Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Blah to Fab for Free: 100 No-Cost Ways to Put a Little Style in Your Life...

When we want to spruce up our wardrobes or or homes, we have lots of resources to guide us. For example, there is Nina Garcia's popular list of one hundred clothing pieces and other items she considers essential to creating personal style.

For me, an attack of the frumps often has as much to do with my mindset and habits as it does what is actually hanging in my closet. Or, when looked at from another angle, a dowdy wardrobe is an outworking of my inner being.

So, I thought it might be fun to come up with a list of 100 intangibles of loveliness. After all, what woman couldn't use some no-cost tools in her beauty kit? Besides, the outer wrapping doesn't wear well until the inner foundation is in place.

Here are my first ten choices, in no particular order of importance.

1) Posture. Sit, move, and stand in a way that is not only graceful, but also promotes health. This is a weakness of mine, so I'm focusing here, first.

2) Smiles. Cultivating a generally pleasant expression not only preserves the face, but also makes us seem friendlier and more approachable.

Of all the things you wear, your expression is the most important. ~Janet Lane

3) Tears. While it's important to smile, there are also occasions for compassionate tears. It's good to know how to rejoice with those who rejoice and mourn with those who mourn. It's also healing on occasion just to sit down and have a good cry.

"There is a sacredness in tears...They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love."
Washington Irving.

4) Words. Speaking words that meet the need of the moment is a great skill. Speaking kindly, gently, and directly is a great art. Knowing how to say only that which builds others up takes loving insight.

5) Ears. Great listeners make the most fascinating conversationalists.

6) Eyes. Eyes to notice others. Self-centeredness is anything but appealing.

7) The cultivated eye. The cultivated eye knows how to arrange the elements in a room in a pleasing manner. The cultivated eye also knows how to dress to best advantage. The cultivated eye understands line, color, space, symmetry, visual balance, and light. The cultivated eye can arrange a pleasing table. The cultivated eye knows how to take a room from being cluttered to calm by carefully editing and organizing. I'm not referring to someone who likes or understands "high style", but someone who can take every-day elements and create from them a space that is warm, cozy, and welcoming. Some of us are born with a talent for such things. Others of us have to learn by careful observation and practice. We may need to enlist the help of a friend whom we know has a good eye for arranging things. One caveat: In cultivating our eye to see how to create loveliness out of the ordinary, we need to guard against becoming discontent with what we have or critical of others who might do things differently than we do. We're not aiming for artistic snobbery here, but we're simply doing the best we can with what we have at our finger tips.

8) Dress in good deeds. Care for those in need. Love the unlovely.

9) Watch your thoughts. Think about things that are pure, true, lovely, admirable, noble, righteous. Set your mind on things that will last for eternity. Then, the passing of time will be glorious to you and not a reason to mourn.

There is no cosmetic for beauty like happiness. ~Lady Blessington

10) Get the big picture, but attend to the details. When we take a first look at some beautiful spot in nature, we see that the whole vista is beautiful. Yet, when we take a closer look, we find that the scene is made up of a myriad of details. Just examining the many little details that comprise one lovely flower can keep us busy for a while. Even the lowly dirt is comprised of many elements and is home to many creatures. In fact, our whole world is made up of tiny, tiny details that we can't even see with the naked eye, such as the parts of atoms. God created things that are beautiful and good and functional, and He placed structure and order and detail and pattern into the universe.

If a woman is to create a lovely, organized, efficient space around her, as well as present herself well and do her work to her greatest satisfaction, she will need to attend to the details. (Not my strong suit!). Yet, at the same time, she needs to keep an eye on the big picture so that she doesn't get lost in the details and miss the overall significance of what she is doing. This is a delicate balance.

Attention to details is necessary in loving a husband, caring for children, cooking, sewing, laundering and ironing, mending, arranging rooms, setting tables, organizing one's self, cleaning, completing one's work for an employer, organizing a wedding or other social or family event, taking care of your grooming, and in being charitable and hospitable to others. In fact, it's hard to find any aspect of life in which taking care of the little things well doesn't add to the success of the whole endeavor.

If we are a big picture type of woman, we can train our eye to notice details and train ourselves to take care of the behind the scenes work. If we are detail oriented to the point that we spend a whole day taking care of dust bunnies and leave more important things undone, we can train ourselves to have a better grasp of the larger picture. So much of our happiness and effectiveness in life comes from knowing how to best spend the moments of our days. There is a time to be exquisite in our attention to detail and a time to do our best on a project and let it go. There's a time to make and ice a cake from scratch, for example, and there's a time to run to the bakery and buy one ready-made.

Attending to the details of life doesn't win us any glory. In fact, we may work hard to do a task well, only to feel that our husband, children, boss, friend -- whomever -- doesn't even have a clue how painstaking our work was. If we want to do our work well, we can't base our entire happiness on whether or not another person understands how hard we worked. We must get some satisfaction simply by knowing in ourselves that we poured our hearts into it.

In photography, the smallest thing can be a great subject. The little, smallest human detail can be a Lietmotiv.
Henri Cartier-Bresson

So, these are the first ten in my list of "the intangibles of beauty and style". Next time, we'll explore items 10 through 20.

What about you? What's on your list of 100 Free Ways to Add Beauty and Style to Your Life?


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