Can “Useless” Things Be Valuable?

Call us sentimental, but there’s something about holding onto so-called “useless” things that brings us a surprising amount of joy. Some things, like your high school playbills or a flower from your first date, have no purpose but you simply can’t bear to part with them. There’s nothing wrong with keeping small, treasured items; that’s why they’re called keepsakes, after all. But what are we supposed to do with them all? We tapped our organization expert – Marie Kondo – to help us find the value of having a little bit of (well-organized) clutter…

From Marie Kondo

“I’m not sure this will be of any use. But just looking at it makes me happy. It’s enough just to have it!” Usually a client will say this while holding up some random item that seems to have no conceivable purpose, such as a scrap of cloth or a broken brooch.

If it makes you happy, then the right choice is to keep it confidently, regardless of what anyone else says. Even if you keep it in a box, you’ll still enjoy taking it out to look at it. But if you’re going to keep it anyway, then why not get the most out of it? Things that seem senseless to others, things that only you could ever love – these are precisely the things you should display.

In general, there are four ways to use such items for decorating your home: place them on something (miniatures, stuffed animals, etc.); hang them (keychains, hair ties, etc.); pin or paste them up (postcards, wrapping paper, etc.); or use them as wraps or covers (anything pliable like scraps of cloth, towels, etc.).

Let’s start with the first category – items to place on something. While this is pretty straightforward, it can be applied not only to things like ornaments and figurines, which were meant to be displayed in this way, but also to other items. A heap of them placed directly on top of a shelf can look rather messy, so I suggest “framing” them by placing them together on a plate, a tray, a pretty cloth, or in a basket. This not only looks neater but is also easier to clean. Of course, if you actually prefer the more casual look of piling them directly on a shelf, please go ahead. Or use a display case if you have one.

One of my clients took a large corsage and stuck a rhinestone frog brooch in the center so that the frog’s face poked out. She then put this in a space between her brassieres inside a drawer. I’ll never forget the smile on her face when she told me, “It makes me happy just to see his face peeping out whenever I open this drawer.”

For the second category, items that hang, you can use keychains or hair ties as accents in your clothes closet by slipping them over the crooks of your hangers. You can also wrap the necks of hangers with longer things, such as gift-box ribbons or a necklace that you’re tired of wearing. Or you can hang things from wall hooks, the ends of curtain rails, and anywhere else that looks feasible. If the item is too long and awkward-looking, you can cut it or tie it to adjust the length.
If you have so many things to hang that you run out of places, try stringing them together to make a single ornament. One of my clients made a curtain by stringing together cell phone straps of a local mascot she loved, and hung it across the entranceway. While the sight of the mascots’ faces waving in the air looked rather bizarre, the owner declared that it transformed her doorway into
“the entrance to paradise.”

This brings us to the third category, items for pasting and pinning up. Decorating the inside of your closet with posters you have no other place for is standard practice in the KonMari Method. This can inject a thrill into any kind of storage space, including your cupboard walls and closet doors, the back boards of your shelves, and the bottoms of your drawers. You can use cloth, paper, or anything else, as long as it brings you joy.

The final category for decorating your interior with favorite items is things that can be used for wrapping. This includes anything supple, such as leftover scraps of cloth, hand towels, tote bags, and clothes made with beautiful patterns and fabrics that you love but that don’t fit you anymore. Such items can be used to bundle up low-voltage cables that are long and unsightly or as dust covers for household appliances when they’re not in use, such as electric fans in winter. Down quilts that are stored away for the off-season can be rolled up to expel the air inside and kept in a cloth carrying bag. This works just as well as vacuum-sealed storage bags.

By the time you finish, you’ll see something you love everywhere you look.

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