Your House Does Not Need To Look Like This

Back in July, a few weeks after Matt and I had moved into our new apartment, this was what was going on in my boudoir (aka the bedroom that also houses my $99 amazon vanity — fancy pants, you know):

old-vanity

There’s a teeny shallow drawer in the front of the vanity that housed all my make-up. I was so proud of my efforts to keep almost everything for my face and hair in the drawer or my storage ottoman that I use as a vanity chair.

I mean just look how clean and white and serene that all looks, right?

bedroom2-new

Okay, it actually looks a little too sparse in the above photo, but you can see the ottoman where my hair do-dads live.

I just loved the idea that most of my stuff was unseen. I don’t like the clutter of lots of little bits and bobs — especially all the different colored labels that come along with them and do not match my neutral palette (except for you, Aesop. You, you do can sit on any surface you wish!).

But you know what transpired after a few weeks of being settled into our new space? I noticed I was leaving all my stuff out — on the floor and on my vanity, sometimes my bed. Because in the morning, when I’m rushing out the door, the last thing I want to do is carefully wrap up my blow-dryer cord and open the ottoman to put it away. And my concealer? Brow powder? No time for putting you away either!

So even though all the beauty products I own can easily fit in my storage areas, it wasn’t working. My bedroom was only clean and clutter free when I had a moment to stop and put things away (you know, like that time when I took the above pics ;D) — and that rarely happened.

So that got me thinking.

As much as I want a space that looks like this:

dreamy

that is not how I live my life. I’m not saying things can’t be clutter-free, but I don’t want a space to not work. And it doesn’t work if you can’t use it the way you really use it.

So even though I initially thought — yeah I totes put allll my stuff away every single day. That was a lie. And I fought against it for months. I wanted to use my space how I thought it should look instead of how I really need it to function.

So I hushed my inner perfectionist (she’s so noisy and bossy most of the time) and decided to think about how I go about my day-to-day face painting and hair doing — and set up my vanity that way.

So now it looks like this:

new-vanity

Yup still neat and tidy, but much easier to have my skincare and most-used make-up items at my finger tips rather than under my bum (that sounds weird — I’m talking about my ottoman storage again).

This also helps me remember the bits and bobs I want to use up. They won’t get lost in the back of my drawer or bottom of the ottoman — which has recently lead me to buying way more overpriced skin serums than one person needs.

vanity-2

So even though it doesn’t look like I’m living with less now, I’m actually less apt to buy more stuff because I see what I have on a daily basis.

This goes back to the pic at the top of this post. I think it’s so lovely and serene, but apart form the obvious styling done we know even the most minimalist of minimalist don’t live like this. When real people sleep there (who are these fancy pants people, Architectural Digest?), they would have a bottle of loud-labeled hand-lotion on their bedside table and cotton balls scattered on top of that vanity (with the teeniest mirror known to womankind) and a pair of pink Target pjs that say “Turnip the Beets” strewn on the bed. Or, you know, the rich person equivalent.

Cath’s in Seattle (again!)

Cath has had a hard summer and it so sucks that I can’t be right next to her when she needs me. So for her birthday, we bought her a roundtrip ticket to Seattle for a week. It has been heavenly! The only problem? I don’t want her to leave.

Hear that, Cath? You. Can’t. Leave!cathseattle-4 cathseattle-3

Empties

Ever since I started this journey towards minimalism, I’ve been practicing this not-so-novel method: not buying replacement products until I completely run out of them. I know, it’s not groundbreaking, but for me it’s a complete mind shift – especially when it comes to beauty products*.

Pre-minimalism-journey, if my favorite foundation or cleanser was feeling every so slightly empty, I would rush out to Target/CVS/Sephora to replenish it. So for at least a couple of weeks, I would have two of the same product in my bathroom cabinet. I blame my dad for having this mentality. Growing up we never ran out of shampoo, nail polish remover, toothpaste, canned goods, paper products, body lotion, or any other number of products because we always had extra in the house. This was due to the fact that my dad would alway buy products that were both on sale and had a coupon regardless of whether or not we needed said item at that moment.

