Teja Lele’s new book Live Smart: Living like your grandma

She makes a case for old-fashioned living packed with DIY hacks

November 18, 2022 05:21 pm | Updated November 23, 2022 04:18 pm IST

Teja Lele says that being a minimalist means less, but less doesn’t mean none.

Teja Lele says that being a minimalist means less, but less doesn’t mean none. | Photo Credit: special arrangement

From Rukmini Ray Kadam’s collection

From Rukmini Ray Kadam’s collection | Photo Credit: Trumatter

In her recently-launched maiden book, Live Smart, Teja Lele suggests going back to ‘old-fashioned living’. For those yearning for a simpler, more meaningful life, the architect-turned-writer says the way thrifty grandmas lived eons ago translated to a life with ‘less stress and clutter, and more self-sufficiency’. Now, Teja doesn’t suggest you live like you are 80, but highlights how “in today’s time, an old-fashioned lifestyle translates into living the way our grandmas did: by consuming less, being intentional in our choices, making our own, reusing things, and repairing clothes,” says the author currently working as an editorial consultant for a Bengaluru-based start-up.

Live Smart, published by HarperCollins, with sections dedicated to health, beauty, the kitchen, and home, has a prominent portion on DIY-ing your way to a more minimalist decor aesthetic. “It’s not like I don’t enjoy shopping, but I recall being forced to rethink my choices when I read Cait Flanders’ The Year of Less (on conscious consumerism),” says Teja, who now closely follows Joshua Becker’s blog Becoming Minimalist. She’s quick to add that adapting to this philosophy can’t have a “one-size-fits-all” approach. “Minimalism can be applied to almost all areas of our lives, but the home is where we can start.” If you’re a beginner, Teja suggests decluttering and organising repeatedly, choosing quality over quantity, bringing in reusables, resisting frequent upgrades and most importantly, not to follow trends mindlessly.

Her recommendations
Zero Waste Home by Bea Johnson
Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki
Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
The More of Less by Joshua Becker

Having said that, Teja explains that “being a minimalist means less, but less doesn’t mean none.” So, use the good china and burn the lovely candles. At home, she is “consciously trying to make do with what I have and reuse old items”’. First instance, when Teja needed a bedside table, she glue-gunned the wooden back of a broken clock onto a large cylindrical speaker that was no longer working. In another DIY attempt, an old table that was being sent off to the scrapyard found new life when covered with Jaipuri tiles. “The old tyres of the family car were painted and converted into a table for the outdoors. There’s so much that can be made over!” Teja suggests starting off with a pair of denims which can set you up for many easy DIYs. “Making aprons, covering books/diaries, or making buntings. I also use fabric/paper scraps to make buntings that I use or gift. Old dals/oatmeal and sugar/sea salt are ideal for homemade scrubs.” 

Jen Hadfield’s DIY chair planter

Jen Hadfield’s DIY chair planter | Photo Credit: @tatertotsandjello on Instagram

As for whom she admires for following a clutter-free and DIY decor philosophy, Mandi Gubler’s Vintage Revivals blog tops her list. “Mandi is extremely hands-on and I really think her DIY drip tray for plants is something we can all make,” says Teja, adding that Jen Hadfield’s (who blogs on Tater Tots and Jello) for her DIY hack on converting an old chair into a planter is another favourite. Closer home, she follows Rukmini Ray Kadam’s DIY hacks on her blog, Trumatter. “She teaches us how to recreate a beachy-shabby chic apartment in Mumbai. Best tip: Painting laminate,” says Teja. 

In the blogverse
Vintage Revivals by Mandi Gubler
Tater Tots and Jello by Jen Hadfield
Trumatter by Rukmini Ray Kadam
Get DIY ready
Start with a small project: Try repainting/ decoupaging an old table or wallpapering a small area.
Quality tools and material make for long-lasting DIYs.
Don’t stress about mistakes. They are part of the process.


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