Saturday, February 15, 2014

Real Life versus Fantasy Life

Simplicity in palette, and luxuriously sparse elegance.  Style inspiration from the new Chanel boutique on Avenue Montaigne in Paris.


I’ve come across the idea of real life versus fantasy life from two different sources recently.  I’ve been reading Peter Walsh, master declutterer that he is, and I also came across the same idea in a ‘money savvy’ newspaper article in a recent newspaper.  Both authors ask you to think about what your life is really like, rather than what you imagine your fantasy life could be.

And because I still have uppermost in my mind a vision of how I want my home life to be – that airy and spacious abode reminiscent of a Parisian apartment, I will continue on with my minimising quest.

The lady who was quoted in the money article said she finally admitted to herself that she never held formal dinners in which she needed to keep a huge amount of crockery and glassware for.

That resounded with me because I do that.  Not so much with plates, because all the plates and bowls we have are used, but with the glasses and also the tiny dishes I think I will fill with flaky salt and cracked pepper to use with a little spoon at fancy dinners.  Apart from perhaps Christmas day (when we did not use the little salt dish and spoon even then), I almost never have big sit-down dinners.

When we entertain, I like to have one friend/couple/family over at a time.  It is less formal and intimidating, and you get to catch up with them properly.

So this thought of real life versus fantasy life helped me clear out many items in my kitchen cupboard such as excess wine glasses.  I kept my nicest and newest and donated the rest.  Giving all the glasses that are to be donated a quick rinse through the dishwasher means they look nice and new and sparkly, the charity store won’t have to clean them, and they will look more appealing to their customers.

Real life versus fantasy life spills over into many different areas.  Here are a few others I’ve been thinking about.

The wardrobe – actually thinking about what we do in any given week and what clothes we require for that.  Not giving too much space to clothing that is worn very infrequently or not at all.  Getting rid of fantasy items that we never have occasion to wear.

The food we keep in our pantry and fridge.  You might be like me and have ingredients that were bought when you were feeling creative but then never wanted to use.  I am challenging myself to use these products in meals at the moment.  When I cleaned out my pantry last week it was almost a relief that couple of items had expired and I could dispose of them, as much as I don’t like to waste food.  The pressure is off!

Books and magazines.  How many of these am I going to re-read and wouldn’t they be better off in someone else’s home where they will be enjoyed rather than stagnating in mine?

Bulky items that are taking up space and we don’t use them – electric blankets that we haven’t used for years and that were heading for twenty years old, I threw them out (for safety reasons).  Two electric heaters and a dehumidifier that are stored in a cupboard under the stairs in case we need them one day – these are being donated closer to winter.  This will give us much more space to store our vacuum cleaner and suitcases in a roomy and stress-free manner.  Actually these aren’t fantasy life items, they are ‘just in case items’, and they can go too.

Crafting supplies.  This is a big category for me and I’m sure many others.  I have many projects that I am set up for but I only have so many days in the week, and if I haven’t made time for some of them by now, doesn’t that tell me something?

I will be going through my sewing room/office and only keeping the few projects that really excite me.  Everything else will go into my (now clear after a big drop-off at the new SPCA op shop) guest bedroom.  The guest bedroom is my cool-off area where I can put items to be donated.  I don’t have to make the decision whilst I’m tidying and decluttering an area which frees me to be more ruthless.  When I go back later to survey what I have put there, very little appeals that much to me that I have to take it back.  I think Apartment Therapy man calls this idea an ‘Outbox’.

One other tip that has been helping me streamline the items I keep in our house, is to look at the space available.  After all, every room and cupboard in our house, and also our house itself is a finite amount of space.  The narrow shelf where I keep our coffee/tea mugs was always a small point of annoyance every time I emptied the dishwasher.  There was a couple too many cups so I never had room for them if they were all clean.  I decluttered three and put them in my donation box and now I have a lovely roomy shelf.

The same can apply to the number of coat-hangers (one garment per hanger!) you have in your wardrobe and also the size of your drawers.  On a day that all your washing is up-to-date you can fully complete the decluttering task.  It’s not a good feeling when you think you’ve got a manageable wardrobe after a prune-out but then realise you’ve still got washing in the laundry that is going to ‘push you over the edge’ again.

