Reality is Reality, and Clothes are Not the Problem

I can comfortably admit that I’m not a minimalist, but I am enjoying living with fewer things in my closet. As I’ve been exploring my relationship with my clothes and belongings, with shopping and consumption, I’ve had some realizations.

Closet Close Up

Reality is reality, and my wardrobe needs to reflect that.

Here’s a bit of my reality:

– My lifestyle: I spend most of my time parenting a toddler, and the high number of “dry clean only” pieces in my wardrobe does not reflect that. I need pieces that don’t wrinkle like crazy when I get on the floor to play with my daughter, pieces that wash easily if they get peanut butter or marker on them. When I do make clothing purchases, I need to pay extra attention to the care instructions.

– My body: I am average height, I have extraordinarily flat feet, I am a fair-skinned redhead, etc., etc., etc. I want to dress and appreciate the body I have, and I am beginning to accept that some styles and colors (like capri pants, ankle strap shoes, or lemon yellow) aren’t particularly flattering on me. No matter; there are plenty of things that suit me just fine! I can stop eyeing trends that don’t work for me and focus on what does (like bateau necklines, jewel tones, sleeveless tops).

– My budget: If I want to focus on acquiring fewer, higher quality clothes (which I do), I will have to start saving. My years old Target boots are finally falling apart, and I would like to invest in a new pair for Fall/Winter. But I’m not going to be able to do that with a $25 impulse purchase. I want to develop the discipline of saving money so I’ll have a reserve when I want to upgrade or need to replace something.

Clothes won’t fix a fashion crisis.

Before I began this experiment, I regularly found myself going through a pile of clothes in attempt to put together an outfit that I liked and felt good wearing. I refer to this “nothing to wear” moment as a fashion crisis. I used to feel that I didn’t have enough clothes (or good enough clothes) to put together great outfits. Then I started to feel like perhaps I had too many clothes (but still not the right type or fit). Oddly, or perhaps obviously, neither buying more clothes nor limiting my options has solved the problem of the fashion crisis. Even with thirty-three carefully selected, generally well-fitting and favorite items, I have still had instances of running through options and feeling I had nothing good to wear.

I’ve finally realized that the fashion crisis is not an issue of clothing but of self-image. When I find myself surrounded by the pile of rejected clothing, I need to look deeper. Am I lacking confidence, feeling insecure, fearing judgement? I know who I am is not determined by what I wear, and I want to make confident fashion decisions. Even if I have some misses, I am likely the only one who notices.

Having less in my closet gives me space to think.

Project 333: List and Outfits

I am three weeks into my Project 333 wardrobe experiment. In my modified version of the project, I cut my closet down to thirty-three items, not including shoes and accessories (though I also limited those categories).

I am no photographer, but I’m enjoying documenting my outfits. Having fewer items encourages me to put things together in more interesting ways. I’m also finding that a picture gives me a more objective look at what I’m wearing, and I have adjusted some outfits by adding a belt, tucking or untucking a shirt, or changing shoes after seeing how it looked on screen.

If you are interested in the details, here’s what made the cut:


Tops:

1. White knit tank

2. Ivory silk tee

3. Ivory lace top

4. Abstract floral tank

5. Black crochet top tee

6. Navy / rust crop sweater

7. Wide stripe top

8. Teal cashmere v-neck

9. Purple dolman sleeve top

10. Blue floral outline sweatshirt

11. Pinstripe / dot button down

12. Peach owl button down

13. Blue button down

14. Mustard short sleeve cardigan

15. Purple crop ruffle cardigan

16. Rust cardigan

17. Blue knit moto jacket

18. Denim jacket

19. Brown tweed jacket

Bottoms:

20. Dark skinny jeans

21. Bootcut jeans

22. Black ponte ankle pants

23. Mustard cropped chinos

24. Coral chino shorts

25. Rust high-waisted shorts

26. Green A-line skirt Charcoal gray fluted skirt (I found the green skirt wrinkled too easily for regular wear, so I swapped it out)

27. Abstract print flared skirt

Dresses and Wild Cards:

28. Chambray tunic

29. Breton stripe dress

30. Gray structured dress

31. Purple infinity wrap dress

32. Black linen romper

33. Charcoal Versalette (new version available here)


I’m looking forward to transitioning into warmer weather with my limited closet. Since I began my wardrobe minimizing between seasons, I have several Spring-y items I’ve not yet been able to wear. Hopefully these pieces will show up in the next round of outfit shots.

