Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Oh No, Rachel Zoe!

Someone in my world mentioned how they love the Rachel Zoe show so I decided to see what all the fuss was about. If you love fashion, it is entertaining, yet stressful at the same time. I actually feel myself tensing up as they struggle through conflict after conflict, whether it's personal drama or some fashion crisis.

The nature of her persona and the fashion industry in general is all about excess and "too muchness" which is great because it is a reality show and supposed to be dramatic. I just wanted to contemplate for a moment how all of this translates into my life and the average woman. I ask myself "Is this excess what women really want?".

I can't get into anyone else's head but I know that I used to not have any problem filling up my two closets in my bedroom and the one in the guest bedroom too, with just my clothes. That was a long time ago in my single days and I don't do that anymore, but I know from peeking into a lot of closets that most women are the same. So to answer my own question, I'm going to say "Yes, women want the excess!" But why? It is an ideal to have as many clothes as possible because that means choices, and even evidence and feelings of prosperity. But, why do we need so much when it's been proven that we don't actually wear all those clothes? What makes us want this many clothes?

I've come up with a couple of ideas that may resonate with you. Maybe you can identify with one of them and start to see the ridiculousness of having so much. I believe with all my heart that simplicity in your wardrobe is the best way. Choosing the right pieces to form a small wardrobe makes your life easier and makes a more refined style for you.

So, where did this concept come from in your life? One easy place to put the blame is that growing up, aren't we ridiculed for wearing the same outfit too often? I'll never forget when I was in elementary school I was at a friend's house and we snuck into her big sister's room to admire her closet. My friend solemnly stated that her sister had enough sweaters to wear a different one every day of the month. I was really impressed! I think little things like this make an imprint on us and it subconsciously becomes a goal. If I could only have 30 sweaters, I would also fold them neatly to display in the top part of my closet. When I was in 7th grade, I remember counting my shoes and how proud I was to have accumulated 72! Even though I didn't understand it then, my goal of excess had been achieved. I don't remember actually being ridiculed for wearing the same clothes, but apparently I learned fast as evidenced by the 72 pairs of shoes.

It doesn't end after school though. My first job out of college, the receptionist told me that she noticed when women wore the same pants or shirt in the same week. I was appalled even then and realized that I was being "watched" by the reception fashion police. Who wants to be subject to the scrutiny of others because of something so silly? It's an easy enough problem to remedy, so we fill our closet with a multitude of options.

So when I'm watching the Rachel Zoe Project, I see her with all the designer labels, and her 10 suitcases when she travels, and don't feel the slightest bit of envy or desire to be that way. In fact, it makes me feel weighed down just to imagine having all those things in my home and feeling like I have to travel so heavy.

I know she is a stylist and she has a special exception to having lots of clothes, but I'm just saying that a lot of women are the same, even if not to that extreme. Do you have a friend with a lot of clothes and you feel a pang of jealousy at her wardrobe? Does the feeling of not enough send you straight to the mall to buy more?

That leads me to the next theory. Maybe you never intended to have a full closet but it is simply a direct result of constant shopping. I've always said that shopping is the national pastime and your closet displays the fruits of your labor. Shopping is a social activity, therapeutic, and makes us feel we are accomplishing something. It's so nice to go to a store and buy into their style. Somehow being in a certain atmosphere and buying those clothes makes you feel like you will replicate that feeling at home. Once you get home, you realize that it didn't work. Maybe the clean, airy feeling doesn't translate to your cramped closet.

As always, I'm writing this to make myself and you consider your wardrobe because that is what I love to talk about! If I can make you see that there is an underlying motivation that maybe you hadn't realized, and for you to change your behavior, then my work here is done. I know that shopping and excess in all parts of our life, but specifically in our closets it is out of control. We spend so much time, energy and money filling up our closets when it isn't necessary.

I stopped caring about the "fashion police" a long time ago, thankfully! I don't have two closets full of clothes anymore but I am constantly still paring down and trying to simplify. Now that we've talked about the one extreme, I have two examples of the opposite point of view for you to consider. Two separate projects designed to make people see that they don't actually need as many clothes as they think.

The first is called Six Items or Less. It is an experiment to wear only six items out of your closet for a month. You can visit the website and see how it went for these people. I can see that it was definitely a challenge and some didn't choose well, but in the end I think the point was made. It actually causes more stress and annoyance having too many choices in your wardrobe.

The other one is called the Great American Apparel Diet and you can read about it here. This one stems from combatting shopping addiction and I think also an environmental perspective. I love challenges like this!

Where are you in this? Are you looking to streamline your crowded closet? Do you aspire to have excess inspired by shows like Rachel Zoe Project? Has your wardrobe already been edited to the bare bones? Would you be interested in a challenge like Six Items or Less or the GAAD? I know for me, after my Nordstrom Anniversary Preview, I've been off shopping like I had poisoning from it. I've been contemplating my own challenge but it actually just happened and wasn't challenging at all.

Pic from here.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Lonny Magazine-Online & Clutter Free!

If you haven't heard about this new online magazine, you'll be so happy I told you! It's a visual feast and reminiscent of the dearly departed Domino Magazine. I'm so excited about the upcoming issue which will release on August 10. You can subscribe online here and it's free for now! There is going to be an "Organize Your Wardrobe" article which I always love. It's full of inspiration and really a delight to see all the beautiful photos and articles. Go now and see the latest issue to tide you over until the next one arrives.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Do Something You Always Wanted to Do!

I always wanted to dye my hair red and was afraid to do it. I actually did this about 6 weeks ago and it's faded now, but I wanted to post it so maybe it would inspire you to do something you've always wanted to do too.

Isn't it funny how we are scared to do something as silly as dying our hair, or cutting it short? What silly things are you afraid to do, but always wanted to do?

