A few months ago, I shared with you how I overhauled my medicine cabinet with new, safer cosmetics after learning about the harmful chemicals in the products I was using.
Today, I’m happy to report that my minimal makeup routine in the morning consists of an eyelash curler, RMS “the un-coverup” wherever I need it, RMS lip2cheek on the apples of my cheeks, a little Korres tinted lip balm, and an eyebrow powder that I have yet to investigate but is probably toxic (nobody’s perfect!). It takes me about 5 minutes total, and the RMS makeup has even improved my skin.
When I first made the natural switch, I threw away the Covergirl mascara that I have used for years, thinking I would replace it with a safer version immediately. A couple months passed and I never did as I learned that lots of natural mascaras can be slow to dry and take some time to get used to. I got spooked and put it off for awhile.
To give you some perspective, on EWG’s 0-10 scale (0=least harmful), my Covergirl was a 7 and the Bare Minerals version is a 2! The red flag on the Covergirl mascara was the ingredient probylparaban, which according to EWG is a 10 on the toxicity scale and is linked to “developmental/reproductive toxicity, ecotoxicology, endocrine disruption, allergies/immunotoxicity” to name a few. Absolutely not worth it.
Two posts in one week? Crazy, I know! But I thought I’d pop in for a moment and share some exciting updates.
So first things first, after mulling it over, I have decided to take a writing vacation for the month of August. Since things will be deceptively quiet here, I thought I’d share with you what I’ll be up to.
One of my hopes is that I’ll use my usual writing time to do a few site updates, especially around the pages.
TIW actually just celebrated its two-year anniversary on July 10th, which feels incredible because I am still bursting with ideas to share here. But I also know there is work to be done as both our community and I have grown – rethinking series, updating “About” pages, and doing some big picture thinking – all of which I’ve been wanting to do for awhile now but have been recently inspired to make time for.
My inspiration came in the form of Braid Creative’s Personal Branding ECourse, aimed at “creative entrepreneurs and bloggers (especially those of you who are both) who don’t entirely draw the line between work and life – and like it that way.” I was noticing a little identity crisis as my 9-5 and this blog overlap so much, which is such a blessing but at times is a source of confusion. I knew that digging into this distinction (and where I can continue the blur) would help me find better clarity for TIW. Not only did it do that, but it also gave me the courage to consider how I can share more of myself and my process here, and not just my closet.
(Your enthusiasm about posts that I have loved but was honestly terrified to share like “I’m Not a Fashion Omnivore” has also been a huge source of encouragement.)
Some of my time will also be spent training for my epic hiking and camping trip through Climate Ride to raise funding and awareness for my selected environmental nonprofits. I have just three weeks to go, and though my hike in the Catskills last weekend was great (check out that photo!), I need to get serious about training. Yet I also realize that preparing for this trip is just as much about building up courage as it is about building physical strength.
I know I’ve got a lot of learning ahead of me this month. In the meantime, go outside and enjoy the summer! I will be back in September and hopefully sharing a few surprises.
P.S. I LOVED the Braid ECourse that I mentioned above and highly recommend it for other creatives, writers, and entrepreneurs. In fact, the next course starts August 22nd! Full disclosure: if you use these referral links to sign up for the course, I will receive a commission. I promise that any money received through this will be invested back into TIW, and I will never recommend something here unless I truly believe in it.
I promise that next week I will get back to fashion, but as I feel like a kid on Christmas Eve, eagerly awaiting Friday to head to the famous Brimfield Antique Show in Massachusetts, I can’t think of anything but coffee tables and artwork and everything else conspicuously missing from our apartment. And I thought it was time to give a little update after my first post on our apartment back in November when our apartment was pretty bare.
So the short story is: our apartment is still not complete.
The longer story is that this has been the longest apartment decorating experience I’ve ever had. We’ve been in the apartment for nine months now. And it’s easy to focus on what we don’t have rather than what we do: the bedroom lacks art and any place to set a glass of water or book and the living room is missing a cozy chair and a coffee table to make it a great place to hang out with friends. I think more than anything the sense of “home” is still missing. I still don’t feel relaxed in the space because it feels less than complete.
I was again inspired by design*sponge when earlier this year the site’s founder, Grace Bonney, wrote an article on mindfulness at home. She wrote about how happy she was even when living in a nearly empty apartment and when things weren’t “finished” or perfect. It’s clear that the happiness doesn’t come from the things in her apartment but from a deeper internal place, and in turn, that happiness turns our house (or tiny apartment) into a home.
