All posts by Cath

Thank you, gray sweatshirt!

Guess what? One of my all time favorite clothing items is gray. Shocker, I know – especially if you saw my ideal closet post and that whole post about my favorite gray shirt. Gray might as well be my favorite color – and black.

I purchased this Funktional sweatshirt years ago hoping it would up my cool factor – you know, that whole boxy/structured/minimalist look. Turns out, I’m not cool enough to achieve that look, but I wear the sweatshirt all the time anyways because it’s so warm (I always packed it when I was visiting Lar in Scotland). It’s also structured enough that I can get away with wearing it to work in the winter.

sweatshirt_throughtheyears

I love how roomy it is and it’s the perfect length. Am I wearing jeggings? Stretchy pants? Real jeans? You can’t tell because the sweatshirt more than covers the waist and hip area. #winning

The fabric is more neoprene-y than sweatshirt-y, which is why it keeps its shape even after a number of washes. I wish all of my winter clothes were made of this material. I would walk around in my boxy, structured, yet comfy outfits all day long.

One Pair of Sunglasses

When Lar and I first posted our inventories earlier this year, I got a text from a friend that said, “One pair of sunglasses only?!” That was when I realized I had gone from a hoarder of sunglasses (lots of cheapies) to a single sunglasses owner without even realizing it. I remember giving away a bunch at some point, but my goal wasn’t to just own one pair. It just turns out the only sunglasses that “sparked joy” were my Marc by Marc Jacobs cat eyes (see photo above). I wear them all the time and have for years – evidence here, here, here, and here. Lar even got the same pair because she liked them so much (that’s Lar above left and me above right).

This is all to say that owning one nice thing versus lots of not-as-nice things really is all it’s cracked up to be. I never miss not having more sunglasses options and after three years, this one pair has held up really well.

Since I’m on the subject of nicer things, I do want to point out that I’m not talking about luxury items. I’m not going to run out and buy a beautifully-made Mansur Gavriel bag and give away my current bag collection. For one thing, learning to live with less isn’t about getting new stuff (even if it’s better made), it’s about appreciating what I already have. And I also don’t have anywhere close to $425 to spend on a bag (which by luxury standards is cheap). Those Marc by Marc sunglasses I keep going on about? One reason I could splurge on a pair of $120 sunglasses is because we receive gift cards from our long-time blog sponsor (see widget to the right) Shopbop.

Without Shopbop sponsorship money, Lar and I would not have a lot of the luxury pieces that we do in our closets like Lar’s Ferragamos and our matching gold Jennifer Zeuner bracelets. We try to be conscious of buying items that are made ethically and that we’ll wear again and again and again.

Even so, Lar and I have been discussing how we would like to approach sponsors now that we are learning to live with less stuff. This might mean that in the future our sponsorship changes or we go without consumer-driven sponsors.

We’d love to hear your feedback too.

If you guys are saving up for some “luxury” items, Shopbop is currently having a sale (see details below). Also, we are interested to know what our readers define as luxury because we know, for us, it doesn’t just mean designer or expensive.

shopbopsale

All of My Papers (all of them) Fit in Here

Yep. All of my tax documents, warranties, and other not-throw-away-able papers fit in that blue box and blue folder. The blue folder is for my legal-size papers (mostly house-purchasing stuff). Everything else is in the blue box with plenty of room to spare. The black accordion folder is for work items that could easily fit in the blue box, but I need it to be more portable than the rest of papers so a separate folder is necessary. And that’s it. All of the papers in my whole house.

I spent the weekend sorting and recycling old documents. Here’s what my study looked like at the beginning of the weekend:

papersbefore

My important papers were mixed in with office supplies, tons of crafts, and random stuff that just didn’t have a home.

As I do with every organizing project, I first re-read the chapter in Marie Kondo’s book about going through your papers. She’s pretty ruthless about papers, basically saying that you should get rid of everything except the very few items that you really need (house deed, tax documents, warranties, etc.).

sortingpapers

So I jumped right in. I got rid of all of my product manuals (I wrote down the model numbers in Google Docs for items like my stove and fridge), old vet receipts, medical claims that were super old, credit card statements, 7+ year old tax documents, and other boring, unnecessary paperwork. That was the easy part.

