HOW TO CURB YOUR 'TO-DO' LIST APPROACH TO LIFE
(AND FIND HAPPINESS in the process)
By Lucy Holt
Lucy shares how following her mum’s example helped reverse her insatiable, anxiety-inducing appetite for new stuff and “always-on” friendships.
Despite what Instagram would have me believe, there is no way to instantly make your life look/feel/taste like yours. Personal style is something that accumulates quietly over years, while you’re not looking. For as long as I can remember, my mum has been a master of this. I’ve known her to spend upwards of three years waiting for the perfect pair of knee-high boots to stroll, disembodied, into her life. On retiring last year, she celebrated by buying herself a handbag she’d been eyeing-up for a decade. And it’s not that she’s not one for ‘nice things’ either, she’ll just happily forgo several instances of near-serendipity in favour the ‘real deal’.
I — in the boots scenario — would have caved years ago, bought the cheap Zara appropriations, got bored of them quickly, then donated them to charity, and started the whole wasteful cycle again twice over by now.
That was, until I jolted myself out of a desk-lunchtime shopping habit by comprehensively overhauling every single aspect of my life, leaving a job and moving to London to go to art school. Having zero (0) budget for things—and even less space to store them—I have, purely through necessity, (almost) managed to quell my ever-rumbling appetite for new stuff and re-defining my ‘personal style’ on a jealous whim.
In terms of treating my wardrobe as a project to be completed through strategic accumulation of investment pieces, I’m working on it.
The high watermark of self-restraint is my mum’s wardrobe of turtleneck jumpers (in ten different colours), beige coats, dark-wash denim jeans, tailored white shirts, Breton striped tops and wool tartan skirts (only ever at Christmas), and this wardrobe has inadvertently immunised itself against the bank account-draining, anxiety-provoking effects of fast-fashion splurginess. Mum’s idea of an impulse buy is ordering something online without doing a recce to John Lewis first.
Mum's mantra: Leave it today, see if calls you back.
It’s more than just pragmatism. There’s a certain wonky sentimentality there too, because it bears saying that a much-loved, perfectly worn-in trench coat only becomes a much-loved perfectly worn-in trenchcoat whilst you’re getting on with your life. It becomes so whilst you’re wearing it everyday because it is perfect, it is timeless and it does just go with everything. The same can’t be said about last season’s block-colour teddy bear coat which I recently sold on eBay, already looking past its best and only ever worn to absolve the guilt of the former, hungover version of myself who impulse-bought it.
This slow approach to fashion is brought into even sharper focus when viewed in the context of social life and, even more importantly, friendships too.
My mum’s social engagements operate as much in the long-term as does her acquisition of clothing: in cycles upwards of a year. I—on the other hand—lose my shit if I don’t see every single one of my friends from home each and every time I visit. How ridiculous, considering I make the trip up North every other month. It’s a paranoia grounded in a need to constantly ‘tend to’ friendships, lest they disintegrate, like some unwatered, needy house plant. I catch myself treating my social life as a ‘To Do’ list: attend more of x, spend more time with y, ‘reach out’ to z.
When I moved to London at the end of last year, I drove myself to the point of exhaustion by saying yes to every social invite I received, motivated by the wonky logic that if I wasn’t making friends, I must be losing them.
So I’m quietly trying something out. As buying less, and buying more slowly and more consciously, I’m trying to linger longer over social interactions, and to take refuge, rest and rejuvenation in the gaps between. I’m reminding myself that if I don’t hear from friends in other cities for a while, it doesn’t mean they have forgotten about my existence. And, more importantly, that if they have forgotten about my existence then it’s not the end of the world, because we’re clearly not destined to stay in touch in that case anyway.
I’m no longer enforcing ‘fun’ rituals out of a narcissistic need to exist as a figure on someone else’s social landscape.
I am no longer working to arbitrary benchmarks, and I absolutely, categorically, am not ‘reaching out’ to anyone. A new approach to friendships too, then: Leave it today, see if they call you back.
Image by unknown Pinterest artist