Seasonally inspired things to Learn, Make and Do

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Perfectionism and making do

how to get over perfectionism

I grew up in a house of doers. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say 'make do-ers'. Clothes were from jumble sales, altered and spliced; beautiful vases were displayed chips to the wall; recipes were followed very loosely, sweeping substitutions made for absent ingredients. My parents' garden was full of allotment-style cobbled together structures, the beans grew up old mattress springs, cassette tapes were disembowelled to scare pigeons from the cabbages, there was no worry about having the exact tool for a job, there was no feeling that you had to learn everything before you began.

I think that this was a very common type of 1970s childhood - I've since bonded with several people over memories of car exhausts being mended with baked bean cans - people just got on with things and there was no idea of 'perfect'.

It has been the very best upbringing possible for an entrepreneur. The precedent of working a way to do something with what you already have, rather than waiting for everything to be affordable and available is invaluable. The main point in my childhood was that you got something working even if it was a bit rough around the edges. It was a time of practical skills.

It has meant that I grew up without a perfectionist bone in my body. I am quite details oriented, I like things to look nice and to work well, I spend a lot of time walking and thinking, but, once I've decided to do something, it is all about the going for it, the process, the jumping off.

So when I find myself fussing over something inconsequential like a font size, I absolutely know it isn't 'perfectionism' it is fear. It is just a form of worry, a putting off the performance.

Many people, largely younger women, complain to me about their perfectionism and how it prevents them from completing things and putting them out in the world. I used to think that this was really just a bit of an excuse, a way of not doing the hard work by keeping busy with editing and re-editing and deleting. In the past I may have rolled my eyes and I routinely put all job applications mentioning perfectionism to the bottom of the pile.

But now I'm more sympathetic and just wonder if people simply missed out on this stage of life and now need to deliberately re-cultivate the make-do in their lives. I wonder if this perfectionism that seems to hobble so many people in their 30s and early 40s is partly because our society began to throw out and replace things rather than mend them from the 1980s onwards. Maybe their perfectionism was encouraged by so many things becoming disposable, short lived, with parts that couldn't be replaced. Lots of people's income went up, media got shinier, there was less making do.

"Making do" could feel like selling ourselves short - for we were 'worth it'.

Rather than working on altering mindset or reading books of how to recover from the paralysis of perfection, perhaps we just need to work with our hands and mend our clothes and improvise recipes and just give things a go and celebrate all the glorious shonky results.

Which - rather neatly - as well as freeing all the amazing blocked ideas out into the world, would also help us move from the consumerist cycle which is causing so many problems in the world with its mantra of more and more and more.

What could you 'make do' with today?

