When my children were younger, we used to have a vacation every year on a beautiful island on the West coast of France. It’s perfect for family holidays, we always rent a house there and the kids are having a blast, splashing in the sea, stuffing themselves with crepes and enjoying countless donkey rides and, as they grew older, sailing trips.
Once, years and years ago, they were still small, they begged and begged me to be allowed to go to the local bakery on their own. It wasn’t far, no dangerous crossings, so off they went, beaming and excited.
They came back with their croissants and something else. “We bought something with our pocket money”. Uh-oh, I thought, trying to see what it was they were hiding behind their backs: a tray they had bought in the souvenir shop. A plastic tray (if you know me just a little, you’ll know that plastic is a material I really could do without) which looked basically like the most kitschy postcard you could imagine: artificial blue and red sky, a donkey and the “typical” attractions of the island all squeezed together. You could slowly roast me over a coal fire before I would buy such a thing for my home!
I’ll never forget the excitement, the pride and the love that shone on their faces: “This is for you, we chose this all of our own for your holidays and breakfast in bed.” And in this instant this mega-ugly tray became one of my most prized possessions, and still is to this day!
You might be surprised of me telling a story about keeping a thing, when I usually preach the contrary! The question is – what is the benchmark for the things we keep in our home – love and joy or fear and guilt?
In the last few months I had to touch every one of my possessions as I packed boxes to leave my old home, unpacked them upon arrival in the new home and am packing now again, before the builders start renovation (yes, it would have made more sense to renovate before moving in, but that’s a different story).
In this process, two things became crystal clear:
1.) It is completely absurd to keep things which you even forgot you possessed. In 99 out of hundred cases, you were right to forget about them, so just let them go. What’s the point anyway to keep something without the joy of knowing that it’s there to enhance your life???
2.) One can’t overestimate the impact of the things our homes are filled with! Now, I’m not talking about money. Don’t buy any longer into the story that you don’t have an elegant home because you don’t have the money. That’s simply not the truth. And don’t tell yourself that it is money or the lack of it that makes you keep those ugly garden chairs your sister-in law gave you, or that you can’t afford to throw out those ten pairs of shoes you never wear. It is fear, guilt, embarrassment or trying to avoid anger and frustration – but it is certainly not lack the money!
An elegant home is one that makes you feel and act your best.
I have seen very affluent and very modest homes which both exuded elegance, and also very affluent and very modest homes which were just sad.
So here’s what I suggest you do if you feel your home lacks elegance and energy:
Decide exactly how you want to feel in each room in your home. For example, you might want to feel sensual and feminine in your bathroom and relaxed and luxurious in your bedroom or vice versa. You might want to feel cosy or efficient in your kitchen and sociable and inspired in your living room.
Once you are completely clear about how you want to feel in a room, look at every item, including the colour on the walls with your new eyes. You’ll very quickly see where the room is already working and which are the things that do nothing for the feeling you want to create. Throw out the clutter, slip cover the sofa, paint that wall, get creative! I have found consistently that for most people aligning their home to make them experience feelings of love and joy does not require a costly overhaul and brand new Italian furniture (which I love, of course). What it does require is overcoming the fear and the guilt and the sheer laziness that keeps us clinging to outdated stuff and shying away from change.
Living an elegant life is not for the weak, it takes a lot of courage to step up and be true to our vision. But: once you’ll get going, it’s incredible fun!
When I’ll unpack my boxes again in a couple of weeks in a renovated, fresh and sparkly home (hopefully), my perspective will have evolved and I fully expect that not everything in the boxes will make it over the threshold.
But my plastic tray will have a place of honour.