I’m reading Peter Walsh’s Does This Clutter Make My Butt Look Fat? and he makes the link between having a clutter-filled, chaotic home and being overweight.  Just as we push more and more into our homes and then feel overwhelmed, we do the same with our body.  He says that weight loss from decluttering was an unexpected outcome but one that many people wrote to him about.  I would believe it too.

Here is a letter from one of Peter’s clients, that was in the book:

Dear Peter,

About a year ago I completely decluttered my kitchen and I was so consumed by the task that I didn’t focus on food.  I actually began to do a sort of ‘fast’ in a natural sort of way.  I was performing a cleanse on my kitchen and a simultaneous cleanse of my body.  Normally, I am obsessed with food so this seemed unusual to me.  At this point, I carry about ten to fifteen pounds more than feels comfortable to me, and in the same way my house is cluttered with extra ‘fat’.  I thought that I had some sort of organisational disability, but now I think that my clutter protects me in some way (the same way that a little tyre of fat around the middle can protect you).  Clutter is a way of sabotaging my life in the same way that gaining weight makes me feel helpless and hopeless about my body.


When my house is messy, untidy and cluttered, I feel that way too.  Better food choices come from a clean and tidy kitchen where you use everything you own and don’t have a pantry full of expired foods and junky foods.

You don’t necessarily need to join Weight Watchers to start losing weight, you just need to start cleaning out those cluttered corners of your home.  I know, I’ve done both, and decluttering works better and the healthier eating is sustainable for the long term!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

An evening with Mireille

Mireille Guiliano visited my town last night promoting her newest book French Women Don’t Get Facelifts. I was so excited when my Mum emailed a while back to let me know she was coming and immediately booked my ticket!

It was a beautiful summer evening and the event ‘Conversation with Mireille’ was held at the Villa Maria vineyard which looked absolutely stunning as I drove in.

Of course I put a lot of thought into what I was going to wear. The Diane Von Furstenberg wrap dress looked to be a shoo-in but it was a very hot and humid day so I wondered if I would be too warm in its long-ish fitting sleeves. I decided on one of my other Hawaii purchases, an army green Banana Republic coatdress.

There were a lot of women already there when I arrived and many of them were milling outside. I saw inside the door that some women were already seated so I went in and bravely sat in the very first row, right in front of the lectern. I didn’t want to miss a single breath.

She was fabulous. Very gentle and fun and she seemed a genuinely lovely person. She read a few excerpts from her book and talked about the different categories in her newest book, such as dressing, skincare, grooming, ‘invisible’ exercise and enjoying life.

I took good notice of her personal style too of course. Mireille wore a blouse in white and black with a toile de jouy type print and it seemed to be one of those uniquely French ones that are finely pleated/scrunched, the ruffled collar and placket edging certainly was. Her pants were classic and not tight at all, and she had mid-heel shoe-boots in embossed black suede.

You couldn’t help but notice Mireille's black epi-leather Louis Vuitton bag, centre-stage as it was. I’m not sure what the style is known as but I found some pictures of one called Bowling Montaigne which it may be.

And hanging slightly out of her bag was a scarf in a beautiful ochre colour. It was a pleated silky/acetate looking fabric and the shade was a good match for her hair (she must already know the trick that three personalised colours that are great for you are to match your hair, eye and skin colour).

Her makeup was subtle to the point of unnoticeable. Mireille talked about this during the evening. She said as she gets older she wears less, and said bright red lipstick is too much for her now, and that too much eye makeup emphasizes her wrinkles, so she wears very little. Of course there are women of a certain age who wear quite striking makeup and that is part of their ‘look’. It all goes back to knowing yourself and being uniquely you. Apparently French women would be horrified to look like other women and want their own look that no-one else has.