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The sun room table, an old enamel basin, hazel twigs and pure glamour from green tinged white trumpets.⁠⠀
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I looked up yesterday lunchtime and the garden was full of sunshine. ⁠⠀
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There are a few places in the (very messy) house where keeping a bit of negative space, clear surfaces, a sense of breathing out pays off.  This white table is one of them.⁠⠀
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I took this on Sunday, disappointingly it is currently cluttered up with things (a nest, two candles, a box of matches, some receipts) to take down to the Studio.
Over the past year I have become increasingly uncomfortable about how we talk about the seasons to the point that I feel I need to say something.⁠⠀
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I'm particularly uncomfortable about how we talk about using the seasons as a life guide.  I can understand why this has happened - it is great, easily understood marketing, it is a ready built structure, I'm sure it helps the people who are desperately in need of rules and timetables at the moment.⁠⠀
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But it is rooted in a very particular idea of what seasons look like - particularly the 4 defined seasons of the UK, Europe and North America;⁠⠀
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Which would be fine if people were talking about their local area, the view from their window.  But that doesn't seem to be the case - this seasonal structure is built up into a programme to follow, the language is very much that 'this is the correct way to think about life'.⁠⠀
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But, if you are saying that the dormant season is the time to rest and recuperate, what does that say about countries where the seasons don't look like that.  Is there to be no rest? Is everyone to adopt the seasons in the UK as the 'correct' version? ⁠⠀
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Language matters, because language is where our assumptions lie.⁠⠀
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⁠The photo is of a rose hip - rose hips are the only berries left in the hedges now.  I used to think that it was because they tasted spiky that the birds left them till there were no other options but recently I found that they have the least calories.  The ivy, rowan and hawthorns produce the Kendal mint cake of berries - perfect for seeing the birds through the cold - so get eaten first.⁠⠀
There is a lot of talk at the moment about what 'seasonal flowers' means - the wonderful @wolveslaneflowercompany have been addressing the issue and they have a great story thread exploring the issue saved in their highlights.⁠⠀
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It was a thing that used to bother me a lot when I grew flowers because I only ever sold flowers that grew here, that was the whole point of the business - and in Scotland seasons are very late. I spent a lot of time explaining to brides that not everything is available at every time of the year. ⁠⠀
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I didn't ever have cut flowers until April.  I missed both Valentines and Mother's Day. ⁠⠀
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This is what I have as flowers in my home through January and February - glamorous, long lasting, amaryllis bulbs are on every surface. ⁠⠀
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Elsewhere cut hazel twigs in jam jars are taking over the windowsills. next week I may add in some snowdrops.
Yesterday I sent out a newsletter about extractivism - about the human tendency to push and exploit and keep extracting until we end up with a husk.⁠⠀
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It was sparked by conversations I had after the Oxford Real Farming Conference and a realisation that there is a thread that ties colonialism, industrial farming, privatisation of services and the way we often treat ourselves.⁠⠀
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I've been having such interesting conversations with the people who replied.⁠⠀
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I resend my newsletters to new subscribers on Sundays so if you want to sign up you can click through my profile to the website front page.⁠⠀
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We have been frozen here for a while - the top inch of ground thawed yesterday, but under that was rock hard.  Most of the garden is a low flood of slush floating on ice.⁠⠀
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The hardy annual plants I sowed in late September and transplanted in October are currently under snow but looking pretty terminal.  The temperature in the polytunnel went down to -6 last week and the salad crops turned to mush.⁠⠀
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Were I remotely self sufficient it would be proving a hard winter.⁠⠀
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But I'm not, so I just add more plants to my sowing plan - sowing seeds is my favourite thing - and admire the beauty of the hoar frost, and feel happy that I have food in the store cupboard and logs in the woodpile and a big pile of books by me.
'See a pin and pick it up and all the day you'll have good luck'.⁠⠀
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I have been embroidering a tiny run of linen needle/pin cases to go into the shop tomorrow - and I have embroidered this rhyme inside them - a reminder of the time when pins were made by hand and were to be treasured and looked after. ⁠⠀
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It gives a new appreciation to the term 'pin money' too - the modern kinds of pins, shiny in their plastic box that have made us assume that the term meant a small amount, left over change for fripperies. ⁠⠀
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In reality it was used as an alternative name for a household allowance - the amount of which was often laid out in the marriage contract - and was the money that a woman had complete legal control over. If it was unpaid a woman could sue her husband or his estate for back pay.
Allium Chistophii are rolling around under the espalier apple trees in the vegetable patch. ⠀
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I always hope for a little light self seeding as they go. ⠀
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Now they are like glittery tumbleweeds in the frost. ⠀
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In truth we bought the airstream to avoid a divorce.⁠⠀
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We bought it on Ebay late at night after sharing a bottle of wine.⁠⠀
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At the time I was running a business from the house - from a house that was about half the size it is now, a jumble of tiny rooms, painted plywood floors, two small children and a high level of sticky chaos.⁠⠀
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I am not a tidy enough person to run a business in a home - even had it been a well run home with storage space - and those years were not remotely well run.  My invoices always had cereal stuck to them, my sewing machine was parked at the end of the dining table, 90% of my working time seemed to be spent looking for something that I was sure had been left 'just there'.⁠⠀
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So we looked for something that we could afford so I could move the business out of the house - we priced up a chalet style home office from B & Q - and then, on Ebay, we saw the airstream, badly damaged, vandalised, forlorn.  It came in cheaper than the shoffice . . . .⁠⠀
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For a few years - before I built the Studio - this was my workspace and since then it has become a storage area and been sadly neglected while I tried to save the money to repair the damaged back window and the sagging floor.⁠⠀
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This weekend we began clearing out all the fabric that was stored in it so that the renovation can begin.  I am very excited.
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About Snapdragon Life

At Snapdragon Life I gently guide you through bringing the changing seasons into your daily life, helping you slow down, so that you can experience increased well being, calm and creativity.

 

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