New Book: Shopaholic to Minimalist

Shameless plug time! I have a new book coming out. It’s out in e-book format today, and will be available in paperback next week, on the 26th. If shopping addiction (or shopping to impress) has ever been a problem for you, then my own experiences may provide a roadmap for getting you out the other end.

 

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Available here!

 

Shopaholic to Minimalist is the culmination of more than a year’s worth of research, learning and hard personal graft. Also more than a decade of shopping addiction.

This is my third book, but my first piece of nonfiction. I’ve read before that anything longer than 3,000 words makes you look at yourself with a microscope, and the writing process definitely did that for me. I hadn’t realised how entrenched some of the lies I told myself were, nor how pervasive they are. In a time when many of us feel the need to keep up with the rich kids of Instagram, getting out of the shopping addiction cycle is more important than ever – both for the planet and for our bank accounts.

Just to be clear, all available irony is not lost on me. The truth is that I am selling a book on shopping addiction, presumably to shopping addicts. Of course, I feel that my own experience is worth sharing, and that the words have value. However, the only real goal is to encourage others away from buying too much. Consider me the Pied Piper of the Mall. If you can do this on your own, then fab. If you are able to do this after reading my book, then I thank you for your support; it means so much.

XO, Lady Hamilton.

Now, without further ado, here’s the full description from the back cover:

In a world of consumerism, this book addresses the addiction to things which many of us have. Through its pages, we’ll work towards finding abundance in what we already own rather than always feeling that we need more stuff to make us happy, or take the edge off our anxiety. Most importantly, we’ll look at our beliefs surrounding stuff to see what is resonant and true, and learn to let go of our unnecessary purchases – both past and future.

To do this, we need to understand where our addiction to buying comes from so we can learn to avoid our triggers. We’ll also begin to disengage from the consumerist cycle so we can experience more freedom, greater financial independence and a sense of knowing our true self. This will clear the way for uncovering what is important to us at our core.

The ultimate goal is an internal self-reliance without the intrusion of commercial influences, and becoming in tune with the body and its own messages. Additionally, there is a section on clearing out in time with the moon. I hope that this book will help you feel satisfied with what you already have, to clear away the things you don’t need and provide you with the tools to make the right shopping decisions going forward.

Though supporting small businesses and buying less are gaining popularity, large fashion conglomerates and credit card companies are still making money from us. This book is for those who recognise their actions as destructive to themselves and wish to grow towards healthier habits when they can’t seem to quit. It is also for those who are recovering from shopping addiction and wish to change their lifestyle, as well as receive encouragement to let go of the relics that addiction has left behind.

The Honourable Miss Dixie

Today, I would like to take a moment to celebrate my feline daughter, Dixie. Eight years ago today, the Laird Hamilton and I brought our little cat home from the RSPCA. On the car ride back, he lectured her on her future behaviour and the fact that he expected her to not die. Ever. It was a very good chat and I think the information would have been well-received if we hadn’t just adopted a deaf cat.IMG_0922

She was deaf from birth, and so her previous family gave her to the RSPCA to be rehomed. We were told that they lived on a busy road, and so they were worried about her getting hit by a passing car. I know I will probably never meet the people whose cat gave birth to mine, but I hope they know she’s well looked after. Or at least as well as she will allow, being of a fiercely independent nature.

At any rate, the adoption process wasn’t terribly easy, but it’s probably intended to put off those who aren’t completely serious. There was a waiting period as well as a house inspection from the RSPCA, then two checks at three and six months. It would seem we were considered safe pet parents. Prior to that, though, as soon as I opened her travelling box after our drive home, she was out and suddenly nestled in with my shoes. She stayed hidden for the first three days and didn’t want us near her.IMG_0371

Slowly, though, she grew to used to her surroundings. It took her about two years to be affectionate, though, and she still doesn’t enjoy being held. I suppose she’s just being a teenager – it’s probably very uncool for you parents to hold you. However, she will sleep next to me these days, and has been known – once or twice – to get on the sofa. As yet, laps are off limits. One of her favourite things at present is to chase around my pattern pieces as I cut out fabric. Most pieces are now held together with lots of tape.

Though it seems like just yesterday that we brought our cat home, I am rather taken aback to announce that today is my cat’s eighth birthday! Well, adoption day. I hope that introducing people to my lovely cat will encourage others to consider adoption when looking for a companion animal. Though some people seem to think that animals from such agencies are mangey or abused, I can assure you that this is not strictly the case. Most are well adjusted, and many are young, having been given up for adoption when their original family had an unexpected litter.