I couldn’t agree more. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the struggle for finding perfection has been a recent theme of mine, even if I’ve only recently rediscovered this trait from my younger years. But perhaps I didn’t stop being a perfectionist but instead just changed my definition: I’m no longer benchmarking myself against others, but instead looking for what feels “perfect” or most in line with who I am. And that isn’t necessarily any easier.
But there have been a few bright spots:
The Gallery Wall
My boyfriend has an incredible collection of work from his days as an art minor, but all of his work was hidden in various portfolios. In fact, one of my favorite memories from the beginning of our friendship was sitting on his apartment floor in New Orleans as he flipped through his art, suddenly introducing me to a whole different side to him I hadn’t met yet. In the apartment, I wanted to give us plenty of space to show off his art, my “art”, and pieces I’ve collected from friends, family and different places, so a gallery wall was inevitable. It started with two pieces, framed as a Christmas surprise. Then, slowly, I’ve framed other meaningful pieces: a vintage postcard that reminds me of a life-changing trip to Greece, a photo I took in Mexico after planning a wedding there for a client, silly photos of us in a Mississippi cornfield from the road trip that sealed our friendship, and a watercolor by my sister. Each piece was added one at a time, giving us time to truly appreciate the new arrival. If there is anywhere that excess could easily creep up, it is in an art wall. But I’ve practiced reserve and feel happy each time I see these beautiful pieces. I’m already dreaming about what memory to add to the wall next.
For several weeks (maybe months), I became an absolute rug addict. Not drugs. Just rugs. And I could not sleep until I found the perfect rug for the apartment. It got a little dramatic at times. As I scrolled through rug after rug online, I kept seeing the same styles and patterns. Yet with some stroke of luck, I stumbled on Gypsya’s store on Etsy, which sells naturally-dyed handwoven organic cotton rugs. It was a welcome relief, and the owner Rose had the rug pattern I liked in stock, so I didn’t have to wait for it to be made. It’s beautiful and it improved the feeling of “home” significantly, but it took a lot of searching and a little going over budget. While I did drive myself a little crazy over this, I’m proud that I didn’t give into the temptation of easy and held out instead for what I know I will enjoy for the long run.
Grace’s article suggests that we truly ask ourselves if something has a sense of meaning before we add it to our homes and to let go of the feeling that we need to buy to fill the void. This goes for our homes in general but also our closets. Why are we so scared of an empty house or wardrobe? Perhaps because it forces us to narrow in on what’s really at the core of us. There is nothing more difficult than being concise or minimal. Excess is easy, and it’s also easy to hide behind.
It’s nice knowing that this rug, this gallery wall, and the other thoughtful pieces of our apartment (the shelves I built, the pillows my mom and I made together, and even the candles that make our apartment smell like my favorite scents) represent me.
For our weekend at the antique fair, I’m making a list of what we need and sticking to it. And while I hope I’ll find a few special things to make our home more comfortable, I’ll also be working on filling our home with more happiness and not just things.
I am not a morning person. I can be, but it is not my default setting. But for the past few months, I have become more unpleasant because instead of the total quiet I typically require to adjust to the new day, I’ve filled my morning air with expletives as I attempt to find a decent outfit in my wardrobe.
Granted, getting dressed when it’s yet another cold day becomes repetitive. However, the real struggle is feeling like myself when I put on my clothes. Even more of a challenge is feeling beautiful in those clothes.
This is not the story I intended to tell when I began my blog a year and a half ago. And I’m slightly embarrassed how often I feel compelled to write on this topic, but I thought I’d share where I’m at, because I have a feeling that I’m not the only one.
Right now, I have a list of several key pieces that are missing from my wardrobe and/or pieces that would make a big difference. They include:
– leather work-appropriate handbag
– black fitted blazer
– white blouse
– white jeans
– black ballet flats
– sandals to replace these (RIP after the India trip)
And beyond the specifics, I’m keeping my eye out for:
– feminine skirts
– easy dresses that keep me looking put together
– fun colorful and/or printed shoes since most of my wardrobe is black and gray (and will stay that way because of where I work)
But each of these items feels overwhelming, not just because of the cost or how picky I am with design and fit, but simply finding an option that works within my values. I have yet to find a store or brand that fits me perfectly AND meets my standards for values and quality.
When I first wrote the list of “would-helps” for my wardrobe many months ago, the top priority was a work backpack since my hiking-friendly backpack kept my back comfortable during the commute but also helped me look like a college student at work. It took me approximately six months to make a decision. Six months! I ended up going with the “perfect” Tumi backpack that fits like a glove on my petite frame (and will therefore keep my spine healthy!) and is built to last. But it took a long time for me to get there, because I kept thinking there must be a better option out there. And in the meantime, I did little work to fix other wardrobe gaps and instead just cleaned out more.