Then came the old letters from friends and family, artwork from college, and my fashion scrapbooks. I’ve kept so many letters from the past because I love letters – they’re so old fashion, and quaint, and proper. Plus, isn’t that what you do with letters? Keep them? Like a Jane Austen heroine. I’m sure Elizabeth Bennet and Anne Elliot kept all of their letters!

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that as much as I love the idea of the letters, I’ve never actually re-read them. I was just moving them around with me from home to home for the past fifteen years. So, what did I decide to do with them? To the shredder! Same with my fashion scrapbooks that I spent hours putting together from magazines in high school. I thought that I would enjoy looking at them after all of these years, but found them pretty boring.

I also got rid of most of my craft items (clay, yarn, tons of different papers, colored pencils, etc.) because I’ve probably spent only about 5% of my adult life really crafting. If that.

Post organizing, all of my remaining crafts, office supplies, and random stuff (travel neck pillow, yoga block, dance shoes) fit into the cabinet. And I was able to clear out so much stuff in the study closest that it now fits all of our suitcases with room to spare!

papersafter

I’m honestly kind of surprised it took me the whole weekend to sort through it all. Grant it, I did take lots of breaks – took the dogs for a walk, worked out, saw a movie, went out to dinner, did laundry, etc. The papers were easy, but it was the letters, crafts, and other nostalgic bits that completely slowed me down. I should have anticipated that, but I didn’t. Nevertheless, I persevered! And now I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Even though I could close the cabinet doors and shut the closet door, I still hated going into my study before this weekend because I knew all of that stuff was haphazardly piled in there.

Papers_beforeandafterv2

Now I feel a sense of calm wash over me when I enter the room. I know exactly where everything is and won’t get annoyed by toppling paper piles.

Before I end this very wordy post, I just want to list a few things that helped me get through the process:

  • There’s a nearby thrift store that I love and always bring my stuff to (it’s Second Life for you local readers). The best part is that they’re open on Sundays. So after I finish a big organization weekend project like this one, I can pack everything up in my car and drop it off. It makes the whole project really feel completely done and then I don’t have to second-guess my give away choices – out of sight, out of mind.
  • My paperwork collection wasn’t too ridiculous when I started the weekend, because twice a year, I go through all of my documents, check the required retention length for each type, and get rid of the ones that are old. I do it twice a year because there’s a local paper shredding event twice a year in Decatur where you can bring bags and bags of your old documents and put them in a giant shredder that can shred everything in seconds. No need to clutter my home with a personal shredder that’ll just burn-out on me.
  • For some of the time that I was sorting through my papers, I listened to The Minimalist podcast. Even though they weren’t necessarily discussing paper clutter, listening to them helped keep me motivated through the whole process.
  • I didn’t worry about having the perfect filing storage system for my remaining papers. The hanging folder box and accordion folder were items I already owned. Eventually, I might get a nicer looking setup or get some better organizing containers for my office supplies, but I don’t really need to.
  • Before starting, I made sure to get all the papers in my house gathered together including the mail on the table near my front door, the fridge (lots of outdated stuff magnetized on there), and the dining room table, which always collects crap.

And there you have it. This post was a long one! If you’ve made it this far, good for you! Now, go celebrate by going through your own paper piles and let me know how you feel afterward.

Coming to Terms With My Winter Coat

This title might be a little dramatic, but hear me out. Even though I’m on a journey to reduce my worldly possessions, I still care about being somewhat stylish. If I had all the money in the world, I would create my ideal, minimalist wardrobe from the ground up. But I don’t have gobs of money and it’s probably for the best. For one thing, it would be wasteful to give away all of my clothes and go on a shopping spree. Also, I think having a budget and working with what you have builds character – at least that’s what I tell myself.

My winter coat is one of those character-building instances. Before my KonMari purge of my closet, I had at least five winter coats. Most of them were easy to get rid of because they either didn’t fit or they were dated. I was left with two coats: an Eddie Bauer puffer and a wool J. Crew coat. I ended up giving away the J. Crew coat even though it was well-made because the style was a little cute for me – it had toggle buttons.

