This post is in partnership with Restore _____., a nail polish company focused on raising awareness on current social issues, especially those pertaining to women. This polish company donates a portion of their proceeds to non-profit organizations centered around these issues. Their subscription model ensures that monthly donations to multiple non-profit organizations are being made. If you’d care to learn more about this awesome company, read on. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. And thank you for supporting the companies that support this space.
If you could restore one thing in your life right now, what would it be?
Faith in a better tomorrow?
We’ve all been through tough times. During these moments, we experience different degrees of loss. Sometimes, it’s enough to just survive one more day. Currently, I just try to survive the news.
But what if we knew that there was a community holding us up? What if, during the tough times, there are people who have our backs? Wouldn’t that make it easier somehow? What if, instead of facing things alone, we face them united?
Restore _____. was created with that in mind. Painting nails seem like such a frivolous activity, but adding meaning and purpose behind this simple act is something we can all get behind. The concept is as follows: we paint our nails a specific color during a particular month of the year to stand in solidarity against current social issues. The founder, Natacha Cabrera, wanted to grow support while raising awareness, especially around issues that affect women. The themes include pregnancy and infant loss, sexual violence, body image, mental health, women’s history, infertility, adoption, and motherhood.
A portion of the polish proceeds goes towards funding a non-profit organization related to the theme of the month. This allows people to donate towards a cause while doing their usual shopping. The clever idea of having a monthly subscription option means that monthly donations are being made to a number of different organizations. You may want to secure your spot, however, since there are only 100 monthly boxes going out per month. If you like surprises, you can also opt for a mystery box which comes with three different nail polish colors.
As far as the paint itself, it’s amazing. First, the polish is seven free, vegan, and cruelty-free. It is also made in the USA. Lastly, it paints on very nicely. Two coats is all it takes, and the polish is quite fluid which allows an even layer. I absolutely get bothered by globby nail polish that paints on bulky and bumpy. Painting with Restore ______. is a breeze.
I, myself, chose the color for my birthday month – June. June was focused around mental health, which was also my own personal theme for the month of August. Painting nails is a way for me to force focus on one thing. It is a pause from the constant musings of my mind. Consider it a breather. It may seem strange to hear, but I set aside time specifically for this activity once a week. As in, I pencil it into my planner. It’s also one of the few ways in which I show myself care. I am not an overtly fashion-centered gal, but having neat, trimmed nails makes me feel put together even when my outfit of choice is a pair of scrubs.
I think that restoring that bit of time for myself was something I’ve struggled with my whole life. That’s the over-achiever in me. Perhaps that’s my word for the month. I am focusing on mental health, after all.
What about you?
FACTS ABOUT MENTAL HEALTH
1 in 5 Americans has experienced some form of mental illness.
29% of Americans say they’re embarrassed to speak to people about mental health, even to medical professionals preventing them from seeking help.
800K suicide deaths occur globally each year, with over 41,000 in the U.S. alone. It is the second leading cause of death worldwide for 15-29 year olds.
70-90% of people who seek proper treatment for mental health disorders witness a significant reduction in symptoms.
If you or someone you know is suicidal or in emotional distress, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
For information on mental health and treatment services in your area, call the Treatment Referral Hotline:
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 don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said, sung, preached from rooftops and social platforms. Everyone’s vying for their voice to be heard amidst all this noise, it seems, but if you’ve got the space (or mental capacity) for just a few more words, here are mine.
It may feel like we don’t have much choice right now – on who gets sick, on who is allowed to work and make money, on what we can cook for dinner – but still there are choices that we can make.
We can choose to:
spread panic or hope
spread fear or support
close our doors or open them
create isolation or community
choose to do what’s personally advantageous or morally right.
I know that times are hard. During times like these, it’s difficult to think clearly, to predict the best course of action, let alone to keep it together. Actionable tips are more useful now than ever.
After much reflection, this is all I’ve got.
