When I started writing on this blog, I was beginning a journey of living more mindfully and minimally.
Trump was yet to be inaugurated, Henri Bendel still existed, and I had spent the past ten years trying to keep up with everyone around me.
It was long before J. Crew and now, Neiman Marcus, filed bankruptcy- and our society was still plagued with the need for “more.” Perhaps we still are.
As a woman who has been on a recovery voyage (I say voyage because no sea is without a few storms) since 2011, I’ve seen a lot. I’ve had everything, and I’ve had nothing.
Although I used to think “more” was the way to go, my path of fashion blogging, the lack of authenticity in influencer marketing, and my own experience working with others has lead me to one conclusion:
Quality is far superior to quantity.
Style, to me, is about doing what works for you- mindfully. I shared my thoughts about the future of fashion and how mindfulness, style, technology, and social good can merge.
I recently went through a major social media purge.
As I strolled through Copley Square checking my morning feed, I noticed how many irrelevant posts popped up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Invitations to events across the country. Photo comments from people I hadn’t met. Accounts I followed that haven’t been used for years. From fashion brands to people I briefly knew in college, I wondered, “do I need to be seeing this?”
We underestimate how much the internet and media can flood our brains.
In my daily mindfulness practice, it’s also important for me to be mindful of what I consume online, too.
In one of my previous lives I was a fashion blogger, where I connected with brands, big and small, from all over the world. In one of my earlier pieces, “How a Fashion Blogger Became Minimalist,” I wrote about my shift in priorities, stressing the importance of quality over quantity, finding a signature style, but most importantly- finding happiness within.
Although I will never give up my love for style, it no longer makes me feel whole. I stopped looking at what everyone else “had,” and began finding happiness in my own world; not the world that someone portrays through a lens. This also goes for any social media use.
Whether it’s fashion, a lavish vacation, or a family photo, it’s been important for me to remember that looks can be deceiving. While I hope everyone feels content in their own skin, you can’t judge a book by its cover.
Instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, get out there, enjoy the simple pleasures, and create your own mindful life that you love.
Over the weekend I gave my bathroom a makeover. Despite living minimally, I’ve made an effort to give my humble abode a few little luxuries.
It’s not always easy to make an old room look shiny and new! Ever since moving into my first San Francisco apartment ten years ago, I’ve grown accustomed to outdated (and overpriced) spaces that need a creative touch. Although my bathroom wasn’t that bad, it definitely needed a little face lift.
Knowing I had blue tiles and plastic light fixtures to work with, I wanted to go for a clean, simple look. As I was browsing through Marshalls, I stumbled across a sea-stripe shower curtain by Kate Spade– and although it wasn’t what I had initially been looking for, it was perfect for a New England girl.
Decorating Tip #1~ Find a staple piece and work everything else around it.
Now that I had my theme, I was ready to accessorize. I had been living bare-bones since moving in; mismatched towels, a broken towel hook, and an old shower curtain had been holding me over these past seven months. Needless to say, it was time to show the room some love.
I picked up the necessities- matching towels, a towel hook, bathmat, and a couple accessories to warm up the space. It took me three days and several stores to find the perfect shades of blue, but once I made it to Primark, my search was over. For just $26, I got two new bath towels, two hand towels and a bath mat- all to perfectly match my shower curtain.
Organization is huge for me. I no longer keep “extras” in my house, either- if it’s old, broken, or useless, I toss it. Long are the days of hoarding old nail polish, extra eyeshadow shades, or almost-gone lipstick.
Decorating Tip #2~ When arranging things, be sure they’re in a logical area- separate items such as lotions, beauty tools, perfumes, etc. Not only will your area be tidy, it will be much easier to find everything!
It’s amazing what a few tiny touches can do! In addition to this weekend’s purchases, I refurbished and reorganized a few things I already had. I moved a few pictures on the wall, painted the vanity trim gold, and re-purposed a jewelry stand to hold my lotions. With rose-gold accents and Tiffany-blue trimming, my chic and simple bathroom was complete.
Decorating Tip #3~ You don’t need to buy new everything- just move things around!
So, when all was said and done, I completed my bathroom makeover for under $70. How did I do it? Here’s the breakdown:
It just occurred to me that this is one of my first “minimalist” trips. In the past I used to always check a bag or two, pack enough shoes for three weeks, and prepare for any occasion.
