What makes a good life, the importance of whimsy in design and the role of our homes in helping us to do the things we want to do.
Read time: 4 minutes
It’s the New Year so it’s time for the obligatory New Year’s post. I wasn’t planning on doing one of these as it seems just about everyone and their dog has been churning out festive and motivational posts over the last month, but this time of year gets everyone in the end. There’s only so long before you can no longer avoid pondering a cheeky resolution or two and reviewing your year just gone by.
And in my first week back at work this year it was the first thing on the agenda. In fact, after the usual ‘drink less, eat more healthily, do more exercise’ chat we all got talking about what actually makes a good life and it really hit a chord. After much discussion, which involved chat about everything from money to chocolate, we narrowed it down to just three simple things: Love. Purpose. Whimsy.
I probably gave that away in the title of the blog post! But I thought it was worth sharing with you how we got there. I would love to hear your thoughts on your ideas too. So:
Love. Nothing groundbreaking here – this one goes without saying really. Although, in another slightly wine-fuelled conversation over the holidays putting the world to rights with some other friends we tried to dissect what love really means. Things got deep this Christmas. We decided it was caring for someone – far more powerful than romantic love. The kind of love that means I care if you get home safe. I care that you are happy and comfortable. I care that you are fulfilled. To give an example (being Christmas and surrounded by food, obviously it is cheese-based), I can wholeheartedly say I love my family. But I can also say I love cheese. Hmmm. So what I really mean is I care deeply about my family’s happiness and do everything in my power to look after and nurture it. In contrast, you can’t care for cheese like this. Well, I guess you can, but unless you are a master cheesemaker it’s possibly quite a strange thing to do. Although, who am I to judge if that’s what floats your boat? And I guess someone needs to get that delicious cheese made for me 😊 Anyway, I digress massively. But also, mmmmmmm cheese.
Next up, purpose.
Having something to focus on. Having a goal. Having a reason to get up. Putting something creative into the world you are proud of. I’m not talking fine art here – though it could be – I mean anything; growing a garden, baking a cake…making cheese! Having a reason you would be missed.
As I am sure you know by now if you follow this blog, I have worked at a community centre for a long time, particularly with people who have retired, and this is the thing that I have found more than any other that stops people in their tracks. Lack of purpose saps away energy, our interest in the world around us, our sense of self. While it is particularly common around the time we retire, it can happen at any time of life and to any of us. Purpose can leave us for lots of reasons – a bereavement, an illness, depression, a change in our circumstances.
Happily it can also be brought back though. I don’t want to sound flippant here, it takes a lot and can be very very hard, but I have seen it happen time and time again, and it is life-changing. With an openness, a curiosity to try new things, good people and support surrounding us and good design (I can’t not mention design – my favourite subject! – but all too often forgotten, especially in this context). Sadly too many people are unable to interact with their interests, old or new, because of poorly designed housing, transport, services and find themselves trapped in a place they may not want to be, physically or mentally. And it’s not for want of trying, but eventually you find people just stop trying because it is simply too hard.
It’s why Occupational Therapists exist and do such important work. They help people with their ‘occupation’. This doesn’t mean their job – it means helping people with whatever it is they want to do. Their purpose.
Design is something entirely within our control though (subject to finances of course – another blog to follow on financial accessibility of good design soon), so it shouldn’t ever be something that takes away people’s purpose. It should help us to engage with it.
Which leads me to whimsy. Surely one of the nicest words to say. Whimsy. Just saying it makes you feel happier, lighter. Whimsy. A beautiful word that sounds exactly as it means – playful, fanciful. Whimsy is something that we all need every day, but often overlooked. Being delighted by our surroundings and each other.
Whimsy is something that is sorely lacking in accessible design too. If you want accessible you get functional. You get plastic. You get grey. You get beige. You get uninspiring by the house-load. Even where we are starting to see more attractive accessible design coming through (there is lots of exciting things happening and great people working in this area now), we are still lacking in choice. And so there can be no whimsy. How can there be if everyone has to choose the same thing? Where is the personality, the enjoyment in surrounding yourself with things that reflect and inspire you? Where is the fun?
At the Pretty, Good Project we are on a campaign to bring whimsy into accessible design.
The picture is my living room by the way (and my husband relaxing by the Christmas tree in the background). In my own little flight of whimsy this Christmas I decided to decorate all our houseplants as well as the tree (you can see in this picture one of them). Not to everyone’s tastes I suspect, but it certainly made me smile, and that’s exactly what I mean. It’s my home, I want it to provide comfort and joy, year round, not just for Christmas. More on my adventure to make our home a lifetime home, but with a large helping of whimsy, coming very soon, continuing with this very room.
So there you have it. Thanks for reading. I would love to know if you agree with me or if you have your own ideas about what makes a good life. Get in touch in the comments, drop me a email or message me on Instagram or Twitter. And please share with anyone you think would enjoy it. And wishing you a 2019 full of happiness and love, purpose and whimsy.