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.

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.

Tip #1 for living with less

Know that you will get itchy fingers to shop and that’s okay. On those days, avoid Target and other Target-like temptations (see bowls from Anthropologie above — I hear your siren call and I resist. Resist!) at all cost. Cath and I are going to start a series called “Instead of shopping” to give you ideas of what to do when your phalanges get the urge to creep toward your wallet.

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)