I think one brave decision leads to more. What will my red hair lead to now? Have courage and make a brave turn of your own today! Sign up for a class, start a blog, wear your red lipstick, call an old friend or throw a dinner party. What will you do?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mad Men Inspired Style

I'm new to the Mad Men scene. I just started watching it a couple of months ago and I'm hooked. As I was perusing Talbot's new fall line, it occurred to me how much this show is influencing our fall fashion. Has anyone noticed that Talbot's is not the stodgy, conservative shop that it used to be?

I've been pondering Talbot's new look for awhile now. My first instinct when I got the summer catalog was that the layouts, the clothes and even the models look strikingly similar to J. Crew. I've always liked Talbot's and I could manage to find a few things in there, but I really thought that the clothes were much older than me. I was really excited to see the changes because Talbot's quality is impeccable so having the option to shop there for younger styles is a welcome opportunity.

These are some of their summer looks I liked, but you'll have to click the link below to see the fall lookbook.


Now that they have obviously gone a new direction to appeal to the younger woman too, I am curious to see if they have updated their fit as well. It just figures that I would get intrigued by a line as I am brewing a long term rest from purchasing anything. The Talbot's lookbook is definitely worth seeing even if just to admire the styling though. Also, if you can get your hands on a summer catalog, you won't be sorry as it's also very chic.

I also couldn't help but note that Mad Men seems to be everywhere these days. I'm drawn to these looks and am happy to see the resurgence of this fashion era. I'm not sure how that retro look will make it's way into my mostly jeans style, but I'm happy to have the opportunity to find out. Here I was thinking after the Nordstrom anniversary sale that there were only 80's styles to shop from, but take heart because there's more out there!

Did you also know that QVC is launching a line of Mad Men inspired clothing? If you want to read about it, here is a preview article. I don't think I'll be buying any of the QVC clothing but I'm looking forward to seeing Season Four of Mad Men and the swoon-worthy fashion. The premiere of the new season is on July 25! Anyone else love Joan?

One more thing since we're on the subject of Mad Men, if you are an aspiring actor, or just want to be on the show, here is your chance. Banana Republic is hosting a contest, read about it here. It starts tomorrow!

Will anyone be hosting Mad Men Premiere dress up parties? I don't know anyone else who watches the show so I won't be. What do you think of the retro inspired fashion? How will you incorporate this into your current wardrobe? I'm definitely seeing something leopard print in my future. I think it's obvious my favorite character is Joan. Who is yours?

Joan pic from here.
Group pic from here.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Nordstrom Anniversary Preview 2010: Behind the Curtain

Maybe you've heard? The Nordstrom Anniversary sale starts tomorrow and all the buzz has been about the preview for the last week and a half. The Anniversary sale is special because it puts a certain selection of fall items on sale for a month of so, then raises the prices again. Last year we did not go because we were not a certain level of Nordstrom cardholders. If you are excluded from the preview, you will know that The Wizard of Oz imagery is not very far off. Everyone wants to get to the preview! This year, we caught a break though because our local store decided to let all Nordstrom cardholders in instead of just a certain level that would typically qualify. I think that was smart of them.

Let me take you behind the curtains to what we saw. Essentially there are two separate curtained off spaces, one for women and one for men and accessories. You have to make an appointment so that you are accompanied by a salesperson, and you get two hours to shop. At first glance, the partitioned rooms seem to be small and unimpressive. Imagine a retail yard sale with racks of clothes along the wall and metal tables full of shoes and purses. There are an impressive amount of items jammed in there though. The small rooms are deceiving because there is only one size of each item. That is why you need the salesperson to assist you, so you can get the correct size to try on your items.

Last year I went on the first day of the Anniversary Sale, which is when I had my personal shopping experience that you can read about here. The preview could potentially take this experience up one notch by not only having an appointment but by not being a part of the frenzy that occurs during the sale days. The dressing rooms are right next to the preview so they really make it all very comfortable for you to shop. I would bet that you can make an appointment with the personal shopper department to pull it all together for you. (If you are in Houston, call Scotty!)

When I went last week to the preview, I had it in my mind that I wanted to not want anything, so I looked at everything with a very critical eye. It turns out that I didn't need to worry because I really didn't like much. There were a few things that I had in mind that I was looking for, like a purse and some tall boots. They had a huge selection of purses and shoes but nothing really wowed me. I tried on a dress like one this except in pink and I liked it, but the material was a very wrinkly cotton and I try to stay away from high maintenance fabrics.

Since last year G also felt the burn of being excluded from the preview, he wanted to find out what all the fuss was about too. We journeyed back down there to see if there was something he loved. He really didn't need anything, but he did find a white shirt because who doesn't need a new white shirt? It's egyptian cotton and a blessed non-iron fabric! Now when I neglect to iron his shirts for months, he'll have something to wear besides polos. We came away with him thinking he needs a leather jacket, which is the first I had heard of it, so the power of suggestion works on men too apparently.

What struck me as I looked through the racks of clothes is that I really just don't like the fall fashion options. There is so much 80's influence right now and it's just not me. There were so many chunky, long sweaters that I suppose balance out skinny jeans. There are some years that the fashion trends just don't appeal which is when it's great to fall back on your current wardrobe and save some money.

I don't want to neglect to mention that the preview is especially great if you are looking for a hot item or hot brand because those items sell out first. There are some Tory Burch flats which always sell out fast, and certain brands of handbags will go quickly. How quickly, I don't know, but since the anniversary sale is unique because it's putting items on sale before fall gets here, I bet there is a lot of frenzy over these items because of the discount.

I'm sure that I could have found something if I really was in the buying mood, but to be honest, I had already bought a couple things for fall and needed to wait to buy anything else. It was fun to be a part of the preview and I would do it again next year. Fall is my favorite time of year because I look forward to sweaters and the cooler months. Since I'm from North Carolina, fall always meant the turning of beautiful leaves, crisp mornings, sunny days and one never forgets the importance of the back to school wardrobe. In Houston, I'll just look forward to cooler days and the energy of back to school shopping, even though I'm not in school.

What about you all? Have you been to the Nordstrom preview? Did you buy anything? Do you feel that it's just more exclusivity marketing hype, or that there is real value there?

