Monday, August 31, 2015

Home as an elegant sanctuary

I talk about housework motivation a lot, but it’s because I’m always looking for some.  I know that what I focus on grows, so I need to focus on the good things and that inspires me to do even better.

Today I found it in the form of imagining what I would most like my home to be.  An elegant sanctuary immediately came to mind.  I also decided to rename ‘housework’ to ‘housekeeping.  ‘Housekeeping’ sounds much better to me than ‘housework’ so I decided I am not going to say the HW word anymore. 

But ‘housekeeping’, that is a word I don’t feel too bad about.  Housekeeping sounds crisp, clean, efficient and inviting.  It makes me think of a luxury hotel with their housekeeping staff making everything look sparkling, polished and neat.  It’s funny how different words can make you feel.  Because housework has the word work in it, I resist it and eventually do it begrudgingly. 

I also need to change my beliefs around housekeeping.  I want it to be fun and enjoyable, because believe it or not, even when I am doing something like cleaning the toilet, if I am in the right frame of mind I am happy to do it.

But for the longest time I have not been in the right frame of mind.  This produces resistance and then guilt when I don’t do much or any, because I do want a home that feels good, and I feel so much better when I’ve been pottering and cleaning.

And it’s not like I don’t have time.  If I apply the time I spend mucking around not being productive on the computer or lounging around needlessly snacking, there is plenty of time to make our home an elegant sanctuary.

I thought I’d try doing Gillian Riley’s four step method that she uses with food (I wrote about it here), because it seems like it would apply to everything.

Step one is naming something – what I am feeling now is guilt and resistance towards doing my housekeeping.

Step two is to let myself know I can do whatever I want, whenever I want – I don’t need to do housekeeping now or ever, I can go the rest of my life without doing any housekeeping if I choose to.  However I also need to accept the consequences of avoiding housekeeping, which are things like:

Our home will be dirty, messy and unpleasant to be in
It will be embarrassing if someone comes around
I will find it hard to find things when I need them
The energy won’t feel good
People may judge me
We won’t enjoy spending time at home
I will feel lazy and like a failure as a wife and partner in this marriage
The guilt!
I can imagine a downwards spiral of momentum if I don’t clean our home

Step three is to allow myself to feeling the resistance towards housekeeping.  Allow myself to be in it and feel it through.  Don’t resent it or feel guilty.  Just be with it.

Step four is to remind myself how good I feel when I have organised and cleaned our home.  Remember all the ways my life is better when I keep up to date with my housekeeping.

How I feel after a day of ‘home-loving’:

Satisfied with a job well done
Our house feels peaceful
I am proud for Paul to come home
I have no guilt
I discover things to use that I forgot I had
I have plenty of time and enthusiasm for cooking dinner because I know what ingredients we have on hand (from organising the pantry, fridge and freezer)
I tidy, clean and reorganize areas that are bothering me, one every so often.  I get the thrill of something new which means I am happy with what I have rather than thinking I’d like to buy something new


Not being so black-and-white about things has helped too.  I don’t need to clean every single thing in the house on one day, that’s just ridiculous.  Having my core tasks that I do each week means everything else gets done a little bit at a time when it needs to.  Sometimes a chore might go a bit longer and really need tending to and that’s ok too.  I’m sure if I compared my home to someone down the road it would be cleaner.  And isn’t that a crazy thing to think to make me feel better?

If I’m ok with it then it’s ok.  And I don’t want to make this an excuse to live in filth, it’s not that.  I’m not sure if we are more cleanliness-phobic than our ancestors and really, it’s a never-ending task that you could work all day on and never have it finished if you allowed it to rule your life like that.

As long as I feel peace and ease when at home, I’m happy.  Plus I have been remembering that I will get done today everything that needs to get done.

What about you, do you have as tortured a relationship with housekeeping as I seem to?

Friday, August 28, 2015

Now in Paperback

I am happy to announce that there is now a paperback available with all three of my ebooks in one volume.  I received the proof copy this week and it's really nice quality!  As much as I enjoy the instant gratification of downloading a Kindle book (and I do have plans to purchase a Kindle at some stage), I prefer reading from the printed page.

