This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
This post is sponsored by TokoDesign, a new modular minimalist company fabricating eco-conscious organizers for messy drawers. The name “Toko” comes from the Japanese word ‘tokonoma’, which describes a special alcove for displaying art. As I’ve alluded to in other posts about the home, I believe that our homes should be artful representations of ourselves. I am all about letting the furniture do the decorating, substituting architecturally historic or artist-driven products for hanging paintings, sculptures, or other traditional methods of home decor. By being mindful of the products we allow into our home, we can create art using house items that are equally functional and beautiful. TokoDesign plays an ode to those ideals – mimicking the emphasis on minimalism, versatility, and natural beauty in traditional Japanese interior design.TokoDesign has gifted me a set of organizers so that I may try it out myself. As always, this review and the opinions held within are my own.
I have a secret about my home, and that is, that it’s incredibly messy. However, I have tricks stashed up my sleeve to make it appear clean, neat, and minimal on social media and to my friends and family who visit, one of which is quite simple to do. I create the illusion of tidiness and sparsity by putting things behind closed doors. It doesn’t help that we have a shortage of doors at our home, living in a live-work loft open floorplan that has no door to separate our bedroom nor our bathroom from the rest of the space. It also doesn’t help that our space is tiny, in general.
Even though I don’t own a lot of things compared to the general public, the limited hiding places and my desire to hide everything from plain sight means that our few items still get a bit crowded. One of the banes of my existence are the kitchen and bathroom drawers. Filled to the brim with accessories, utensils, and gadgets, my items get jostled around with every opening of the drawers. Some people find the solution in placing cooking utensils in a beautiful holder on the countertop, but I have this insane itch to keep counterspace clear.
Luckily, TokoDesign has come to my sanity’s rescue. This minimal, modular organizer is probably the best organization tool I have come across since Marie Kondo’s Spark Joy book was published. The wood is made from renewable bamboo and has a beautiful look to it. The rails come in either black or white, which works for different home styles. I personally chose the white, because the exterior of our drawers are a light wood color and the inside is white. I preferred for the rails to blend in rather than stand out (there I go again with hiding things from plain sight!). I can see the black rails working with more modern kitchen schemes, like Ikea’s charcoal grey cabinets, or dark wood finishes.
The design is thoughtfully made so that the organizer can work for different drawer sizes. My qualm with other organizers is the pre-determined dimensions and the need to find ones that exactly fit a space. The rails of the TokoDesign have adjustable lengths thanks to a knob that you turn at the end of the rail to make it flush with your drawer length. There are multiple length options and the width of your drawer will determine which dividers you choose. There are three divider widths available, and even if it doesn’t span the width of your drawer perfectly, the end section can still be used as storage, as I’ve done below.
What makes the process even more fun is the accessories that TokoDesign has produced. Kitchen knives stack neatly in the knife block, cutlery lay neatly in the silverware trays, spices align on the rack, and tiny trinkets and bobbles stay contained in boxed compartments. A person has the ability to create the combination that works for them digitally on their online order form. You can visualize how the items you purchase will look in the drawer before you even order them. I really enjoyed playing around with the different combinations once can make. I was even able to combine TokoDesign’s boxes with my pre-existing bamboo silverware tray, and it blended perfectly!
Of course, I used TokoDesign for the drawer that gave me the most grief – the kitchen drawer that holds all our cooking utensils. However, I can see this system working just as well in the bathroom drawers, work desk drawers, and even nightstands. For women who have a lot of jewelry or makeup products, the boxes could prove quite useful for showcasing your favorite things in a way that makes you proud to open your drawers.
They ship everything with as little plastic as possible, by the way. Only the side rails were wrapped in a thin sleeve to prevent scuff marks. All the divides and boxes were packaged without plastic, and the big shipping container in came in was also without plastic. I was so excited when the package arrived that I opened it immediately and started playing with the dividers right away. It seriously felt like a new toy on Christmas morning, which goes to show the extend of my OCD. It was easy to set up and assemble and it requires no tools to do! Most importantly, it really stays in place and nothing slides around. When I was finished playing with my TokoDesign, my drawer truly sparked joy.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
I am not one for house decor. My white walls speak for themselves. My furniture fills up what little space we have. My husband and cat are more than enough. My creative work takes up the rest of the room. So I find it absolutely ironic to be giving home decorating advice in this space. I do, however, try my best.