Image here.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

How I Save Money at Starbucks

OK, the obvious way you can save money is not to go. I'm on board with that most of the time, but sometimes I like to meet a friend there, or take my laptop and pretend I'm busy and important. I've had some people at Starbucks ask me what I've ordered, so I wanted to share my sneaky little strategies of how I save a little money with you.

First You Have to Register a Starbucks card If you remember my wallet post, maybe you remember all the Starbucks cards I had in there. I always wondered why they didn't have a card to punch and every 10 coffees, I get one free. I was accustomed to that feature at all my previous coffee shop hang outs and I really missed it!

All you have to do is buy a gift card, register the number online and use it. You can even have your credit card linked to it, so it automatically refills when it goes below a certain limit. I don't do that because we are phasing out credit cards in our life, but I used to do it when I was working. You can see all the rewards options at the Starbucks website.

Free Refills One of the main rewards that I enjoy are free refills while you are at Starbucks. I usually take my refill and heat it up the next day because I can't handle that much caffeine in one day. I just stick in the frig and look forward to it tomorrow!

Free Coffee Sometimes I also buy the decaf whole bean coffee for at home. I time my purchase so that I can hang out and get my free tall coffee, technically it says "any handcrafted tall beverage of your choice", but you may have to fight for that because I usually just get a plain old coffee.

Free Syrup & Milk Upgrades At first I was feeling guilty for having these extra calories in the form of syrup, but it tastes so much better that I decided to ignore that guilt. Besides, this is another great way that I save money because if you like one of the frou-frou expensive drinks, I can't tell the difference.

Order a Misto That leads me to the next way that I save money. The strangely named "Misto" is on the menu under Caffe Misto, but is often overlooked. Basically it's a Cafe au Lait, coffee with steamed milk, which is my favorite. I am extra naughty and get whole milk because it tastes so much better, and always order it extra hot, with vanilla syrup. It's costs $2.00 instead of $3.25 for a tall Caramel Macchiato.

Free Birthday Coffee Yep, you get a coffee on your birthday. Order the biggest, most expensive one they have just because you can!

Cumulative Rewards Just like any rewards program, this is the one where you have to keep yourself in check. I think it's human nature to want to complete things and get free stuff. I still try to only do Starbucks once in awhile because it is an expensive habit that can get out of control really fast. I wrote about the luxury of the poor issue a little bit here.

At first you will be at the Green Level, and then the Gold Level. They send you a cool Gold card just to make you feel super special and exclusive. Once you get to the Gold level, you get a free drink, every 15 stars. I don't know exactly what stars are the equivalent of in dollar amounts, but just know that eventually you get a free drink.

So I'm not going to go into the financial drain that IS Starbucks, but I do feel like it's a treat for me sometimes. Now they have free wi-fi for everyone who goes which is an extra incentive to stay for awhile. I divide the price that I pay for my tall Misto in half and I'm paying $1.00 per cup of coffee which is not bad for a morning out.

What's your favorite way to treat yourself on the cheap? I also like to go try on lipstick and perfume and not buy anything. It just makes me happy and no buyer's remorse either! Do you like Starbucks?

I'm a Caffe Misto Whole Milk Vanilla Syrup Extra Hot. What are you?

Just for fun I put some pictures of our wedding day. I had a major caffeine withdrawal headache and my new hubby knew just what I needed!

The first sip relieved my headache.

You also get a free Starbucks on your wedding day!

I'm not even letting go for the photo ops. These are all in downtown Greenville, SC.

I do. love coffee.
He wasn't drinking it, just holding it.

Coffee cup image from here.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

What I Learned From Fashion Magazines

Spurred on by another 100 Things Challenge, I have been determined to whittle down the still imposing stacks of magazines at my house. I've been reading an impressive amount in a small amount of time. Some of them are two years old and I haven't even been interested enough to open them once, which is really saying a lot. All these magazines are the consequence of one little letter saying our airline points were about to expire, so we redeemed them in exchange for piles of magazines.

Now I've always loved magazines and have meticulously read them from cover to cover. I would be so excited about a fresh copy in the mail and would eagerly anticipate delving into it. Reading them was a science and I could only turn past the part that I was at in order to finish an article in the back. Apparently those days are over, because it's obvious to me now that they no longer hold the same appeal. I mean I will even flip past without reading an article which is shocking to you I'm sure. The type of magazines I'm talking about are Allure, Glamour, Vogue, and Lucky magazines which are all similar in genre, the fashion and makeup types.

I've been collecting in my head some thoughts that struck me during my marathon reading sessions.

1. WOW, Only $100! There are often budget friendly fashion articles that always leave the editor in awe that you can find great items for under $100. I would say that almost all my items are under $100 and I don't feel that in awe about it. Even if I buy something over $100, I know that I can easily find something under $100 too. One magazine was talking about a new line of jeans that are so economical but they were still $154. I'm sorry, but haven't these people been to the Gap? Besides, they put together all these economical items on a page, and the outfit is no longer economical. None of my outfits cost as much as my mortgage payment.

2. WHO would wear that? I would never wear anything they put together. I'm talking mostly about Lucky here because I think they try to be accessible to the "common girl" shopper. Magazines like Vogue are meant to be fantasy and art and of course most women wouldn't wear those outfits. But Lucky suggests some really strange combinations that maybe will fly in NYC, but here in Texas, you might look like you dressed in the dark. I like a lot of the single items in Lucky but would not wear outfits like they suggest, which is kind of puzzling because this is supposed to be inspiration for a gal like me.

3. SAVINGS! Those blasted coupons really work because they make me want to use them. Whether it's $2.00 off a Revlon lipstick or $10 off a $50 purchase, I actually feel motivated to go seek and buy. Most of the time I don't but the point is that I want to, which makes reading fashion magazines dangerous for the budget. Also, some of them will have deals with certain websites which makes us want to shop more. At least they don't hide their motive because Lucky is the "magazine about shopping."

