On Shoes

Posted on November 10, 2018

“What about your shoes ?”

Every conversation of mine about excess consumption/sustainability has a skeleton hiding in the closet. I have lots of shoes. Depending on who you ask, they are classified as an excess or a reasonable vice.  It is usually the men who complain. Women are kinder. We seem to “get” shoes. We can rationalize investing on shoes because our feet seldom change size while our bodies do. We can even tolerate painful shoes because we see it as a trade off. If I go out to an event/wedding/dancing with my girlfriends, we experience pain as a sisterhood. It is never “my shoes hurt”. It’s : “Our shoes hurt. Lets sit down for a bit”. Everyone understands. The wrong shoes can ruin an outfit – we are taught. The right ones can play with proportion and form. It’s all true – in my opinion. Or is it ? My shoe inventory below. [I have a pair in India and some exercise shoes that arent shown in this post.] Items with a * were purchased second hand.

Ballet flats : *Rag & Bone.

Mary Janes : *Carven.

Sandals: &OtherStories

Loafers : *Saint Laurent

Oxfords : Officine Creative

N.D.C Made by Hand

Heels : *Manolo

*Manolo.

*ByFar

Sneakers : Bensimon

Black Boots : *Church’s.

Brown Boots :*Santoni

Gifted for review : Arete Goods. Repetto 

Pants : Hope. Sweater : Everlane

He Said : There is some difference but its not significant enough to buy all these shoes.

She Said : A touch of pink makes the outfit more playful. The ugly shape of the square toe and the comfortable heel is a middle finger to the painful pretty shoes out there. The plaid adds pattern in a subtle manner. You don’t quite see it unless you have the eye for such things. The Manolo block heels are as comfortable as ballet flats and they deserve to be worn for being the perfect shoe shape. They subtly alter my proportions and make the legs look longer. The ballet flats are a uniform. I can justify owning a few to rotate because I wear them on most days of the year. The red oxfords are my power shoes. You wear them for color therapy and some morale boost. In winter, you need boots. You need two to alternate to give the shoes rest between wears. I have them in brown and black. They maybe insignificant visually, but they feel different. I don’t wear wild clothes. Shoes are the only way I can play with fashion. I need all this.

He said : Did you make all this sh** up right now as we speak ? You have something to say for everything don’t you ? How can I reason with you ?

She said : I know I have excess. I have not been able to de-own shoes. I can’t give sermons on ‘buy less’ after I have finished buying my excess. I know that. Some actionable items going into the future :

  1. I am currently not looking to downsize but I acknowledge the area of excess.
  2. Given how much I own, what I can do is put a cap on buying more. I am doing the French 5 challenge.
  3. There ! The skeleton is out of the closet. Writing this post made me very uncomfortable.

The history of ethics is a sad tale of wonderful ideals that nobody can live up to. Most Christians did not imitate Christ, most Buddhists failed to follow Buddha, and most Confucians would have caused Confucius a temper tantrum.

– Harari, Yuval Noah. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind.

Putting aside the ‘consumption talk’, lets talk shoes.

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RULE 1 :
INVEST IN YOUR FEET. IT WILL CHANGE HOW YOU MOVE. 

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They don’t have to be Manolo’s or Common Projects but they have to be a well made pair. Bad shoes can ruin your feet and add to anatomical troubles that come with aging. Please don’t become a fashion victim. I often look back and wonder “how did they convince women about needing corsets ….” I think the future women will look back at us and wonder about our footwear choices. Heels might one day make it into the academic books on fashion victims. It could be a decade from now or a century from now.

Invest in your every day shoe rather than into an evening wear outfit. Sarees/pretty dresses get worn twice a year to be seen and then forgotten by strangers. The shoes will work on your behalf every single day and help you stay active. Invest in your everyday life.

RULE 2 :
KNOW YOUR THRESHOLD FOR ACCEPTABLE QUALITY.

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Even stitches and good leather makes the shoe beautiful to look at. But the shoes should have the right balance and technical construction to make it walkable. I don’t have the knowledge to identify it just by looking at the shoe. I try to stick to the brands from my shoe history that have done good and the heritage shoe companies. I buy gently used pairs second hand to be able to afford them.

RULE 3 :
KNOW YOUR ESSENTIALS.

A brown boot, a black ballet flat, a black loafer, a red oxford  – are my must haves.

RULE 4 :
KNOW YOUR BANDWIDTH

I am not into making outfits. I am more of a uniform wearer. I wake up, pick out the garments I am craving the most on that morning and throw them together. I don’t have the mental energy to process through a line up of shoes on an regular basis. I usually have 3 pairs of shoes out every season. I rotate though them for the 3 months and switch them out once the season changes. Having everything out overwhelms me. I know my limits.

My bandwidth : 3.

RULE 5 :
KNOW YOUR PROPORTIONS.

Short legs + block heel + mid/low rise pants = illusion of longer legs

Toned legs Vs lankly legs Vs chubby legs alters this equation.

The horizontal lines created by where the the waist band sits alters this equation.

The hem length of a dress alters this equation.

Pay attention to the ratios and proportions.

RULE 6 :
DRESS DOWN YOUR HEELS.  

Let the heels be simple. Heels with embellishments is a bit much.

Let the flats be interesting. The color. Or the cut. Or subtle embellishment. Or unexpected detail.

Wear heels with pants. Wear flats with your dresses.

RULE 7 :
LOAFERS & OXFORDS ARE FOR EVERYONE. 

The notions of feminine / masculine are a social construct and ever evolving. Never apologize for wearing shoes with a solid construction. We deserve them.

Menswear inspired shoes on women can add a lot of interest to an outfit given that they aren’t as common on the street. [ I see women wear oxfords with a small block heel in vintage photos. ] Even if they don’t look right, I will continue to wear them. They are durable. They are practical. They are walkable. Comparing the construction of most women’s shoes and an average men’s loafer with the price tags makes me laugh out loud. Best sole per dollar goes to oxfords in general.

