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?

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Why I Stopped Thrifting

Four our five years ago, while I was still in college, you could usually find me at Goodwill on the weekends. You could usually find me shopping the sale racks at super-cheap mall stores too.

It wasn’t that I was donating things or using the one-in/one-out strategy that keeps so many closets in check. In fact, I think it was my frequent thrifting that took my two closets from stuffed to overstuffed.

I still love thrift shops

Before I talk about the reasons why I no longer thrift, I need to clarify: I love buying secondhand. I think thrift stores are an amazing way to get things you need without contributing directly to the worlds of fast fashion and fast everything.

What I don’t love is thrifting for the sake of thrifting – it became a mindless habit for me and I didn’t really need the things I usually brought home with me.


Source: Know Your Meme

Blinded by the price

One of the big issues I now find with my thrifting was that I too often saw something that looked interesting and bought it based on price alone.

It doesn’t fit perfectly? Well it’s only five bucks. It has a stain or a tear? Well it’s half off and I could probably fix it or wash it out.

I ended up with a bunch of cheap clothing that looked and felt cheap. I would wear something once and realize I didn’t like it as much as I had initially thought. At that point it would fall to the depths of my closet and I wouldn’t see it until years later when I started my simplicity journey.

The mindless shopper

I was also a mindless shopper. I would go to Goodwill when I was bored or when I had extra time. I think I was even using thrifting as a way to cope with stress.

If I had a bad week, I’d go buy a blazer that was too big for me. If I had a good week, I’d buy a dress that maybe actually got worn more than once.

You get the picture – it was just as bad of a habit as going to the mall with a credit card and no real reason to be there. I’d buy fun things to put on my desk, my nightstand, my walls, and none of it was there intentionally. It was just there.

How I buy secondhand

Now I only go to Goodwill when I need to. On Halloween, my husband and I were able to get almost everything we needed for our costumes there (we went as Bojack and Princess Carolyn from a show called Bojack Horseman).

When I do go, I try to have a very specific intention. Am I there for workout gear? Then stay away from the dresses.

I’ve also found that buying online is helpful (eBay and Shop Goodwill are my favorites). Buying secondhand things online is a little risky since you can’t see exactly what you’re getting beforehand, but that adds just enough hesitation to the process. That way, if you really don’t need something, you have a little more time to think it through.

I wrote a post over two years ago about dressing like a million bucks (without spending a ton) that still holds true.

Speaking of clothing, I am planning a wardrobe overhaul this year. There are quite a few pieces that used to bring me joy that don’t anymore, and I’ve been researching some ethical clothing brands that I may integrate into my wardrobe along with quality used items. As always, it’ll be an intentional process with a simple outcome. So look out for posts in the coming months about that!

What shopping habits do you have (good or bad)?

Closet Tour: Bags

We all have stuff. And many of us have stuff to store that stuff in. But what about the stuff we have to carry our stuff?

Bags. They let us get out and experience the world with whatever we need to do it. While they can help us go and do, having too many (of anything) can become a hindrance

Three years ago, I would have been horrified if I let the internet see what owned me I owned. But I’ve come a long way! So today I’m sharing what I own that helps me get from A to B.

Purses (and why do we have so many?)

I always had a couple dozen purses so that I could always match what I was wearing – and they were all cheap. My most expensive purse was from H&M and clocked in at about $24.

Not that you have to own expensive bags and purses. I’m just saying that when the nicest purse you own is an H&M impulse buy, it’s a pretty good look into how disposable and unintentional your collection is.

Purses are a super-functional opportunity to make a statement about yourself, and they can be cheap. Hence the purse trap: you don’t realize how many you’ve accrued until you start taking them out of the closet.

So a few years ago I sorted through all my junky purses and left myself with a single, red cross-body purse. It was so small that my phone, keys and wallet made it look overstuffed. But it was my purse, the purse, and I stuck with it all day, every day.

My husband started noticing it’s raggedness and encouraged me to treat myself to something that was a little bigger and that made me happy. He encouraged me multiple times. (I think it might have been more ragged than I remember!)

My one purse

My next purse needed to meet three qualifications: quality construction, larger than the last one, and beautiful.

I didn’t worry too much about it matching anything because, honestly, I don’t care. I just want it to do it’s job and make me happy while it’s doing it (meaning it had to be colorful). And that’s when I found my Sakroots convertible purse/backpack:

My super bright new purse

My super bright new purse

It can be worn as a backpack too!

It can be worn as a backpack too!

So there you have it: my one purse that actually fits everything I need to fit into it. Now what about non-daily bags?

