Saturday, February 15, 2014

Real Life versus Fantasy Life

Simplicity in palette, and luxuriously sparse elegance.  Style inspiration from the new Chanel boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris.


I’ve come across the idea of real life versus fantasy life from two different sources recently.  I’ve been reading Peter Walsh, master declutterer that he is, and I also came across the same idea in a ‘money savvy’ newspaper article in a recent newspaper.  Both authors ask you to think about what your life is really like, rather than what you imagine your fantasy life could be.

And because I still have uppermost in my mind a vision of how I want my home life to be – that airy and spacious abode reminiscent of a Parisian apartment, I will continue on with my minimising quest.

The lady who was quoted in the money article said she finally admitted to herself that she never held formal dinners in which she needed to keep a huge amount of crockery and glassware for.

That resounded with me because I do that.  Not so much with plates, because all the plates and bowls we have are used, but with the glasses and also the tiny dishes I think I will fill with flaky salt and cracked pepper to use with a little spoon at fancy dinners.  Apart from perhaps Christmas day (when we did not use the little salt dish and spoon even then), I almost never have big sit-down dinners.

When we entertain, I like to have one friend/couple/family over at a time.  It is less formal and intimidating, and you get to catch up with them properly.

So this thought of real life versus fantasy life helped me clear out many items in my kitchen cupboard such as excess wine glasses.  I kept my nicest and newest and donated the rest.  Giving all the glasses that are to be donated a quick rinse through the dishwasher means they look nice and new and sparkly, the charity store won’t have to clean them, and they will look more appealing to their customers.

Real life versus fantasy life spills over into many different areas.  Here are a few others I’ve been thinking about.

The wardrobe – actually thinking about what we do in any given week and what clothes we require for that.  Not giving too much space to clothing that is worn very infrequently or not at all.  Getting rid of fantasy items that we never have occasion to wear.

The food we keep in our pantry and fridge.  You might be like me and have ingredients that were bought when you were feeling creative but then never wanted to use.  I am challenging myself to use these products in meals at the moment.  When I cleaned out my pantry last week it was almost a relief that couple of items had expired and I could dispose of them, as much as I don’t like to waste food.  The pressure is off!

Books and magazines.  How many of these am I going to re-read and wouldn’t they be better off in someone else’s home where they will be enjoyed rather than stagnating in mine?

Bulky items that are taking up space and we don’t use them – electric blankets that we haven’t used for years and that were heading for twenty years old, I threw them out (for safety reasons).  Two electric heaters and a dehumidifier that are stored in a cupboard under the stairs in case we need them one day – these are being donated closer to winter.  This will give us much more space to store our vacuum cleaner and suitcases in a roomy and stress-free manner.  Actually these aren’t fantasy life items, they are ‘just in case items’, and they can go too.

Crafting supplies.  This is a big category for me and I’m sure many others.  I have many projects that I am set up for but I only have so many days in the week, and if I haven’t made time for some of them by now, doesn’t that tell me something?

I will be going through my sewing room/office and only keeping the few projects that really excite me.  Everything else will go into my (now clear after a big drop-off at the new SPCA op shop) guest bedroom.  The guest bedroom is my cool-off area where I can put items to be donated.  I don’t have to make the decision whilst I’m tidying and decluttering an area which frees me to be more ruthless.  When I go back later to survey what I have put there, very little appeals that much to me that I have to take it back.  I think Apartment Therapy man calls this idea an ‘Outbox’.

One other tip that has been helping me streamline the items I keep in our house, is to look at the space available.  After all, every room and cupboard in our house, and also our house itself is a finite amount of space.  The narrow shelf where I keep our coffee/tea mugs was always a small point of annoyance every time I emptied the dishwasher.  There was a couple too many cups so I never had room for them if they were all clean.  I decluttered three and put them in my donation box and now I have a lovely roomy shelf.

The same can apply to the number of coat-hangers (one garment per hanger!) you have in your wardrobe and also the size of your drawers.  On a day that all your washing is up-to-date you can fully complete the decluttering task.  It’s not a good feeling when you think you’ve got a manageable wardrobe after a prune-out but then realise you’ve still got washing in the laundry that is going to ‘push you over the edge’ again.

I’m reading Peter Walsh’s Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? and he makes the link between having a clutter-filled, chaotic home and being overweight.  Just as we push more and more into our homes and then feel overwhelmed, we do the same with our body.  He says that weight loss from decluttering was an unexpected outcome but one that many people wrote to him about.  I would believe it too.

