All posts by Lar

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.

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.

Cath’s in Seattle!

Hi Lovely Readers!

Cath and Troy are here all weekend! We’ve been painting the town red (eating and eating and eating). So please forgive us if things go quiet here this coming week. We’re planning lots of fun posts after we eat ourselves silly.

In the meantime, we’ll instagramming (click here for Cath and here for Lar) and Snapchatting (AsianCajunsCath and AsianCajunsLar) frequently.

Hope you guys are having a wonderful weekend too!

xoxo,

Lar

Quality over quantity?

One minimalist maxim is idea of buying “quality over quantity.” The idea of saving up for one really good thing rather than lots of cheapie versions of that same thing, totally rang true to me when I started curbing my consumerist habits.

Now after nearly five years of being a more conscientious shopper, I still agree with the idea, but I’ve changed my expectations a bit. Let me explain:

When I first heard the idea of buying less, but buying better, I had visions of myself wisely shaking my head “no” to every overpriced but cheaply made Urban Outfitters or F21 purse. Instead, I would magically save my money and be blessed with the ability to purchase a Celine bag — or at least a classic, well-made and hand-made leather carry-all that would last me for years, maybe even be passed on to future generations.

But just because I love the idea of buying better (and knowing the origin of a purchase) doesn’t mean I now can afford an expensive bag of my dreams.

A large part of this is due to my own priorities: I much prefer to save up to travel or spend more time with my far flung family than use thousands on a bag. But it’s also partly to do with coming to terms with what kind of consumer I was and am.

Even if in the future I have much more disposable income, I think I will still have a problem with spending thousands of dollars on one item (even if it’s “timeless” and will “last forever”). Apart from indulging in really expensive smells (see soap photo at top of post or my bottle of Le Labo perfume tucked in my drawer), buying things isn’t my favorite way of spending my hard-earned cash.

I know some people love bags and love shoes, and to them, spending money on those things is the best idea. I’m just saying I’m surprised I’m not doing the same! In my 20s I really enjoyed shopping things and getting them at a discount. So I assumed in my 30s I would be doing the same, just buying less, but better versions of the same things. Apparently, I’m not just changing how much I buy but also what I consider important enough to spend it on.

This realization is so freeing! It made me realize that not only do I not really need or want those cheaper purses, I also don’t really want the uber expensive one either. Just because you can afford the cheap version of something isn’t an indication of actually valuing the more expensive thing.

Maybe that seems obvious, but it really didn’t to me. And again, this is no judgement on people who love to use their “quality vs quantity” money on bags or shoes or fancy kitchens. Things are great too (again, see expensive soap above)! But knowing that it’s not always about the thing in the first place helps me make better purchasing decisions now.

Tip #3 Living with Less

You’re out shopping and you see something that catches your fancy. Even before trying it on, you think, “I must have this thing!”

Now, pause.

Take a hard look at it, that thing you must have. And now imagine it rumpled and crumpled in your laundry basket. Or how about how it will look after a few washes — hanging forlornly in your closet with the hem slightly askew and the color dulled.

Do you still love it? Or was it just the “new car smell” that wooed you?

I know I’m totally guilty of buying into a store’s display. Color-coordinate like items and place it on the rack with room to breathe, paired next to an air plant and a brimmed-hat for “this-could-be-your-lifestyle” inducement. Gets me nearly every time.

Visualize that-thing-you-must-have away from the yummy scented candles of the store, and it gets way easier to put that item down. I know I really want an item if I imagine it a few years old smushed in a Goodwill rack (with that second-hand smell). If I want it after that visualization, it’s usually a keeper.

Have you ever done this — visualizing new clothes worn? Let me know if you have, or if you give it a go!

Pic above is from the Iris Van Herpen exhibit at the High Museum (closes May 15).

Moment of Zen

I think one of the reasons I’m sometimes tempted to buy things is because my brain is going a mile a minute. It wants to be soothed by something/anything! And shopping can seem soothing: you see pretty things you love and you have it within your power to obtain that thing. Such a wonderful, though sadly, temporary feeling.

Well, what if we soothed those feathers in other ways? Usually my other way would be food, but I just cut out my ultimate soothers out of my diet again (I miss you, gluten and sugar!). Maybe this won’t work for everyone, but Cath and I are going to post images every once in a while to soothe your soul, relax your forehead and help you take a deep breath. Tall order for one image, but we’ll try!

The first pic to help us with our moment of zen? A dusky sunset off the coast of Croatia from my trip last summer.

Deep breath in … an outttttt.

Tip #2 Living with Less

Tip2

Take a trip to the library! Now, I know that might not sound exciting to all of you (and, full disclosure, I’m the bookiest of book worms), but hear me out.

The library is not just good because you will buy fewer books (keeping a library of just books you absolutely love — not just keeping books that you feel you should read at some point in your life), but also, because it’s like shopping!

No, seriously, it is. Not only do you get to browse a huge selection for hours, you get to “buy” things for free! Sure it’s just a loan, but you still get to take your “purchases” home and curl up in your favorite reading nook and get lost in other worlds.

And these worlds don’t have to be Jane Austen’s or Jame Joyce’s if reading isn’t your thing. Check out the fashion books, art books, interior design books, or hunker down in the library with back issues of Vogue or Real Simple.

Checking out books is also a great way to take potential purchases for a test drive. I checked out Patti Smith’s latest on my Kindle at the beginning of the year and loved it so much, I bought a signed hard copy. It’s one I know I’ll return to again and again.