As I packed for a week in Colorado, I was realistic- I knew I’d be lounging around during the day, working away on my laptop, and bundling up to go out and explore. This has been a bit of a “working vacation;” while my friend is at his office during the day, I’ve been drinking endless amounts of coffee in his luxury apartment lobby, working away, and catching up on TV shows (since, you know, I normally watch shows from my laptop).
I brought one carry-on- my packable Henri Bendel overnight bag (which comes in Bendel stripe or black), making it easy to store after getting back from a getaway. Since Henri is my favorite for all the things, I had my plaid purse and monogram cross-body bag along for the trip. I was glad airport security didn’t have anything to say about me having three personal items, not two- but my cross-body is small enough to get away with.
So, far, so good. Packing was a success.
Yesterday we took a road trip to Boulder and checked out the lovely Pearl Street shopping area after exploring Flagstaff Mountain. Shopping used to be one of my favorite activities of all time. My friend Brett just so happens to be the best shopping partner, too. Over the years he’s accompanied me on many excursions- from shoe shopping in San Francisco to Macy’s with my mom and me in NYC, he’s a really great sport. Not this time, though- he didn’t have any bags to help carry and didn’t spend hours waiting for me outside a fitting room. Since the beginning of our friendship (when my fashion blog was in full-force) my priorities have taken a major shift- what used to be one of my favorite pastimes now gives me a ping of anxiety, with a “where will I put this?” running in the back of my mind.
My colorful wardrobe of items I never wore has since been replaced by classic blacks, staple pieces, and favorites- no duplicates, no “because it was on sale” excuses, no space fillers. Just things I actually wear and love.
Sure, I’m on a budget and don’t have space in my carry-on- I packed as much as I possibly could into that Bendel bag- but I also realized I don’t need anything new. Just a couple of weeks ago I did a major deep-cleaning in my apartment, doing two huge loads of laundry and gutting my entire closet to re-organize. Even though I didn’t think I had much, it was entirely overwhelming. Step by step, I organized socks, shirts, skirts, leggings, loungewear, etc. After all was said and done, I felt AMAZING. I knew where everything was, ditched the things I no longer use or wear, and created a method to the madness. “Stuff” can get overwhelming even when you’re a minimalist- there’s just less of it!
This trip has inspired me to consign and donate even more of the clothes I have. It’s made me take a closer look at the things I really need- and things I haven’t missed in my six days in Denver. So, what did I bring, you ask?
My plane wardrobe consisted of a black tank, black wrap sweater, leggings, booties (that were easy to slide on and off at security), black scarf, and my long(er) quilted black coat. The beauty of each and every item I packed is that everything goes with everything. That’s the key to packing- having an interchangeable capsule wardrobe.
Although my love for clothes will never die, I’ve learned to prioritize and focus on quality over quantity. Even though I didn’t do any damage on Pearl Street, I experienced something even better- mindful moments with a good friend, enjoying the beauty of nature, and some relaxing time away from home. I did get a sticker from Trident Books, an iconic Boulder bookstore. Coincidentally, the sticker (which came from a machine) is of a woman meditating in the forest with a baby deer on her lap. We had just seen deer running through the mountain, too! I put the sticker on my laptop as a reminder of this fabulous trip, and to stay mindful in every moment.
I leave Denver tomorrow afternoon and am so grateful for this re-set. I start a new job on Thursday and I’m thrilled about the opportunity- and to be able to recharge before I begin a new chapter.
If this trip has taught me anything, it has confirmed the importance of collecting sentiments, not stuff. There truly is a freedom to living more with less- so get outside, take a deep breath, and remember what really matters- this moment.
I used to be one of those people who saw something on sale and bought it in every color. When I found a dress, pair of pants or top I loved, I would do the same- the more, the better! I would mindlessly shop on a Saturday and search the sale racks for things I didn’t need, but were “too good to pass up.”
My closet was full, my dresser drawers were breaking, and I couldn’t even account for most of my shoes. I forgot about things I owned, left the tags on multiple items and constantly took things to consignment stores- only to buy more.
It was insanity.
I vividly remember packing up my childhood house prior to my mother putting it on the market. I was on my way to start a new life in New York City, blindly moving into an Upper West Side apartment with one closet. Obviously, I thought it was necessary to pack everything I owned and send it on over. Endless boxes and several luggages later, I had an overflowing closet full of everything I could possibly need- yet only stuck to a few pieces.
I had purses in every color, shape and size. I had shoes I never wore. Don’t even get me started on the “seasonal” items that barely saw the light of day.