4. DANG, I'm Persistent! If I see something I like, I will try to find it. Maybe this is obvious but this is also dangerous because I now want something that I didn't know existed, which leads me to the point that magazines are basically just commercials that you pay to read. I know, I know it's obvious but is it to everyone?

5. You will never catch up! Trends are not style, but they are like a buffet that you can pick and choose what you like at the moment. If you bank your whole style on trends, you will be out of style before you blink. You can't try to keep up with the magazines because it is their job to make sure that you don't. I heard somewhere that if a trend ends up at Target, that it's already out of style. That may be true according to fashion standards, but should it matter to me? I want to be chic but I don't have to be a part of the super trendy set. At some point, you can't really avoid the trends. Almost everything is a trend, but some items do endure longer.

I still think magazines can be great to update you, inspire you and even motivate you to keep your look polished and together. Reading them en masse though has made me feel as force fed as french goose. It's all about marketing and I have to be a willing participant for it to work. I still love fashion and I do spend my money on clothes and beauty products, but don't be like a sheep being led to the slaughter. Know that you are being sold and not educated when you read the magazines. (I don't know what is inspiring these graphic animal references by the way!)

How do you all feel about fashion magazines? Do you feel like you are being sold on every page, whether it's an ad, or an editorial review of a product, to a fashion layout, to a celebrity interview talking about her favorite products and designers? I'd love to hear what your take is and if you even read them.

P.S. A post coming up about some Tory Burch shoes that have left me feeling uneasy about why I wanted them, bought them, but haven't worn them. I hate giving in to peer pressure!

Image from here.

Friday, June 11, 2010

How Organized Is Your Closet?

As beautiful as the picture is above, I don't think many people's closets are this minimalist and perfect. There do seem a decent amount of clothes here, but probably not a lot of variety. My closet houses all my clothes, including workout gear and casual clothing too. Even though this is a fantasy closet, I still aspire for mine to look like a version of this.

I've been thinking about issuing another 100 Things Challenge for myself. It's so therapeutic to count how many things you are letting go, like it's an accomplishment. I'm still working on my magazines and am proud to say I'm making a dent. I took a few bags to the thrift store last week too. I didn't count all those things but I'm willing to start over. Want to join me?

The challenge will go right along with the question of how organized your closet is. How would you like your closet to look? I'm sure most people have some piles going in the closet. I usually have something not hung up. We have a laundry basket in there. Our drawers are stuffed and get messy really fast. I put away out of season clothing so I only have the relevant pieces to look through. We are fortunate to have a nice sized closet and an organizing system from the Container Store. Our drawers are exactly like the ones in the picture in fact, which really helps to maintain tidiness.

Do you follow the rule, if you haven't worn it in a year, you throw it out? I will admit that I don't. I will put things on trial before I take the final plunge. It really has to be pretty evident that it's on it's not ever going to work for me to let it go to Goodwill. I downgrade a lot of clothes. Once nice t-shirts become workout shirts, old shoes become working or painting shoes, and old sweaters are like a sweatshirt to me since I don't wear sweatshirts. The only exception is if I know someone who will wear it, and then I will happily pass it along to them.

In order to have an organized closet goal, you have to ask yourself how much you are comfortable owning, or not owning. How would you feel with ten pairs of shoes, and three pairs of jeans for example? There is a buffer of excess that most people have that makes us feel like we are not in need. One may say they want a pared down closet, but would that put her in panic mode, and result in more shopping?

I think the answer is purely personal, but the idea is that we can be intentional. Maybe your closet is making you apprehensive because you can't find anything, or the clothes aren't "you" anymore. Just ask yourself what kind of closet person you want to be. I think we can all do with some paring down.

Answering the question, who you aren't can be just as telling as who you are. My don't would be a list like this:

  1. I don't work in an office.
  2. I don't go to clubs.
  3. I don't wear high heels.
  4. I don't live in a cold area.

I have a lot of "don'ts" and I bet you do too. What you do need is easy because you are wearing that every day. Begin your 100 Things Challenge with your "don'ts" and see if that gets you started.

When you are left with what you have, see how you can make your closet look more presentable. I love to organize my like things in baskets or boxes. Ikea has great boxes that make your closet look so tidy. Home Goods usually has some canvas lined baskets that look clean and polished too. Maybe you can hang your jewelry on some pretty hooks. But before you go buy anything, clean it out first! Before you buy, know what things you need to store.

So what is your ideal closet space? Do you have a large closet or a small armoire? Do you long for a closet like the picture, or is it a little too OCD for your taste? Are you ready for another 100 Things Challenge? Anyone want to link to a picture of their closet?

Picture from here.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Beach Cottage Bed Makeover

Our bed has had a plain white duvet cover on it for awhile now and even though I love the look of white, it wasn't working in our room.  It was too stark and the room needed something more, so lately I've been obsessing over the perfect duvet cover for our bed, one that adds color while combining masculine and feminine style.  My requirement was a blue-aqua color but I wanted it to not be too girly since I already have the inescapable pink chairs in the room.  I love creating a little cloud for us to sleep in with crisp, clean sheets, the perfect pillows and a fluffy, soft duvet.

After scouring every store in person and online I could find from Target to, I landed on the perfect blend I was looking for at Pottery Barn.  It's called Sausalito and is really more aqua than it looks in the photo.  It was a bonus that I found a pattern I liked in their organic line.

I've been working on adding more of a coastal, crisp feel into our home, a beach cottage if that's not too much of a stretch. G is from the Caribbean so this cottage style appeals to both of us.  I love decorating with beach inspired colors and textures but I'm trying to avoid an all out beach theme.  I hate cliche and have to leave room for my own quirkiness in the mix too.  I find that the blue and tan combination is so restful and I know I can use this for years to come.  The pattern and feel reminds me of a men's dress shirt, one that I don't have to iron.  

Of course I wanted a big fluffy look like they have in the store so I searched for a down alternative comforter to replicate that look.  I finally decided to get the organic Pottery Barn one but when I went to buy it, I found out that the organic one online is not the same one they sell in the stores.  Bummer, because I had my heart set on that one, but am not willing to pay so much for shipping.  Even though the one in the store was good; if I was buying a non-organic one, I was going to pay a non-organic price.  

