A Pottery Barn Catalog This Ain’t

I lost about 5 hours this afternoon.

I stumbled across a link to a home design blog and before I knew it, I had followed links to at least 20 more design blogs. And I probably bookmarked about 18 of them.

I long to live in the home design blog world, but my world is way more real than that.

The world of home blogs is a world of white furniture, soft gray walls, beautiful light fixtures, oversized beds with mountains of pillows, bright light, and all of their personal shit hidden out of the way. (I assume it’s shoved in a drawer somewhere because the thought that they don’t actually have piles of mail, stacks of magazines to throw out, and random junk stacked on the dining room table might just kill me.) Oddly, it seems like home blogs are also a world of chihuahuas and miniature pinschers—there wasn’t a big dog with lots of hair in sight. But whatever.

Mine is a world of dust bunnies and dog hair balls, muddy paw prints (will the rain EVER stop??), sliding glass doors that have been breathed on and licked. My world doesn’t have grass in the back yard anymore, but it does have more dog poop than I can get into a scooper in one try (although if I wait a few minutes Penny will try and take care of that for me. Yum). I live in a world of mail stacked on the dining room table, piles of clothes to be donated to Goodwill strewn on the guest bed and an office that neither my husband nor I can get under control.

Don’t get me wrong—we have a lovely home. We moved in about 11 1/2 years ago and have slowly, methodically been renovating things. Right before we moved in we ripped up most of the carpet and had hardwood floors installed and the inside painted. After we moved in, we painted the exterior, re-roofed, landscaped and replaced the remaining carpet, had new plumbing put in, and we painted the interior (again).

A couple of years ago we remodeled our kitchen—I knocked out the wall between the dining room and kitchen to open that up, we had our cabinets refaced and added a few more, got rid of the old broken tile counter tops and had lovely granite installed, and we ripped out the big box light in there and installed recessed lighting.

It’s beautiful.

We still have some major projects to tackle—bathrooms, I’m looking at you both—but for the most part, the house is perfect.

Our biggest problem? Our stuff.

Do you remember that George Carlin bit about Stuff?

“A house is just a pile of stuff with a cover on it. You can see that when you’re taking off in an airplane. You look down, you see everybody’s got a little pile of stuff. All the little piles of stuff. And when you leave your house, you gotta lock it up. Wouldn’t want somebody to come by and take some of your stuff. They always take the good stuff. They never bother with that crap you’re saving.”

If you don’t remember that, you’re too young to be reading this blog.

We’re not hoarders. But we have too much stuff in our house and it’s taking over. In the photos of those design blogs knick-knacks are artfully—and minimally—displayed. In our house, we have stacks of books in every room, leaning precariously, threatening to crash down. The bookcases are so full that there are stacks in front of stacks. There is nothing artfully displayed anywhere—things are shoved wherever I can find room. Practically everything we own is on display. I feel like I’m living at a flea market.

We’re both collectors—Bill loves Western things and baseball. I used to collect tea cups and Depression Era glassware. I finally packed up most of that and put it in storage. But I have way too many candle holders around the house—big hurricanes, small tea lights and everything in between. I can’t seem to part with them, but I have nowhere to store them. Bill collects more random (but functional things): he loves bags. He probably has like 5 laptop bags in our office. He has just the right size suitcase for every possible trip. And he’s sort of weird for those travel bags that organize all of your crap in your suitcase.

I think we’re both at the point where the whole thing is stressing us out. Clutter makes me crazy.

So it’s time to get ruthless and pair things down.

This place will never look like a Pottery Barn catalog, but tonight I threw out about a thousand pounds of magazines, went through my mail, and sorted through crap around the house.

It barely made a dent—but it’s a start.

Don’t look for my house in those blogs any time soon.



  1. Megan says

    I’m right there with you! I long for beautifully put together rooms and no clutter but get so caught up in all that needs to be done nothing happens!

    I have been slowly, but surely cleaning one drawer/cabinet area at a time. It’s hard (and the husband calls me a hoarder) but so freeing.

    Good luck to you! May we all live in a Pottery Barn catalog :)

    P.S. If you haven’t seen this blog, you must visit: catalogliving.net

  2. says

    It’s hard to get rid of stuff. My overwhelming virgo need for organization makes me force myself to go through clothes at least once a year now for a big donation to Goodwill. And I try to make a real effort to go through magazines and stuff like that at least once per month and put most of it in the recycling bin.

    My husband likes to save things that we’ll never use but ‘might someday’ need, in his mind. He’s an electronics and wiring person by nature, so we used to have tons of that hanging around. I surreptitiously have liberated most of it though (right into the garbage and totally behind his back). And you know what, we have never needed any of it back!

    Good luck with the decluttering! My the tidy living gods be on your side!

    • says

      I feel like I work hard to stay on top of the stuff, but a few things have happened in the last few years. My husband lost both of his parents and we ended up with a lot of their things. It’s been hard for my husband to separate the things that really mean something from the stuff that doesn’t. The worst thing is, my husband is now working out of our home office. They ran out of space in their building so he moved everything home. And it’s all jammed into an itty bitty space that was already bursting at the seams.

      Every time we get through one pile there are 50 more to tackle. I’m sure most of it can go in the trash but I’m going to have to go in and sneak some of that out of there when he’s not around. (Do you like how I blame it all on him??)

  3. Mary says

    I’m sure it’s not as dire as you say. But one thing you have to remember about the Pottery Barn catalog – no one actually lives in those spaces. The candle holders and the magazines (which I’m assuming you recycled, rather than just tossed…) and the big, gorgeous, fluffy dogs make your house a home. Real people live there.

    So, yeah. Get rid of the stuff that you don’t use/need/want/know what it is, but keep the stuff that makes your home, home.


    • says

      Some days it feels dire! It’s been raining non-stop for months so the dogs are in the house more than they normally would be and that’s making everything a little more chaotic.

      The challenge is definitely determining what weed and getting rid of what we don’t. I’m getting to know the Goodwill people very well lately! And, yes, I have been actively recycling too.

      I agree—I like that it looks like real people live there. When people come over they feel welcome and comfortable. That’s important.

      I just need to make sure no one will get crushed under my piles of books!

  4. says

    I’m okay with a small amount of clutter (I have to be with 3 kids!) as long as that clutter does in fact have a home to go to when I just can’t stand it anymore. It’s the stuff that I have no room for or no idea where to put it that REALLY drives me crazy. i went on a huge organization bender last year and culled our closets of everything we don’t need/use/want. it was so nice to have orderly closets and be able to find things because each shelf only had a few things on it in clear view. It’s getting crazy again though, and I’m feeling the itch to throw everything away that isn’t currently in use and or nailed down. Spring cleaning baby!

    • says

      That’s the key—as long as everything has a home, it’s okay. It’s the extra junk that’s driving me nuts. We’ve been slowly going through closets and rooms but I’m getting impatient—I want the extra crap to be gone. That way I can artfully display my books and knick-knacks on my perfectly painted bookcases. Ha!


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