Since then, we have adopted two dogs from the same centre, and all get on very well. By which I mean that, if the dogs are unruly, the cat bops them on the head. Order is restored. IMG_1191

As I write this, Dixie is actually face-first in my vanity drawer, trying to get at a bottle of perfume. This is typical grown-up cat behaviour, and I hope that it never changes.

Art v. Dodgy Politics

My dilemma at present is a moral one: what can I, in good conscious, watch of an evening? Royalty pennies from my subscription filter back to films’ creators, each member presumably receiving a proportion based on their contract, if not their importance in the piece. And, of course, the more times a film is viewed, the higher it is ranked via algorithm and thus the more likely it is to be viewed by others. With this in mind, what can I choose?

This is not simply a question of taste and whim, mind you. My views and time are transmuted into financial gain for someone, and I want to make sure that the receiver is someone who I find worthy. The line between worthiness and unworthiness, however, is blurred.

None of us is completely clean. We’ve all committed venal – even mortal – sins. Laws are broken in passion and in evasion. Yet, we often learn from our mistakes, collect our guilt and move on, vowing to not return down that path. We can forgive ourselves if we learned a lesson that improves.

But what if a law was broken habitually – or, if in breaking a law even once, someone else’s life was ruined? If that outlaw was not ourself, would we choose to support that person? How do we deal with a much-loved film or a piece of literature if we learn that the creator/trix lived a life inflicting cruelty on others? What if our hard-earned money went to those who commit atrocities against the most vulnerable?

That’s them, of course. Now to us. Should we be made to forgo what are arguably cultural masterpieces in the face of unspent convictions like the still-at-large Roman Polanski? Is it too extreme to consider that we avoid a film all our friends discuss? Do we forgive them once they’re dead, like the abusive, womanising Hemingway? Or do we simply forgive them because they create art: that highest form of human expression?

While we cannot change our tastes, perhaps we can look for others who embody the same qualities we appreciate, even if their glimpses of genius are still granular, still uncultivated. Hopefully, with the same financial backing and nurturing that those toppled (or, indeed, still standing) paragons of poor virtue once received, the artists in less controversial standing will be able to take their place and create the art that we all need to heal.

Banishing Fear

A classical beauty I am not. A twisted spine, hair perpetually in transition, hands like Nosferatu and a nose that my father in law has generously called ‘aquiline.’ My smile is rather pleasing, but it doesn’t photograph well. You had to be there.

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But I wouldn’t mistake honesty for complaining. I like the way I look and the Laird Hamilton also seems happy with me as I am. But photographing these features can be tricky. So I started with the hands. I mentioned Nosferatu earlier, but they really are very Weimar Berlin. And so I’ve channeled that famous image of Sylvia Von Harden. When I first saw that portrait, I loved her androgyny and those angular limbs. But the hands are the most compelling.

Weirdly, I’ve felt unworthy of being photographed for nearly two decades, shying away from the camera and always trying to find my skinny angles if I’m forced to say cheese. Yet, the images of other women that I find inspiring are rarely perfect. They embrace what the subjects probably grew up believing were flaws.

I have a feeling that this blog is about to get a whole lot…sharier. Being open is something I’ve long been concerned about, as has displaying my own image. In fact, I’ve allowed barely a dozen photographs to be taken of myself in recent years. An entire haircut and subsequent growth passed with only a single selfie.

However, as part of my Samhain ritual, I banished a few things – eight, to be precise, as this is the numerological value of ‘banish.’ While I’ll pass on attempting everything that currently frightens me, being more open online is something I’ll make an effort towards. For instance, I’m an avid knitter and a tentative sewer. I’ll be making room for these creations on here, and photographing myself wearing them. Because sticking a cardigan on a hanger is bad for the wool, you understand.

My major interests at present include a Second World War novel that I’m writing, knitting, witchery and vegan cooking. A tangental interest has been Weimar Berlin, which has proved influential for my book. With all these little fragments, I’m having trouble coming up with a cohesive theme for my blog. Not to mention all the random thoughts that I have and feel compelled to write about. The thought of getting things too scattered has concerned me, as it might confuse readers. As a reader myself, though, I have come to enjoy lots of subjects being covered by individual bloggers, and relying on company blogs for single-subject compendia. So, in short, I’m just going to write like I talk and snap what I look like.