To be completely transparent, I find deciding on decor a stressful activity. Nothing ever seems right. I worry about the decor’s permanence. My likes and dislikes change with the weather, so I’m certain that a photo I want to frame today would look lame in a month’s time. I obsess about the lack of function. What good is a wall-hanging to me?? I fret about the white noise. I view most decor as distractions, subtracting from my life instead of adding value. I suppose that’s the minimalist in me. I worry about the cost. Not just the monetary cost, but the true cost, like “who made this?” and “which ocean will it end up in?”
However, when outfitting a home, there is one exception (isn’t there always?). If there is one form of decor that I happily allow into our tiny home, it’s going to be houseplants. Living, breathing things that bring me great happiness. Take me to a nursery and out the window goes minimalism, out the door goes my hard-earned dollars. There is no such thing as frugality in a greenhouse at Lowe’s. Still, I leave richer than when I entered, a new plant baby in my arms. Or perhaps two.
There are many reasons why I proclaim plant life as the optimal form of decoration. First, they have increasing permanence. For those arguing against this with anecdotes of black thumbs, this previous post I wrote on how to care for houseplants is a good place to start. Anyone who has ever taken in a chain of hearts or a Monsterra will attest to the fact that these tenacious plants are going to outlive even you one day.
Second, they have function. Plants liven up any space. More than referring to their rich, vibrant color (I prefer leafy greens over florals), I also speak of their ability to freshen the air which we breathe. The fact that they can detox our home environment is just as important as the way in which plants detox our minds, boost our moods, and speak to our spirit. We have a deep-rooted connection with plants, an unexplained symbiosis and harmony that is arguably stronger than that with animals.
Lastly, plants have the ability to teach us a thing or two about the art of introspection. Its growth depends on our awareness to its surroundings, our willingness to take time to listen and observe its needs, and our ability to care for something other than ourselves. I, myself, am still learning. It’s a process. In exchange, our reward: happiness. I have yet to outgrow that excited feeling … a skip of a heart-beat every time I see a brand new leaf unfurling.
Which leads me to my final point about home decor: adding value to human life.
This post was sponsored by The Sill, a company delivering joy to people’s doorsteps in the form of foliage. Think of a food delivery system, but for plants. Based in NYC and California, The Sill has a few storefronts for locals to shop at, but they mostly operate via their contact-less delivery service.
They recently collaborated with The Met, who celebrated their 150th Anniversary this summer. In the collaboration, The Sill joined a number of other companies (a line-up that includes Catbird, Allbirds, BAGGU, and more) to create products inspired by famous artwork found at the museum. They kindly sent me a Bird’s Fern nestled within one of the pots from The Met 150 collection. Inspired by ancient Precolombian vessels found in the museum, the matte, yellow pot with its tiny saucer (a MUST feature for plants needing well-draining soil and newbie plant owners alike) exudes a subdued elegance that adds character without overshadowing its plant’s beauty. Their collab also includes a smaller, brighter planter in Met Red with a smooth finish for those homes in need of a pop of color. You can shop the entire MET 150 Collection here.You can shop The Sill’s collection here.
I can’t recommend The Sill enough. If you have doubts about whether a plant can survive a shipping, rest assured knowing that The Sill packages the plants quite securely using cardboard housing and an innovative nest that prevents the soil from falling out. Of course, unwrapping the plant may result in stray dirt falling from the box, so do be mindful of where you choose to meet your new plant baby. And for those who question their abilities to parent a plant, The Sill hosts a number of online workshops walking newbie parents through different plant preferences and care. Plus, your order is shipped with a care guide for your greenery of choice. Still unsure? Opt for a faux plant so that you may still decorate a homewith confidence.
Bird’s Nest Fern; Asplenium nidus
Origin: Southeast Asia, Polynesia
Thrives in medium to bright indirect light, but can tolerate low indirect light.
Water weekly; adjust frequency depending on the light levels provided. Allow potting mix to dry out at least two inches down between waterings.
Do not water directly into the center of your fern, but instead, water around it.
This plant is pet-friendly.
Sad Plant Signs:
Pale green leaves, dry potting mix: Thirsty plant, underwatered.
This post is sponsored by Territory Design. By curating a collection of items centered around crafting a life well-lived, Territory inspires the pause needed for grounding us in our everyday living.
The pursuit of doing nothing is a dying art. Hardly do I ever encounter a human being capable of nothingness. We Americans, especially, are never not doing. We have a bad habit of seeking activity rather than pleasure. We are always looking ahead to the next thing. We are constantly in search of distraction. How many times do you automatically take a moment of stillness and use it to pull out your phone and subconsciously hit that social media icon. BOOM! Time spent, action checked off.
