Give ’em something to tick-tock about

“Time is a wealth of change, but the clock in its parody makes it mere change and no wealth.” — Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), Indian Poet and Nobel Prize Winner in Literature, Stray Birds.

Clocks are not top of mind for most of us. It’s only at this time of year when we might turn our clocks back, and then again in the spring when we go forward, that we give them any thought. As an accessory and workhorse in our lives, poor clocks are not given their fair share of attention.

If adjusting the clocks in our homes is inconvenient, just imagine owning a clock store. I never like switching the clocks because they’re all different and some are easy to do and some you need an instruction manual — and then the ones in our cars are a different story.

Many people just keep the same time all year long on their clocks and have to make a mental note of the correct time for six months out of 12. That’s easier for them than resetting. Thank goodness our computers, microwaves and televisions change automatically.

But, back to clocks.

We may not like our clocks very much, and they run our lives. But clocks are awesome home accessories. Over the years, I’ve made many lists of things to do and not to do in our homes — some of which get published — and one item on the top 10 list is “every room should have a clock.” We really do need to know what time it is — everywhere!

According to, “The word clock was first used in the 14th century. It comes from the word for bell in Latin (clocca).

“The oldest type of clock is a sundial clock, also called a sun clock. They were first used around 3500 B.C. Peter Henlein of Germany invented a spring-powered clock around 1510. The first clock with a minute hand was invented by Jost Burgi in 1577.”

So there you have it: clock history in 100 words or less. Even in their history, clocks get somewhat shortchanged.

Whatever your taste, you can find clocks to match. Choices are endless, whether it’s the furniture clocks, i.e., grandfather, commemorative clocks (engraved thank yous, retirement, etc.), cuckoos, mantel clocks, digitals, alarms or themed ones. The faces, numbers, colors, materials, sizes and purposes make clocks one of the most versatile pieces you own.

Clocks also maintain history for us. Many are passed down through generations and are highly valued.

One of my earliest memories of a clock was one in my grandmother’s house — big, black, with big numbers and the ever-present tick. You seldom hear that sound today. The most common sounds in clocks are chimes and bells signaling the hour. Or the get-up sound that some of us hear in the morning.

Clocks not only tell time, but are used for countdowns. When I was in China before the Olympics, a clock was ticking down with hours and minutes until the big event. The National Debt clock ticks up, as does the population clock. If you prowl around on the Internet, you will find hundreds of clocks that measure things other than time, i.e., people’s money, actions, etc. — way more information than we need.

So, whether you’re making time, keeping time, killing time or just want to know the time, I hope you’ll have a whole new respect for your clock and realize it’s more than a timekeeper. And don’t forget: one in every room!

Carolyn Muse Grant is a founder and past president of the Architectural &Decorative Arts Society, as well as an interior design consultant/stylist specializing in home staging. Send questions to

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