Senses of Living® Décor

May-July 2007
© 2007 by Bret S. Beall


This column is a mélange of my recent observations on the fields of décor, design and organization. The common, annoying thread that runs through all of these observations is that to have excellent décor, exceptional design and overwhelming organization, you must spend lots of money. Further, the message that kept hitting me was, if you want to do this in an earth-friendly way, you have to spend even MORE money. To quote Susan Powter, "STOP THE INSANITY!" [note to readers: that is the first and last time you will ever encounter my quoting Susan Powter; sadly, I must give credit where credit is due].

I want to avoid a lawsuit, so when I state that there are many magazines out there about living simply and in an earth friendly and "natural" way, you have a good idea which ones I mean without naming them. I was excited when these magazines first started appearing, and then I quickly became disgusted by them. Sure, you can live simply if you purchase this "pre-distressed" table for $450. Or you can live environmentally if you buy these special towels for $100 each. Are you aware that you will have FAR less impact on the planet, and be living FAR more simply, if you go to your neighborhood thrift store (often associated with a non-profit charity) and buy your furniture and towels (and other stuff) there?

Chicago recently hosted a "Green Festival" organized in part by a national "pro Earth" organization. I had been a "regular" member of this organization for a decade, but eventually became a "business" member. That was when I truly saw the ugly side of this industry (and organization). Their lowest membership category was for businesses making $500,000 or less each year! Even though I make NOWHERE near half a million dollars annually, I had to pay that rate to be a member. I was a business member for five years, and during that period, not only did I not get not one single consulting lead, but also each month that organization's website led few if any visitors to my website. The only contact I ever received was from other members wanting to sell me their goods and services, or from the organization itself wanting me to spend hundreds and thousands of dollars to advertise with them and to exhibit at their conferences, or to sponsor their activities. I've let my membership expire. Back to the Green Festival: Part of me felt I "should" go since it was here in Chicago, but as someone who is skilled at prioritization, I said, "My time is better spent elsewhere." When I got feedback about this Green Festival (in this case, the "green" was for dollars that had to be spent), I was grateful for having listened to my voice of experience: no tips on greener living, no guidance for simplicity, just opportunities to spend money was the take-home message of this Green Festival. This "lost opportunity" annoys me because so many people got the wrong idea about living simply and environmentally.

Let's face reality: Magazines, television networks, newspapers, organizations, etc., must all remain viable one way or another, and that usually involves selling advertising, and sponsorships, and these are bought my companies trying to increase their own visibility and sales. As much as I would like to think that these "green" companies truly care about their customers, I fear many of them care more about their own financial bottom line than about improving someone's life or the world in general.

Several years ago, I assembled some original and borrowed "earth friendly" ideas in my column, "The 7 R's of Successful Living" at http://www.god-dess.com/webhintsOctober03.html. If you want to truly say "bye-bye to buy-buy," please read it. If you've read it once, read it again. I'm not going to reinvent the wheel, so just follow the link to a really good column.

Another décor variable that appears in magazines and newspapers regularly is whether something marketed as "green" or "environmentally friendly" or "sustainable" actually is any of these things. Or, if we are certain a product is truly "green," do we know that it is Fair Trade (ie, made by people paid a fair wage for their work), versus the ugly sweat shop products that are produced in many places? You can look for Fair Trade labeling; familiarize yourself with these labels by visiting http://www.fairtrade.net/. You can also visit the website of the Fair Trade Federation at http://www.fairtradefederation.org/. You will find that most (if not all) organizations that promote Fair Trade also support environmental concerns and conditions, so look for that Fair Trade label!

If you are still concerned about being on the cutting edge of design and décor, and think you need to buy something new to achieve that hip factor, I have great news for you. I routinely peruse design and décor magazines and trade publications, primarily looking for egregious examples of "what not to do." The one word that can serve as a link across all of the styles I've seen illustrated recently is "eclectic." If you follow the 7 R's, you will undoubtedly end up with an eclectic décor scheme. You can get even more assistance by re-reading my columns on shopping (http://www.god-dess.com/services_sensesMay04.html) and unshopping (http://www.god-dess.com/services_sensesJune04.html). I assure you, without any hesitation, that there is a very high probability that your personal, eclectic decorating scheme will outshine many of the examples in these design and décor magazines.

Why would that be? Quite simply, YOUR décor was done with YOUR living in mind, not with impressing readers of a magazine (if, by chance, you are trying to impress others, your décor may not be superior). I keep repeating myself, but I mean it: Our home environments should be welcoming. Let that admonition be your guide, please!

One of the things that will make your home especially welcoming is knowing that everything you have done for to decorate and furnish your home followed the 7 R's, and not only looks great, but saved you lots of money. If you are rich, and don't think you need to save money, or if that saved money is burning a hole in your pocket, consider making a donation to your favorite charity or charities.

See? When one starts to eschew consumer culture, all of the pieces fall into place. It's really quite easy to live an internally consistent life while have a fabulously outfitted home that reflects the true you. It's amazing how making this one decision will benefit not only you, but also the world at large. That's pretty cool.

Of course, making the transition from consumer culture to simplicity super-hero takes time. If you want to speed up the process, I can guide you through everything step-by-step, customizing the entire process just for you! You can reach me at 773.508.9208 or email me to become a client. It's simple to say "Bye-Bye" to "Buy-Buy-Buy."