This post is written in collaboration with Nisolo. It contains affiliate links from which TheDebtist may receive a commission. Thank you for supporting companies who support this blog.
When it comes to holiday shopping, I favor stopping at ethical marketplaces over shopping malls. I first met Nisolo at an ethical marketplace in LA, and I am proud to say that they have since then created a place of their own, and virtually no less! Curated with goods from other companies that I support, including local PFCandleCo and KrochetKids, this marketplace is a perfect one-stop shop for people looking to spend their money intentionally.
It is important to be mindful of the companies we support. The way we spend our dollars is a vote towards the future we want to see. Our consumption will shape the way industries proceed in the future. And while it would be wrong to place all the weight on our shoulders (the companies themselves must be willing to put in the work), we are not completely helpless in steering tomorrow.
There is a saying that if you pull someone’s cuticle, the whole body will move.
In the same way, small actions can create larger impact.
Of course, I understand that ethical and sustainable shopping may not always be accessible to frugalists such as myself. As a way to promote their ethical marketplace, and Nisolo themselves, we are hosting a BOGO offer (that’s right, Buy One, Get One FREE) on select Nisolo styles and ethical market products. Enter code GoodTidings at checkout and receive an item of equal or lesser value from the approved list for free.
Below, a couple of gift pairings to serve as ideas.
For the casual type, this practical olive green James oxford, and a matching canvas tote.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
Gina Stovall is a climate scientist and the founder of the ethical clothing line Two Days Off. Her move from New York City to Los Angeles catapulted a series of changes that had her pursuing a slower, more intentional life, one which involves a balanced mesh between her practical implementation of climate solutions and her creative love for sewing. Below, we chat about her career(s), her thoughts on sustainability, a hobby-turned-side-hustle, her love for coffee and plant life, and mindful living, in general.
Sooooo, may we start at the beginning? Could you give our readers a little synopsis about who you are and what you do, in case they are not yet familiar?
Absolutely! I am Gina, and I am the founder and designer behind Two Days Off, an environmentally conscious clothing line. I am originally from NYC but relocated to Los Angeles with my partner a year and a half ago; shortly thereafter I founded my Two Days Off. My professional background is in geology and I build a career conducting climate change solutions and working with cities on implementing climate solutions. My concern for sustainability and their societal implications led to my personal interest in intentional and mindful living, minimalism, and conscious capitalism which I talk a lot about on my personal instagram. All of these interests and values are interwoven into Two Days Off.
Out of curiosity, how has being a climate scientist influenced the way you consume and purchase things?
I never saw consumption as a bad thing. As a scientist you learn that it is all about maintaining a balance within a system. The issue with climate change and environmental degradation is that we humans over-consume the planets resources, and do so at astonishing rates. I use to get anxiety thinking that I can’t consume anything if I want to help get humanity out of this mess, but that is unrealistic in the society we live in. Instead I just look with a critical eye first if I really need something or think it will bring significant value to my life. Then I consider how long it will last. Is it well made and can be used and passed down, or will I have to throw it out at some point. Next I consider the materials it is made out of. Will they biodegrade? Did someone destroy a habitat to make this? And finally I think of the embodied energy it takes to produce it and try to find a second hand option so I am not creating additional demand for a product that may exist already. I know if seems like a lot to consider, because it is! I think most people are “trained” to buy the cheapest, most readily available and well marketed option, but it is going to take a lot of people being a lot more considerate and pushing companies to produce products that are smarter for our species to survive the climate crisis.
I love the way you approach this. It seems to me that you have a very positive outlook on one’s ability to have an impact in preserving our environment. I, too, am a firm believer that our individual, everyday choices can make a difference. Would you mind sharing some of your best life hacks regarding a lifestyle of less waste.
I am very optimistic about our future. Peace activist, author and president of the SGI Daisaku Ikeda has said “Hope is a decision… even in the face of the severe crises confronting humanity today, I cannot side with the advocates of apocalypse. We can best negotiate the challenges we face when guided by hope, not when motivated by fear.” I completely agree. Humankind has immense potential. We already have all the technologies to solve the climate crisis, all that is left is to harness the will to implement them fast enough. My biggest hack on living a lower-waste lifestyle is to engage on the issues politically. It’s our policies and regulations that help drive forward the biggest impact and make it easier for us as consumer to have access to low waste-products. All the work shouldn’t be on the purchaser and the power we hold is to make our lawmakers hold companies accountable. Then I say vote with your dollar. Don’t support companies that are okay with sending you a bunch of plastic waste when there are great sustainable options out there for example. Two Days Off is a tiny business in the early stages and yet to turn a profit, but I have found a way to send eco-friendly packaging and use natural and recycled materials so big companies should too. And finally, reconsider if you really need something and buy only what you decided you do need or really want. Lastly, for the things you don’t want anymore, never throw them out. Repurpose, recycle, donate, et cetera.
