Wednesday, May 20, 2015

At Home With Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott

At Home With Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott
I was given Jennifer L. Scott's first book Lessons From Madame Chic as a birthday gift and I loved it so much that I immediately ordered her second book, At Home With Madame Chic. Scott also writes a blog called The Daily Connoisseur and envisions herself as a "connoisseur of daily life." As someone who has always aspired to the same, I think it's pretty safe to say she's doing a good job. Scott's books are simply a reminder that we all deserve the best and quite often, the only thing standing between us and the best is our own stubborn habit of saving things for later.

Juggling work, life and family is hard and it's not getting any easier these days. Everyone is too busy to clean, cook and keep an organized home, but what do you do? Some hire a cleaning lady, which is great if it suits your lifestyle, but what if it doesn't? Should you live in squalor and filth, all in pursuit of the dream? It seems to me that the dream is only half-achieved if you can't find any peace, comfort and enjoyment at home. It's something I've struggled with my whole life, so believe me when I say that there is absolutely no judgement here… Just yesterday I couldn't make it all work and had to order pizza, which I ate on the couch in my pajamas while I worked and my living room was a mess. If you are someone who has it all together all the time, then congratulations - you're my hero and this book isn't for you. Seriously, well done! You've discovered the secret to my happiness and I'd love to hear your tips in the comments below. If you find it a little tough to juggle everything, your kids are screaming every time you try to have 5 minutes for yourself, your bathroom rug has seen better days and you're having a hard time getting dinner on the table every evening that doesn't come in a Chinese take-out box, then hop on over to the bookstore and pick up a copy of At Home With Madame Chic.

For me, there's nothing more deflating than coming home from an amazing day at work only to have your positivity bubble shattered by a an ever-growing pile of laundry in the corner, a full & stinky garbage can and a sink full of dishes. It's life's little way of achieving balance and smacking you right back into reality. Working from home as I do doesn't make this situation any easier… In fact, I think it makes it harder in some ways. There's no "coming home from work" so you get used to it and it's hard to know when to stop working and when to start just being at home. There's no boundary and your work mess starts to blend into your home mess and it's all just one big mess.

Imagine this… What if you came home from work and your house was clean. I'm not talking about just once, I mean every day. And not just clean, but beautiful… It's smells good, looks great and feels amazing. A place you look forward to seeing where you can relax and not worry about last night's dishes or picking up the 40 pairs of shoes that have made their way into every nook, cranny and clean spot of floor in your home. A place where you want to be as much as any spa or hotel you've ever visited. Imagine further that you're the one who curates your home and that it's an activity that pleases you - that you can find pleasure in even the most mundane of tasks and that sweeping, mopping and doing the dishes becomes a part of your daily life that you can enjoy. The idea is that you'll never have to face the daunting task of cleaning your whole house all at once and that dinner is never further away than a little time because the fridge is stocked. If you need to take an hour to read a book by candlelight, have a bath or wax your eyebrows, you totally can… Everything is in control and you can actually enjoy the things you work so hard to pay for. Isn't that a nice little dream?

At Home With Madame Chic aims to give you all of this. Now, don't get me wrong… Scott isn't trying to turn you into some sort of Disney-inspired, glorified cleaning lady running around singing a Happy Little Working Song. There's no feng shui principle that needs to be followed. No tricks. This is a book about living your life in-style every single day in a way that you can enjoy every precious moment. A big part of that is keeping a clean, tidy, uncluttered home, mind and body. Perhaps even more important, Scott brings in a major theme of her previous book, which is using your best every day - something that helps to make the mundane more enjoyable. You deserve the best, don't you?

There's nothing particularly groundbreaking or new in At Home With Madame Chic, but that doesn't diminish its value… It's a reminder of what's so easily forgotten these days now that our work hours are longer, our minds are always running and we're constantly connected via phones, iPads and computers. One of the things she reminds me of is something my mother always says… Put 5 things away every night before you go to bed and your house will be tidy. Scott doesn't use the same words, but the sentiments are the same. Simple things such as having flowers on a regular basis rather than just on special occasions can spruce up the home. Before you say that they're too expensive, I'd like to point out that I just bought a beautiful bouquet of yellow daisies for £3.50 that lasted for two weeks and really brightened up my mantle - everyone complimented me on them, despite their humble price tag. This is not about spending a lot of money and landing in the poorhouse - it's about allowing yourself to enjoy the best you can afford. Whether a vase of baby's breath and carnations or an expensive, exotic array of orchids, they're all beautiful. Be comfortable in your choice and enjoy it. Candles to sooth, a regular schedule of your beauty maintenance routine, music that inspires you, using your best dishes and napkins regularly, maintaining your bushy eyebrows and sitting at the dinner table… All of these things make a difference and perhaps if we organize our schedules a little better, we can have it all.

Scott's book also provides recipes, dinner party ideas, music suggestions, affirmation suggestions and more… While I'll be the first to admit that I don't fancy all of her suggestions (I can't listen to classical music all day every day - I need a little something to sing along to) she does start the conversation and gives a jumping off point to curate your own perfect life. Scott also has a way of taking things that seem impossible and making them doable… She gives tips for tackling incredible tasks in a way that keeps you from putting them off. For me, this is invaluable. If you have children, she also gives great ideas and suggestions for managing their activity schedules, getting them involved and teaching them early to cultivate and take interest in their own daily lives.

I highly recommend At Home With Madame Chic and I've already started implementing Scott's ideas and suggestions. I have a long way to go, to be honest. My house is lovely - not at all perfect or fancy, but I think it's nice and it always looks great when someone comes over after a hefty dose of elbow grease. That said, I work here. I live here. I want it to be nice for me and my husband too when he comes home - I am striving everyday for that seamless, enjoyable life of less clutter and more beauty. It's not a destination - it's a journey and I understand that. I once heard someone say they suffer from CHAOS - Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome. I could totally relate, however it seems that lately I have a steady stream of people coming over and I love that. I am a feeder and love a house full of people to look after, so I want to be happy when they come over - not rushing to clean the bathroom before anyone notices that it's a mess. With London flats being so small, the challenge is even greater, but I'm up to it and I've already had a clean house for 5 days in a row… I'd say that's progress, wouldn't you? I'm looking forward to reading the third book by Jennifer L. Scott - if it's as good as the first two, it will be a great addition to my bookshelf!
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