Category Archives: Uncategorized

Domestically Dis-Inclined

Domestically Dis-Inclined: How One Family Takes Back Their Home

I have realized for a long time that we are not all created equal when it comes to the domestic home front. Some people are just born with the desire and ability to create order out of chaos, to maintain systems and to think ahead. Others have to really work at it. And some either have no inclination, no desire or no awareness.

I have discovered over the years that I fall somewhere between the last two. I do have the desire to have a clean, organized home, but I am not naturally gifted at creating it nor am I genetically predisposed to maintain order. The good news is that there is help for people like me as long as one has the desire and remains aware of one’s surroundings.

I come from a long line of women who believe that function follows form. Homes should be beautifully decorated but less thought goes into the actual orderly running of things. I suppose this was less of an issue for my grandmother who had staff to keep things orderly and clean. My mother, who worked outside of the home much of my childhood, had to tackle this on her own. She admitted frequently that she was not a good housekeeper nor did she get any pleasure from it.

The lesson that I gleaned from my mother’s example was that as long as the pillows were plumped and there were fresh flowers, as was well with the world. Clutter was what made a home looked lived in—especially if the clutter included beautiful and/or interesting objects and books. Books were always plentiful in our home and were kept close to hand (past and future reads were equally important as current). As long as there was a surface, there was no such thing as too many photographs, too many books or too many decorative objects. I believe that I have followed this example well.

Over the years, however, my family has accumulated more than our share of stuff. Some might say that this is simply “the American way” and perhaps I believed this as well. But now I realize that this “collection” is actually the result of disorganization, laziness and paralysis.

Two months ago my family embarked on an adventure to regain control of our home through purging and organizing, rethinking our spaces and how they are used and by refurbishing our 17-year-old house. We call it “Project Take Back Our Home”.

Project Take Back Our Home

Over the next few months, I will be sharing the process and the results of our efforts in this new series. I hope to give some encouragement to those who are where I was: in a state of complete denial and immobilization due to the enormity of the job at hand. I will reveal organizing tips from the perspective of a “real person” (i.e., one who is domestically disinclined). And I will share how our complete domestic re-boot has helped my family. I hope you will join me on this adventure!

 

 

 

 

8 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Birthday

How old would you be if you didn't know how old you are?  Satchel Paige   Read more at http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/s/satchelpai103901.html#bKs6TdBhV2AOtrvI.99

How old would you be if you don’t know how old you are?

I celebrated another birthday this past weekend. A milestone birthday. A b i g birthday. Enough said.

I guess that I am now an expert on preparing for “decade birthdays”. Hmmm…not sure I want to be an expert in this but it is certainly better than the alternative.

So given my experience in this area, I have a few tried-and-true ways to make it through these celebrations. Here is my list of “8 Ways to Have a Stress-Free Birthday.”

1. It’s your birthday. You can cry if you want to.

2. Understand the cycle of acceptance: denial, anger, depression, bargaining and acceptance. It is going to happen. You are going to age. Your birthdays will continue to come. Every year. On the same day. Learn how to accept this fact and recognize where you are in the cycle of acceptance. Now move on.

3. Be honest with yourself and your loved ones about how you want to celebrate your special day. Do some real soul searching and be as honest as possible about what you desire. Others cannot read your mind. If it is a milestone birthday, your family and friends may think they need to do something very big and very public. This is a lovely idea if this is what you want. If not then it could be a huge cause of stress. Know what you want and express these wishes to those who love you.

4. That being said, accept whatever gifts you are given for what they are: expressions of love. Do not read between the lines, judge the gifts or the givers, make comparisons, calculate cost or energy. Just accept them graciously. Gift-giving is a talent and few people have the talent of finding just the right thing. Giving gifts can be extremely stressful for many people and some are often paralyzed, overwhelmed and make poor decisions. This does not mean they do not love or appreciate you. Look past the gifts to see and accept the hearts of the givers.

