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You label me, I’ll label you

The tax man cometh
The tax man cometh

Greetings fellow antique enthusiasts and vintage doyens. I have to report some singularly high stress levels not realised since my glory days in youth offending (I mean I worked in youth social care – I was not a young offender). A different kind of stress than that though: who knew that the powers that be, crushed beetles and tiny bits of paper on string could invoke such panic!

The week got off to a fairly bad start with an “admin” day. this largely involved filing three…yes THREE tax returns for her majesty’s revenue and customs (they collect the revenue and their custom is to make life as difficult as possible). Now this isn’t the forum for political rants; but seriously the UK government needs to sort its act out. They are now forcing us to BUY software in order to file a tax return online. One suspects our honoured (sic) chancellor may have shares in these software companies. Upshot being that we have thrown eco-friendly and expediency to the wind and filed a paper form – LATE!

Anyway, the whole affair near drove poor business partner to tears so I suggested she start tagging and labeling all our goodies for the posh fair which is now less than a week away. This she has duly undertaken with nary a moan or whimper: more a sort of death rattle of frustration and tedium. Meanwhile I have ruined two perfectly good tables with substandard proprietary French Polish – I shall be boiling my own beetles from now on. The labeling and pricing continues apace but not fast enough for either of our tastes and there is still a mountain to climb as the days tick-tock-tick-tock away.

All about the money, money, money
All about the money, money, money

Having said all this however, the week has not been entirely unsuccessful. The list of jobs, though still substantial, is shrinking and the world of online retail appears to have woken from a five month hibernation despite dwindling items and caretaking of our Etsy store. Be aware that the shop may fall foul of changing circumstances in the new year so all the vintage goodies we have on offer are basically on a last chance to by option for the next two months. Preparing for posh fair has relieved me of my online SEO and copy tagging duties to some extent and that has proved something of a blessing despite all the paper tags still needing to be written.

Well far be it from me to assign undue labels (a firm believer in live and let live) but HMRC are over priced, over valued and pointless. French polish is best if it comes from France, and price tags are probably best left to Jessie J. I’m off to try and rectify the polish issue,  console business partner as she attempts to write Birmingham 1903 on yet another impossibly small treasury tag, and destabilise the UK tax system.

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Minimalism or The Bare Essentials?

I read an “interesting” article this morning. It seems that some lifestyle experts have concluded that what is wrong with people’s lives is the lack of intervention by lifestyle experts. The encouragement is that to clear the mind and centre the body we should all live without “stuff”
It serves no purpose but as a talking point
or a thing to brighten up a shelf.
It won’t however affect your state of mind
Basically, stuff is bad: it can really put a crimp on your lifestyle. I mean, all that dusting, maneuvering around pesky chairs and tables, putting holes in the plain white of your walls for the hanging of devilish shelves and of course the ever-present risk of a stubbed toe. The best thing, so we are advised, is to paint everything white, remove all traces of existence from our living spaces and sit on spikes in cold, un-characterful rooms.
The problems associated with everyday life, so the article suggested, are not really as some of us stupidly think, to do with jobs, money or even wider socio-economic problems…nope, it’s just that we all have too much stuff. We fill the void of work, money and environment by having stuff we don’t need. And in having too much stuff we invariably hate our jobs a little bit more, struggle to make ends meet a little bit more and of course all the world’s social and economic problems can be blamed on one too many paperweights.
One too many of these and the whole
fabric of society will collapse
If this is the case however, clearing stuff from one’s life seems merely a case of closing one void and creating another which will still need to be filled. The aforementioned article showed the writer’s before and after home. The minimalizing process had cleared all the books from sight. Nothing on the coffee table, nothing on the shelves. I fail to see how removing literature can be in any way beneficial to one’s state of mind. And the same goes for everything else.
Of course in some ways there is truth to the tale. The accumulation of consumer products does, for many, fill gaps left by unsatisfactory living conditions and there is a lot of stuff out there of poor aesthetic and production quality (a particular bug-bear of ours is random verbs and nouns in italic script to remind you where you are or why you are there: Home, Love, Sleep, S**t). Still it is in essence a human trait to decorate, collect, read, admire and covet.
In case you forget where you are
Minimalism threatens to do away with these traits. Over the last few years we have seen the antiques trade decline as lifestyle magazines and TV programmes decreed that ornaments were clutter, paintings should be replaced with soundbites, carpets and rugs with laminate flooring; the list goes on.
I’d much rather read a book than have nothing on my shelves. I’d much rather look at a good painting than a plaster verb. I’d much rather have talking points than white walls and bare floors. Clutter, décor and collections say a lot about a person. They may say here is a mad cat lady, or someone with a slightly overbearing Smurf obsession BUT a home is a representation of the taste and personality of the person who lives there.
Minimalism creates a uniformity from which there is only a white box to say “here I am”, it represents a blandness of character and lack of imagination under the guise of creating a simpler lifestyle. It creates an ideal that constraint and restriction is somehow better for you – even then Victorians didn’t buy that one.
A home with stuff in it is comfortable, the public face of the inner soul. Scatter a few baubles and vases around the place, find a shelf for that statuette you love. Fill your life with stuff you didn’t know you wanted – and we will be there to find it for you. I guess that’s why we are in the antiques and vintage business. It is previous generation’s accumulation of stuff which provides our bread and butter. And we need people who like clutter.
I’m not a lifestyle guru and it’s not up to me to tell people how to decorate their homes but if anyone out there is not sure, I can do no better than to paraphrase this:
Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a home, choose paintings, books, objets d’art and bakelite tin openers. Choose good chairs, low footstools, and Marcel Boucher jewellery. Choose fixed bayonet rifles. Choose a candlestick. Choose art deco. Choose Victorian matching teaspoons. Choose a necklace on the spur of the moment. Choose craft and handmade online on a Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch flicking through photos in old family albums, stuffing postcards into neatly ordered boxes. Choose carpets and rugs at the end of the hall, fishing your pennies to brighten your home. Choose nothing more than a living room true to yourself, and ignoring the brats who spawn lifestyle advice.
Choose your own life.
Choose stuff.
Original reference: Trainspotting by Irvine Welsh found at http://bit.ly/1OOG13h
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