Unintended Consequences

I keep gazing admiringly upon my freshly organized closet. It really is a remarkable sight. Apparently I was mistaken about the size of my closet. It is not, as I previously thought, tiny. It is rather large! At least it appears that way now that two thirds of its contents have been removed. Here is a glimpse:

3e943-closetbeforeandafter-small

I am one week into my Project 333 experiment, and my simplifying efforts have already produced a surprising effect (in addition to my expanding closet space): I find I am wanting more . . . more of less.

After my great closet clean out, I found I was motivated to simplify other crowded areas of my home. I tackled the overflowing Tupperware cabinet and sent all stained, warped, and unmatched plastic containers and lids to the recycling bin. Our food storage containers are now neatly stacked with their proper lids, and nothing falls out when you open the cabinet door.

I also addressed my make up and cosmetics, finally freeing myself from that too dark foundation that will never match my skin, the dried up nail polish that I used to love, and the perfume sample that I didn’t like but kept anyway. I moved products from the bathroom counter to the cabinet underneath, where I discovered I now had more storage space.

I even found a friend to take my light bulbs (that I won’t use because they have a cool, greenish color cast). Yes, I was keeping a bag of light bulbs that I did not intend to use; they were perfectly functional, so I hated to throw them away, but I am picky about my light and kept ignoring this fact while purchasing more.

Beginning Project 333 has helped me re-frame my relationship with my belongings. I am considering what place these things have in my life. If the plastic storage container no longer has a properly fitting lid, why I am keeping it? In hopes that one day the lid will magically return? In what world will I, with my perpetually fair skin, ever wear foundation that says “Medium” on the package? Why am I saving a bag of light bulbs that I cannot stand to use?

I want a full life but not a crowded one, and these things take up space. They get in the way.

I know that eventually, in some weeks or months (or days if my toddler gets in there), the Tupperware cabinet will need to be organized again. More lids will get lost and more tomato sauce will stain. I will likely purchase another cosmetic item (or two or three) that doesn’t work for me, and I won’t use all of my new royal blue nail polish before it separates and must be thrown away. Organizing and simplifying is a process.

But I feel I’m breaking free from the burden of holding on “just in case”, or “because it cost good money”, or “because it still works”, even though it doesn’t work for me. I am practicing letting go of things, and my house and I are breathing a sigh of relief.

Now please excuse me while I go find something else to organize.

Trying on Less

I love to shop. Even with a tight budget, I get an intoxicating rush when I discover a perfectly fitting dress on the sale rack or find a secondhand shirt for a fraction of its original retail price. I am swept up in the thrill of the bargain, and if the deal is “too good to miss”, I will overlook a multitude of issues (the fit is slightly off, it’s not really my style, I already have something similar, I have no occasion to wear it in the foreseeable future…). I will reason that I am making a good investment, that I am actually saving money by spending so little, and I will leave with a shopper’s high and a happiness that will never be matched when I actually wear the item.

And I may not even wear it. I may try it on briefly before abandoning it for an outfit I like better, and my “super amazing steal of a deal” will languish in my closet.

You know the game where you try ten things on while getting dressed and nothing quite works? And then you end up wearing your favorite jeans and sweater for the third time that week. And then you are fifteen minutes late to wherever you are supposed to be because the simple, daily act of getting dressed took way too long. Tell me I’m not the only one who plays this game.

I love to shop, and yet a nagging discontentment has crept in as I’ve added more and more to my tiny closet. My closet is crowded, but I struggle to find something to wear. My heart feels crowded, too.

I am ready to try something different, something radical.

For Lent this year, I am giving up (at least temporarily) the vast majority of my wardrobe, and I’ll wear just thirty-three things from now until Easter.

I’ll be doing a modified version of Courtney Carver’s Project 333, which challenges participants to dress from a 33-item wardrobe for three months. Official P333 rules include shoes, accessories, and outerwear in the count; I’ll be counting these separately. Pajamas, loungewear, gym clothes, and underwear (including tights, socks, etc.) aren’t included in the count. Though I’m bending the rules a bit, I do plan to work from a limited selection of all of these items. One of my favorite quotes from the website is this: “This is not a project in suffering. If you need to create a version of Project 333 that works better for you, do it.” I’m going with that.

422fe-photo6
I’ve made lists, sorted piles of clothes, selected, swapped, and worked my way down to 33 things (plus three coats) which are now back in the closet. I moved everything else to the guest room closet, which is now overflowing. Please don’t open that door if you are at my house . . .