I’m sure he saved our family a lot of money in the long run, but with minimal storage space and a *ahem* slightly more expensive taste than my dad (goodbye Suave and VOL shampoos), coupon cutting and stocking up doesn’t work for me. Plus, the more I buy, the less I know what I have – stuff always gets stuck in the back of a closet somewhere and I never see it again.

And there is an added bonus to waiting. Now that I’ve been using this method of only purchasing items when I’m completely out, I find that I can live without some products. I used to use a fancy toner. When that ran out, I spent a few days using witch hazel before rushing out to replace it, and found that witch hazel worked just as well.

So that brings me to the topic of this post – empties! I always like watching empty videos on YouTube because it’s so satisfying to see things that have been completely used up. For those of you who feel the same, here are my most recent empties:

Bumble and Bumble Dryspun Finish – This is basically the same thing as Oribe Texturizing Spray. It doesn’t smell quite as good, but it works just as well and I can get it at my local salon. I really love how it makes my hair look piece-y and it adds the perfect amount of volume. The main drawback is the price. It’s $31 and the bottle runs out super fast. I’m on my second can and I probably won’t repurchase it again unless I win the lottery or throw my budget out the window.

Bioderma – Lar got me hooked on this micellar water years ago when she was living in Scotland. I purchased this bottle a while ago in Canada. It’s available online in the states, but I don’t know of any stores that sell it (it’s available everywhere in Europe). It’s lightweight and non-greasy, but also really effective at removing makeup. Once I finished the bottle, I purchased Garnier’s michellar water at CVS since I didn’t feel like ordering a bottle of Bioderma online. It’s a nice dupe, but not quiet as good.

Korres Greek Yoghurt Primer – I go through periods where I try to purchase only all-natural makeup products. I grabbed this at Sephora when I was going through one of those periods and fell in love with it. It’s hard to describe the smell – yogurt-y, but in a good way and not overpowering – and it works just as well as other primers I’ve tried. I couldn’t find it the last time I was in Sephora, so I couldn’t replace it when my tube ran out – sob!

Pixi Glow Tonic – I don’t know why, but I feel like such an adult by upping my toner game with an exfoliating toner. Fancy-sounding, right? It’s not the cheapest skin product out there, but it’s available at Target and makes my skin feel so refreshingly smooth. I’m almost done with my second bottle and will repurchase it again as soon as I’m out.

Josie Maran Whipped Argon Oil Body Butter – I got this in a gift set. I loved the scent and it reminds me of a lighter version of the Body Shop’s body butters. The only downside is that I used it up too fast. I didn’t repurchase it because I’ve tried to be a little more money conscious and have started making my own body butter. More on that in a later post 😉

Holly Beth Organics Chamomile Cleanser – I love everything that Holly Beth Organics makes and it’s a local Atlanta brand – woohoo! The only reason I didn’t repurchase this is that I find foaming cleansers, no matter how gentle, are just too drying on my skin.

Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation – This is hands down my all time favorite foundation. It has a light-to-medium coverage, smells amazing, and never ever broke me out or felt greasy. I purchased this over a year ago in Scotland and I should have bought out the store’s supply. You can purchase some Bourjois products online in the states if you do a quick Google search, but you can buy directly from Bourjois’ website. So I’ll just have to stock up next time I’m in the U.K. If anyone knows of a good substitute or a reliable online store to purchase Bourjois foundation, let me know!

Acure Eye Cream – All natural, affordable, and easy to find (Whole Foods, Target, Earth Fare etc.). I haven’t repurchased it because it didn’t blow me away and I wanted to try some other brands. What I did like about it is the feel, it’s light and non-greasy, and the fact that it lasted forever.

*Obviously there are some products that this process doesn’t work for as well: toilet paper, dish soap, wine. . .

Goodwill Hunting Part 2

goodwillhunting8  goodwillhunting9

Top: shirt from Goodwill (drawn on by moi), cropped shorts from UK charity shop, shoes Superga. Bottom: Club Monoco dress from Goodwill.

