finding the beauty in everyday life
May 12, 2011 4:25 AM   Subscribe

How do you create or take advantage of beauty in everyday life?

Hopefully this isn't too chat-filter-y. Lately I'm spending a lot of my time holed up in a rather dull office finishing some major projects, and I'm looking for ways to refresh myself and get rid of that "dull" surrounding me. I'm wondering how you find ways of incorporating beauty into your daily life. Do you keep fresh flowers in your home? Do you always have Bach on in the background? Do you make a point of stopping to look at sunsets (this is one of my own personal favorites)? Any and all suggestions are welcome - especially "beautifying" things that might not normally count as beautiful!

(I've seen this question but it seems to be more about cultivating an attitude - I'm looking for concrete things or activities, though I realize that having the proper attitude and looking for beauty is important too!)
posted by SymphonyNumberNine to Grab Bag (19 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite
If you walk past a flowering shrub or tree, stop and smell the flowers. Sometimes the most understated flowers smell the most beautiful :)
posted by greenish at 4:38 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Pretty chatfilter, yeah, but for taking the dull out of things and make everything seem to come more alive for a few minutes, Keith Johnstone suggests an improv exercise where you look around and call things out loud by the wrong name. It works as sort of a surrealist transit into mindfulness.

It probably helps if your office has a nice mix of things in it that, once you're really paying attention, evokes a broader sense of what's in the world--handmade things, weird things, pretty things, personal mementos, and so on that are nonetheless reasonably harmonious.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 4:43 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Fresh flowers. Few belongings, but each one very carefully chosen for its beauty and style - especially the small, mundane belongings. The former gets me through winter drabness. The latter means I feel pleasure every time I take out my subway pass.
posted by tavegyl at 4:57 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: To continue my earlier thought: I think taking a special effort to make ordinary things beautiful has an outsize benefit. For instance, I may be having the same old salad I always have for lunch, but taking a few minutes to arrange the ingredients and drizzle the dressing so it looks pretty on the plate is so much nicer than eating the same leaves out of a tupperware box.
posted by tavegyl at 5:01 AM on May 12, 2011

Agree with tavegyl about making ordinary things pretty; check out Just Bento (I hear the blogger is MeFi's own?). I don't have the time, energy, or fine motor skills to do the super-fancy stuff, but when I take a few minutes to arrange lunch appealingly I like it so much better, and if I do my husband's I almost always get a midday call about how awesome lunch was. Even though it's the same as usual lunch. Just prettier.

I also love owning things that are pretty AND functional. (Visiting "decorative arts" at museums gets me all hot and bothered: arty fences! Pretty teapots!) It makes me happy to use teacups that are pleasant to look at as well as functional. Taking an extra week or two to find some utensils that I really like the look and feel of is time well-spent for something you'll be spending 10+ years using on a daily basis. (Depending on your fork-loss rate ... mine seems to be accelerating.)

This is a less-practical solution, but borrow a toddler. We went to an annoying big-box store yesterday to pick up some gardening supplies and my toddler thought their nursery was a JUNGLE WONDERLAND OF FASCINATING JOY. It was so exciting he could hardly stand it and just kept shouting color words as flower after flower caught his attention. I hadn't really realized how pretty it was, since mostly I focused on how annoying it was to have to go there and shop there. Similarly, I have a new appreciation for traffic jams (trucks! buses! mailtrucks! p'lice cars!), construction sites, sidewalk cracks, colorful supermarket sections, other people's shoes, insects, and the myriad other things toddlers find absolutely fascinating. Which is pretty much everything.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:23 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Read poetry on your way to work.
posted by yarly at 5:30 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take up macro photography or buy a cheap microscope, and you will discover strange and beautiful worlds.
posted by leigh1 at 6:10 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Drive to work at sunrise on a clear day, it's beautiful!
posted by Blake at 6:14 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Cook well for yourself or your family when you get home from work.
posted by Aizkolari at 6:18 AM on May 12, 2011 [2 favorites]

Have your morning coffee outside in the warm weather. Sitting, relaxing and appreciating the beauty of your surroundings before starting your hectic day can do wonders for your well being. I find something new and beautiful in my backyard every day!
posted by Nutritionista at 6:26 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Spend more time around bears.
posted by dowageragnesschmalenberger at 6:54 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: My motto in life is: Fill your life with random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. This is how I do it:

- Let your body be your canvas! As a woman, you have a wealth of fashion options available to you. Wear a colorful scarf or a fun hair-bobble. Find some funky shoes or jewelry at a thrift store. It doesn't matter if they match.

- Take up amateur photography. You will notice beauty everywhere.

- Flowers. Everywhere. Real or fake. I have an ugly, hum-drum office and I have fake daisies and sunflowers all over the place in little decorative vases that I've collected at garage sales over the years. Which brings me to...

- Garage sales & estate sales. Go to them. You don't have to buy anything if you don't want to, but they will help you appreciate the interesting lives of others.