While all of this is great, I can see how it can seem a bit overwhelming to someone just looking to start a journey of less waste. I was hoping to probe your mind on the importance of grace when it comes to sustainable living.
I love that you used the term grace, because that is precisely what we need to have with each other and ourselves when trying to live sustainably. If people are policing one another it will discourage more from making the small steps we need to overcome the environmental and social crisis we face. Success will be everyone imperfectly trying to be sustainable, not a handful of people doing it perfectly.
Let’s talk about Two Days Off! From where did the inspiration come? Was it born directly from your line of scientific work, or was it mostly a creative outlet that required exploring? Perhaps a marriage of both?
I have been sewing since I was a teen. I’ve always loved designing and playing with textiles so in that sense Two Days Off is a creative outlet. But my desire to create a business out of my hobby came a few years ago when I started learning about the fashion industry and fast fashion in particular. I had very little insight into the massive contribution to climate change fashion played, nor did I understand that most of the clothes I was purchasing came from the hands of garment workers working in unsafe and at times violent factories. I took making my clothes more seriously in 2016 and started to share it online. Over time and with the urging of friends I realized there may be a space in the slow fashion market for me. The slow fashion community is small and not everyone had the time or interest in making their own clothes so I wanted to contribute to the list of sustainable options out there and help shift the industry in my own way. I make all of my pieces from deadstock, essentially recycled, fabric here in LA. I take a lot of time designing and constructing pieces that are durable and hopefully timeless. I try to minimize waste, and any textile waste I produce gets recycled.
I have seen your clothing line and am absolutely in L.O.V.E. with the minimalist styles and stream-lined cuts. I, myself, own the Olivia top in white and the Suki crop top in Slate Blue. I love the versatility of both! As a person who tries to make getting dressed as simple a process as possible, do tell, what are your ideal criteria when it comes to your own clothing choices, and how does that translate into the pieces that you choose to make?
Thank you so much! I, too, want getting dressed to be simple, fast, and fun. I want to feel polished and even a bit elegant, but know that I will be comfortable all day. If I don’t notice my clothes except when I look in the mirror then I know that I am comfortable. I design clothes made from natural fibers that I know will breathe well, feel good on the skin, and last for years. I spend a lot of time sourcing my deadstock fabrics because it’s all about the handfeel, color and print for me. And lastly, I like to design silhouettes that are beautiful, unfussy, and all about the quiet details like a pocket here or a subtle neck line that hits at the perfect place.
You and I are very similar in that we have science-related professions by day and passion-driven projects by night/weekend/every other free moment possible. As a dentist-turned-baker who happens to write on the side, I often get questioned how my lifestyle could possibly reflect slow-living. And yet, it does. I often say that slow-living isn’t so much what we DO, but rather, HOW we do it. Would you like to share your perspective on how, despite a busy schedule, slow-living is still the lifestyle that you embody?
I think that your perspective is spot on for me too. When I lived in New York City I worked full time but had all my weekends and evenings and despite that I always felt on the go and busy. Since moving to LA and starting my business and working full time, sure I always have a lot to do, but I also have the balance of going to the beach and resting my mind or taking an evening to be inspired. I am not about rapid growth with my business, I want to do things true to my values and that takes time. I am growing slowly and enjoying the process. That’s how I live my life now, slowly and despite doing a lot I still think this is the mentality of slow living.
I see that you share the same affinity for indoor plants and coffee making as I do. What is your favorite plant and coffee drink (to make at home or order to-go on a busy day)?
My favorite coffee drink right now is a flat white! I love the frothy texture of the milk and am still working on getting that same quality of froth at home. Favorite plant is very very hard. I love all of my plant babies so much. But if I have to choose, I would have to say my monstera deliciosa because mine has had a major growth spurt recently after having a really rough winter. I finally found a spot in the house she just loves and I just love letting her take up as much space as she can (something I am learning to do more of!).
Do you have any references (books, articles, or podcasts) that you would recommend for those wishing to learn more about environmental solutions?
