Posts from the “Simplify” Category

White Noise : August Edition

Posted on August 31, 2018


This Tribeca Loft won the Gold A design award.  The view of the sky room/patio filled with plants from the living room is charming. Take a closer look.

Ferm Living catalogue has dropped. 

A talk by Fibershed’s founder Rebecca Burgess, hands down the best comprehensive lifecycle 101 for laymen who want to understand sustainable fashion. ( Students of science will love this one. )

I am an anti-lawn evangelist.

A scientist marvels at the engineering in a Comme des Garcons dress.

( For readers who understand Telugu language. )  When a member of samskari police and an artist with the urban sensibilities of modern India have a dialog. ( Samskari police is an Indian slang used to refer to folks who bully others in the name of culture and tradition. )

A review of ASOS clothing by someone who has knowledge of the craft.

Life skills everyone should know.

Erin’s Q&A about ethical fashion.

Stephen Bayley’s morning routine.

The vibe of this festival. 

This gardener’s personal style. 

Nick McDonald’s home.

Identifying quality of denim.

This insta second-hand store.

This podcast on Fake News from an algorithmic perspective.

Blue garment of the month : This dress has a thin red stripe at the bottom of the skirt. That little detail !

Second hand finds : Army green striped sweater in cashmere, black and pink striped top in cashmere, navy and ivory striped tshirt, gray and ivory striped sweater in cashmere, black wool poncho with brass buttons, navy swing trench in cotton and the most beautiful coat I have ever seen.

( Affiliate income from August & September has been pledged to the Kerala Relief Fund. Thank you for your support. )

Vintage floral print.

This pink marble serving platter.  ( Santa ? )

This home tour.

Hello, I am an influencer and I want free stuff in exchange for exposure.

This grilled fish recipe.

This post on starting a backyard vegetable garden.

This tea house.

This wedding day photo.

Currently Reading : Gardening with a Wild Heart, by Judith Larner Lowry.

Kino Macgregor , the ashtanga yoga teacher gets a lot of flank for the shorts she wears. Here is her reply  :

First of all, people don’t like the clothes I wear.  I’m not going to apologize for my choice in clothes, whether they are too small, skimpy, bright or whatever. At the risk of sounding callous and elitist, I think the discussion about telling women to cover their bodies lest they offend or stimulate someone’s sexual desire belongs to a by-gone era, not the year 2013.

The men’s traditional yoga gear is a loin cloth that barely covers anything.

I wear short shorts, they cover everything that needs to be covered, and I honestly think people should just get over it. I’ve had numerous conversations where I explain my choice of yoga clothing to people, and I am getting exhausted by it. I’m from Miami—where it’s hot and a lot of people wear shorts and show a lot of skin.

I figured out long ago that if I wore pants I would use friction instead of core strength and that no men were wearing tights to hold themselves up in the challenging arm balances. So I made a conscious choice to wear shorts even though I slipped and fell off my arms for years. Here I go…explaining my choice in clothes again and I’m honestly sick of it! My choice is mine alone—I certainly don’t force anyone else to wear shorts.

If you don’t like shorts, don’t wear them. If you don’t like seeing my wear shorts, don’t watch. My freedom of choice is rooted in the history of women who gave their heart and soul to feminism so that I could vote, wear mini-skirts and tiny shorts, burn my bras, go to college, pursue any career that I am qualified to do, lift up into handstand and marry whomever I want freely. I will not betray the heart and soul of feminism to appease anyone’s else’s discomfort with my skin.

Lastly, a shout out to this lady for this reply :

Screen Shot 2018-08-09 at 3.47.26 PM

The metrics I choose to remember the passing of August.

# of sun salutations : 347 ;  # minutes of HIIT : 30 ; # trail miles 3 ; # closet additions 1, # garments worn out 0 ; # plants planted 13 ; # books finished 3  ]

Field Notes : House Plants

Posted on August 17, 2018

[ I am new to this. It’s too early to declare love. It’s way too early to profess knowledge. This is what I have learnt so far. ]

“It’s now trendy to have house plants. Instagram is making people jump on the bandwagon. What a cliche.”

– an acquaintance.

“I don’t see it that way at all. I rejoice in the fact that we have more common ground than differences, in the pursuit of happiness. It can be really simple. Grow some plants. It’s accessible for everyone.”

– me.

“Only the ones who have never grown a plant are capable of saying such stupid words. The ones who garden are usually eager to share the happiness.”

– I wanted to say but that would have been very rude.