Since taking these photos last week, a strange thing has happened — a new season. Somehow the end of summer rolled into town. Why and how and why so fast?

I’m sure Cath is rolling her eyes at me in Hot-lanta where the temperatures still soar and the humidity smothers. But here in the temperamental PNW, we’ve had one or two 90 degree days nestled between chillier 60-70 degree weeks. I’m not complaining — nooooo. It’s far summerier than the summery of summers in Edinburgh, but it’s still ending too soon.

And for some reason, this change in season has me moving away from the above pictured minimalist style and into piling on rings and a sweater or two with a (gasp!) print or pattern.

Does that happen to you guys too? Change in season or time of life and your style asks for a shake-up without you realizing it?

It’s confusing because I thought in my 30s I would sort of start sticking to one style a bit more (Cath and I have talked about this repeatedly on the blog here and here). Maintaining one style is friendlier on your wallet and your closet (aka living with less). So I’m kind of baffled by this need to, stylistically-speaking, maximize my wardrobe — at the same time as limiting acquisitions.

But I’m going to go with it. I find any time I try to stick too closely to one school of thought — even when I can feel things shifting to explore new avenues — I end up frustrated and feeling stuck. So let’s embrace the confusion and the arm parties and contrasting patterns.

Happy almost-Fall!

Goodwill Hunting Part 1

goodwillhunting 1 goodwillhunting 3

Tee thrifted from Revival, Pants from Goodwill, Dress from Goodwill, Red bandana from Ban.do

I’d say roughly a third of my closet is thrifted, the second third is at least five years old, and the last third is stuff bought within the last five years. That’s pretty good, right?

Ideally I would find everything I needed (and wanted — such a bad minimalist) at Goodwill or a charity or vintage shop. But certain things (undies, a fresh white T-shirt, socks) are better bought new.

I’m always on the hunt for good ethical sources for closet staples. If you guys have any suggestions please do send them our way.

Thrifting has become my default for “ethical” — I feel I’m at least not adding to the overabundance of STUFF by re-using. And I honestly think being conscientious about our buying habits is a first great step to living with less.

I currently live about a 7 minute walk to the nearest Goodwill where I found these pants-that-feel-like-pjs (#winning!) and this dress that, with a red bandana, makes me feel like Rosie the Riveter. I really can’t ask for more sartorial dreaminess for less than $30 combined.

To sum up: get thee to a Goodwill (or similar establishment of thrifty repute)!

In which I (inadvertently) wear two pairs of underwear

queenieOne of the wonderful results of living with less is that you know exactly what you own. For instance, I used to have a mess of a sock drawer, but I now know exactly what’s in there: orderly wool socks, posh socks, sporty socks — the whole Spice Girls gamut of sockdom.

I also know exactly where to find the stuff I need because I don’t have to keep track of so many things. Generally speaking, things don’t go missing because there’s a space for everything. Since my KonMari weekend a few years back, nothing gets relegated to a miscellaneous closet that never sees the light of day.

Well, that might not be exactly true. I don’t actually know everything I have. But I really thought I did — until last week.

You know what they say, pride goeth before the fall, etc.

I bought this new hoody back in early spring. It’s light-weight and super soft – perfect for a bit of light layering. I ended up wearing it all day last week because Seattle hadn’t quite warmed up to a proper summer just yet.

I went to meetings, I went out to lunch, I had multiple water-cooler chats with coworkers. It was an unusually long day, but my super-soft hoody made me feel comforted even after blinking at a screen for 9 hours.

And then I came home.

I dropped my bags on the floor and shook off my hoodie and on to the floor falls a pair of undies. Mine, thankfully. And clean ones! With no holes (thankyoubabyjesus)! But still!

I have a sneaking suspicion that they were sticking out of my hood all day after comingling with my hoodie in the laundry. I’m praying everyone just thought I had a purple-lined sweatshirt.

So here’s a fair warning to you all: check your hoods before leaving the house, kids! You thought the pant-leg undie-rider was bad, just think what would happen if you casually popped on your hood and a pair of frilly knickers slides over your forehead. (I bet Queenie, pictured at the top of the post there, checked her hood and scarf before venturing out for a bit of fox hunting or what have you — one can never be too careful).

