One of the biggest challenges for me will always be how much I love shopping. And decorating, to be more specific. I can be having a really horrible day filled with last minute deadlines, a gadjillion hours spent listening to Grade 4 Afrikaans prepared reading (while sobbing into my third cup of tea), pants that feel alarmingly tight and the constant drone of the builders next door – and then buy the perfect little tiered cake stand that looks just DARLING on my kitchen island, and I am a happy girl. Seriously, that’s all it takes. A new orchid from Pick n Pay while doing our grocery shopping, soft white hand towels from Biggie Best while buying a friend’s birthday present – it doesn’t have to cost much, but the sight of something fresh and new in my home can completely transform my mood. (Gin and Tonics have the same effect, but let’s not get distracted here!)
I’m sure that any psychologist worth her salt could come up with a variety of reasons as to why I feel the need to shop – but I really don’t care WHAT the reason is. It’s there – and I need to learn to manage it. One thing I DO know, is that I love to surround myself with beauty and order. My mom tells the story of how she would put me down for a nap in my cot and leave a pile of books for me to read, only to come back later and find that I was fast asleep next to a pile of books neatly arranged by height. My husband Stephen also knows that I tend to have frantic tidying spurts when life is feeling a bit hectic – it’s my way of creating internal order and taking control. And while I am far from OCD, I can relate to that feeling of calm once everything is in its place.
Quite soon after our return from our Cape Town holiday in January (when I started feeling that our lives really needed to be simplified), I was faced with my first dilemma – Bella’s bedroom. My little “baby” was about to turn three and was still sleeping in her cot, which was drastically becoming too small for her. This posed a variety of challenges – one, acknowledging that our baby was growing up (sniff sniff) and two, how I was going to transform her nursery into a “big girl room” without spending much money? The temptation to just go and buy everything she needed THAT DAY was overwhelming, but two things held me back – our limited budget and the fact that I was too close to the starting line to begin flagging! If I was so committed to creating a simpler more conscious life, then I had some thinking to do…
The answer came remarkably quickly – I would sell Bella’s nursery items on Gumtree and OLX, and use only that money when buying new items. I also went one step further and marched around the house with my notebook, tape measure and cellphone camera, determined to find a few more things that could be relocated to happy buyers! Amidst warnings about scams and fraudsters at every turn, I quickly listed Bella’s cot, compactum, travel cot and pram, as well as a Singer sewing machine table and garden swing chair that had been sitting in our garage for two years. And, all the items sold within a week! I was only almost-scammed once, I had met wonderful people (including a couple who had sold their exact same cot and compactum set five years ago, only to have a surprise baby on the way) and I had a surprisingly healthy decorating budget to use on Bella’s new room!
What followed was some juggling of the budget as I tried to afford a new bed, mattress and bedside table with my seemingly-healthy funds that appeared decidedly LESS healthy when faced with the price of brand new single beds! And so, I went back to Gumtree and OLX and began searching for second-hand finds. I felt a bit queasy at the thought of a second-hand mattress, so spent a large portion of the budget on a brand new one. I then found the most beautiful French-style bed online, in a ghastly shade of “shaki” (a mixture of sh*t and khaki) but one that I knew would look beautiful when painted white. I also picked up a bedside table for an absolute steal because it was slightly chipped (they say “chipped”, I say “distressed), as well as a beautiful large wooden kist that could be painted and repurposed as a toy box on which to house Bella’s dollhouse.
There was just one small problem – I had spent most of my money, could not afford to have the furniture professionally painted, and didn’t know how to do it myself! A quick call to our local paint guru revealed that furniture painting courses were R800 – exactly what was left of my budget. So, I did what any girl in my position would do – I asked Aunty Google for help. And help, she did. I spent a few happy hours watching online tutorials and making notes of materials I would need before popping off to Builder’s Warehouse for spray paint, brushes and chalk paint.
The next bit is a little embarrassing, because I really SHOULD know better than to spray paint a bed indoors. But, Bella’s new French-style bed was already assembled and I was way too lazy to take it apart again. And so, I covered the rest of her furniture and began spraying alarming amounts of white spray paint around the room. On the plus side, the bed looked FABULOUS. On the down side, I failed to notice how much paint I had inhaled through my nose, much of which was stuck to my nostril hairs. I then went to fetch my daughter from her VCVH (Very Catholic Very Holy) school with what looked like white powder underneath my nose. It’s very odd that we haven’t been invited on any playdates since then…
The toy box was a breeze in comparison – Old White on the outside, Duck Egg blue on the inside, and a few new accessories from Handles Inc in Hyde Park.
And it was (almost) done (the headboard needs another coat of spray paint when I can face it!) Bella’s new room cost me absolutely nothing but time (and my reputation at Kayla’s school). And she loves it. For some reason, the sight of her mother covered in paint made Bella’s little 3-year old heart glad – as well, as some new bed linen that was a birthday present from her Granny, and a quilt that once belonged to her older sister.
Now if only Aunty Google could help me figure out how to convince my child’s VCVH school that I am not a drug addict…
- Subtract items from your house before adding any more.
- Gumtree and OLX work remarkably well – research similar items for an idea on pricing, only accept CASH on collection and have someone with you when hosting viewings.
- You can find the most beautiful second-hand items online. Gumtree also allows you to set up an “alert” that will notify you as to when an item you are looking for is posted online.
- It is impossible to feel sad or stressed when you have a paint brush in your hand.
- I was surprised at how many items I have found to sell since January – for no other reason than that we are no longer using them – an old sound system, bicycle box, roof racks, iPod and amplifier. They have all gone to delighted new owners and we are no longer holding on to unused “stuff”.