By Janice Llanes Fabry

Pullquote: “I noticed I had plenty of items that screamed ‘repeal and replace’, or was that the television news I left on?”

To keep or not to keep, that is the question. Spring is a great time to dispose of those nonsensical things we’ve accumulated. I have been canvassing my house to determine which of my possessions to preserve, which to purge.

We all typically look through our closets to determine what clothes we’ve outgrown, figuratively and literally. What is it they say about editing a wardrobe? If you haven’t worn it the last four seasons, get rid of it. A similar formula can be applied throughout our homes. If a thingamajig hasn’t served a purpose or conjured up a strong sentimental attachment in the last year, give it the heave-ho.

Over time, my taste has become less traditional, more contemporary. While part of me wants to relinquish most of my furniture or will away its Chippendale carvings, cabriole chair legs, and damask upholstery, I know there are ways to salvage what I have and refresh the design.

As I surveyed the house, room-by-room, I compiled a mental longlist that included freshening up wallpaper, replacing heavy drapes, and upgrading light fixtures. Before I pulled our traditional Persian rugs out from under my husband’s feet, however, I figured I’d start small. The most obvious feature of contemporary design, besides the ubiquitous “clean lines”, is minimal clutter.

Clutter, of which I am guilty, seems to be the most obvious obstruction to my home’s new transitional look. And my clutter is of the worst kind, deliberate and neat, so it’s not as if it disappears when I straighten up a messy room. Some time ago, I heard an interior designer say that items arranged in an odd number are more appealing. Though three is the magic number, over the years I reinterpreted it as five, seven, and nine.

For instance, why can’t I just have a single beautiful vase? Nope, mine was in a grouping with a few other vases of different sizes or amidst various tchotchkes. I have clusters of candles, a bevy of books, a collection of Staffordshire enamel boxes, just to name a few culprits taking up every inch of space on shelves, counters, and tables.

The “new” me is here to corroborate the philosophy of feng shui experts who believe clutter is tantamount to stagnant energy. Cutting down on the candles, culling faded paperbacks from my shelves, tossing away some throws draped over chairs, and flinging a bunch of decorative pillows was liberating.

Parting with some of the countless beloved frames documenting all twenty-something years of my children’s lives was sweet sorrow. I admit I couldn’t have done it without strong motivation: making room for photos of the two grandchildren we’re expecting this summer.

Feng shui proponents say de-cluttering can be therapeutic and increases energy flow or “chi.” I continued my inspection with renewed determination.

I noticed I had plenty of items that screamed “repeal and replace,” or was that the television news I left on? Anyway, as I combed through the house, I spied a chipped candelabra that I replaced with candlesticks from the kitchen. I exchanged a planter on a windowsill that had faded in the sun for a vibrant fabric planter that I purchased at Sarza, the new African home accessories shop in town.

I even went deep into the abyss and scrutinized the laundry room. I couldn’t believe I was still using an old wicker hamper with bleach-splattered spots that had faded into my subconscious. A few trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond later, I had revamped my whole dingy laundry room. A new hamper prompted a new wastebasket that triggered new hand towels that led to a new ironing board cover, all color coordinated. After all, this space should feel as fresh as the laundry I’ll spend so much time folding now that I have all this energy.

Bookshelves, cluttered and not.

A contemporary fabric container from Sarza brightens up the window.