Here is a letter from one of Peter’s clients, that was in the book:

Dear Peter,

About a year ago I completely decluttered my kitchen and I was so consumed by the task that I didn’t focus on food.  I actually began to do a sort of ‘fast’ in a natural sort of way.  I was performing a cleanse on my kitchen and a simultaneous cleanse of my body.  Normally, I am obsessed with food so this seemed unusual to me.  At this point, I carry about ten to fifteen pounds more than feels comfortable to me, and in the same way my house is cluttered with extra ‘fat’.  I thought that I had some sort of organisational disability, but now I think that my clutter protects me in some way (the same way that a little tyre of fat around the middle can protect you).  Clutter is a way of sabotaging my life in the same way that gaining weight makes me feel helpless and hopeless about my body.


When my house is messy, untidy and cluttered, I feel that way too.  Better food choices come from a clean and tidy kitchen where you use everything you own and don’t have a pantry full of expired foods and junky foods.

You don’t necessarily need to join Weight Watchers to start losing weight, you just need to start cleaning out those cluttered corners of your home.  I know, I’ve done both, and decluttering works better and the healthier eating is sustainable for the long term!


  1. I agree wholeheartedly! I love decluttering so much so my mama and siblings tease me about it. And I'm okay with that! :)

  2. This is resounding with me Fiona, especially the crockery/glassware stuff, I'll be back to read this post more closely. Thanks for the tip on Peter Walsh, I'll google the name.

    ETA My non-spam word to type in is "roses"!!

  3. Dear Fiona, If only it was automatic that I lose weight when I declutter…so far, it hasn't happened.

  4. This is just wonderful, Fiona. The planet thanks you, your budget thanks you and thrift shoppers thank you. And all the while you live more graciously. Oh, and you must have helped a charity, too. Is that four wins?
    Most people who own homes would store less if they calculated the cost of their home per square foot. Yikes!

  5. ps. Fiona, I wonder if lean pantries would help the world feed the hungry. Most of us have no reason to stock up on food. Lots of people in America have two refrigerators and a big freezer filled with food and a pantry also. So much goes to waste. It all uses power, too.

  6. I agree with Sheree about having too much food stored in extra refrigerators, freezers, etc… My mother-in-law shops at a big warehouse type store and buys large quantities of everything. It is only she and her husband at home. I know they must throw away a lot of not only food but household supplies - all under the guise of "buying in bulk = saving money." Wrong.

  7. Oh how I love a Peter Walsh book. You've given me something to think about as I look at my cupboards with new eyes. I think I can rearrange things and eliminate to make my most used storage spaces more pleasant.

  8. Fiona- I am bookmarking your post for re-reading. As we move my mother to a residential nursing facility, I realize how much more difficult it would have been had she not downsized herself years ago. I am finding so many items that have just become part of the scenery, not used, just there. It is slow going because it is difficult for me.

    And I wish I lived in an city like Paris where I could shop daily for my meals. I would waste so much less. Hard to do when you must travel miles to a store and the weather is inclement.

    Wish me luck on my quest to simplify my belongings and life.

  9. Fiona, I think the idea of a clutter "outbox" is a great idea. It helps you be a little more ruthless when decluttering because you know you can change your mind. the funny thing is, is that once it's in the outbox, it rarely comes back.
    In my fantasy life, I was going to learn Latin and Greek. Got rid of those books!

  10. Hi there Fiona, I am re-reading "Stop Acting Rich…and Start Living Like a Real Millionaire," by Thomas Stanley (the same author of "The Millionaire Next Door"). I think you mentioned this book in a previous post. Your current post inspired me to check it out again from the library.

  11. Dear Fiona,

    I found your blog online recently and find it very lovely. I see you like to write and read about decluttering. I am the author of the bestselling book, Small Space Organizing: A Room-by-Room Guide to Maximizing Your Space. If you would be interested in reviewing my book on your blog to share with your readers, I will mail you a signed copy if you wish. In any event, happy decluttering! Kathryn Bechen,

  12. I keep a "de-clutter" shopping bag in my closet to warehouse clothing that no longer fits (because it's too big, yay!) or works with my lifestyle. I've decluttered enough household items through the years and am grateful to not look at those silly serving pieces you get as wedding pieces that you'll never use.

    Each Jan 1 is "declutter" day in our house - especially when it comes to office files. It's a great way to begin the year!

  13. GREAT POST! I used to work for Williams-Sonoma, a nice kitchen store, and I would lust after all these fancy candleholders and silk tablecloths that I knew I would never use. But the Me in my Fantasy World would love to host dinner parties every night!!!

    Just found your blog and will definitely be back to read more.



Merci for your comment. Wishing you a chic day!

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