Walks can be a great source of pleasure. Oxfords are my equivalent of sneakers.

I like the look of dresses with oxfords.

I like how oxfords look when the ankle shows.

I like how oxfords look when paired with an oversized blazer.

Look for the right shoe shape. Round toe oxfords can look chunky and outdated. Having a sleeker shape helps.

RULE 8 :
SAY YOUR VOWS. SAY YOU NO(s) !

No to tolerating painful shoes. Heels can be too high in an unhealthy and dangerous way.

No to toe cleavage. They are as attractive as love handles. The illusion of an ill fit is something I would like to avoid. [ I read an interview by Mr. Louboutin where he states that he makes shoes for a certain type of dainty foot and enjoys watching women squeeze their feet into these shoes resulting in cleaving. WTF ! Looks like the foot binding days aren’t completely behind us. ]

No to peep toe. I want clean lines on my shoes. Toes are not an attractive body part, IMO. Why do people flaunt it by punching holes in the shoes ? I will never understand.

No to platforms. No to high heels. No to the idea of sexy that came from the shoes worn by strippers and the porn industry. ( No, for me. Please wear what you like. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. )

No to pointed toes. ( I wear a not-so pointed version of them that don’t hurt my narrow feet but I am aware of the inconvenience. )

No to skinny heels. ( I am for block heels. Let them go out of fashion. I will continue to wear them and buy more on the second hand market. )

No to flip flops and thong sandals.

Walk away from shoes that are not make for walking. Have you held a Porselli ballet flat in your hand ? H&M ballet flats fall in this category too. The soles are so thin that you can wear them out in a season. We women buy this sort of thing in the name of ‘feminine’ and ‘dainty’. Mr. Louboutin publicly states that his shoes are not made for walking. We give him awards and hundreds of dollars to experience the pain. Are we ornamental beings ?

Notes to self : Walk away. There has never been a happy ending after a day in painful shoes.

RULE 9 :
RESIST THE SNEAKERS FOR AS LONG AS POSSIBLE.

Eventually, sneakers will conquer all the feet on the planet. I can see it happening. This maybe the last decade for me to wear other kinds of shoes before they become outdated. I can see leather becoming an ethical gray area as the planet gets more polluted. I think I will make the switch eventually. I like canvas sneakers with rubber soles but I want to put them off for now.

RULE 10 :
WORN IN, THE BETTER.

Never apologize for wearing shoes with scuffs, patina, tear and cracks. ( I, however learnt to polish my shoes and shine them. I hide the imperfections. If you clean the shoe soles regularly, you don’t even see the indentations. )

Head-to-toe worn-in clothes with scuffed shoes may not be acceptable in most social situations. One worn in item per outfit however – adds to the effortlessness quotient.

RULE 11 :
IF YOU THINK YOU ARE TOO IMPORTANT TO POLISH YOUR SHOES, YOU PROBABLY SHOULDN’T BUY LEATHER SHOES.

Dignity of labour. Enough said.

Leather enters my closet as a by product of animal cruelty and tanneries that produce toxic by product. I owe it to the shoe to take care of it.

Leather is skin that you got to clean and moisturize.

Clean your shoes every month. Use shoe trees. Give them a day’s rest between wear. Don’t let them collect dust over time. Don’t let them sit in the direct sun by the window/door. I store mine away in shoe boxes in the garage. I bring out 3 pairs per season and rotate through them. Cleaning 3 pairs per month is a manageable chore. Do it while watching tv. I condition them once per season. If you wear your leather shoes in the rain, seal them with wax or spray treat them.

Some very good products : Shoe trees. Leather care.

RULE 12 :
FEMINISM APPLIES TO SHOES.

I have been called out for walking up to women and saying “I cant believe you wear those heels. They look like torture. Are you in pain ?” Of course she is in pain ! The pain of having me being condescending on top of possibly painful shoes. What she wears is none of my business. Her choice.

Wardrobe Inventory

Posted on November 3, 2018

I do this exercise every year :

Set a timer for 10 minutes.

Sit someplace with a pen and paper.

List everything in your closet without looking at your closet.

This exercise is a reality check. If you love everything you own, you should at the least remember it right ? If you wear every thing you own, you should be able to list it. If you cant recall a big percentage of garments, something is not right and it should be acknowledged. Even if nothing is to come of this exercise, I like making lists and here is one. Every garment is a data point, for future analysis.

wardrobeInventory

Calculate your recall and precision rate. Percentages aside, the number of clothes you forget is a pretty honest indicator.

My numbers : The clock ran out on me. I could list 44 out of 52 garments in my closet. The garments I couldn’t recollect off the top of my head, are the ones I wear the least or the ones I don’t really need but have held on to.

Some totally un-substantiated hypothesis :

< 40% recall rate : You are the average first world consumer who has too much and uses too little of her closet. Perhaps a shopping fast will allow you to notice the things you already own ?

50-70% : You could be in the top 20% among the first world consumers. Shop your closet to re-discover the rest of your closet. Rediscover the forgotten gems.

70-90 % : You maybe the 2% among the first world consumers. If you can write it all down, I assume that you edit your closet regularly and know whats inside it. I would think its alright to forget a few ? Are we meant to remember everything we own ?

100% : A women in control of her closet. All the minimalists I know can list everything in their closet. All the curators I know can list what is being shown in their gallery. All the editors I know can list what made it on to the rack. Irrespective of the size of the closet, you are at-least aware of whats inside. This is a good sign.

[ If you do take this test, let me know your results and your interpretation of your result. ]

Other indicators of a tamed closet :

Your partner should be able to list most of what you own. [ It’s a good thing when people see you repeat outfits. It’s a sign of intimacy with the garment and with you. ]

Your friends/coworkers should be able to recognize most of your clothing. An optimal closet is one where everything gets worn often.

You see wear and tear on your clothes on a yearly basis.

You don’t haul clothes. You buy a garment or two occasionally. You don’t get rid of piles of clothes. You let go of a garment or two seasonally.

The tendency is say no more often than saying yes.