But are you well?
Does it behoove you, the things you cram into your schedule?
We leave the art of doing nothing to the monks, as if it is an occupation that is not worth our time. Or we make up some excuse, saying we were born this way – our personality is just not meant to sit still.
There’s a reason the monks call meditation a practice. Because even monks were not born to be doing nothing. They are human, after all, with human minds that wish to plan ahead and human hearts that wish to conquer dreams. The practice part of it is required in order to master the art of stillness. It is, even for them, a pursuit.
Many of us get uncomfortable sitting with ourselves for too long, constantly on edge should a negative thought fleet across our minds or a scary imagination flicker behind our closed eyelids. We seem to always be waiting for bad news. Why waste time thinking and worrying? Best we get up and go do something about it. DO, ACT, GO. Or so the consensus goes. There is a certain courage required to pause in the face of discomfort and keep going as if nothing was shaking you to the core. There is growth in being able to take a short-coming and process it in ways that transform you.
The pursuit of doing nothing is a challenge worthwhile. It’s not going to be easy, and certainly the world isn’t making it easier. There will be temptations thrown your way, low-hanging fruit dangling inches from your brow, but don’t be fooled. Everyone else will also be holding on to low-hanging fruit. It’s hardly special, and will always be around. You’ve got a job to do.
Look at nothingness as an opportunity. Have you ever found yourself saying, “I don’t have the time”? Doing nothing is required to create space for something new. Therefore, the pursuit of doing nothing is preemptive to moving forward. It is old-age culture that is lacking in new-age thinking. No one else around you is doing that. Everyone else is too busy to take on the opportunities, and losing them too, all at the same time.
The pursuit of doing nothing is a dying art, and we, a backwards culture. Since when did we value filling our time with useless action items that are essentially repetitive loop cycles? Get up, go to work, come home tired, eat dinner and barely see the kids, binge watch TV, go to sleep, repeat five times a week, fifty-two weeks a year, forty-five years of our life. Is this what you want to call a living?
I don’t know about you, but I am committed to pursuing doing nothing.
Territory Design’s Flecha Pillow in Cream is the perfect muse for reflection and thought, growth and discovery. For a limited time, TheDebtist readers can receive 15% OFF using the code debtist15.
This post is written in affiliation with Warby Parker, a revolutionary eye wear company that gives people an alternative for modern, quality specs. As always, all thoughts, opinions, and creative content are my own.
Eye wear seems to be my thing in 2020. Perhaps it’s the new decade that’s brought a keen awareness towards the need to protect my health. Perhaps it’s the long list of current events. Either way, I’ve been terribly conscious of my waning physicality. I have never been overly zealous in protecting my youth, but suddenly, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I have become obsessed with it.
Is this what they call a mid-life crisis?
I previously wrote about the need to protect our eyes from the blue light emanating from the screens attached to our hips, like oxygen tanks that we carry around in order to breathe. But let’s be real. I am not wearing my blue-light blockers all day, everyday. Yet we are still exposed to light rays twenty-four seven. Erm, at least, I hope you are still able to get some sun?
My entire life, I’ve found sunglasses to be a nuisance – something too expensive and too easily left behind (or sat on). I have owned very few, and the last pair that I purchased were discounted from when I still worked at a retail store ten years ago. Yes, you heard that right. My last pair of sunglasses was purchased ten years ago.
So I would say it was high time that I finally invested in a pair to protect my eyes. Most important to me was finding sunglasses that I would actually want to wear. Ones that were simple, light-weight, elegant, timeless, and well, minimal. Obviously.
I settled on Warby Parker when I learned of their mission to provide a pair of glasses to someone in need for each pair purchased. I was intrigued by their origin story, seeing as how the inspiration came after a founder lost his sun-specs after a backpacking trip (already relatable) and lamented on the insanely expensive prices of quality sunglasses. Reason being, of course, that the eye wear industry was dominated by a single company that keeps prices high. The rebellious Warby Parker was created as an alternative option for good eye wear at revolutionary prices. They set out to create a personal customer experience while providing exceptional prescription and non-prescription specs. They exude everything I love about a company, so how could I not love them?
I came across my first Warby Parker store in Newport Beach about a year and a half ago. Back then, I wasn’t interested in buying sunnies. It just so happened to be a storefront within a store next to the Aesop that I frequent. I walked in and was charmed by the different styles and friendly staff. I ended up walking out and forgetting about it.