There is a certain happiness in nurture. It could be with a fellow human we find companionship in. It could be a child we raise. It could be a pet we grow old with. It could be a robot we train. It could be a tree that we plant. Of all of them, houseplants are the easiest to deal with !! They add that element of living beauty to my home. They clean the air inside for me to breathe. Why did I wait this long to get started ? Maybe it was the tiny home I was living in. I was terrified of every addition becoming clutter and stealing the limited space. Or maybe I hid behind ‘no green thumb here’ excuse. It’s a total myth. Nobody is born with brown or green fingers. Everyone learns it as we go. It is said that when a student is ready, the teacher appears. In my case, I found many teachers :

  • My ex-landlord Fernando is my biggest inspiration. He once asked us for a favor : to look after his garden when he was on vacation. Breathing the air, watching the sun set though the leaves, seeing the growth spurts, plucking the avocados, walking barefoot, touching the soil, ….. It was him doing us a favor. Harsha and I started to fight every day over who gets to water the garden. “Will you stand next to me when I water the plants?”, he once asked me. That sounded like a love letter to my ears. When I was leaving Fernando’s nest, he gave me a cutting of every single succulent he had and pots to house them.
  • I have been doing craigslist rescues all over Bay Area. Every single visit triggers a am-i-walking-into-a-seriel-killers-home-paranoia as a defense mechanism. 9 trips till date. 9 new friends. I have sat on their couches and shared plant memoirs. We text each other updates on the plants. Gardeners are a generous bunch. I usually come home with more than what I paid for : plant cuttings, extra potting soil, compost, manure from chickens, tea leaves, flowers, …  If plants can make humans magnanimous, I want them in my life.
  • Nostalgia is a teacher. When your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, .. are farmers, its a genetic pre-disposition and the memories that propel you forward. As cliche as it sounds, ‘it’s in my blood to care for plants’.

Buying them

  1. Rescuing older plants in my city, is my first preference. It’s easier to take over, from someone who put the effort into it and can pass on the knowledge. They would have prepared the soil and found a big enough planter. Half of the work is done. It’s cheaper too. ( I have gotten healthier plants from folk who grow their gardens. More so than hipsters who buy plants recreationally for home decor. )
  2. Buy from a reputed nursery who have gardeners on site. Home stores get their supply from nurseries and the fresh batches are the healthiest. The longer they seem to sit on the shelf, the less care they get. Each plant has its own requirements and a non-gardener in store is not the best person to provide it.
  3. The smaller plants is my preference. They are less of a financial loss if I cant get them to grow in my environment. They are easier to plant. They are cheaper. With large plants, I become a plant buyer. Some one else did all the work. I want to be a gardener, not a plant owner. I want to watch them grow. I want to celebrate every new leaf and flower.
  4. Do not buy large plants growing in small pots. Without enough soil and space to grow, the root system is undernourished.  The roots could get bound strangling each other.
  5. Avoid buying plants that are in display windows in stores. Avoid plants that show signs of pest or disease. Its hard to gauge the extent of infestation. It might spread to other plants in my home.
  6. Look at the bottom of the store planter for signs of root growing out of the holes.  Its a sign of neglect on the nursery’s part. You may have to cut them before repotting.
  7. Most nurseries have a clearance section for plants they want to get rid of. Unless you are an experienced gardener who can trouble shoot, stay away from it.
  8. Check for the labels on the plant. Do a quick internet search for maintenance requirements. I got carried away with some pretty ferns and am currently struggling to keep the humidity levels to keep them happy. Check for poisonous plants if you have pets and children. Some of the Instagram famous plants are rather high maintenance. Exercise caution.
  9. For a newbie like me, warm weather is a good time to bring new plants to my home. During the winter months, getting them to survive is harder.
  10. Propagating plants is a more economic and organic way to grow plants. It’s wonderful to have friends who garden. The legend has it that Fernando built his garden by collecting seeds and cuttings over the last 30 years.
  11. In a short amount of time, I have learnt that there are plant trends that you got to resist. Some of them get hoisted to exotic status for what ever reason. (Ahem, because they are photogenic.) They are sold for a premium in select stores. Craigslist becomes a bidding ground for the the exotics. But if you wait, they make their way into home stores and become affordable. Ikea now has Fiddle Fig leaf tree and Home Depot has string of pearls. Like fashion, plants seem to go out of trend and something else becomes the hot plant of the year.


