Wednesday, January 17, 2018

capsule wardrobe thoughts, project 333 & more

On yesterday's podcast episode (#24), Laura and I discussed clothing and wardrobe selection.   We had the opportunity to interview Courtney Carver, a leader in the minimalism sphere best known for her wardrobe strategy, Project 333.  In essence, she recommends limiting the number of in-rotation clothing items to 33 -- and that includes shoes, bags, and other accessories (jewelry & sunglasses).

I'll admit it -- I have been intrigued by this project for some time, but was always intimidated by the specificity of the number.  Why . . . 33?  I've been much more inclined to follow the Kondo way:  if it currently sparks joy it stays, and if it doesn't -- thank you and goodbye.

However, there is something to be said for Courtney's idea of having some items officially out in circulation (33?  or more, or less; she essentially admitted the number is not necessarily right for all!) and others packed out of sight.  Currently, I have a number of pieces that DO spark joy, but they don't actually fit.  Or perhaps 'fit' isn't the right word -- I can get them on, but they don't look good.  While I am not far from my pre-preg weight, I have plateaued at a few lbs over (and since breastfeeding makes me STARVING all the time, I don't see the number dropping any time soon) and my body is definitely not back to 'normal'.  I'm actually much more patient this time, having gone through two rounds of this before and finally understanding that YES, things will shift eventually, but it takes time (and often I don't completely 'deflate' in certain areas until weaning, which is months away -- hopefully even a year!).

Anyway.  So given my current situation, strict Kondo-ing doesn't quite work as well as it usually does.  There are items that do not spark joy now because I cannot wear them, but they are worth keeping because in this particular scenario, there really is a good chance I will want to wear them in the future.  I am NOT a clothing pack rat -- I will show you in pictures below -- but still, the number of items definitely exceeds 33.

I've played with the idea of a sort-of-capsule before, inspired by Caroline of un-fancy (currently on hiatus; come back Caroline!).  But I never got all official about it with any physical demarkation of which clothes were in rotation and which were not.  It seems like now is the time to try it!

Clothing currently in circulation:

hanging: tops + dresses

my only drawer (excluding workout / loungewear / sleepwear / underwear):
jeans, shorts, sweaters, tees

Daily uniform - skinny jeans of some kind (4 options), button down shirt (1) or t-shirts (6, including 2 long-sleeved) OR empire-waist tunic with leggings (2 tunics, 1 leggings)
Alternatives - shorts (2), sweaters (2)
Dressing up - nicer tops (about 8 options) (with jeans) or wrap dress (3)
Shoes - sandals OR sneakers OR casual platforms OR short boots (2 pairs) = 5
Accessories - rose-colored Lotuff purse, black diaper backpack bag, my Chanel sunglasses (birthday gift purchased with a gift card in 2016 and worn constantly since then -- example of a splurge that definitely was worth it!), one pair earrings, one necklace

Total = 39

Assessment: close enough.  I could certainly pare down the tees or tops more, but this seems like a reasonable and manageable assortment.  I wish I had more button downs/easy nursing access outfits, but I don't feel like purchasing things just for this short time, so I'll just lift up my t-shirts and tunics and/or use covers in public!   I would definitely need more work-appropriate items if I were currently working.  (That said, once I am back at work I won't need so many jeans + tees!).

The only thing missing is a pair of black skinny jeans (such a versatile item!) because my go-to pair doesn't really fit well yet.  I am thinking of ordering an interim pair (a size up from usual) of these on Ana's recommendation.

I don't have any special occasion wear on this list -- nothing really works now anyway, so it was easy to leave out.  We actually do have a big family wedding this coming weekend and I decided to Rent the Runway rather than invest in anything.  Hopefully my chosen piece will work out!

Clothing in hibernation for future capsules:

everything in this clear box sparks joy but nothing actually fits
(box above it contains extra sheets/blanket)
((yes it has actually been cold enough to wear the slippers on the left!))

In the box -->
Work pants
Tops that do not accommodate current chest or are too fitted
Dresses that don't currently fit / flatter
Other bottoms / shorts / skirts that don't currently fit

While Project 333 uses 3-month windows for each capsule, I'm going to use my Quintiles (for further explanation see this post) as they seem like more natural/logical divisions for me this year.  Notably, climate doesn't come into play much here, but there's definitely a ~4 month "winter" (Nov - March) where one can wear sweaters for layering at times, and we're in it now.   The rest of the year is basically just hot & hotter.