When you buy something and bring it home, you are able to stand in the closet and say “I needed this garment in-spite of everything else I own”.

Your closet gives you a sense of calm and not add to the chaos of daily living.

How many years do you think it will take you to wear out your clothes ? How does it compare with your life expectancy ?

If I die today, will anyone want to inherit the clothes ? Or will it all rot some place ? Will it all be unloaded on to a thrift shop ? Will the thrift shop accept the contents ? Will be it a burden on the future generations ? Will it end up in a landfill ?

What is the right closet size ?

I don’t know. I publish a closet inventory every year with an intention of collecting data so that I may answer that question, one day in the future. I have all my needs & wants met by this closet of mine. It’s not the number but the items in it but the utility of the garments in it, that made it right size for me. I am from India. I can never, in my right mind say ‘this is my minimalist closet’. An average Indian owns much less than half of what I own. I have long abandoned the idea of owning the smallest closet possible. What I have, is my idea of abundance. I have shifted the focus to building a closet where I don’t hoard or waste clothing. This is what it took to make me content. Writing down this list made me happy and grateful. The items with a * were purchased second hand.

Long Sleeve Tops:

*Merino wool turtleneck – black

* Merino wool turtleneck – navy

Merino wool tshirt – gray

*navy and white stripes.

*navy and gray pinstripe wool top

*Isabel Marant embellished blouse

Shirting :

*The Row silk – navy 

*Reformation floral – navy 

*Ganni polka dot – navy

Equipment linen shirt – army green

*Equipment sleeveless linen – army green

*Theory pinstripe silk shirtnavy & white

Son De Fleur linen shirt – navy

*Chambray shirt – blue

*Current/Elliot denim – navy.

Pants :

*R13 black denim

*Black trousers, Hope

Citizens of Humanity – pale blue

Everlane chinos – black.

COS karate pants

*Black jeggings, J.Brand.

Short Sleeve Tops:

Everlane tshirt – white/indigo.

Everlane t-shrit – navy

Wool gray t-shirt

*APC polka dot shirt

*Steven Alan chambray sleeveless

Dresses :

*Steven Alan shirt dress – navy

*Stella McCartney shirt dress – black

*Celine tent dress – navy

*No-label midi shirt dress – navy

Goat sweater dress – navy

*Vintage denim dress – navy

*Current/Elliot ikat maxi – navy.

*Celine tuxedo dress

APC indigo maxi dress

*Zara Red wool dress

Sweaters :

Everlane cashmere – gray

Everlane cashmere – navy

Iris & Ink cashmere – red

Gray and white stripes

*navy and pink stripes

*navy and white stripes

Jackets :

Zara leather jacket – black

*Vintage leather jacket – red

Trench :

Zara polyester duster – navy

*Everlane swing – khaki green

Coats :

*Celine double wool black coat

*Stella McCartney mauve coat

In Storage :

AllSaints drapey wool jacket – black.

APC polka dot top – navy ( at the tailor )

Black blazer.

Burberry trench ( need to sell ).

filler
Some notes :

  1. The major chuck of inventory is the same as the list from April 2017. Else, using the word ‘sustainability’ on this blog is pointless.
  2. I expect a shelf life of 3-7 years with regular wear from the garments in my closet. I am no longer terrified of aging and death of garments. [ Valar Morghulis. Valar Dohaeris. All men must die. All men must serve. If it applies to men, it definitely applies to clothes.] I wont save them out of the fear of wearing them out and buy more on the side. I don’t intend to take them all to the grave with me. To be honest, I consider it a successful purchase only when a garment is worn out in a reasonable amount of time. Given the size of my closet and the fabrics I choose, I wear out about 2-10 garments a year depending on the condition of the second hand garment when I purchased it. If you bike/use public transit/do physical labour, clothes wear out sooner. Let them wear out. Replace them with more current pieces when they do.
  3. Knee length dresses no longer work for me. I am more comfortable in midi and maxi dresses.
  4. I have added sweaters and t-shirts this year. I call it ‘the Californication’ of my closet.
  5. I wore out quite a few of my silks in the last year. I sold them as a lot on Craigslist. The buyer was a very young woman from our neighborhood and I could see the glee in her eyes when she tried on the Burberry blue shift dress. She saved me the trouble of listing it on eBay and making trips to the post office. This is my lazy approach to decluttering.
  6. This year, I purchased my first floral print shirt. It feels very festive when I put it on. I am also trying out high waisted pants from COS. While I like how they look, I dislike how they feel. I can’t bear to have the fabric pressing on my stomach after I eat a full meal or chug down a mason jar full of water. The fashion pundits talk of ‘pants sucking it all in’ but to me, it screams “corset”.
  7. I put on 6 lbs this year. After months of hoping it will go away, I realized that it’s here to stay. The leather jackets don’t zip up anymore. Is it possible that your shoulders have gotten wider in your 30s ? ( I would like to think that its the yoga, burpees, digging and heavy backpacks. But how can I differentiate what I want to be true from what is true ? ) The Celine tent dress pulls at the shoulder when I swing my arms. Now that Phoebe Philo has quit Celine, I want to keep her pieces as a collector or sell for profit. The Stella McCartney pinstripe dress needs repair and the fused lining has made it impossible for me to do it myself. The Zara trench needs repair or the donation bin. I am in need of some wardrobe housekeeping.
  8. The most worn garments in the last year : Zara trench, Everlane navy cashmere sweater, R13 black denim, Steven Alan shirt dress, Son De Fleur linen shirt and Ganni polka dot shirt. The least worn are the APC indigo maxi and the Tibi maxi dress.
  9. My special occasion wear : maxi dresses. They are easy, effortless and comfortable while threading the line between not-so-ordinary and I-am-a-peacock-look-at-me.  The dresses I own do that well. [ A recent observation : if your entire party is dressed in little black dresses, you stand out for wearing something with visual saliency. But if your entire party is peacock-ing, you stick out for wearing something understated. I seem to be in both these situations because I am an Indian immigrant. ]
  10. The oldest clothes in my closet are from fast fashion brands. Someone suffered to make them for me. I am trying to get every possible wear out of them as an ode to the people who made them.
  11. My mother is in America for 6 months. She has a trench coat and some tunics that I get to borrow. She wears some of my dresses as tunics. I love dressing her up. Its my way of paying it backward. Every year, I get some clothes as presents/hand-me-downs from friends and family. I need to dye them indigo or navy blue to be able to use them. I haven’t processed by batch coz I currently don’t have a place to dispose the used dye. Pouring it down the drain is also not recommended. Inspite of being a natural dye, if I pour it into the soil in my backyard, I can’t grow plants on that lot. Some countries allow the harmful synthetic dyes to be dumped into the local rivers. The gardener in me cringes at that thought.
  12. I don’t enjoy finding organizational hacks and doing closet edits. I do seasonal capsules instead. Not everything hangs at once. The knits + t-shirts get folded and go into a dresser. I have a 1950’s style small closet in our bedroom. My color palette tames the visual clutter. I enjoy the negative space as much as the clothes that hang. Capsules provide it.
  13. While I love reading wardrobe inventory posts on blogs, I think these lists should stay private. Closets should have a sense of mystery and romance. Somebody in the world should wonder “what will she wear today” and appreciate your outfits. It could be a spouse, a co-worker, a friend, a child, a date, a friend you share sartorial secrets with, a stranger, a blog reader, a cat, …. Inventories give away too much information. I won’t open the door to my closet and show it to you unless you are a confidante in real life. But since I blog about minimalism and sustainability, I need to publish this list every year in the spirit of being transparent and ethical. I can’t chant “Buy less. Buy better. Make it last” otherwise can I ?

