Unlike basic ‘life hacks’ or ‘tips,’ skills are a lasting way to develop a lifestyle. They may seem subtle upon initial consideration, but many life skills are quite tangible when you break them down.
Elegance is, in many ways, a set of such skills. Over time it becomes a mindset, largely due to one’s ability to practice the tenets of elegance through day-to-day tasks and habits.
Whether you wish to control your mindset or beautify your home, here are five skills you can master to begin your journey toward a more elegant life.
1. Train Your Mind to Think in Sectors
It is a common and well-studied phenomenon for even the best-intentioned among us to give up on projects and responsibilities due to feeling overwhelmed.
This sensation is often caused by two factors: failing to track one’s pace, and failing to divide larger goals into manageable sectors.
Let’s look at an example. You would like to have a cleaner home. Having allowed a busy schedule to overtake routine cleaning habits, you find that this goal is overwhelming and nebulous.
First you must divide the goal mentally. You have the endpoint – a clean home. Then, you have the motivation – a desire to feel more comfortable in and proud of your space. Next, you have your assets – x amount of time per day or week: x amount of energy (physical, mental, and emotional): and x tools to complete each part of the goal (an efficient vacuum, a broom in good repair, enough sponges, and so on).
Now you must divide the goal externally. I myself would choose to think of it in terms of which spaces I spend the most time in, and then which spaces my guests occupy most. You need not consider it on a room-by-room basis if this is not effective for you. Each room can itself be divided into sectors, such as a bedroom becoming the windows, the bed, the closet, and so forth.
Having performed these exercises, you ought to now sit for a moment and – in spite of how challenging this may be for some – focus your energy and thoughts on one sector in each realm. Start there, and remain there until this specific sector is complete.
This technique takes time to learn, but once mastered it can radically redefine the way you approach these sorts of ‘big picture’ goals.
Here is a worksheet you might find useful when getting started:
2. Learn the Art of BuJo
BuJo, or bullet journaling, is an enjoyable and effective way to place order at the center of your life.
The concept is quite simple: you choose a journal (preferably an exceptionally beautiful one), index it by measures of time (daily log, monthly log, etc), and as needed add in the categories of your life (i.e. social events, grocery lists, tasks relating to x).
You will number the pages and mark them in your indexes, and over time you will in essence have a clean, clear record of your life. There are BuJo formats for everything from cleaning lists to mental health breakthroughs – one of my favorite blogs, The Petite Planner, has a wonderful list of free printable designs and references to begin your BuJo journey.
If you would like a quick read that serves as a crash-course in this art, I also recommend reading the Dummies description of BuJo. With time and dedication, BuJo can radically transform your life. Entire communities have sprung up around the practice, from reddit forums to BuJo blogs to facebook and instagram pages.
BuJo is inherently an aesthetic skill as well as an organizational one, and it can add routine elegance as well as an ordered mentality to your day-to-day life.
3. Master (Strategic) Meal-Prepping.
This is something many, many people wish to do, but which still seems to be a rare addition to weekly routines. I believe that this may be a prime example of the overwhelm mentality I explored in skill number 1.
I will illustrate my own meal-prepping journey briefly, as it may give you a useful (and realistic) perspective on how to achieve this skill.
Firstly, I do not meal-prep every single meal. I would venture to guess that most people would find such a routine to be impossible or at the very least exhausting. I learned to identify which days, meals, and ingredients present the greatest challenge to my motivation and targeted those.
I spend some time each month preparing most of my family of three’s breakfasts: typically I rely on simple options such as quiches, banana bread, or tarts. All of these may be frozen and reheated as needed. I alternate so that my parents and I do not grow tired of any one item.
My prep for a month’s worth of breakfasts generally takes me about one and a half hours – keep in mind that this is partially due to practice, as the recipes are very familiar to me.
I am also able to prep freezer-friendly staples such as pie crusts (these are used in quiches, tarts, meat pies, and many, many other recipes), soups and stews, homemade pizzas, homemade garlic bread, and more. I make easy 2 or 3 step meals such as pasta salad or cucumber sandwiches for lunches on Sundays.