 

A Conjecture of Our Time

As I was sewing up a knitting project, I listened to Amanda Halley, as I so often do. In an episode about fashion forecasters, she pointed out that fashion has changed very little from 2008 to 2018. The Laird Hamilton and I have discussed this from time to time, as some of the clothes we wore when we first met are, at present, wearable and relevant. Still, Halley had pictures.

This isn’t to say that absolutely nothing has changed, but the overall aesthetic is so similar. We expect interior design and architecture to remain more constant, as to update anything more than throw pillows annually would break the bank. However, the streetwear-through-time pointed out that very little has changed in the way we dress our bodies. Halley argues that we don’t want anything new at present – we just want better versions of our old stuff.

I wonder if this is true. Do we want to subconsciously relive those years, when things were more predictable and the outside world felt normal? Or are we just sartorially lost? We’ve seen wave after wave of mini-trends and subcultures taking prominence, but nothing has stuck around. Runways have brought us the dramatic and extreme, but few things would suit a regular woman’s lifestyle. The 40s, 50s and 70s have all had their moments, and yet we still go back to our skinny jeans and slightly oversized jumpers. Very few of our everyday outfits are exciting, though as a society our purchasing has exploded.

As we know, the 1950s and 1960s each had a very unified look – a set handful of haircuts, a small margin of skirt lengths, prescribed shape wear. Today, it seems that we’re floundering a little, with so many of us seeking out the ideal wardrobe and then proceeding to wear 20% of it 80% of the time.

Of course, this paradigm of ‘more of the same’ is pitted against a consumerist model, in which 52 micro seasons now exist. Retailers are geared toward producing fast fashion pieces that keep us feeling pacified as the memory of our weekend recedes. Ultimately, we have much to choose from, but the selection is hardly any different from what we already have. Statement necklaces, check shirts, ankle boots – we’ve had them all, with slight variations. Are we so caught up in details that a slimmer heel outshines a block, or burgundy outpaces red?

I’m all for individual expression, particularly through fashion. However, I believe that what we’re seeing here is designers trying and failing to find a look that speaks to a generation – someone who creates an aesthetic conjecture of our time. Thus, they make subtle changes to previous designs because they sell. We buy them because we know that they work. And still, we spend our weekends in skinny jeans and oxfords paired with our husbands’ jumpers. (Or is that just Surrey?)

I wonder how fashion would change if the designers were all encouraged to take a year off. Like letting fields go fallow for the good of future crops. How much could things change in that time, without the external pressures of sponsors, parties and buyers? Would we be able to go back to a time of slow fashion made explicitly for the way we live now?

My Pants and the Patriarchy

Epilating, Waxing, Lasers, good, old-fashioned Shaving. I’ve done them all in an attempt to ‘deal’ with my body hair. Particularly my pubic hair. Being half-Italian, I have a lot of hair. Thus, this hair removal routine was not in an attempt to look like a porn star; it was just to keep said hair contained in my pants.

Lately, however, I have grown tired of this. Paying in time and money to have hair pulled out from the roots just to feel acceptable in knickers, that is. No man I’ve ever met goes through this nonsense, nor have they had waxes for anything less than their favourite charity.

As women, we’re often told that body hair is unsightly, or even ‘gross.’ When the bikini was created in 1946, it was right after men returned home from the war, and women were fighting to retain the same status that they held during wartime. They had held jobs, built airplanes, and worked in wartime intelligence. Yet, they were expected to go back to the home and stay there. It should be no surprise that, in an era that infantilised women, pubic hair needed to be removed in order to wear the current fashion. Hair indicates sexual maturity, even female desire. Is it such a leap from a sexually mature woman to a confident one?

The patriarchy likes to keep us focused on things that don’t really matter. Fashion flows one way and then the other; we are constantly on the lookout. In this way, our attentions are focused elsewhere and we are less likely to express outrage towards our circumstances. Bread, circuses and waxes.

Most of us have no need to remove our body hair, and yet porn culture has indicated to us that we should to be aesthetically pleasing to our partners. Most of us are not porn stars, and so we should not be held to the same standard of grooming. Our genitals are not being filmed, and thus letting the camera view penetration more clearly is not of importance. Because this is all waxing is for, really: the close-up.

