Saturday, 30 April 2016

Style Inventory Part One: Effortless Chic

 I do not intentionally seek either minimalism or maximalism, don't embrace either a less is more or a more is more attitude.  I seek only to arrange my life according to what feels right for me, to simplify the areas that I wish to simplify and to make glorious complicated messes in other areas.  In my world books are abundant, art is messy and clothing has turned out not to be an area where I want to express creativity.  I want it simplified.

So Effortless, So Frawnch!  Well no, the French don't get to claim effortlessness or chicness and I doubt I am claiming chicness here either.  The usual qualifications about colour apply here-the darks are too dark.    After taking the photo I tucked in the other side of the shirt but didn't photograph that because this is 'effortlessness' and more photos would be too much effort.  All items are taupe/brown and blue regardless of appearance.

Favourite Bag and Shoes.  The shiny parts of the bag are really smooth leather patches that always catch the light.  That does bug me a bit.  I am thinking of sandpapering it.

In the annual clean-out of drawers, I've whittled my clothing items down to only what I actually use and like.  No more holding onto ratty tatty things just in case they could be used or because I can't stand to put clothing into the garbage.  If it's not good enough to donate it, why would I hold onto it myself?  If I don't actually wear it, why let it take up space in my drawer.  The answer seems to be just to keep it out of the landfill, which is reasonable enough but it's time to find better solutions.

Two garbage bags of rags/clothing went out to the garbage recently.  Much more has gone to charity and some has been sold.  I've got more to sell but I missed the appropriate season so have to wait until next year.

The goal was to have only things I love, actually wear, feel good in, and to have a cohesive colour palette so that combining things is easy.  It seems like a no-brainer.  It used to be.  Somehow I strayed from that path.

What's in My Dresser

* 1 week of socks, underwear, 3 pairs leggings and 3 tanks for layering/warmth
* pyjamas- 4 pairs to accommodate different temps.
* clothing for yoga- 2 prs shorts, 2 pairs leggings, 2 tee shirts
* a pair of jeans for doing some sort of mucky job
* light weight sweat pants
* 2 light weight layering sweaters

I don't own a bathing suit as I cannot even remember the last time I needed one. I think it was eight years ago.

All of this fits into my dresser with room to spare so I don't bother to pack things away during their off season.

 In my closet I have 52 items of clothing. In the climate where I live it's more like three seasons than four, and all of my clothing works in at least two of the seasons. I only use half the closet but I have more than I need and everything is something I love.  The skirts don't get worn very often but when I do wear them I am happy to have them.  I wear more dresses in hot weather so it makes sense to have more summer dresses.  Although my taste is still a sort of boho and layered aesthetic, I'm doing it in a more minimal way.  When I tried to create my own lagenlooks from thrift shops I ended up with so many pieces that only worked in one outfit.  This got frustrating and overwhelming.

What do I have in my closet?
* 1 white denim jacket
* 9 light to medium weight sweaters, cotton or merino wool
* 4 cardigans, cotton or merino
* 7 short sleeve good quality tee shirts
* 4 long sleeved good quality tee shirts
* 7 tops-tunic or blouse-3 are dressier than the others
* 3 pairs heavy weight jeans (two faded boyfriend, 1 dark, high waist boot cut)
* 3 pairs lighter weight jeans (two faded boyfriend, 1 light grey)
* 2 pairs of cotton shorts
* 3 summer dresses-casual (2 are a bit tatty and need replacing)
* 2 maxi dresses-mild-warm season type
* 1 winter dress
* 1 LBD actually grey not black
* 5 skirts

At any given time I am typically choosing from  25-30 of these according to the weather.

This seems like a lot of clothing to me, even though it is quite pared down and many people claiming the title minimalist are using a 35 piece capsule wardrobe each season.  I find that despite all of the potential options for outfits, I tend to have preferences that I repeat, and a uniform style is developing.

* jeans, tee shirt, cardigan, sliver jewelry and scarf
* jeans, peasant style blouse or boho type tunic, silver jewelry and perhaps a scarf
* skirt with a tee shirt, silver jewelry and scarf
* leather jacket might replace cardigan

Cold weather-fine wool sweater might replace tee shirt
Hot weather-summer dress might replace jeans

I think that because I went from student frugality to maternal frugality, I never learned how to value what nice quality basics and attractive lounging around home clothing can do for morale.  Money went towards clothing that was worn professionally and non-professional time wasn't deserving of the dollars or consideration it takes to look and feel my best.  As I approach the end of my forties, I have finally realised that I want that attitude to change.