Yes! the books Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari (I liked the audio book because it was so long!) and Goodbye, Things but Fumio Sasaki totally changed how I perceive my material possessions. And Drawdown by Paul Hawken is excellent to get a feel for what the solutions to climate change are so you can spread the word and advocate for them! I also love Simple Matters by Erin Boyle, she has a blog that inspires me to live more sustainably and her book is packed with solutions and lifestyle hacks.
Simple Matters is one of my favorite books. Erin Boyle is just amazing, and her book is part of what helped me be, not only okay, but absolutely in LOVE with a life of less. Last question: Where to next?
That’s a big question, I am one of those people with a pharmacy receipt-long list of next projects but immediately I have one major and ambitious priority. I want to make Two Days Off circular and share more of the process behind that. I am thinking about creative ways to handle waste and consider every aspect of my products, cradle to grave.
For those interested in Two Days Off clothing, may I be the first to say that her articles of clothing are so very versatile and comfortable. For those curious about how the styles fit a 5’1″ petite 30 year old, see how I styled them on my trip to Seattle, WA. I would highly recommend them and I’ve got my sights on Indya dress next! The first four photos in this post were captured by Summer Blues Collective, and the last four were captured by Two Days Off.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
It wasn’t too long ago that I wrote about how having a capsule wardrobe for work saves me money AND time. However, as of late, my luck has made a turn for the better. Over the course of the past few months, I was given an opportunity to seize a position at an office three blocks away from my house. Although it required a pay cut and involved busier hours, I took the job for two reasons. Firstly, the office primarily serves the under-served in our community, which more aligned with my intention in becoming a dentist in the first place. And secondly, the commute meant that I could nix using my car all together and substitute a ten-minute walk in order to save on gas money and cut emissions. Hurrah hurrah!
With the new position also came the ability to trade in my professional clothing and white coat for scrubs and sneaks. Prior to the transition, I only owned two pairs of scrubs, which I usually wear in IV sedation – days when looking professional didn’t matter and when I needed to focus my concentration on more important things such as monitoring screens and breathing. Both pairs were remnants of the seven that we were required to buy in dental school. Being a frugalist, not to mention dead broke at the end of my four year schooling, I sold the other five pairs to students in grades below me when I graduated. I have alternated between these two pairs for the last two and a half years, and they are still high functioning, but with the new position, it was hard to get through a week without having to do laundry twice mid-week. Two pairs would suffice in the weeks when I only worked four days, but five day weeks led an awkward amount of laundry. In the name of simplifying, I thought I should own another pair.
I used my birthday as a means to get a pair of FIGS scrubs, which seems to be all the rage these days. Although I’ve been at this new office for the past few months, I didn’t jump the gun and buy them myself. At nearly $50 a piece, it wasn’t something that I could justify. However, they are well known for their modern and sleek cuts, as well as their stretchy, breathable fabrics. In fact, they seem to be disrupting the scrubs industry by providing medical professionals scrubs “that take care of them as much as they take care of their patients”. Advertised as scrubs that can follow any busy medical professional’s lifestyle, I was at first attracted by the versatility of many of the scrub fits. I liked that they were chic enough to wear out after a long day of work, and that they offered pants that one can wear to a yoga class before or after a shift. After receiving a pair for my birthday, I could not agree more with the reviews.
The fabric is extremely breathable, and very flexible, which works wonders for someone who is always on the run. I feel comfortable meeting someone for an interview for the blog, then going to yoga class, then heading to work, and still going to grab dinner afterwards. The styles are very versatile. I chose a trendier Mandarin cut for the top paired with a basic core pant for the bottoms. The pants are a petite size and is the perfect length for a five foot one inch thirty year old. I stepped out of my black and gray comfort zone and chose a Caribbean Blue color, which dresses it up some. Part of me wishes I would have chosen a neutral pair so that future FIGS scrubs could mix and match with different pant styles and tops, but the other part of myself reminds me that we mustn’t own things that we do not love.
Part of what attracted me to FIGS is their effort in being a socially conscious brand. They commit to being a part of Threads for Threads initiative. Thus far, they report having donated hundreds of thousands of scrubs to medical professionals in need spread between thirty-five countries in the course of two years. Some medical professionals perform surgeries and save lives in their jean and T-shirts and have never had access to scrubs before. FIGS is trying to change that. But their efforts don’t stop there. Currently, they are matching donations toward the Human Rights Campaign all of June on behalf of Pride month.