 

 

 

Right : Fall/Winter closet. Left : Spring/Summer closet.  

Personal Style, Lately.

Posted on November 2, 2018

Enter Symptoms : I am tired all the time. News gives me a headache. I have a tendency to wear navy blue everyday. I think dogs are better than humans. ….

Web Doctor Diagnosis : blah blah blah …. Linked to cancer … blah blah blah …


Enter Problem : I want to find my personal style……I am overwhelmed by my closet……. …… I want to live more sustainably ……

Blogger Style Advice : blah blah blah ….. buy French Starter Kit ….. blah blah …


What is personal style ?

What you choose from the free market in a free society, wear most often over a period of time and how you wear it becomes your style. A strong sense of style has indicators. Repeat garments, an undertone, a point of view, a silhouette, a color palette, … Some men & women I have been admiring lately :

Nikaela

Writer

Nikaela

Erin

Lifestyle Blogger

Emilie Halpern

Ceramics.

Birgit Sfat

Children’s clothing store owner.

Patricia Janssen

Model

Garance

Influencer.

26072172_358730637937014_2625519349200322560_n

Laura Silverman

Naturalist

India

Haarkon.com

Jeannie Phan

Illustrater

Nick Wakeman

Director, Studio Nicholson

wethepeople_jessiebush_studionicholson_studiovisit12-1320x880@2x

Tamar Adler

Chef

tamar17_IMG_4007 herotamaradler

Dakota Johnson

Actress

Alicia Vikander,

Actress

Mari Giudicelli

Shoe Store Owner

Noboru Kakuta

Mystery Man

NoboruKakuta

Shout out to these kids for not using a plastic/polyester Halloween costume that ends up disposed after one use. My kind of style icons are kind to the environment.

 

Left : Wool yarn wing on Olive Matas.

Right : Erin’s children made their lady bug wings by painting a piece of cardboard. 

Style stalking makes me as happy as wearing these outfits myself.

White Noise : October Edition

Posted on October 28, 2018

Conservatory-archives

Source : Conservatory Archives

Sustainable denim using laser technology.

Best closet tour ever. Honest. Simple. Joyful.

A cosmic perspective on Earth by all the astronauts who travelled into space.

Would we recognize an alien if we saw one ? 

Plant scientists + gene editing = super-tomatoes. 

This home tour. 

This round up of beautiful things from a design fair. 

A quote that stayed :

The forest was shrinking, but the trees kept voting for the axe because it’s handle was made of wood and they thought it was one of them.

Screen Shot 2018-10-17 at 10.43.43 AM

LOL, was my reaction to the UN report on climate change. Bill Gates published this split up the causes : 25% is electricity. 24% is agriculture with cattle being the biggest culprit. 21% is manufacturing with plastic, steel and cement being the top of the list. 14% is transportation with air travel and ships being the biggest contributors. 6% is buildings with air conditioning and appliances taking the big chunk. Take the quiz to test your knowledge on climate change.

Social cost of carbon emissions. ( Why is India on top of the lists I don’t like ? )

Give up plastic for your God.

This chai recipe. 

I watched 96, a tamil movie with subtitles and managed to experience space-time dilation.

This wedding.

Chic? Oh, don’t you start using that filthy little word.

Nobel Prize for Chemistry, 2018 :: “Chemists have sped up evolution, harnessing a process that can take millions of years in the natural world and using it—in months or weeks—to make novel molecules that today are used for everything from “green” biofuels to cancer drugs. ”

Tips on garden design. 

Ikea’s live lagom.

I am growing cabbage so that I may make this version of kimchi.

On Fashion Victims.

This instagram account.

Banksy shredded his own panting after it sold for 1.2 mill. What a rockstar !

Will there ever be a woman’s blog that celebrates aging of garments ?

Dyson humidifier. What a sleek device !

A credible source for white papers on sustainable fashion.

THE best post on ‘finding one’s personal style’.

I would like to embroider my worn out t-shirts to resemble this top.

“Whoever creates expresses his soul through his work”

New Blog discovery : Ubierajsieklasycznie.pl   Start with these articles :

What is French Chic ?  What is preppy style ?  Approaching style.  Building a wardrobe from scratch.  Shopping method.     A timeless style.     Wabi Sabi.     Everyone has their own classics.

