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.

A Mini Spring Closet Clean-out

For the past few weeks I’ve noticed that there are a handful of items I no longer wear in my closet. After my thorough KonMari-ing and inventory-keeping, it’s become easier to see which items aren’t making the cut (items I only reach for when I haven’t done laundry in a while). It only took a few minutes to clean out the following:

springcleaningwardrobe

1 workout tank that I’ve worn for the past 7 years. It’s gotten so stretched out that I have to wear a sports bra underneath even though it comes with a built-in bra.

1 pair of my (beloved) Frye boots. I’ve had these boots for years and years and I’ve gotten them re-soled a number of times, but now they’re just looking so tired that I can’t wear them to work anymore. Years of wear and tear has turned them into the leather boot equivalent of Uggs.

1 pair of Feiyues sneakers. Love these! I got them a long time ago when we hosted a Feiyue giveaway on this blog and fell in love with their shape (molded to the foot) and comfort. They’ve held up after a few washes, but the inside soles keep rolling up and no matter how much glue I use, they refuse to stay in place.

2 black shirts. Both have some sort of embellishment (one has a sheer back, the other has zips on the side), but I rarely wear them because I have so. many. other. black. tops.

1 Topshop ring – it was a favorite last year. I still love the style, but the metal is changing colors and the plastic gem is super cloudy – it was around $15 so no surprise there. I almost kept it, but wearing a ring that is obviously cheap makes me feel like I’m not winning at the whole adulting thing.

4 necklaces that I think are fantastic but never wear.

3 bracelets – they came in a set of four and I only wear one at a time.

1 Zara bag that Lar gave me last year. She used it for a few years and then I wore it to death. It was an awesome bag, but it started to fray around the handles. Once again, frayed purse handles = not adulting.

jewelryboard

Now that my jewelry board is so empty (my sad 5-year-old DIY tissue paper tassels had to go), I need to rethink my jewelry storage set up. Any suggestions?

This clean out also gives me the chance to see what I need for the spring:

1-2 work-appropriate skirt(s).

3 work-appropriate blouses that are not dry clean only.

1 nice gold ring in a modern shape (it might take me some time to save up for this one).

I’m not going to lie, I’m pretty pumped about buying some new clothes. Shhhhh, don’t tell anyone!

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.

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.

Draw on your shirt

One huge perk to shopping less (apart from being better for your wallet, the environment and garment workers around the world), you stop looking like everyone else!

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve worn the same H&M or Zara dress/shirt/shoes/etc. I don’t find this embarrassing because growing up with an identical twin, I’m used to looking like someone else. But I still like thinking my style is somewhat unique and not just a slave to trends.

Avoiding the high street shops/the mall, I really am hard-pressed showing up some place dressed the same way, even as Cath!

I also tend to get more compliments on my less trendy clothes. For example, I got this idea stuck in my head that I really wanted to take black pen to a nice crisp white shirt (who doesn’t?). So I bought a $3 white button-up at Goodwill, gave it a wash, and took a fabric-safe black pen from my local art supply store and went to town.

It’s a little weird, and I still haven’t worn it to the office, but it’s one of my favorite things in my closet.

Lar shirt draw

Lar shirt

Lar shirt front

Oprah KonMaried Her Closet and …

… Some other “living with less” links to keep you motivated this week:

• How The Lady O herself is living with less 

• The Things We Keep (TTWK) is a beautiful jewelry line that is right up our motto-alley: buying well-made items that you’ll keep forever

• Erin Boyle always helps us to slow down and appreciate the beauty in the “mundane” stuff we already own

Photo credit

Instead of shopping, ogle some art

Kicking off our new series “Instead of shopping” (aka what to do instead of impulse buying), is art! Now before you think “daubs of paint — yawn,” let me explain (with a bit of a preamble):

I am an art history major (also known as the most-employeable degree ever known to humankind! Errr not). I had no intention of becoming an art history major until I sat in on a introductory class my freshman year and just swooned. Not over the beauty (or the fact that it was easier than a International Relations/Spanish Literature major), but because it made life feel bigger, deeper and more wonderful than anything I had studied before.

And even if you aren’t an art major, or even an art fan, what can change your approach to art is learning just a wee bit about what you’re looking at. And you can do this even if you don’t have a museum in your town or can’t find any satisfying art history books in your local library. Here are two great starting points:

Watching Sister Wendy on the youtubes

This beautiful and free art history site called Art History Project

And now what does this have to do with not shopping? Immersing yourself in a new learning experience (specifically one so enticingly visual) will completely trick your brain out of thinking that getting a pair of booties to go with that dress is of the utmost importance (I mean, you can’t beat this guy at the boot game anyways — Karl Lagerfield wishes he came up with those!).

Let me know — did it work? Did you curb your shopping impulses for the moment?

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

Thank you, red coat!

I wear black most of the time. It’s so easy! And so forgiving! And I can pretend I look artsy or Parisian-ish. But apart from the preponderance of dark neutrals in my closet, red is the other favorite. It’s as if the brighter, more exuberant side of my sartorial predilections smacks the moody dark attire out of its moribund ways when things get too gloomy.

The red item I wear the most, when in need of de-moribundification, is this lovely toggle coat. I figure as Cath was talking about her winter woolies, I would as well.

red-coat-2

I love the toggles, the hood (no umbrella needed — take that, Seattle drizzle!) and, most of all, the crimson red of its wool blend exterior.

I’ve owned the coat for nearly three years. It’s the only item I managed to snag from the brief, but delightful Kate Spade line called Saturday, that is now defunct.

It’s been around the world (or bits of Europe and the US) and back, and made me feel pulled together at a fancy dinner in Edinburgh and stomping around the streets of Berlin (with my beautiful and brilliant friend Dexin — see above).

Having lived for nearly five years in places of incomparable gloomy weather, my red coat always makes me feel a wee bit more cheerful: armor against the gray. And for that, I am most grateful.