There are a few things that I didn’t like about FIGS. First, they could have an improved transparency regarding materials and scrub production. Secondly, I’d prefer the branding to have a little more humility. Flippant embroideries that equate saving lives to not being big deals make serious matters trivial, which I think is neither fair to the patient nor the practitioner. Although medical professionals do great work, they must be amazing humans without the need to wear shirts telling the world that they think just as highly of themselves. Humility is part of what makes a doctor great, and the brand fails to reflect that.
Overall, I couldn’t be more happy with the quality of the products. I practically live in scrubs these days. It’s nice to wear an outfit that are as comfortable as loungewear without looking like pajamas. Plus, I still retain the mantra of having a capsule wardrobe, or in this case, a uniform of sorts, in an effort to simplify my life even further so that I can get to the doing quicker. While I think a pair of FIGS for every working day would be useful, this single one partnered with my two older pairs will suffice. In an effort to curate my closet, I stray away from excessive additions of any one item. I would highly recommend these scrubs to any colleague in the medical profession, while challenging FIGS and other scrub companies to increase transparency and source materials more ethically.
I have always been a proponent of finding beauty in the unwanted. To a fault. It goes hand-in-hand with my tendency to be a voice for the unheard, a lover of the unloved, et cetera. With this comes a weakness for all things old, musty-smelling, faded, and used. If you’d like to glam the imagery up some, you could call it ‘vintage’. The list includes books with yellowing pages, wooden furniture with chips and nicks, and thick, woolly sweaters amidst retro clothing racks. So this past weekend, when one of my favorite coffee spots, Daydream Surfshop, announced a 40% off Sale on all items, with part of the proceeds being donated to Planned Parenthood (see last post), I knew I was going with the intention to support, and, well, purchase.
Reconciling with Stepping Outside the System
So how does one who keeps a minimalist closet allow for a vintage item? I will admit that these pieces don’t neatly fall into the SYSTEM typically established by a ‘minimalist’ (referring to black and white color schemes and streamlined shapes), but there is still an intentionality about them. Let me remind that first and foremost, minimalism is defined by the owner, and the term does not equate to having as few items as possible. It boils down to being mindful of what you allow to take space in your life. That being said, I find that a few unique pieces that fall outside of your system add character and, dare I say, F-U-N, to one’s clothing line. Sure, too many such pieces could cause a disconnect with your outfits, and would impede the wearability of said piece which may limit its use, but a handful of funk never hurt anyone. Plus, if you love it, you love it. There are minimalists whose closets are filled with articles of clothing in every color of the rainbow, yet daily use of said pieces make it a successfully curated closet. The goal of any clothing curator is this: let no piece go forgotten, or unworn, for a long period of time. In other words, let no piece be left unloved.
Buying Something Broken
The thing about buying vintage, or just plain used, is the fact that someone else loved that item before you. Which means, it probably suffered from daily wear (or at least, that’s the hope). When I was perusing through the clothing racks, I was drawn towards a few items, including chunky cable-knit sweaters (it WAS a rainy day in May, after all), Levi’s denim, and white linens with the occasional crochet. All of which happened to have a defect — a stain on some white sweater, a rip in the jeans, a snag in the wool or fine lace. Every item had a mark that seemed to scream to the world, “I’ve been around since the ’80s!”
At first, I was hesitant to purchase. As a frugalist, where I spend my money really matters, and buying broken things seemed very anti-frugalist, yes? But as a person, I also believe that our purchasing power is a statement, a vote cast towards the future we want to see, and choosing to buy used and broken meant preventing yet one more thing to enter the land-fill, meant loving something that most people don’t, and meant being just a tad less focused on vanity. I went through a number of items with strong consideration for each, and rationalized the purchase of ONE piece with the help of Mr. Debtist. ONE because I am still curating, after all! I ended up choosing a thick wool sweater that made me want to isolate myself in a wood cabin in the middle of winter, with a mug of coffee, a bread oven, and a book. Mayhaps I’m not as ready for the summer as I once thought… This particular sweater had a hole near the bottom where I could stick two thumbs through. Due to its knitted nature, I knew it would be irreparable and that gentle care would forever be granted. The purchase was made to support a rad local coffee shop, to stand as a vote for an individual’s right to have a say about how to treat their own bodies, to be an effort to create a closed loop system when it comes to fashion, and to remind myself that a snag in a sweater, and any consequent judgement caused by it, is irrelevant to its worth.