So this really isn’t a helpful post on owning less, but this incident has really made me seriously reconsider the true genius of days-of-the-week underwear.

Oh and guess what, guys?! I actually have two outfit posts lined up for this week and next. So hold on to your hats, kiddos, AsianCajuns is back in business!

Unintentional Minimalism

Like Cath said in her last post, we did not mean to take such a long hiatus from AsianCajuns. While Cath has been going through a bit of a rough patch in Atlanta, we’ve had a steady stream of visitors to Seattle, packed and moved apartments, traveled to Vancouver twice, Edinburgh and Amsterdam, and D.C./Maryland.

But busy times, as fun as they may be, always leave me feeling discombobulated. I have a hard time settling down with my own thoughts and after living out of suitcases and boxes for a while, I start to feel really disconnected from everything — including blogging and trying to live with less.

Even though I’ve lived abroad and traveled a lot, I am still, at heart, a nester and homebody. So I always feel more anxious and disconnected when moving and traveling, and Matt and I have crammed in all the above these two months.

Today is my first full day in our new place since we moved in three weeks ago. It’s still empty and not decorated — and very unintentionally minimalist — but do you want to see it?

livingroom-new

bedroom-new

bedroom2-new

vanity-new    kitchen-new  diningroom-new

I am honestly not trying to do the white minimalist trendy look. I do not think you have to live with that aesthetic to be a minimalist or when creating a life where you live with less. My true style is more squishy sofas and cottagey-sized rooms, but our nomadic apartment-living these past five years hasn’t really leant itself to my granny aesthetic. So, in the meantime, it’s simple and open (and easy to move) until I move into this dream home or apartment.

Makeup Cleanout

Hi Dear Readers, so sorry to leave you in the dark for two months. This summer has been busy and not-so-great for me personally. Without getting into details, just know that I never meant to leave AsianCajuns gathering dust and have been itching to get back into blogging for a while. In fact, I had this post partially done in late May and was excited to share it. And since I’m not ready to get into personal nitty gritty details online, let’s just jump right into the post, shall we?

Vanity_beforeandafter

My makeup collection has tripled in the past two years. I blame all the amazing YouTubers out there that make the latest and greatest blush/foundation/primer look completely transformative. Plus, I am always tempted every time I go into a drugstore to pick up a “cheap” lipstick (which is never that cheap and adds up fast, btw).

I started to feel overwhelmed by all the items I had cluttering my vanity (a.k.a. an Ikea desk and makeup mirror). So I figured the time had come for me to minimize my makeup collection.

vanity_makeupsorting

I sorted my makeup into three piles (left to right): items that spark joy and/or I wear frequently, items that were expired and just needed to be tossed, and items that I would give away, give to friends or bring to work.

makeup_organizations

Since my desk vanity was getting so cluttered on the top and my shoebox storage solution wasn’t cutting it, I decided to purchase a Helmer drawer unit from Ikea to keep everything stashed away. You can’t tell from the photo above, but after cleaning out my collection, I had tons of room left over in my brand new Helmer to store other necessities: a couple of phone chargers, essential oils, and lint roller, etc.

makeupbrushes_perfumetray

The only things on the top of my vanity now are my (ahem, unwashed) brushes, perfume, and some jewelry. I know it might still seem too busy for some, but it’s made the world of difference to me. Just like cleaning out my closet, cleaning and reorganizing my makeup has made getting up in the morning much less stressful.

vanity_top_beforeandafter

Since this cleanout happened over two months ago, I’ve been able to keep my vanity looking organized and clutter-free without having to try too hard. I now feel like I really use all the makeup that I’ve purchased over the past year or two and have yet to miss any items I threw or gave away.

Maybe someday I’ll truly join the minimalist makeup bandwagon (using the bare minimum products daily), but I still love playing around with a concoction of stuff and would get bored of wearing the same exact thing every day.

