domestic tick tock and lifestyle blogging

PoorPolly

I’m not a giant fan of house/lifestyle blogs a lot of the time because they seem to always just read as either an enormous shopping list, or a continuous ad. Plus the way the internet makes it easy for people to show only the parts they want you to see, and in the best possible light, is kind of exhausting. It’s not that interesting to read (or look at, lets be real) perfectly arranged snapshots of a very select part of someone’s life, even if it’s very pretty. And a lot of the time it’s very, very pretty. So if I am in the mood for some quality interior porn, I usually tend to turn to tumblr or Pinterest, because every picture in the cosmos will be right there at my fingertips, without needing to filter through unnecessary crap.

However! I do have a few home blogs I really like, and you can find them in the links section to the left, but what they have in common is this very intimate approach that doesn’t try and gloss over the dirty little bits of life that we all know exist. I like when people post about things they’re actually interested in, that have relevance to their everyday lives. When Meg Zandi of the really fun Radical Possibility made a post about re-arranging her living room and put up photos of every possible furniture arrangement she was thinking about, it hit this switch in my brain where I was like Yeees, This Is What Home Blogging Should Be About – I want to get a glimpse into your real home and the real way you live your (domestic) life. The images in the r/p post, or maybe the idea behind these images, are also oddly soothing. Like there is this domestic rhythm that everyone has in their lives, and it was cool seeing a concrete demonstration of a small part of that.

The final Radical Possibility living room - isn't it it lovely though?? Also see Meg's tutorial for the HELLO here.

The final Radical Possibility living room – isn’t it it lovely though?? Also see Zandi’s tutorial for the HELLO here.

Back at uni I read this great essay called The Aesthetics of Everyday Life by Michael Owen Jones and I keep coming back to the ideas in there whenever I think about the culture of blogging, particularly home/lifestyle blogging. The text starts of by detailing the everyday, household, personal rituals of the author’s friends, Norm and Jean Smith. This elaborate, anecdotal list of their preferences was really intriguing to me and it set an atmosphere of a really tidy, calm domesticity, with a definite sense of different rhythms of living during the course of a day. This kind of thing has always appealed to me because I really enjoy the idea of people doing little things every day that create a kind of contentment – little things that enrich a person’s life. And that’s really what I’m interested in seeing in lifestyle blogs; something really personal to the author and also genuine, without ulterior aesthetic and/or commercial motives.

Michael Owen Jones goes on to say that what the Smiths do is to actually produce art, because “art consists of behaviors and products considered special that generate an appreciative, contemplative response in the recipient.” Putting aside the fact that this is a pretty limiting statement, what art consists of, according to the author, is certainly what Norm and Jean do, and what most people do as well, whether they’re trained artists or not, just by making sensory-based decisions daily – what colour to wear, what food to eat for lunch, how to arrange their living space etc. It’s a very democratic viewpoint – everything is worthy of notice and aesthetic appreciation, even the everyday things we choose to do (and sometimes don’t even think about while doing them) because they make us feel more content. I like when a blog becomes an archive of these small decisions on the blogger’s part, particularly because a lot of it is so glamourised and magaziney instead.

The author goes on to state that “most folk-art belongs to ordinary day-to-day experiences.” The assumption being, of course, is that ‘real’ art is removed from, or above ordinary day-to-day experiences, which is not something I personally agree with.  However, even though what Norm and Jean do every day can be read as art in this way, I’m guessing few people would actually do so. The essay does pose the view, though, that Norm and Jean have achieved “formal perfection.” That is, they have succeeded in being able to create things every day based on sensory and aesthetic decisions that give them satisfaction and enrich their lives. And also probably prompt compliments by other people, meaning Norm and Jean’s (and Ms. Zandi’s etc) creations are also appreciated by others.  And that’s really nice imo. A life doesn’t have to be airbrushed and hidden behind screens – there can be something good and interesting in even the most mundane things, or to be honest, in even in the most nasty little stains (there is a lot of those in my own life, but yeah I can see why people don’t blog about them).