First, let go of the anxieties which aren’t serving you. Stop watching videos of hoarding and stop posting pictures of empty shelves, which doesn’t serve anyone either. All this causes is panic. There is enough anxieties to go around and we don’t need it. There is enough food to go around, if we share. This isn’t to say I don’t have anxieties of my own. This isn’t ill-advice coming from the privileged. This is general advice coming from a person whose job is considered at highest risk for exposure during this epidemic, who works with limited medical supplies caused by a global hoarding of masks that won’t prevent disease acquisition, whose office just closed in order to protect others (staff and patients alike), and who doesn’t get paid time off but whose staff thankfully does. Despite going into half a million dollars in student debt in order to help heal the world, despite risking my health in order to take care of people in pain, despite having only one mask a day because of a shortage of medical supplies, and despite stopping work to protect those around me, I still call myself one of the lucky ones. The power of positivity has to be prioritized here. Which brings me to my second point…
Approach everything from a place of gratitude. I know it’s hard to do, especially for those who are just trying to get by, but trust me, the gratitude will be the thing that helps get you by. If you are working from home, at least you still get paid. If you aren’t getting paid, at least you still have your health. If you don’t have your health, at least you still have family to support you. If you don’t have family to support you, you have a world of people who wants to help. When you feel alone, just reach out a hand, and someone will grab it.
This is the time to reawaken relationships. If you are at home, lamenting your joblessness, pull out your phone and CALL someone. Don’t text, but CALL. Talk to them in ways that you couldn’t when life had you running in circles. This time is a gift, and it is temporary. Ask how people are. Talk about what’s going on in their life rather than what’s going on in your grocery store. And once you’ve finally rekindled connection with others…
Take the time to BE WITH YOURSELF. As uncomfortable as that is, sit in introspection. It may be painful if you think of what you have and don’t have at the moment.
“The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience” – The Book of Joy
Rather, think about yourself in terms of your role in society. Instead of fretting about what is uncontrollable outside those walls, heed attention to what is within. You have to care for yourself before you can care for others. All that is neglected in the home and in yourself, organize and take care of them. Putting things in order indoors will be reflected in bigger things. Once you’ve got yourself in order, you are finally ready to create community amidst this isolation.
If you’ve got a skill that you can share, if you’ve got extra toilet paper that a family needs, if you can cook meals for those living paycheck to paycheck, if you can provide emotional support, financial guidance, mental health advice, a foster home for pets that are being euthanized, if you can support small businesses who can’t stay afloat, if you can volunteer time … go ahead and do it. This is it. The time when the world stops and stands still. This is the time for us to stop with it, lest we all continue spinning out of control.
If you need help putting everything into perspective, a few of my favorite reads:
This post is in partnership with East Fork Pottery, a company slinging hand-thrown, timeless pottery in Oregon using regionally-sourced stoneware clay. Their beautiful food-safe glazes are made in house and lend their pieces character, but in an unfussy and classic manner. The collection is, truly, a treasure trove.
It’s been a bit quiet here for the past week, which should be indicative of the fact that I’ve been restless in real life, struggling with a personal decision that’s difficult to make. Usually that’s how it is. Cyber silence equates to a madness that requires its own space and time. But I wanted to put thought to digital paper for a moment, as an observance of this period of growth.
Last week, I was presented with an alternative job opportunity that, when on paper, holds better weight than my current position. However, there are some non-practical reasons why I want to keep my current position. Ultimately, it came down to production limited by the number of days, or production limited by fees. I had to consider adding a 1.5 hr round-trip daily commute to my currently non-existent one in exchange for much easier work. I had to decide whether having newer and better materials that made my job easier was more important than sweeter and easier patients who made my job easier. I was pulled between something new and something familiar. It was a week full of angst, emotion, and pressure to make a decision. I sat by the window sill staring into space, deep in thought, reflection, and sometimes just straight up brooding. Tears were involved.
If I took the easier job that is farther away which has more difficult patients but newer materials, I would only work 2.5-3 days a week, and still make the same amount of production at 4 days a week. But when you add the hours of commute and subtract the amount of money spent on gas, those 3 days really equate to 3.6 days, and is that difference worth it. The physical work will be easier due to newer materials, but demanding patients increase the mental and emotional energy required to work. The gratitude will be centered around the ease of work, rather than meaningful work. Both cups are half-full. Which would you choose?
