Neutral cardigan and the absence of joy

I love Marie Kondo’s phrase of ‘does this spark joy?’ when reviewing an item, but sometimes think it’s overstating how I feel.  My raincoat doesn’t exactly spark joy but I wouldn’t be without it.  So, I’ve tended to use The Minimalists’ phrase of ‘does this add value to my life?’.  This suits me better and allows me to make sensible choices when deciding what to keep or what to de-clutter.

But I have found that there are cases when ‘joy’ describes what ‘value’ can’t.  That’s when I understand why Konmari uses the word ‘joy’.

Some time ago, I came across a cardigan in a neutral, stone colour.  I immediately thought, ‘this will be so useful – the neutral colour will go with everything – it will be (that holy grail item) a wardrobe staple’.  I also thought that it was a bit ‘meh’ but I sensibly tamped down this feeling!

I bought it, took it home and hung it in the middle of my capsule wardrobe.  I felt pleased with myself for my sensible decision and was confident that it would add value to my wardrobe.

But here’s the thing – it didn’t spark joy.  It felt worthy and sensible and practical – but I never looked forward to wearing it.  The colour didn’t suit me, I felt I had to shrug my shoulders constantly to make it sit right and it always felt a bit dull – and this coming from someone who wears black A LOT!

I valued the practicality over the joy and, on this occasion, it didn’t work out.

Now, I have a pair of plain, black trousers – I love them, not only the trousers themselves, but because they go with so many items.  They look professional for work, I feel pulled together when I wear them and they’re comfortable.  Others may look at them and think ‘dull’!  But they spark joy for me. 

I think joy and value are unique, individual feelings.  The cardigan has helped me to distinguish between erring too much on the logical side and being comfortable with a gut feeling.

So, I’ve let the cardigan go, with no regrets.  Are you ever torn between practicality and joy?  Which wins?!!  Have a great week 🙂

Packing for US Holiday – review

I had a terrific holiday in the US – a highlight were the beautiful sunsets in St. Pete’s Beach – and my capsule worked out quite well.  There were some successes and some learning…

 

Successes:

  • I find so much value in my packing cubes! They make life simpler, seem to magically reduce the space the clothes take up and make everything easier to find!
  • I aimed to bring about 75% of what I thought I’d actually need, rather than 100%. I ended up wearing every item packed so now wonder whether I could have managed with less – maybe aim for 50% next time.
  • My medium sized suitcase was perfectly adequate and easy to carry.
  • I re-wore many items – my travel steamer was worth its weight in gold.
  • I adopted The Minimalists’ maxim of distinguishing from ‘just in case’ items to ‘just for when’ and it worked well.
  • I’m so glad I packed a little cardigan – between the coolness of the plane and the high air-conditioning indoors, I wore it nearly every day.

 

Learning:

  • Too many shoes! I brought four pairs (a huge improvement on previous holidays) but could have managed perfectly fine with three.
  • I didn’t count on thunderstorms and torrential downpours so my most worn item was an attractive plastic rain cape!
  • I over-packed my make-up bag – it was too hot to wear much and what I did wear slid off quickly – some major down-sizing has already taken place.

This time around, my travels have not only broadened my mind but restricted my packing!  Do you have any key learning points from holiday packing to share?  Have a great week 🙂

 

Minimalism and shopping

So, I have three handbags:

  • Cross-body bag
  • Large tote
  • One with top handles which I got in the US about 8 years ago

I love that one so much that I rarely use it!!   I annoy myself when I write that.  If a friend told me about a bag she loved but didn’t use, I would be the first to tell her to use it, love it, enjoy it and not keep it for best.  Or even let it go, if it wasn’t bringing value or joy (which is not the case).

I am determined to use it and not just look at it from now on.

It’s a bag not an ornament!

However, my cross-body bag is showing serious signs of wear and tear.  It’s a few years old and the most practical bag I have.  I use it all the time and the cost per wear is pennies at this stage.  It’s so handy for the times when I want my hands to be free or my tote is just too large.

I wanted to replace it but when I went to shop for one, I felt guilty and extravagant.   I went home instead and took out my other two bags, feeling discomfited that I wanted yet a third.  However, my cross-body bag serves a defined purpose that the other two do not.   So I went shopping again.  This time, I approached it in a far more intentional way.  I defined what I wanted a cross-body bag for, when I would use it, how much my budget was and the approximate cost per wear.