  1. Plastic pots have some advantages but I am too biased to mention them here.
  2. Clay pots are heavier than plastic pots. They are stabile which matters for bigger plants. Their porous nature absorbs excess water. They allow excess salts from fertilizer to escape. They have temperature regulation properties. They stay cool in summer which keeps the compost from drying up sooner.
  3. Craigslist is a great place to find planters. Its wise to have some on hand, at all times.
  4. Always choose a planter with a drainage hole in the bottom. Root rot is hard to treat.
  5. Planter size is measured as the diameter across rim-to-rim. Plants need to be repotted every year as they grow. They recommend not going up by more than 2 inches / next size up.
  6. Always have a saucer to catch the excess water under the pot. Some plants require deep watering and fear of ruining floor boards might hold you back from doing so.
  7. Never buy planters which are thick in the middle while being narrow on top and bottom. The roots will grow wide in the middle and would be hard to remove when you need to repot next year. ( The plater in the photo below is a bad idea. )
  8. I enjoy ceramics and am keen on finding some artwork in this department.


  1. A bad gardener grows weeds. A gardener grows plants. A good gardener cultivates the soil.
  2. Garden soil is not the right medium for indoor plants. I have two plants that are infested because I scooped out soil from outdoors and mixed it with my vegetable compost. (Taking them out of the pot, giving them a bath and fresh soil revived them. ) Use a proper potting soil for your indoor plants. Else, the soil maybe acidic, alkaline, nutritionally deficit or have an imbalance of clay/silt/loam. It might be contaminated by pests and disease.
  3. Loom based composts ( available in most home stores and nurseries ) are the traditional choice. Ingredients include : sterilized loom, sand, peat, fertilizers, limestone, …
  4. Peat based composts dry out quicker than loam based types and some plants like this type of soil. ( They are called soil less compost. )
  5. Potting composts are specially formulated for root growth and are free of pests.
  6. Garden compost is the sort I make from my kitchen waste is not suitable for indoor plants.
  7. Buy from nursery so that you can ask about the type of soil needed, from a gardener on site.
  8. Periodically nourish the soil. For indoor plants, it has to come from some sort of fertilizer. The downside of using fertilizer is the salts that accumulate with age. Giving plants a bath and repotting help. Water soluble fertilizers, slow release granules, compost tea, ….. help.


  1. Light is a spectrum of colors. To generalize, plants use the red ( to form flowers ) and blue ( to grow foliage ).
  2. Duration and intensity of light can be figured out from the cardinal direction your windows face. Intensity of light decreases with the distance from the window. Duration varies by season. Cleanliness of the window matters too.
  3. Every plant has its own specific requirements. Lots of my plants are ones that grow deep in the canopy of the forest and burn up if placed in direct sun. We try our best to recreate the conditions of its natural habitat.
  4. Curtains matter. I currently have some cheese cloth and muslin on my windows to provide diffused light.
  5. Do not move plants from dull light to strong light. Let them gradually adjust.
  6. The color of the walls matter. Lighter shades reflect light while the darker colors absorb more. Mirrors help with adding light to an otherwise dimly lit corridor/room.
  7. Leaves usually turn towards the light and you will need to rotate the planter often to not have a plant that leans towards the windows.
  8. Wipe your leaves periodically. A dust covered leaf will not absorb enough photons to support photosynthesis.
  9. Electric light is an option for homes without windows. It is possible to grow herbs and vegetables in mini grow houses.
  10. Mirrors reflect light and can contribute to the required amount of photons.


  1. Some plants react poorly to wind coming from open doors and drafts from ill fitting windows. They react to such stress by dropping leaves and flower buds.
  2. Bathrooms and kitchen are more humid than the rest of the home.
  3. Some plants do not like being touched and need to be put away from foot traffic.
  4. Plants are not art work or furniture. They cant be placed where ever the decor needs an object. Find a spot that meets the light, wind and humidity requirements.
  5. Most plants don’t like the ventilation from your AC blowing directly at them. Pay attention to the placement.


  1. It is recommended that you water as slowly and deeply as possible. Give the roots the time to absorb the water instead of letting it run through the soil into the saucer.
  2. Some plants do not like water touching the stems / leaves. Some plants like mist on their stems / leaves. Know what your plants like.
  3. Some plants like humidity. Some plants need humidity to thrive. If its natural habitat is a tropical rainforest, placing it in your dry living room is cruel. Spraying water is not the same since it only increases the humidity in the surroundings for a minute or two. A pebble tray or a room humidifier are good options.
  4. Do not water on one side of the pot. Some roots getting too much water leads to root rot which is hard to treat. Try to uniformly wet the soil.
  5. When to water a plant and how much, is not a generic solution. It’s something a gardener learns.
  6. If you see mushrooms and moss grow in your pot, it’s a sign of over watering. Cut back but rejoice about the fact that your soil is healthy enough to support these organisms.
  7. Type of water : some plants react poorly to the fluoride/chloride content in tap water. I have seen gardeners harvest rain water and use it to water the plants. I used filtered water.
  8. Temperature of water (?)