The paradox of choice is real. Both options are starkly different, but both are also good. My husband pointed out that I couldn’t go wrong either way. It’s a fantastic position to be in. But the fear of choosing wrong is what cripples. If the opportunity didn’t present itself, it wouldn’t be hard for me to continue what I was doing. There would be a distant nagging of the things I could improve if the practice were my own, but I wouldn’t be restless like I am now. When there is an alternative, it is much harder to ignore what could be.
Equally crippling is the feeling that a choice needs to be made. If I am going to leave the first office, it would be best to tell them as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the office of opportunity is waiting on the sideline, seeing if I would take their job offer. I think it’s hard to be in-between. The pressure prevents any real growth.
In my life, I‘ve tried to reduce choice in order to increase bliss. In general, it has worked very well. While I don’t like choicelessness, I like having reduced options. But I know making choices is the hard part of growth. So choices need to be made.
I have an evasive tactic that I turn to when faced with difficult decisions. I just pick one -the one that intuitively seems most appealing – and then I move on with my life. I do that because I know I can always pivot. I do that because I know that there are worse things to choose from, and that outcomes in general are not bad in the grand scheme of things. But I also know that I do it to alleviate the guilt, stress, and responsibility of that choice. I am only ever choosing one real thing – to run a way from my own discomfort.
This has led me to even deeper consideration for things beyond the job itself. The job, it’s just a stage in my life. In the end, neither choice is perfect, but neither is also wrong. Both are transient, not one being the end point. But I’ve thought about my tendency to run when things get difficult. My wish to reduce, in order to ease. My need to asphyxiate in hopes of control. My obsession with doing, instead of just being.
I can say I’ve been much better the past two years. Slow living has been a great mentor in that. But this is one of those moments where I need to tell myself, “Wait“. Instead of searching for clarity, wait for the fog of emotions to roll out and clear. Instead of wishing to tell people about it, wait for them to ask you of your thoughts. Instead of trying to get every answer imaginable, wait for that inner knowing to surface from within. Stay to see what happens, instead of going to see where the river runs.
“Do not fast-forward into something you are not ready for, or allow yourself to shrink back into what’s comfortable. Growth lives in the uneasiness. The in-between. The unfinished sentence. You are a season of becoming.”
Becoming is a hard thing. But it’s also necessary. So much of the time, we do, and therefore we are. But we never just “be”. How do we ever expect to become?
The espresso cups in soapstone are perfect for tiny hands, mid-afternoon espresso shots, as well as after dinner green tea. For the bold, sake shots and other libations fit well within this tiny vessel. We are very much in love with this cups and can only speak highly of the quality and the beauty of these products. They are not placed in cabinets with the other dinnerware but are on display on open shelving. Today only, East Fork will be having a Seconds Sale. A discount of 30% will be applied to a handful of clay goods that did not quite make the cut. Although with slight blemishes, these pieces are still functional and beautiful. I urge people who have been hankering for dinnerware to consider salvaging these pieces and including them in your home. I appreciate East Fork for their zero waste attempt. Seconds sale begins at 12pm EST, and pieces will go fast (or so I hope). This post contains affiliate links and TheDebtist may receive a commission if you so choose to purchase.
This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure to learn more.
the colder months, I imagine that something happens to our energies. I can’t quite say whether they are lower in availability or simply hankering for a slower kind of work, but the things that our souls yearn for are markedly different from that in the summer. In the Fall and Winter, I like to slow things down. More than usual, anyway.
In an effort to budget my time in a way that allows me to do more meaningful work, I have recently been trying harder to practice Essentialism when it comes to household chores. And while I thoroughly enjoy cooking and baking (especially when new recipes are in tow), I also like to minimize the cooking and cleaning when the goal is to keep our bellies satiated rather than to experience a new culinary feat.
So with the Fall and Winter season upon us, I’d like to turn your attention to a solution that generations before us frequently exercised but our youth has forgotten about: Soup.
A simple word, and not by any means pretty. Soup is the savior from the holiday rush that befalls all. Soup is the reliable companion ready to comfort you after a long day’s work. Soup is the nutritious meal that you need without the high price. Soup is readily available with a few basic ingredients in the kitchen, stocked. Pun intended.
There are many ways that soup alleviates stress in our lives.
