Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Uniform Appeal

Following the #33in33 challenge, I find myself inclined in an opposite direction, towards adopting a uniform. A uniform just wearing more or less the same combination of things every day, ie: a signature look that people picture you wearing when they think of you.

I liked this post by Alice Gregory on jcrew:

"Low maintenance and iconic, it’s a cheap and easy way to feel famous...
You save a lot of money by relinquishing trial-and-error shopping—those items you buy and never wear, try and fail to return. Gone is the mental math that goes into calculating how much you “paid per wear” for that sweater you only put on three times. And nobody thinks of a person who wears the same thing every day as unstylish. Rather, it’s simply a classification that does not apply."

She cites Madeline, Babar, and Eloise; I think Big Bang Theory - Sheldon's print tees over long sleeved shirts, Leonard's layered hoodies and jackets, Raj's sweater vests, and of course Howard's turtlenecks under plaid paired with oversized belt buckles. They aren't shining examples of style, but as Ms. Gregory mentions, the term ceases to apply. They are predictably the unique geeks they are. These fictional characters don't wake up every day and try to choose new and exciting ways to express themselves.

Maybe I'm trying too hard. (Maybe? ;-) )

Maybe the next step is just to look for contentment in sameness. Maybe this is the ultimate conclusion of Project333. Pick my best bet of fit, look, and flexibility and go with it. To be continued!

Monday, November 3, 2014

#33in33 Recap

So for the past 33 days I've been participating in BeMoreWithLess' #33in33 challenge - Create 33 different looks over 33 days with your Project333 pieces.

The challenge came at a good time for me, to add a little variety to my year and just to see if I could. Here's what I wore:

Every single one of my Project 333 items got worn at least once* Not surprisingly, pants and shoes were most repeated -

  • Skinny jeans 11x
  • Flip flops 11x
  • Sandals 7x
  • Capris 6x
  • Purple cardigan 6x
  • Brown sketchers 6x
  • Brown boots 6x
  • Bootcut jeans 5x

Most other items had 3-4 wears. Least utilized was my blue striped sundress (once).

*Two of my original Project pieces from seven months ago have been changed: one t-shirt was damaged beyond repair, and towards the end of the 33in33 challenge I made my first intentional substitution. The navy blue J Crew skirt you see in a few of the last outfits has taken the place of the white bohemian style skirt I initially included. As the month went on, I realized I was avoiding wearing that white skirt - I didn't like the way it looked and it just never felt "right" So I decided it's silly to keep something I so obviously dislike and pulled the navy skirt instead. It has pockets which I'm loving, and seems to be fitting much more seamlessly with the rest of my wardrobe. I also dislike those baggy khaki corduroy pants, but they serve a purpose and I'm leaving them in for the moment.

A few quick thoughts about the challenge itself:
- October weather varied less than I had initially expected - most days had highs in the 70's, which meant a lot of jeans/tshirt/long sleeve layer.
- It certainly wasn't difficult to come up with new combos (statistically there are tons of possibilities). I tried to vary more than just shoes or jewelry for different outfits, so I think there are no looks with the same top and bottom.
- On the other hand, it was too much work to think about coming up with new outfits every day and checking to see what I'd worn, and a few other Instagrammers seemed to feel the same way. I think part of the appeal of Project 333 is that the limits give us permission to wear our favorite things over and over, and makes dressing a relatively low-thought process. 33in33 kind of counteracted those benefits, plus added the hassle of taking a daily photo.
- Overall it was worthwhile to me since I have not been a Project 333 person who tracks what gets worn when, and this provided a helpful visual record of my style and choices to analyze! I would not have made that skirt switch otherwise. And it confirmed that, indeed, a limited wardrobe still provides a huge scope of possibilities.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Year of Project 333: "I smell like sunscreen" edition

 I need to up my selfie game - less bathroom, more shoes

Here's the background on my current Project 333 (for one year)

The dog days of summer might be the toughest time for Project 333. I usually hear folks fretting about the extremes of the transition seasons, but spring and fall are probably my favorite - with the weather variety and options for light layers, it's never boring.

Summer has been a little boring, and sweaty. If I weren't squeezing winter AND summer into my Project 333, I'd have had a few more options. During stretches of hot weather I have precisely 2 tanks, 3 tees, 2 shorts, one skirt, and a dress from which to choose (also one medium-length bohemian blouse that seems to work in heat).

Even when I don't get sweaty, everything ends up smelling like sunscreen!

It's not even remotely that big a deal. I wear whatever's [relatively] clean. Whatever's dirty, I wash on gentle and air-dry 'cause I want it to last 'til April. Some days I rock a few wrinkles and a spritz of eau de sunscreen and remember to give thanks for the clothes on my back.