Hidden Costs

  1. Time commitment. I take 10 minutes every morning to water the plants. I have two plants that need water twice a day. Will they all die if I go away for a weekend ? Once a week, I wipe down the leaves when I clean my house.
  2. Water consumption. The nicer looking plants like monstera, ferns, etc are transplants from african tropical forests. They like humid air and wet soil. Succulents are easiest to take care of and need very infrequent watering from the humans to thrive.
  3. A special kind of anxiety that worries about the health of the plants. Are they getting enough sun ? Should I fertilize it ? Oh no, a brown spot. The leaves are drooping. Google, what wrong with my plant ? Tell me ! Tell me now.
  4. Do not get carried away and bring home a lot of plants. They will need to be re-potted next year into bigger pots. It’s wiser to add new ones as old pots empty out.
  5. Greed. Its tempting to fill the house with plants. The line between passion and greed is crossed when you know that you cant provide the care they need. I have about 20 indoor plants and this is as much as I can handle for this year.
  6. Stress. When I see leaves of a certain plant browning or if I see the windows open, I start to worry for my plants. I really wish I gradually added plants over the months instead of over weeks. My heart is not set up to see them die or suffer or gather diseases.
  7. Pests. ( I don’t know enough about it. )
  8. Pruning for optimal health. ( This has to be learnt on by-plant basis. )
  9. Death of a plant is very painful. It’s a possibility.
  10. Keep track of the plant schedule. I have a private Pinterest board with a pin each for every plant I bring in. I have a watering schedule on my fridge. It’s quick reference for when in doubt.
IMG_4334 IMG_4273

Decor design

  1. This is subjective. Some folks like a lot of color and texture. I like the minimal aesthetic and negative space. Showing restrain in number of plants definitely makes the space more airy. But I think I like urban jungles.
  2. I have seen some stunning homes use white walls for a background, earthy tones for accessories and use plants to bring in the color.
  3. Tiny home living has shut me off to any sort of decor ideas. I am starting to learn from scratch. I know that something is “off” in my space but I don’t know how to fix it. Everything I do looks amateurish. I currently am years away from getting my space to look good. I starting following decor blogs for ideas and inspiration.
  4. Too much variety and too many exotics aren’t harmonious. They can quickly become visual clutter. (Especially since I view home as a place of sanctuary and want some calm from the outside world. )
  5. In landscape design, they talk about 3 variables : color, form & texture. Color refers to foliage. It can range from light chartreuse to deep olive green. Form refers to erect, columnar, triangular, creeping or sprawling. Texture refers to fine, medium or coarse. As a rule of thumb, you are asked to vary no more than one of these three aspects to achieve harmony. ( This is easier said than done. I initially bought plants because I liked the shape of the leaves and patterns on them. Much like a closet full of prints, they don’t pair well. I am not happy with how my plants look next to each other. But I am happy to have them at home. With time, I will alter my space to reduce the entropy. )
  6. Having some uniformity among the planters helps with the harmony.  All terracota or smooth finish or unglazed or white or black – work well together. But play with color if its one plant per room and the room is rather neutral in tone.
  7. Pay attention to larger plants like you would to furniture. They take up the space and make a statement.
  8. Bicycles, books, mirrors, weathered wood, stone, clay, … make great plant companions.
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Hidden Joys

  1. Cheaper than therapy. Coming home to them after a long day is bliss.
  2. Our space was practically empty when we transported our belongings from our tiny home to this cottage. I do not want to fill it up with stuff. He likes colorful lived in full spaces. I call it clutter. Plants are a great midway point for us.
  3. You connect with fellow plant people. I have visited acquaintances who have given a plant tour of their house.
  4. I have learnt a little about plants in the last 2 months. Imagine what I will learn a year from now ! A decade from now ! How many plants would I have nurtured ? How many tress can I plant ? How many books would I have read on this subject ? Will I acquire some wisdom from the trees ?
  5. “To plant a garden is to be hopeful for the future”, said Audrey Hepburn. I am a very cynical person and my plants are teaching me optimism & resilience.
  6. The view. I see sunsets through the leaves of my houseplants and it reminds me of the reason I climb mountains. I see the shadows made by the leaves as I make my morning coffee. I see Cinco hide under the plants after he does something naughty and is about to get yelled at. We have blurred the lines between indoor and outdoor life – just by a little.
  7. Gardening/farming teaches you another way of life. It forces you to slow down and observe nature. You start to notice the changes in leaves and they talk to you.
  8. Cinco, the cat, seems to love the plants. He lounges around them. Smells them. Sleeps under them.

