The Lived-In Design: What she wanted to know about when she asked how anyone could live in a beautifully designed home.
A client once asked me how some people can have “cute things and display them.” She wanted to know how some live in such a way they have space to display décor items and make them look good. From her perspective, this was impossible.
The question does not surprise me, given that some people engage a Professional Organizer because they don’t want to live in a chaotic environment any longer. That means they call an Organizer because they do live in chaos.
But I have thought about this question for a long time and realized the answer lies in that inverse relationship between clutter and design.
What A Stylish House Doesn’t Need
Look at this picture (@flamingos.home). What do you notice? Or rather, what do you not see?
You can appreciate this design due to the absence of elements that pull your attention somewhere else, like clutter.
And clutter happens for two main reasons:
(1) Owning excessive stuff – Renders even the best storage space incapable of containing and concealing all the stuff.
(2) The lack of decision-making about things at any given moment – Causes stuff to land (and stay) anywhere in the home.
Although most people would not consider their homes magazine-worthy, as long as we have four walls and a roof, we can make the space as beautiful and incredible as we wish. Elegance, style, and luxury have less to do with money and the size of your home and more with taste, simplicity, and attention to detail.
But it seems challenging for many to envision the possibilities in their homes. Could this be because their homes’ clutter prevents the imagination from visualizing what they desire?
What Happens To That Magic?
Clutter prevents us from seeing the beauty of the home’s potential. But clutter also physically occupies the space that should be left available for new and better things to come into our lives.
I have extensively discussed the model home magic Vs. the nightmare of moving day. We fall in love with a beautifully designed, perfectly appointed model home, but somehow the magic disappears on moving day as quickly as it came.
Why does it feel so different even when we selected the same model home, building choices, and décor? This probably happens because:
(1) It is our stuff there now. And our stuff seems less than exciting in contrast to our new home.
(2) We see all our stuff together while moving in. It makes a big difference. This wonderful space now seems overcrowded and will be for a while until we get it under control.
(3) With the moving process as messy and disjointed as it usually is, stuff seems even messier and uglier than ever.
Puff! Magic gone.
Where The Stuff Is
Add to this scenario the prospect of living out of boxes for a while (there’s no time to put things away, and life is hectic anyway).
And at some level, we also recognize that wherever and however things land in the home on moving day, they will remain for the next three years or so.
Things might quickly improve if we engage some help, like a professional organizer, designer services, cleaning personnel, and such. The new home will probably thrill us again soon. And this better happens soon. A home is one of the most important investments we will ever make. So, we should care how we feel about it.
Life After Moving In
Everyone gets crazy about model homes, HGTV shows(the reveal is grand, right?), architectural digest magazine, and all those amazing home designs on Instagram and Pinterest. However, only a few make the connection between a marvelous design they love and the reality of the day-to-day living in that space.
No one talks about what happens after people move into a new home or back in with their belongings after a renovation. Having this conversation requires people to confront their mess demons and out-of-control buying. But, of course, nobody wants to go there.
Enjoying the beauty and style of a new home does not happen automatically. After moving in, we must work on it. Even the best design might get drowned in clutter. Clutter is the noise that distracts our senses from the beauty of the space and interrupts how we experience our home.
The Role of Empty Space
And aside from speaking of design, it is essential to honor space in the home. So many have issues with unoccupied space and try to stuff things in best-left-empty areas (“because I have some space there”).
However, a house should be a living space, not storage. Space is our friend, and it is best to make peace with it. Space is to the home like a white mat is to a piece of art – it enhances its beauty by isolating it.
It is possible to have a lived-in design. Clutter just has to go.
We all love those HGTV design shows. Whether it is “Love It or List It,” “the Property Brothers,” “Good Bones,” “Mountain Mamas,” or a rerun of “Fixer Upper,” we absorb their contents with joyful passion. But, what is the hidden magic of HGTV design shows?
I recently enjoyed a “Love It or List It” marathon. Episode after episode confirmed that when homeowners want to move or engage in a significant home remodel, they invariably mention that “the space no longer works” for them.
Clutter Is The Common Denominator
After establishing this fact, we then see the interior of these houses, and most of the time, we see a cluttered space that gives the impression that truly the home does not work for the family anymore. Typically, the common denominator in these homes is the clutter.
But why does the space “stop working” for a family? What does that even mean? Maybe homeowners have stopped trying to conform to their home and instead have gone out of control, holding on to much more stuff than they need.
Maybe they have stopped objectively looking at their possessions altogether. Things accumulate without anyone noticing, and one day they realize there is stuff everywhere, and they can no longer put things away even if they tried. Or they can’t use specific home spaces because their stuff occupies all their living space.
Please do not take me wrong. I love these shows the same as everyone else. In particular, “Love It or List It” is terrific. The dynamics between David and Hillary are fantastic, and this is one of the few shows where you see the Designer fighting for a budget to deliver her proposed plan.
I have never understood the budget distribution on these shows’ renovation projects, by the way. How can $100,000 completely renovate a home, including a whole new roof (and I don’t mean shingle replacement, but removing the entire existing roof where you can see the sky, and replacing the entire thing – as I saw on “Mountain Mamas”?)
The Hidden Magic
But back to my main idea. I find it very interesting that these shows could not present their “reveal” without the staging.
Staging plays a fundamental role in the final product. The initial clutter is gone because homeowners moved out of the property during the renovation. But at the time of the reveal, we see that every area has new furniture, accessories, even plants and flowers- everything perfectly appointed, and that goes flawlessly with the new concept. Well, of course, it needs to be like this. Nothing less will do.
But the point is that we see none of the homeowners’ belongings in the space. We see hung clothes in closets, for example. It is a carefully curated selection of clothing pieces that barely occupies the space. And just like the clothes and shoes in closets, we do not see toiletries in the bathroom, the actual contents of the living room cabinets or kitchen dishes, or an over-abundance of forgotten appliances.
What would the space look like with all the homeowners’ stuff and their original furniture? Not quite as impressive for sure. What is the missing link here? The part they do not discuss is the staging involved.
So, the true hidden hero in those HGTV homes we love is the staging. Although the staging details are not discussed in the show to avoid diverting the focus on design, rest assured that no big reveal would ever be possible without the staging.
These HGTV shows do not discuss that if homeowners want to continue enjoying their fabulous new space when staging props leave the scene, they better reconsider the amount of stuff they keep and how they store everything in their house. That is what organization is about.
No Organization, No Magic
Staging does not seem to be compatible with everyday day-to-day living, though. So, unless we look past the design and pay attention to the home organization and the available space, the shine of the big reveal will fade as soon as clutter returns.
Staging is the true hero on these shows. But it is the organization that ultimately makes the magic remain once reality sets in, and homeowners’ stuff makes its way back into the house. Clutter the area again, and nobody will care about or even notice the outstanding design that once took their breath away.
For the homeowners to move back in and have this fantastic layout “work for them,” they would need to flex those long-neglected organization muscles. Otherwise, the place will very shortly stop “working for them” again.
No matter what changes a space undergoes, if we don’t consider the space available and we don’t adequately manage our belongings, no HGTV design wonder will help in the long run.
There are very valid reasons to want to move or renovate a home. But when it is just a matter of the “space no longer working for us,” maybe giving the organization an honest chance saves us the costs and complexities of home renovations or moving.
Properly addressing the organization of the home makes it possible to live in a home worth a design show reveal any day of the week.
As an organization expert, I wish to show homeowners how they can permanently live in a state of bliss with their home environment. They can have a home and a space they truly love for its functionality and beauty.
That home you never knew you had? I can’t wait to show you!