Posts from the “Simplify” Category

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.

springcleaning

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.

closetcleaning.jpg

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

img_7544

*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

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 ?

.

whelmetslede_final_r2

.

Simplify : Closet

Posted on December 17, 2016

More I think about simplicity, the more beauty I see in it all. More I travel, more I think of simplicity as a necessity for a healthy planet. There are war crimes currently happening in Aleppo while I blog about clothing. I made a tiny donation but I could have given more if I didn’t spend away my money on unnecessary luxuries. I am in India right now and my world is churning upside down. I had the misfortune of watching a vet pull out a plastic bag after cutting open the stomach of our cow. While I write about shunning cheaply made things, most people in my country cant even afford that. There are dogs starving on the streets. There are children living in landfills. All the things I would have said with conviction are on a shaky ground ….. This post is the last post of my simplify series. I will no longer incessantly talk about decluttering and downsizing. I hope to consume less and inspire by example than put out theoretical concepts. I reached THAT point. A few things worked for me and my closet :

1. Let go of the unessential. I define the word – essential.

Minimalism is not defined by what is not there but by the rightness of what is, and the richness with which this is experienced. — John Pawson

Forget the numbers. There is discussion on how much is necessary or how much one should buy per year or how much to spend. 5. 18. 20. 30. 33. 100. 333. There is no one size that fits all. These decisions are very personal and should be kept that way. I know what I don’t need and I took on a declutter mission. I could be frugal and hold on to it all hoping for a way to use it. But donating unused stuff made me happier. I stored a few items for backup. The end result is physical space, tiny home and mental clarity.

.

2. Simplify Choice, but have options : Uniforms

This was the favorite part of it all. The process of finding my personal uniform was very fulfilling for me. I like a few silhouettes and colors. And I am very happy sticking to them. Why complicate a perfectly good thing ? I have slight variations of the same thing to keep it exciting for me.

.

3. Simple, not sloppy

” Look, I own 2 pairs of yoga pants, 5 oversized t-shrits, one hoodie and one pair of flip flops. It all fits in my hand luggage.”

– Anonymous relative of mine.

I have my definition of sloppy and try to stay way above it. I have not given up on all the wonderful elegances that are a part of the civilized society. Thoreau is my idol but I wont eat rice and beans everyday. He had a cause that justified giving up everything and living in the woods. I don’t. I like the civilization as it stands today and very much want to be a part of it.

.

4. Minimal Aesthetics

Color has nothing to do with minimalism. Nobody can accuse the Buddhist monks of excess because they wear saffron orange robes. But let me justify the cliche. I don’t like print and bright colors. I was born with this aesthetic and could never fit into the Indian color scheme. Wearing plain blue clothes makes me happy. In the past, I actively tried to expand my color palette and silhouettes because I was told that I looked boring. I no longer listen to such advice. I don’t need to buy things I don’t like to fit in. I learnt to say ‘no’.

.

5. Pursue quality and craftsmanship

I am in it for the long run. I will pay for durability and for expertise. Yes, making clothing requires expertise. I took my Stella McCartney dress to a bespoke tailoring boutique. Tailors huddled around to notice the construction details and were impressed. I never had to worry about the dress loosing its structure because she fused the lining, used a certain woven wool for the fabric,  used extra panels, added two hidden zippers so that the design needn’t be compromised to enable my getting into a fitted dress. Its a craft and I highly respect the designers that are good at what they do.

.

6. Consume less

You need not give anyway everything you own. You do not even need to declutter. Need not only wear neutrals. Need not count things. Dont need to stop shopping for a year. Dont need to start a blog. The easiest way to simplify one’s life is by conditioning the mind to want less.

.

7. Understand and adopt the idea of ‘chic’

The idea of ‘well done casual’. Wearing well made, beautiful and simple garments everyday. I refuse to waste resources on things that get used very little. I refuse to buy expensive party clothes that get worn twice a year. But I will invest in high quality sweatshop free denim that get worn everyday or a durable woven wool dress designed by Stella McCartney or well constructed black ballet flats. I am not adept at dressing-up the basics for evening wear but am trying to learn it.

.

8. Signature Style

I am not a fashion blogger. I don’t need to make unique innovative outfits. I optimize my life around getting the most out of my time. Some folk achieve this through finding a unique dressing formula that takes out all the decision making. I have 3 formulas instead of one. Its makes shopping a breeze : Go to an online store that sells sweatshop free clothes. Click on dresses. Apply the blue filter and look for size small. Do they have a shirt dress or a shift dress ? Is it in natural fabrics ? Do I like any ? If yes, buy. This process takes a few minutes. It simplified the shopping process for me.

.

