What I have said in this chapter by way of counsel will fail to help the individual if she is reluctant to discard superfluous things, not only when arranging a house for the first time, but as she lives in it from day to day. Every house, however humble, however exalted above its surroundings, ought to be provided with some closet, or chest of drawers, or store-room, some one receptacle large enough to hold all that is ugly and superfluous, everything that is out of key, and everything that is jarring. Things of this character may come as heirlooms, as Christmas presents, as tokens of devoted attachment from friends who have no understanding of beauty, of propriety, or of the proper relations of one object to another. Rubbish of this sort must not be permitted to remain. A celebrated sculptor used to make it a rule every Sunday morning to go about his house and get rid of the unnecessary and the out-of-key. He regarded his house as an artist his work, as we should all regard whatever object we undertake to perfect, never failing in a ceaseless vigilance, nor a constant going back to old ideals, first impressions, the better to perfect their expression.
The injured feelings of our dear ones may have to be considered in this heroic performance. Sentiment hampers us in our effort to attain true excellence in decoration; we must not allow ourselves to be influenced. To cast out all offending matter, should be the rule, before we have a chance to be reconciled to it or are beguiled into building upon bad foundations.
I am tempted to quote a letter of advice written by a woman who had succeeded in making her home beautiful. Her method of procedure is one which other women might adopt to advantage.
"You ask me how I went to work. I began by loving and longing for a home with an eagerness I cannot describe, and I wanted that home to be to those whom I welcomed to it not only a refuge, but a rest, a refreshment, a delight. I had all this in the home in which I lived as a young person. I took for granted such a place was easy to make when I began. But! - Mine used to look so lonely, in the first place. None of the things I put in it seemed right. I welcomed my guests, but I felt their discomfort. I saw when lights in their eyes bothered them. I took the chairs they vacated when they left, and saw what ugly vistas another room presented. I had a hideous gilt paper on my wall that my landlord would not change. Everything showed badly against it. So I began to study into the question. I threw away ruthlessly all the things which I knew were bad, but to which I had accustomed myself. I said I would have empty rooms rather than hideous ones. The great secret of growth is to rid one's self of things which by-and-by are going to contaminate one's taste. It is like plucking out the eye that offends you. I used to go about studying every house I saw. If I saw anything that grated on me, I tried to think why it was, and then I avoided it in mine. If I found something good, and it was appropriate to my surroundings, I tried to get it. But I always studied into the reasons. For instance, I knew that gilt filigree chairs in a room meant for comfort, or in one where books and pictures prevailed, must be bad, since they were uncomfortable to sit on, and since they were too unsubstantial and too palpably an attempt at elegance to place in a room in which the work of some good artist was on the walls or the books of some great author on the shelf. I did not want gilt filigree chairs, therefore, any more than I should have wanted to wear celluloid belts or gaudy jewelry. I read and studied every picture of any interior I saw, always keeping two points in view when selection was necessary - my own requirements and the proprieties. It was very easy to see that point-lace curtains or blue satin, however beautiful in themselves, would be improper for a library or a picture gallery."