SHABBY CHIC

An­other ‘ism’ has joined the fray, or in this case, per­haps the frayed. It cel­e­brates the nor­mal, chaotic and clut­tered way most of us live, writes

Weekend Herald - Canvas - - CONTENTS - Anna Tyzack

An­other ‘ism’ has joined the fray, cel­e­brat­ing the nor­mal, chaotic and clut­tered way most of us live

Em­lyn Rees and his wife Josie Lloyd will not be in­vest­ing in an open plan kitchen ex­ten­sion. Nor will they be ra­tio­nal­is­ing their wardrobes, dig­i­tally stor­ing their mu­sic or re­plac­ing the pa­per­backs on their book­shelves with a cu­rated ar­range­ment of blue china owls. Their house, they’ve de­cided, is good enough as it is, even though the gar­den fends for it­self and guinea pigs roam free in the laun­dry.

“We spend our lives be­ing told to be bet­ter, be more per­fect,” Rees says. “But as­pir­ing to be shiny peo­ple in shiny houses is not an at­tain­able goal — it’s not mak­ing us any hap­pier. It’s putting us on edge.”

Shab­bism, the life­style ad­vo­cated in the cou­ple’s new book, Shabby, is the an­ti­dote to hygge, the Scan­di­na­vian pre­oc­cu­pa­tion with cash­mere throws and log fires, and a re­ac­tion against the forced de-clut­ter­ing and rolling of clothes ad­vo­cated by Marie Kondo in her best­seller The Life-Chang­ing Magic of Tidy­ing. It’s per­mis­sion to be as you are: a cel­e­bra­tion of the nor­mal, chaotic and clut­tered way that most of us live.

Shab­bism can bring a greater sense of ful­fil­ment and pur­pose, says Lloyd, while it also means less time spent tidy­ing and fuss­ing. “Let’s stop try­ing to pre­tend that we have pris­tine and im­mac­u­late homes,” she says. “They’re not shops. It doesn’t mat­ter if there are crumbs on the kitchen ta­ble if it means you have time to en­joy a cup of cof­fee and a con­ver­sa­tion.”

This is what we’re do­ing now, in the house where they live with their three daugh­ters, Tal­lu­lah, 17, Roxie, 13, and Minty, 12. It’s a well-worn fam­ily home, which dou­bles up as their of­fice — Rees and Lloyd are nov­el­ists who have teamed up on a num­ber of par­ody books over the years, in­clud­ing We’re Go­ing on a

Bar Hunt and The Very Hun­gover Cater­pil­lar. Shabby was in­spired by the bossy clean-liv­ing man­u­als and min­i­mal­ist in­te­ri­ors books on our cof­fee ta­bles that pro­mote what they call a “shiny” life­style.

“We re­alised there is so much you can achieve in life if you lose shini­ness as an ideal,” says Lloyd, whose hair is grow­ing back fol­low­ing treat­ment for breast can­cer. “Shab­bism is be­ing com­fort­able in your skin, em­brac­ing the fact you’re go­ing to get wrin­kles and not look­ing in the mir­ror too much.”

She doesn’t blow-dry her hair in the morn­ing and Rees’ glasses are coated in a film of dust, but shab­bism is not, Lloyd points out, an ex­cuse to be dirty. Or sloppy, lazy or un­whole­some. “We tidy up after our­selves; we’re not scuzzy but nei­ther do we bleach ev­ery sur­face ev­ery day. We live with a dog, we em­brace germs and we are ro­bust as a re­sult.”

There comes a time, once ev­ery cou­ple of weeks, when the whole fam­ily rushes around clean­ing up. Rees refers to this wa­ter­shed as “tip­ping over into crusti­ness”. “No one likes liv­ing in a pig-sty but we wait for that mo­ment to oc­cur rather than keep­ing on top of it all the time,” he says.

A quick tour of the Lloyd-Rees res­i­dence re­veals a tidy but clut­tered kitchen, with one of those mis­cel­la­neous draw­ers we all have bear­ing dis­pensers, string, old take­away menus and loose bat­ter­ies. Up­stairs, cup­boards groan with clothes and shoes and the beds are vaguely made, but there are no dec­o­ra­tive cush­ions or head­boards. The house is dry and warm but the car­pets are fray­ing and damp bub­bles through the paint­work in a cou­ple of places. Out­side there’s a half-de­flated ca­noe and a gar­den shed that is not some swanky home of­fice but stor­age for fur­ni­ture, plant pots and dis­parate sports kit.

A shab­bist’s goal, they ex­plain in the book, is max­i­mal­ism. “He or she seeks a life that is not empty, but splen­didly clut­tered and full.” It’s enough to give Marie Kondo kit­tens — she pro­poses keep­ing only those pos­ses­sions that truly bring us joy — but Lloyd and Rees are

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