Posts from the “Simplify” Category

Simplify – Year 2, Reflections

Posted on December 1, 2017

( Forgive my blurry photos. I forgot to pack my tripod. )

 OOTD : Navy cashmere Sweater – Everlane. Leggings – J. Brand. Boots – Churchs.

Currently Listening : The Waking up Podcast, Sam Harris 

To the Moon and Back :

A few scientists in the Silicon Valley believe that in our lifetime, we, the common folk can visit a neighboring planet or a satellite. While I talk about sustainability on Earth, they talk of colonizing/inhabiting other planets as the future of mankind. Space travel should be something I can put on my bucket list and realistically save money for, they tell me. “Earth is so beautiful, why should I bother”, I ask. “Don’t be that person who refuses to travel outside your country out of some tribal sense of pride. To be curious, to experience, to explore, to invent, to collaborate and to create, is our learning pathway”, I get told. I got a taste of what its like to live in a NASA photograph while camping out at Joshua Tree National Park. The millions of stars visible to the naked eye, the big rocks, the topography, the cold nights, the vast emptiness …. A night at the Indian Cove Campground felt like a visit to the outer space. Nothing could have prepared me for it. No photograph nor my words can capture what can be experienced. I could really see the milky way !!! We lit a fire under the rocks and ate supper staring at the sky. We tried to stay awake and stare at the moon window of our tent for as long as possible. If you fall asleep, its gone and you got to wait another day to experience it again. The daytime is a different reality – dust, sand, wind, cactus, rocks & the sun. Please go if you can !

 Left : You get your own little cave under the rocks. A camp fire never felt this primitive and raw. 
Right : The stars visible from the moon window on top of our tent. Lay in silence and stare till you fall asleep. 


It gets easier.

Simplify – Year 1, reflections.

I am thankful that I am not a refugee with no home & no future prospects. I am living a normal happy life. I am an immigrant. The news hints at how quickly the status quo can change given the times we live in. I am very thankful for the circumstances, ideologies and the nations that make it safe for me.

“What do you have enough of?” My answer would be really really long. I bought and bought over the years … and ran out of things I need. The FOMO is subsiding and I am okay with not collecting backups. I like what I own very much and there is only so much I can use+appreciate. I am okay with admiring beautiful garments I see in stores/runway and walk away with one thought – “isn’t it stunning?”. I need not attach the lines “I need it” to every item I find attractive.

Wearing a uniform has liberated me from the trends and temptation. I look at garments with a navy blue filter fitted to my eyes and can weed out most of the options. I can look at a stunning coat and tell myself that ‘my navy blue one looks great on me. I want to wear it more often’. If I spot a beautiful navy blue shirt dress, I can tell myself ‘mine is perfect. It has 2 more years of heavy use left in it. I am sure I can find the exact dress by Stevan Alan or something similar after 2 years. I don’t need to buy this one now.” Durable and practical clothes work on my behalf and give me good returns for the money spent.

I never formally did a capsule wardrobe other than put away the linens during fall and the woolens during spring. The right fabrics/silhouettes for the right season is my method. A capsule wardrobe is a frame of mind, rather than a set of clothes. You know how much you can realistically use, wear and love. You stick to the tried and tested formulae. You buy clothes that are easy to pair and work for everyday. You are trained to say ‘enough’ more often than ‘I need ___’. Its a frame of mind, not a count of garments. You do capsules and your brain automatically rewires itself on the concept of what a closet should look like. Once you see the benefits, its hard to relapse into excess and consumerism. An area of excess in my closet is my shoes. Instead of making me feel (rich with options)/(happy), they remind me of my greed. I can no longer revel in excess. I am overwhelmed by it.

Failures : On that note, I don’t know what to do about my shoes. They have become a case of concorde fallacy. That being said, I cant stop buying more. It will take me 20 years to wear out all the shoes I own.

There is a happiness when you can make decisions based on your priorities and aren’t zombie walking a prescribed path. It has been a relief. ( I dumped my Zara stock and can finally bash fast fashion without implicating myself. It wasn’t a smart financial move but its too much of a conflict of interest with what I write on the blog. ) I am proud of the zero waste habits I could inculcate. Just like you get used to the conveniences, I learnt that you get used to the inconveniences pretty quickly.