It accepts our rummaging through the kitchen cabinets to collect what we have at hand and eliminates the need to run to the market for that one rare ingredient crucial to its being. It’s forgiving in preparation, usually welcoming a haphazard throwing into the pot. It requires little time (on our end). We usually take a few minutes to prep and let the simmering do all the work. I am the first to say that we put our Crockpot to good use during these short days and long nights. Big batches of stuff, frozen for later and rationed throughout the week, sometimes as appetizer and sometimes the main course, makes soup a practical solution. Cleanup is facilitated by the need to only have one pot.
I don’t know what else to say.
With all the excesses of today, the youth views soup as an add-on. An appetizer and nothing more. An introduction to the meal. Another excess to add to the bill when we are too tired to cook from home.
But may I remind that soup can stand on its own. And it’ll cook on its own while you’re off at work. It’ll let you live your life, however slow or fast that may be, without so much as a fuss.
Soups, therefore, are essential weapons to carry around in the backs of our pockets … and at the forefront of our minds.
Autumn has finally arrived, brought on by a time change this Sunday past. “Brisk” mornings, as defined by Californians, was noted upon the recent week’s bread deliveries and dog-sitting duties. Like most wintry things, Fall crept into our lives quite subtly. Just when we thought the Indian summer would last longer than it was welcome, it was gone and replaced by cozy mornings, warm beds, and more frequent occasions for pet snuggling.
To reflect the transition, our home has also undergone its own changes. We’ve created tight reading nooks by the window, encased by bookshelves on either side to instill that cozy feel. The large plush chairs facilitate sinking as the dweller welcomes the early morning light with coffee that wakes, and later in the day, gleans as much evening light with every fervent turn of a book’s page.
The removal of the sectional chairs from the living room has created more space, which allows for higher awareness of the passing of time. Most notably, the way the light streams into our abode as the sun sets and lands on cleared cement floors, or sets shadows against white walls outlining the few furnishings we own, brings into clearer focus this autumnal transition. Herein lies an opportunity to be mindful of the continual shifts in nature, and to practice gratitude in the present state of our home and the time we spend in them.
We’ve re-oriented the dining table to resemble a square, for more communal gatherings in the near future. It sits centered in the entire space, facilitated by the lack of walls thereby allowing the freedom to create rooms where there was once none. I felt that creating a square table for twelve was more conducive for conversation and the sharing of plates than a long apostles table where one can converse with four people, at most. Plus, cooking is at the heart of our home, so it suits to have the sharing of that cooking in the center of our space.
Whereas most people prepare their homes with more stuff in the wintry months (the laying down of rugs on bare floors, the draping of woolen blankets over armchairs, the hanging of tinsel on trees), I don’t really have that luxury. I say this with irony, because I really do think that in having less of this stuff, we have it better. Time, after all, is the ultimate definition of luxury. We simply prep in different ways.
Stripping down rooms to their bare necessities reduces the distractions that would typically pull one OUT OF bed. Having less areas to mingle and less separation between spaces allow for more human connection. Whereas the cement floors kept this loft cool in the summer months, so, too, does the smallness of space keep it warm on colder days.
Meanwhile, the surfaces of tables and our rooms have been emptied of summer’s clutter. It’s a clean slate for all. I’ve been put-putting around the ovens, baking more than usual and dabbling in pies and desserts. Fatty things to keep our bellies warm. Where I was dreading turning on the ovens in the summer’s heat, I am now grateful for the warmth it lends to the home, along with the beautiful scents wafting through the kitchen.
It’s funny how our household has adapted to autumn. It’s nice to notice the changes. Suddenly, you take note of where to find the sun light during certain times of the day. You know when to keep the windows shut, and where you can find a brisk draft.
I like to think of our homes as sentient organisms, and as such, it requires us, its keepers, to be attuned to nature’s quarterly changes. Our homes are individualized spaces, and each has its needs and quirks. The door jams in a certain way with the changing of temperatures, the floor creaks here and there, and the stove creates too much steam when kept on too long thereby setting off the fire alarm. These are the things that indicate a symbiosis between home owner and dwelling, and it is environment creation at its best – past the beauty and function – a relationship between living and non-living thing.
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.
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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.