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Living a Beautiful Life

From the book Living a Beautiful Life by Alexandra Stoddard

"To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends..."

~ Samuel Johnson, The Rambler, November 10, 1750

Creating daily rituals - making daily tasks into times of enrichment through planning and special personal details - is a way to live a richer, more satisfying life. It may seem an obvious point-yet it is so easy to do! But in my work as an interior designer, I have found that many people need advice about redesigning the small details of everyday living: they need this much more than they need advice about how to design a brandnew living room.

Samuel Johnson is a hero of mine. His life was not an easy journey, yet he lived day by day with a sense of urgency, reverence and passion. "The process," he insisted, "I's the reality." As I've worked in the decorative arts over these past twenty-five years, I've become convinced that only by paying careful attention to the simple details of daily tasks and to our immediate surroundings can we live vitally and beautifully all the days of our lives. It takes a commitment to enjoy each day fully. And it takes respect for the significance of grace.

" Rituals" is my term for patterns you create in your everyday living that uplift the way you do ordinary things, so that a simple task rises to the level of something special, ceremonial, ritualistic. Rituals can elevate the way you feel about yourself, your life, and make you more peaceful and more free, more useful to others.

The difference between feeling bored and feeling alive, I believe, lies in a stimulating daily life that is elevated into a fuller experience through pleasing details.

When these small moments are handled lovingly and with thought and care, they become life-enhancing and make you capable of doing more with the rest of your time.

I've observed in my communications with people all over the world the tendency so many of us have to concentrate our energies on things that are for special occasions rather than on things we do, or use, every day. In design terms, this translates into working to get the living room just right, instead of concentrating on the rooms we spend the most time in, day after day-the kitchen, bedroom, bathroom. This 5-percent rule translates into a tendency to save up a sense of the special for a few outstanding events each year-for a particular party, anniversary or birthday celebration, a vacation. Such events comprise at the most 5 percent of our living time, and the remaining 95 percent is often merely walked through, in wistful anticipation of some later Joy. But what we all really want to do, I think, is live in the present, really enjoy every day, not put our lives on hold for that special 5 percent. We want to enjoy all the days of our lives, and especially the time spent in the sanctuary of home. Life is not a dress rehearsal.

Instead of rushing through our lives to get somewhere-instead of saving up real living for later--I think it's important to remember that each single day is all we have. Single days experienced fully add up to a lifetime lived deeply and well. Today is your life-not yesterday and not tomorrow. If we have tomorrow, it will be a gift, but what we do today, right now, will have an accumulated effect on all our tomorrows. If we make short shrift of our day-to-day lives, even if we live to experience "later," I don't believe we will know fully how to appreciate what we have. Living well is a habit, and rituals improve and reinforce good life habits.

That nimble writer of aphorisms Logan Pearsall Smith, in his book All Trivi, said: "There are two things to aim at in life: first,to get what you want; and, after that, to enjoy it. Only the wisest ofmankind achieve the second."

Special events should be exclamation marks in our lives, but ordinary days need to be celebrations too, as meaningful and beautiful as the big events.

Small personal touches added to the things we do repeatedly create rituals that give us confidence and energy. You have power over your daily life; you can set up useful systems that will help you sustain these rituals in many satisfying ways.

As I look back on my childhood, I see now that I had an early tutor in this attitude toward daily rituals, and also in what became my field-interior design: my mother. She created a beautiful home environment, which helped me learn how to see and how to live. Writers have to find their own voices. I had to learn how to see.

Mother's innate aesthetic sense affected everything she did. When I think back to the meals we ate together as a family, I remember the fresh flowers on the table, the food attractively arranged on the plate and planned partly with color in mind. To Mother, truth was beauty lived every day. Not only did Mother teach me to appreciate beauty by her example, she also taught me an invaluable lessonthe importance of creating beauty each day, and how to do it. By her example she conveyed that beauty was essential for happiness and an alloy of love.

People's basic living needs are remarkably simple, and they haven't changed a great deal since the Stone Age. We eat, sleep and I bathe. We do these things every day.

Setting up beautiful details in these three areas can make an enormous difference to the quality of your life.

From the book Living a Beautiful Lifeby Alexandra Stoddard


There is a chapter in this book on each of these activities and ways in which to elevate them into richly restorative events. With the publication of Living A Beautiful Life, Alexandra Stoddard originated the idea of creating an atmosphere of beauty and tranquility with simple touches that turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. As a world-famous interior decorator, she has worked her magic on interiors large and small, from mansions and embassies to cottages and studio apartments. Through her writing and lectures, she has encouraged millions to brighten their lives and their homes by turning mundane tasks into small pleasurable rituals that add beauty and joy to everything they do. Alexandra Stoddard's secrets of Living A Beautiful Life are yours.


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