A tiny home has been working great for our family in terms of space. Our friends are pretty laid back people. I have made a few of them sleep under the dining table with our camping bedding/outside in a tent during sleepovers, and it was fine. Its not easy when the elder in the family visit. They are used to a different lifestyle. Harsha does experience some embarrassment when people visit. I, on the other hand, am the one reading about minimalism and the zero waste blogs, think this should be the normal. Its my theory that you get used to the inconveniences rather fast and we still live a very privileged lives. We will find a middle ground in the future, I hope.

I gave up eating lamb and beef. We cook chicken at home once every 10 days. The craving has definitely reduced. When we go out to restaurants with a group of people, I seem to go straight for the meat dishes. Going cold turkey on meat has always back fired on me. I am hoping that the consumption slowly reduces with time. Or atleast till Silicon Valley makes lab grown meat.


Hobbies were another area I scaled back. No, I dont really sketch or paint anymore. No, I wont become a food scientist. I dont need all the circuits I have to built at-home devices. I dont need more tools. I don’t need to cook food for all the cuisines of the world. Keep it simple. Pick one hobby and get good at it. I pick photography.

We slept in the forest under the stars for 22 days this year. Great conversations and the great outdoors is what I crave the most.

Exercise is the cure for lot of ailments in life. It’s more sustainable than buying stuff to catch happiness/escape the hardships of life.

The society we live in does not make it easy. ( I am no saint here. I link products on my blog. ) There is a constant chatter of what to buy next and whats on sale. Ethics are always “ethics”. Sustainability is always “sustainability”. Science has become “science” to the climate change deniers. If you decide to do things differently, its not an easy path from then on. But it all gets easier with time.

The profit from this year’s blog affiliate income has been donated to hurricane relief for Puerto Rico. Harsha and I went there on our honeymoon in 2012. The people were wonderful to us. On one of the islands, we rented a bike instead of a car at the airport. Riding the uphills with our luggage on a bike was a struggle. Passersby stopped and give us a ride to our hotel in their truck. There was another island where our car broke down in the middle of nowhere. A dozen strangers stopped by to see if they can repair the car. When that didn’t work out, a magnanimous stranger drove us to the airport which was 10 Kms away. We missed that flight. The pilot gave me a big hug to calm me down and managed to put me on the next flight out. I was a militant vegan back in the day. At one restaurant, they had nothing on the menu for me. The waiter took me into the kitchen and asked me to point at the vegetables I liked. The chef then made a stir fry. They made jokes about taking me to the farmers market the next morning and letting me pick out my vegetables, if I wanted to come back for dinner next day. I can easily write down 10 other stories of how help came to us when we didn’t even ask for it. If you clicked on the links through this blog, please know that you contributed to the relief fund. Thank you !

(Very important) Question of the week :

What do you have enough of ? Do you ever ask your self this question ?

( Should we keep it to closet talk or extend it to life in general ? ) 


Camping : a packing list

Posted on September 9, 2017



 Every packing list and shopping list should take zero waste into consideration. I look up to folks who have achieved this lifestyle with awe and admiration. They seem to be able to make sacrifices and sign up for inconveniences for no immediate return. They spend more money to be earth-friendly. Money that can be used for brunch / clothes / travel / vacation / buying a house / retirement or what ever else is our priority. They deserve the recognition and applause. Take a bow for doing what I can’t seem to achieve. It is an intimidating concept. ( A 0 or 1. Trash in a mason jar. It has a branding problem ! ) The binary connotation to it that always makes me fixate on my failures instead of what I have done right. Low waste is my goal and very achievable given my location, circumstances and resolve. Ariana talks about finding a way to make zero waste work for you – great advice and thank you for all the encouragement. 