Must-have Tools  : Watering can, humidifier, pruning sheers

Chores can go two ways. A dull job that needs to be done repetitively. A simple effortless ritual that is joyful for no apparent reason.  The difference is a matter of sensory inputs during the process. Touching this beautiful piece of metal while watering the plants can be rather up-lifting. Plants need to be pruned from time to time. It is one extra task to an already full day. The beautiful shears make the process a joy. My plants and my skin dislike dry air. This personal humidifier is easy to move around – between rooms, between desks, between plant pockets in the house, … Invest in beautiful instruments that last.


Link love :

This post by Ethel Grace in memory of her mother.

Jeannie Phan’s StudioPlants blog and instagram account.

Farm Coast House plants and Urban Jungle Blog.

Hilton Carter’s home.

Victoria’s blog Mango & Salt.

A beginners guide to house plants, by someone very knowledgable.

Waste issues when gardening.


( More gardening posts are on their way. ) 

indigo shirt on TUWL


t-shirt : Everlane. Dyed a white one with indigo pigment.

Pants : COS karate pants. ( Similar )

Sunscreen : Jose Maran Argan daily Moisturizer SPF 47

Accessories : Cinco, my puppy cat.

5 Piece French Wardrobe Challenge

Posted on August 10, 2018

A minimalism journey

Polka Dots : Ganni, purchased last year. ( Similar : white, black, brown, blue )

Kaizen, also known as continuous improvement, is a long-term approach to work that systematically seeks to achieve small, incremental changes in processes in order to improve efficiency and quality. Kai means change. Zen means virtuous. Do not change your life spontaneously, but slowly and wisely. The new habit should occur as a result of your reflection and life experience.

A few years ago, I wanted to simplify my life. Contrary to popular culture, decluttering didn’t get me far. One can fill it all up with stuff just as quickly as throwing it all out. There are no quick fixes to attain a minimalist mindset. I did not want to jump on the bandwagon, rapidly declutter, start a capsule wardrobe, quit after 2 years and start adding again. I wanted a capsule wardrobe to be a side effect of the mindset. It had to be a slow and steady process  :

Year 1

Read. Understand. Think.

I was new to the concept. The idea of folks wanting to own less was almost abnormal. People were giving up their mansions and moving into tiny homes ? Folks want to wear simple neutral clothing while giving up on the visual therapy that clothing can offer ? Why would anyone want less choice in the closet ? They want to wear the same thing over and over again while most people aspire to not repeat outfits ? They gave up plastic and made their life harder ? They are giving up meat ? Why ? They haven’t bought anything new for an entire year ? Are they human ? I spent a lot of time reading about the experiences from people who found joy in this way of life. It helped me identify the areas of excess in my life. It helped me re-wire my notion of “excess”, “less” and “enough”. Is it viable for my life ? Is it for me ? I spend some time thinking about how I am going to do this.

( Good reading on minimalism )

Year 2


Decluttering & minimalism are not interchangeable words. Decluttering is the act of subtracting possessions. Minimalism is a state of being where your need less and want less. I needed to declutter to get the process started. I desperately wanted to hit the refresh button because I was overwhelmed with everything going on in my life.

Home : I had random artifacts from thrift stores that I would buy because they were cheap. I was moving out of my apartment and it was the right time to re-evalaute.

Closet : I had a disproportionate amount of “out of ordinary” clothing that I couldn’t wear and had shabby low quality everyday clothing.

Kitchen : I had to get rid of the non-stick cookware and hand me downs that I never used.

Bathroom : I had to get rid of all the excess products I was convinced I needed, to keep my skin and hair healthy.

Year 3 & 4

All that remains

Simplicity is a result of good design and discipline. I was tired of making bad choices and decluttering them away. I was turned off of owning excess and under utilizing/hoarding things. I would buy less than perfect items and be back on the market after a year or two. Never would I have invested in raw denim or a double wool coat or GOT certified cotton back in the day. Viewing every purchase as an investment made me save and buy better. To go zero waste, I had to invest in some supplies and re-usables. I raised the bar on quality and quantity automatically came down. I have learnt that in-order to own less, you need to want less. I have learnt that simplicity is something I have to constantly work at. I have learnt that minimalism is not about what I don’t own, but the righteousness of what is. I went from saying “I only have two pairs of jeans” to “I have two awesome pairs of jeans”. The first phrase has a tone of a sob story & is looking for approval for looking minimalistic. The second phrase comes from a place of contentment and happiness.