P.S. If you are interested in reading this essay, you can find it in the book Self-Taught Art: The Culture and Aesthetics in American Vernacular Art edited by Charles Russel. The google books preview unfortunately doesn’t have those pages available for viewing, but I’m sure you’ll be able to find this book in your local library, uni library, or even on Amazon if you’re in a buying mood.

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have been cleaning today

– Baking soda sprinkled on the carpet and then vacuumed works just as well as any expensive (and easily used up) carpet powder.

– My Mum once made a really great air freshener/deodoriser out of the following – white vinegar, water, baking soda and lemon juice (or another kind of scented thing you like). and then put it in a spray bottle. It is usable on upholstered furniture too. It sanitises everything and leaves a lovely smell in the air.

– I learned this from Curb Your Enthusiasm. It somehow seemed too good to be true, but it actually works.

A lot of stains caused by spilled drinks can be attacked at once with some salt poured liberally over the still wet/damp stain, once it has been diluted with sparkling water. Once it’s dry, the salt can be vacuumed. A WARNING: This method does not work on coffee stains, as our household has learned the hard way. Luckily though, Martha Stewart has some good stain removal tips and a handy printable chart here.

– If you have any old nylon stockings/tights lying around, they make really good dusters. Just wear them on your hands like creepy gloves and rub your now stockinged hands over whatever surface needs dusting. The stockings pick everything up, and can be rinsed and re-used. This is much quicker and more satisfying (and less dusty) then using a fluffy duster thing.

– Plain white vinegar (diluted with water) is really good for cleaning basically everything – from floors, to walls, to ceilings, to mould and mildew in the tiniest places. I think you can even use it as a fabric softener in a washing machine cycle. Just never mix it with bleach like I’ve seen floating around Pinterest. Unless you want to POISON YOURSELF. Vinegar and bleach produce chlorine gas when combined.

– I haven’t tried this one yet, but if you also have pets, it might blow your mind like it did mine. You can use a rubber squeegee to get pet hair out of your carpets/furniture. Just drag it along the carpet (start from the back and move towards the exit of the room methodically, so that you don’t lose the sense of where on the carpet you’ve squeegeed and where you haven’t) and then throw away the giant clump of fluff and hair that will have amassed. So satisfying. Look at this monstrosity:

slackerism, idleness and the consumption of domesticity

I do not want to be a slacker. It feels me with so much fear. I am an ~artist~ – I make my own work and am also involved in the running of an artist run space here. I have a job to pay the bills. I do a lot of housework. I am looking for a new job because I hate customer service and each time the door to the shop opens, my heart shrivels up a tiny fraction more. But still I feel like this is somehow not enough and that I should be busy with more things and that things should have been different by now. The only problem is that I don’t know what form this difference is supposed to take. Obviously I am going through some insufferable quarter-life crisis and I know I’m not alone. But the reason I’ve decided to start this blog is to add something more to “do” into my life. I want to write again to clarify ideas and start thinking more critically about the things I consume mentally. I do not want to be a slacker. And hopefully this blog will make me feel less like one, since writing is work in my opinion. I’ve heard people refer to a ‘Protestant work ethic’. Although until 5min ago I actually had no idea what this means, I feel like I must have a stunted case of it.

(P.S. I’m not actually a Protestant).

For a while now, I’ve perhaps been a little bit compulsive in the way I do housework. We’ve just had a really stressful couple of months. Many, many money problems and the lack of any results in my job search have conspired to grow this beast of anxiety that just keeps gnawing at my troubled young heart every hour of the day. The only time I feel better is when I’m doing housework and putting things in their proper place! There is nothing like the satisfying thk thk thk sound the vacuum cleaner makes while sucking up crumbs. My Mum has told me on a couple of occasions that perhaps the way I’ve started to approach housework is not the healthiest in the world. We joke about me being a potty housewife………… and obviously this needs to stop before it stops being a joke. It’s all started to become quite compulsive and I’ve realised that it’s the only thing that makes me feel like I have some control over my life. Our lives might be in a horrible flux, but if I can make things spic and span… well that’s something at least.

