Where has Beauty Gone?

 

Vera placemats

The current downsizing trend isn’t just a result of the lousy economy (even though that’s what forced me and my family to downsize). I think the buying boom of the previous 40+ years has disappeared because there just aren’t enough beautiful things to buy.

I think about this when I go shopping for linens, as I did the other day. I needed some new washcloths as ours had gone all stiff, probably from my elderly dryer getting too warm for modern washcloths with their very specific washing instructions that including washing and drying on cool; my dryer doesn’t have a cool cycle, and we take hot showers, so modern washcloths are pretty much doomed once they get here.

While looking for the 4/$5 washcloths, I saw the towels, sheets and curtains; boring, all of them. They’re either in solid colors or bland prints. Gone are those pre-21st century days when I struggled to choose between bright floral prints (like those by Vera), tiny Laura Ashley-type stripes, and bold geometric designs.

I assume much of what we find in the stores these days is the result of uninspired, crank-them-out-as-fast-as-you-can far Eastern manufacturing. Once, designers grew up studying art and color theory, but now I’m thinking the prints come from the choices on some design software. Boring! No wonder I can hardly remember the last time I was tempted to buy something in a store. In fact, when department stores send me one of those “Get $10 worth of our stuff free” cards, I usually can’t find anything I want and come out empty-handed.

Young people have grown up in a world where everything looks the same. They have no idea of the choices we once had. It probably doesn’t matter, as so many of them are loaded down with student loan debt, and they pay so much in rent and to keep a smartphone going that they don’t have money left to go shopping anyways. I suppose the plus side is that it’s easy to live a minimalist lifestyle when you don’t see much you want.

But I think we all lose when beauty disappears.

Laura Ashley bedding

Vintage Laura Ashley bedding

Things Aren’t Always What They Seem

A young relative recently expressed frustration to me about a gathering of friends she attended.

It appears that the other young women were discussing an expensive children’s clothing company that is in vogue right now; $60 dresses for little girls is the standard in their line. Then they began talking about women’s clothes and how easy it is to spend $500 or $600 a month just to look nice.

My relative and her husband are working toward becoming debt-free, but her decision to be a stay-at-home mom and the medical bills her family faced from their first child’s birth (their medical insurance didn’t cover all of it) have made it especially challenging to live on one income.

“We were sitting in this nice big house, and the couple who live there said it’s not big enough and they’re getting ready to buy another one. They’re our age! How do they do it?” she asked.

Being a bit older (ahem) and more experienced, I told her that things may not be what they seem. There’s the obvious answer, of course: that their friends have racked up credit card debt and mortgage debt and haven’t reached their limit yet, so they just keep piling it on.

But there’s another obvious-to-me answer: that many young people get a lot of help from their parents these days. Some families routinely finance their adult children so they can maintain the lifestyle to which they (and their parents) have been accustomed.

In their seminal book The Millionaire Next Door, Thomas Stanley and William Danko called this “economic outpatient care.” These young people can live quite well with their parents’ monthly assistance. It’s not until their parents run out of cash or die that the gravy train ends and the young people end up the proverbial creek without a paddle, unless their folks were independently wealthy and left them a nice chunk of change (which they’ll probably burn through before long).

So the young families who don’t get economic outpatient care from their parents are left to look at their peers who do (but don’t advertise the fact) and wonder why they’re doing so much better. The answer, of course, is that it’s all smoke and mirrors. Mummy and Daddy are financing the lifestyle, and probably calling a lot of the shots, too, because, as a wise person once said, “He who pays the piper, calls the tune.”

My young relative is fairly independent-minded; even if her parents could afford to float her a few grand every month, I doubt that she would like having them tell her what to do. Once she becomes debt-free, she and her spouse will enjoy calling their own shots, I’m sure. But in the meantime, if they can keep their eyes on their goal of financial freedom and avoid the green-eyed monster whenever it rears its ugly head, as it did at their friends’ house, they’ll be on their way to a much better life than their friends who are so dependent on their parents.

 

Where Does It Go?

We just got back from a trip to visit family two states away. After we unloaded the car, the kitchen (the room closest to the garage) was covered with stuff on every counter and all over the table.

I used to leave things like that until I had the energy to tackle them, but that was years ago. Now that I’m so used to living in a small house, I know we have to get that stuff put away ASAP. The best way to do that, I’ve learned, is to ask one question about each item: Where does it go? Then we take it there.

This isn’t as easy as it sounds if you haven’t designated places for everything. The hats and jackets go in the closet, but if you’ve stuffed other things in there, there will be no room for them. The empty drink cans go in the recycler, if you’ve got room in there. The dirty laundry goes straight to the basement, where the washer is hopefully not covered with stuff so you can run a load……you get the point.

This trip we brought back some family albums an elderly uncle gave to us. They’re sitting on the coffee table in the living room right now, but a place will have to be found for them; they can’t stay there. We need to come up with an answer to that question, don’t we?

“Where does it go?” is the question that will solve all your clutter problems, but only if you answer it, and fairly quickly.

 

 

 

New Decluttering Book on the Way

I’m afraid my blogging has suffered because I’ve been so busy working on my new book, which I’m excited to say is almost finished. It’s in the final editing stage right now, so it won’t be much longer before it’s published.

Like my other books, it’s related to decluttering. Until you go through the process yourself, I don’t think you can truly understand just how liberating it is to get rid of things you don’t really need. My goal is to help others understand just how wonderful it feels to be free of too much stuff, and to live in an uncluttered home.

In a culture where accumulation of stuff is a sign of prosperity, it seems like someone has to become overwhelmed with their clutter and sometimes even forced to downsize before they consider lightening their load.

So they begin to declutter their homes, but get stalled out in the middle of the process. There’s a common reason for that; the solution is the subject of my new book. So stay tuned!

 

Building New Small Houses

This recent article about builders who think new construction should include smaller homes brought joy to my heart. It has been so long since I’ve seen a small house being built. But it no longer makes sense to only build McMansions. Young people can’t afford them.

Having lived in a large home for many years, I learned that while it’s nice to have lots of space, cleaning it takes too much time,  and paying for it takes even longer. And even after we paid off the mortgage, we still had an enormous property tax bill to deal with every year.

Since we moved to a small, well-designed small ranch (1000 square feet), I’ve come to truly enjoy the freedom that comes with not having so much house to deal with. I hate to think of how much time I spent decorating that big house we had. Now that we do everything on a smaller scale, I love having so much more free time. I can see where that would really benefit busy young singles, couples and families.

I  hope that article is a sign of things to come. I can’t wait to see a new subdivision filled with lots of small, energy-efficient, well-designed little homes. If I didn’t love my little house so much, I’d be tempted to move to a brand new one.