I am looking forward to the challenge, and I’m also fighting some trepidation. I wonder if I will get bored of my limited choices. I’m bridging two seasons, so I’m concerned I may not have all I need to bridge dramatic temperature swings. I worry about what other people will think. Will anyone even notice or care if I’m wearing the same thing more often? Were these the items I was wearing all the time anyway? I wonder if I’ll feel guilty for forsaking all those other clothes, as if inanimate objects somehow know they are being neglected. I am considering what it would mean to fail and put everything back next week . . . or to succeed and end up giving most of it away.

Lent is a time of remembering and practicing sacrifice, of reexamining priorities and values, a time of not only giving up the bad, but of giving up the good in favor of the better. All that extra space in my closet makes me anxious, but it also makes me excited. There is space, breathing room, and that feels like the start of something better.

Project: Watercolor Play

Image

During college, I bought waaaaaaaaay too many art supplies. I spent countless hours (and dollars) in the art supply store selecting interesting papers, colorful felt-tip pens, all sizes of t-squares, and eight different kinds of erasers. Some of these things were for projects, but many were just impulse buys. On one of these shopping sprees, I apparently acquired tubes of watercolors, cold press paper, and frisket. Today I decided to finally try out these basically untouched watercolor supplies.

Watercolor has always intimidated me a bit. Unlike oil paint, you can’t keep adding until you are satisfied. There is no erasing, and for an inexperienced hand like mine, it is difficult to control and has unpredictable results. You can, however, keep some areas white and paint-free using frisket.

If you are unfamiliar with frisket, it comes as a film or a thick white liquid you apply to the paper. After painting the paper with watercolor, wait for it to dry and remove the frisket. The area underneath retains the white of the page. Frisket peels off like rubber cement, and wow, does it smell terrible when applied. I probably should have opened a window.

I glanced at some watercolor tutorials online and then gave it a go, and I was pleasantly surprised by some of the effects I achieved. I liked the contrast of using a free-flowing medium with my controlled, repetitive mark-making, and I liked how the tones and colors mixed and layered.
Image
Sometimes the vast emptiness of the page and the pressure to create finished, frame-worthy art scare me away from making anything. Using an unfamiliar medium helped me overcome those excuses and just play, and I now have some good ideas I might apply to future work. I’m thinking watercolor could be the start of a fun 2013 desktop calendar or maybe some Spoonflower fabric.

Image

Have you tried a new hobby, medium, or technique recently? Have you seen any gorgeous or unexpected applications of watercolor?

Friday Finds: Needlepoint Pillow

I like to regularly update my home decor, and since I’m on a tight budget, I rearrange. My linen closet is half full of throw pillows new and old, and I change them out seasonally or move them around the house to freshen up different rooms. Instead of replacing my sofa, I buy throw pillows.

I’ve long admired Jonathan Adler’s fantastic needlepoint pillows and hope to own one someday. In the meantime, I’ve kept an eye out for thrift store finds that evoke a similar feeling of playful beauty.

I chanced upon this piece on my third pass around the Panama City Beach Goodwill, and I’m a little obsessed with it. This handmade needlepoint sampler pillow measures 12×15 inches and cost me a whopping $3.25. The colorful, quirky mix of organic and geometric designs really spoke to me, and whether or not I ever add a Jonathan Adler pillow to my collection, I’m happy I found this one.

How do you update your home without spending much money? What was the last thing you bought at a thrift store?

Welcome to Hark at Home!

Hello there!

I’m Lauren, a wife, first-time mother, musician, artist/designer, and late adopter of technology. Yes, it’s 2012, and I’m just now starting a blog.

Here I’ll share honest and irreverent thoughts on style, faith, and family. I’ll post home and fashion finds from my treasure hunting excursions, and I may share creative projects currently in progress. I’m sure I’ll also include stories about my bitty baby and things I’m learning along the way.

Since we’re getting to know each other, here are some fun facts about me:

  • I am a typography nerd, and I almost stopped watching a show on Netflix because it used Papyrus in the credits.
  • Korean Karaoke is one of my favourite outings, and I sing “Paint it Black” nearly every time we go. Unfortunately I do not have moves like Jagger.
  • When I was four, I decided I wanted to be British when I grew up. I have not yet achieved my goal, but I do occasionally spell things with that lovely extra “u” (see previous fun fact).

How about you? Leave a comment and introduce yourself with a fun fact!