And who is mother to decide which gifts take top priority, which clothes get worn sixty times instead of one, which stuffed rabbit becomes the irreplacable "lovely"? Should baby not be presented with every option, encouraged by equal interaction with each gift, and then, allowed the freedom to gravitate towards her preference?
This was my mentality when Samara was born. In fact, in her first nursery, I was so attached to every one of her gifts (and the givers) that I felt obligated to display the lot.
A beautiful custom knit hat courtesy of my college Bible study leader. A painting from my sister-in-law with flowers made out of ribbon from her wedding. A homemade sock monkey, given to me by a woman from my home church who has known me forever! And this is not a Target sock monkey. This sock monkey was actually made out of socks!
Truth be told, I could tell you the story behind every single item in this picture, including the source of every blanket in the pile.
But seriously, how long do you think the shelves stayed this neat with a baby around?
Maybe an hour?
I know for a fact that ceramic green cat on the top shelf was broken by an internet repair man not long after this photo was taken. I was not happy (as I had asked Mark to move everything before the guy got in there for this very reason, but I do not keep a record of wrongs.)
Not only is this type of shelf stuffing impractical, it is so busy, as in cluttered. When is the baby supposed to breath?
Her dresser top wasn't much better. #somanysmallthings.
As time passed, I edited a bit.
Brakables were elevated out of reach. Everything eye-level and below was usable and indestructible.
However, I still had trouble decluttering the dresser top. This set-up even survived a move.
For a while.
You may come to find a major theme running through these House Highlight posts ... a lesson that I am still learning. It is simply that less truly is more. I have read numerous articles discussing how when it comes to gifts, it really is the thought that counts. Be grateful to your gifter, but do not assume that every single knick knack needs prime viewing real estate.
It is ok. Let it go.
When all was said and done, the white shelf got ousted altogether. It was originally a hutch for a white desk, that I bought at a yard sale for $7. (Using a hutch as a bookshelf, without the underlying piece may or may not fall into the weird category.)
Samara's dresser top ended up looking like this. (I apologize for the split pictures. Turns out I do not have a straight on shot.)
Closest to Samara's bed is a reading lamp and two frames with fun, bright photos in them.
On the far side, a globe taken from my grandmother's farmhouse sits, which is intended to help Samara understand her small place in the grand scheme of the world. (A mix of mission and Montessori?) The piggy bank is a gift from her uncle and is actually used for savings!
That is it.
In defense of my pre-country self, the view seen through Samara's new window is breath-taking. An object displayed in front of it clearly loses when one looks out! In the original, dirty apartment complex, such views were not accessible.
A few rules I have come to live by when displaying small items:
1. Love it. Seriously, if each and every item does not make you smile ... put it in the closet! It is not worth it to feel irritated every time your eyes graze that lovingly bestowed, horribly ugly keepsake. (Do y'all actually get angry, or is it just me?)
2. Think about size and height. I have no further tips concerning this, but visual balance is key!
3. LESS IS MORE. When trying to decide what to put on a surface, always start with nothing. I recently read that there is beauty in a blank wall, and not only do I thoroughly agree with this statement, I think the same can be true about a particular piece of furniture, mantel, or shelf. Sometimes nothing looks best! If it needs something, add carefully, slowly. Every single item must be necessary.
4. Particular to Samara's room, I like to tell her the stories behind her treasures. Where or whom did it come from? On what occasion? What was her reaction? After all, regardless of how beautiful I want the space to look, it is her room, not mine!
Additional tip for gift givers:
Mothers often have a very specific vision for what they want their baby's nursery to look like. Though many gifts are well-intentioned, I personally find it best to steer clear of nursery decor gifts (unless something is requested on a registry), because ... well, the new momma may feel obligated to hang your lovingly handstitched toucan tapestry over her crib, but in reality, it's not quite what she was picturing when she chose a quirky bird theme.
I know. You think that what you have chosen is the exception. (Not to be overly forward, but) ... it's not.
Back to everyone else:
There is a hard line to draw between a cluttered surface and a hotel-like (boring) one. You want your space to be warm, personal, and welcoming, and yet, managable.
Clearly, this is all amateur advice. I'm just sharing where I've ended up.
Lesson Learned: I've said it twice already. Less is more! It can still be special.
Sidenote: The rocking chair in the final picture has also been edited. Different quilt, less pillows, and sadly, no more sock monkey.