Closet Tour: Shoes, Revisited

Let’s talk shoes again! I’ve come a long way from even a couple of years ago when I finally made it from 17 to 11 pairs of shoes. Now that I’m down to seven, I can’t imagine what 17 looked like.

However, I have moved to a much warmer climate where sandals are basically okay all year round so that makes a big difference.

So let’s dive in!

My most necessary shoes

For everyday shoes, I have one pair of Saltwater Sandals (I seriously can’t recommend these enough). I’ve worn them almost every day for the past year, and they’re holding up quite nicely.

I also have a pair of pink sparkle TOMS – I wore these for my wedding two years ago, and they’ve got some major toe holes. I’m going to keep wearing them until I decide what to spring for next. I’ve got my eye on Keep shoes, a conscious, vegan, local LA shoe brand.

For the rare dress occasion, I have three pairs of heels. I could probably get by with only one (or even zero) of these shoes, but I really like the option of heels. I have a sandal-ish pair, a black penny-loafer style, and a grey pointy pair. I’ve had all of these heels for over eight years.

And of course, my running shoes. The red pair is pretty run down and I don’t actually need those anymore, but I keep them on hand in case I somehow find mud in Los Angeles.

The benefits of paring down

What’s been really nice about this journey to pare down on my possessions is that I’ve learned what I really need – and what really makes me happy.

Turns out, shoes don’t make me happy. They might make you happy though! To just reiterate what I’ve said a million times: simplicity is subjective. Make it your own!

I haven’t felt a need (until now, with the hole-y TOMS) to add to my shoe closet in quite a while.


And another thing…

I know I’ve been quiet on this blog for a while, but I just wanted you to know I’m not gone! I’m working on a passion project that I’ll be sharing sometime this summer. 

Yes, it will be fun. No, it won’t cost you money.

Happy Friday!

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The Dusting Rule for a Simple Home

Dusting. It’s something we all do at least once a year or so when we finally see how gross the top of our bookshelves are.

Or, if you’re like me and live in a particularly dust-prone apartment, you just try to put it off until company comes.

Having to dust frequently is the other reason why I choose to keep surfaces to a minimum, second to my habit of filling them up as soon as they are clutter-free. Any surface I don’t use on a regular basis gets covered in a nice little film of bunny fluff and whatever else it is that is constantly floating around our apartment.

But we are settling in to our apartment for the long haul, and I feel like it’s time to slowly and intentionally put some good thought into styling our space. The internet is filled with cute bar carts and bookshelves that are just as filled with cute trinkets and decor, so I’ve been thinking a lot about what I want to take from that to inspire our own home.

Bar carts

So cute, but so dusty.

But when is it all enough?

The dusting rule

Enter my new rule for any home decor item that comes through my door: will I want to dust this? Will I do this gladly?

The first question is, almost universally, probably a no. But it basically is a way to ask yourself if you are willing to commit time, space and energy to this new addition to your home.

The second question is where it gets interesting. Will you gladly take care of this item? Will you grow resentful of that dusty, cluttered bar cart in the corner, or will you be happy to share your space with it?

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I love my little sparkle jars, and am happy to dust them. Plus, it’s just a fun way to store my little holiday garlands when I’m not using them.

If dusting cute bottles and fake flowers means that you get a huge smile on your face whenever you see it, then it passes the dusting rule. But if it doesn’t….you know the drill.

Skip it.

It’s a super simple rule, but I thought I’d share with you because it’s been helping me a lot lately. I’ve been able to decide what I’m looking forward to adding, replacing or removing in the future and any rules are good rules for me.

This goes for teapots, chairs, tapestries, curtains, you name it. If it will gather dust and you don’t love it, ditch it.

So there’s a super-quick tip for simplifying and avoiding regretful purchases. What is your best rule of thumb for simple home decor and housewares?

More, More, More!

More!

It’s not quite the word you’d expect to see on a blog about simplifying.

But I think that it’s a core concept of what I’m trying to do here. I started to simplify when I noticed a lack of space, a lack of time, a lack of joy both in my possessions and in my lifestyle.

I needed more.

Do we always need more?

Of course not. It’s extremely important to know what to seek more of and what to avoid.

Seeking more quality, rewarding relationships is great, but seeking more acquaintances or “contacts” isn’t always best. Although if you love to network, then that’s perfect.

Adding more kitchen appliances for the sake of having a world-class kitchen isn’t productive, but adding more because you are pursuing your passion for cooking is a good start.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is this: more for the sake of more is what gets us into trouble. Intentionally choosing more (usually not physical, but sometimes it can be) is the sweet spot.