Travel and work bags

The rest are a little less fun, but highly functional:

  • Laptop Bag: This baby was a brand new shopgoodwill.com find that suits my remote work perfectly. It makes me feel professional in public, and it just makes me happy overall – come on, just look at that yellow.
  • Backpack: This, my high school backpack, used to be what I carried my laptop around in. It has too many pockets for casual cafe-working, so I tended to stuff it with things I didn’t need to bring. Now, I use it as my personal item on planes. 10+ years and still going strong!
  • Suitcase: There’s nothing for scale in the image below, but this lil’ guy is small enough to fit in an overhead compartment. Alongside my backpack, I don’t need any more luggage space when traveling. Note: I’ve never traveled extensively abroad, so I don’t know if I’d need more space for that or not.
  • Overnight bag: My PINK bag is super multipurpose: no zippers makes it great for carrying yarn, it’s washable so it’s toted rabbit supplies and of course, it’s my favorite color. This straightforward bag has served me for several years and I think it will continue on for many more to come.

So there you have it – a peek into what bags I consider essential. What would you like to see next: shoes, dresses, tops?

And what are your toting essentials?

The Jewelry Box

What costs less than $5, looks cool for a season, and falls apart when you think you need it most? Trendy jewelry.

I’ve always liked the idea of accessorizing to really make an outfit pop, but I haven’t acted on that inclination in years. In high school, I had a dozen sweaters I circulated through and each sweater had a corresponding pair of earrings. And there were sequins – on both the sweaters and the earrings.

Looking back, I’m slightly mortified. I mean, we’re talking seventeen-year-old Emily. Seventeen and sequins everywhere.

I know some like their accessories, so in line with what I’ve said about trends, keep it if you love it and if it adds value.

But I challenge you to go to your jewelry box right now and see if there are pieces that you just have “in case.” My guess is that there are some.

Wedding Earrings

Earrings are my bling of choice, but even then I only have one or two pairs that I wear on a regular basis. These are my treasured wedding earrings that a dear friend made for me.

Thoughts on jewelry & simplicity

I’ve started to see jewelry, much like makeup, as less of the star of the show and more like a supporting character. I use it as a way to compliment what’s already there.

Earrings are my go-to piece, and most days I keep it super simple with just (fake) diamond studs. I don’t even wear earrings in my double piercing or my cartilage piercing anymore. Mostly because I forget.

I think we tend to use jewelry as more than just a complement to our clothing. We wear it as a sign of social status, as a way of self expression, and (my favorite) because “everyone is doing it”.

It has become a powerful social barometer to measure just how in touch we are with trends.

The good news is that no one will call you out if you’re wearing something understated, simple, or even not at all. What will grab attention is if you’re wearing something you clearly look uncomfortable in.

And when it comes to sentimental pieces (which is most of my collection), I wear them when I want to. They don’t even really have to match – for me, I love looking in the mirror and being reminded of the memory that each one stands for.

Those memories make me feel more beautiful than the jewelry alone does.

My jewelry box

Here’s what I’ve pared down to in the past few years:

Getting rid of your treasures

Years ago, I couldn’t fit all my jewels (mostly cheap plastic costume-y pieces) into a large jewelry box.

They would get tangled and broken and I still wouldn’t get rid of them. Even when they were beyond repair.

Jewelry is small, but it can add up. Allow yourself the luxury of opening up an uncluttered jewelry box filled with only the pieces you absolutely adore. You deserve it.

Here’s what I did:

  • Immediately toss broken, tangled or otherwise unusable pieces.
  • Toss uncomfortable earrings. They’re not worth it, and you know it.
  • Look at the pieces objectively. Are they even practical? Do they have real-world use?
  • Toss or donate pieces you haven’t worn in over a year. Don’t worry about what’s in style – just keep what you like and what you actually wear.
  • Sentimental items can be hard to part with, but they can really build up if we don’t watch it. If you wear it regularly, keep it. If you don’t, consider selling it (if it’s valuable), gifting it or donating it.

What’s most important to remember is that getting rid of the piece doesn’t mean the memories go with it. You don’t have to hold on to things – even small things like jewelry – to remind you of important people, places and events in your life.

What’s in your jewelry box?

Why I’ve Never Made a Capsule Wardrobe

I have too many clothes.

I remember thinking this over and over again as I walked down my rickety apartment stairs towards the car. I was carrying two 50-gallon trash bags filled with clothes – and that wasn’t even all of them.

