In this reflection for the April 2015 CatholicCare Sydney staff newsletter, Sandie Cornish ponders the effect of William Morris’ criteria for retaining household objects.
William Morris & a Minimalist Approach to People
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
This quote from William Morris, designer, poet, novelist and activist, is popular with minimalists, de-clutterers and professional organisers. I like these criteria, but I can’t say that I’m very good at observing them. They also make me a bit nervous about being evicted.
Sometimes we do fall into applying criteria that are appropriate for managing the things in our lives to people. We can tend, often unconsciously, to treat people as though they were things. Think of how our economic system values people according to their activity – and which activities are considered to be the most valuable. Think of the way in which our culture elevates appearance over character, and even competence, especially in relation to women.
We aren’t immune from the influence of the society in which we live, so it is important to make time for reflection. This helps us – as individuals and as an organization – to make conscious choices that better reflect our values.
CatholicCare’s person-centred approach values people for who they are, not how they look or what they do. We try to recognize and uphold the dignity and worth of every person who uses or works in our services. By accompanying people in their struggles we often see a beauty in them that is not physical.
A person is not a thing to be used, yet most of us like to be useful. Perhaps it is better to shift our thinking to being helpful? What we do is important because it expresses who we are, and who we are called by God to become. We are called to help one another and to build up the common good.
Nonetheless, I’m glad my husband believes me to be beautiful!