5. Have your own little private celebration. Just you. No one else invited. Celebrate in whatever way you want. No one else needs to know this is what you are doing. It’s your little secret. Go buy a perfect red velvet cupcake and sing to yourself (no candles needed). Maybe a mid-afternoon, self-indulgent nap is your preference. Pedicure? A stroll through a park? A few hours at the beach? Wandering through your favorite bookstore? Give yourself this gift of time alone. You deserve it. And you will feel pampered afterwards.

6. Take some time to set your goals and priorities for the coming year and/or decade. What is really important to you, who is really important to you? Is there something you have always wanted to learn, do or try? How and when will you go about making this happen? Are there things that you need to add to your plate or more likely, take off your plate? What do you need to do to live intentionally? Take the time to actually write these down so that you can revisit them and make necessary adjustments.

7. Tell your loved ones that you love them. It’s frightening to think of all of the people I love and care for yet realize I have only said the words, “I love you” to a handful of people. Expressing love can be a great stress-reliever so make sure that your family and friends know how you feel about them.

8. Count your many blessings. This really works. Whenever you are sad or stressed or frustrated, take a few moments to be thankful. Keep a list. Write down a few everyday. Acknowledge and celebrate the blessings in your life. Poof! Negativity disappears.

These are some of the ways that I have had a stress-free birthday this year–and I have plenty of experience coming up with this list. I hope that it helps you to enjoy these special days!

How do you get through birthdays–especially milestone birthdays?

Halloween for Scaredy Cats

Vintage black cat

I have never been a huge fan of Halloween. I’m not saying I didn’t participate in the festivities. I loved the costumes and the candy but I was never very big on the actual “trick or treat” aspect of the event. I have always had a pretty vivid imagination so I was able to completely freak myself out walking in the dark on Halloween night passing all of the other children in costume. Unfortunately I think I passed these feelings on to my own child.

Driving through my neighborhood last night after dark, I realized that at least half of the houses on my street had extensive Halloween decorations: spiderwebs, skeletons, pumpkins, ghosts…the works. It seems to me that people are decorating for Halloween as much as they are for Christmas. That just seems strange to me.

Cute vintage pumpkin child

I suppose that if Halloween decorations were more like this cute vintage pumpkin child, then maybe I would enjoy it more. But that does not seem to be the trend. Just going into a party store in the month of October is terrifying. Gone are the days of Little Bo Peep and cowboys.

Vintage Halloween costumes photo

So tonight I will celebrate Halloween as usual–with some reservation–welcoming the little ones in the neighborhood early then turning out the porch light at the first sign of the older kids. My daughter and I will be counting down the minutes to November 1st when Halloween has passed and the “good holidays” are ahead of us!

 

All images are from The Graphics Fairy.

 

Bee Smitten #1: The smell of autumn in a candle

I am so excited to begin sharing a few of my favorite things with you in this new column Bee Smitten. There are so many things on my list but I had to start somewhere.

Stag Candle Patch NYC

I am starting with my favorite candle for fall and winter: the Stag Candle by Patch NYC.

I love this candle because the aroma is very distinctive. It reminds me of being in the woods on an autumn afternoon the air crisp and clean with a note of fir trees and wood smoke lingering. I can almost hear the crunch of fallen leaves beneath my feet and taste the mulled apple cider right now.

I think that I selected this candle for my first pick because it represents several things for me. The first is that whenever I light it, I immediately feel warm, safe and cozy. Who doesn’t love that feeling?

This candle is also ideally suited to this time of year which is my favorite season. In Charleston we don’t get much of a fall, so this is a reminder of the times and places I have lived where leaves  turned brilliant shades of red and orange and there was a chill in the air.

Finally this candle is one that I can actually smell. Over the last few years I have begun to lose my sense of smell (connected to my allergies and all of the lovely year-long blooming things in this part of the world). Somehow this is one of the only aromatic candles that I can smell.

Patch NYC stag

 

Click this link to go to their website. They also carry several other scents and products but this one is my favorite. It would make a great gift for a man with the woodsy smell and stag image. It is also made in the USA.

out of hand shop window

For my local readers, visit Out of Hand in the Old Village, Mount Pleasant to find this candle as well as the other scents from Patch NYC.

What are the smells that you associate with fall? I’d love to hear from you.