Favorite brands / stores:
Over time I have noticed that items from these stores/brands tends to stick around:

- Madewell
- AG Jeans
- Boden (especially work clothes)
- Anthropologie IF I do NOT look at the sale section or price tags and instead only buy pieces that . . . truly spark joy
- Nordstrom Trunk Club (example haul here) especially for work items
- Camper shoes

Exceptions to capsule:
I recently went through loungewear / underwear / pajamas / workout-wear, #konmari-style, but I don't consider these a 'capsule'.  That said, I am very happy with my culled-down collections.  I do eventually want to get a few more lounge pieces for warmer weather, but I'll wait until spring!

Interestingly, going through this process has not made me want to shop at all.  I may feel differently when I am back to 'normal' though, I guess.

Thoughts?  Has anyone tried a capsule approach?  Does 33 sound like a reasonable number to you?  Are there specific brands/stores you swear by?  Kids clothes are another fun topic - to be addressed in a future post!

capsulation process 

Monday, January 15, 2018

weekend report / weekend thoughts

NOTE:  It's MLK day today, which is so important in times likes these.  Hoping to explain to the kids what he did and why there is a day in his honor. 
"The time is always right to do what is right." -Martin Luther King Jr.


I have come to the conclusion that to really enjoy weekends with kids (and I'm hazarding a guess that this might apply to many with children under the age of say, 6) planning and even some negotiation is essential.

There are three potential scenarios that I've seen play out over the course of a weekend at home with kids:

1) Everyone does everything all together.  Neither parent gets any time for themselves.  No one works out.  No one really gets anything done.  Maybe one or both parents manage to 'sneak in' time, which is unsatisfying AND leads to resentment from the opposite spouse (um, did someone just disappear for an unannounced nap or -- worse -- mindless insta-scrolling!?).

2) One party does what they want and the other plays the role of martyr.  (You can guess which gender typically takes which role).  Actually, this really doesn't happen in our house, but I've seen it play out over and over again with friends and blog readers/podcast commenters.

3) Parents discuss what they'd like to do, creating a concrete plan that includes:

- personal time for each adult (exercise, reading, cooking, working, napping, insta-scrolling - whatever the person wants!)

- family time - with some fun activities thought of in advance, because staying home and lazing around with kids A&C's age just doesn't work (G would be fine in her current stage, but she barely counts at this point).

- couples/social time, either a date night / extended family dinner / friend date / whatever.

Scenario #3 is the only one that leaves me feeling satisfied on Monday morning.  This is why I craft a weekend plan every weekend and send it via email, and I am lucky that Josh is very on board with this (I don't think he enjoys scenarios #1 or #2, either).

This weekend was a great example of this - he asked to do a long run + have a ukelele meet up with a friend (yes he is super into this currently, and is sounding great!).  I wanted some time to brainstorm/write and some relaxed time to cook/read/maybe nap.   So, here was my email (and again before someone accuses me of spousal abuse, he really does ask for this if I don't do it!):

s - ~8-9:30 am time to write, etc 
annabel ballet 10:30 then bday party.  go all together to ballet so we can drop off A w me
post ballet drive a to bday party
brunch near party
pm - playground - outside time, mobile library pickup
josh ukelele-  4 - 5:30?
dinner out all together early?  

josh - run in am.  can go at any time but can you be done and showered by 10:30?
trip to jcc to swim
lunch at home
s - ~2-4 time to cook, read a little or nap
pm - playground possibly with friends
din at home

We actually did not end up following this plan to the letter -- it was too cold to swim on Sunday so we ended up going to the children's museum and then ice cream (all 5 of us) and then came back later than my 2-4 pm window.   So, I cooked dinner from around 4:30 - 6:30 and listened to podcasts (with G sleeping/just hanging out in the Ergo -- she eats frequently in the afternoon so it didn't make sense to send her with the others) while Josh took the other two to the park.

And though there were some hiccups (kids were so bad at the restaurant, though the food was great -- try Soul Tavern, locals -- it's a self-described "plant-based gastropub"!), I feel so happy with how we spent our time!  We had a lot of family time, but I got to do some things for ME, too.  Josh got in his desired workout and music time.   There is such a difference between having some time (even if limited) to use at one's discretion versus having none.  And when there are many moving parts, I am not sure how this can possibly happen without careful planning, communication, and discussion.