And yet, viewing penetration isn’t generally sexy for women. Women also aren’t dragged out of the moment because of hair. We are more turned on by a story, an atmosphere, an unspeakable chemistry. Perhaps it isn’t even that sexy for men, either. Over the weekend, I was in a vintage shop in Brighton and overheard two guys going through a basket of old Playboy magazines, which they evidently preferred to the newer editions. They complained about the amount of airbrushing that bodies receive in modern porn, and about the lack of hair. Bald like ten-year-olds. What’s the point?

But I digress. What I really wanted to talk about was knicker shopping. So, I recently bought some new styles of underwear, having disposed of all the bikini styles that require the eponymous wax. And all of the Brazilian styles, which, well, ditto. Even with American Apparel declaring that the minge is back, this was not an altogether successful undertaking, unless I wanted to continue my life looking as if spiders were escaping the legs of my pants.

It wasn’t until the Laird Hamilton and I were off for a little drive that he suggested I look to countries like France, where pubes are more normal. I remembered seeing a French emcee at a burlesque show. She wore a sheer costume, and fully visible beneath was a natural bush. What better for the retro styling than retro lingerie? French knickers have saved the day, with their fluttery style and longer length. Though they are inappropriate for tights and jeans, I hope that I’ll find another solution for those. For now, I’m happy with silk knix and suspenders.

In short, the patriarchy contains many elements which either intentionally or inadvertently tax female citizens, both in finance and in time. Young women in particular feel compelled to shave just in case a spontaneous sexual encounter occurs. I’m calling bullshit on the whole thing: we have better things to do with our lives.

The Titty Tax

This is going to get heavy, but I promise it will get better. Just probably not today. Unfortunately, this isn’t even an article about bras.

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For anyone who pays attention to American news, this has been a triggering couple of weeks. Victim blaming has reminded many of us why we stayed quiet in crucial moments. The credibility of those brave enough to speak has been called into question because the women were young, drunk or both. Anger has made me shaky and hot. Then freezing. Then hot again.

I am a survivor of sexual abuse, harassment and rape. All these things happened on more than one occasion, and I never reported any of them to law enforcement. In almost all of those instances, I felt that I shared part of the blame. I gave myself reasons for this. For instance: I didn’t fight back hard enough (even though fighting at all made the agony worse). I was asleep naked (as if that were an invitation). I had been too close to the perpetrator. I was related to the perpetrator. I hadn’t bought myself a lock for my bedroom door.

Add these to a culture which, where I lived, shamed women who were not virgins until they married. My ‘greatest gift’ was gone. I was used. I was that chewed piece of gum held up triumphantly in sex ed to the rhetorical question, ‘And who would want a chewed piece of gum?’ I’d chewed my boyfriend’s gum once, trying to get a raspberry pip out of my teeth. It fell apart in my mouth. No one wants chewed gum.

And yet, telling my mother that I had chosen to have sex was easier than telling her that I’d been forced. It carried an air of rebellion with it, a rejection of the religion that would now reject me. Months later, when I told her the truth, she didn’t want to hear about it – but she did  ask me questions that put me on the back foot. Was it the first time I’d had my clothes off around him? Why was I alone with him? Was it still going on? Rather than feeling supported, I believed that I’d had a hand in my own rape. Never mind that I’d bled for days afterward, or that the stress nearly made me lose my mind.

Not every girl’s ‘loving family’ is ready to give her agency, especially if the family religion belittles anyone without a hymen. Best keep it quiet.

But back to the present day. I write this after Christine Blasey Ford provided testimony filled with vivid detail, including the increased volume of a stereo when two men closed her in a bedroom with them. Her silencing was the most frightening thing for her. She also spoke out knowing that it might not make a difference.

Throughout the internationally reported ‘pre- and post-hearing’, the phrase ‘ruining a man’s life’ has been bandied about with particular abandon. As if barring a man from sitting on the Supreme Court ruins his life (not that he’ll ever know). Moreover, this attitude ignores the women’s lives that have been ruined by male entitlement. The hours of therapy we have paid for, the silence, the learned helplessness, the loss of confidence, even the inability to show complete love to our chosen partners – these are the tax of being a woman with a past of compromised safety.

Blaming women for not reporting their own abuse is fairly standard these days, usually accompanied by the implication that future victims are on the first victim’s head. However, the low rate of conviction (or even belief) also begs the question – which of us are worth protecting, and which of us are to be left without justice, our credibility compromised by our own vulnerability? Within this framework of partisan justice, is it any surprise that so many of us stay silent?