Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Trials of a Conspicuous Consumer

Image from Paul Kepple and Jude Buffum of Headcase Design

Rather than beginning my year with a new set of resolutions destined for adding to anxieties and guilt, I have instead chosen to take another tact to begin the new year. I am editing my life. (Perhaps this is just a rose by another name, but nevertheless...)

Just like a good film, life needs a little editing every now and again to make it fit the romantic notion of reality you like to create in your head. Where I would like to have a well organised wardrobe where each item is visible and available at a moments notice, I instead have three wardrobes full of clothes, shoes, handbags and other accessories. When I look at my bookcase it is no longer a reflection of the me I am today, but is full of dog earred dross and unread gifts from an age ago. The same can be said for the contents of my storage cupboards, kitchen, studio etc... and the list goes on. While I have been on a mission to have "nothing in my home that is neither useful nor beautiful", it is a slow process, and is only half the story. To really begin the year anew, a good hard edit of lifes commitments, goals and time misspent is also in order.

When you look at how you spend your time each day, breaking it down moment by moment, how much of what fills it really counts for you? How many of those moments are things that you wish to build memories from, and how many are just the motions of an over scheduled automaton? Here is a little selection of some of the things that are to be shed from my life and the little rays of inspiration that are to replace them.

* Breakfast routine - I almost always eat the same thing for breakfast, and while it is nutritious, it is beginning to bore me. Instead, I am going to make breakfast a treat to start each day. Eggs in little china cups, with hot buttered toast cut into little fingers. Fresh flowers on the table. Jam served from a nice crystal bowl instead of the jar it came in and butter in a white china dish. My coffee in my favorite cup and saucers instead of a big mug - what's the use in having all this great china if it is seldom used? It doesn't have to be any harder, it is just a matter of changing a habit.

* Gym - I am so bored with my gym. The routine, the solitude of it and the sense of obligation. Instead I am going to replace my gym sessions with more dance sessions. A chance to dress up, interact, learn a new skill and stealth exercise.

* Housework - I spend a great deal of my time each day picking things up and returning them to their rightful places. It is depressing, tiring and makes me very irritable to live with. When reading about the daily housekeeping routine of women in the 1940's, something occurred to me. While it appears that they must have spent a great deal of time each day on straightening up, the reality wasn't near as bad as I had imagined, ( a quick chat with Nana confirmed this). And do you know why? They had so much less STUFF! With toy boxes bursting at the seams, more kitchen equipment than I could possibly use in a life time, and more miscellaneous ornaments than I even have shelves for; it is no wonder that I am driven around the bend by this chore. So the simple solution is to get rid of it. If I only have five sets of towels in the house then I won't have to wash and store so many. If Miss four only has a few dolls, I won't have to pick up twenty every night. I could be overly ambitious in this plan but the proof will be in the pudding.

* Television - I go through phases with this one, but it truly is one of the greatest time thieves. At the end of a busy day it is all too easy to collapse in front of whatever is on and zone out for a few hours. Generally though, the selection of shows tend to involve someone being killed, dying, on trial or being autopsied by some government agency or other. None of these make me feel any the better for it, and I find I can diagnose whatever obscure life threatening disease will kill our character within the first five minutes. So it has to stop. If I chose to watch something, it has to be on MY schedule and fit the emotional bill of whatever I am craving at that moment. Feeling a little hard done by? Watch Schindler's List. But whatever you do, don't leave the thing on for the next show to creep up on you and steal your evening.

* The Mall - Yes, I am somewhat of a shopping addict. I am also a bargain hunter and a fantasist. All these things add up to trouble when shopping in a mall. I don't tend to shop for clothes and things this way, but I do head into them often for the groceries, the mail and all those weekly necessities. And this is the problem. I just can't seem to pop in and out. I loose so much time browsing around for things I don't need, being distracted by sale racks and promotions. What I really need to do is shop at my local grocer / butcher / fruit store. If I go to stores that have only what I specifically need, then I am less likely to lose that extra hour being distracted by shiny things. And I'll be supporting small business which I am all in favor of. This one seems like a win win situation.