Earlier this year, we were walking the streets of San Francisco when I entered my second Warby Parker store. I vaguely remembered seeing them before and even picked up a few frames to try on. I found styles that I liked, but I still wasn’t interested in buying glasses. This was in February.
Then, in June, I turned thirty one. I got my first pair of blue-light blockers. I started blinking a lot. The sun hurt my eyes. I got extremely conscious about light – too much light, lack of light, weird lighting in general. I debated whether UV curing lights at the dental office were more harmful than computer screens that I stare at as I type posts like this. I started to think about sunglasses, and why I wasn’t wearing them.
The truth? I don’t have a pair that works for me. I don’t like the one I owned, it didn’t fit my style, and it didn’t work with my lifestyle. If there’s anything I learned about myself, it’s that I use most the things I love dear. As for everything else, I just don’t.
This was around the time I seriously considered buying Warby Parker.
The thing I love about them is that they give people the option of trying on their eye wear prior to purchasing. Even during this difficult, quarantine life, they allow you to ship up to five frames to your door FOR FREE just so you can try them on. If you don’t like them, simply ship them back within ten days. I literally had five frames in my cart the weekend before we left for Colorado in July when…
We drove by a Warby Parker storefront in Boulder, Colorado. I knew right away that I wanted to walk in. The store was limiting only two parties at a time due to COVID so I waited in the car for five minutes until it was my turn. The staff was incredibly helpful in guiding me towards the right frame for my personality and lifestyle. One thing about me. I am incredibly picky. But when I know I like something, I KNOW. It took five minutes to find the pair I wanted and check out.
I have a narrow, heart-shaped face, but the frames that worked best for me were Wright, Percy, Robbie, and Fisher. The first two were too girly, posh and trendy for me. They were also a tad heavier. The choice came down to the last two. Due to my high cheekbones, the flat, squarish edge to the Robbie ended up accentuating my plump cheeks. I ended up going with Fisher, which is a mix between the Merrick and the ever-popular Raider. There were two color options – a gold frame with colored lenses, or black on black on black. Need I say more?
These are the lightest pair of glasses I own. I put them away in the case they came with as soon as I’m done wearing them. Hopefully I never sit on them, even though Warby Parker has my back. Scratched lenses and bent frames can be taken to any storefront and they will try to the best of their ability to fix the glasses for you. Luckily, the metal frames on the Fisher are easier to fix than the plastic frames. And lenses with scratches can be replaced completely within a year of purchase.
I don’t wear prescription glasses (yet!) but if you do, no worries! When I went to the store, they had optometrists working who seemed very knowledgeable about eye wear. A few storefronts also offer eye exams, which I think is awesome! It’s your one stop shop.
If you are on the fence about the price, then I would highly recommend doing a few things.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
If you were to walk into our tiny home right now, barge yourself up to our bathroom and pull back the shower curtain in one fell swoop, you may be shocked to find the bare-bones tub that we bathe in. The amount of products that we allow ourselves are few and far between. I never realized before that it was uncommon to house only a single bar of soap in the shower. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law stayed with us for a few weeks and commented on how “bizarre” our bathroom was that I thought to myself, “Maybe we ARE outliers.”
When I asked her why, she mentioned how most people would have products up the wazoo strewn over their bathing areas. I suppose it never occurred to me that some people have soaps, shampoos, conditioners, face moisturizers, loofahs, and whatever else (I don’t even know what else as I’ve run out of things to list). She said that most couples have his and hers products, because the beauty industry would like us to think that we need separate goods.
So we don’t own many things, and she may have stayed with us back when we were practicing zero plastic living much more stringently, hence the singular bar, but in our defense we’ve lightened up a bit on both counts since then. There are a few luxuries that we’ve afforded ourselves recently, one of which is this beautiful Japanese body scrub, which said mother-in-law gifted me for Christmas. And while the tub still usually holds only a bar of soap and this loofah hung up to dry on the shower curtain rod, we also own gifted bottles of Aesop products which we take into the tub occasionally.
I know that I may not get most people on board with me on this one, but may I pitch the idea that minimalist bath routines are the way to go? Firstly, we can reduce our environmental impact by just limiting the products that we buy. There is no need for his and hers segregation. Even though they are advertised as such, I don’t see why he and I need different products. Is that weird?