Standing Up for the Unloved
I walked out of the shop wearing my new (old) thick, cable-knit sweater on my back, and headed to my parents house for the rest of the one day off. When we arrived, my mom commented on the “nice” sweater as she went in for her customary hug hello. I proceeded to tell her that I had just gotten it that day from a vintage store, and as she pulled away, she asked me aghast, “You mean it’s USED?! EW!” Instead of being offended (long gone are the days when anything my mom says would offend me), I used it as an opportunity to talk about the importance (to me) of trying to create a more sustainable fashion industry. I started to show her the hole, wherein she interrupted and reprimanded me for foolishly buying something so ‘unfixable’. To which I suggested, perhaps, it does not need fixing.
I wasn’t commenting in order to start an argument or to defend my pride. Instead, I like to use these moments to start conversations. Standing up for the unloved is a hard thing to do, especially when your “life decisions” are being judged as questionable, usually by people whose opinions you most value. But I find it very easy to stand rooted in the confidence that every action I take is right by me. That’s all we can ever do. So, although my mom didn’t seem convinced that the sweater rightly belonged anywhere other than the next dumpster, she did hear me and my stance, stopped her berating and moved on to happier things.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
I have a fairly minimalist shoe closet, but it was not always so. I am the first to admit my past self’s infatuation with owning shoes, and at my highest point, when I embarked on this journey of minimalism in a state of constant overwhelm from being surrounded by so much STUFF, I counted more than fifty pairs! Embarrassingly, a majority of which were cheaply made goods of mostly plastic materials, undoubtedly constructed in less than ideal working conditions. My shoe collection now is a fraction of my past, but I still likely wouldn’t pass the Instagram and Pinterest-worthy versions of what a minimalist shoe collection entails. But who wants their image to fit in a box? All I know is that I am less wasteful and much pickier about adding to my collection. So how did I get from point A to point B?
Certainly, not without a whole lot of anguish caused by the realization that in order to de-clutter, the shoes had to go elsewhere. And where else might shoes go after being worn by particular feet? I will guarantee you that not many people out there are willing to wear well-loved shoes. And when there are no people wanting your shoes, what fate is there left to befall them but to (try) to return to the Earth? Despite all hope of plastic products bio-degrading eventually, deep down we all know that they will never disappear quickly enough.
Thankfully, a shoe reclamation program with Nisolo exists to increase the longevity of your kicks, while also giving to those in need. I myself participated in the reclamation program a month ago, when more of my shoes were considered unnecessary and ready to be passed on. Creating a more circular fashion model, this system ensures that products and their materials are reused and recycled. In partnership with Soles4Souls, the shoes donated will be given to micro-entrepreneurs in developing countries, such as Haiti, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Moldova and other countries in Africa, for a chance to clean, repair, and re-sell unwanted shoes. These micro-entrepreneurs are given the chance to start their own small business when they would normally not have the resources to do so. Additionally, the shoes are being redistributed to an under-served local population. Nisolo’s goal is to collect 5,000 shoes by 2020. Last month, our household donated six pairs. In return for your donation, Nisolo will give you a $30 OFF discount code for every pair of shoes donated, to be used at their shop at any time. If you’d like to join the movement, here’s how.
I speak about this program in the hopes that those looking to live a life of less can do so with a sigh of relief, rather than with heavy hearts. Additionally, I write in preparation for #GivingTuesday, a day fueled by social media on the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday, to get people rethinking about what it truly means to give. If you are preparing for Black Friday or Cyber Monday, perhaps you’d like to pre-emptively donate shoes, in order to receive a discount code to be used at checkout. More importantly, as the holiday season approaches, may we remember not to be entangled in the “giving process” so much as to tie our wallets down in the name of gifting. Instead, may we look to those in need and ask ourselves the question of how we can make a difference and bring joy.
For those interested in my shoe collection, here is a list of my shoes as they are depicted in the photos, left to right, top to bottom. Cover photo: Heeled boot from Everlane (a similar one here), Elizabeth Slides from Nisolo, Sofia Slip Ons from Nisolo (a similar shoe) Photo 1: Harper Chukkas from Nisolo (a similar one here), Paloma Mule from Nisolo, Smoking Shoe from Nisolo Photo 2: Clifton Sneakers from Eileen Fisher, Huaraches from Nisolo Photo 3: Isla Slide from Nisolo
It’s been a while, since I’ve written about curating closets, but closets have been at the forefront of [our] minds lately. Mostly, because we have none. I revealed in this post that our living space on the second floor has absolutely no closet space, not even in the bedroom.