Having these on hand when I am low-energy means that my family can rely on having healthy, home-cooked food more often than not, thus avoiding spending too much money or calories on ordering in.
The key is to be a) realistic about how much prep you feel equal to doing and b) strategic about the recipes and time you spend prepping.
Making multiples – which is easy with options such as quiche or bread – means less time and mess for a high output of food. Planning meals in ingredient ‘blocks’ – groups of recipes that use the same ingredients – has a similar effect.
Over time, meal prepping will become habitual, and it is not an all-or-nothing skill. You may adapt it to suit your needs and the needs of anyone else in your household.
It is a tried and true investment of effort that saves you time and money, while producing simple and homemade meals you will have on hand for yourself and your guests – a hallmark of elegance is always being a prepared host(ess), after all.
4. Practice Aesthetic Mindfulness.
This is a self-titled combination of two hallmark philosophies I believe every elegant person must integrate into their lives – aestheticism and mindfulness.
I will be writing a great deal on aestheticism – and the practice of becoming an aesthete – but for now I will provide a simple definition: it is the philosophy of beauty for beauty’s sake, or “art for art’s sake” as turn-of-the-century aesthetes often declared.
Being a ‘Mindful Aesthete‘ means to be naturally aware of and focused upon one’s sense of beauty, whether it be visually, through scent, via sound, or in the realm of tactile sensation. It stems from an understanding that beauty, sensuality, and comfort do not require justification – they are integral to the human experience of life and have a natural importance.
In practice, this boils down to the art of making routine observations. In the home, for example, it means strategically integrating aesthetic ideals into one’s space, such as making sure that each room includes a piece of art, a luxurious fabric, a scented candle or oil diffuser, or speaker for music. Engaging the senses is key.
This is my defining philosophy and I have, with time, naturally woven it into every area of my life. I bring Mindful Aestheticism into my budget by allocating money for perfumes and incense, for example, and it is an important consideration even when selecting office supplies or sitting down for therapeutic journaling.
When this practice becomes a part of your mentality, elegance will flow naturally from your choices and actions.
5. Learn to Slow Down – Significantly.
Very few of us realize how much of a rush we are in to live our lives. Humans are a strange breed containing a mind which is too quick for our bodies.
Feeling rushed is, arguably, one of the most widespread symptoms of mental illness in our respective societies. It is at the core of burnout culture, a defining sense of overwork and overwhelm especially prevalent in the global West. It is insidious and well-studied: in the field of psychology it is often referred to as Time Urgency, a key symptom of anxiety and a real factor in one’s likelihood to develop cardiovascular disease.
In the vernacular, I have heard of this phenomenon referred to as ‘Hurry Sickness,’ and I find this to be an apt title for the feeling that rules over so many of our experiences.
There are a great number of practices useful in the defeat of this rush-mindset, more than I can include in this one section or post. Here are a few, summarized for your convenience:
- Cut back on clock-watching, aka become conscious of how often you check the time and learn to do it less.
- Practice mindfulness – the previous skill ties into this, but in simple terms it means dedicating specific increments of time to observe one’s environment using all five senses.
- Keep a diary or journal; yes, it is a cliché for a lifestyle blog to advocate for this, but that is for good reason! Regular reflection destroys the illusion that one must control time in order to be functional, and this is key to defeating Time Urgency.
- Use a planner, and do so with a generous mindset – this means scheduling your time, but doing so by intentionally leaving a ‘cushion’ around each task. Essentially, schedule more time than you know it will take for each activity and then intentionally do not move on to the next task at once.
However you tackle this energy-sucking mentality, doing so will bring an unstudied elegance and charm to your entire life approach.
In Conclusion – Elegance is a Series of Skills in Action.
Bougie on a Budget is not a mere collection of posts or recipes, but rather a place for my philosophy of elegance to blossom, expand, and be shared by all. The skills you choose to implement each day define who you are as a person, and these five are each adaptable to your life and goals.
You are capable of transforming your life many times over, whenever you wish.
So, learn, teach, and enjoy every decadent moment the journey has to offer. Until next time, darlings.
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