During my time in New York, I moved twice and got rid of a lot. Some of the pieces I sold broke my heart, but I needed the money more than I needed the fashion statement. I started by selling the old pieces I didn’t feel great in and the navy items that clashed with my everyday blacks. I started to realize that over the years my style has remained the same: classic, minimal, and grey scale.
Yes, there are many ways to dress up a basic ensemble. I also learned that the costume jewelry, uncomfortable heels and impractical handbags only took up space and weren’t necessary for me to complete “the look.”
It was time to embrace minimalism.
Now, I’m not one of those people who counts the number of pieces I own or commits to getting rid of two items when I bring in one- no. I believe life is all about balance. However, I stick to a look yet have only a few items that are outliers (a green dress, a bright bag, or a chunky necklace).
Thinking about decluttering and discovering your signature look? Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to get started.
What do I feel best in?
I have a lot of black tank tops and leggings. They’re versatile and practical, whether dressing up or down. I believe in quality over quantity, so I find a brand I like and toss them when they start getting old.
Whether going out with friends or running errands, I love a basic black dress. I have many. Sundresses, work dresses, everyday dresses. People often ask me why I get dressed up, and my response is simple: “I’m only throwing on one thing. It’s easy.” No effort, yet I feel chic and polished. It doesn’t get much better than that (oh yes- and my favorite black dress was $8 and from H&M. No one would ever guess).
What do I really wear?
Going back to leggings, this brings me to jeans. I can’t stand them. I stand at a petite 5’3, so it’s a challenge finding jeans that both fit and feel comfortable. I would much rather wear an oversized shirt or throw a long tank over my leggings instead of feeling restricted in jeans. I only own two pairs as of today.
Jewelry was a big thing for me, too. Most of my jewelry is simple or sentimental, and all of the other boxes and bags of statement pieces gathered dust. I stopped buying cheap, and started thinking practical.
What colors do I gravitate toward?
It’s clear I prefer blacks, whites and greys, but I also like pops of color. My favorites are red and green. I don’t restrict myself to these colors, but the majority of my wardrobe can be worn interchangeably with all of my pieces. It’s like a game of mix and match.
I remember how proud of myself I was when I packed for a trip home for the holidays. Everything I wore worked together. Boots, flats, leggings, skirts, tops, dresses. This was when I had my “a-ha” moment- I realized I didn’t really need as much as I owned.
What brands suit my style and budget?
I got on a Henri Bendel handbag and jewelry kick while living in New York. They always have amazing sales, so I enjoy getting a new handbag or monogrammed tote every season or two. I also have stayed true to budget brands such as H&M, Old Navy and ASOS, who year after year come out with little black dresses and basic pieces that fit me. Gap is one of the only brands that consistently has “short” jeans that fit me- I just pick up the number, hit the register and go- I don’t have to waste any time, and I know that they’ll fit.
It’s great to discover new brands, but also important to know your body and your style- whatever your budget may be.
I don’t like to spend a lot of money on clothing items (I’d rather splurge and buy nice shoes or a bag), as I have a tendency to spill coffee or sit on something that may stain- yet another reason I wear a lot of black. City life can also do a number on your clothing, so I try to avoid getting myself into a situation where I ruin a $200 top that I couldn’t afford in the first place.
As I reflect on my path from excessive spending and hoarding to getting a rush from cleaning out my closet, I am grateful to lose fashion FOMO. I used to constantly compare myself to fashion magazines, women around me and the latest trends, but now I wouldn’t trade my signature style for any other.
Being happy within yourself, and your outfit, is one of the greatest gifts of all- minimalist or not. ❤️
The arts have been a major part of my life ever since my earliest memories of drawing, creating handmade cards, writing poetry, and illustrating storybooks.
Creativity has also been an outlet for me to express my emotions, from drawing to daily fashion.
“Keeping it simple” is something I try to embody on a daily basis- life is such a complicated journey that it is imperative to stay grounded in order to stay sane. While I used to love more of everything and a variety of anything, today I adore simple beauty and minimalism. I decided not to complicate things and stick with white and gold- less is more.
With every brush stroke, I gained a little bit of strength and began to let go of insecurity, fear, and doubt.
A coach of mine once suggested the “post-it practice”- sticking affirmations on your walls or mirror- and ever since I have been mindful of writing down positive thoughts to remind myself every day that I am, indeed, enough.