You can order from Amazon, and if you are outside of the US like I am, consider buying from the publisher CreateSpace (an Amazon company) as the shipping may be a bit cheaper than Amazon itself.

There is also a Kindle version of this 3-in-1 book available on Amazon.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Clearing out the home office

Dreamy home office Image

One space in our home that needs constant vigilance that it not turn into a dumping ground is our home office.  When I say ‘our’ home office I really mean ‘my’ home office because it contains 99% my stuff and the other 1% is my husbands. 

We are fortunate enough to live in a spacious three bedroom home – we have the master bedroom upstairs and a guest bedroom and ‘the’ home office downstairs (they are next to each other).  I try to keep both rooms clear and pleasant to look at but because we don’t have a garage there are a few things that get stored in there that can’t go anywhere else.  They are:

  • A few extra framed pictures

  • Two clothing racks for drying clothing indoors

  • A huge and beautiful gilt mirror that needs specialised hanging equipment because it weighs a ton and that’s the reason excuse why it’s not been hung since we moved in almost four years ago.

I also took possession of my spinning wheel recently which was living in my mum’s garage.  I didn’t realise she still had it and I used to really enjoy spinning so thought I’d have another go at it.  I actually took spinning lessons a long time ago, maybe when I was about 12 or 13.  Can you imagine today’s tweens taking spinning lessons?  It sounds like I am straight off Little House on the Prairie. 

I even carded my own wool then too.  These days you can buy it already carded.  For those of you who don’t spin, uncarded wool looks like a shorn fleece straight from the sheep whereas carded wool is all combed out and clean and ready to spin.

There are also a few spare furniture items such as a small square table and a set of plastic drawers (mmm, attractive, but they are useful).  Usually these items live in the guest room but when we have guests to stay they get moved to the home office.  And then other things get stacked around them ‘just for the time being’.

Before too long you can’t even enter the home office easily and any thoughts of doing some sewing, ironing or choosing a book from the book shelves becomes too stressful.  Last week was the tipping point.  My only answer for a situation such as this was to empty everything out.  I was at home by myself so I took all the items that shouldn’t have been there out into the hallway.

I could then have a proper vacuum (everywhere including the corners), appreciate the useful space that the home office is and then start putting things back.  I have a filing drawer that contains my style files.  These are pruned on a regular basis because I always have new things going in them.  Those new things were stacked haphazardly and now they are in with their subject matter friends.

I also decluttered a number of items including our Christmas tree – that will be donated closer to Christmas.  My plan is to purchase a small faux Christmas tree – the type with fibre-optic lights.  My parents-in-law have one and I love it, plus it’s simple, no decorating required.  I was going to donate all our decorations too but remembered that we might want to have a real Christmas tree from time to time so kept them for now.

It’s so nice to have space to move in the home office now and everything is neat, tidy and dusted.  Definitely worth a few hours of time as it feels so good afterwards.

Do you have a room that scares you at the moment?  Tell us all about it!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

How not to snack

Image from

Any list of French people habits includes the fact that they don’t snack.  They eat three meals a day and maybe an afternoon tea or drink around 4pm and that’s it.  Doesn’t it just sound so easy in practice?

At various times in the past I have been a champion snacker.  Snacking is fun, it makes me feel better, it helps a boring day along, so many reasons why I’d snack…  I class snacking as any unnecessary food and of course it is always processed/ convenience foods.  It’s not like I’d snack on apples all afternoon is it?

A library book I’m loving at the moment is You Can Be Thin by Marisa Peer.  She’s a UK hypnotherapist and so much of what she says in her book I can relate to.  She talks about emotional eating.  Of course by its very name, emotional eating is not rational.  I can say I’m going to be French and chic all I like but that’s my rational thought.  Emotional eating comes up from behind you and takes you by surprise.