And I still get creative when I can. A good Project 333 is a little like a tough round of Boggle (the old-school, pen-and-paper kind that we used to play on family game nights) -
  • You know, sometimes you get an awesome shakeout that is so full of words you're scribbling furiously and still know there's loads of combos left as the last few grains of sand drop from the timer. This would be like a fashionista's wardrobe - unlimited possibilities of fabulous outfits. But they may not get fully explored or utilized just because there are so many.
  • Sometimes you get a lousy set where there are a few hopeful possibilities, and they all turn out to be disappointingly so-close-but-not-quite. This is probably more like the closet I used to have, with lots of options and little connection. 
  • And then there are the sets that are discouraging at first glance. Q's and Z's all over. But you're stuck with them and you stick with them until the time runs out. You take a second look and realize there are a couple promising combos. You zero in on those and work them every direction you can; directions you might not have tried if there was anywhere else on the board to look. You hunt down the tough words... Kind of like my year-round closet with only a few items on the hangers. But they are items I've picked somewhat carefully to mix, match, and generally accommodate whatever life throws my way. So when I get bored, I'm forced to remix my basics and look at outfits from a different angle. Exhibit A, the photo at the top of this post. I have never attempted long sleeves over shorts until this summer. It doesn't exactly solve my dog days of summer sunscreen issue, but it provides a little scope for the imagination, as Anne Shirley might say.
Kind of like Courtney wrote recently (explaining why she doesn't tell you what brands, etc. she's wearing): 
I remember my pre-333 days thinking that a new dress that I saw in a magazine would make me improve my life, or scoring an amazing deal at a semi-annual sale would make me happy and finally complete my wardrobe, but it never did. I always needed more. There is nothing you can buy that will finally make you anything. The secret to having it all is recognizing that you already do.
I'm still prone to pursuing the perfect closet mirage (just on a smaller scale). I have this itch for change and newness. But this year is helping me practice contentment with inevitable imperfection and creativity with what I've got.

I just suffered my first wardrobe casualty, unexpectedly. Unbeknownst to me, Brad started using some sort of facial medication which is known to bleach clothing. He fell asleep on my shoulder... and one of my t-shirts bit the dust. Per the mental parameters I set at the start of the challenge, I'm making a substitution because I have to get rid of something, switching in something from my existing stock (nothing new!) that is as similar as possible. So, Gap stripe tee becomes Ann Taylor gold stripe tee. This makes an argument for buying cheap and/or second-hand basics - you just can't control life!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kindle book deals

In case you can't tell, I have a weakness for Kindle book hoarding. However, unlike a lot of my hoarding, I can see lots of good things that have come from my reading, and many of the non-fiction titles I read aren't available through my library. I do read these books, I just tend to acquire them at a faster rate than I can read :) Anyway, I had to post because there are a ton of $.99 and $1.99 Kindle book deals available right now that I wanted to share (Christianity and simple living) in case your virtual library could use some restocking!


 (highly rated by a friend)
 (read - very poetic prose!)
 (currently reading)

I spotted a number of other $.99 prices on titles I didn't know, so keep an eye out! You can browse best sellers in Religion & Spirituality to see some of them. Prices can change at any time.

These $1.99 book prices expire today, I think:

(These are my Amazon affiliate links, FYI)

Monday, August 4, 2014

Spouse-powered summer purge

Goodwill run. Yes, I eliminated Power & Market. Sorry Rothbard and GCC.

Getting rid of stuff has been on my back burner for a while, but things are heating up again. Brad somehow wandered into minimalism on his own (he was functionally minimalistic already). I think he was listening to podcasts and ran across one of Tsh's. Yes, I've heard of her, dear. We both like the intentional simplicity/essentialism mindset, instead of just seeing how few things we can own.

Anyway, he got the bug to move stuff out. We took five grocery bags full to Goodwill, a box and bag of books to church, sold an exercise bike and papasan chair on Craigslist, gave away the crib, taking the bed rail and toddler slide to a friend with littles, taking another two bags of stuff to the pregnancy support center tomorrow, and have a bin of kids clothes for a friend to look through. And a few garbage bags with trash and recycling. Much of this is me finding the stuff, but he's the one egging me on. I'm also making him close the Craigslist deals once I get them posted, because I hate that part! There are several more bigger items on our list still to re-home or dispose of.

The box of books I gave away at church was most of our board book collection, and that was the removal that gave me the most gut ache. I find it's the individual items that make me hesitate ("Oh, this one's so great, maybe we should keep it.") Fond memories and all that jazz. But with a three and six year old we have moved past that stage. In the big picture, I am so glad for them to move on to friends' homes who will read them. But I was so tempted to pull some back out as I loaded the trunk.

Never fear, your littles will still have durable reading material when they visit us - while sorting in the first place, I set aside a half-dozen of our favorites, like Clip-Clop, Barnyard Dance, and Sheep in a Jeep.

The other motivating factor is that we are thinking about moving, and the move would probably involve downsizing at least a little (or a lot on our drastic days). The more we can move out now, the less we have to resolve at crunch time.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Buried in Treasures on sale

I've got plans to update on my year-long Project 333, but wanted to drop in to mention that Buried in Treasures: Help for Compulsive Acquiring, Saving, and Hoarding (Treatments That Work) is on sale for $2.51 right now for the Kindle edition (reg. price hovers around $8.50). It's a guide/workbook for battling hoarding; I read it and it's geared to the person with severe hoarding, although there are good points for anyone who struggles with hoarding tendencies. I liked the book Stuff by some of the same authors better, but that's not structured as a self-help manual, more of just an overview of hoarding.

