This quote from William Morris is pretty popular amongst declutterers online. They could hardly hope to find a more concise or apt mantra- if it ain’t useful or beautiful, you shouldn’t be giving it house space.
I first read these words when I visited the William Morris Gallery in East London. Maybe I’d been dazzled by the sheer beauty of his fabric and wallpaper designs, but I was suckered right in by the simplicity and absoluteness of William’s assertion. Useful, or beautiful… why would I ever consider hanging on to stuff which could lay claim to neither of those adjectives?
Did I rush home from that epiphany and empty my house of all superfluousness? Dear reader, I did not. And some years later, though the wisdom of his words still resonates, I’d say William’s statement was just too black and white.
My own home contains many things which might be useful, or could be beautiful… they just haven’t had their time to shine. Things which dwell on tops of wardrobes, under beds, in the random drawer, down in the cellar, up in the attic, mostly shoved out of everyday view- the things which might come in handy one day- have all earned their place in my home. Challenge me as to the intended purpose of any of these items & I can only point out that you would at some point rue the day you threw out this un-useful, un-beautiful object. In the distant future, you would be faced by a problem which could only be solved by the timely application of an old door key/ worn toothbrush/ copy of She magazine from 1983/ <insert random clutter here>
Maybe I’m not entirely disagreeing with Mr Morris. Useful and beautiful are quite possibly the only criteria required. I’m just saying that almost all things are potentially useful & also quite possibly beautiful…. it’s all in the eye of the beholder.
I’ll leave you with a thing of beauty I came across whilst wandering around Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe. This sanctuary welcomes lost or disowned gloves and provides an opportunity to make a fresh pairing and become part of a beautiful & useful new partnership.
Now, where did I leave that odd glove?