But sometimes the opposite happens. I found myself in Anthropologie the other weekend (the queen siren of consumption temptation!) and spied the new Audrey Hepburn book, Audrey at Home, and immediately my greedy paws snatched it up. My consumer brain started rationalizing this potential purchase right away: “I love Audrey Hepburn! I’ve read all other biographies on her and this is the latest so yeah! Pictures of Audrey never shared before?! Lemme see! I’m sure I’ll cook her recipes again and again because that lady knows how to eat and how to hide it.”

Luckily my much more reasonable other half (thank you, Matteo!) was standing next to me and gently said, why don’t you read it at the library first and then if you love it, you should definitely get it.

My consumer monster brain wanted me to snatch the book from his hands and scurry to the register in defiance, or at the very least have a good pout. But I couldn’t deny he was right.

A month later, after waiting in a hold queue of Audrey-loving library-goers, I had Audrey at Home in my hands! I read it all cover to cover and then flipped through it again and again to soak up all the new Audreyness. And then … I was done. I didn’t actually need to read it again and even turned it in 11 days early because there were other Audrey/library fans waiting for it just as I had been.

Standing in Anthropologie I could have sworn that I NEEDED to have the book — and I really would have felt convinced of that. In that moment. Having a library to turn to, and giving the idea of that NEED some room to breath (away from the heady scent of Anthro candles), surprisingly saved me from making a purchase I ultimately would have enjoyed a few times and then forgotten about.

Yea or nay? Are you also a library fan?

Living with Less is a Luxury

(Above: our Aunt Nancy, grandfather and Dad in the mid-1940s in Chinatown D.C.)

Having the choice to live with less (paradoxically) is such a generous idea, don’t you think? Choosing to get rid of what you own because you have so much, is a luxury — a generous lifestyle of surplus. Cath and I have been so lucky to have always grown up with enough, and then some.

We’ve never been truly hungry or without basic comforts. And I do see the minimalist movement as something that people like us can easily do because we’ve always had enough and never had to go “without.”

Gratitude for the stuff you already have and love is a huge part to learning to live with less. But there is also gratitude for the whole concept: that we get to have this choice and it’s not one forced upon us by circumstance.

Growing up, Cath and I did not just have enough, we had more than enough. Part of this was because our dad grew up without very much. So not only was our kitchen always stocked with food, we also had an additional closet in our laundry room full of food too. Cath and I jokingly called our family’s linen closet a mini pharmacy because growing up, our dad would stockpile soap and toilet paper and shampoo whenever it was on super sale. When I was little, I remember being so confused when I was at a friend’s house and they ran out of paper towels — how was that possible? Where was their extra closet of back-up supplies?

Diddy1(Above: A family friend, our Dad doing his best Robert De Niro and our Aunt Nancy)

Our dad grew up in a small one bedroom apartment with his parents and five siblings in DC’s Chinatown. He’s never mentioned not having much, but we know he didn’t. And as we got older, Cath and I realized part of the reason why we had these extra reserves around the house was a direct result of not always having enough.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the current minimalist trend — capsule wardrobes, nothing superfluous, etc. —  but I think it’s always nice to be able to put lifestyle pursuits in perspective and realize how lucky we are to feel the freedom to live with less.

So whenever I’m bemoaning the fact that my closet isn’t perfectly monochromatic or my kitchen utensil drawer would make Marie Kondo blush, I remind myself how ridiculously lucky I am to make these choices. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Everything I’ve Bought so far in 2016

Okay, 13 things. That’s not horrible in 2.5 months, right? And technically it’s 18 things (when I was snapping away, I forgot about my oil diffuser and four cloth napkins). Still, not an insignificant number if you are trying to live with less.

But that’s okay. Cath and I have not considered ourselves minimalists in any strict sense. That’s why we are learning to live with less. Living with less isn’t a fixed goal. I don’t think once I own only 200 items, I’ll be complete! Or once I stop buying things, I’ll have reached an inner contentment (oh, if only it were so easy). It’s learning how little I can live with without feeling too restricted. And I honestly think that is different for everybody and will change for you depending on where you’re at in the rollercoaster of life.

I started getting rid of stuff five years ago right before I moved overseas. I got rid of a lot so that I could move to Edinburgh with just two wheelie suitcases in tow. At the time it felt liberating!

And then, a few months after wearing the same staples in my wardrobe again and again, I lost my mojo.

I currently have a very small closet (compared to my pre-Scotland days) but it took me a few years to figure out how to create a small closet/wardrobe that I love and don’t feel restricted by.

So don’t feel discouraged if you take three steps forward and two steps back when you’re learning to live with less. You will buy new stuff and possibly regret getting rid of certain things, but overall, learning about what you really love and need is the joyful part of this process.

And even the process won’t stay the same for you. What you love and need will change with your life. That might sound obvious, but I definitely didn’t get that when I first started getting rid of things.

After getting rid of things five years ago, I really thought “okay, now I won’t ever have to worry about shopping again — I’ll just replace what I have once pieces get too worn.” But my style has changed and so have my editing abilities. Give yourself some breathing room as you learn and as external changes happen in your life.

The same goes with KonMari-ing. When I KonMaried my flat in Edinburgh, the method worked perfectly for me and for the next year that I lived in that flat. Once we moved back to the States, methods that worked in my old flat didn’t translate as well here — so I’m still figuring that out.

And “figuring stuff out” is all part of it. So enjoy the process and don’t worry if you feel like you aren’t always adhering to your rules (or Marie Kondo’s rules) perfectly. Being too restrictive or hard on yourself will make any process unsustainable. Learning to live with less is all about what works best for you, while helping sustain our beautiful wee place in the universe.