That left me with the Eddie Bauer coat, which is a fine, practical winter coat, but not the best when it comes nicer outtings – weddings, professional networking events, etc. It just doesn’t look right to mix the informality of a puffer coat with a dress and heels. At least that’s what I thought and had my eye on buying this coat. My only problem was that I didn’t have $250 to spend on a coat. So I’ve had to make do with my puffer coat.

I know in the great scheme of things, it’s not a big deal (first world problems of only having one winter coat and what not), but I just don’t feel super pulled-together when I put on my puffer coat. For example, this outfit would be so much more chic if I had a wool trench on instead.

Nevertheless, I’ve slowly come to terms with only having this one coat this season. For one thing, it’s not overly puffy and frumpy – before cleaning out my closet, I rarely wore it because I thought it made me look like the Michelin man. I’ve also realized that my life is not as glamorous as I thought because I rarely have a fancy event to go to where a nicer coat is required. And lastly, I’ve been inspired by James Spader and his parka.

coatback

Eddie Bauer coat (similar) | Baggu tote | YARNZ scarf | Old Navy jeggings | Jeffrey Campbell boots (similar)

My Book Clean-out

I love houses filled with books. As a kid, I always dreamed of owning a house with a two-story library. Up until I started grad school, I would have considered myself an avid reader. Then grad school started and I was so burned out with school work that it would take me at least six months to finish a non-school-related book.

Now that I’m done with grad school (woohoo!), I want to get back into my reading habits. But I also want to have a more minimalist home. So that means cleaning out my current book collection and spending more time at the local library.

So last weekend I bit the bullet and went through my books:

pileofbooks

I gathered all of my books and put them on the dining room table. Most of my books live on the bookshelf in the my dining room, but I had some scattered throughout the house. Having just moved a year and a half ago, I really didn’t have that many books – at least not by my someday-I’ll-have-a-two-story-library standards. So I started this process thinking that I really didn’t have to cull through much.

shelfbefore

With that attitude, my first book culling was a fail. I only got rid of books that I absolutely knew I was never going to read or had already read and didn’t have an emotional attachment to. So my book collection shrunk by 15%. Not much.

Then I turned to Marie Kondo’s book, which Lar and I have talked about nonstop, and reread the chapter on books. I was doing it all wrong – not asking if the books sparked joy and not owning up to the fact that I wasn’t going to read any of the books that I had owned for years and never picked up.

So I went back to my pile of books with KonMarie determination and reduced it by (roughly) 65%. Here’s what my bookcase looks like now:

shelfafter

Part of me is terrified that I now live in a house where all of my books can fit on ONE bookcase with plenty of room for other things. But the other part of me thinks that first part is just ridiculous. It’s silly to have books that I’m never going to read or don’t have any purpose. I would rather someone else enjoy those books instead of having them collect dust in my house.

Instead of giving the books to my local charity shop, I’ve been adding them to the local free little libraries around town. Also, someday I’d like to replace the bookcase with something better nicer more stylish else 🙂

My Ideal Closet – Cath

I love how Lar’s ideal closet is full of inspiration from timeless style icons. Mine is not. Currently, my ideal wardrobe is all about comfort, simplicity, and masculinity – in a Katharine Hepburn kind of way.

I’ve always dreamed of a monochromatic wardrobe. Ever since I Konmari-ed my closet that desire has only gotten stronger – and more attainable now that I can see what I actually own. I’d love to have a handful of high-quality pieces that go with each other and don’t require a lot of maintenance (e. g. dry cleaning). If I had won the Powerball two weeks ago (still can’t believe I didn’t!), here are the building blocks that I would have bought for my closet:

Basicsbasics

Madewell turtleneck | Need Supply muscle tee and t-shirt

I don’t need a lot of basics, but a handful of black, white, gray and striped shirts for layering would be the perfect foundation.

Sporty

sporty

Everlane sweatpants | Need Supply dress | Commes des Garcon hoodie

I love a good pair of sweatpants – especially ones that can look a little dressy. I pretty much like anything that is stretchy and forgiving whether it’s in dress, pants or hoodie form.