I am interested in others' thoughts on how they manage their weekends with kids.

Kon-Mari in process!
(during my Saturday AM 'personal' time :) )

growing rapidly

Tunisian lablali soup from Milk Street Magazine
Kids ate various components but not soup itself because sadly I accidentally made it too spicy!

(unfortunately not online, but I do love this mag and recommend subscribing if you enjoy interesting international recipes in Cook's Illustrated style - their former editor Christopher Kimball left that publication to establish this one)

Thursday, January 11, 2018

kon-mari, round #2!

I read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up in 2015.  I'm not tired of it yet.

For one, I still fold all of our clothing the way she suggests.  That idea alone, in my opinion, is worth the price of her book (though of course there are now 9432 pinned pictures and YouTube videos available to get this advice for free!).

Secondly, I still CRAVE that light feeling that arises when a category is really and truly tidied (which to me means pared down to what is truly needed and/or wanted).  The process and outcome really does make me happier, somehow streamlining my thoughts and actions in a deeper, more meaningful way.  What can I say -- I guess I just really believe in the power of Tidying Up!  At least for me.  I know there are people that could care less about what is in their closets (both of my parents!  And I think my podcast cohost, too, even though we are similar in many other ways.  Laura, feel free to correct me if I'm wrong!!).

However, I am sad to say that I have found several flaws in the famous Kondo plan.  I actually have no objection to the hippie-dippie stuff, and I like the whole idea of thanking items and deciding what sparks joy.  My issues are as follows:

1) Corralling every single item from any given category is hard to do all at once in a house with multiple rooms and 2 floors.  We do not live in a huge house (we have ~2100 square feet, 3 bedrooms total, very little storage space, and no basement).  But it isn't a tiny Tokyo studio, either -- which I suspect is where she tested/perfected her methods.  I have my clothing, the kids' clothing, Josh's clothing, etc.  It isn't as straightforward as she makes it sound to gather everything in one category all together.

2) She promises that once you do this, it's done.  Nope -- not for us.  I'm not sure what the right interval is to repeat the process . . . yearly perhaps?  A January tradition?  Maybe it's the fact that we have kids with ever-growing-and-changing-collecitons of stuff, or maybe it's just that we're WEAK and bad minimalists (possible), but things accumulate.  And what was once perfectly Kondo'd starts to feel cluttered again.  We are definitely in that zone now.

3) Given that I have children and a job and many more time constraints than Marie had when she was writing her book (I'm sure she's much busier now with 2 young kids and a decluttering empire!), it is hard for me to get this all done in large chunks as she suggests.  IE: a full category daily isn't necessarily going to happen for me right now, even on maternity leave.

4) There are some methods that do clash with my desire to be efficient.  I am NOT emptying out my purse/work bag/diaper bag daily (though I could probably be convinced to do it, say, weekly).  It is not realistic for every flat surface to be clear -- that coffee maker is staying on the counter!

Therefore, I am not going to go through her methods exactly as she lays out, nor am I going to expect them to be permanent.  But I still have an intense desire to go through the process again, in my own way.  I have decided to create a list of categories (see below).  However, I then decided that this still isn't granular enough to get done realistically during leave.  So, what I'm going to try is 30 minutes/day of gradual progress.

Multiply it times 50 days or so, and I think I can get a LOT done.  I have already done C's toys, A's clothing, and today I'm about to start on my clothing (which is daunting given that there is a hideous melange of maternity / post-maternity / not-really-quite-fitting regular-stuff all tangled up in there).

Oh!  And I am guessing some of you are wondering how the kids do with this process.  I think I'll do a whole other post with pix, but the short answer is -- shockingly well.  Annabel especially.  And C doesn't seem to care (or notice) enough to really resist.

What else is going on around here:
- Both kids actually ate the zesty kale and sweet potato bowl!  And I looooved it.  So, recipe recommendation right there for you!  (Annabel did not eat the quinoa or sweet potatoes, but whatever, close enough).

- Growing wayyyy too fast.  With luscious lips . . .

- Four Tendencies done,  Bel Canto started.  My to-be-read list is now officially out of hand due to so many great recommendations and end-of-year-lists!

* we use "Kondo" or "Kon-Mari" as a verb in this house regularly; it means to weed through things and eliminate what does not spark joy.  I don't feel that another real word describes the process adequately.