9. Develop a personalized system

I have a capsule wardrobe system in place. Warm weather dressing. Cold weather dressing. I have it down to colors I will wear, fabrics I like and silhouettes that are weather appropriate. This system of rotation prevents me from falling into a rut or getting bored of what I own. It helps me shop better. It makes sure I never have “what should I wear” moments that lead to impulse buys. I took the time and effort to figure it out and am now reaping the benefits.

.

10. Minimize Wardrobe turnover

I am hardly doing myself a favor if I am constantly buying and culling. Durable items negate the need for me to constantly shop for replacements. Finding ways to not get bored of durable clothing requires some creativity. I am trying.

.

11. My Failures

Shoes.

.

12. Learn that style is more than clothes.

Improve posture. Eat for glowing skin. Exercise for toned body. Dance is all about the silhouettes you make. It teaches poise and grace. Read on a wide range of topics and have fascinating conversations. A red lipstick can be a mood changer. A dark berry lipstick can be seductive. A smile can do the same. Body language helps. Fragrance is pleasure. Learning to pair my clothes in different ways encourages me to be creative. Clean and pressed clothes look good. Worn in clothes can be charming depending on how they are worn. Buy fabrics that age well. Accessorize.

.

13. Save some iconic pieces for the archive : The 1-5 %

I sometimes tire of a few well loved pieces. I put them away for a year and bring them back in. They feel fresh again. Shop your own closet is an under rated concept. Our grandparents didn’t have attics because they were all hoarders. They did because they were frugal and wanted to be self sufficient in the long run. We live in the age of convenience and easy access. We dont need to hoard too much but 5% is acceptable by my standards.

.

14. Stop chasing perfection.

This month, my husband accidentally chopped off six inches of my hair. It looked awful. I initially panicked and eventually gave in. And life goes on. Finding the perfect leather jacket is an endeavor. The leather on my brown satchel currently looks like a dead animal’s skin. Some of the things that I used to think matter a lot : the perfect aesthetics, the perfectly matched outfits, the perfectly toned down color palette, the perfect proportions, the Pinterest approved minimal accessories, the tumblr approved definition of Garçon, pristine clothing ….. don’t matter as much and drain energy that can be better spent. Make the effort, but don’t chase perfection. (Unless you are a fashion blogger, and making outfits is a end in itself.)

.

15. On cataloging purchases

Being accountable helps. I highly recommend reading the book : Radical Simplicity. The author quantifies the world ‘consumption’ in terms of what you take from the planet. A house thats 400sft Vs 1000 sft Vs 2000 sft, comes with vast difference in carbon footprints. Every furnishing, every spoon, every wine glass, the lawn that could have housed trees, every gadget, …. comes with a footprint. Mindless consumption got me here. And I intend to turn the wheel backwards.

.

16. Right-simplicity-wrong-simplicity

I wont get into the right-wrong discussion. My version may not be the ideal but its made me happier. It saves me time. I can pack up everything I own in 6 hours and move. It flattened the curve of my carbon footprint that would have been increasing otherwise. Its working for me.

.

This blog post was 2 years in making. I am rather happy about how I re-wired my brain and detoxed some of my old habits. Going into the future, I want to become a blogger who advocates slow fashion and promotes craftsmanship. If you are reading this blog, I assume you have been on a similar path to mine. Were any of these points relatable to you ? Anything that I havent tried that worked out for you ?  Please do share. 

Gift Giving : How-Not-To ?

Posted on December 12, 2016

india

.

I am in India and will be here for a month. I hope to use this time to get an eye surgery, travel a little, attend a 10 day wedding of my sisters, accelerate a few side projects that I have put off for a while and spend time with my family.

.

On Gift Guides

I love figuring out what a loved one might need and the thought process that goes into it. I don’t consult any gift guides since I really know the people I would be gifting. In the event of my not knowing what to buy, I rather pick up the phone and have a good conversation to figure it out than buy generic products.

.

The 2016 experiment

Over the last few years, we took some useless cheaply made stuff that nobody really needs. Unhealthy chemical concoctions from Bath and Body Works, cheaply made clothes made in Bangladeshi sweatshops, makeup kits, small leather bags with visible logos, sugar filled treats, … and what ever else is good when it comes to quantity over quality. This year, we are trying something new. We picked out things that we absolutely love and use in our home. The true tried and tested gems that we had to save up to buy for ourselves. Our

Zero-Waste Stories from My Great-grand-ma

Posted on August 12, 2016

My great-grand-ma passed away this week. I am thousands of miles away from her and don’t know how to help. She was very ‘great’ to me. She was born in 1915. She lost her mother when young and was abandoned by her father. She was married at age 13. She lived through India’s struggle for Independance. She lived through some famines. She outlived a few of her children. She outlived her husband. The passion and strength with which she she lived is admirable. I wanted to share a few stories that are a window into the past. My great-grandmother is so much more to me than what is written here. I grew up with her and she was my childhood roommate. We are a ridiculously large family because she…