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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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?

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)?

A Quiet Holiday

For tomorrow, I know, all those Who girls and boys
Will wake bright and early.  They’ll rush for their toys!

And then…all the noise!  All the noise, noise, noise, noise!
If there’s one thing I hate…all the noise, noise, noise, noise!

Dr. Suess, How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Sometimes I wonder if the Grinch was right.

All the noise surrounding the holidays has been getting to me this year – even the Christmas music on the radio (anything that’s not decades old immediately annoys me). Commercials, billboards, traffic – all obtrusive reminders that this is a holiday that has become more about gifts (read: stuff) than anything else.

I know that’s not what it’s supposed to be about. We all know that. But then why does Black Friday get worse every year? And why can’t I drive a few miles to a friend’s home without getting stuck for half an hour in shopping traffic?

This year, I’ve been blessed enough to have the week of Christmas off to spend with my family. Some of my most treasured moments so far have been quiet conversations and crafting silently by the fire.

Why should the noise that we’re already bombarded with throughout the year be amplified and even more stressful around the holidays? What happened to that Silent Night?

Christmas Tree

For your sake, and for the sake of your friends, family, and coworkers, take an evening off from the noise of the commercial world. No television, no Pandora or Spotify with their obnoxious ads, no shopping. Try to not even leave the house or log on to Facebook. Have a quiet night at home with your family and read books, or play a game with your kids (although in my house, my parents and brothers and I are anything but quiet when it comes time for board games).

Allow yourself a few moments of refuge from the commercial noise of the holiday season. It’s rejuvenating, and it’s a perfect way to close out the year of madness.

Shop ’til you Drop

Freedigitalphotos.netI heard the most unsettling statistic shared by a radio DJ a while ago, and I thought I’d share what she had to say about it:

We burn, on average, 15,000 calories a year shopping. In fact, the heavier bags we carry, the more we burn! It looks like it’s not that I’m eating too much, it’s that I’m not shopping enough.

She laughed as she shared this. At what point is this not funny anymore? Will you choose to be like the DJ and continue to shop and eat more and more, hoping to see yourself skinnier? How can we be happy if we justify one gluttony with another?

In a country where average credit card debt lies over $15,000 per household, and the average person is 23 pounds overweight, I don’t see anything comical about this statement.

There are a couple questions to ask yourself that stem directly from this:

  • Do I shop only when necessary, or do I purchase to fill time or to amuse myself?
  • Do I justify things that I know are wrong with others that are hardly any better?