Year 5

Set a tone for the future

I did a social media fast and found it very beneficial ! I recently started intermittent fasting and am loving it. ( Learn about it from a doctor. ) My biggest lessons : Any fast is sustainable if you can ease into it slowly. Fasting is not starving. I want to apply the concept of fasting to my closet. My rules :

  1. Do the 5 piece French Wardrobe challenge. ( You are allowed to buy 5 or less items per season. Inner wear doesn’t count. T-shirts, shoes, accessories, freebies, hand-me-downs, special occasion wear, traditional wear, replacements, basics, sleep wear, lounge wear, blue dresses, denim, … count.)
  2. Shop once per season and then stay out of the stores till the season ends.
  3. I have developed an original sin sort of mindset about consumption where I wallow in shame after every purchase. Fashion is the only area in my life where I buy more than what I need. I now set a limit. I will enjoy what I purchase and not feel guilty about it as long as it’s within the bounds.
  4. How much you already own factors into this challenge. I have enough. 5 new garments per season is my idea of moderation.
  5. There are garments I want to own and wear : a shearling jacket, Acne-esque oversized sweater, cape jacket, a poncho, a kimono cardigan, boots with low heel, news boy cap, a red felt hat, mockneck cashmere tunic, …. I remind myself : I have time. Over the years, I will try them all. It needn’t all come home this year or the next.
  6. Timeline ? This should be an exercise in discipline for life.

Why ?

Art of Fasting

Cherish and repair

I have a pair of shoes that I am tired of. A part of me is waiting for them to gather enough scuffs so that I may get rid of them. The root cause analysis for this disposable mind set ? A constant influx of new goods ! They lessen the reverence I have for the older garments. Why would anyone mend when you can replace it with a pick from a tempting array of choices ? Why would anyone take care of a garment when there is no real penalty when it wears out ? When the closet is large enough, will a garment be missed at all ? When a closet constantly grows,  garments get shoved to the back of the closet making way for the newer shinier goods. I want to break this cycle. Remove the abundance and the frugal mode will automatically kick in.

Time, Money, Effort

I will start with saying : style is important. This is by no means a reason to dress sloppy or to not care about what I wear. But at this point in time, my closet is built. I figured out a way to dress that makes me happy and is appropriate in my environment. I don’t need to invest as many resources anymore. Now is the time to sit back and enjoy the returns from my investments.

Decluttering as escapism from bad decisions

I am a second hand shopper. I sometimes buy things on an impulse. I recently sent back a blue dress (put on weight) and a pair of heels (couldn’t walk) to RealReal for consignment. This was a waste of money, time, packaging materials and the carbon footprint. I let them go and feel the loss. In time, I will forget about them. Being stuck in a cycle of ‘buy and cull’ – is a big pet peeve of mine. Having constrains will make me think harder about a purchase. I wouldn’t want to give away my limited slots to less than ideal choices.

Ways to fast

Duration : I have tried to fast for short bursts of time in the past. The longest I went was 6 months. I fasted during every alternate month of the year, for an year. I would have wanted to do a year long fast but never gathered the courage for something as challenging. Am not ready for it.

Money : One could set a budget and stop shopping when its exhausted. I sort of do this already.

Ethics : I haven’t bought anything from a fast fashion store in the last 3 years.

Quantity : I never set a limit in the past. In my opinion, anything above a dozen garments per year doesn’t count as mindful consumption. I have always gone above this number hovering at 15-18. This area needs to be fixed.

Fasting is not starvation.

Buying on a absolute need basis is very noble. As I improve my mindset, I may someday be able to do so. For now, I want to do the French 5 Challenge. I want to do it for a few years to prepare myself for a year long shopping fast. It has always been the goal from the start. With kaizen, I will get there.

Why now ?

Firstly, I am ready for the next step. Secondly, one can’t talk about sustainability while consuming more than needed. Not consuming is more impactful than buying from certain stores. We, a category of bloggers use the word ‘mindful consumption’ to justify our excess purchases just because the garments don’t come from a fast fashion store. In my opinion, there is no way to mindfully consume excess. After a closet is built, anything more than a dozen incoming items per year is excess for me. I, for one, am particularly affected by being asked “If I buy 20 items a year from H&M, I am a mindless fast fashion consumer. If you buy the same number of items from APC and Isabel Marant, you are a mindful consumer who gets to preach about sustainability and minimalism?” A reader emailed me this question. Guilty as charged. Consumption is the root of the problem. It needs to be addressed. I do not want to give up writing on sustainability and minimalism. I understand that one has to earn her keep by practicing what she preaches. I care about sustainability. And actions must support the words. Intent is not enough.

What now ?

This weekend, I am sowing the seeds in the vegetable bed for my fall produce. I will count today as the start date for Fall/Winter period of the challenge. This is exciting ! Jessica, from Daarboven, has been doing this challenge for a few years now. I am tapping into her wisdom and results for inspiration.

White Noise : July Edition

Posted on July 28, 2018


Dress : Steven Alan, second-hand and worn in ( as seen here ).