“All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware” – Martin Buber

Processed with VSCO with se3 preset

Camping means different things to Harsha and me. It’s his escape from the city life for a day or two… a getaway. I go because I want to live in the woods. I go for the pleasure. Campgrounds are million star hotels in disguise. The beauty of living close to nature with as little as possible has a purity that I lose constantly find myself losing in my everyday life. Perhaps I am looking for an escape too, from my own bad habits. Our backpacks are always packed and ready to go at moments notice. I see the nature that we currently have access to, attached to a ticking time bomb. The castles in Italy and the vineyards in France will stand. Not sure about the health of our forests. I am determined to explore California’s backcountry until our list is exhausted. I want to be that aunt who introduces the kids to the pleasures of sleeping under the trees and eating pancakes at sunrise. I want to be the grandma telling her grand-children about the great trees she walked under. I will tell them about the makeshift jingles that Harsha and I used to sing, to alert the bears of our presence on our trails. I will tell them about how we became children of the forest – climbing trees, jumping into swimming holes, counting banana slugs, cooking with fire, snuggling in feather beds, breathing the pure air, … Camping without trashing is a matter of planning and doing the required prep work. This is our master packing list. The longest we have done is 12 days. The longest backcountry trail we did was 15 miles in day while carrying our gear and carried it out it out the next day. We do weekend trips and day trips which require a subset of items from this list. It’s optimized for weight, budget and self-sufficiency.

An Ode to the Old Favourties

Posted on April 22, 2017

” Oh this old thing ? They are finally getting broken in. Aren’t they gorgeous? “

Rescued by shoe polish every week. I can get 100 more wears out of them.

Its difficult to convey in words as to why I find worn in clothing beautiful. Been trying to write it down but can’t seem to succeed. There is a familiarity. There is a warmth. There is a sense of loyalty. There is a quality of earthiness to it. The way you look at the bark of the tree and don’t complain about the scratches on wood. When they say “Valar Morghulis” (all men must die) in Game Of Thronesthere is a sense of siege the moment and accept the inevitable in those words. The sense of comradeship in the reply Valar Dohaeris ( all men must serve ) is most apt. I also see it as an antidote to the youth obsessed culture of apologizing for every pimple and calling out on every wrinkle.

Spring Cleaning : A Wardrobe Audit

Posted on March 4, 2017

I am a habitual auditor. Not because I find it exciting. But out of necessity. If I made a not so wise decision in the past, I don’t want to be anchored to the mistake. In my book, periodically auditing habits, finances, diet, exercise plans, reading list, facebook friends, instagram follows, blog subscriptions, bad books, shoes, … is good exercise. Spring cleaning a closet isn’t an excuse to throw out stuff that is old and look for potential upgrades but to evaluate its current contents. I wont ask myself if I own the right version of am item. I refuse to slip into the loop of cull and buy. But I will take measures to make the most out of what I already own.


My closet audits usually reveal my mistakes. I would have bought more than needed. And I cant let stuff sit there and gather dust. This year, its different. I had to let go of things because they are worn out or no longer fit. I have to do this exercise twice a year. Partly because it gets messy in there. I would like to blame the cat, but my laziness has a lot to do with it. I like to wipe it down and re-organize everything. Seeing all the beautiful things I own and touching the wonderful fabrics kills the desire to add more. It also gives me a chance to evaluate the current state of affairs. My process :

0. Start with the Body

Winter messes with my routine. Its cold out. I don’t exercise but eat hearty food.  By the end of it, I became skinny fat – the condition where I stay the same clothing size but have a body with declined muscle tone and higher fat percentage. I am currently not fit enough to hike all the trails we have bookmarked for Spring. We are attempting a 20 mile backpacking trip to a remote hot spring in Big Sur, California. I need to clean up my body first. Things I am doing :

Been doing some yoga, 4 times a week. Will add a HITT workout in the form of uphill bike rides this month.

Start the day with a shot of apple cider vinegar. Been drinking green tea and increased my intake of greens.

I tried switching to brown rice but I could not palette it. Been replacing the starches in a few meals with steamed sweet potatoes.

Body brushing.


1. Closet : Think before addition. Think before subtraction

Its a new season. I dont know how they come up with these stats but rumor has it that 6 tons of clothing gets thrown out every 10 minutes. What ! Hoarding unused stuff is not good either. I don’t know if I can put this across without being a hypocrite. But let the cleaning session be a chance to mend and make do. Let it be a chance to revel in good choices already made.