Secondly, we reduce packaging by reducing our consumption. In fact, people may find this odd, but we shampoo perhaps one to two times a week. We use the conditioner less frequently than that. We own beautiful products that were gifted to us but this miniature Aesop body soap has lasted me six months. Not because I never wash, but I don’t use it in excess. A tiny drop is good enough to bathe in. The shampoo and conditioner have also lasted us just as long, and we aren’t close to finishing. I would gander that the conditioner would last us the entire year.
Yes, they are in plastic bottles. No we are not perfect. Perhaps being gifted these and using them isn’t a sin. I like to think it’d be more eco-conscious than shipping more ethical shampoo and conditioner options across the country? I don’t know.
From a frugalist’s perspective, Aesop products are not cheap. In this case, they were free, but even if they weren’t, limiting consumption of Aesop bath products could save you more money than a person squandering Dove products on the daily. With less products to use, you can also reduce your monthly water bill. I like to shower in less than five minutes and Mike turns the water off every time he uses a bar of soap.
Phew, after this discussion, perhaps we are whackos. Just out of curiosity, how may items do you have in your bathtub?
Also, two of my favorite companies have 20% off sales on their entire site this weekend, which is sort of post related.
+ Bath towels and accessories from Parachute is 20% OFF through Monday. My favorite is this classic starter bundle in the color Bone.
+ Territory design also has 20% off everything and that is where my mother-in-law bought this body scrub.
Growing up, I was always impressed by still-lifes and images of homes. Museum-like staging of historical dwellings on field trips and home-decor magazines alike had me imagining what my ideal house would look like. As an early twenty-something, I would peruse magazines and circle with a pen the items that I would love to own one day. Along the way, I collected trinkets here and there every time I visited Ikea, Crate and Barrel, and Target … until one day, I woke up to having too much stuff. I realized that instead of the clean, well-manicured homes that I looked up to as a teen, what I had was a very dirty rented room that held a hodge-podge of mismatched items and styles. I didn’t know who I was, which style was “me”, and I suffered many hours keeping things tidy.
These, of course, weren’t my biggest life problems – only a reflection of other aspects that bothered me about myself. After spending months (then, years after the first phase) of de-cluttering, I decided that I was not going to put in all that effort just so I can fill my space back to an over-whelming state, where I had to spend most of my free time organizing stuff, tidying up after trinkets that find their way out of their proper places like the toys from Toy Story.
Like with everything else, I decided to slow. it. down. Limit what I purchased and bought for my home, so that I could discover the whos, whats, whens, and whys of things. I wanted to be the curator of my own museum, and while homes aren’t meant to be museums themselves – they’re meant to be lived in and touched and loved and messed up, even – neither are they meant to be storage units holding symbols of our financial status. But as curator, I wanted to make sure that what I had was worth keeping.
The skill of curating doesn’t magically come from a bout of de-cluttering. In fact, I would go so far as to call it a completely separate ability that places more importance on our stewardship of what we allow in, rather than our selection of what we get rid of. You could be very good at de-cluttering without being good at maintaining your clutter. You need both skills to be able to create a minimalist space that allows for maximalist function.
With books up the wazoo about how to properly de-clutter a space, and movements that have people Marie-Kondoing their homes, I think what people still struggle with the most when creating a minimalist home is the inundation of stuffs through our doors – aka: the curation itself.
A curator for a museum needs to have a passion for the job, a knowledge about history and the arts, an eye for detail, patience and superior organizational skills. They research different pieces before deciding on one and manage the finances and lending needed to get the best piece for their space.
A curator of the home requires similar things, requiring knowledge of the self, patience, and the willingness to research options before a purchase.
Personally, I simplify the process down to three questions – which I ask of myself before I make a purchase. I ask them in the following order of importance:
Is it beautiful?
Beauty is my first question because I find that without beauty, I can easily fall out of love with something and lust after a nicer alternative. And while there are always nicer options, when you fall in love with the beauty within an everyday thing rather than the thing itself, no matter what happens to that thing or to you, you will have a sentimental connection with the piece that makes it hard to even look at another. Metaphors aside, I find that beautiful things hardly feel like clutter. A hand-made ceramic mug left sitting on the table with coffee drips dried from the lip is an artful piece on its own. A beautiful cardigan thrown over a chair looks almost staged when in reality, it was flung there forgotten after a more pressing life-matter beckoned. We are attracted to beautiful things, and of the three, sentiment is the strongest decision factor as to whether an item earns its keep. Because when something no longer becomes necessary or breaks and become dysfunctional, when it has lost its purpose and meaning, a person may still choose to keep it simply because it is beautiful.