Cozy Knits

cozyknits

Cos sweatshirt | Everlane cardigan | Madewell cardigan

Maybe because it’s the middle of winter and we just had a little dusting of snow in Atlanta. Or maybe because my current wardrobe is completely lacking in cozy knits, but I have a sudden urge to buy more chunky sweater and sweatshirts. They’re perfect for throwing over anything and something like the double-breasted Madewell cardigan has that perfect mix of comfort and pull-togetherness.

Quirky

quirky

Madewell T-shirt | Need Supply sweatshirt | Cos dress

Yes, that’s a  boob sweatshirt and I love it! I like gray and black pieces that are a little off – either with the pattern (e.g. Madewell t-shirt and boob sweatshirt) or the cut (e.g. the Cos trapeze dress). It shakes up a wardrobe and the look of an outfit a little bit without getting too colorful and trendy.

Accessories

accessories

Bag &Other Stories | Everlane slip-ons | Adidas Stan Smiths

Lar and I keep talking about how someday we want to be able to carry small purses like this one from And Other Stories #lifegoals. I’m sure I’m doing permanent damage to my back by trying to carry around my whole life in my in a giant-tote-bag-of-a-purse. A black pair of slip-ons would be my go-to shoe and I’ve had my eye on those black and white Stan Smiths for ages.

I know my ideal closet might be boring to most people, but I think it’s perfection. Also, most of these items do NOT fit my body type. I’m short/petite so flat shoes, big sweatshirts, white sneakers that cut off the leg line, and shapeless pieces aren’t items that a fashion magazine editor would recommend. The thing is, at the ripe old age of 32, I don’t care.

Lar mentioned that we’ll be digging deeper into the whole discussion about dressing – or not dressing – for your body type. The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems. Yes, heels would elongate my line and short skirts look more proportional on me than midi skirts, but I’m over it. I’m over the rules and those limitations. Bring on the sweatpants and boyfriend jeans!!!!

Cath’s Winter Uniform

Alright. I don’t really have a uniform. I just have a version of what I would wear every day if I didn’t have to go to work and could just bop around town eating at restaurants, visiting museums, going to see movies, and hanging out at bookstores.

Here’s my uniform math: skinny jeans + loose-ish top(s) + flat boots or oxfords.

cath-smiling

At some point, I would love to develop a work uniform like Matilda Kahl. If I ever find the perfect work blouse (looks like silk, but is machine washable, doesn’t bunch in weird places when sitting down, doesn’t wrinkle, is fitted but not tight, etc.), I’ll buy it in bulk. Same goes for black trousers that fit perfectly. These pants are close to perfect, but they get baggy around the knees throughout the day. If you have the perfect work uniform, leave me a commit. I need some inspiration!

Favorite Item: Gray T-Shirt

I ran out and bought this gray t-shirt last August when I was visiting Lar in Scotland and my luggage was lost for two days. I was trying desperately not to spend too much on the trip, so I grabbed the cheapest t-shirt I could find at Primark – I think it was on sale for $5. I never thought I would love it so much. It’s not cut like a cheap shirt. The back piece is slightly longer than the front so I never have that annoying gap between my shirt and my jeans when I’m sitting down and the sleeves are the perfect length. Plus the folded sleeves make it feel more pulled together and the level of non-snugness is perfection.

I know it’s silly to love a t-shirt so much, but it’s rare to find a gem when you’re in a rush and just desperate not to wear dirty laundry for the second day in a row while traveling. If only I had known how much I would grow to love this shirt – I would have bought five more to replace my other t-shirts. Since Primark doesn’t have an online shop in the states, I don’t think I’ll be getting my hands on another beloved t-shirt anytime soon. Although, come to think of it, that’s probably for the best. Primark represents the whole fast fashion world that I’m trying to get away from. While they’re not the worst company as far as ethics go, they’re not anywhere close to the best either. So, I’ll love this shirt to bits while it lasts and then try to find a more ethical replacement for it down the road.

Cath’s Inventory

See Cath’s closet inventory here.