One thing that has often derailed my chic eating habits in the past is emotional eating.  Eating when I’m bored or feeling insecure, eating to recreate good times in the past - they are all habits that don’t do me any favours.  But when something’s in your mind, it’s in your mind and it’s a tough thing to over-rule.

Here is a passage from You Can Be Thin that has changed the way I think about emotional eating:

Overeating generally stems from an inner feeling of lacking something and emptiness.  One of my clients described it to me as a feeling of being hollow inside.  Therefore we need more food and more material things to compensate for the lack we feel and to fill the void within us.

Instead of filling that void with food and purchases you need to understand that the void exists only in your mind and you have the power to close it.

When you know and believe you are enough you don’t need more.

When you feel and believe you are not enough you will always want more.

Those words really stunned me with their simplicity.  That empty feeling is all in my mind! 

Marisa went on to say that telling yourself ‘I am enough’ and any variations on a similar theme such as ‘I am always enough’, ‘I am more than enough’, ‘I have enough’ and ‘I have had enough’ have really helped her curtail unnecessary eating.

I know, I know, it sounds a bit new age, but it really works for me, and for that I am grateful.  If you can get Marisa’s book out of the library and see if it works well to change your mind, I would recommend it.  There is a cd in the back of the book too which is a hypnotherapy session on being slim.  I’ve been listening to it every day and love the messages she puts across.

Are you a snacker?  Find it hard to stick to three meals a day?  I am quite envious of those who don’t eat between meals, it’s always been a struggle for me.

Let’s say it all together now – I am enough!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

My normal and imperfect ‘chic’ life

 ‘Perfection is not the goal’
Denise Duffield-Thomas

I’ve often wanted to write a post about my whole life, not just the chic part.  I’ve never felt brave enough to share though, because I thought it might break your spell of me (haha). 

But the favourite posts I’ve read of other bloggers is when they show me ‘behind the scenes’ and I can see that we are all the same underneath.  I thought that you might not think I was chic if you saw some of the things I’m writing about today.  But I want you to know, you can be exactly as you are and a chic person if you want to be.

Saying you can never do ‘whatever’ to be chic means there is that insidious goal of perfection hanging over you.  And that’s what we rebel against in my opinion.  So I want to show you that I am imperfect and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Even though I write about and adore all things chic, I am not chic 100% of the time.  And nor do I want to be.  I believe we can embrace all facets of our beautiful selves without trying to fit into a labelled box.

Many a time I might be doing/saying/eating something and my husband laughs ‘if only your readers could see you now’ or ‘put that on your chic blog’.  Him saying that doesn’t bother me at all because I know he is a person who only wants the best for me and I like that we can josh each other without either of us being overly sensitive.

I also like that I am not a one-dimensional chic doll who has one facial expression and one set of French-style clothes to wear.  Even though I am ‘mostly’ Francais and chic, there are other parts of me too…

I am secretly a cowgirl who enjoys country music and would happily live in a tiny country town where the entertainment was playing pool in a bar on a Saturday night.

Laughing is one of life’s great joys and I love toilet humour and terrible television shows like Benidorm.  I also adore Californication and more recently Ray Donovan.  I have many Kardashian series on dvd (the earlier ones are more fun).  I also have Newlyweds:  Nick and Jessica among my bad taste dvd collection.

I love to feel comforted by old television programmes so you will find box sets of Cheers, The Love Boat, Kate and Allie, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place at our place.

None of these things you will find in a how to be chic manual and I wouldn’t expect them to be.  But neither do I believe you should give up your quirks and guilty pleasures (and why should they be called guilty anyway?) to fit an ideal.

I want us to have permission to love what we love and be happy with that.  No, I might not shout it from the rooftops but I’m not ashamed either.  We all have our own unique view on the world and I think that’s a good thing.  All my so-called guilty pleasures are what shape me, along with the circumstances in my life and my thoughts on those circumstances.

So, now I’ve shown you my cards, won’t you share with me your craziest ‘nuance’?   I dare you, and please don’t leave me sitting out on this branch alone!
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