All was not lost though because on that trip I learned a valuable Pottery Barn insider secret.  They have TWO comforters in their duvets on the display beds.  So my original plan wasn't going to work after all because there was no way I was going to spend almost $400 on two down comforters.  With Plan B in mind, I searched again online for down alternative comforters with good reviews.  A nudge from a friend (hi Amber!) prompted me to just order two from Wal-mart.  They have great reviews, free shipping to the store and two of them was half the price of one at Pottery Barn.  Of course anyone who really knows me knows that I will return them tout de suite if I don't like them!

To complete the look of the bed, we decided that the matching Euro shams were the way to go.  Since we still have my home-made headboard while we wait for the perfect, or shall I say, perfectly priced bed, they do not disappoint.  We got the pillows at Pottery Barn to go with the shams and I love their squishy, poofy down feel as much as I love how they give the bed a facelift.    

If you study in the store how they make a bed that looks luxurious and interesting, you will always see layers of color and texture.  I plan to add more layers to my bed to do just that.  With just a couple of regular pillow cases like the ones below, I can add interest and depth to the room.  The good news is that they will definitely be on sale as summer goes by and I can get a discount.

All of our sheets are white and I don't want to change that but adding a tan blanket to an under layer or at the foot of the bed is a possibility for the colder months.  We'd  have to be crazy to add another layer in the Houston summer though so that will give me time to find one that complements the look by fall.

What do you think?  Do you put a lot of effort into wardrobing your bed?  Does matching matter?  Do you think the bed is the face of the room?  Do you like beach cottage decorating but like me think it can get too much too fast?  I have a confession that sometimes I don't even make my bed but I'm going to resolve to get better about that!

Photos from here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

What Inspires You?

"It had the beauty of austerity, the wonderful shining cleanliness and even emptiness, the simplicity of having only what is it essential, which is balm to the troubled mind."  Caryll Houselander in Born Catholics  

This quote was posted on my refrigerator about 10 years ago, and now it is sitting on my desk.  It speaks to me in a way that is so contrary to the way that shopping and our consumeristic society makes me feel.  They both draw me though and I struggle to balance between over-consumption and a too minimal life. It makes sense that the quote is referring to a convent room where if anyone's life should be focused enough to attain this simplicity, it would be a nun.

When I read this, it always reminds me of how I feel when I'm traveling with only my suitcase full of essentials.  I go to a hotel room that has very little and I feel so peaceful there.  I often try to simulate at home how I feel in that space.  The room is decorated and the bed is cozy, but no clutter anywhere except what I bring.

Even though we need more at home, I sometimes wonder how much more do we need?  The excess weighs us down and becomes a burden.  We have to buy bins to put it in, hide it when people come over, clean around it, organize it and sometimes just shuffle it from pile to pile.  Why not get a coffee and dedicate an hour to going through some piles today?

How do you bring peace into your home? Is cleaning out clutter balm to your troubled mind?  Do you need a lot to feel at home, or is minimalism your style?

Photo from a convent in Italy.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Post Israel Post About Israel (& Shopping Too)

I have been in a fashion funk lately.  Maybe it's because my mind has been so focused on planning our trip to Israel.  For months, all our shopping trips involved Smartwool socks and moisture wicking fabrics.  At first I hated buying all these adventure clothes because they are so anti-fashionable. The first time we went to REI, I said I don't even know why they have mirrors because all these boots are ugly.  They grew on me though and now I'd wear them every day if I could because I love the sturdiness and comfort.  But don't be silly, I won't wear them every day! After all, Houston is the land of Tory Burch flats and flip flops.

On one shopping trip, I was making fun of G for his choice of button up green hiking shirts complete with venting in the back.  Despite my heckling, he bought them anyway because he thought they were super cool and so functional.  The next day we were in Banana Republic and what do I see but almost the exact same green shirt with two pockets on the front, minus the back venting.  So, what do I know about fashion anyway?  You step away for a couple months and you are completely out of the loop.

Today, I got reacquainted with the fashion world by spending a few hours at Nordstrom.  I walked around and soaked it all up with the piano music in the background as icing on the cake.  I even saw an old friend so we just cozied up on the couches in the women's department and had an hour long chat.  Usually, it takes me a long time to shop there because the shoppping budget doesn't go that far.  I must carefully select my few purchases.

Natalie, one of the sales girls took me around and gave me the tour of what's in right now.  She mentioned skinny jeans quite a bit, cargo pants, long cardigans, and lace.  I don't hop on to every trend but my wardrobe needed some CPR.  I got a a long black cardigan, a white ruffley, flowy cardigan, a purple sleeveless top, and a pair of white wedge shoes.  Well, let me show you the couple of things I could find on the site.

I was supposed to be shopping for summer, but I justified the cardigans because one, Natalie told me how cool they are, and two because even you need a sweater in the summer for the chilly air conditioning. I'm usually totally against white shoes and I completely forgot that until just now.  I also got lured into a Laura Mercier makeover which was fun.  I need more makeup like I need a hole in my head but I got the black turquoise eyeliner anyway.

I came home and was so excited about my new purchases that I made lots of new outfits with my purple shirts and white shoes.  I haven't done that in so long.  I basically lived in a turtleneck and jeans all winter because our house was so cold.  I'm just now getting my summer clothes into rotation so I needed to reevaluate what I have.  I know my few purchases are going to go far with perking up my existing clothes.  It's encouraging that just a couple of new and modern things can invigorate a wardrobe.

Even though I'm excited about my new purchases, I can't forget to write about the most important thing on my mind these days though!  Our trip to Israel was life changing and amazing.  I bought a few items and it transformed a lot of my outfits, but experiencing Israel has transformed my mind. This was a study trip as well as a hiking trip.  We learned so many things that allow us to see Jesus and the Bible in a new way.  There was a light that was turned on by learning about Jesus as a Jewish Rabbi, the culture and practices of Jews during his time.  Knowing the land and the specifics of the culture helps us understand the parables and metaphors he used more clearly.  If you are interested in this, read Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus, to learn more about unlocking the key to understanding a new level of the Bible.