I had another 50-gallon trash bag filled with shoes upstairs waiting to be packed into the car for the move from Bloomington to Indianapolis, Indiana. I even had a couple armfuls of hanging clothes already in the car.

I estimated that my clothes weighed at least two times what I weighed – I felt so encumbered and overstuffed. That’s when I started looking into how to simplify.

Capsule Wardrobes

My first exposure to a minimal blogger

A quick Google search led me to discover my first minimalist/simple living blogger: Courtney Carver.

I started to learn about Project 333 and started to realize all the things that weren’t necessary in my closet (I had a beaded evening gown thrift store find that I just couldn’t get rid of – but never wore).

I found out about capsule wardrobes and was really excited by the idea!

Learning about capsule wardrobes

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, a capsule wardrobe is when you select a certain number of items (including jewelry, accessories, etc, but excluding essentials like underwear and workout clothes) and only wear those items for a set amount of time.

It’s an excellent practice to get into when you’re trying to live with less. Although I’ve never tried it, it sounds really fun and challenging!

Here’s why I never did it

I’ve never done it because I’m (a former) packrat. I’m the “just in case” type of mild hoarder – the person who keeps notebooks for years just because they have five pages of free space.

(I guess that should be “kept”, because I finally parted with all my old high school notebooks a couple years ago. They’d been unused for ten years.)

I felt like, for me, a capsule wardrobe might encourage me to keep the hundreds of pounds of clothes just out of sight. They’d still be there, like a safety blanket (which, ironically, my “blankie” is the one childhood thing that I will not get rid of).

And it was having too many clothes that drove me crazy in the first place.

What I’ve done instead

I have taken concepts from capsule wardrobes and applied them to my everyday wear. To keep a piece of clothing, it needs to meet one (or more!)

  • It reflects my personality
  • I find it beautiful
  • It fits well, looks good, and/or feels good
  • I love wearing it
  • It has high emotional value and I still wear it
  • It’s versatile (this one is essential for me)

Notice that these are not reasons to keep clothes:

  • I got a great deal on it
  • It was a gift or hand-me-down
  • It has emotional value, but I don’t wear it and I don’t think I will
  • I’ll fit into it again someday
  • It reflected my personality at a different time in my life
  • I’ve never worn it
  • I might need it for

I’ve gone from having a packed dresser and an oversized closet stuffed with clothes to only needing two drawers and about 2 feet of space on the clothes rod.

It’s not hard! And in fact, it’s amazing – I didn’t realize how little I cared about my clothes before. Now, I cherish each item and can’t wait to wear it. I love every piece.

A note on versatility and seasonal items

“But you need to change for the seasons.”

Yes and no. If style is important to you and having cute season-specific clothes fulfills you, then by all means, wear your fall scarves and Christmas sweaters.

But a basic dress looks great in all seasons – just add leggings and cardigans when it gets cold.

My non-expert advice: stay away from super-trendy colors unless they’re really colors you love. Pick pieces you can see yourself wearing to holiday parties and to summer cookouts. If you must, choose reversible or season-less scarves and stick to neutral jewelry.

Having a lot of clothes doesn’t make you stylish. Having few clothes doesn’t make you boring. It’s all in how you wear them.

Have you tried a capsule wardrobe? What did you think?

A Minimalist’s Guide to Following Trends

Chambray. Crop tops. Neons. Gold-dipped everything.

As I’ve been simplifying my life in the past couple of years I’ve watched these trends drift by without partaking in them.

I found myself on the cusp of diving in to certain trends – especially if I saw their bright displays on endcaps at Target. They seemed irresistible.

And that’s the point.

Trends

Trends are irresistible

The popularity of trends is based on that old line: “everyone’s doing it.” We’re peer-pressured into having certain colors in our homes and pieces in our wardrobes.

Think of the windbreakers and color palette nightmares from the 90’s. Did anyone actually enjoy that? Apparently they did, because some of it is back in style these days.

Magazines and Pinterest make them unavoidable, and soon they show up in our homes and closets. We think we’re making our homes unique, but that’s the trick of trends. You’re supposed to feel like a unique “trendsetter,” despite the fact that thousands of other people have the same piece.

What’s the point of trends?

Looking at them from a more removed standpoint, I’m finally seeing trends for what they are: money-makers.

With all the dirt on the fashion industry (I love John Oliver’s piece on fast fashion), it’s obvious that we’ve been lied to.

Trends aren’t that great after all.

The best way to follow trends

I’ve decided to adopt a new mantra when it comes time to shop for garments or anything for my home:

The best way to follow trends is to not follow them at all.