The problem? I’ve been searching for perfect, and I’m doing it with incomplete information since the trend in “ethical fashion” is e-commerce rather than your neighborhood boutiques. Taking the tactile and trying-on opportunities out of shopping makes decision-making a lot more difficult.
But what about “good enough”?
A recent book I read (which I can’t remember) talked about the personality types that have to know ALL the available options before making a choice. And because they’ve exhausted themselves with choices, they are less likely to get as much joy as others from their final decision, even if it’s a well-researched one. I am absolutely that type. And however genuinely thrilled I am every time I look at my backpack, I wonder why I torture myself in searching for perfect.
And “perfect” has started to feel a little risky. When you love something SO much, it’s suddenly easy to be unprepared when unexpected things happen. The perfect pair of pants that rip beyond repair? Not only did they prove to be imperfect but since you were so dependent on them, you have nothing else to wear while they wait to be fixed or replaced. I want to love everything in my closet, but I certainly don’t want my stuff to own me.
Truly, I wish making a sustainable/ethical buying decision was easy, but factoring in cost and taste constraints seems to make my own decisions more like a game of pros/cons and ultimately indecision.
Yes, it’s been hard, but I’ve already learned a few things:
– Trying things on is essential. You’ll never know what works until you put something on your body and see if the magic is there. Style takes time to find and it isn’t permanent.
– Shopping locally and from small batch designers is one of the easiest places to start.
– Start small: aim for one aspect of ethical fashion and if you get more, it’s the icing on the cake. This can include everything from local production (smaller footprint and supporting local economy) to respect for workers to organic and sustainable fibers. It’s up to you how you prioritize them.
– As many clothes as I’ve pulled out of my wardrobe and donated/shared/consigned/recycled, I don’t miss any of them, so I know I’m on the right path.
I once listened to an interview between design*sponge’s Grace Bonney and stylist Sibella Court where they reached the conclusion that you are either a fashion person or a home person. Well, I work in fashion and I write about fashion (well apparel and style), but I love home decorating too.
Even though moving is the absolute worst, there is something thrilling in the prospect of making a new space feel like home. But after the experience of writing this blog, I knew that decorating my new apartment, which I moved into in August, was going to be different. This time, I wanted to be intentional about all of my purchases, even though I was starting from scratch without even a fork or a chair to my name (literally).
It was a challenge but one that seemed inevitable. If I am so careful to make sure my clothing purchases are responsible and thoughtful, why shouldn’t I do the same for my home?
So I made some rules:
1. Always question whether the purchase is really necessary. (Do I actually need it?)
2. Try to buy used first.
3. If used isn’t possible, search for handmade, local or sustainably or ethically sourced items.
Extra points, of course, if it’s both used and handmade, local or sustainably-made.
And these rules seemed natural: I am on a budget, I tend to prefer vintage home goods with personality, vintage goods are more likely to have been made to last, and shopping used offered the opportunity to connect with people and have things with a story.
So how is it going?
Well, our apartment is only half-furnished, and literally all of my weekends have been taken up with home projects instead of blog writing. However, we have had some amazing finds. Here are a few of my favorite stories:
I am terrified of bed bugs, so I assumed the couch was the one thing we’d have to buy new, even though the only options seemed to be a disposable Ikea couch or incredibly expensive designer couches. With my friend’s encouragement, we scoured Craigslist and found a perfect lightly-used Room & board couch for half the retail price but no compromise on style. And it happens to be made in North Carolina (bonus!).
Vintage Ethan Allen table
Another fantastic Craigslist find, this table and set of chairs fits perfectly in our tiny apartment, and we got to wish the seller good luck on a new job as he prepared to move to a new city. His mom had picked up this set years ago and stored it, knowing that one day it’d be the perfect apartment-sized dining table. She was right.
There’s something really tempting about going to Bed, Bath and Beyond, armed with coupons and leaving with everything you need (until it all breaks). But that place makes me miserable, and there is such a thing as going home with too much. We needed new pots and pans, but the big box stores want you to buy the unnecessary 10-piece set. We decided that we really only needed 4 pieces, so we only bought exactly what we needed. And buying from a restaurant supply shop meant it was reasonably priced and built tough.
As the apartment becomes more like home, I promise to share photos. And if this is something that you’d like me to share more about, leave a note in the comments or tweet @ThisIWear!