Is it functional?
I like to think that what I own earn their keep. They do the hard work for me. They help me to not only live, but also to thrive. My things deserve my deepest gratitude for the sole reason that without them, my life would be a little less than. So it goes that my second question is to the functionality of a piece. Will it do it’s work? Is it practical? Will it hold against the tests of time? Things considered include the brand (is it reputable?), the material (I prefer iron, wood, ceramics, and linen), the maintenance (I don’t like delicate thinks that require looking after) and whether it does the job well (it must be efficient as well as easy).
Is it necessary?
This is the last question that I ask of myself, because sometimes, after you’ve determined that something is both beautiful and functional, you may also realize that you already own something else that does the same. And if two things fill the same void, then one of them will, eventually, have to go. An example that I have is tupperware. We love to cook. And we always run out of tupperware. But our tiny tupperware cabinet is 80% full with containers when all are available. I could choose to buy more containers so that we never run out, but I would hate to have a weekend where all are empty and spilling out of the tupperware cabinet. That is the exact definition of clutter! Not to mention the stress and waste of time spent on said weekend organizing tupperware into kitchen cabinets. So I refuse to buy more. Instead, I look for alternatives. I grab a casserole dish and put a lid on it. I store things in glass jars that we’ve kept instead of recycled. Currently, on our kitchen island is a dutch oven holding everything bagels with the pot lid on to keep them from going stale. These and more, just so the home doesn’t accumulate things for the sake of having them. It’s a fun game I play. The less stuff you have, the more creative you can get. What I’ve learned from this experiment is that in the moment, we may feel the need for something, but the moments often pass, the need – temporary. Most times, it is this final question that stops items from entering our home.
Surely, there is a long list of people who have Marie-Kondoed the ish out of their homes during quarantine. To you, I say congratulations. Before we all re-enter back into what once was, I wanted to share this tip on curating. Good judgement about what to consume can easily be clouded when we are stressed, which tends to happen at our usual pace of go-go-go. So before we return to “normal”, do recall that normal wasn’t working, and de-cluttering was more than a trend. This period has shed light on what was uncomfortable and what you felt was most important, so let’s hang on to that just a bit longer. And continue to take it slow.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
I was sitting in yoga class after a strenuous hour of being berated by a room full of heat, which I was convinced was too high for the particular class that I took, side-swaddling my right arm underneath my cheek bone, facing my husband as he reaps his benefits off of his mat and practice, when our instructor’s calm voice soothingly asks of us one thing before lifting ourselves off of the mat to end class:
Find gratitude in all the things you have in your life…
And gratitude in the things that you don’t.
As the rest of class pushed themselves gently up from their preferred side to continue on with their day, I stayed lying still a heartbeat longer to process what I just heard. I think I was in momentary shock.
If I am being quite honest, I have been lacking, the past few months, a sense of satisfaction with the way life has turned out to be. With the advent of taking on 6 days of dentistry for the first time in my life at the turn of the decade, while trying to manage a bakery, dog sit a few days a month, and partake in an international project to Sustain the Maldives with Bogobrush, my world has been in a state of overwhelm that has been hard to combat. My only saving graces are my husband, Starting From Within’s guidance, a few books, and yoga class.
At times like these, the standard advice of listing all the things you are grateful for in order to keep chins high appear to be good advice … at first glance.
However, the practice of acknowledging all the things one can be grateful for can feel a bit anti-climactic for minimalists, whose lists tend to end soon after it’s begun. Let’s face it, the list of things for minimalists are generally not very long. Which leaves one feeling like there isn’t much to be grateful for.
But what if we take a step back and look at the big picture. The world remains balanced, whether we recognize it or not. In order to have complete understanding, we need to extend our gratefulness to encompass both sides of the coin. After all, a list in gratitude of only the things we owncan rob us of our enoughness. In order to grow our appreciation for the life of our choosing, we must compliment this list with all the things we don’t have, in gratitude. Such as…
Social constructs and norms
And for all minimalists, a long list of things that would otherwise steal our time and attention.
