I love watching the shows on HGTV. I especially like Love It or List It. This show features couples who used to love their home, but now it isn't working for them anymore. Usually they had kids and now they have outgrown the space. There aren’t enough closets or storage spaces or bathrooms. They tour the home on camera, and stuff is everywhere. Often the house doesn’t have a front coat closet so the front entryway is littered with shoes and coats and sports equipment. The too-small bathroom counter is covered in everyone’s products. The kids’ toys are everywhere.
One spouse is convinced that they have to move to get more space, and one spouse is convinced that with a little renovation work the house can be saved. Are they going to love it or list it?*
To help them in this process, the show brings in Hilary to do the renovation, and David to find them a new house. At the end of the show, we see Hilary’s renovation. Everything is new and shiny and clean and clutter-free, and sometimes it’s nice enough that the couple decides to stay.
I was watching this show for the umpteenth time when I realized, that yes, Hilary does amazing renovations, and yes, sometimes an extra bathroom can make all the difference, and yes, a front coat closet is something no family should be without.
But the BIG difference in the before-and-after was that before, there was clutter, and after, the clutter was gone. Sometimes the clutter disappeared into the new storage Hilary had built. But sometimes it just disappeared.
And that’s when I realized this very basic truth. If you have too much stuff, one solution is to hire a contractor and do massive renovations to get more storage space. And that’s a perfectly reasonable solution. But an equally reasonable (and much cheaper) solution is to just get rid of a lot of that stuff. How many Love It or List It families would have been best served by the third option of working with someone to dejunk their home?
While HGTV is basically built on the idea that the number one tip for a beautiful home is renovation, in actuality, their secret number one tip for a beautiful home is decluttering (and cleaning). That’s it. In the reveals on every show, there is no junk. While beautiful open concepts and granite countertops and farmhouse sinks and hardwood floors are all well and good, I truly think the most attractive aspect of these homes is the lack of clutter. How beautiful would they be if all the clutter moved back in?
And the great news is, you can get the kind of beautiful home for free. All you have to do is get rid of stuff, and you just might fit back into the space you thought you had outgrown. This encourages me a lot, because big renovations are completely out of my budget. But I can work on controlling the amount of stuff I have, and keeping my house clean (although cleaning is not my strong suit).
Now again, sometimes renovations are the best option, and sometimes you do need to move to a bigger space. Sometimes you just want those granite countertops, dangit. But sometimes you just need to pitch some stuff, work a little Kondo magic, and you’ll find the house you used to love.
*This show, like most shows on HGTV, is almost entirely fake. But I’m working with the illusion here.