What Would William Morris Say?

Tidying prophetess Marie Kondo has her “spark joy” test. Hold an object, ask if it “sparks joy” and if not, send it to the thrift store to clutter some other person’s house. I’ve been working on another de-cluttering concept, currently in the beta testing stage, that will have us all ask, “what would William Morris say?”

William Morris, one of the most prominent members of the Arts and Crafts movement, took part in a last ditch effort to bring dignity back to work and stave off the horrors of an industrialized, consumer culture. His mantra, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful” is a sentiment I feel the need to foreground in my own struggles with clutter and consumer culture. This is why I’m introducing the new William Morris Memeā„¢.

Here’s how it works. Let’s say you’re at Home Depot looking at patio furniture. As yourself, “what would William Morris say?” Then picture the William Morris Meme:

What if you’re arguing with your spouse over a certain Ikea impulse purchase:

Or you’re pondering a trip to Costco:

I know, the salmon is a bargain, but William Morris thinks you’ll end up with a basket full of pizza pockets and a Taco Bell hoodie.

How about spending some time on Facebook?

I think I’ve got the makings of a new anti-consumerist app. Unfortunately, I doubt that Zuck’s tech-bro pals will send over any venture capital.

Leave a comment


  1. Unfortunately, “Is it cheap?” and “can I afford it?” and “Is it comfortable?” must be asked. I got his criteria in my patio furniture. The chairs HAD to live outdoors year round. But, to my delight the sturdy chairs were not gaudy, looked like wicker, and were “wicker” woven of some sort of sturdy plastic. And were 75% off.

    The sad thing is that some people just look at useful and cheap. Cheaply made, not inexpensive, is what they often get. Things gotten from ditches often meet his requirements after a little love.

  2. I don’t need to imagine a William Morris critique of potential purchases, although I adore his art, I need only imagine what my Oma would have thought of the item. I did not appreciate Grandma’s keen eye and sense of value and durability when I was a teen-ager, but I find that even some years after her death her common sense still informs my decisions. Grandma did not suffer fools or cheaply made goods lightly.

  3. Somewhere, I heard a wise saying to the effect: The pleasures of “Cheap” are fleeting, whereas the distress of “Poor Quality” stay with you forever.

  4. Love this! I think this mantra will inspire me to further reduce this weekend.

    Just recently unloaded a bunch of unused makeup samples and workwear. The process continues!

  5. I have one of those “certain Ikea impulse purchase” clothes hangers and in my case,it passes the william Morris test. I use it at least once a week and have used it for at least 5 years. Plus, it’s sort cute because it has little eyeballs that make it look very much like an octopus. Useful and aesthetically pleasing. I don’t think I’d buy it again because I am trying to avoid purchasing plastic, but if the same thing was made of wood, I’d be so down to give them my money.

  6. Hilarious! (Now I feel an evil comment germinating… something in a crisp accent about a Taco Bell hoodie and that loathesomely grey undershirt…)

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