Being a “less is more” decorator—a feature or a bug?

Last week two of my favorite bloggers got together to discuss a topic near and dear this creating and simplifying girl’s heart: decluttering. I was surprised to see Joshua Becker at Becoming Minimalist and Nester Smith at The Nester come together to discuss anything. I think of them as representing opposite sides of the continuum I’m constantly pulled between: wanting to surround myself with the essentials (plus a few well-chosen accents)—my own version of minimalism—versus the pull toward the overflowing beauty and creativity over at The Nester’s, who has a self-diagnosed addiction to accessories. And boy does she have an amazing collection of busts, cloches, vases, and bird-less birdcages. But the Nester is going 30 days without accessories in order to evaluate her relationship to them, and she is inviting other bloggers to join her. I’ve decided to try it too.

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Now I know I don’t have a problem over-accessorizing. If anything, I struggle to branch out beyond frames and candles, because I’ve deemed them to be “practical accessories” and therefore worth having. The frames show off my kids, and the candles are practical in case of a power outage, I guess. I haven’t exclusively embraced frames and candles intentionally, but I have noticed myself doing it. But to surround myself with things that are just pretty, or interesting, or might say something unique about me—that’s harder for me to justify when I’m parsing out my decorating dollars.

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Remember my gallery wall post from a few weeks ago? It’s since been taken down and redone, because it leaned too heavily on the side of just being less, as in puny. I’ve since mixed in some photographs with the art and added the tray/cage with the giant 5, a calculated but impractical splurge, and I love it. It represents the five of us and brings much needed curve to the all the angles on the wall. Now the gallery has broken out of the tiny box I created on a giant wall, and it works so much better. So maybe my sweet spot is the stripped down version, plus just a little extra.

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I stay drawn to this pared-down idea whenever I see the few boxes of stored decorative accessories under the house. And yet.

And yet I’m so drawn to things the way The Nester does them, overflowing with interesting textures, shapes, and colors just because. In season three, episode two of Downton Abbey, Lady Mary and Violet throw a dinner party that’s even more lavish than usual in order to impress Lady Mary’s American grandmother and try to get her to save Downton with another large bailout. When Violet sees the dining room, she says, “Nothing succeeds like excess,” an Oscar Wilde quote. She says this even as Downton is struggling to continue under the weight of its own excess. But when she said it, I thought, I don’t know anything about that. And I want to. Because when done well, excess—by which I mean beauty for beauty’s sake—can be a symbol of generosity and creativity. Beauty is an essential element in all of my favorite experiences and memories.

Now I’m not sure if the reason I’m attracted to minimalism is because I find it valuable and beautiful and sustainable, which it is, or because it appeals to my extremely frugal, practical nature. Is it a feature of my style, or a bug? Something I need to embrace, or something I need to weed out?

I’m curious about my own relationship to superfluous, decorative objects in my own house, and my true place on this continuum of minimalism. So today I decided to create a mess where there wasn’t one in order to go a month without accessories.

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I gotta say, the hardest thing to give up is my pillow addiction. They’re super cozy, plus they brighten up a couch I find to be a little too dark. And they’re frequent props in fort-building, a regular activity around here.

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But I cleared every surface on our main floor. I cleared the downstairs too, but I might put it back together. Mostly because I don’t really have an “away” in which to put things, no storage or guest room. All of these things will have to be boxed up and taken under the house, which will be a pain. And I think I will still reap the benefits of accessory-less-ness with just the main floor.

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This lack of stuff will give me a lot to evaluate. I’ll let you know how as the month unfolds.

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