Sunday, 21 July 2013

quote unquote #1 ~ Samuel Johnson

This is the first of the new topics I wrote about introducing in my last post. I often come across great quotes which really stick with me so I thought about sharing them. I'm also pretty obsessed with the idea of home and what 'home' means so they all relate to that in some way. I don't think a quote by itself is quite enough though, so I'll be offering some additional thoughts and some links for further reading. I hope you enjoy and get something useful and/or inspirational from them!

"The great end of prudence is to give cheerfulness to those hours, which splendour cannot gild, and acclamation cannot exhilarate; those soft intervals of unbended amusement, in which a man shrinks to his natural dimensions, and throws aside the ornaments or disguises, which he feels in privacy to be useless incumbrances, and to lose all effect when they become familiar. To be happy at home is the ultimate result of all ambition, the end to which every enterprise and labour tends, and of which every desire prompts the prosecution."

From 1750-52 Samuel Johnson produced a twice-weekly pamphlet called 'The Rambler' (Gretchen Ruben says "they are the eighteenth century equivalent of posting to a blog") in which he wrote on whatever subject he wanted. This quote comes from The Rambler number 68 from Saturday November 10th 1750 (you can read the full Rambler 68 here)

I first heard this quote in a lecture Lucy Worsley was delivering at the V&A on her book 'If Walls Could Talk'. If I remember rightly she spoke about how happiness at home was a fairly modern concept and even in Johnsons time it was a luxury attainable by a small minority as 'home' was often also hard work. Today, for most of us, home isn't about so much hard work. Yes, cleaning and chores are still work but modern labour saving devices mean we can put the washing on while we do something else, rather than have to devote a whole day of the week to attend to it. For most of us, home is a place to enjoy, relax and entertain in, it's a reflection of who we are and what we do and our sanctuary for the outside world. This is at the heart of what Johnson was getting at, he's saying that at home a person can be themselves, without any official 'disguise' (office suit, make-up or business like demeanor) in short, at home, you can sit in your pants and it's OK

263 years after Johnson wrote this ramble, we're still talking about how to be happy at home and how to make the most of the precious time we spend there. Whatever your home situation, it's important to feel happy there, to have somewhere to escape from the pressures of the outside world. Even if you're a glossy mag reading, interior design nerd like me, focus for a moment on how your home feels, rather than what it looks like and resolve to fix the things that don't make you feel good. Does your home make you feel stressed and overwhelmed? Is it the physical space, or the people you share that space with? You can have the most beautiful home in the world, but if your relationship with your flatmates/family is causing you to feel unhappy, take steps to tackle the issues. A a short, painful but honest conversation now could have hours of unhappiness later.

As renters, there will always be things we might want to change about our homes but can't, but focus on the positives and do what you can to accept or modify what you can't change. This might be a simple thing like being stuck with a piece of furniture you hate. Would it look/function better elsewhere in your home? Can you cover it or accessorize it in a non permanent way to make it look better? Try to identify what bothers you and think about how to resolve those issues. Remember the post I did about Apartment Therapy's January Cure? You can start it anytime of the year!

For me, happiness at home revolves around my boyfriend and our cats who share my home. It means having a clean, tidy and neutral space (clutter and bright colours unsettle me enormously) and it means having room for the things I love, books, prints, CDs etc. An added bonus is our garden, there is nothing so good for my soul than having a post-work potter among the plants to de-stress at the end of the day.

For further tips on being happy at home try these resources:

Writing The Happiness Project led Gretchen Ruben to pen her follow up book called 'Happier at Home' visit this link to read a sample chapter It's next on my reading list!

Do the Apartment Therapy 20/20 home cure or buy the book.

Read Apartment Therapy's 10 Simple things to Make You Happier at Home

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