I noticed Mireille’s hands – she had short, neat nails, with either no polish or just clear. I always feel bad that I don’t wear at least a pale pink polish, but the reality with my job is that it chips within one day, and even if you can’t notice with a light colour, I know it’s chipped and tacky. Opening shoebox after shoebox just shears that colour right off.

Mireille said there were usually two kinds of people who came to her book launches. 1. Women who want to lose weight (particularly for her first book I suppose) and 2. Francophiles. I tried to appear invisible at that comment because it is quite an embarrassing thing to be exposed as someone who is shallow enough to like something or someone just because they are French and stylish!

She was surprised when her first book became a bestseller in France, because as she rightly said, why would a French woman listen to another French women living in America talking about being French. But the main reason French women liked her book was the nostalgia factor. They told her they remembered their mothers saying the same things to them that Mireille recounted.

About exercise Mireille said she and her French friends hated that word and did not use the gym. Of course some French women go to the gym but it is not as common as in other countries. One of her close American friends moved to Paris and ran gym classes there. When they caught up two years later, Mireille was stunned to find that her American friend did not speak one word of French. The reason was that all her clients were ex-pats and not French women! Mireille talked about walking being the best exercise, and said others also swam, cycled and did yoga.

I even got to speak directly to Mireille. At the end of her talk, audience members were asked if they had any questions. Not many people asked, and I had a sudden thought what an amazing opportunity this was but I couldn’t think of anything to ask! I said to myself ‘what is the best question to ask Mireille’. I then put my hand up and the presenter sitting with her handed me her microphone. I said to Mireille that she obviously travelled a lot (she was in London the previous week, she had mentioned earlier) and how did she pack, did she have the perfect capsule wardrobe and what were her travel secrets.

She told us that she never checked her bag but always had the small wheelie one that you could carry on. She said sometimes airports are so spread out you are walking for miles, and who wants to drag a big heavy bag around. She also said she had three items of clothing that she made four outfits from. I’m going to try and work that one out! She also said she always put tissue paper in between her clothing items.

That’s another ‘life of luxury’ tip I thought afterwards. Tissue paper is not expensive (and often free – I save it up and never use it for anything) and you could reuse it over and over if you are careful. I am going to put some in my suitcase so I remember next time I travel.

After her talk we were told we could purchase her new book and have it signed if we wished. I was thrilled to have this chance and had put off buying the book hoping this would be the case. I have been reading it though as I already had it out of the library (so now I can return it!) and I love it.

I bought the book and joined the lengthy queue. When it came to my turn she was sweet and quite unassuming, very normal really! She wrote my name and signed hers. As I was about to leave and she was moving onto the next person I squeaked out at the last minute ‘did she allow photos’. ‘Of course’, she replied. And she so thoughtfully moved a gift she was given off the seat next to her and pulled it up close for a better photo. She really is lovely and charming, and I’d be very surprised if it was an act. People can’t fake that. As I was leaving I said to her ‘I’ll see you with your next book’ to which she replied ‘it will be about oysters… and carrots’.

I didn’t take notes like I thought I might because I really wanted to be present and enjoy the talk, but I did jot down some when I got home of the things I remembered.

At one point she told the audience that if they don’t change anything else in your life at all, add good yoghurt into your diet 'for one year', plain yoghurt that is made just from milk and culture. She reckons that one yoghurt a day will help you lose weight because ‘without going into all of the science about it’ yoghurt has fat-burning properties.

I’m not so much interested in weight loss these days but more focused on maximum nutrition, because I know if you focus on eating good, real nutritious food, your body and weight will be stable and happy. I had forgotten about yoghurt for a while though, so I bought some today to add to my fresh fruit and raw nuts for breakfast.

Mireille said of relationships that ‘love’ and ‘laughter’ are the two things to have. She said you can have one or the other and be quite happy, but to have both means you’ve really struck the jackpot.

To summarise, the message I took from Mireille in both her words and the way she comported herself, was to be relaxed and content, enjoy the fun side of life, and be gentle with and look after yourself in all ways.

As I drove home just after 8pm with the sun setting on a beautiful dark blue sky, I felt so grateful and fortunate to have been able to listen to and meet one of my favourite and most inspirational authors.

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