Sheesh! I thought after my ruthless KonMari-ing last summer that it’d be easy to take stock of all of my clothes (plus accessories). Writing everything down has been an eye-opener. I was being all smug thinking that I had a pared down closet, but I clearly have some work to do.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m much further along than I was a year ago. I pretty much wear everything that I own, and no longer have a summer/winter clothes box. Nevertheless, there’s still room for improvement and I’m going to use this online list to stay accountable.

Over the next year, I’m hoping to make the following adjustments:

• Purge some of the tops I don’t wear often or don’t fit well
• Replace my worn t-shirts slowly with a few Everlane t-shirts
• Save up for better quality blouses for work, get rid of cheap ones that aren’t holding up in the wash
• Purchase some more bottoms: long pants for work, another pair of black jeans, gray skirt
• Cull through purses and necklaces again
• Purchase two more t-shirt bras (nude and black)
• Purchase camel or gray cardigan
• Find replacements for Feiyue sneakers (they’re falling apart)
• Purchase a winter wool coat (wait until winter sales)

Apart from the winter coat, pants, skirt, and cardigan, I won’t be adding anything else to my wardrobe – just refining it. I should be able to get rid of a few shirts without replacing them with something else.  And if I add any other item, I’ll get rid of an item – one in, one out. I love the idea of having a more monochromatic wardrobe than I currently do because I think I’ll save money in the long run by being able to mix and match more. My biggest downfall is that I always gravitate towards black when I’m shopping. Soon I’ll just be one giant black blob. So I need to work on adding some other neutrals to the mix.

Time for A Change

asiancajunsnotebook_web

For the past few years, Lar and I have been struggling with AsianCajuns.com for a while. We started this blog eight years ago as a kind of lifestyle/fashion/all-things-we-like blog. Then it became almost exclusively about fashion. And then when Lar moved abroad it became about staying in touch and sharing our separate lives and the focus was a mix of fashion, travel and food.

Now that Lar is back in the states (best thing ever, btw) we no longer feel a need to share our lives with each other through blogging because we can actually talk to each other every single day. Plus, fashion just really isn’t our thing anymore. Let me rephrase. Fast, trendy fashion isn’t our thing anymore. At the ripe old age of 32, we’re no longer excited by trips to Zara, H&M (et. al.). Staying on trend is no longer thrilling. In fact, it now feels a little depressing.

This change has come about slowly and for a number of reasons. We’re getting older and wiser – or at least we are getting older. And that means things like travel, owning a home, saving up for furniture and other adult things have taken priority over clothes.

Growing up I was always the more practical twin and in college Lar was the one who was always buying tons of cute clothes. When she moved abroad, I became the twin with all of the clothes and billions of accessories while Lar while was the poster child for minimalism. Then Lar got the KonMari bug. Then I did. And now we’re much more conscious of the clothes we buy. I still probably have more clothes than Lar, but significantly less than I had even a few months ago. On top of all of this, the whole capsule wardrobe, zero waste home, ethical consumerism, and minimalism movements have totally got us excited – as excited as we used to get about trendy fashions.

So with all that being said, Lar and I are moving AsianCajuns in a more focused direction. We want it to become our experiment space where we can share our journey of living more simply. That doesn’t mean we’ll turn into monotone minimalists that live in perfectly edited Scandinavian-inspired homes – not even close! We’re human after all. Humans that are on relatively tight budgets and are fans of a lived-in look that’s not perfect.

The first category we’ll be focusing on will be clothes because we still love clothes. And even though we’ve both cleaned out our closets, there’s still a lot more to explore. We’re both intrigued by the idea of a capsule wardrobe. So we’ll be blogging about what we have, how we make it work, and why we decide to buy certain items if and when that happens.

I hope you can join us on our journey and find it interesting. Even though we’ve been mulling over the future of our a blog for a while now, one of the things that we’ve consistently loved about it is our readers. The blogging world is an amazing (albeit shrinking) community that means so much to us. So stay in touch and let us know what you think!

P.S.: As Lar has mentioned in previous posts, we’ll have a new design up soon to reflect our changing direction. Plus, we’ll start posting regularly once we’ve worked out all of the backend kinks.