Tag Archives: RECYCLING

So, Why Do You Call yourself Beautiful Corner?

So, for anyone who’s interested, here’s a little bit about my company name, BEAUTIFUL CORNER.  It’s a play on a translated Russian idiom, KRASNY UGOL, meaning Red Corner, but which also has an archaic translation of Beautiful (now Krasiva).  The idea of the “red or “beautiful” corner in the traditional home of Old Russia is an aspect of that culture which has most intrigued me.  The Beautiful Corner was that place in the home where the icons and family saints were placed.  The Corner is a spiritual center of the home and the place that provides a sense of peace, comfort and security.  The idea of the corner is one that has pervaded my life.

The general idea is that one’s environment should provide a safe, serene and secure “corner” of the world from which to gain strength and sustenance for the daily journey out into the larger world of experiences.  I believe that the art of organization can never be an end in itself (think front page of the Container Store catalogue) but a means to an end.  The goal is not perfection and stasis, but the creation of a fluid yet manageable environment, which minimizes the handling of “stuff” and maximizes time for life’s larger concerns.  Having done this work for many years as a specialized sideline in office environments and as special projects for friends and family,  I have gleaned a vast amount of experience working with different personalities, both individuals and couples, which provides a sound structure for my profession.  I’ve worked with those who are eager to downsize and simplify as well as with entrenched packrats who agonize over getting rid of last year’s New York Times!  I give an initial consultation, in which I endeavor to engage my clients in a complete assessment of the possessions and/or information which they wish to arrange and encourage, if necessary, an initial purge of obsolete and unwanted items, files, etc.  One of the techniques I use is “digital cataloging”, to help the client “step out of the eye of the storm”, as it were, to gain a more objective perspective of his possessions and ease decision making.

While I strive to facilitate the process, responsibility in the initial phase rests COMPLETELY with the client, and if we are successful in
working together, this phase is usually an enlightening and empowering experience.  I work through the rest of the phases without the client or, if he wishes to be involved, with as much participation as she wishes to provide, including assessment and measurement of space, existing storage materials (the purchase of storage units and materials is discouraged until we have utilized what is already available at hand), replacement of contents and final cataloging and legend for reference.

My philosophy of organization ties in with a larger belief that sustainability, recycling and downsizing are the most crucial issues of our time.  While I do not push an agenda when working, my approach is informed by my beliefs.  I am not an anti-materialist; on the contrary, I myself love beautiful things.  I have some treasured possessions.  But I do believe in the difference between the healthy appreciation of useful objects and the bondage and chaos that an overabundance of material goods can create in our lives.  I agree with the economist E.F. Schumacher’s core belief that SMALL IS BEAUTIFUL, and think of myself as a “specialist” when working with small spaces.  Like most interested in this field, I love collecting books on organizing.  However, my work is mostly informed by many wonderful economists, social scientists, and journalists, to name a few favorites, Judith Levine (Not Buying It), Juliet Schor (The Overworked American), Jane Hammerslough (Dematerializing) and Elizabeth Royte (Garbage Land).

A PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZER’S PERSPECTIVE: USABILITY EQUALS BEAUTY

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?