Simple Home - How to shop
I was once a clothes hoarder, obsessed by fashion, always desperate to have the next thing. Trouble was, I still never had anything to wear. I had a mountain of clothes all piled up in my tiny bedroom back in Glasgow, so why didn't I have anything I liked? I needed then to go out and buy more tops, more dresses, more shoes, more, more, more. And still I was never happy with my outfit choices. It was the same with my home as I took more of an interest in what that looked like. I bought interior magazines and frantically painted walls lilac, turquoise and dark blues. Satisfied for a while, it wasn't long before I was painting over it again and again as I'd seen something different like I liked better. I bought duvet covers, lampshades, cushions, six million mugs that were bursting out of the kitchen cupboards as they could barely be contained - ahem. Now, I shop completely differently. Why? Well I've realized that making a house a home isn't about buying stuff at all - it's about finding things that make you happy, things that you couldn't bear to be parted from, things that you are pleased to see and look at. It's the same with my wardrobe - simple style that will stand the test of time, will suit my shape and I will wear again and again.
Now I'm not a minimalist by any shape or form and I don't think I ever will be. I like and appreciate beautiful homewares, I love supporting beautiful makers and independent stores. I look forward to browsing in vintage shops and flea markets. I do still buy things for myself and my home. And that's absolutely okay as far as I'm concerned but the biggest change is that I only buy something when I need it not because I want it. Over the past couple of years I've been decluttering - selling bits online, donating to the charity shop and taking things to the car boot. I'll be continuing with all of these throughout 2017 as I've still lots of stuff to get rid of, as well as making sensible choices that work for my home and wardrobe. (FYI - kitchenware goes down a storm at the car boots, so pots and pans, storage jars all do well, as do dvds and video games).
Below I've listed a few ideas for ways I've changed my shopping habits. These are not about the big purchases we have to make in life - sofas, cookers, fridges, beds, flooring are all important and sometimes difficult choices to be made. A lot of the time these are things that we can't alter for financial or practical reasons, but these ideas are about the smaller things we bring into our home and our daily lives. But I still think they should take time and consideration before making a purchase. Hopefully you might find some of them useful if you are trying to simplify too.
- Use Pinterest. I generally keep a shopping list board with things I like and am considering for my home. It's good to create one for each room of your house too. When I need or like something I pin it to the relevant board and then I just leave it there for a while, sometimes even for months. Fairly often I come back to it with fresh eyes and the realization that I don't need it or like it anymore or I've found something better for the space. Below is my general shopping list board that I've shared here, some things I've bought already, some I'm still mulling over. (I usually keep these as secret boards as I may add or remove as I need to). My last purchase from this list was the beehive lamp shade for my bedroom. I found it online but waited for weeks before going to see it in store. I loved it and brought it home with me but only because the paper lampshade in my bedroom had given up the ghost and was hanging down at an angle. I'm currently humming and hawing over the bread proving basket as I love it's design and purpose. Breadmaking is on my list of things to try this year but if I'm pants at it then there is no point in buying the proving basket. Before I'd have just bought it and sadly it would have been relegated to the cupboard like all the other things (toasted sandwich maker, ice cream maker etc etc!).
- Make a list of things you need - go through room by room and make a list of what needs replacing or what you'd like to update. But don't buy anything. Instead think about what would work in the space. Different paint colours work for different light conditions and the size of the room. Having learned the hard way after painting walls over and over (although truthfully I love painting walls, I find it relaxing!), it's better to live with what is there and think carefully about the colour schemes. I'm a big advocate now of slow decorating, taking my time over colour choices, fabrics, lighting and flooring. I don't rush into any decisions but let things sit for a fair old amount of time. Last time I popped into the paint shop I fell in love with a colour that I thought would be lovely in my son's room. I bought the tester pot, did a little sample section of the wall and then left it. And left it. And left it. After probably a couple of months (yes that long) I realized it would not be right for that space at all. Before I'd have painted that wall that very day I saw that colour only to have to change it again later. As I've said before, good things take time!
- Vintage shopping - I'm a big advocate of shopping vintage. I love that you can repurpose something, give it a new home and find something that makes your home truly unique. But the key to good vintage shopping is deciding beforehand what you are looking for. It's also a good idea not to automatically jump onto Ebay and start bidding for things. I'd wanted some Ercol dining chairs for years which can go for silly money under auction. I persevered and got super lucky, bagging three for under £60 in charity shops. I also have a list of things that I'm looking for that I take with me on the vintage hunt. A note on my phone as a reminder of what I'm searching for comes in really useful especially if you are trawling around the salvage and vintage fairs. There is often so much choice that it can be overwhelming and it's good to go prepared. It's also a good way to rein yourself in when you see something. Quite often not finding what you are looking for at these fairs can leave you feeling a bit fed up. If you've travelled a fair distance to go there then the urge to just buy something kicks in and you end up picking up what you think will justify the visit. Now I leave empty handed if I can't find what I'm after regardless if I saw some pretty china or another Observer book and I go eat some cake instead.
- Holiday shopping - It's all too easy to buy when you are on holiday as the pleasure urge is high. If you are going someplace that you've been before then you'll know the shops you want to visit and what you'd like to bring back. Last year when we were back in Northumberland I knew I'd be visiting Refound Objects once more. Before I went in I was pretty strict with myself about what I wanted to bring back as I have a tendency to go wild in there! But if you aren't going back somewhere in the near future and you really want to take it home then do so, or find out if they have an online shop that sells it too and purchase it later. I only made one other buy in Northumberland and that was a beautiful handmade ceramic plant hanger in a little art gallery. It wasn't very expensive, I wouldn't be able to buy it anywhere else and I knew that it was going to get used as I'd been looking for one for a while.
- Only buy what you need for the size of your family or household. We are a family of three so we don't really need a lot of crockery or glasses. I certainly don't need six million mugs! Now I have a small selection that I like and use all the time, especially that blue one in the picture above. Bought a few years ago from Housekeeping Store, it's been used religiously ever since. We have only two wine glasses and if we have anyone over we just use the Duralex tumblers as they are highly versatile. Unless you have lots of people in your home at one time ask yourself, why do you have lots of extra glasses, mugs and cutlery? The same goes for vases, picture frames, candle holders, cushions and other accessories. How many bunches of flowers have you got on the go? I now have one jug for the table and one big earthenware pot for flowers. There are two candle holders for the dining table and a few tealight holders for the mantel. They are all routinely used and there aren't any hidden in the cupboard! I won't be buying anymore.
- House Plants - yip, I love them and they have become my own personal weakness when it comes to buying things. I now have quite a few. But house plants, like children, need a lot of love. Here's the vital thing to think about when buying them - do your research. Make sure you have the right place to put them. Don't follow trends because you like them on Instagram or on a blog. Not all house plants will be happy in your home. There is a good chance you will kill them. Some need a lot of care especially at this time of year, when light and central heating can play a vital role in how they will survive the winter. There are several house plants I long for but I know they won't grow well for me as I don't have the right environment for them to thrive. If you like a plant read up on it, there is lots of advice on online and I've found the House of Plants book really useful too. Alfie's Studio is a good place to buy online and there is plenty of guidance about where to put and how to grow on their site as well.
And that's it. Hope you've found some of these useful if you are simplifying your home this year.