I do have items that are just in case pieces-like an LBD and shoes to go with it which are classic enough that even if I only need it once every five years I am comfortable with that.  I have summer sandals that are high wedges, a more formal look than I usually go for and while they too are a just in case item, I am considering letting them go.  All but one of my skirts were purchased second hand so although I have more than I really need or wear very often, for now I am holding onto them.  I won't be buying any more unless it replaces one of the ones I have and I may not seek to replace any skirt I eventually let go of.

Accessories purging adventures detailed in part two.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Holding up Doorways

The happy face on this woman is the face of someone who decided she didn't want or need online dating.

My photography skills being limited, I am still frustrated by inaccuracy but at least the lighting is better at this time of year.  Lightening the photo makes the darker colours even darker, so the sweater, shoes and my hair are not actually this dark.  My skirt is less contrasting in reality, with ivory and grey-denim stripe.  The sweater is more steel-grey-blue than the bright navy it looks in the photo....I know, I know, I get a bit obsessed about colour inaccuracy.

Like this....

 I love this maxi skirt but it nearly killed me.  I should know better as it has happened before with maxi skirts.

I live in a third floor walk-up.  Sometimes I make the mistake of wearing a maxi skirt on grocery shopping day.  Usually I make the mistake of buying my skirts a little too loose in the waist so they slip down and sit on my hips and are thus even longer on me than they might be.  Waling up stairs, carrying six bags of groceries, long skirt getting caught in my feet is dangerous.  I nearly fell today and it would have been an acrobatic, catastrophic head first backwards sort of fall.

So I MUST take the waist in so the skirt doesn't slip down.
And I MUST NOT wear maxi skirts on grocery days. 

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Hello, and Welcome to my Messy Life

Life is messy, isn't it?  Generally I like my environment tidy and organised, I like a peaceful life, but life is for living, for growing, and nothing that grows avoids mess.  Just think of babies and toddlers-absolutely messy.  I cannot make a beautiful garden without being willing to get messy.  I can't make art without willing to get messy.  I can't write without being willing to get it wrong over and over.  Let's stick with the gardening metaphor for a minute.....

When I had a garden there was much I did that was by choice, and in my control.  I poured over garden books, catalogues and magazines.  My garden was an artistic expression in design and a plant lover's expression of appreciation in that most plants were carefully selected.  I didn't just plant a rose, I chose a certain variety for colour, scent, vigour, and I placed it carefully for optimum conditions and for it's appearance in relation to the plants around it.  I loved the dirt and the spiders and the fresh green leaves of spring, the old seed heads in autumn, the anticipation in winter and the abundance of flowers and bees in summer.  I enjoyed weeding and pruning and general maintenance though the really heavy work of digging deep holes, carting around barrows full of mulch or compost was too much for me.  The joy was in the doing, the being immersed, the progress, the mess. 

I drove my ex-husband crazy because after having gone round and collected the detritus I would miss a pile of debris after a day in the garden, or I would leave a trail of tiny bits clearly showing my travels on his nicely manicured lawn.  I let my plants sprawl over edges.  Gardening was a joyful, messy procedure for me and so is life.  I never left my garden alone and said, 'ah now it's finished.'  I moved plants, divided plants, thought up a new colour scheme for a certain corner.  I had failures and successes.  I was in control of much but definitely not of everything.  There were slugs and deer and rabbits.  There was weather.  There is always weather.  There was my chronic illness which was diagnosed after I had created an enormous garden.  Eventually I realised I had created a beautiful monster.  I wanted to scale it back. reduce to my favourites, make it lower maintenance.  I even considered getting rid of all perennials and just keeping my multitude of beautiful trees and mixed shrubs.  My ex- husband, who had some issues with control, said no.  I couldn't do it without his help and the help was withheld. It was not because he had better things to do or the job was too hard, but because he said he liked the garden.  Then came the time when I left him.  The last thing I had to face letting go of was my increasingly chaotic, untended but beloved garden.

Six years later I have no garden but I have approximately 45 house plants and a good ten more plants on my balcony.  I'm still experimenting with what grows well and what I do and do not have control over.  The greatest challenge with the balcony garden is very wet winters and very dry summers.  My old garden, where my ex husband still lives is a disaster now.  Untended it runs amok, and I face it frequently when visiting my son who lives in a basement suite of his father's house.  I look at what I still think of as 'my trees' and 'my rhododendrons' and sigh a little to myself and then do what I always do.  I put one foot in front of the other and I keep going, sometimes going squelch in the mud. Things are messy. Not everything is in my control, but whether or not I chose to find happiness in my life is very much something I have control over. 