Or pantry space.
Or a bathroom door.
Or a bedroom for that matter, technically. Loft living for the win.
So where to put storage? Our lifestyle is salvaged by a lone closet underneath the stairwell, located on the first floor (in the business space). We’ve placed a rod in this “coat closet” and have hung most of our clothes there, underneath the linens. There’s shelving above it, wherein sits our few sweaters that avoid hangers, to prolong their sweet little lives. The space is limited, and what minimalist closets we once thought we had have proved to be, well, not minimal enough. The husband owns too many tees, while I own too many formal a dress. So, a few words on curating, once again.
It’s dawned on me that the de-cluttering process is one of the most mindful practices I engage in. And I do it repetitively, because there’s still room for self-improvement, as well as self-reflection. Here’s what this new “space” has reminded me:
Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.
I keep returning to this quote. I first discovered it perusing a shelf of cards at Daydream Surfshop in simple black lettering across a blank card. I loved it so much that I gave it as a birthday card to our roommate. When curating closets, I ask myself these two questions: “Does it have a purpose?” and “Do I love it?” Some may say “love” is a bit too extreme of an emotion, but I have found that liking something is not enough to stand the tests of time.
When you must choose between practicality and an item you love, sometimes it pays to choose the loved and less practical.
I was standing in a dressing room stall, holding two pairs of pants in my hands. I had been hiding away in there for thirty minutes or more, and the dressing room lady has checked in on me five times by now. Surely, she must wonder whether I’m in there solely because of the free AC. Not entirely untrue. But also, I was going through a tough dilemma, arguing with myself back and forth. Do I get the pair of practical denim which goes with everything in my closet and which can be worn on most days in casualness, or do I go with the auburn pant that wears beautifully, matches with a lot of my basic tops, but that I might hesitate doing some cooking in, lest it gets dirty? The truth of the matter is, I needed neither. In the end, I had walked out of the store with the pair of red pants in my hand. While practicality would have landed me a pair of denims that have everyday usability, I chose the thing that will make me ultimately the most happy. With something practical, one can wear it every day and never notice anything different. The practical one would not add anything to my life, except maybe a reason to de-clutter other denim pants that I already own. The red pair, on the other hand, will add joy to the every day. Plus, I’ve come to realize that when you love something, you end up using it as much as you possible can anyway. The moral is to choose actions that makes life happy, which is ultimately what we are living for. And when it comes to having items around, living surrounded with items that you actually care about is the thing that matters most.
Know what you need for your particular lifestyle.
Speaking of having items around, know what works for you. I have been guilty before of buying things that other people have, with the illusion that I myself may need them too. However, as I grew to know myself, I have found that my lifestyle is quite different from other people’s lifestyle. There were so many things we owned previously that we found we didn’t use at all. A toaster that we had asked for on our wedding registry. Cosmetics that I thought every girl required. A beer tasting set, ’til I realized I no longer wish to consume beer. Specifically for wardrobes, I used to think I needed high heels to compensate for my height, and short dresses to make my legs appear longer. I used to think that tight clothing helped me, and that having my hair curled made me appear more adult. Today, I’d likely grab a tee, prefer overalls, and get itchy when my hair is anywhere near my face. Also, I enjoy the freedom that walking, running, jumping (?) in flat shoes afford me. My lifestyle has slowed down quite a bit, so blogging on couches does not require the same attire as going out to happy hours do. Coffee shops are more forgiving than clubs and house parties. Denim pants are more suited to bread baking than mini skirts. You get the gist.
Learn to recognize sentimentality and guilt. Learn to let the burden go.
The most difficult, and final advice. Too many times have I stared at an item which has not been touched, used, or even looked at for many months [ahem, years], yet still it remained in my possession. Always, the culprit holding me back from saying sayonara was sentimentality, followed by guilt. Handkerchiefs handed down to me from my mom when I was 8 years old, for example. The thought of letting something go makes me feel like I was stabbing someone I cared about in the back with a knife of betrayal. The wild imagery pulls me towards being a “good person” and keeping it for the sake of sentiment, and also, to avoid hurting anyone’s feelings. We must learn to recognize these moments, and then to ask, “what is it’s purpose?” If the only thing the item does is weigh us down with emotional burden, is that really worth keeping? Surely, your loved one did not mean to cause you such turmoil. I have found that creating space gives a higher ability to receive, while releasing negative physical, emotional and mental energy. Be kind to yourself, and know that the weight of the relationship should not come down to material things.