(Check your library too; mine has it)

"This fully updated Second Edition of Buried in Treasures outlines a scientifically based, effective program for helping those with hoarding disorder dig their way out of the clutter and chaos of their homes. Written by scientists and practioners who are leaders in studying and treating hoarding disorder, this book outlines a program of skill-building, learning to think about possessions in a different way, and gradual challenges to help people manage their clutter and their lives. It also provides useful information for family and friends of people who hoard, as they struggle to understand and help. 
Discover the reasons for your problems with acquiring, saving, and hoarding, and learn new ways of thinking about your possessions so you can decide what you really need and what you can do without. Learn to identify the "bad guys" that cause and maintain your hoarding behavior and meet the "good guys" who can help motivate you and put you on the path to change. Useful self-assessments will help you determine the severity of your problem. Training exercises, case examples, organizing tips, and motivation boosters help change the way you think and behave toward your possessions. This book provides easy-to-understand strategies and techniques that anyone can use."

(It's part of a sale through August 16th, 2014 on select Kindle psychology titles from Oxford University Press)

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Pack Rat Receipt System

This is my "desk." It's the top of a filing cabinet in the corner of our dining room.

I have a theory that most organizing advice proffered in this world is generated by people who are naturally organized. They rightly realize that they don't struggle as severely with chaos as others they see around, and want to help! The disorganized among us acknowledge their talent for bringing order and attempt to implement their wisdom. Our results with "perfect systems" can be mixed and discouraging because we have difficulty focusing on the tasks and making the decisions required.

What works for me is simplifying as much as possible to avoid organization needs, then looking for the most minimal method for handling the stuff I can't avoid - enter receipts. Receipts can quickly become overwhelming when my pack rat instinct is to keep every scrap of paper, because I might need it. Frankly, I frequently do need them for returns or to reference against credit card statements, etc.

Here's my current method for handling receipts that's been in place for about a year:

  1. Immediately throw away small receipts for cash purchases, like fast food.
  2. Everything else (all credit card purchases) I "file" which involves stuffing it in the front pocket of the desktop organizer you see pictured above. There's zero thinking involved.
  3. On the first day of each month, I move all the previous month's receipts from the front pocket to the small drawer, and remove the receipts already there.
  4. I sort the receipts from the drawer - at this point they are between one and two months old. So for instance, on May 1, I sorted through March's receipts and put April's in the drawer. (Depending on your financial system, this would be the time to enter info for budget purposes) Most are easily identifiable as no longer needed - all the grocery store receipts for food already consumed, etc. They get thrown out. I file the records of big purchases like electronics with the appropriate files. There might be one in the bunch that is not resolved, like we're not sure if needs to be returned, and I put that in the top left pocket. This takes maybe five minutes.

At this point, you may validly be questioning whether this is a simple system. "Why not just touch everything once? Sort right away?"  Again, this is a method that I've adopted to try to balance the need for order with the reality of my pack-rat tendencies.

Truth: I have the most mental clarity about what is important after some (but not too much) time has passed. 

In the case of receipts, this one-to-two-month holding period gives me the distance to relatively accurately identify the few things that should be retained. I have similar, but less explicit, techniques for papers in general and my boys' artwork.

Not too much time passing is very important. After six months, for instance, there would be a daunting amount of receipts piled up, and I would have begun to forget what many of them were about, which would mean I would want to hold onto them.

In the case of my kids artwork, if I leave everything for a year, everything starts to look like an heirloom. "Oh, look at all these beautiful dragon drawings. I remember when he loved How to Train Your Dragon." If I tackle art a month or two after creation, I am probably thoroughly sick of dragons and tempted to save very little, maybe the very best example.

Please do not misunderstand and think this is a perfect system. It's a practical one, that I don't always perfectly use. It works for my brain. Maybe you can modify it to work for yours! The key elements are
  • A. Avoid forcing immediate decisions when your reflexive response is to SAVE by establishing a defined holding zone
  • B. Identify an approximately optimal sorting frequency, taking into account both the volume of the category you're sorting and analyzing the time window after acquiring when you are most willing to let go 
  • C. Establish a regular "sort signal" based on the frequency you have identified - For instance, mine is the first day of the month. That's enough to remind me it's time for a five-minute sort. Perhaps you need a reminder on your phone, or perhaps there's a certain level of stuff in the holding zone that triggers a sort. The important thing is to find something that works for you. 
This will probably take several tries. If stuff keeps piling up, try to pinpoint the holdup. Are you forgetting to sort? (Is there a different way to remind yourself?) Are you having trouble letting go? (Experiment with longer or shorter intervals?) Are you too overwhelmed to tackle? (Try a shorter timeframe/try to split into two smaller holding categories/try to find a time when you feel most capable/recruit help?)

Keep tweaking! Aim for minimizing the amount of thought, effort, and decisions required by the systems you choose. Remember, the goal isn't perfection, the goal is a workable method that you will actually use to keep your life running.