To be in the land of the Bible and walk where Moses and Jesus walked was awe inspiring.  We would hike up a mountain or down a wadi and read about what happened in that place from the Scriptures.  The picture above and below is by the dead sea.  That scarf wasn't for fashion. It had cooling beads in it that kept me from overheating on those long hikes.  Here are a couple more photos.

Tell me what has invigorated you or your wardrobe lately?  Have you taken a trip that changed your life?  Is there a trend that you are loving?  Are you cringing or smiling that the 80's are back?  When Natalie from Nordstrom told me to pinch in the bottom of my pants before rolling them up to look more tapered, it took me back to junior high and I'm not that excited about the 80's coming back.  Are you rocking the skinny jeans and flowing cardigans?  Have you been to Israel?  Got a trip planned?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Will You Do It Too?

We did it.  It was really hard and I realized something about myself.  I have an aversion to dying.  I don't like to talk about it and I certainly don't like to think about people going through my stuff when I am not around.  I don't like to think about Gustavo dying before me, or me dying before him.  I'd just really rather not know what happens after I die before I die. Regardless of all this avoidance and denial, we finally did our will.

We used an attorney here in Houston that I can certainly recommend to you. She was very thorough and patient as we discussed how we would go about dispersing our estates.  I am so indecisive and she even worked through that with me.  Her name is Mary Beth Cameron and you can contact her here. She can actually do all kinds of lawyering stuff so if you need something else, call her for that too.

We did something kind of fun with our wills.  Instead of just only giving money to family members, we will also each be setting up two scholarship funds, one for the children in our families and one for our high schools.  We both strongly believe in education and thought it was a great way to keep a legacy of that belief going.

My scholarship trust for my high school will be for a student who was just like me, enthusiastic and active, made good grades but wasn't the top top student and didn't qualify for financial aid.  There are so many worthy students who are in the middle area and that is who I want to help. Eventually we will set up this scholarship fund while we are still alive so we can have fun picking the student too.  Gustavo is setting one up for his high school in Puerto Rico, a specialized boarding school for future engineers called CROEM.

Maybe you have something that you strongly believe in and want to help with too.  If you do, it's not as complicated as it sounds.  You don't have to set it up now so there's nothing to do really except put it in your will and appoint the trustees.  When you die a "springing trust" will be created and you have already named the trustees in your will.  You have to pick three people in case some of those people are already gone.  Wouldn't it be fun to have a scholarship named after you in your high school?  I seriously thought about only giving it for students who want to study abroad since I had a hard time paying for my study abroad programs.  (I went to Spain and Wales.) Why not pick someone who was just like you and play favorites like I did?

If you haven't done your will yet, just make an appointment and do it.  It won't be fun and I'm not even sure you will feel better after all these thoughts about dying, but it is a necessary evil.  If you have children, you especially need to think about who will raise your children by appointing a guardian.  Depending on your state there are different consequences to not having a will.  There may be financial consequences or it will just be harder on your spouse or family.  Believe me, when there is a death you have enough paper work to deal with without having to fight the court.  I learned that having a will written partly in ink and partly typed is not valid in places.  There are actually a lot of rules and if you are going through the trouble to make one, make sure you find out from an attorney if it will be valid.  The kits at Office Depot for $20 are probably not be worth it.

I bet you are all ahead of me and took care of this already.  Who has a will and did you do something special in it?  Did you know that you aren't allowed to leave money to your dog?  Are you like me, and avoided it like the plague?  Does it creep you out to think about people going through your stuff?  What better reason to go clean out your closet right now!

Picture from here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Make Your Own Must-Have List

In the spirit of daylight savings time and 70 degree weather, G and I exchanged out our summer and winter wardrobes this past weekend.  As we were taking out and putting away, we also took the opportunity to clean out some things in the process.  It was really fun, especially pointing all the things G should throw out, and our closet looks so much tidier.

G doesn't usually have an opinion about my clothes but he did intervene on some items for me this time.  There were some pointy toed heels with love written on them that he slowly reached in, took out and placed in the to go bag.  I only slightly flinched as I watched them go.  The same happened with the strappy, rhinestone buckle heels that I bought for our first date. They will be much prettier in memory when I tell the story to our kids, rather than their grubby reality.  The green Theory pants and the candy cane striped velvet Theory pants are in there too.  Bye bye faithful friends, I hope that you make someone else smile too!   The back of the car is full and headed to KCM, our local charity store, this week.

As I was sitting on the floor gathering up my winter socks into their bag for another year in hibernation, I looked up at my slightly stuffed side and thought "I still have too many clothes."   I had preserved some winter items until the heat is here for good, but I still have too many clothes.

This is a picture of my side of the closet and you can see that for the average American woman my wardrobe is really pared down and small, although it's kind of stuffed in there at the moment. 

Even though my wardrobe is smaller than the average bear, I still sat there contemplating this, as only a Closet Therapist would do and I had a thought.

What if I started over with nothing?  

How many clothes would I need?

Hmmmmm.  First I asked Gustavo because guys are simpler to organize.  We both agreed that 10 shirts and 5-8 pairs of pants would be a good place to start for him.  But women tend to be more complicated.  Our closets consist of items that have organically grown over the years, through sizes and trends and phases.  As we exit one phase, we don't automatically let go of the previous one but what would we choose if we started over today? 

I am a stay at home wife and I have a pretty basic uniform that I wear everyday yet my wardrobe is still filled with many unnecessary items because some of those clothes are work clothes.  I don't work outside the home but if I did for a time I wouldn't want to go shopping.  Obviously I would need to earn money and not spend it shopping for new clothes. Everyone has their reasons for keeping items that don't work for them at the moment.  Maybe you are getting back into pre-baby clothes, or holding on to a smaller size because you are determined to lose weight.  I've decided to put those work clothes away so that they are there if I need them but I don't have to look at the extra clothes every day stuffed in my closet.  