How about your closet space advice? I could use some inspiration. One day, I hope for that downstairs closet to have decent breathing room.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
My height is officially 5 foot 1 inch. I have been this tall since I was a freshman in high school. You could say I peaked at 14 years old. No growth spurts ever visited me again (I am not sure if they ever did to begin with). At around this age, I was learning about super models, reading magazines, watching Project Runway, and working for clothing companies as a style specialist who dressed mannequins that were 5 foot 8 inches tall. The concensus was universal and the messaging was definitive: Taller girls are prettier. Taller girls are more desirable. Clothes are made for taller girls.
As young as sixteen years old, I started experimenting with making myself appear, or actually be, taller. I fitted my tiny feet into even tinier high-heeled shoes and walked around everywhere in them. I wore them to high school, and ran in them occasionally in order to get to my next class on time. I remember returning home with bruised feet and pounding heels. I wore them to work as an eighteen year old, climbing ladders as I made the window displays of my retail store pretty, dressing and undressing those towering mannequins. Even with heels on, I barely reached their shoulders.
When I met my husband in college, I started wearing 4-5 inch wedges, with the desperate desire to get anywhere near to his 6 foot 3 inches frame. Obviously, I was never close. But it was a booster to my self-esteem.
To this day, I thank providence that my husband was the person I ended up meeting. A very simple man, he never noticed things of vanity and outward appearances. After eight years of being together, he still can’t tell the difference between when I wear make-up and when I don’t. He won’t realize that I’ve chopped my hair, unless I’ve already told him before-hand. To be fair, he has pointed out time and again that I don’t realize when he’s shaved off three weeks worth of beard, either. All of this to say that he has taught me the lack of importance of outward appearances.
I remember when we first started dating, I became overly obsessed with stocking up on very tall shoes. I asked for them for birthdays and Christmases. One particular Christmas, I even requested he buy me these ridiculous, tall and spikey Sam Edelman heels, which sell for $200 a pair. Ugh, the joys of being naïve, and the qualms of being reckless. But he just didn’t understand it. I think the only reason he noticed that I was wearing towering heels was because I was struggling to keep up, stumbling on cracks on the sidewalk, and scurrying in small, calculated steps. He kept asking me, “Why do you do this to yourself?”, pointing out the impracticalities as well as the dangers of walking on stilts. But I was convinced that walking stilts gave you power, that being taller made you more covetable. Reinforced by other women’s oohs and aahs at my pretty shoes, this is what I continued to believe. I think the best part in all of this was his apathy towards whatever I chose to wear. Equally so, his apathy to whatever HE chose to wear. Over time, I realized that neither he nor I used appearances to measure a person’s worth. So why were they so important to me?
It took me eight years, but I can finally say that I have outgrown that misconception that heels make you beautiful. Or that they’re attractive at all. Looking back, there was nothing attractive in the way I tip-toed to class, the way I looked down all the time at where I was going to step next, or the way I tripped, twisted ankles, or stumbled. I have given away all of my very tall shoes. I still have heels for those special occasions, but we are talking one to two inches, and few and far between. I have replaced my favorite brands with more subtler types. I embrace shoes that are more empowering in their ability to get me through a busy day. Off course, I have written extensively about how the majority of my shoe collection consists of Nisolos, because they have a curated collection that does just that.
For those interested in curating their own closets and replacing their shoes with ones of practicality and durability, this week marks Nisolo’s Annual Summer Sale, their largest sale of the year. Products for both men and women will be marked down 30-50%. Additionally, they are giving an additional 10% OFF sale styles to The Debtist Readers, when you use the code DEBTIST10 at check out. The sale and this offer is valid from 7/23/18 to 7/27/18. If you would like to receive more offers such as this, sign up for the newsletter below, where you will also get posts delivered straight to your inbox!
My hope is that when we talk to young girls in future generations, we refrain from complimenting them on how cute they look, or how pretty their dresses are. Instead of saying these things, we should be complimenting them on their character. I imagine a world where we say, instead, “How kind that was for you to share with your friend”, or “how brave you are for trying something new.” We compliment them too much on how they appear, rather than how they are. Instead of putting the emphasis on appearances, we should reward them for their actions.