More vs. minimal

It’s time that we stop thinking of more and minimal as mutually exclusive.

Seeking more in a meaningful, intentional way is a recipe for an abundant life. The aim of minimalism and simple living is to get more of the good stuff: the stuff that isn’t necessarily stuff at all.

minimalism means more

It’s a simple opportunity cost: less of one thing means more of another, and vice versa.

So what do you want more of?

Quick practice: making a More List

Here’s a quick way to get your mind moving in the right direction. Grab a piece of paper and jot down ten things you want more of.

There are no bad ideas or wrong answers here – you might want more free time or more exercise, but it’s also okay too see things like more shoes or more ice cream. Just make sure that your list is an honest portrayal of what you want more of.

Fear less, hope more; eat less, chew more; whine less, breathe more; talk less, say more; love more, and all good things will be yours.

Swedish proverb

Next, consider each item. Why do you want more of each one? I always find that being honest with myself about my motive helps put things into perspective. You might cross off a few here if you realize your motives don’t match your current values.

Finally, break the list down even further.

What do you need less of in order to get more of each item? The obvious answer for most physical things or experiences is money. Is it worth it?

You’ll also see things that cost space, time, or energy. I’m not saying that spending these things is a bad idea, just be sure weigh the costs and benefits and work out what’s best for you.

Redefining minimalism

I’ve been thinking about this idea – of minimalism being about more – lately, and I was happy to hear that others who share my sentiment.

Brooke McAlary interviewed James Wallman on her Slow Home Podcast, and they discussed this issue of minimalism’s “branding problem” among other things. Minimalism is so commonly perceived in the negative light of denial and subtracting things from our lives that it can be unappealing and exhausting.

It doesn’t have to be!

So here’s my challenge to you: find what you want more of and start working towards it. Think about that process of having less of something in order to get more of what you want.

That’s how you define your minimalism.

Simplicity Helped Define My Style

If you asked me six years ago to define my style, I would have rattled off a long list: vintage, eclectic, bright, and probably experimental.

What that really meant was this: I don’t know.

But now, although I don’t feel like I have one word to describe my style, it’s a lot easier for me to decide what works for me and what doesn’t. Part of it comes with time, but part of it is thanks to my efforts at simplifying.

How a simple closet made shopping easier

I haven’t purchased a lot of clothing since I got rid of most of my wardrobe, but it’s been a lot easier (and more fun!) to shop since then.

I’ve been able to rule impulse purchases out more quickly based on whether or not it will work with my existing wardrobe: sure, it’s a great skirt but I don’t have shirts to go with it. Also, I don’t usually wear skirts.

Living with a reduced wardrobe has helped me see more clearly what pieces are missing, too. I’ve noticed a lack of patterns in my wardrobe that bothers me (I love multicolored pieces), so I know to keep my eye out for patterned dresses and shirts.

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My whole closet. It used to be three times this large!

The blank slate

Simplifying my wardrobe created a blank slate for me, too. After my college wardrobe of weird “vintage” finds and my high school mashup of every shade of pink, I took a U-turn and only kept dark, basic pieces.

Which is great! But now I’m in a place where I feel like I can start adding in new pieces that really inspire me and that are way more intentional than any of my past purchases.

Even if you don’t identify as a minimalist, this can be a welcome exercise to remind yourself of what you really love and reset your mindset for future purchases.

It’s good to remove yourself from trends sometimes and just think about the pieces that make you feel good.

My style: present and future

So here we are. I made it past the pink wide-flare pants and the homemade dresses that fell apart while I was wearing them. I’m past the ill-fitting, uncomfortable, and sometimes stained “vintage” finds that I gravitated towards in college.

I’m sure you have had similar phases.

But now, I’m looking forward to adding pieces one at a time into my wardrobe (and typically with the one in/one out policy).

My new shopping guidelines are this: quality staples and joyful/versatile patterns. And more pink – I somehow got rid of most of my pink clothes.

But above all, I’m making a commitment to purchasing the majority of my clothing from ethically-made brands. The best part of that? Since there are fewer ethical brands available, my shopping will have to be well-researched and filled with intention.

So tell me about your wardrobe! What are your intentional style choices?

Intentional Grocery Shopping

We made it to March! And the numbers are in: we ended up spending under $300 for groceries, but it wasn’t as precise as I initially planned. My birthday was in the middle of the month, and my request for a home-cooked meal ended up a little pricier than anticipated.

Aside from that though, we did stick to meal planning, list-making, and sale-seeking.

To wrap up my series on our “Cheap Food February” challenge, I wanted to share a bit about what I’ve learned after a month of intentional shopping.