Nobody wants their latest purchase to become a guilt trip, but many of us are taking time for a little extra consideration beyond how something fits and whether or not it makes us look fabulous. We want to know how it was made; whether the factory conditions were safe and clean; if the cotton farmer used pesticides to grow his crop; what happened to the toxic effluent when the fabric was dyed; how much the machinist was paid; how much energy has been used, and ultimately, was it all worth it? The value of a garment includes the values it was made with, which is why designers who are doing things differently are setting the tone for a fashion industry with a fresh set of beliefs. There is no single ‘right’ way to make fashion, but there are many better ways.

Slow Fashion.

Second hand finds :

Think I need this pink scarf from Eileen Fisher Renew.

This red sweater by Dries Van Noten.

Navy and pink cashmere sweater by Steven Alan.

If you want to sell your car and fly around on this Hermes Cape. The Acne version.

For Wear Bambi to Work day.

Admired her coat for years. Found a navy blue one by Jil Sander.

This cardigan from Autumn Cashmere.

A gray cashmere sweater by Zadig & Voltaire. A red one by Hope.

When Mara Hoffman turns her gaze towards hemp : we get this maxi dress. Do you know that hemp is a carbon negative fabric ? It has come a long way from the rough textured itchy fabric I once knew.

I have wanted this scarf for a long time. But don’t want to give it a slot in my 5 item wardrobe challenge.

The trousers similar to the ones worn by Gretta in the film Begin Again.

Navy trench by Stella McCartney.

Tiny Home : The good, the bad, the ugly

Posted on October 27, 2018

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This is not simplicity. This is selfishness. What about your guests?

– mum.

Tiny home is a wonderful concept. Urban density reduces emissions from daily commute. It’s a way to take less from earth to build a home. (Cement, steel & wood have big carbon footprints.)  It’s a way to reduce needs. I tell them that I am “trying out sustainable living” but hear the usual “all this doesn’t matter”. I for one, usually smile, nod and brush off the comments. But my partner is a more social being. When my parents & in-laws decided to visit us this summer, we moved out of the tiny house and into a 950 sft cottage with a backyard. Looking back, I really miss my old home. It has taught me a lot.

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Heat map of sft usage in an average home. Much like an closet full of excess, look at the efficiency of usage. 

The Good

Firstly, our previous home was not tiny. Most people in India live in smaller spaces without calling it a tiny house. Most people in Asian cities live this way too. I can generalize and say most people in the world live in small homes. Super sized homes are a first world phenomenon. I found our home comfortable. Some notes :

  1. There is a zen in putting things away and being organized. Not having stuff is liberating. I felt a sense of freedom. I could pack up and leave anytime without being tied down to a house. Everything I own can be packed up in a few hours.
  2. I spend 30 minutes per week cleaning it. I could use rags, a broom and natural detergents because it’s a small space. In 350 sft, the results magnify. Messy looks super messy. Tidy looks pristine. Clean looks OCD clean.
  3. It is okay to get rid of stuff. Else, I couldn’t have fit into the space without my home becoming a storage space with humans squeezing by.
  4. It inspires you to buy less. There is no space to store the excess.
  5. I invested in the few things I bought. There weren’t many rooms to furnish. I could put the money towards the one room we had to furnish.
  6. Gatherings are cozy. Sleepovers turned us into children again. A larger living room would have been nice but one doesn’t need a formal living room and formal dining room which has become the norm in suburban homes.
  7. It is possible to be very happy in a small space. We could be around each other at all times. After years of long distance marriage, a tiny home is an ointment to fix the trauma of separation.
  8. We used every inch of it daily. It’s highly efficient. All the camping gear we own ? In the boot of our cars. Capsule wardrobe system helped with seasonal clothing. Books ? Under couch, in the unused dryer, as stools, near the bed, in the closet, …. Bikes and a part of the couch lived out on the patio. Just like how we get used to the conveniences, we get used to the inconveniences.
  9. There is nothing in our home that we didn’t use on a weekly basis.
  10. I never wondered “what else can I buy for our home?” I was content.
  11. It was fairly easy to be zero-waste. Multi-purpose products like baking soda, vinegar and olive soap worked hard on my behalf.
  12. I got lucky with my compost bin. There is some community space outside that I can use. I had a patio which made all the difference.
  13. We had community pets who wandered outside and came home when they wanted.
  14. We were spending a lot of time outdoors because we didn’t want to be cooped up inside over the weekend. We went for walks. We picnicked outside. The city became the extension of our home.

The bad

These are not real problems. These are minor first-world inconveniences. Not worthy of a mention but for the sake of being comprehensive :

  1. The tiny kitchen made cooking a game of scheduling tasks. Some tasks took longer because we couldn’t parallel process.
  2. I don’t think we should build our homes for the sake of people who might visit us. We AirBnB-ed cabins for the weekend when we had family visiting. It was cheaper than paying rent for a bigger space, regularly cleaning and furnishing an extra bed room for visitors. My family found it selfish.
  3. Specific to our home, we didn’t have any natural light in our bedroom. It felt like a dungeon in the winter. Good design could have made this experience much better.
  4. When you fight with your partner, there is no space to escape each other.
  5. When busy life happens, the untidy-ness made me miserable. There was no space to hide the clutter.

The ugly

  1. The Shame. I am the one reading about minimalism. Nobody else around me is into it. They don’t understand. Our peers have bought their suburban McMansions and have been stocking it up on appliances. You are the only ones left out of the race. When your partner feels a shame every time someone comes home, …. it’s not the right living situation for you.
  2. Socializing is a problem. My closest of friends are comfortable staying over. The elders in the family complained a lot. In general, it’s not optimal to have your guests bumping into each other as they walk around.
  3. I wanted a dog.  The lack of space stopped me from adopting one.