Why does this even matter?  Let's just all stuff our closets full and not worry about it.   The truth is that a simplified wardrobe that works for us presently is important to all areas of our life.  It affects our confidence, how appropriate we dress and how comfortable we are working in our daily lives.  

I don't have an answer for how much you need, but if you ask yourself I bet you'll find an answer.  There are tons of must-have wardrobe staples lists but really you should make your own.  Those famous must-have lists are not for everyone.  Why does every list have a trench coat and why don't I see anyone walking around in one?

Why not put in a box the clothes that you don't wear?  They say we wear 20% of our clothes 80% of the time.  Is that true for you?  What would happen if you had less clothes in your closet?  Would you feel rested or start to panic? What would your wardrobe look like if you started over?  Tell me what is in your "Must-Have List".  

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

How My Wallet Went on a Diet

Recently I bought a new wallet from Rue La La.  It's by Chocolat Blu and just a clean, crisp black.  I usually would have gone for a color but decided to be conservative and classic in my choice this time.  I eagerly awaited it in the mail, and when I got it was delighted at the leathery smell and clean design.  Then I put all my stuff in it and to my dismay, it looked so stuffed and fat that I took everything out and considered sending it back.  I mean, it wasn't going to work for me, was it?

After some inward thought about my wallet full of cards, I started thinking it was time to declutter this area of my life too.  Why is it necessary to be dragging around all these things with me?  In the spirit of full disclosure and shame, I'm going to list what was in my wallet.

Chase credit card
Chase debit card
Banana Republic Luxe credit card
Banana Republic $10 gift card
Banana Republic $10 gift card (yes, another one)
Banana Republic choose a day to get 15% off card
Banana Republic February 23 30% card
Banana Republic February 18-28 25% card
Wachovia debit card
Nordstrom card
Drivers License
Starbucks Registered Card (1)
Starbucks Registered Card (2)
Starbucks Registered Card (3)
Insurance Card
Prescription Card
Whole Foods vitamin card
Whole Foods vitamin card (yes, two)
Water machine card
Talbots credit card
Ann Taylor credit card
AAA card
Hertz AAA discount card
Home Depot gift card (well earned for listening to Rain Soft presentation)
Pottery Barn merchandise credit (for pillows I took back without receipt)
Anthropologie customer card
AT&T debit card (was gift for signing up with them & has .57 on it)
Coupon for free pair of Victoria's Secret panties
Checkbook register
Coffee card from Lenoir, NC (drive thru coffee when I visit my family)
Coffee card from Lenoir, NC (internet & coffee when I visit my family)
CVS card
Library card from Houston
Library card from Katy
Business card for hairdresser

Can you believe this?  Is this a Dave Ramsey nightmare?  We don't carry any debt on any of these credit cards, but I had to ask myself why it is necessary to have all these on me at all times.  I am not often unprepared when asked to produce something as you can imagine and, believe it or not, I'm having a hard time whittling this list down to fit all neat and tidy in my new wallet.

If you break down my list into categories, it would look like this:

Major Credit Cards
Banking Debit Cards
Store Credit Cards
Customer Loyalty Cards (not credit but you give when you shop)
Store Credit (they have money on them)
Misc. but important like insurance and drivers license

In an effort to become who my wallet wants me to be, I have been evaluating all these categories and making decisions to simplify my financial life.  I found there are sentimental attachments to these cards, just like everything else we try to declutter.  There are personal associations that I feel by having cards to certain stores.  That is how they want us to feel!  I have been sure that there is an advantage to being a part of this store by having their credit card because they send me catalogs and coupons.  As far as Talbots and Ann Taylor, I hardly ever shop there.

I have already taken action to reduce this credit clutter.  I canceled my Ann Taylor card with the touch of a few buttons.  Yesterday I said bye bye to my Wachovia checking account and debit card which I never use.  It was my first checking account in college which is probably what kept my loyalty all these years.  G had a Saks card that he canceled but wasn't in my wallet.  Yay for progress!

We have the Chase Freedom card which gives you cash back, and used to make all our purchases on that card.  For the last 8 months or so we have been weaning ourself off of using it because it June they will start charging an annual fee.  I don't have any problem canceling a card that charges me just for having it!  Even though we paid it off every month, using a credit card still makes you spend more money.  There is something very real about using cash to pay for things.  You don't let go of it as easily and may think twice about a purchase.

On Sunday, we were at the Columbia store looking for outdoorsy clothes for our trip to Israel coming up.  I had four things that I was going to buy and they came to $130.  I asked G how we were going to pay for it and he said we should try to not use the credit card.  That means that I have to use my allowance for these clothes.  I ended up putting one jacket back, using the cash I had in my wallet and then writing a check for the rest.  We definitely reconsidered every item right there at the cash register when I realized I wouldn't be using the credit card.

One card that we won't be canceling is the Banana Republic.  We shop there a lot and find a lot of value in it.  We get free hemming alterations on all our pants we buy, free shipping with online shopping, and a lot of promotions for cardholders.  Gustavo is so slim that their clothes fit him best and I love dressing him from there.

The customer loyalty cards are quite bulky and when it comes down to it, you can give them your phone number.  The CVS card, I had on my key chain and in my wallet.  It's just amazing to me how I comply with these marketing strategies.  Because of this CVS card, I certainly shop there rather than Walgreens.

There are other reasons to not be carrying around all these items in your wallet, financial reasons and logistical ones.  If my wallet got stolen, I would have to remember all these things were in my wallet, and make a ton of phone calls to cancel and replace.  What if I forgot one that I rarely used like my Wachovia debit card?  I think that making changes like these have to happen from time to time.  What used to work for us may not be working anymore.  Sometimes just leaving it alone seems easier which was certainly the case for me.