What is intentional shopping?

I’d like to think of myself as an intentional shopper (I’m sure most of us do). But this month of a lower, more strict food budget showed me that I really had become quite mindless at the grocery store.

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It’s not even just having a list and sticking to it that makes shopping intentional – it’s the whole planning process.

It’s kind of like what I look for if I need to shop for new clothing – something that’s multipurpose, is something I love and something that’s easy to mix with other things. Put that into context of food, and this is what you should be looking for:

  • Food that can be prepared in different ways.
  • Food that always (or almost always) hits the spot.
  • Food that goes well with a variety of other foods.

Basically, beans, rice, leafy greens, chicken (if you’re into it), and root vegetables (sweet potatoes rock my world). Having these things on hand taught me another valuable lesson: to try and make one more dish before shopping again.

Making a dish from what you already have

Since I want to use every little bit of food that I can, I’ve been putting grocery shopping off just one more day. And maybe because sometimes I get a little lazy, but don’t we all?

I then face the challenge of making do with what I have – an awesome challenge to help reduce your food waste. The typical solution? Bean soup.

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I usually have tomatoes, onions, carrots and sometimes celery. Boom, there’s a base for the soup. I’ll toss chicken or veggie bouillon in as well for an extra punch of flavor. Black beans are my usual favorite, but I’ve been getting into pinto beans, great northern beans and venturing into lentils as well.

I’ll switch up the spices – cumin, garlic and cayenne for a Mexican-style soup, coriander, ginger and curry powder for an amazing curry. I love this recipe, which also has you poach eggs in the soup before serving:

Takeaways from “Cheap Food February”

While I didn’t completely overhaul my diet, I did find myself making better decisions about food. My husband and I had way more conversations about it, and it became a much more important part of our days.

So here’s what I’ve learned:

  • A little prep can go a long way. Soak beans when you get home from work, then toss them into the crock pot on low for the night. You’ll have beans for tomorrow – and they’re cheaper than the canned ones.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables can save you tons. My favorite use so far has been for smoothies: 99 cents of frozen spinach can make 4-6 smoothies. I blend mine up with hot water (to thaw it for consistency), then add in frozen pineapple, banana and today I added zucchini.
  • Look for “scratch and dent” produce. I found a little corner in the back of the Ralph’s (Kroger) that has shelves of pre-bagged produce that is either too ripe or blemished. For 99 cents a bag, you can get several pounds of apples, bananas, potatoes, squash, etc. I check there first and either toss the produce into the freezer or cook it up right away.
  • Healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. We’ve been eating produce-heavy meals this month, and if you do it right, it doesn’t have to break the bank. Stews and soups use up a huge variety of veggies, and you don’t have to waste anything. Stretch them by putting them over baked sweet potatoes or brown rice!

We’ve also started talking about creating a hanging garden outside of our apartment on our railing. We want to start growing food for the rabbits! And for ourselves, too I guess. So keep an eye out for that soon.

This is definitely one of those changes that are going to stick with us as we move forward. No more unprepared grocery trips for us!

Are you an intentional shopper? Do you have any tips to share?

Simple Daily Planning

In my last post, I discussed how living a simple life can get complicated and that planning was essential to keep it all organized.

So today I want to give you a peek into my daily planning process!

I’ve tried planners, phone calendars, white boards, you name it. My favorite planning tool so far? A notebook and colorful pens (colors are optional – it just makes it more fun for me).

Tools aren’t for everyone

Before I dive in, it’s important to note that tools are definitely good for some people, and they are definitely bad for others. For example, I can’t get into tools that are online or on mobile devices because there are infinite ways to get distracted.

I’ve also been working on getting into daily planners (my current one breaks each day down hour by hour and has space to prioritize goals). I start the day neatly, but I end up just writing all over them without actually putting anything where it’s supposed to be.

So don’t feel compelled to use a certain tool if you’re just not into it – work with yourself, not against yourself.

Make it a pleasant habit

Don’t force planning if you’re not feeling it. Allow yourself time to get into a good headspace before you start breaking down your day, or else you’ll over- or under-whelm yourself with to-dos.

I like to wait until I’ve had some breakfast and have a fresh cup of coffee poured before I even consider planning.

I broke down and bought an unnecessary package of colorful pens for that same reason – I wanted to make this a fun process, not a frustrating one. I take my time and practice my cursive (am I the only one who still loves handwriting?)

PlanningNotebook

Keep it organized and don’t overdo it

I start by listing the date (mostly just for fun), then I break my to-do list down into sections. I’m focusing on creating a balance for myself this year, so I break it down into home, work, and personal categories.

