Are You A Mindful Curator?

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Words by: Tara Button
Images with thanks to: Bien Fait

Tara Button teaches the life-changing method of ‘mindful curation’ in her new book, A Life Less Throwaway. Here, she shares her top tips for creating the home you crave.

Mindful Curation is about ridding yourself of outside pressures to buy impulsively, getting to know your true tastes and being thoughtful about the things you allow into your life. Then, while out shopping, only buying items that will serve you well for the long term. It creates a home that is calm and nurturing as everything in it reflects your priorities and true taste.

This is more challenging to do as a parent with children growing and changing in front of your eyes, but there are techniques to escape the constant churn of impulse-buy clutter, piles of barely-worn clothes and ‘just for now’ items of furniture.

I call my method ‘mindful curation’, which might sound as pretentious as bringing your own tablecloth to KFC, but it is the best term for it. It is ‘mindful’ because it is done with purpose and thought. And it is ‘curation’ because, like a curator putting together a collection in an art gallery, it’s about picking only those things that will work together to form a home and a life that uniquely reflects you and your needs.

Here are some of my top tips especially for parents wanting to achieve a mindfully curated haven at home.

New rule: one in, one out. The average 10-year-old owns 238 toys, but plays with just 12 daily, and the average British parent spends over £350 a year on toys. Too many toys can lead to poor concentration and kids are more creative when they have fewer toys. Kids can, in fact, have so many toys that they never learn to focus on one thing, and it can also prevent them from using their imagination. A nursery in Germany took away all the children’s toys for three months and found that while the children were initially bewildered, the boredom forced them to make up their own games and, before long, they realised they could have just as much fun without toys. They also socialised and concentrated better. Decide on the number of toys that’s right for your family and put a one-in one-out system in place. If your child wants a new toy, get them to pick one to donate to a favourite charity. This will also encourage them to be more thoughtful about what they ask for.

It’s possible to have a capsule wardrobe for your child as well as yourself. Spend time properly investigating the colours that make them happy and bring out the natural tones of their skin, hair and eyes. Put together a collection that can be mixed, matched and layered. You’ll find you need fewer items than you think and so can afford more durable, quality items. Some companies even offer adjustable clothing that grows with your child.

Three months after Christmas, half the toys kids are given are broken. For little ones, choose wood over plastic where possible. Toys that spark imaginative play will also generally have more longevity. For older kids, experiences can make more meaningful presents.

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Find your true taste. Most of us pick up bits and bobs for our homes, with a vague sense that we hope they all go together. What we rarely do is take a step back and examine the stable elements of what we find attractive. I recommend spending an hour scrolling through hundreds of interior images just noting down colours, textures and style elements that you love and think you will continue to love. Then use this list when you shop. Beware of current trends and dig deeper to find your own style. Then own it and be proud!

Direct pleadings to buy the next Hatchimal or Luvabella doll can be hard to resist. Watch a few ads thoughtfully together and have a chat about them. Explain that not everything they see is completely true. As a fun exercise, make up ads together for a favourite toy at home.

When out shopping with your kids, encourage them to be mindful curators too. If you’re buying toys, get them to compare different toys in terms of how many times they think they might play with them. Or if you’re buying clothing, get them to imagine which activities they can wear certain clothes to. I recommend asking your child which old toy they are going to donate before you go shopping together. This will automatically make them more mindful of what they decide to buy. Teach them to weigh up what they want and not just go for the first thing that catches their eye. Say: “Let’s walk round the whole shop once to make sure you don’t miss anything and then you can decide.” They may need guidance on which toys or clothes will be better value than others. Ask them to imagine when they will wear the clothes or how many times they think they might play with different toys. This is a great way to teach them to be mindful curators themselves.

If you want to future-proof a child’s room, the best thing you can do is make the big things – curtains, walls, carpet, rug, drawers and wardrobe – adult- friendly too. Remember that there will still be lots of things in the room that will give it that sweet nursery feel – toys, linens and the baby itself! Put up a few large picture frames/pin boards for images that can change over time as the child grows up, so there is space for them to express themselves whether they’re three or 23.

Go for good wood. Buying quality, future-proof furniture that you’ll love for the long term and maybe even hand down saves you money and creates a wonderful feel to a home. Never impulse-buy a large piece, even if it’s discounted. Go for solid wood with traditional joinery to avoid wobbles in the future. Solid wood can also be sanded down if there are any bumps or stains, which inevitably happens with kids.

A piece of furniture is only as strong as its weakest link, so where possible, avoid chairs where the fabric can’t be easily replaced. With the rise of Ikea, we’re not used to saving up for something special that we’ll treasure and look after, but believe me, as someone who slept on the floor for four months to save for my dream bed, it’s worth it.

There are some clever companies out there making furniture, such as high chairs and beds, which grow with your child or convert into other pieces of furniture. These can be great, as modular items can grow with your family. But make sure you like the style of the object in all its forms, or you can end up with buyer’s regret when the time comes to convert it.

A Life Less Throwaway by Tara Button, £12.99, Harper Collins