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Adventures In Online Dating

I signed up on two dating websites and have had a few hours worth of chatting time with about twenty men.  Oh my goodness it's quite an experience.  Of course, I am too nice and no matter how nice I am some get all pissy and accuse me of being mean.  One got jealous of my talking to someone else.  They all send a message with a horrible, cringe-worthy greeting like that is some sort of icky compliment to my appearance or else they simply send the word 'hi' or 'hey'.  English does not appear to be their first language even when it is.  Eventually, after some time chatting they want my e-mail address or to be on Facebook with me and are offended, to say the least, if I decline.  I'm just thankful I am not meeting these men in a bar.  Not that I go to bars alone.  Or not alone for that matter.

Note to self: take time to notice when red flags go up and weirdo alarms go off and don't just think you have to be nice to everyone who says hi.

I should probably not be allowed to date unsupervised. 

Note to self: don't get sucked in by broken men who are needy, you cannot heal them.

Local prospects are not good.  I live in a town full of loggers and fishermen with whom I have little in common.  Long distance relationships are hard and I cannot travel nor am I willing to re-locate.  This may all be pointless but it will at least be amusing for awhile. 

Epiphanies and Shit Happen

My brain works in a pattern that goes something like this:

meditate...meditate...meditate.....EPIPHANY!  repeat

It's a bit exhausting to always be having epiphanies but kind of fun too.  Some are deep and personal, some profound and life changing and many are not too significant.  I think there is an epiphany per day essentially and I often think it should come with sound effects-some sort of ping or ding when the dots get connected and I have a realisation that helps me move forward.

There have been some big ones, huge ones, painful ones in my life lately.  I don't share those here other than to mention that explains my change in behaviour lately.

Here is a smaller one.

If we have the means, we should dress for ourselves, to please ourselves, to meet our own needs for comfort, beauty, creativity, or whatever makes us feel good.  That's not the epiphany that's the general assumption I began with.  Many women I know and particularly those I know through style blogging, dress to please themselves with creativity, colour, a sense of being their own unique self.  I admire that greatly.  I tried it on.  It didn't work.  Why?  Dressing to please myself actually means low key, easy, neutral, minimal wardrobe style.  Huh!  How is it that I had no idea of this?

Partly it's because although I may have dressed that way in the past it wasn't fully a choice, it was imposed on me by exterior things just as much or more as it reflected my own taste. 

In the past several years I've struggled with my illness, had financial insecurity, experienced two painful breakups and distracted and amused myself by playing dress up, decorating my home, and generally accumulating stuff, mostly second hand stuff, trying to find myself, or save myself who knows exactly what I was doing.  Building a life raft out of stuff perhaps.  Holding myself up with layers and layers of clothing.

Lately I've been shedding and purging.  It feels good.  It feels amazing.  My goal is to only live with what I love and need.  That includes people and stuff.  What that looks like for me doesn't follow any sort of prescription-no wardrobe of 33 items, only owning a hundred things or fitting all of my possessions in  back pack.  I'm not a recognisable minimalist, though shedding surplus stuff is a bit addicting. 

I don't change my decor for the seasons, for holidays, my taste is very specifically mine and I like staying home.  I like my familiar nest, being surrounded by what feels authentic to me.  Would I travel the world if I could?  Sure.  It's not a laziness or a form of denial it's a combination of illness and introversion.  I want and need comfort, simplicity and my own idea of beauty.  And this translates into what I wear.

I don't care if I wear the same outfit twice in one week or if that outfit is a simple pair of jeans, favourite slouchy sweater and a scarf if I go out.  I love colour in many many ways but wearing it tires me in ways I cannot quite explain or understand but mid-grey and taupe makes my heart beat faster. 

Digression: I fell for an almost perfect fawn coloured cashmere cardigan in a shop recently.  It was four hundred bloody dollars as was the macrame hemp poncho I also fell for.  Gah! That's my town for you-it's four hundred dollar cashmere or $20 polyester at WalMart.

1. Nobody is even going to notice me wearing the same things all the time.
2.  I definitely don't mind wearing the same things all the time-I even like it.
3. I would rather be liked/admired for who I am than my style
4. I will probably get paint on my clothes which is why I really should not buy a $400 cardigan

Epiphanies come to me in a flash, but are not so concisely summed up.  All of this knowledge sits in my brain, floating around, and then suddenly I see it all.  Bam!  I know this.  Deep breath.....let it out slowly....move forward.

I signed up for online dating.  Oh dear, I am not liking it but it's early days yet. 

