After some research, I’ve discovered the first step to living a better life is making life a more formal occasion through selectivity and ritual.
The idea is pretty simple, but also pretty radical. It takes reminding yourself that you are worth it, that you do deserve it.
What does it mean?
Using your best–plates, cloth napkins, putting food in serving dishes, wearing your nice clothes, looking presentable, etc. A couple of weeks ago, I made a roasted chicken, potatoes, and spinach. I set the table, I put the food on/in serving dishes. I kept a centerpiece leftover from a reception that I had for work. I was in a shit mood during the meal for other reasons, but it was nice. I was glad I went to the effort, even if it meant more dishes to clean. My family and I are worth it. Similarly, while yoga pants are quite comfortable, I don’t feel good about myself when I wear them for extended periods of time. I don’t take what I do as seriously either. So I’ve been trying to truly get dressed each day. I’m more productive then.
Dressing the part— This calls for self-reflection: what is your personal style? what do you feel best in? what do you feel most you in? Then you weed out your closet. Get rid of things that are no longer you, things that don’t fit, and even pull out things that aren’t in season because they cloud the landscape. I’ve seen articles about capsule wardrobes where you whittle your clothes down to 10 or 15 pieces. This doesn’t include layering pieces (cardigans, tanks, plain tees), accessories (scarves or jewelry), or occasion-wear (that fancy LBD). Then you rotate for the seasons. I don’t think I could do 10 or 15 items. But this past weekend I filled two trashbags of stuff to donate. I bought two underbed storage containers–one for out of season clothes and one for clothes that don’t fit, but that I sincerely hope might fit again. I pulled out t-shirts with images on them because I feel like I’m in my late teens or early 20s when I wear them and I am definitely not in my teens or early 20s any longer. I’m going to make a blanket with them so that it’s not a total loss. I would like to continue to hack away at my wardrobe and get rid of more things and maybe actually get down to 10 or 15 items. Or 20.
My closet seems happier now. It’s less crowded and more focused. The remaining pieces serve me instead of confusing and frustrating me because they don’t work with my life. The purge was much easier than expected, so I know I did the right thing. And I was able to shift around some of Steve’s clothes, so his closet space is less crowded as well. Everybody won.
Seeking out the best (within your means)–Everything from food to clothing. My cooking tastes better when I use better ingredients. After learning how to make stovetop popcorn for one, I won’t be going back to bag popcorn. This past weekend was Tax Free Weekend in Oklahoma, where there’s no sales tax on clothing priced under $100 and many stores have amazing deals. I am wanting a black skirt, but there aren’t any high-quality stores in town, so I didn’t even bother looking. I’d rather spend more for a skirt that will last a few years than buy one cheaply made that will last a season.
Creating rituals–Rituals help you slow down and enjoy things that are important to you. I love big band music. It’s great in the background and reminds me of some happy memories. Recently, Steve had to be at work on a Saturday and I just wasn’t ready to get up, but I wasn’t tired enough to fall back asleep. I remembered that there were music channels on our satellite dish. I found a big band music channel AND a classic jazz vocalist channel. Now I’ll drink my coffee and read or write in bed with the music on. Such a nice way to ease into the day! I can also turn on the music in the living room to listen while I cook and eat breakfast and write at our bar. I’m searching for ways to create other rituals for myself.
A big part of this kind of living is slowing down and deciding that you are worth the best. This doesn’t mean becoming a snob who looks down on others and their ways. It has little to nothing to do with other people at all, in my opinion. It’s about service to yourself and (if you live with other people for whom you cook) to those around you. It a kindness.
I’m still in the beginning stages of implementing these new ways, but I like what I’ve seen and experienced so far. It’s made me feel a bit better about things I’m not so happy about.