Planning

As much as possible, I keep it to about three items per section. Work, of course, is my work goals for the day. Personal is where I put blogging, self-care, exercise, etc. Home is for housework – usually something to do with cleaning the rabbit’s cage, cooking meals, or soaking beans.

The goal for your goals is to be able to complete them all in a days time. So don’t set a full day’s worth of goals for home while also setting a full day’s worth of goals for work.

I’m starting to get into the practice of trimming the list down after I’ve made it, just so that I can be sure to complete everything. There’s nothing worse than seeing a list with only one thing crossed off of it at the end of the day.

First things first

Once you’re done with your planning, check if there’s anything you can do in a few minutes. Clearing clutter or tossing dishes into the dishwasher is usually an easy first step.

If I’ve made “read twenty pages” a goal for the day and I haven’t yet finished my coffee, I’ll pull my book out and get to work. Basically, if there’s anything easy or that fits your current situation on your list, do that first.

I’ve also started to shift the order of my planning & processing of the day’s to-dos. Instead of getting work and home stuff out of the way first, I focus on the personal category. Why?

Because that’s always the category that doesn’t get crossed off. So be kind to yourself and try to do what you can for yourself before everything else, and you’ll feel a lot more positive energy to do the rest of it.

So there’s a look at how I plan my day! Do you have a planning habit?

When Simple isn’t Easy

Throughout the past few years, I’ve been moving towards a more simple life. I’m seeking less chaos, less clutter, less shopping, less spending, you get it – I want less so that I can have more of what really matters.

More freedom, more mental space, more peace, more time.

But that last one is interesting. What if simplifying leads us to do things…that take up more time?

Simple Isn't Always Easy

How simple can get complicated

For starters, let’s make it clear: I don’t have any more hours in the day now than I did three years ago. None of us do.

But I have found myself allocating those hours so differently these days, and not in ways you might expect.

I clean more often (although it takes less time), I prepare food constantly (or at least it feels like I do), and I spend more time planning days than I have ever done before.

So, what changed? Isn’t one of the driving factors of minimalism getting to the point of doing fewer chores? I think I figured it out:

My values have evolved.

Doing more of these chores isn’t counterintuitive to my minimalism journey. In fact, they’re a direct result of it.

I’m cleaning more often because I love a clear, clean space (and with two bunnies, dusting & vacuuming are imperative). I make my bed, I clear counters and desks, I even do laundry more than I used to. Because a clean home and fewer clothes have become important to me.

I’m also cleaning more because I’m cooking more. Food used to be filler – something to literally get me from point A to point B. Now, food is everything. It no longer just “takes up space” in my stomach – I truly value it as my source of life and energy. That’s why it’s become complicated – soaking beans, shopping two times a week for fresh produce, adding useful kitchen gadgets and even more tupperware for leftovers, etc.

Marketers have convinced us that pre-packaged food is simple: just throw it in the microwave! That’s not quite right – it’s convenient, not simple.

“Convenient” is for when we don’t have the time, “simple” is for when we can make the time. Which brings me to my next point.

Planning a simple life

Now for the planning – I wouldn’t have a simple life without planning for it. Or at least being intentional about my time.

Planner

I take my sweet time when planning my day.

Some days, I don’t take the time to jot down a few goals while I drink my morning coffee. I can feel it for the rest of my day. I feel less grounded and more hectic, which is not a recipe for a happy Emily.

Do you feel it too? If so, I challenge you to take note of it next time you feel that way. Stop, drop and write down your three next steps. Is three too many? Even one will do. Even if it’s “put on a pot of tea” or simply “shower”.

Intentions and a podcast worth listening to

I’ve been learning a lot about intentions and values lately, and it’s helped to put some things into perspective. It’s helped organize my outcome-based goals into long-term guiding values.

If you’re simplifying, remember to always ask yourself why. Reminding yourself frequently of your “why” will help you if you get frustrated about something being just a little more complicated than you thought it would be.

And your “why” might change!

To start finding out more about your gut instincts, check out Jess Lively’s tips on setting intentions. Then check out her podcast, The Lively Show. Start at the beginning, because each episode is filled with inspiration and intentional living tips!

So, simplify!

Simplify to your heart’s content. But don’t be afraid when commitments or projects arise because of it.

If the project really does fit into your life or with your values, you now have less of the “other stuff” to stop you.

So, clean that kitchen every day and be proud that you’re using it. A simple life is not some fantasy of never having chores – it’s a life where the chores we do actually support the life we want.