We moved out of our tiny apartment and into a cottage with a backyard. 15 days after we left, Fernando, my ex-landlord gave me Cinco.  I gave up on zero waste for the initial move in period and am slowly getting back into the routine again. I am learning about the challenges of living more sustainably in a bigger space. ( Is that oxymoronic? ) Growing vegetables, planting native shrubs, bee-friendly gardening, repairing the soil, reducing water waste, … have replaced the mind space I once reserved for fashion and clothes. I used to churn out blog posts every week after working on them for a few hours. Lately, I am struggling to get myself to even think about clothes/style/fashion. You must have noticed it in the lazy half baked posts published this month. I sincerely hope that it’s a phase and I don’t give up all of my interests in favor of a more domestic life. Style is important. Meanwhile, some reading material collected over the past few months made it into this post.

Actress Dia Mirza on living sustainably in the urban jungle.

This is solely an opinion and open for debate. That opinion can be altered, changed, and become more nuanced but it can only do so by having a discussion. You can disagree, but closing the door to that conversation with vitriolic comments does no one any good. It also says something about you if you result to that. It means you can’t handle the challenge of being persuasive. Of making conversation and would rather retreat to your bubble pretending that everyone should agree with your opinion. Those at the The Casual, myself included, believe that in order to come to a better understanding of any issue a conversation must be had. We only want to promote discussion on this channel in the realm of street fashion. We understood the reaction before we received it but this video was made so we can have a discussion. Not so we can engage in the tribalism that has plagued street culture and even humanity since the beginning. Open up, lay your thoughts out, change minds. Engage and maybe we can come to consensus. The only regret we have is that social media allows us to simply down vote without explaining why. We don’t want to promote that, all we want is discussion.
Reggie, The Casual.

Alexa Chung’s Met gala dress was inspired by Anne Boleyn.

How to read more, from a mom of 2 who works full time.

I don’t do brunch because ….

A treat for Serge fans. 

Sada Nanda, a song from the telugu movie Mahanti.

Bar soap vs body wash in a plastic bottle.

AMA, an underwater ode to the women of the sea.

T Magazine, my favorite way to marination on style. Beauty is shallow and intellect is cruel. But when they meet, I want to be there listening.

When Los Angeles school teacher Helen Hulick wore them to court to testify as witness to a burglary, the judge ordered her to return in a dress. “I’ll come back in slacks and if he puts me in jail I hope it will help to free women forever of anti-slackism,” she said.

Luxury is something old, worn and beautiful.

A perspective on personal uniform.

Style is a privilege of age.

How to judge quality in clothing. 

Can you live in a mansion and be sustainable ?

How not to punch people who imply : minimalist aesthetic == your lack of personality. 

Reducing emissions from global shipping – the wheel is turning.

Enzymes that eat plastic waste.

I am not happy with you California. They killed a bill on affordable housing that addresses the zoning issue.

A review of Everlane jeans by someone who has knowledge on denim. 

The women’s clothing industry is scamming me ?

Reasons to avoid the straw/wicker summer basket trend.

Implied Masculinity/Femininity.

My idea of ideal body for my bone structure.

Meanwhile, I found my perfect t-shirt.

Question of the month :

This article on Wired about scientists being encouraged to avoid air travel. “The climate scientist needs to tell the coal miner that things cannot go on the way they have. That is such an emotionally laden conversation,” says Wilde. “How can we tell people who have less that they need to change their economic circumstances, when we who have more don’t?”  When Delhi, the Indian capital city tried to ban the fireworks during the festival of Diwali to reduce pollution, my family was angry. “You elite liberals will fly to Europe on vacations but us poor folk releasing some emissions to celebrate our festival is bad?” “If I buy 30 garments per year from H&M, I am a mindless fast fashion consumer. But if you buy the same number of garments from Everlane, Reformation, Elizebeth Suzanne, Eileen Fisher, vintage and second hand shops, you can use the S word all you want.”  Thoughts ?


Simple Pleasures : Home Fragrance

Posted on July 21, 2018

I want to live in a home that smells of freshly brewed coffee in the morning, the summer sun in the afternoon and of lavender in the night. If I am lucky, a whiff of foraged flowers from time to time would be a luxury. 

Formerly, this discussion of mine would have started and ended with the kind of candles one can buy. But a hike changed the experience for me. Uvas Canyon is very under rated by the adventurers for many reasons – too close to the city, park not large enough, hikes not being difficult enough, native trees not photogenic enough, … Travel can be conveniently romanticized and life changing when it’s to lands far away. But California has so much beauty in the little nooks and corners when nobody is looking. Uvas Canyon takes on a life of it’s own after it rains. The little water falls appear in otherwise dry crevices and rock moldings. The moss covered trees glow green. The tree browns glisten. It has the power to make a human instantly happy. We remember it as ‘the fragrant trail we once did during the monsoons’. Californian bay trees lined a mile of the trail. Then came the plain lands with sun streaming and wild flowers growing with careless abandon. Then came the water bodies flowing in full vigor that smelt like the forest. An array of fragrances – is this something I can design at home ? Some ideas :

Lavender in planters to use as leading lines near the doorways.