 

Bee Smitten: A Few of My Favorite Things

Bee Smitten: A Few of My Favorite Things

Bee Smitten is a new column on amywatsonsmith.com focusing on the beautiful things with which I am “smitten.” It is essentially a curated collection of things that are among my favorites–life simply would not be the same without these. It is meant to be for everyone who enjoys beautiful things, delicious food and great adventures, but it may be particularly useful for those of us who have little time to find these things on our own (busy bees) and who appreciate someone doing the filtering for us. Every week or so I will feature one of my favorite things.

The inspiration for this idea came from Miss Judy, my mother’s oldest and dearest friend. Miss Judy was a great Southern lady and style icon.

Judith Ann Entrican Kirkpatrick

Judith Ann Entrican Kirkpatrick

Notice I did not say fashion icon. Miss Judy was not concerned with fashion. She had a certain flair and confidence about her style. She might wear an inexpensive khaki a-line skirt, a crisp white blouse and loafers but then she would throw a Liberty of London scarf around her neck and look like a million bucks.

The truly wonderful thing about Miss Judy’s style, however, was that she always seemed to be able to find some unique item that one “simply could not live without.” And then she would buy dozens and share them with her friends. I’ll never forget the time she discovered a particular hair brush made in France. My mother received this gift with the statement that it was the best brush ever and Miss Judy just knew Mother was going to love it. It appeared to be a rather normal looking brush to me, but when I picked it up and ran the bristles through my hair, I realized she was right. It was an absolutely perfect brush. My mother and I both wept when the handle finally broke in two and we were not able to  use it anymore. Whether it was a luxurious hair brush, a pot of jam or a new book, Miss Judy always found the best things and shared them with her friends.

I have always loved the idea of finding something that I absolutely love and then letting my friends and loved ones in on the secret. It seems to transform an ordinary object into something precious. It is now imbued with so much more meaning–a dear friend has brought you into her world and shared something with you that she loves.

With this column, I hope to do the same thing with you–share some of the things I love most in the world with friends.

When You Hit a Bump in the Road

Bump in the Road

 

Everything was going along according to plan. The summer was over. School had started. I had developed a schedule that would allow me to work on my various writing projects on the two days I worked from home still leaving time for domestic duties, Bible study and an occasional coffee date with a friend.

But then…the bump in the road.

It was the expected unexpected. The reminder that my plans are not always His plans.

Why am I always so surprised–mystified even–when something like this happens?

This time the bump in the road was my 77-year old mother’s broken wrist and impending surgery. She was suddenly completely dependent on others (i.e., me). You never realize how much you need two working hands until you only have one.

We had much to be thankful for however. She broke her wrist not her hip. She fell in a public place and many people came to help her. The ER doctor was able to get her wrist back in position relatively easily (though not without a great deal of pain). We were able to get to her very quickly. Although surgery was still needed, it was scheduled in only a few days and went very well. She started becoming stronger and more independent within a few days of the surgery.

My mother has lived with us for ten years so we were able to help her with very little change to our normal daily routine (one of the reasons we made this change all of those years ago). While I do work part-time outside of our home, my job is in my husband’s medical practice, so I was able to take off the time I needed easily. I have the flexibility to drive my mother to her many doctor’s appointments, run errands for her and help her with whatever physical difficulties she was experiencing.

The biggest challenge for me was putting aside my new carefully planned schedule at home. I would have to put off the writing goals I had set. Fortunately this affected no one but me. I have to admit that I was feeling a little grumpy about my sacrifice.

And then it hit me. This was a major bump in her road as well. And a very painful one.

Once again I was reminded that our relationships on this earth are meant to be ones of interdependence. At different times and in different ways, the balance changes. There is a continuum of dependence-independence in every relationship but perhaps particularly within families. It is humbling when I remind myself that this balance has been different and will shift again.

As the days of her healing progress, I am learning to be more flexible with my own schedule and goals. I am trying to be more patient with myself and with those around me. I am discovering yet again what is important to me.

And I am trying to remind my self that so many of the best parts of life are in the bumps and detours and delays.