Starting a public-facing blog begs self-examination. I think things like, “Seriously, who do you think you are? What do you know about any of this stuff? You think you’re a simulacrum of Tim Gunn and Padma Lakshmi and Anthony Bourdain and those Brits from Changing Rooms (the much better BBC precursor to Trading Spaces. And yes, I watch too much reality television) on a die-hard budget. But who are you really? A nobody.”
Well that’s just it really. I am a nobody, and I felt like one nearly all my life. I wasn’t born with a 75% off Calvin Klein jumper on and a fabulous art-deco mobile over my vintage crib. I was a shy, utter depressive from the age of 11 to at least my mid-20s (RIP, soul-raking sadness). I dressed in rotations of cliché awfulness: like a hobo, like a punk, like a preppie conformist. I ate meat and potatoes and once-frozen vegetables for dinner nearly every night, along with all the processed crap that makes up the blighted American food landscape. I never felt comfortable in the spaces I was in but never knew what to do about it, especially hating fluorescent lights and plastic and blocky, cluttered entertainment centers and the strip malls of my youth.
I never had money. My parents were solidly working class, and gave us all we needed, but I always envied the Mormons and their antique-laden homes and L.L. Bean clothes. When I broke out on my own, I was broke. Eating potatoes sans meat mostly, and dressing in whatever I could find.
For me, the process of Cheep discovery is not petty. For my sad and lonely and disused mind, I needed to change my outer world before I could transform my inner life.
I told a white lie earlier. I don’t think I watch too much reality TV. The fashion, food and décor shows on cable networks changed my life forever. They showed me a different way to look at style and cooking and spaces. They gave me ideas. They trained my creative eye. They gave me an appreciation for color, variety and speedy transformation. Of course for me, all of these things had to come cheap, or they were out of my reach, so that over-riding principle ended up guiding every choice I made.
So here’s my point: I was hopeless. I was dreadful at all of this—fashion, food, décor, place and mind—but I got better through steadfast yet incremental education. And when I did, everything else around me changed: my career, my confidence, my relationships and most importantly, my mind. I started trusting my instincts and abilities and own personality. I came into my own. I blossomed. I feel I am still blooming.
Then, when I started dating Dan (after years of singledom as a result of all of my handicaps), I realized how bad he was at décor and fashion, and I helped him. We transformed his house and his wardrobe on the cheap, and I saw the ripple effects our changes had in his career, confidence and in other people’s perceptions. And I realized, hey, maybe I’m onto something here. Maybe I can help more people find a way to deal with the need to dress and live and think, without the crushing debt and conformity. So here I am. Here is Cheep.