in my home mirrored the amount and type of clutter in my landscape the same must be true for my neighbor. I was so taken back by the self-realization that I purchase decorative items for both my interior and exterior based on a drive to surprise, I thought for sure I could then deduce I would find similarities in neighbors interior and exterior design ie if their landscape was filled with lots of big bold color that the same would be true for their interior.

I suppose in a perfect world any thing we added to our interior or exterior would have been predetermined by our overall design but lets be honest most of us don't live in furniture showrooms or nursery display gardens. The clutter of aunt Mildred's rocker or your Hydrangea collection can water down your original plan to a point where you can't recall ever having had an overall design.

For fun lets try this little experiment imagine if you will the conversation when there is a knock on your door or garden gate and it is someone who you don't know very well and who has never been to your home/garden. Of course the first sentence out of your mouth is something about excusing the mess, your guest then makes a complimentary statement (isn't it telling what first catches a visitors eye). Now your response is the significant moment in the conversation I believe whether we realizes it or not most of us are compelled at this point to define our design for the visitor. "Thanks, I really like that cottage look ect". Let me know what you think.

Wendy- aka troublemaker, I love your analogy. Although I am a big fan of bright bold color I have always limited that impulse to rugs and fabric (ie Susan Sargent) I don't know why I am such a paint pussy but I am. Recently I replaced upholstered furniture in my living room and discovered that there was little for sale that wasn't a neutral beige, white, or black. I suppose we are held more captive to the trends offered in commerce to our interior designs then we are with our exterior designs.

Carl- I am sure I am not the only one who is hoping to make the move back to New England.

Carol - making one object or plant the center of attention for a short time - placing a blooming potted plant in an important location, or bringing out a different beautiful curio each month, the way the Japanese do, in the tokonoma . Also, the grouping of objects or plants concentrates the "busy-ness" and leaves the rest of the space feeling more open and calm
Really Brilliant.

Pixie lou - Wouldn't it be interesting to hear the first impressions of a visitor to both your public and private spaces. I am going to guess you would be very surprised.

sharbear50- Welcome to the New England forum and safe travels.

Nan - I think you are being your usual humble self I see an overall design in both your indoors and out.

dee - I am curious after you ask your visitor to excuse the mess in your home/garden what comes next?

spedigrees - We are a lot alike but after many many years of collecting I am now readying my house for the possibility of renting. It has been an interesting process and I surprised my self in the end to see what was packed up and what was not.

terrene - I envy your self control when it comes to interior clutter!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 12:01PM
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spedigrees z4VT

----spedigrees - We are a lot alike but after many many years of collecting I am now readying my house for the possibility of renting. It has been an interesting process and I surprised my self in the end to see what was packed up and what was not.-----

Ah yes, renting (or selling) definitely changes one's design plan. Are you going to rent your home furnished or unfurnished?

We sold a second home about ten years ago to finance a renovation and new addition onto our primary home. It forced us to go through about 15 years worth of accumulations and decide what to pack for the move, what to leave behind (anything the prospective buyer took a liking to, I promised to leave behind in the interest of making the sale!) and what to jettison.

Prospective buyers (and renters) definitely want to see more of the bare bones of a living space in order to envision how their own stuff will look there. That's true even of myself, I guess.

I think I have noticed over the years that most everyone's outdoor design plan matches their indoor one, excepting for instance, an indoor sort of person who spends little time on landscaping or someone who has left indoor or outdoor design to an interior designer or landscape artist.

Anyways best of luck renting your home. I take it you live elsewhere now and plan to move back to New England? I hope your move goes smoothly and quickly.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 1:01PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I forgot to mention that I share your impulse, Runktrun, to incorporate surprises into my outdoor landscape and interior room space. It is always a treat to run across something unusual around a bend in a garden path or somewhere in a room or hallway.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2011 at 3:30PM
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runktrun(z7a MA)

Thought this article about dust aka inside soil was great. I found the following particularly interesting as it supports my claim that if you are hungry you should eat out.

And many of the particles created by cooking, which is a leading source of indoor dust, measure less than half a micron across.

Here is a link that might be useful: Speck by Speck, Dust Piles Up

    Bookmark   February 11, 2011 at 9:35AM
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