While the essence of BrocanteHome may include Vintage cashmere and home-made gingerbread, at its heart are a series of values essential to uphold if we are to truly follow the Brocante path...
No.1: Have Integrity.
Once upon a time there was a Mommy who loved her little boy all the world. As his first birthday approached this Mommy went into overdrive. She posted home-made invitations, wrapped delicious leaving presents for the children, cooked till she dropped and all in all made her little boys party as magical as could be. When the big day arrived the sun was shining, the children were playing and all the other Mommies seemed well, its hard to explain, but it was almost as if she'd broke some unwritten Mommy code. "Really" they said "You shouldn't have gone to all this trouble..." , and "Gosh, you put us all to shame!" and finally, to her absolute horror, "Well, you've obviously got nothing better to do..."
That night, the Mommy lay in her bed and wondered if she'd gone over the top. She wondered if she had shown off just a teeny weeny bit, she rang her Mum and said "Was it too much?" and she hardly believed it when her Mum said "It was wonderful".
Now this was a Mommy who couldn't salsa dance or mix a great martini. She couldn't change a tyre, speak Russian or hold her own in a meeting full of men in suits. But she knew how to throw a kids party, whip up a fairy cake or seventy and wrap a present certain to thrill a five year old. She knew how to make memories her little boy would treasure, how to make a sunny day in September a little bit special, and she knew, in her heart of hearts, that ritual and celebration were an essential part of family life and now that she had a family all of her own, she knew it wasn't in her to compromise...
In her book, "Things I Want My Daughter To Know", Alexandra Stoddard reminds us "Do your best in every situation not because you want praise or gratitude, but because doing less would be out of character. Do what needs to be done." To me this speaks volumes about how often we are willing to compromise ourselves simply to save others from feeling uncomfortable. Don't do it. Have integrity in who you are, what you believe in and what you are capable of. Trust yourself to do what needs to be done.
No.2: Seek Authenticity.
To me authenticity isn't a destination, it is a never ending path to becoming who we really are. If we see this path as the road to where we want to be then it is essential that we never give up the search for all the things that make our heart sing with sheer joy. Sarah Ban Breathnach says that we have to learn to trust ourselves, to make friends with intuition and learn to listen to our hearts:
"Only the heart knows what is working in our lives. When you listen to your heart and follow its wisdom, you've achieved authentic success, because authentic success is living each day with a heart overflowing with gratitude."
3. Put Order Before Beauty, But Make Beauty Your Raison D'Etre.
Look, I am the first to admit that there is nothing sexy about housework. I am not here to tell you how to scrub your toilet or bleach unsightly stains, but I do know that beauty does not exist in chaos. I understand, and I want you to understand that making the ugliest jobs part of a satisfying ritual will help you come to terms with the fact that no-one else ever remembers to mop the kitchen floor. I understand that housework will never be as satisfying as making things pretty but in order to make room for all that is pretty we first have to deal with the dross.
Once that is done we are free to dwell on all that is lovely. We can putter to our hearts content, we can re-arrange the flowers on the mantlepiece, change the pillowcases on the beds, hang pictures, tuck sachets of lavender between our sheets and we can do all of this safe in the knowledge that the house is clean and tidy: a blank canvas waiting to be made beautiful.
4. Think and Act Locally.
It might surprise you to hear that the whole world is often on your doorstep. By choosing to think and act locally, we choose to support our communities and the small businesses that give it life. We are all too quick to jump into our cars and drive to the nearest shopping malls, drugged on convenience and the sheer high we get from being in a commercially driven atmosphere. But by taking each day as it comes, by not stocking our freezer with microwave meals, but relying on the seasonal produce locally available, we benefit both ourselves and those that produce it.
There are so many aspects to this: so many good reasons why we should act locally, not least because by thinking locally, we are in essence acting globally by opting out of a world driven by greed at any cost, but also because by using local small businesses we are supporting the diversity so harshly challenged by big conglomerates.
Yes, it means working a little bit harder. Yes, it means challenging local businesses to expand their horizons and yes, there are some things we just won't be able to buy within walking distance. But more often than not that little furniture shop in town has a library full of catalogues stuffed with furniture you cannot see on display, the bookshop can probably order any book in print and I'm sure if you ask nicely, your local deli or florist will be able to order whatever your heart desires, however obscure. They want your business and unlike the bigger boys they are willing to put themselves out to get it.
Use them or lose them.
5. Don't Pretend You Are Superwoman...
...Or even Martha Stewart, when quite plainly you are anything but. BrocanteHome isn't about stuffing mushrooms or doing the 27 fling boogie five times a day. It is about doing what you feel up to today to make life a little more bearable. It isn't about perfectionism, in fact it celebrates all that is totally imperfect but lovely all the same. It isn't about killing yourself to be a Domestic Goddess it is about creating a home that nurtures you and your family whichever way you see fit. I don't care what your home looks like. This isn't about homes fit for design magazines, it is about creating a sanctuary where no-one else matters. It is about having a really lovely, cosy, comfortable space where you can lie back and dream your dreams in peace. That's all.
Please don't get in a fluster.
6. Get Up Early.
I know what it's like to never have a minute to myself. I know how it feels when there is a one year old throwing a tantrum, a grown man screaming about lost socks, dinner burning in the oven, the milkman at the door and your Mother on the phone. Of course I do. It is my life. There are moments when I want to go and hide. To walk out the door and never come back simply because in twenty-four hours I haven't managed to carve out five minutes for myself. It's life, that's all. There is very little to be done other than to grit your teeth and get on with it, or to do as I do and either get up an hour early or go to bed an hour later, just so you can have sixty minutes entirely to yourself, to do whatever has been making you itch with frustration all day, whether its writing your novel or resting your eyes as you listen to your favorite CD.
Think of it like this: by getting up an hour earlier every day for a year, you create a whole fortnight you previously spent sleeping. A whole fortnight to do as you please.
Time then, is my gift to you. Use it wisely.