On Tiny Homes

  1. Access to a calm uncluttered space is essential for rest and rejuvenation. It can be created in a small space if you live a simple life.
  2. The idea of excess, enough, just enough, less, more, essential, must haves, … can be re-learnt.
  3. I think camping/backpacking/tiny home living/ RV-ing changes the relationship one might have with stuff in general. Folks who travel ( different from vacationing ) have a different perspective on needs and nesting.
  4. Tiny home living is not for everyone. Folks with children, pets, aging family members, … will need more space than I do. I no longer live in one but I can’t unlearn what it has taught me about need vs want. 
  5. The French 5 challenge, 10 by 10, capsule wardrobe, … are a way to try out minimalism without committing to it for life. Similarly, I think everyone should try tiny home living for a short period of time to learn more about themselves. You may like it. You may not like it. You will however have that memory of ‘a simpler life’ to latch into, when life throws challenges at you.

 

On Gardening Style

Posted on October 21, 2018

Source : Unknown.  ( Do reach out for image credit. ) 

Outfit anxiety and chasing perfection is the anti thesis of personal style. I found the most effortless style in an unlikely place – in the gardens and the people who tend them. It’s not that they are wearing cool clothes that I usually don’t see in my everyday life – overalls and worker wear. It’s that they are doing their work in style.

CookJenshel_Merwin-portrait_10833-4-web

Poet M.S. Merwin planted an entire FOREST in 30 years !

Jeannie Phan, Illustrator and gardener. 

Anne Schwalbe, Photographer. She knit her sweater.

Laura Silverman, Founder of The Outside Institute. 

[ Some second hand finds : rain boots, denim overalls, utility overalls ]

 

My Yard Clothes

A gentle plea for chaos, worn proudly

My rules :

  1. Practicality is the key. Dress for comfort. Buy for durability. Choose details that add to the utility factor of the garment.
  2. Do not run out and buy new worker wear to do some amateur gardening. Use your old worn out clothes. ( I declutter regularly and didn’t have any. )
  3. Find your over-alls second hand. They should be oversized. You should be able to bend, squat, do splits and crouch in them. Let them be in a crazy color for therapy. You could look like to your fruits and vegetables. They should have enough pockets to carry pruning sheers and some produce.
  4. My garden is in a very initial stage of it’s life. (It is a neglected land with two old trees.)  I weed, prune, lug and dig every week. Have dedicated clothes that you wear when you work outdoors. Remove them before you come inside. Hang them in the sun and wear them again tomorrow. Wash when needed.
  5. Do not ruin your day clothes by wearing them out in the soil. I water my plants every morning at 6 am. Wear an apron on top ( at-least ) .
  6. A short cotton trench coat or a denim shirt make good layering pieces for when the days are chilly.
  7. A garden is a relationship one has with the land. There is a start. But there is no end. The work load never seems to lessen. Make sure you take care of your gardening clothes too so that they may last. One set of overalls per decade is allowed.
  8. Rain boots and sweaters pair well with the overalls during the cold seasons. Warm your body up by working harder.
  9. @TheInternet : If you plan to guilt trip me by saying ‘you don’t need a style to work in the garden’, stay away from my style blog. There is no OFF and ON button on my body.
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Overalls

Never in my life did I think I will wear corduroy. I “eeewwww”-ed at the thought of it in the past. But these are what I found in my local thrift store. They are men’s size small – gives me enough room to bend and crouch. The fabric is sturdy. This was a pragmatic choice.

T-shirt

Found it at the same thrift shop. I don’t wear pink. But why not try it out ? I wanted something that will show dirt stains as the work cumulates. When it has holes, I will start to call myself a gardener. I will eventually use this tshrit to dress the scare crow that I am making.

Shoes

Men’s sandals from an Indian regional store. The farmers in my village wear the same.

Hat

I found it on a hiking trail and picked it up.

Zero Waste Gardening

What I have learnt so far

Plant as many trees as your yard will allow. Plant deciduous trees on the North side, so that they let the sunlight though and warm your house in the winter. In the summer, they do the opposite.

What is the point of  living in a house with a yard ? Urban density and zoning regulations are a big problem where I live. Emissions from commute are a big chunk of our air pollution. If I have a yard, it has to do more than allowing me to lounge around. I want to convert the soil I have into a carbon sink. I want to plant something on every inch of it. The plants grab CO2 from the air, break it down during photosynthesis and transfer some of the carbon to the soil. Do not let your soil sit bare.

Save on some food miles and packaging waste by growing some edibles. I may not be as efficient as the farmers who do this for a living and know the techniques, but even if I get 50% of the desired yield from a certain plant and eat it all up, I still am better off than the efficiency of the conventional grocery store pipeline out there.

I do gray water irrigation. The water from my washing machine goes to the plants. I do my dishes in a rubber tub and use an olive oil soap. Every day, one tree gets watered from the water collected in this tub.

Kill the lawn. Grow some food instead. It is not worth the water a lawn uses considering the returns the alternatives can give. I am slowly killing mine in incremental patches.

Plant drought tolerant species. Learn to properly water your plants so that they will develop strong root system. They will need much less water when they mature. Collect your rain water.

Plant some natives. They would have evolved over millions of years and do well in the local climate/soil conditions. They are good for the local animals and birds.

Plant for the bees. Have a shallow dish with water for the bees and the birds.

Use companion planting, crop rotation, row covers, … to deter the pests if possible. I use a neem oil spray when I need some help.

Start from seed to avoid buying plants in plastic pots. Propagate them if you have a friend who is willing to share some cuttings.  If you do buy plants from a nursery, look into your city’s recycling policy to check if they take back the pots. Some nurseries welcome them back for reuse.

The plastic bags in which they sell soil should be recycled at a grocery store that takes back plastic bags.

Stop buying plants on an impulse. Only buy what you can take care. The right plant, right location and the right nutrients – recipe for success.

You will eventually need fertilizer that comes in plastic bottles. Look for an outlet that takes back these empty bottles.

Compost to make your own fertile soil. But there is no assurance that your soil will be balanced on Carbon/Notrogen/trace minerals. You might have to make amendments later. But not composting while having a garden, is wasteful. Compost is super food for your plants !

