It Doesn’t Have To Be Pretty

Closely related to yesterday’s post, this mantra in my life has helped me get started on countless projects, saved me considerable time, money and clutter, and helped me feel more confident in myself and my home.

Like most of us, I suffer with crippling self-doubt at times, and there’s no simple answer to banishing it but we can try. One of the ways I try is to remind myself on regular occasions that it doesn’t have to pretty. So what is ‘it’? Anything. My home doesn’t have to be pretty, the food I cooked doesn’t have to be pretty, I don’t have to be pretty.

This thought is in equal parts terrifying and liberating. I’m not going to go so far as to say that I now fly through life without a scrap of caring about what I look like, what my home looks like, what my stuff looks like, but I have taken steps down that road. A year ago I got fed up with my 16-year habit of washing and brushing my quite long hair every day. I started thinking about the fact that if I pulled it into a bun I didn’t need to brush it at all. Previously I hadn’t liked wearing my hair up – because I was gifted at birth with a skull that is not dissimilar to an oversized potato – but my growing couldn’t-give-a-toss attitude had finally outweighed my vanity and one morning I scooped my wet locks into the messiest bun you’ve ever laid eyes on and went to work.

Now hold on to your seats as I don’t want you falling down with shock but: NOTHING HAPPENED. Nobody screamed “Hey Mrs Potato Head!” in the street (although if they did, and what??), my newly controlled hair didn’t annoy me during the day or get in my food or develop crazy static in the dry office air, and a number of colleagues even said how lovely my hair looked. In fact, the phrase “ooh, very glamorous” was used more than once – causing me to snort with laughter because glamorous is one thing I am definitely not – which just goes to show that our perception is totally warped anyway. I am reminded of when my mother used to joke (half joke?) that other children I was friends with must go home to their parents and tell them how messy our house was, when in fact the only thing my friends had ever said about our home was that they liked that it was so warm and homely, and that they felt really comfortable there.

So how has this attitude helped me with all those things I mentioned in the first paragraph? Well, without feeling the need for things to be pretty I can just get started on projects like rearranging my office the moment I feel like it, I can remind myself that I don’t have to replace old shabby-looking items in my home with newer, fancier versions that I don’t really need (new sofa temptation I’m looking at you), and I can feel just as confident in old faded clothes and a bare face as I would in a new outfit and fancy make-up. I am so lucky to have a home that keeps me warm and dry; the wallpaper being ugly doesn’t change that. I am so lucky to have a body that does everything I need it to; not looking like a mid-nineties Cindy Crawford doesn’t change that. I am so lucky to live in country with access to food and clean water; inviting friends over for dinner and serving them a meal not worthy of instagramming doesn’t change that.

As I touched on yesterday, this attitude came into particular use when I was starting to embrace making my own cleaning products, minimising my stuff and attempting to reduce my waste. So many images of minimalism, simplicity and green living feature beautifully white spaces with just a few select beautiful items of furniture, gorgeous pantries filled with cute mason jars, reusable cleaning cloths in an adorable print etc etc. Combining the two rules ‘it doesn’t start with spending money’ and ‘it doesn’t have to be pretty’ helped me overcome the urge to replace all my plastic items with glass or wood (while plastic is environmentally horrific, the most environmentally friendly option is pretty much always to use what you already own), buy a whole new set of cleaning materials (yep actually, raggedy cut up towels work just as well) and redecorate my home (not quite my taste but all functional). All of which would really have flown in the face of what conscious consumption is all about.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to look nice, wanting your home to look nice, wanting to have nice things. This is not a criticism of what anyone else likes to do, nor a rejection of everything I do that is in opposition to this idea. As my ‘about’ page states I have the heart of a spender and I love looking at pretty things. But it’s important to remember – even if just occasionally – that it’s not what really matters, and that you don’t have to conform to the pressure of yourself and everything in your life always being aesthetically pleasing. Life is beautiful, it doesn’t have to be pretty.

Thanks for reading,

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