Fragrant indoor plants placed by the windows that let in sunlight.

Growing herbs indoors by the window or by fluorescent light on the kitchen counter.

Mop the floors with some lavender essential oils added to the water.

Let the kitchen countertops smell of lemon and champagne.

Light a tea candle in the diffuser with an essential oil of your choice.

Use a humidifier – the smell of H2O is soothing too.

Having a pot of floral tea on the desk to sip on.

Floral vines like jasmine, outside the windows that can be opened.

A small stash of candles for instant gratification.

Add some moss to indoor plants. The air smells different.

Wash bedding, curtains, towels in Laundress rose detergent.

Line dry the clothes outside. They smell of the summer sun and the soil.


Even if I succeed at growing the plants, it will not be the same experience as a candle. It will be uneven. It will be faint. It will be seasonal. I will have to constantly work at it. It will be a different kind of experience – one closer to nature. Serendipitous and fleeting. Let the experiment begin.


Posted on July 7, 2018


[ Sustainability feels like a hopeless cause that can only result in heart ache. But poetry gives me hope. This artist found his paradise by planting trees.  ]

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He never went into academia like his peers or worked for an enterprise. He ferociously maintained his independence to do what he wanted to do. He didn’t come from money. To make ends meet, he cut his own hair. Dressed out of Salvation army in old army clothes since his childhood. Lived the simplest life to achieve his goals. Shunned excessive consumption. Shunned sacrificing sustainability for the sake of convenience. Said that folks who support war and pollution have no reverence to life. Donated his prize money towards anti-war efforts. “I never wanted a domestic life. I didn’t need a lot of money. ….. I had a different set of examples in mind. I thought of the poets and the composers before the 20th century, who never thought that they were going to have any money. So I thought to myself … well this is what I want to do and I will do it anyways.” Used his life’s savings to start a conservatory. Moved and bought a piece of deforested waste land. Started plating native trees but found that the land was too damaged to grow them. He planted the trees required to re-build the soil and the ones that change the micro-climate. Built the forest canopy first and then planted the trees that grow under it. Found his heaven. This is how my kind of style icons dress – in old clothes and in blue.


His mind and his work.

I am not in a stage of my life where I can follow his footsteps. But here are things I can do :

  1. I wanted to plant 10 trees this year. I hit the goal. 100 is my new target. I am at 38. Inside our home, outside our home, indoor plants gifted to friends, outdoor plant cuttings potted in family yards, any empty public land, our street, your street, buying carbon offsets, …. all of it is fair game.
  2. I have gone on a shopping fast since June 1st. I want to keep it a quiet long affair.
  3. I have gone as zero waste as I can. Any more, comes at the expense of my productivity and social life. I am doing my best. The rest, I plan to tackle on a different platform. Lot of our ocean plastic pollution comes from Asian rivers. Making a donation to a grass root organization in India would help. ( Haven’t figured out a specifics yet.  )
  4. Compost. It’s super food for plants. It keeps our land healthy.
  5. Save up to go solar and off the grid. I opened a seperate savings account.
  6. Keep blogging. It won’t change the world or solve world problems as the naysayers love to point out, but it has changed me and kept me in check. Baby steps till I am ready for the leaps.

Spring Cleaning

Posted on March 24, 2018

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This year, I have nothing to declutter. A deep clean done. A zero waste check list half conquered. A closet that has been declared built. A personal uniform adopted. 3 years since I gave up fast fashion and synthetic fabrics. A 90% plastic free home. What next ? I never addressed the way I consume content online. I am an introvert by nature and have been feeling the brunt of information overload. An detox might be beneficial. I could never stay away in the past. So, wrote a little snippet of python script to enforce it. Aiming for a week’s worth black out. Longer if I can keep going. (That includes this blog too.) See you in a bit.

While I am gone, check out some good podcasts :

Waking up, Sam Harris ( My fav critical thinker )

Dan Carlin, Hardcore History ( Story telling at its finest. )

Quanta Magazine podcast ( For science. )

( Notable mentions : O’Reilly Data Show, Data Sceptic, Linear digressions and Talking Machines. ) 

Bloom and Grow Radio ( For green thumbs. )


On Being, with Krista Tippet ( For spiritual enquiry. )