Mulch your soil. You can recycle dried leaves from the garden. Mulching prevents the loss of moisture from the soil. It helps with preventing weeds. Worms leave the land as soon as the soil stops providing them with food to eat. They stay if you can mulch with organic vegetation.

Use human physical labour intense devices like leaf rakes and brooms to do the upkeep instead of buying appliances. ( Count it as exercise and subtract a few minutes from your gym session. ) Rent tools from a library / neighbors / friends instead of buying everything. The ones you need on an everyday basis, can be found second hand on Craigslist.

Do not design a garden to please the eye. Plant a garden to provide for the animals and the humans. Understand that you are a part of the local eco system. Conserve it.

A gardener whose channel I am watching currently : Siloé Oliveira. So good !

On Sustainable Fashion Bloggers

Posted on October 20, 2018

Blogger : look at all the stuff I bought ! You know how much I like striped tops. #secondhand #vintage #haul #ethicalFashion #climateChange #saveThePlanet #voteWithDollars #minimalism #sustainableFashion 

Earth : Phew ! What did you consume AGAIN this month in the name of sustainability ? Stop taking from me if you want to be friendly. #ecoFriendly #letMeRenew #stopConsuming


There are words that we, as an internet culture, render meaningless.

‘Research’ is one word that is often mis-used on blogs. If you go on the internet and search for some information, it doesn’t become your research. It’s just search. If at all you do an exhaustive reading and analysis of everything published out there on a certain topic, it’s called a literature survey. ( Still not research. ) When you are trying to add to the existing body of knowledge using hypothesis/experimentation/method studies, it’s called research.

‘Curate’ is one such word. Everyone on the internet can call themselves a curator and a reviewer while knowing nothing of the craft. Most bloggers who review shoes cant identify the types of leather. Most bloggers who review clothes cant identify one stitch from other. Most reviews are feelings and reactions to a garment.

Another such word is ‘minimalist’. You can have a shopping blog, show what you buy every week/month and call your self a minimalist fashion blogger.

‘Mindful consumption’ : a word to use when ever a garment is purchased from a non-fast fashion store. How much can one mindfully consume ? Is your 12th sweater a mindful purchase ? As opposed to grabbing stuff and mindlessly racing to the checkout ? What does this term mean ?

‘Sustainability’ is a word that is slowing going down this path. On one hand, the experts in the field have tightened the ropes on what is considered sustainable. The bar is set high. Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when we (all of humanity) have used more from nature than our planet can renew in the entire year. In 2018, it fell on August 1. We are using 1.7 earths per year. Considering that information, the way the ‘S’ word is used on the internet is troubling.

“One of the toughest things to do is to figure out the important questions to ask before solving a problem. Once you figure out the question, the answer is relatively easy.”

– Elon Musk

What is sustainable fashion ?

“Sustainability requires a long-term outlook that encourages responsible consumption. Fashion, it seems, is fundamentally at odds with this goal. Perhaps apparel can be made sustainably, but fashion? Fashion is more than a product. Fashion is a mode of thought. It affects everything from design to purchasing to obsolescence, and is usually distinguished by a fast-paced and ever-replenishing chain of supply and demand. The inevitable consequence of quick and constant change is ravenous resources consumption and a vast accumulation of waste. Better production methods can slow resource use and recycling can reduce waste, but buying ( and therefore making ) fewer products will address both problems.

– Deborah J C Brosdahl, Professor of Ecology.

“The term sustainable is not one we use often, because it’s meaning seems to have been lost. From our perspective, ‘sustainability’ refers to long term objectives that are both environmentally and economical. The definition of sustainable development, as originally drafted by the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, refers to “meeting the needs of the present generations without compromising the needs of future generations.” As such, development policies and environmental protection are not at odds, as both aim to increase people’s overall welfare.

– Susab and Yves Gagnon, SYKA Textiles Trading Corp

What is the root cause ?

Growing population whose needs are dependent on our non renewable and limited resources.

The way goods are produced.

The way goods are consumed.

The way goods are disposed.

Solution ?

From what I read :

Systemic Changes. Innovation. Regulation. Colonizing other planets for raw materials and real estate. ….. All the ones not happening right now. What we can do :

Scale back on needs. Want less. Buy less.

The stuff you do end up buying should be sustainably made to lessen the damage done during production. Even the most sustainably made garment consumes resources and not consuming it is most sustainable option. A second hand garment that I don’t purchase gives a better chance for someone who actually needs it to find it. A garment that I don’t hoard gives it a fresh lease of life in the second hand market.

What is sustainably made ?

Meets market’s requirements.

Has positive social effects for individuals and communities

Is safe for human and ecological health

Is sourced from renewable or repeated recycled materials

Is sourced from renewable energy

Is designed for safe, productive return to nature or industry.

Is recovered and recycled at the highest quality after use.

– Cradle to Cradle design.

No brand meets them all. ( The solution isn’t about consuming fast fashion claiming that no brand is perfect. That is like saying “I can’t save 100% of my pay cheque. So, I wont save at all for the future.” ) The brands who are change makers in today’s market seem to meet at-least 4 of these requirements. ( Stella McCartney has my admiration for making strides in every aspect of this check list.)

Does individual impact make a difference ?

Only if it has strength in numbers. But I am not sure. Some movements start this way and eventually change the world. One can only hope, at this point.

If it’s a law or a regulation, our compliance matters. But I doubt we as a society will regulate our consumption in this free market capitalist economy. We cant even agree on a carbon tax to provide an incentive to consume less.

Sustainability has been left to individual citizens as a choice / a hobby / a conspiracy theory / a belief / a buzzword. There is no immediate reward for individuals who lower their carbon footprint or for buying eco friendly products or for spending the extra money on sustainably made goods. Why would anyone do it ? I don’t know the answer to that question either.

If you are a person like Elon Musk who is working on the big impact solutions, by all means, go ahead. Do not divert your energy towards these lifestyle changes. Eat your steak and work the long hours. If you are a non-Elon Musk-ish citizen of the planet, do your bid. This maybe the only contribution you will make to this cause.

