It seems that every person on the face of the planet is doing some sort of cleanse.
Of course, there’s the popularity of the new juice cleanse. Then there’s the bobbing heads hovering above elliptical cross trainers during those desperately cleansing weeks following holiday carousing.
Watch out for the spiny nests of Christmas trees, commingled with huge stacks of swollen black garbage bags dammed up on the sidewalks as if preparing for another deluge of the East River’s rising floodwaters. And Housing Works has been overwhelmed with clothing donations—a healthy sign that New Yorkers are cleansing more than their bodies and Christmas trees, but also taking their time to reassess their wardrobes.
The New Year also offers us a refreshing opportunity to sweep our own homes free of the decorative detritus of which we have long tired. This positive momentum is an excellent excuse to review, reassess and remove.
After the holidays, unattended bills, mail, catalogs and all manner of paper piles litter the corners of kitchen counters, as well as the tops of desks, bedside tables and surfaces in entry halls. Discarding, filing or dealing with these stacks of paper, unread magazines, books and correspondence helps your home shed a few visual pounds.
I have found most clients who complain about lack of storage for their clutter actually are not mining for space found in cabinets, drawers and closets which they already have. By rifling through my own hall closet, I discarded cans of paint cleaners, baseball caps (who doesn’t have too many of these?), old gloves and tired overcoats.
A client who had stacked items upon items in the upper reaches and rear end of her closet discovered a massive discardable trove of early ’70s “head shop” paraphernalia. She counted herself lucky that her children hadn’t discovered it first!
Having cleaned out the homes of my parents and other dearly departed friends, I strongly suggest divesting oneself now of items you deem worthless stuff, unsentimental junk or especially anything that might disturb others or cause you embarrassment if you were still living on this terrestrial globe.
Next, hit the medicine cabinet, vanity drawers and under the sink. Old prescriptions, makeup, health and beauty accessories (how many dull nail clippers do you need?), and countless old ointments and creams should be removed to clear the way for new product. There have been advancements you know.
Next charge toward your bookcases where paperback romance novels and books one will never read again can hit the recycling bin or find their way to our local book exchanges. The dust will amaze you, so prepare the Swiffers for an onslaught. The empty spaces will provide room for accessories or novels you actually still want to read.
Designer Albert Hadley used to meander though clients’ homes, politely suggesting that out-of-date or sometimes ugly accessories be designated for the “treasure closet.” Interior designer and socialite Sister Parish was rumored to wheel an elegant tea cart through the residence, on which she would dispose of unattractive clutter.
You, on the other hand, may try another New Year’s decorating cleanse. Remove all accessories, including even framed pictures of loved ones, and live with a barren space for two weeks. Then, start bringing back your absolute favorites that you cannot live without. You will instantly breathe freer.
In January, before my parents escaped to Point Clear, Alabama, to golf and sunbathe, my mother would always rearrange one room in the house. Having three boys was an advantage which my mother cottoned to frequently. By the age of 11 we all knew how to move antiques without tipping over the bowl of water, which was stored inside to prevent the piece from cracking through humidity fluctuations.
Once the Christmas decorations were returned to the attic, the rearranging began. Sometimes it worked surprisingly well. Sometimes the three of us would have to fight to reclaim our favorite spot or chair.
I have taken up my mother’s habits. Now I find the rearranging as cleansing an experience as moving to an entirely new abode—not only looking at a room with a fresh take, but actually living in a room with a fresh take.
Living lite can be the best revenge after clearing the decorative cobwebs. “Cleanse” has become the word of the day. To truly look at this activity holistically, should it include not only our body and soul as temple, but the temple in which we live as well?
A New Year’s decree: The momentum is here. Decorators, take your mark! Review, reassess and remove. Do your cleanse!