I'm so happy that this little wallet has come into my life to expedite these changes.  I'm not sure I would have done it otherwise.  I will think twice about accepting a 10% discount to open a store charge card.  Sometimes it really isn't worth the complication that it causes.  It's another bill that you have to remember to pay.  Hey, sometimes it is worth it but that's not for me to decide.  Sometimes 10% is a lot!  Maybe cancel the card after you get the discount.  Then again, you have to consider that your credit is being hit by opening the card, so if you are buying a house or need your credit score to be high, it's not worth it.

What do you think about simplifying your finances?  What do you do to make your life less complicated.  Is your wallet fat and stuffed like mine, or mainstreamed and uncluttered?  Want to send me a picture for inspiration or share in my shame?  Do tell!

Picture from here.  This is not my wallet by the way!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Too Many Monkeys In My Hard Drive

There is nothing like that little message that pops up to tell me that my hard drive is almost full to make me clean out my computer clutter.  I thought there must be some reason that my computer is conspiring against me, so I took Polly to the Apple store.  They informed me that my music and pictures were taking up one-third of my space.  Even though I have a back-up hard drive, I poised myself for some hard-line discipline and resolved to clean things out.

I started around Christmas with cleaning out emails and managed to clean out about 500 or so.  Isn't it hard to delete emails from friends?  They are long catch-up type messages and they make me laugh every time, so I'm avoiding those for now.  What really happens more than not is just time going by and forgetting to delete the junk so it keeps accumulating. Normally I wouldn't care but I have serious computer issues so I must push forward.

In order to prevent this massive build-up again, I have been ruthlessly unsubscribing from companies.  Some of them are sending emails so often that I'm not really reading them.  Williams Sonoma has started really creeping me out with their emails.  If I go visit their site to look at something, they will send me an email a couple of days later saying, "Thank you for looking at our Cuisinart Food Processor."  What?  I really don't like being internet stalked.  Talk about nosy!

Photos were my next line of attack and they give the most satisfaction in creating more hard drive space.  I didn't know how massive these photo and video files were.  If you are having this issue too, go straight for the jugular, the photos.  On first pass through over 6000 photos, I've managed to delete almost 1000!  I've come to realize that I need to practice responsible photography in the future.  How many pictures of a monkey's face in Costa Rica do I need?

What about you guys?  Are you email and photo hoarding like me?  I'm mostly just too lazy to take the time to go through these things until it's too late.  What do you need to sort through before you run out of space in your computer or elsewhere?

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Corral Your Family Board Games

What have I been up to since January 1?  I've been redecorating and reorganizing all over the place, and now I'm here to tell about it!  I've been tacking little projects by doing something that I usually wait until the last possible moment to do, buy more stuff, whether it's organizing stuff or not.

I always think that if I have to go buy a box to hold stuff that those things must be clutter and I must ignore them until they go away.  They don't always go away.  They are shameful like that, clutter I mean.  So sometimes you have to corral your stuff so it can have a place to live and be respectable and no longer call itself clutter.

Since our extra family moved in last August, we've been playing a lot of board games and they were inadvertently being left out on the table until next time, dot dot dot.  That seems fine, but I hated them just lying there on the table until the next time.  So I set about finding a perfect new home for them which wouldn't be high up in the upstairs closet and also wouldn't be on the dining room table.  

I scoured TJ Maxx and Home Goods and Target a few times before finding this perfectly damaged but suitable and fortunately marked down gem.  Now our games have a place to live and they are handily stored in a convenient place for game-time at a moment's notice.

This is  my (im)perfect basket that only has one handle functional until I fix the other one. 

Ok, so it's not the deal of the century but have you noticed how expensive baskets are?  It's ridiculous really when you see the walls of baskets at Goodwill and other thrift stores. Unfortunately I never found one just the right size there, or I would have scooped it up.

Below is the final product, before I snipped the tag off.  I don't have a Minnie Pearl complex, I promise, however if you walked through my house right now you'd see lots of price tags dangling as I decide if I'll keep something or not.  That's the fun of redecorating and don't think I haven't realized that half of my errands are buying things and the other half are returning them.  I'm so productive!

This is the finished product, tucked away on the bottom of our little tower in the living room just waiting to be put to service again soon.  Don't you feel better knowing that our games have a home?

What about you all?  Do you have some things gathering that you need to go ahead make a permanent home somewhere?  Having like items together makes us feel more organized and it looks nicer too.  The great thing about finding a home for things is that sometimes you can just look around your home and find something that you already have.  I love it when I don't have to spend any money for a solution to an organizing problem.  

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Happy New Year 2010!

Happy New Year to all of you! I'm so ready for a new year and looking forward to great things to come. I'm so thankful for this blog because it allows me to get to know so many like minded people.

I have some New Year's Resolutions up my sleeve, many involving organizing and simplifying as always! Even though I'm not a big resolution person unless I really know I will achieve it, I still enjoy reflecting and making new goals. I like baby steps instead of a grand gesture because I tend to fizzle out of the big ones.

My list is combined of things to do and things not to do. I have a long list of things I am not allowed to buy because I have so much, everything from toothpaste to perfume to kitchen towels. We want to save more and spend less, so we can spend that savings on more intentional things. We are going to Israel in April which is something we have wanted to do for a few years. I really want to expand my knowledge in some different areas. I've already signed up for three cooking classes at Williams Sonoma. (Did you know they are free!) I'd love to learn photoshop and how to sew as well. Of course I plan to continue writing on this blog and hope to inspire you as well as myself to stay streamlined and clutter free in our lives.

This past year's resolution was focusing on building friendships and I'm happy to say that we feel great about our relationships that have been formed. Family is always important and we want to make even more effort to stay in touch. We don't know how long we will have each other and it's so important to treasure each person in your life.

What about you? Have you done your 100 things challenge yet? I'm already working on my 2nd round. You can read about it here, here and here.

Photo from here.

Our Trip to Rosemary Beach, Florida

I'm linking up again with  Erika ,  Andrea  and  Narci  for the Friday Favorites!  I love reading everyone's favorites too! ...