So when you feel life’s gotten away from you a bit, and that nothing seems to be going to plan, re-center and list all the things to be grateful for – whether you have them or not. Your world of positivity will expand, and perhaps you’ll start to notice a change in perception.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
The founder of Irro Irro, Marie Miao, is a kindred spirit of sorts, balancing a career in the medical field with an entrepreneurial creative endeavor. Her company was born out of the recognition that the fashion industry was lacking in their inclusiveness of people with medical disabilities. Her experience with cancer patients has given her a unique perspective and her dedication to making a difference in the lives of those affected is very inspirational. Her efforts in creating an eco-lifestyle brand inclusive of adaptive lives is apparent in Irro Irro’s minimalist yet functional designs. More wondrous is her determination to create social change and her brazen advice for others who wish to do the same through creative work.
Hi Marie! Before we begin talking about Irro Irro, can you let our readers know a little bit about yourself?
Hi! Thank you for having me.
Outside of Irro Irro, I wear a few hats as a mother, wife, and oncology social worker. I am Japanese, but much of my early childhood was spent in Hong Kong, so I identify with Chinese culture as well. I am a total extroverted introvert. I push the extrovert out during pop-markets and social gatherings, but love and crave complete solace to rejuvenate.
I, too, am an extroverted introvert! Sometimes this polarity helps to grow a person and stretches their ability to fill in different roles. For example, I heard that your career as a social worker in the medical field inspired the creation of Irro Irro. How did that inspiration come about?
The inspiration came when I started making my own clothing for work. I have never been a slacks person, and find tight clothing uncomfortable (except during hot yoga), so I made a similar version of the current Chloe dress in our soft double gauze. When I wore the dress to work, I started receiving comments from my patients stating, “I wish I had something like this to wear during treatment.” That was my “AHA” moment … the moment when both of my passions (fashion and helping others) aligned.
From there, I altered the pattern knowing the physical ailments and side effects that can come from treatment. I also interviewed physical and occupational therapists and individuals that encounter daily hurdles with dressing. Simple tasks like putting clothes on/off can be the biggest frustration for someone’s morning, and if I can ease some of that, I think it’s a start. There are very few modern adaptive clothing lines, and I’m hoping I can make a difference for a community that is often overlooked.
I think it’s wonderful that you’ve made medical inclusivity a pillar of your branding. It doesn’t cross the minds of most, and I feel that it is important to bring this awareness into the fashion industry. The ability to dress yourself, among other tasks, is a very powerful, albeit simple, affirmation for medically compromised patients.
But your dedication does not stop there. I heard that you also have a philanthropic pursuit that gives back to cancer patients?
You are too kind, thank you. Currently, 1% of Irro Irro proceeds goes to Children’s Lives Include Moments of Bravery (CLIMB). CLIMB provides training to clinical professionals (like myself) to incorporate CLIMB into their hospital or Cancer Center, which allows the organization to provide a support group for children ages 6-12 whose parent has been diagnosed with cancer. I run the program where I work, and I have personally seen the impact it can make on a family who is feeling lost or overwhelmed by a Cancer diagnosis.
Often the children and family members are overlooked because the main focus is, of course, the patient. But usually, the patient’s first thought is, “How do I tell my children?” or “How do I support my family?” This program provides a bridge for some of those worries, and I’m hoping as the brand grows, the percentage of proceeds will grow as well.
I am curious… what your feelings are about how the creative aspect of Irro Irrro feeds your medical profession, and vice versa? Do you feel as if the two are unrelated or work hand-in-hand?
Initially, I thought it was unrelated. As I grew more confident in the brand, I started to question “Why the divide?” Irro Irro wouldn’t be what it is without my professional background but naturally, the inner dialogue in my head kept minimizing my knowledge because I didn’t come from fashion. It’s interesting though, to be part-time corporate and part-time entrepreneurial and seeing the pros and cons to both. I’m not sure what the future will look like, but I’ve realized that this is part of my story, my unique journey, and I have to embrace each part.
Surely, working two professions requires more time and effort than working one. How do you find a balance between the two?
I’m not sure there’s a perfect balance, but I do prioritize self-care and I am an avid planner (with a color coordinated physical planner). To be honest, I am NEVER balanced in all areas of my life. Some days, I feel like an awesome mom, and some days, I’m left with guilt because I’m focusing on the business. My daughter is at an age where she loves to help, so I do try to involve her as much as possible, which helps with the guilt. And really, the mom guilt will always exist, I’m just learning to cope with it.