- Take a walk around your neighborhood around sunrise or sunset. You will discover things that you never noticed before.

- Listen to an eclectic mix of beautiful music. I love Rachmaninoff, Finzi, Leonard Cohen, and Billy Joel love songs.

- Buy (or make!) a beautiful journal with a really nice pen. Write in it every day or every other day or once a week, whatever works for you.

- Put inspirational quotes around your office/home with beautiful illustrations. I have my previously-mentioned motto and other quotes on my desk at work and on my walls. So many people have responded positively to them that I make extras to give to people. Which brings me to my last point....

- When you find something beautiful, share it with someone who will appreciate it. It will make you appreciate it more too.
posted by chara at 7:06 AM on May 12, 2011

I'm wondering how you find ways of incorporating beauty into your daily life.

Children's artwork. My office is literally covered in it.

And a bottle of liquor. Most people I know can't keep a bottle of whisky in their desk, but I - being a self-employed consultant working for my own firm where I have established liberal policies - can.

Being able to have a drink at work - right at my desk - and no one to tell me I can not.

This is a thing of beauty.
posted by three blind mice at 7:16 AM on May 12, 2011 [3 favorites]

Smile at animals and say hello! They like to scurry and make noises, which is good to look at.
posted by Greg Nog at 7:55 AM on May 12, 2011 [4 favorites]

I don't know exactly how to explain this, but for me it's mindfully noticing things. This morning, I took the extra 10 seconds to froth my milk for my coffee with my little battery operated frother I got for a dollar at Ikea, and I just noticed that the milk + coffee made a pretty little pattern.

I live by some mountains and they look different every single day because of atmospheric conditions, snow conditions and the light at various points throughout the day, so I try to notice that and kind of wonder at how these big monolithic things manage to surprise me sometimes. I also like looking at patterns of light and shadow, well, anywhere. I think it's the sense of seeing something new and thinking about that rather than thinking about the sameness of the objects around me.

With no shadows in my windowless office, I have to work harder to see pretty things (and luckily don't actually have to spend much time there). I buy mugs that make me happy to look at and decent tea to go with them. I got a pretty, brightly colored thermos to keep at my desk so I can have a decent hot water supply, too.

I had a friend once who said one of the best parts of his day was coming home from work and scrunching his toes in his living room carpet. It was this little ritual that signaled that the work day (at least the part of the work day where he has to deal with other people) was done because he had his shoes off and was home.

Socks sort of make me happy--I like the little punch of color or pattern and notice/appreciate it throughout the day. Nothing super crazy, but I buy socks I like, and that makes me happy.

I buy good toilet paper.

I have a nifty wallpaper on my phone that is some grass and the sky and it changes brightness and color based on the time of day. My husband laughs at me for being fascinated with this, but even when I can't see the outside, I get a glimpse of it through the phone and can check out the "sunset" that way.

Sometimes I try to figure out why something is made a certain way--even something totally functional. If I can see why it has a particular feature, I think about the process by which the designers came to figure out that feature and maybe think about how to improve it. (OK, so I mostly think about that while waiting for the copy machine to finish my copies, but still...). I recently bought some old hand tools and appreciate their solid weight and function even if they aren't very pretty in any conventional sense.

I buy office supplies that make me happy. Just seeing a rubber band ball in my desk is better than opening the drawer and seeing nothing but cheap paper clips and bad pens. Having giant paperclips, colorful binder clips, nice pens, sturdy folders--and then having them all neatly arranged--can help just a bit.
I guess what it is for me overall is being mindful of these little moments of beauty or pleasure or wonder or whatever. Or creating those moments by purchasing small things that make you happy. No single one of these things will alleviate the dullness, but added together, they provide small lifts throughout the day that can make it so things seem not so dull.
posted by BlooPen at 8:37 AM on May 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Take some art classes or just start drawing or painting what you see. When I started painting in my 40s, I came to realize how much I'd been relying on mental images and memories even when I was ostensibly "looking" at something. Now I see much more, even when I'm not making art -- shapes, colors, lines. It's fantastic!
posted by Wordwoman at 9:39 AM on May 12, 2011

Best answer: Color. And combinations of color. Pay attention to which colors please you the most to look at, and keep them around you.

And textures. Find some textures that feel really good to you (silk, old washed linen--mmmm, a bowl of stones...) and keep them within reach.
posted by Corvid at 2:41 PM on May 12, 2011

Once at work, a co-worker told me how one her greatest joys was carefully crossing out tasks on her to do list with various colored markers. Lately, when I load the dishwasher, I've been making patterns with bowls and cups in the top rack. Sure beats my old sullen attitude toward getting the kitchen clean.
posted by Ellemeno at 9:32 PM on May 13, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks all :-) I've marked a few answers that stood out to me particularly but I enjoyed reading them all!
posted by SymphonyNumberNine at 3:44 AM on May 14, 2011

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