Welcoming the New Year (without resolutions!)

(painting The Year’s at the Spring, LaurenceAlma-Tadema)

A friend quite smoking after over 20 years of more than a pack a day. Just stopped. Hadn’t even been thinking of it beforehand, in the middle of a cigarette decided that this was the last one and that was that. It was immeasurably hard and yet he did it.

For another friend, the Angel of Joyous Baking did not put in an appearance this year. Try as he might, there was no motivation to be found and the flour stayed snug in its little paper sacks.

My dear, it’s so hard to predict what you might be able to make yourself so at any given time. Diet Coke always helps, but even those grey and red cans of delight can’t get you over every hurdle.

Everyone we love (Martha! Gretchen! Tasha! Modern Mrs. Darcy!) says get rid of clutter – but clutter is a tenacious beast. It is also really good at disguising itself and at appearing to be in retreat while making a retrenchment elsewhere. You might have closets which would make Marie Kondo swoon, but under the bathroom sink… disaster. Your laundry room is a symphony of grace and refinement while your bookcases are a visual Armageddon.

Along with “get rid of clutter,” another life-well-lived motto is to “be bothered,” meaning to fix small problems as they arise. Sigh, as much as I would love to be a shining example of perfect organization, I must admit to going longer than I shall admit without a dish drainer. The one I had broke and someone I ended up setting plates on the counter to dry for weeks on end. When I finally bought a new dish drainer it felt like I had invented the wheel – Oh look! Empty counterspace to enjoy as my dishes were neatly corralled and happily drying. And let’s draw a cover over the months I lived without sunglasses. In the Middle East. In summer. I don’t know what was the mental block but I simply could not manage to get myself to a glasses store.

Yes, some small adjustment, a minor purchase often brings a new lease on life, but sometimes it seems overwhelming to track down that do-hicky you need to complete the project/ hang the painting/ re-grout the tiles/ cover over the scratched wood/ repair the tea-pot lid.

And we all know that plants, warm lights, charming colors and enchanting fragrances will improve any space – but to get ALL of those aspects installed and in harmony… might as well climb Everest. Sometimes you need to push yourself and sometimes you need to collapse in a cafe with a gallon of cappuccino. It happens.

So do the best you can.

Yeah to Gretchen Rubin with her lists of things to accomplish, such a role model!, but sometimes role models are for feting, not necessarily emulating.

Tackle what you can, with what you have, in the best realistic way possible to make your living space support and uplift you. Get some talismans out and on display, souvenirs of places you have been to and photos of places you want to go to. Proofs of past achievements need to be prominently displayed. Snuggle up with Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House (Cheryl Mendelson) or an Alexandra Stoddard. Start feng shui (and if you are the sort who scorn feng shui, think of it as  intentionality training. It’s not the cat statute in the western corner, it’s that every time you look at the cat you think “I’ve got the cat behind me so I can…”).

Courage, darling, always courage. And always onwards.

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Christmas in the Middle East – STRÅLA and Sardine-flavored Candy Canes

Starting Off the New Year Right (with the blessing of Etiquette Central)

Instead of Writing a New Year’s Resolution List You Should…

How to Cope with the New Year