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Last weekend, K and I were de-cluttering our possessions, as usual, continuing our slow, constant progress towards living a life of less. It’s amazing to discover that you can keep going on this path for so long. While I am not adding much of anything at all back into my life, I am finding hidden, forgotten about gems constantly in the backs of closets, nooks of cabinets, underneath piles of more oft used stuff. I came downstairs for a quick swig of water after lightening my closet for what feels like the thousandth time, just as K was coming up the stairs, carrying her favorite purple North Face jacket (a similar one here). I must have seen K wear this jacket multiple times as one of her go-to pieces in her closet, so I was surprised when she extended her arm and offered the jacket to me. She voiced that she was ready to let it go, and she asked if I wanted her hand-me-down. I laughed because I had just de-cluttered my own closet upstairs and just finished contemplating how in the world I end up with so much stuff. Funnily, I did want to take the hand-me-down too, because I could use a more muted fleece jacket for the everyday, instead of my bright red one (see, minimalist doesn’t mean owning nothing, or deprivation!). Really though, I was hesitant that this was yet another thing that I would have to de-clutter in the future. But then I thought about it, and decided to hold on to the jacket, and I am glad I did!
If anything, I am prolonging the life of the article of clothing. K mentioned how she did not know where to donate the stuff she is constantly decluttering, and I have also come across this problem numerous times. The amount of clothes that are being removed from homes is extremely large, mostly thanks to the fast fashion industry which is bent on creating 52 seasons in one year. Companies that used to take and re-sell lightly used clothes are becoming more and more critical, and are accepting only a small percent of what comes through their doors, because there is just not enough room. Donations to other charities are also overflowing, and most are sent to third world countries for processing, where the overflow sometimes, ultimately, end up in landfill. A lot of people who don’t want to deal with the inconveniences of finding their old clothes a home simply send them straight to the landfill anyway. So K asked me to take it and I thought to myself, “keep it out of the landfill.”
I haven’t had a hand-me-down since my sister, Dee, and I started fitting into different sizes in college. Only a year apart, the first twenty years of our lives were constantly filled with, “Can I borrow this?” or “I’ll trade you this article of clothing for that!” It used to be such a fun game, frantically looking through my closet for a piece I knew she would want, whenever I wanted to borrow or have anything she had. We were very good about striking deals and bargains, and because of our system, our closets were technically twice the size. Sometimes, we would trade back the pieces we originally had, and it was like new. I was surprised to relearn all of this with the simple act of accepting K’s gift.
I have worn K’s jacket everyday this week, since she gave it to me. The jacket has brought me so much joy and excitement. It’s been a bit cloudy in the mornings (the sun has been slow in waking up this past week) and the office is always cold, so it’s proved useful despite the fact that it’s already June in California. Yesterday, Mike and I were at the beach watching the sunset, and I commented on how I have worn the jacket every day this week, as I was zipping it up to ward off the cooling temperatures. He responded with, “You’re excited to wear it because it’s new.” Which got me thinking. Sure, it isn’t brand new, but in my life, it IS new to me.
Research shows that we are not necessarily constantly searching for newness, but rather, novelty. Advertisement companies and social media understands this human need for novelty greatly, and they use it to their advantage. They sell products as novel experiences to the general population. Buy said product, find happiness. Buy this trip, find peace. Buy this workshop, find creativity. They package novelty as something you need to buy, and time and time again, I have proven that concept wrong through slow living. The truth of the matter is, “buying happiness” is a temporary fix, leaving people feeling empty, and wallets feeling emptier. Creatingnovel experiences is much easier, leaving people feeling fuller, because it did not come at a cost. Hand-me-downs are a great way to create this novelty. Accepting K’s jacket reminded me of a truth that Dee and I knew as children. Newness does not necessarily mean physical newness. It only requires a sense of newness to us. One day, I will write more about ways I create novel experiences in my life, without spending a penny, and how that is contributing to the observation that I live a happier life than some of my peers. But today, I just wanted to share this story, in hopes to maybe convince more people to creating a hand-me-down system among family and friends. Share, borrow, trade, it’s all fun. See how it makes you feel. Who knows. You may unlock a secret that only kids once knew.
For those interested in finding a place for their used clothes, why not support companies that have programs dedicated to repurposing used goods? Eileen Fisher has a Renew Program which accepts used EF clothes. Depending on the condition, they resell them, refurbish them, or break them down into scraps to make a one-of-a-kind. Nisolo has a Shoe Reclamation Program that accepts used shoes, creating a market for shoemakers in less fortunate communities who can then refurbish the soles and resell the “new” shoes to their communities in need.