So you think you are better than me huh ? 

I hear this line a lot. I call it the small town syndrome.

No, I am not in competition with who ever you are. But I shall point to some bloggers who are truly better than me towards the end of this post.

That being said … there is a bigger picture. As of today, there are 2,349,496+ hashtags on Instagram. Each image shows a tiny action taken / an intention set. It is great that more people are interested. Maybe this is a movement that can only exist in small steps. Maybe aspiring towards a no-impact zero-waste living is not a viable solution. Maybe it’s a mindset that is cultivated while being a part of this wonderful civilization and it’s advances. Maybe it’s us trying to buy time till the future problem solvers find the solutions with big impact. In what ever scope, I am happy when I see folks talk about sustainability. I get angry when someone criticizes the movement. While I don’t enjoy the criticism, I do appreciate a good critique. Any movement, how ever important, can be critiqued. I am not in a position to judge anybody’s lifestyle, let alone a sustainability lifestyle blogger. I also don’t know about the right solutions vs the wrong solutions. But I can however, talk about the sort of content I find inspiring. I ask these 5 questions when I see a blogger preaching sustainability  :

FIVE QUESTIONS ( in the order of priority) :

1. HOW MUCH DO YOU OWN ?

Coz, can you preach sustainability while owning excess ?  Can you really say “I really need this sustainably made high quality sweater” when you already have a dozen hiding in your closet ? Can you keep a large closet but ask us to own less ?

2. HOW MUCH DO YOU BUY PER YEAR ?

Coz buying excess from a second hand store is a band-aide fix to a behavior that was once exhibited at a fast fashion store. Can the planet can’t support providing 20 garments per year multiplied by 7 billion people?  Or do you justify your consumption because you write a blog ? Do you get a free pass to consume more because you supposedly care about sustainability ?

3. ARE YOU ALWAYS LOOKING TO BUY SOMETHING ?

Coz it’s all in the mind. Actions follow intentions.

4. ARE YOU BUYING AND CULLING ON REPEAT ?

Coz you are treating the symptoms while keeping the disease alive. Coz you are decluttering, not de-owning. Coz you haven’t lessened your needs, but want the optics of owning less. Coz you are only downsizing to make space for more. Coz at the end of the day, you are still consuming. Coz at the end of the day, your practices are wasteful. Crash diets don’t work.

5. WHAT DID YOU BUY ?

 

Coz how the garments are made, matters. Buying what you absolutely need second hand helps. Repairing and wearing what you own, helps. The way you take care of what you own, matters. But understand that even a Stella McCartney sweater made from recycled yarn and in solar powered factories didn’t come out of thin air. It won’t poof into thin air once you wear it out.

I put this last coz I don’t think sustainability is about being able to afford Jesse Kamm pants and Eileen Fisher tunics.  I see too many blogs fail at points 1-4 and consume excess from sustainable brands.

Look for answers to these 5 questions. Not in words, but in actions. I don’t want the narrative to shift from ‘Buy less. Buy better’ to ‘continue buying from these brands instead’. If they are not transparent about how much they own/consume, I am not interested. I am left with 3 blogs that have made the cut off. While most blogs increase awareness of the problem, these 3 increase the understanding of the problem. They are a part of the solution. In the spirit of minimalism, 3 good blogs is enough. ( Raise your hand if you complain about not having time to mend your clothes/be sustainable/be zero waste but have enough scroll time to read blogs ? ) If we are to become the average of our influences, who would you choose ? My picks :

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I have always equated minimalism with boring clothes and a gray life. Ariana showed me that you can live in style and embrace your wild side while fitting your entire closet into a carry on. I have never been the one who could admire one’s style if I didn’t respect the intellect of the women behind the clothes. I think she is fabulous.

( I don’t agree with her stance on carbon offsets. At times, she makes me uncomfortable with my choices but it’s good to have your views challenged isn’t it ? )

Blog.  Instagram.

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Conscious Creators Consume Consciously

Say that 5 times fast 😜

I’m probably at the more extreme end of this since I have a capsule wardrobe and live fairly minimally, but any creator who is promoting and actually living a more sustainable lifestyle knows the importance of mindful consumption. Having overflowing closets, drawers full of beauty products and piles of household goods, even if they’re eco friendly, still isn’t very sustainable.

There’s a balance to find as a blogger/youtuber though because people are looking for recommendations – if you’re thinking of purchasing something you want to make sure it meets your criteria and is something you’re going to like and use. The main mission of My Green Closet is to help and inspire people to live more sustainably and responsibly. One way of doing this is making it easier to shop in line with your values by sharing brands, products and better options. However I also have to to do this without going against my own values and ideas; how hypocritical would it be if I talk about consuming consciously and then every month share a new beauty line I’m using, have a totally new wardrobe each season, or post “hauls”.

This quote sums up her commitment to the cause.

Blog. Youtube. Instagram

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I don’t read many zero waste blogs because I find photos of glass jars filled with food, tote bags, linens and bamboo appliances boring to view after the 10th image of the same. But Andrea Sanders manages to teach me something new in every post of hers . Her simplicity is inspiring. Her content is calm, compassionate, peaceful and joyful.

Blog. Instagram.

And me ?

For a long time, I thought I was living a rather sustainable life because I decluttered and have been buying from the right stores. But if it’s really about the amount you consume, I don’t live a sustainable lifestyle.  When I successfully complete the French 5 challenge for a year, I will put ‘a blog about sustainable living‘ in my blog’s tag line. This leaves me with the uncomfortable question : What is my blog about ? I removed my ‘About Me’ page because I don’t know what to write in it. This post is meant to make me introspect a little before the Thanksgiving shopping frenzy takes over the country. It has already started raining coupon codes. Everyone around me is making lists on what to buy. I am being sent shopping lists by my family in India. Advice to self :

How to “mindfully” shop the sales this season ?

YOU HAVE ENOUGH.

SIT THIS ONE OUT.