Making Do

December 28th, 2009



This photograph by Pamela Hanson   has always captured my fantasty of living in a European city in my small apartment overlooking a bustling boulevard.

For some reason I imagine this is a very small apartment, maybe even a studio apartment where this woman lives.  It just appeals to my love of small homes, small apartments, few possessions, but ones that are meaningful.

One thing I have always loved about Europeans (at least the ones I have known personally) is that they were all so nonmaterialistic.

It wasn’t about buying, buying, buying. It was about living.

For them, life wasn’t about having things. Life was about having experiences.

I have tried to embrace this in my own life.

I remember reading in Entre Nous, how French women “make do” with their clothing, their belongings, even their husbands — not trying to change them to meet their expectations.

I like to remember this philosophy of making do when I cook — using up the ingredients I already have in my cupboards and refrigerator; when I “shop” my closet — working with the clothes I have instead of believing I need more of them; with my belongings — for instance, I will place one pot ontop of another for a voila! instant double boiler instead of thinking I need to go buy a new kitchen accoutrement.

I am trying to live my life this way and hopefully get out of debt and then only spend my money on things like books, movies, language classes, cashmere sweaters, wine, good food, piano lessons for my kids, etc.

  1. December 28th, 2009 at 18:01 | #1

    I love that picture! It does stir the emotions doesn’t it? I read this post earlier today and thought about it for a while and decided not to go to the grocery store but to come up with an idea for dinner using ingredients I have on hand. Spaghetti and meat sauce is just starting to simmer on the stove as we speak. I defrosted the meat in the microwave and it was a snap to put together. I also think I squashed an unhealthy and very silly want for a new expensive purse in the shape of a tote bag. I pulled out a longchamp bag I have in my car that I use literally as a tote bag for extra work things and turned it into my new purse. It’s much lighter weight and I really like it! The best part is it’s free. It’s really casual too with short handles and no zipper on top, but I like the look of it.

    Hmmm, I wonder what else I can come up with this evening? I think these are my favorite posts you do. They always inspire me. Are you writing a book about this stuff? **I hope so :)**

    • December 29th, 2009 at 07:16 | #2

      Thanks, you always inspire me, as well. I think it’s because we both have similar views on so many things!
      Nancy, I have seen the infinity scarves, but they are not my favorite style for some reason … maybe it’s just that traditional side of me.

  2. December 29th, 2009 at 17:27 | #3

    Yes, I love *making do.* Some of my favorite meal, favorite outfits, favorite experiences have grown out of making do with what was available, what I had in the moment. K, this is inspiring as we all begin to think about the new year and what is important in our lives.

  3. Beth G
    December 29th, 2009 at 17:41 | #4

    It’s very hot, and they’re both a little out of sorts with each other. She wants him to take her dancing tonight but he has plans with his friends and won’t take her out. They’re going to go for a drink at the cafe downstairs, but she’s pouting and he’s waiting impatiently. He doesn’t want to rush her and make her more angry, because he plans to come back later tonight.

  4. January 2nd, 2010 at 10:27 | #5

    I love love love this post.
    I miss Europe.
    Happy New Year 🙂

  5. January 2nd, 2010 at 19:15 | #6

    Fabulous post, Kristi! It made clear to me how much I have changed during my 40 years. I remember being in my late teens and early 20’s, any time I got something new I just had to show it off to my friends/family. At a certain point I realized that I frequently did this, but some of my friends did not behave in the same way. As time went buy I noticed more and more this was how everyone in my family behaved. Materialism/acquisition and showing it off is very important.

    Over time I have found I am overwhelmed by things which serve no purpose in my life and have pared down. I no longer acquire just for something new. I occasionally fall back into old habits, but with decreasing frequency. I no longer live the same way as many of my family members. In fact, my daughter and I just implemented a household rule for this year. The rule is that for everything new that comes into our home, something comparable must be released (sold, donated, given away or thrown out) Christmas and Birthday presents excluded. At the end of the year we will evaluate and see how we’ve done. The plan doesn’t “make do” as much as we could, but I want us to do something that we have a hope at succeeding at and truly making a difference in our lives. We can build from there.

  6. January 4th, 2010 at 22:54 | #7

    YES! My philosophy too! The not buying, but living. Love it! I always choose an experience over a “thing.” Thanks for the post!

Comments are closed.

What is it about those Italian women? You know the ones I’m talking about: beautiful, sexy, dressed to the nines just to take the kids to the park. They have a certain something that is indefinable. It is in the way they dress, the way they prepare their meals, the way they spend their leisure time.

It is because they know the importance of la bella figura. Roughly translated from Italian, it means putting you best foot forward in everything you do. It means cutting a beautiful figura. The opposite of la bella figura is la brutta figura, which is what someone might say about the falling down drunken guy at the party or the super tackily dressed woman at church. It means ugly figure.

La bella figura is much more than your appearance. It goes much deeper than that. It is about how you act. It is about how you treat others. It is about how you care for yourself, your home and your family. Living a life in line with la bella figura doesn’t take money. In fact, it is more about how to have class without a lot of money.

Someone who exudes la bella figura will have clean, pressed clothes and be well groomed. They will not be rude or sloppy. Their fingernails will be impeccably groomed. Their hair shiny and clean and their shoes will be polished. They will not have stray threads hanging from their suit hems. They will not be driving a car in need of the car wash.

La bella figura means driving that 15 year old car and meticulously cleaning it and caring for it. It means keeping your belongings in good repair. It means taking time to clean your house and not cluttering it up with meaningless objects.

When you focus all your spare energy, time and money on the things that bring you the most amount of pleasure, then you are truly living a life in line with la bella figura. The best part about it is that you don’t have to be Italian to do so. You just have to think like an Italian.

Italian children are raised to present la bella figura in whatever they do. From the time they are small and are groomed perfectly to attend church or school, they know that appearances count. They count because it is the first thing people judge about you. That first impression does matter. Appearances are also important because when you take the time to look nice, you are showing that you care about yourself. When you care enough to look good, it shows you have good healthy self esteem. Nothing is more attractive than self confidence.

In addition, dressing nice also shows respect for others. If you invite people over for dinner and greet them in flip flops, baggy sweats and a stained shirt, it is really disrespectful to them. The same if you dress sloppy to go to church or even to the market. By dressing nicely and being well groomed, you show respect for everyone in your world.

Having la bella figura means presenting yourself in the best light possible in all your interactions.