The biggest help for me to stay emotionally, mentally, and physically sane is hot yoga. My life has changed drastically since practicing hot yoga. It has challenged me in all aspects of my life, and I feel like I’m flushing out the toxins out of my body every time I take a class. It’s also one hour to myself to unplug, be in silence, and meditate. I make sure to add hot yoga in my calendar at least 3-4x week. It’s also helpful that I have a supportive husband who cheers me on even when I’m stuck in the office when he’d rather I be on the couch watching TV next to him. The sacrifices are real!
And vacations! Those are necessary even if it’s a stay-cation. It’s hard to shut my entrepreneurial brain off sometimes, but vacations help me feel passionate, inspired, and rejuvenated.
“Irro” is a Japanese term, isn’t it? Would you care to share what Irro Irro means?
Irro Irro together means variety. I have always been fascinated by colors and I could stare at abstract paintings for hours just enjoying the depth and uniqueness of one color. It’s funny you ask, because while I’ve been trying to add more colors, many of my customers request black (which I totally get)! I’m working on a project that involves more color, so I’m hoping I can share that next year.
I am definitely one of those guilty of requesting black (or gray or beige…)! Your brand, however, still embodies a very minimalist design. How do your roots play a factor? Have you always been attracted to neutral palettes and stream-lined shapes?
Traveling to Japan and other countries always brings me some sort of inspiration, but I have always loved my neutrals and the sense of calm, peace, and centered-ness that they bring. I’m embarrassed to share how many white shirts I own!
I do love a good bold color and pattern though; it evokes a different type of feeling. I think the same goes for shapes. My go-to’s are usually clean shapes but once in a while I love big statement pieces, especially for outerwear. One day, I hope to incorporate that into Irro Irro, as well.
I love how you mentioned centered-ness. I believe that simplicity helps to create space for a meaningful lifestyle. What are your thoughts on how minimalism (both in fashion and in the everyday) can foster an intentional life?
I do believe a minimalist lifestyle brings forth intention, challenging you to only purchase what you need, and purchasing items that will bring long-term value into your life. Since fostering a minimalist wardrobe and lifestyle, I don’t press the “purchase” button so quickly, and scouring secondhand gems have been a fun challenge. It’s also challenged me to be creative, styling what I already have differently, and shopping around the home when re-decorating. I’ve always related a clutter-free home to a clutter-free mind. Simplifying all parts of my life, not over-extending myself (although I’m still working on that one!), and keeping routines as simple as possible has improved my overall mental health.
In this space, I try to highlight not only small businesses, but more specifically, people trying to create environmentally conscious products in socially responsible ways. Would you mind sharing with our readers ways in which you are trying to ethically produce your products, source materials that are eco-friendly, and reduce the amount of waste from your production line?
Of course! All of our textiles are 100% cotton or organic cotton and we are newly launching an up-cycled home line with the left over scraps from our production! I am also conscious about how our items are packaged, minimizing the amount of labels, using recycled wrapping paper, and bio-degradable mailers. I produce in small batches, so once the items are sold out, the color or style may never come back, making it more unique. Some other eco-friendly options I have been looking into are other textiles such as hemp, linen, recycled cotton, up-cycled denim, and incorporating more pieces made out of deadstock. I think there’s always room for improvement in this area, and I’m constantly thinking of ways to be better.
How would you advise others wishing to leverage creativity for social change?
What I love about creativity is that there is no right or wrong, and the sky is the limit. You could specialize in the most logical or scientific field and still be creative. I think if you’re passionate about bringing change into the world, just go for it! You are your own best advocate, and no one will have the passion and tenacity like you would about a fight you believe in. If you’re angry or frustrated about something, use that anger to bring positive change.
I have been told numerous times that Irro Irro wouldn’t succeed, but that has pushed me to prove them wrong. It’s helpful to have clear goals about the change you’d like to see, then start planning from there. Bringing social change can be uncomfortable for some people, so while it may take a bit longer, keep up the perseverance. It has been a roller coaster since the beginning, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
You’ve already accomplished so much with Irro Irro, having launched a mommy and baby line, as well as a number of accessories. How will Irro Irro grow from here?
Thank you. There is so much I want to do with the brand, with some bigger projects that has been in the works behind the scenes. But for now, my goal is an eco-lifestyle brand inclusive of adaptive lives – adding in more modern adaptive styles for adults and children. I am self-funded, so the growth is taking longer than I’d like. But, I also believe good things take time, and I’m enjoying the journey for what it is.
Lastly, would you care to share some of your favorite socially and environmentally conscious brands?
There are so many that I love and admire, but a few that I personally love because of the people behind the brand are Hey Moon Designs, Two Days Off, and Selah Collection.