So with a little carefully editing, I should once again be the master of my own destiny. No longer a slave to the lure of 50% off, the power of meaningless obligation or the tyranny of possessions. At the very least I will be the owner of a shiny new set of good intentions.


Delphine said...

Hi there, my name is Delphine, and I live in Wangaratta. Just thought I would leave a small thought for you in thanks for being able to read about yours in your great blog.

It's kind of an obvious thing, but I find I have to remind myself: if you don't give into 'the lure of 50% off' something you don't need, you save 100%, and, you keep more space in your wardrobe/home!

In kindred spirits,

Katie @ Très Lola said...

Editing your life, I like that concept.

I like what you said about mixing up your breakfast routine too... especially toast being cut into little fingers.... 'soldiers' (!!)

thevintageyear said...

I really really love this post. All of these things have been on my mind lately. Good luck in your endeavours!

FromJapanWithLove said...

I totally agree!!! I routinely go through my stuff and get rid of what I don't use, want or need. I try to give things to people I think will like/use them...they are happy and so am I! I really like the breakfast idea....treating yourself right is always a good thing!

K.Line said...

Excellent post! I love your idea about making breakfast beautiful (although I scarcely have time to pee in the morning). I hope it works for you. It's lovely for the kids to experience too. And your comment about the old days being easier to clean because there was so much less stuff is soooooo resonant. I never considered that. Bizarrely. Of course, I'm always trying to pare down my own life for that very reason.

Doll legs said...

Great resolutions,i´m gonna add them to mine, because I need it too!! Have a wonderful 2009, full of love and good vibes to you and your family!!

floraposte said...

The breakfast part is really wishful thinking on my part as I am no-one's friend at 6.30! with the dance classes can I recommend belly dancing great for toning and really good fun.

Kristen said...

Wonderful post! I have been wanting/needing to edit my life as well.

Rachael King said...

I second the gym sentiment. I still go to do weights a couple of times a week, but most of my cardio comes from swing dancing. Some of our classes are as vigorous as an aerobics work-out and 10 x more fun. Then we head to a local bar and dance for another couple of hours! The rest of the time I just walk whenever possible.

I am a chronic book hoarder - they make me feel safe. And I have started sitting down with my 2 year old son and eating breakfast with him instead of giving him his first and then squeezing mine in between shower and getting dressed.

Sounds like you are well on your way to decluttering your life! I am going to add to the list growing my own vegetables and using gardening time as fun time with my son instead of seeing it as the burden I usually do.

WendyB said...

All good ideas...but it's still a resolution :-)

Patrizia simulacra said...

I love your philosophy. I guess we all need to stand back, evaluate and carry out changes ( no matter how small)for a more prosperous (spiritual and well as financial) future.

Anonymous said...

I would love to read more about the housekeeping of the 1940's, could you point me in the right direction?

Vanessa said...

Wow! I have almost all the same sentiments about self-improvement for the new year (with the solitary exception of the TV). It's amazing how women from different corners the planet can have the same ideas (I live in the U.S.) The world is certainly a much smaller place than it used to be.

Incidentally, I gave up regular TV years ago, and I couldn't be happier about it! I watch movies or rent the shows I want, when I want them (which really isn't that often). There's so much time to do more meaningful things. It's actually much easier to do than you may think. :)

Rachael said...

I love this post, very inspiring. My life needs some editing!

Caroline said...

Your comment about housekeeping made me think of a tip my Great Aunt gave me. She was a war-time nurse, and said the most useful thing she learnt was never to leave a room empty handed. It doesn't matter where or why you're leaving the room - if you're going to the bathroom just take that dirty cup and deposit it in the kitchen on the way. Her house is always spotless, even though, at 97, she still lives in their huge family home, without help.

I do like the idea about less clutter in theory... Sadly, I am a total hoarder!

My shopping resolution is to shop secondhand as far as I possibly can, and more ethically (as in none of the really cheap tat I so love!) where I can't!

Shannon (A beautiful Dream) said...

I love these 'edits' - all so achievable and they will make a big difference. Best of Luck!