In the year 2000 I was invited by a good friend to visit Japan. This was long before I ever dreamed of becoming a professional organizer. While there I made a solo trip to Kurashiki to visit the Museum of Folkcraft. Upon entering the museum, I read the slogan “Usability Equals Beauty” and, indeed, everything in the museum (mostly household items) was not only useful but beautiful. This little phrase made quite an impression on me. Slowly, over the years, this slogan stuck with me and informed how I chose to live, what I chose to let into my life – and what things to leave out.
Without being aware of it, my husband, Mark, is a strong proponent of this slogan. He comes from a place where, at one time, useful and frivolous things were scarce. I only got a taste of what life must have been like in 1970’s USSR when Mark and I visited St. Petersburg in 1996.
Mark scavenges the streets of NYC for small and large things, which he always finds useful. To me, they are rarely beautiful but in his hands they become so. The apartment we sold in 2005 had a pot rack made from an old bike rack and a wall unit with a pull down Murphy Bed made from lumber scraps scavenged from other apartments in our building. Both creations fit both criteria found in my favorite slogan and attracted many prospective buyers. Still, even now that I have evidence to the contrary, when Mark occasionally hauls these treasures into our apartment, often all I see is junk. Like so many of us my knee jerk reaction is that only the shiny and new can be beautiful. The old and dirty has lost its value and, once lost, that value is irretrievable.
I see my attitude echoed when working with clients. Here, in New York City, in the US, there is so much to have. The options never end and my clients’ overflowing closets attest to this. Are we fortunate? Or rather, as we drift in a sea of stuff, have we lost the ability to discern usefulness in what we own? Anxious to get even better things tomorrow, can I actually find the time to use what I have today? And, if I don’t use it wherein does that object’s beauty lie? Who is there to notice it?