I truly think that’s the best approach. Ultimately, sticking to what feels right and beautiful to you will always be in style.

It’s worth taking an afternoon to examine what you own and what you like in order to determine your true style – like the saying goes, “if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.”

Stay away from them in the first place

I know it’s no small task to keep yourself from the trends that spread like wildfire these days.

But if you’re prone to impulse buys or feel pressured to follow along with current style, then try to limit your exposure to certain outlets.

Sign out of Pinterest and unsubscribe to those magazines. Stay away from malls or anywhere windowshopping can tempt you. It sounds cynical, but if you’re trying to simplify, these occasions can be consumer traps.

But if you must…

Maybe, after plenty of thought, you feel the trend might actually add value and beauty to your life. If you do find yourself drawn to a trend, there are ways to really tell if it’s right for you.

  1. See if it matches. First of all, ask yourself if it really matches with your style and personality. If you’re shy and prefer mostly dark, neutral colors, then maybe neons might be too big of a jump. If it doesn’t fit into your lifestyle, you’ll use it less. And why would you buy something just to put it in the back of your closet?
  2. Wait it out. Let the trend play out for a couple of months. Don’t jump in right after it’s spotted at fashion week. Basically, see how others are wearing or using the current trend and decide if you can see yourself following suit. If you end up taking part in the trend, then this will give you an idea of how to use it/wear it best.
  3. Ask if it’s worth it. This is where you need to be honest with yourself. Can you see this having a long-term place in your life, or will it fizzle out in a few months? Is the price worth the value you’ll get from it?
  4. Find an alternative. At this point, it’s likely that you’re on board with the trend. Instead of going to Target and purchasing it immediately, check out your alternatives. DIY and secondhand are great options, and vintage is even better (you’ll look like you liked the trend before it was cool). Plus, this prolongs the search and makes you think more about what you’re seeking and why you’re purchasing it.

Personally, I’ve started to stick to basics: simple dresses, jeans and t-shirts. I also keep a floral romper and a sequin butterfly shirt (both which will never be truly in style). Why? Because I love them.

Wearing and buying only things you love and that add true value or beauty to your life is the best way to keep from getting swept up in current trends.

I’ve read arguments where minimalism in itself is a trend, which may be true (it’s been such a buzzword lately). Minimalism is on the rise, especially among Millennials, and it seems to be a bit scary for marketers. But honestly, who cares if simplicity falls out of style?

Isn’t simple living reward enough?

Giving Old & Unneccessary Shoes the Boot

I have worked my way down to 11 pairs of shoes! When I arrived at 17 (seriously, I had to make big cuts to get to 17), I was met with surprised reactions from ladies around my age – are you serious? I have at least 30! I can’t imagine having only 17 pairs.

My Shoes

Now, looking at these 11, I’m in awe at how many this still is. In fact, there are a few of the shoes in the photo above that I will not be replacing once they’re worn out. From now on, I’m only intending to buy shoes that last forever (or close to that – those green flip flops are at least ten years old and they’re still one of my favorite pairs).

Being young and female, I feel that there is a huge expectation for me to be constantly open to adding new shoes to my wardrobe (a small survey shows that women own an average of 20 pairs of shoes). I feel that cutting down this far is unheard of in “normal” social circles (although I’ve found a huge online community of minimalists that would say otherwise). But the energy I get when I walk into my closet with plenty of room to breath is unmatched.

While my paring down does come with a sacrifice (less diversity and a slightly more plain personal style), it’s been teaching me a valuable lesson in want vs. need.

Questions to ask yourself when getting rid of shoes

Shoes can be a difficult possession to part with for some, so I’d like to share some of the questions I asked (and will continue to ask) myself while reducing my collection.

  • Have I worn this pair more than once? Seriously, I had to ask that. Several times.
  • Is this pair comfortable enough to spend an evening standing in? If not, they’re gone. Shoes aren’t as cute if you’re carrying them around in your hands and going barefoot.
  • Is this a quality pair that I can see lasting a long time? I kept some lower quality shoes, but have vowed to not replace them once they go.
  • Can I walk normally in them? Can I move quickly in them? Call me crazy, but I like to know that if I needed to, I could run away from potential danger.
  • Is this pair entirely useful? Does it have many applications? I like to know that I can wear the same shoes for an interview as I would wear to a party or to a casual coffee date. I think I have two of those pairs – and if I wear them right, no one would know I use them for all of the above.

I wanted to share this with you all today to get your reaction – how many shoes do you own? Or, a better question might be how many shoes do you actually wear?