Bonheur [boh(n)-URH]: French women know happiness is not a matter of luck; it’s what you make of your life. This word for happiness is literally “good time.” The French way of connecting feeling with time is telling. It suggests something to be cultivated in the course of our hours and days and months and years, how we live in relation to them. The English word happy comes from the archaic word hap which means “luck.” Interesting distinction. – Mireille Guiliano
Growing up I had very little clothes, most of which were hand me downs, thrifted or made. I also had a very peculiar style, mixing strange colours and textures and thinking Laura Ingalls was a fashion model. When I began to travel at 18, everything I owned had to fit into one suitcase so owning a lot of clothes wasn’t important to me (lugging around dozens of books, however, was). This meant I had clothes that I didn’t really love nor knew how to make work because I never really took the time to understand clothing – it wasn’t high on the priority list plus I juts didn’t enjoy the act of shopping.
I don’t like to hunt through racks or go from shop to shop. I know what I like and would often come away disappointed and frustrated – how was that fun? I also didn’t know how to put an outfit together or accessorise. So despite loving fashion, I didn’t participate in it. It was just too much of a hassle and I didn’t want hassle.
It wasn’t until a few years ago I discovered a store that suited my sensibility and had clothes that fit me perfectly. The outfits seemed to be put together which helped me to learn to look a little less crazy but still have my style. Finding this one store has helped me because now I don’t shop anywhere else. I don’t spend my time looking for things to wear or feeling like crap if things don’t fit. I understand how the stores sales work (and I work with them seasonally for the discount – 40%!) so I never have to buy clothes full price. It works.
However, because I now adore clothes and keep falling in love with new ones all the time, it’s become really important for me to really know what I have, what I wear, and what needs to go. I’m still a minimalist girl so if I kept buying clothes I’d get easily overwhelmed if they all stayed with me.
To keep sane I have a method of clothes management. When I purchase something, I go to the stores web site, save the photo of the item and copy the description to a text file. I make a collage every so often of my current wardrobe so at a quick glance, I can see what I have, what to mix, what I’m actually wearing and what I’ve tired of.
When I’ve grown tired of something or just find I’m not wearing it, I then either swap clothes with friends, donate to shelters or, if it’s in great, hardly used condition, I eBay it using the photos and description I saved.
For me, this method has been really, really helpful. I’ve had friends see my images and ask to borrow a dress or tell me to try to mix this top with that skirt. I can see the seasons through my wardrobe, I can see how I’ve been evolving style wise over the years and mostly, I can just see pretty things, which I’m a sucker for. It also helps me plan for trips; just cutting and pasting images around I can easily see what to take instead of having to take everything out of the closet! For my upcoming trip to New York and Copenhagen, I discovered that the following would work quite nicely:
So next time you buy something, try saving the images. Then when you look at your wardrobe you can really analyse if you’re buying things you love or just buying to buy. And if you have things you don’t love – get rid of them. That way you have room for all that you do adore.
(The above pictures were made very easily made using Photoshop’s Automated Contact Sheet function under the “Browse” window. By simply selecting the images I wanted to use and then selecting the “contact sheet” function, Photoshop automatically created the image. What could be easier than that?!)
When I first started renting flats I was stuck with white walls which I always dreamed of painting but didn’t dare (I always needed the deposit back so badly!). But then years ago a friend whose flat I loved told me to just discard the deposit fee and think of it as “I need to live here fee” and had me start to paint my walls. Which I did. In a slightly crazy form I must say!
Then I got the hang of colour, how to make it work and began to put vibrant, bold colours in my home (usually just on a wall or two). Deep Rose Reds, wonderful burnt yellows, warm greens and dark greys filled up my home. But at the same time, I kept collecting images from Victoria Magazine (anyone remember that?) and bought every book that Rachel Ashwell wrote for Shabby Chic. With all the colour in my home, I started to fantasise about white walls.
Now I find myself torn because I love colour but also love white. I love the cosy places in the Pacific Northwest with their dark woods and warm tones as well as the pale colours I’ve often seen in French Chateauxâ€™s. Aside from my office, my current home’s painted walls are colours that were decided by the people I bought it from. And since the house will be on the market soon, I’ve decided not to paint over it (they’re those neutral colours that are supposed to appeal to everyone. They don’t appeal to me). So as I live in a home of painted walls that aren’t my thing, I’m really thinking about my next place and what to do colour wise.
I’m leaning heavily towards white or very pale colours, especially after seeing the photo above and the site in which it came from. My wardrobe is colourful, my work is colourful, my accents are colourful and I think because of that I need some quiet in the home to balance it all.
I have all white furniture which has worked well in every kind of home with every colour choice. But when I tried to do all white before I think I did it rather badly and want, instead, to make it cosy and beautiful instead of cold and bland. But I’m not sure where to find the right pale paints (I once tried a pale pink that was so Peptobismal/old people’s home looking that I had to go with a deep red instead), the textured fabrics, the accents to compliment that wouldn’t be too frilly or girly (something I find happens to things that are pale) or how to go from so much colour back to white.
What’s the trick?
On my flight last week I watched a CBS segment where chef Bobby Flay made the best-looking oatmeal ever. Since I was on a plane that only served peanuts, I began to immediately anticipate the moment I would make this. That moment arrived today thanks to an ice storm that’s taken over most of the U.S..
When I heard that the storm was coming, I did something I’ve never done before: stocked up. I made sure to have on hand lots of ingredients for soup (instead of just opening a can), lots of tea, baking supplies (warm cookies on a cold day – check!) and of course things for the fabulous oatmeal recipe. There’s only one way to survive the cold; stay warm. And that’s what I’m doing with yet another great hot oatmeal recipe, home made chicken soup and baked goods. Ah, the charms of winter!
I’m a frugal girl; I am not a cheap girl. In America there isn’t really a distinction but to most Europeans, there is. It’s why I will buy a $900 office chair but use plastic boxes for a side table. It’s why I spend lots of money on organic, healthy food but won’t go on a shopping spree at a mass retailer.
With money, I budget like crazy to make sure that all my bills are met, that my savings is growing, that my retirement is being contributed to, that I have a financial plan in motion. With what is leftover I use for things for the home, for myself, for friends, and travel. And with that money I then decide what is the value of something to me?
Sometimes, flying first class is a value if I have to be at a business meeting and need to be fresh for it – sometimes being crammed in coach in the least expensive seat is what I need. A chair that I’m going to be sitting in for most of the time that’s going to help me do my business is a value at $900 if it really supports me and is warranted for 20 years but a table from a mass table that’s going to fall apart in a year but only costs me $20 is not.
Everything thing I buy is paid for with cash; if I don’t have the cash I don’t buy it. If I can’t have it I don’t try and buy something just to make up for it – to me that’s a waste of money. I’d rather save up for the exact thing I want than have 20 “kind of’s” in my closet or home.
Each purchase I make, I think about whether it’s $1.00 or $100.00 – that’s frugal.
I’m often critisised States side for my spending habits by people who think I preach something I don’t practice. I receive a lot of mail from my site Pet the Pretty Things in which people often complain about the high cost of some of the items and how I must be crazy to buy them. They never mention the less expensive items, however. And that’s because I’m neither cheap (only subscribe to shopping at Thrift stores or Targets) nor snotty (only buying something because it costs a lot).
Money is important to me. Owning things I love is important to me. Not being overwhelmed or feeling guilt over either is the most important to me. And being frugal allows me that piece of mind.