Complicated, wounded woman looking for sexy nerd with social skills in a town full of loggers and fishermen, Must Read Books.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Thinking Outside the Box

Boxes are a bit of an obsession in my family.  We love a good box and are quite convinced that good boxes are worth saving for that unpredictable moment when a good box will be needed.  Often this is birthdays or Christmas though it is not at all uncommon to unwrap your Christmas gift and find that whatever it is has been contained inside a cereal box or a cracker box.  Mum has confessed to removing the cereal in order to be able to use the box.  This Christmas I dumped all of the cotton swabs into a jar so that I could use their box for the gift I’d bought for my mother.  Dad’s gift went into an empty box of Yorkshire Tea.  And thus my collection of useful boxes remained unused but continued to grow.  Often the collection contains shoe boxes.  Aren’t shoe boxes always in demand?  Any other sturdy relatively plain box smaller than a shoe box also gets saved.  In addition to this, the wisdom handed down in my family is that one should always hold onto the box that any technology or small appliance came in.  The reason is that if one has to return it or send it for repairs there is nothing so practical as packaging it up in its original box and styrofoam.

Recently I decided that I’d bloody well had enough of this practice.  How often do I actually use the boxes that I’ve saved?  When was the last time in thirty years that I’d needed to use the original packaging of a small appliance?  I am not a minimalist by some people’s standards but I don’t like excess, clutter or junk hanging around.  I like my home tidy, although full, and I try to hold onto things that I believe useful or beautiful and nothing more, but it’s the useful concept that trips me up.  Some minimalists get rid of books which to me is unthinkable.  Their reasoning is that they are never going to read them again no matter how much they loved them and I have to grant them that.  I rarely re-read my books either.  But these same book-tossers will have decorative items around their homes which have no use other than decoration, perhaps are sentimental and they have chosen to keep these.  I choose to keep my books for the same reasons.  For me they are decorative and sentimental and to borrow the term used by Marie Kondo, they spark joy.  Real joy, of the kind reserved generally for kittens, loved ones, chocolate and wine.  But boxes do not spark joy, they are certainly not beautiful and I have to admit that although they seem useful they have not proven themselves to be so.  So in a determined storage room clean-out in which I also found many other items I could donate to the charity shop, I hauled out all of the empty boxes and began to flatten them ready for recycling.  At this point I have to make a confession.  I put three back.  I can’t cure myself of the frugal be prepared attitude overnight and perhaps I don’t want to.  But it’s a big improvement and a long stride forward in my march towards what I will call minimalism my way. 

You won’t see a difference when you enter my home.  You would never have seen the boxes anyhow, but I feel the difference.  And when I go into my small storage room (it’s something between a room and a closet) I can find what I am looking for and I am nearly at the point of only having things I regularly use in there.  Some items are seasonal, some are cleaning implements, and there are a few small furniture items I know I will eventually let go of.  I’m not trying to become a minimalist and the minimalist aesthetic is not my style.  I have a strong drive to only be surrounded by what feels necessary and what I love and to shed the excess, the ugly and the not useful.  I’m not at all averse to owning items purely for decorative sake and this  even includes a very attractive and useful box in which I actually put things.  I am happy to be a collector, but do not wish to be a hoarder.  Before Marie Kondo there was William Morris of the Arts and Crafts movement.   The words attributed to him are the ones I try to live by:  "Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."  This says it best.  Not everything will spark joy.  My frying pan does not, but I do need one.  At the moment I have more than one, as I am trying to find the style and size I like best.  But once I find what I clearly need and use, the surplus can go.  As with boxes, it's easy to accumulate just in case things.  Stocking up at sales, having something on hand for when the old one finally wears out, or being unable to quite decide between two almost good enough things.  These are attitudes I inherited and am trying to moderate. It feels good to live with less, but I don't identify with minimalism as an aesthetic.

Here are some of the very personal thinking processes I try to keep conscious and foremost in my mind:

1.  I don't need to go shopping unless the fridge is nearly empty.

2.  If I have to get rid of something I already have when I bring this item home, do I still want this item?

3.  I already know that essentially stuff does not make me happy.  Keep remembering this.

4.  Flip side:  Some stuff does bring me joy but quite specific things.  Books, art supplies, plants and clothing I feel good in, a cat to cuddle.  Focus on these.

5.  Time for art, time to read, write, spend with my closest and dearest people, a walk in fresh air, good conversation, delicious and simple food-these are the things that bring me joy.

6.  If I cannot find words to describe how much I like something then I should consider buying it.  If I can say, oh that's cute, or that's pretty, I am admiring it but not loving it.  "Oh..."  followed by a trance, generally means I love it.