Set an Intention : Zero Waste

Posted on January 13, 2017


*current view from our backyard


I am in India. Eye surgeries finally done and am in the recovery period ! Even with my swollen red eyes, I can see piles and piles of rubbish everywhere. As I write this, my neighborhood is burning its trash next to our home. The smell of burnt plastic is sickening. Its not just in my country. America hides its landfills well until you go real-estate hunting. Prices are cheaper when you get closer to one. And its the same sad story. Piles of discarded crap polluting the planet for the next generations – our inheritance to them. Its quite shameful.

The List : 2017

Posted on January 1, 2017


Illustrator Extraordinaire : The Fashion Donkey 


  1. Go Zero-waste. No more excuses.
  2. Gather the courage to post some outfit pictures.
  3. Get Artificial Intelligence to write a blog post for me.
  4. Create a blog post that uses data that I crawled for and analyzed in the realm of fashion. ( Like FiveThirtyEight does for politics. )
  5. Make my mother’s cookbook a master piece.
  6. Plant and grow 5 house plants.
  7. Limit meat consumption to one day a week.
  8. Aggressively save up for our next home.
  9. Inspire a 100 people to consume less.
  10. Apply for work authorization ( I lost mine in December 2016 #immigrantProblems) and find another job once I am back in America. Preferably in a tech start-up.


I don’t have a big list this year. But each one is a big deal. Make a few goals and achieving them is preferable to getting my feet wet in a lot of to-do’s. A TIP : Monica, whom I met through this blog gave me some wonderful advice. She has her list written on a piece of paper in her handbag. She reads it frequently and its helped. She kept me on my toes by periodically asking me (via email) about my progress. Thank you for that !


Blog goals / Mission Statement :

I want to write about my closet building stories that go beyond “go to Store XYZ and buy”.  A blog post for each building block/basic. Items I have that lasted over 2+ years and stand the test of quality – need to be talked about. Also, I have a new take on fast fashion.  :

There is no fast fashion. Just accelerated consumption. The way to combat drain of resources is not by buying to my heart’s content from Stella McCartney (who makes everything in the most ethical manner possible and with expert tailoring techniques learnt from Saville Row). But by not buying so much.

I bought everything from Zara in the past with the intention of using them sparsely. Once I changed that intention, quality and good design became paramount. I conquered that huddle. Next item on my list to master is to condition my mind to want less. I will continue to catalog my purchases. I will talk about slow fashion. I will talk about personal style without pushing products on to you. Fashion is a craft and style is very personal. Its very sacred in some sense and I dislike the strong association with shopping that came out of it all. We call marketing gurus : internet influencers. We cant recognize ads anymore because its cleverly interlaced in content.( TIP : Just count the affiliate links per post on items not owned/purchased by the blogger.) How did we get here ? Every year, my reading material shrinks after I loose a few favorites to internet fame. I want to write the blog that I would like to read. One that celebrates the craft, love of clothes, very personal : personal style and can demarcate shopping/consumption from this equation.


Will anyone cheer me on (just a little), if I gather the courage to post some outfit pictures ? Do point it out to me if I get too preachy on this blog. Do hold me accountable if I start pushing products on to you. Anything you want to see on this blog, do leave a suggestion. Anyone else trying to go zero-waste ? If you have a list that you made for 2017 that you would like to share, please do. Happy New Year !

Declutter for a purpose : Aleppo

Posted on December 24, 2016

“How did the world let this happen? “

This was the question I asked myself after I learnt about what happened in Auschwitz. I later got to know that the world didn’t know. We were trying to stop Hilter’s invasion but discovered the concentration camps during liberation. Today, we know about Syria. We get live tweets. We hear survivor stories. Reporters are risking their lives to get us the news. Doctors are working from bunkers. Refugees are a political issue, not human beings …. I dont know whats the right thing to do. But not doing something almost feels immoral. In my lifetime, there have been a few terrible wars that I was aware of. Sudan. Rwanda. Iraq. Gulf. India-Pakistan. But Syria invokes the same stomach churn and heartbreak that I experienced when I visited the concentration camps in Germany. What can I do ?