This coach even put me in a hula-hoop and told me that the only thing I could control what was inside that hula-hoop: me.
Since I began painting I have also been inspired by so many amazing women in my life. Their love has helped me gain confidence and heal, so I have started to make art for them, too.
Together, no matter what our struggles, we can help one another by sharing our own inspiration and journey.
Last weekend I moved into my third apartment since flying into Boston on December 1st- yes, I am finally settling!
I honestly couldn’t have gotten any luckier with how seamless this move has been- from logistics right down to finding a job. When I decided to come to Boston I opted to rent Airbnbs instead of committing to a neighborhood or lease before really knowing the area. After all, I had only been to Boston once and it primarily consisted of sitting at the top of the Prudential Tower and hanging out in Cambridge. For whatever reason (I thank the Universe), signs continually pointed me to the Northeast- so here I am.
Now I’m settling in a beautiful, cozy home, lovingly referred to as “The Nest.” On top of the overall positive, homey vibe, we have two four legged roommates, Simon the turtle and Clarissa the cat.
Although my first month in Boston could be viewed as a little hectic, my minimal move made it so much less stressful. Packing light made all the difference in the world- with three pieces of luggage and a few odds and ends, packing and unpacking took very little time, was manageable and made me feel in control of my life. I knew exactly what I owned, where to find everything, and didn’t have any clutter. Everything I brought with me was quality, had purpose, and didn’t take up unnecessary space.
I can’t even tell you how amazing it feels to be free of “things.” Every now and then I think about everything I have in storage back in Michigan, but I let those thoughts go; I’ll take care of it when it is time. When I am ready to find my own (and even more permanent!) home, I will figure out how to get everything to Boston- just not today.
Right now I have a pretty bare room with touches of my jewelry, clothes and candles. To be honest though, the less I own, the less stress I have.
Every January I tell myself, “this is the year I will stick to a budget.” While my intentions are good, my track record has been less than superb.
To illustrate, I looked at my calendar and realized that 2017 marks ten years since I graduated college. Ten years. Boy, do I wish someone would have taught me then what I know now.
In an effort to live as minimally and stress free as possible, I have begun focusing on quality over quantity, purging what I don’t need and only buying things when I need them, yet I still have failed sticking to a budget.
Since I have minimal bills, there is little to no reason I should go over my budget every month. First, I listed all of the expenses I know I will have and came up with a rough estimate.
CharlieCard (train / bus)
That’s right- no car payment, no credit cards, no mortgage or gas costs. Yes, this is called city life for a single woman who has little to no attachment to things. Sometimes I wonder what my life would look like today had I settled in one place, lived minimally and invested in things like a home, but the good news is that I still have time. Although I may have spent my money a bit carelessly, I’m beginning to make an effort to spend less, save more and avoid excess clutter in my life.
Need vs. Want
I could definitely use a new Henri Bendel bag for my laptop. However, this purchase can wait considering I don’t even carry my laptop to work. In fact, it barely leaves the house these days. My point is, there are many things I can trick myself into “needing,” but then I ask myself:
1) Could I get this for less?
2) Do I need this immediately?
3) Do I need this at all?
Usually my purchase can wait (also giving me time to think it over), or I can find an alternative if there’s something I can’t wait to buy- for example, buying a drugstore brand instead of splurging at Sephora. I also trick myself into thinking I have more money than I do, so a $20 lipstick doesn’t seem like a big deal at the time- but it adds up quick.
Trading Things for Freedom
I like to think of my purchases this way: “would I rather have this item or the freedom to do what I want?” Time is money, and it takes time to work for a paycheck, so I’ve been much more conscious of each dollar I spend. Sure, marketers do an amazing job fooling me into thinking my life will ultimately be better with their products, but on those days I’m waiting for my paycheck I think, “I wish I wouldn’t have gotten takeout so many times last week.” Living paycheck to paycheck is never fun, so it’s rewarding to finally have the freedom to be able to do what you want when you’re more mindful of your budget.
Instead of relying on money to have fun, I’ve gotten creative. One of my favorite things to do is explore the city… I love to look at architecture, go out in nature, find free days at museums, take photos and window shop. Practicing mindfulness, enjoying each moment and taking in your surroundings is far more gratifying than having a bunch of “stuff” to sort through.
I’m a firm believer that everyone needs to live in moderation; it’s important to keep a balance and not to go too extreme with your saving or spending- after all, no matter how tight the budget, I’ll never give up my coffee.