For the 26 years I maintained my design firm in California, perfection was easy to define and essential to achieve. My clients entrusted me to make sure the reveal (space) between cabinet doors was consistent, that fabric patterns matched on upholstery, that curtains hung 1/8” off the floor. This process was not subjective, nor did it allow for personal interpretation. But my new life offers me opportunities, on an almost daily basis, to re-create my experience of perfection and play with its ever-changing appearance.
Taos is like a mix of the Wild Wild West and Shangri-La. A flawed paradise, for sure, and it’s my relationship with these flaws that has helped me fall in love not only with this town, but with my own growing resiliency and creativity. Our remote location, and small populace, don’t provide for big shopping malls. Walmart is our only big-box store, really one of the few chain stores we have at all. For the many years I lived in California, I could easily and immediately find anything I needed. Living in Taos requires a different mind-set entirely.
This reflective process usually runs thusly….can I get this (whatever I need/want) in Taos? Can I find it at a thrift shop? Can I find it at Walmart? Can I barter for it? Can I make it? Do I already have it or something like it? And finally, do I really need this thing?
For most of us, the speedy journey between seeing/wanting/buying leaves no room for discovery of who we are. It simply represents a factual shift : one moment you did not have this thing, and now you do. But if we admit to most things being symbols of who we are, think we are, or want to be, then the potential for discovery is lost.
In the year and a half I have lived in Taos, I’ve learned how to use a drill, how to wire my own lamps, how to cover a lampshade with fabric (see photos), and how to chop firewood. And while a clearly defined and measurable criteria for perfection will always have its place in the business world, I believe it’s the subjective and fluid aspects of perfection that inform who we are and ultimately empowers us.
Karen, this is a lovely post. I feel moved to consider how I view perfection, both in life and business. There is a sweet spot where tight, exacting craft intersects with the out-of-the-box and sometimes messy creative exploration. Perfection… so many lenses, standards and opinions.
As someone who has lived in this town for a handful of years, I think the desert–the dust, the baking sun, the winds that whip through this rural environment–have a way of conspiring to wear down the sharpened, precise, identified edges so many of us bring from the city. The natural world, which is so apparent here, can seem ruthlessly uninterested in one’s opinions of how things “should be.”
Here and there, I see glimmers…how expectation and opinion get in the way of the mind’s capacity to not only notice beauty, but to differentiate it from glamour. Everything is perfect except, perhaps, our mistaken perception that what is isn’t as it should be.
I love the direction you’re taking here.
I enjoyed this post.
My mantra for perfection:
“Perfection is like the seasons. There is a time for everything. Pay attention to the rhythm that calls you now.”
Thank you for your blog.
Your writing has helped me today Karen. I googled “downsizing as an art form” and found your blog. I think you are so right in saying that our living space reflects our own interior landscape, and find that at my current age, there is a disconnect between the two. I think my living space reflects the inner me in my 40s or 50s, and I need to make some changes in my environment to match up better with the current inner me. And your comment that most things are symbols of who we are, or think we are or want to be is also very thought provoking. Marie Kondo’s phrase “spark joy” resonates along these lines also. Thank you!
Thanks so much for your message, Linda. I always think of Georgia O’Keeffe’s home in Abiquiu, New Mexico, as one of the ultimate examples of a home that so authentically reflects it’s owner. There’s no separation between how Miss O’Keeffe lived, the art she made, and the woman she was. I believe that we can all live this authentically if we choose. Living artfully in our homes is a joy, and allows us to grow and change our residential interiors as our own interior landscape changes. Wishing you all the best with your ongoing relationship with YOUR home, Linda!