Downsizing my Purse

I’ve always carried around big purses – like the Baggu tote bag on the left. I don’t know when or how it started, but I can’t imagine not carrying around my wallet, makeup, coin purse, sunglasses, hand sanitizer and lotion, meds, a pen, and any other items that seem necessary.

But I’d like to try to minimize what I’m toting around every day. For one thing, I know that I don’t use all of the stuff in my purse every day. Plus, it probably doesn’t do my shoulder any good to be lugging around a heavy bag.

Largebag

Over the past year, I’ve attempted to downsize the number of items I carry with me, but it’s still a lot. Currently in my bag (above), I have my Marc Jacobs sunglasses and sunglasses case, a small bag for one chapstick, one lipstick and one lip gloss, my wallet, a change purse, my keys, a compact mirror, a reusable grocery bag, antibacterial gel, hand lotion, a worry doll (a gift from Lar), a pen, medicine, blotting papers, and a small wallet for my business cards.

I’d love to be one of those women that can carry a small, crossbody bag instead of a large tote, but I’ve been carrying around large purses for so long, I feel like I’ve become dependent on their size. So I’m going to try to carry around less for a week or two and see how it goes.

Smallbag

I have a small Michael Kors handbag that I use for evenings out. It’ll fit my wallet, a pen, my sunglasses sans case (I’m a little worried about that), meds, keys (I removed some pieces that I don’t use often), antibacterial gel, chapstick, and one lipstick.

I’m not totally confident that I can spend a whole week with just a few items in my purse – as silly as that sounds. Sometimes I feel like all the things I carry around in my purse are more of a security blanket than something I really need. I’m hoping a week or two with just the basics will help me get over that.

smallbagfull

I’ll have a follow-up post in a few weeks about how it goes. Wish me luck!

Change in Style (aka I went shopping)

Larbw3

See that t-shirt I’m wearing? And those shoes? And that bomber? Alllll new! And I blame my shopping on the seasons. Namely, spring and summer.

Who would have thought seasons could be so complicated?! I mean, I grew up in D.C. and we had four solid seasons. 8 years in Atlanta – there were also four seasons with a blink-and-you-miss-it winter. But after just four measly years in a place with 1.5 seasons (yup, I’m talking about you, Scotland) you wouldn’t think I would have forgotten so quickly about the wardrobe changes that shifts in seasons necessitate.

Scottish seasonal weather could be summed up by Billy Connelly’s apt quote, “There are two seasons in Scotland: June and winter.” And even June isn’t guaranteed to stay too warm.

So, whilst living in the wet isles of the UK, I never needed to switch out my wardrobe. It stayed the same year-round except when I would swap out my coat out for a less heavy coat. Yes, even in a Scottish summer, you’ll want those cozy layers.

Well, I tried to do the same thing here in Seattle. I thought how different can one wet place be to another? It turns out, plenty! For one, Scotland makes Seattle look like a desert in comparison. I’ve had more sunny days here in 9 months than I had in all four years in Edinburgh combined. Also, on a blazing hot summer’s day in Scotland, you might hit 68°F if you are very lucky. We surpassed that the beginning of April here in the Pacific Northwest. And my wardrobe doesn’t know what to do with itself.

Neither does my attempt to live a more minimal lifestyle.

I’ve had to shop. I mean, I improvised for a while but eventually I got tired of being muggy and feeling over-dressed. And even though I do feel a twinge of guilt that my closet has grown instead of stayed minimal these past few months, I’ve gotten more excited about clothes again.

But I still feel in flux, if that makes sense. I feel a little startled at warmth and the ease of being outside without battling the elements. So it’s taking me a long minute to figure out how to keep my closet stream-lined when my giddy summer brain keeps bubbling up.

Now that I’ve bought a some new things, I’m going to take a hard look at some of the things that I loved to bits and pieces in Scotland, but don’t really serve me as well in the land of gentle breezes and rays of sunshine. (I’m sorry, tweed dress, but I just don’t see us working out any more!)

Have you guys ever had this experience being in a new place or making a change in your life that dictates a shift in how you dress (for instance, graduating college and taking a job in a conservatively-dressed office environment). I’d love to know how you adjusted and how long it took you to adjust.