This anxiety has also meant that I’ve been pretty slack about making my own art work – instead I just seem to clean. I know that I just need to get up and do things, because I don’t really believe in the concept of inspiration. I think working at something everyday, is what makes a difference in the end. To add to this, there is also the fact that so much of my work revolves around the very general idea of Home anyway, so I keep thinking about the differences between art and house work and how to navigate this line haha. Last year I made a giant chunk of soap from scratch. It was an object in a show here, but now I want to cut off a small piece of it and clean something and document this action. Basically, I need to take back control over my life.

This has made me think about domesticity and what I can only describe as the cult of domesticity amongst young people today (especially young people like me who have a double life on the Internet). A person much cleverer than I, referred to it as the “consumption of domesticity” and that phrase rings so true. Pinterest and Tumblr and other social areas of the Internet are full of interior design porn, full of crafty DIY projects, full of household tips and tricks, full of hipster knitting patterns etc etc. And while, yes older people are also a big part of these areas of the internet, especially Pinterest, I don’t know what it is about this generation that has made young people flock to domesticity like this. And it’s more than just domesticity. It’s like some kind of yearning for a simpler, more fulfilling life, where you don’t have to worry about shitty customers, and whether you’ll be able to afford your rent payments, all you need to worry about is which colour to paint your walls and what vintage seller on Etsy to buy some wooden bowls from. Which I guess is the answer to the previous question, but it also betrays a certain rose-tinted innocence. It’s escapism let us be honest. The world has always sucked. Going back to some ideal of floral domestic life will not change anything. I am certainly guilty of this too. When I was a teenager (not that long ago), it wasn’t cool to be interested in homey things like this. It was a mark of dowdiness. And, in what seems like a really short space of time, this has completely changed. The only thing I can compare it to is opp-shopping/thrift shopping and how it used to be really embarrassing, even as recently as 10 years ago, and then a switch flipped and for ages now it has been a mark of style and coolness to go second-hand shopping and find “is-this-fun-or-is-it-ugly” items to mix into your ~capsule wardrobe~.

a screenshot of the pinterest home page taken like 2 min ago

I love 19th century novels and there is a particular word in a lot of them that fills me with an inexplicable shame. IDLENESS. What would these 19th century people think of us???? And then obviously… Why the fuck would I care what this backwards society would think of us? Obviously poor people and people who depended on their work to survive worked so hard and for so long, much like today, but even rich and middle class people needed ‘useful employments’. When your clothes are hand-made, you can’t really justify spending 3 hours on the Internet on a Saturday devouring interior design tumblrs and idealising some vague homey life where you would make your own vintage pattern clothes from silk made by your own backyard silk worms. You have to sew. You have to work. You can’t be a slacker, because you would not survive the next winter. Unless you were really rich, in which case I don’t really care about ur struggles anywaaaaay.

Today, for people here in the developed world, you are not a slacker if you don’t sew your own clothes. A woman is not a useless creature if she doesn’t do housework or cook. Today there is no need for such oppressive and necessary domesticity and yet it is what my generation seems to, in some ways, want. Why do I get such pleasure out of cleaning and vacuuming and playing some sort of domestic role? Why does it make me feel in control and like I am doing something worthy? Why are cooking shows so popular?

The idea of hearth and home is important to human beings. It’s what our lives revolve around. And it will always be important, but do I really want it to control me in this way? Why do I feel like my housework is more worthwhile than the job that pays my bills?

A house can be an exacting entity. It can be an oppressive place. This blog will be about houses, homes and the way people live and arrange their lives. I’ve been obsessed with these ideas for so long now that it will be good to get them out into the world, even if no one ends up reading them. I have about 17 posts already planned ahaha and new ideas just keep coming, so I finally feel a little bit optimistic. Maybe this blog will be a cure for my Protestant work ethic.