I then felt that a second-hand bag was a more sustainable and ethical way to shop and more in keeping with what I am trying to achieve via minimalism.  I found a practical, hardly-used bag on EBay.  It’s good quality and I’m expecting it to last years.  I’m satisfied with my purchase and no longer feel guilty.

 

All this angsting led me to a few thoughts:

 

  • It’s fine to replace an item when it’s worn, once I know I still need it and will use it.
  • Many are minimalists through circumstances and not through choice and I am lucky – so I want to shop with intention and not mindlessly.
  • Shopping and consumerism are not inherently obstructions to a more minimal lifestyle – but for me, intentional shopping and conscious consumerism is the way to go.
  • Purchasing second-hand items extends their life and, for me, feels more sustainable and ethical.
  • I’m going to use and enjoy my new bag – it definitely sparks joy!

Have your shopping habits changed?  I’d love to hear back from you.  Have a great week 🙂

Holiday Packing

Does anyone else get excited about packing for a holiday? I’m going to the US for 10 days and cannot wait!!

 

I know that, to some, packing can be a chore but I love it!

I enjoy the planning aspect – it leads to anticipation and heightens the whole holiday experience for me.

I also feel that it is compulsory minimalism and I mean that in a positive way because:

  • It’s a brilliant time to try out a capsule wardrobe, if you were thinking of dipping a toe in the water
  • The clothes contained in your suitcase comprise your capsule
  • If you didn’t pack exactly what you wanted, then it’s a chance to be creative, not an opportunity to shop!

A bit of forethought and planning can go a long way.

I have a fair idea of what the weather will be like and what activities we have planned:

  • A bit of sight-seeing
  • Dining out
  • Time on the beach
  • A lot of playing with my nephews
  • Some chill-out time for Mr. Minimal-Lol and me

So it’s just a case of finding clothes that are suitable for all these activities and that can be mixed and matched. I have no anxiety when it comes to repeating outfits or pieces, which makes it easier still.

My planning self has developed a little cheat sheet to help me plan and pack. I want to wear my clothes at least 2 or 3 times each, with some pieces, like accessories, being worn almost every day. And it’s so easy to give clothes a quick wash, if they require freshening up – my summer pieces are light and dry quickly.

I’ll bring a small suitcase – ideally I would really like to travel with hand luggage only – but I won’t for fear of Mr. M-L fainting in horror. (Some day I will write a blog post about a minimalist living with a ‘maximalist’ – he may need a suitcase for his shoes alone!!).

I have tried to heed the lovely Courtney Carver’s advice – the founder of Project 333. She advises you to pack for half the number of days you are actually away. I don’t think I’ve quite hit that mark but maybe about 75%? Baby steps!

But I will be reviewing what I actually wore versus what I packed. I do this every time I go away and have ended up with quite a robust formula for a weekend away – just need to extend this for a slightly longer period of time.

Anyone have any words of wisdom for packing? Or for travelling in the US? Have a great week 🙂

Capsules and special occasion pieces

Do special occasion pieces belong in a capsule wardrobe?

I mean those items I only reach for when I have a special event.  A pretty dress, a fancy skirt, an embellished top.  Not the workhorses of my day-to-day wardrobe.

I don’t have many of these events.  My normal social life is well-catered for from my capsule.  Also, I am loathe to have one of my precious, few spaces taken up by an item I may wear only once in a season.

So, I’ve created a tiny, occasion capsule.  This works for parties, fancy dinners and special evenings out.  It contains:

  • Two dresses – one red lace and one dark beaded number
  • One gold brocade skirt, that dresses up the plainest top
  • Two embellished tops
  • My beloved Mulberry shoes, bought for 10% of their original price in Bicester Village!
  • A pretty little clutch, picked up in a local charity shop

I don’t wear only these but I find that one or two of these pieces lift some of my more ‘ordinary’ clothes up a level and I feel more dressed up, which is half the fun of going out.

These clothes last and last because I wear them so seldom but I get the thrill of novelty when I put them on.   I don’t need to go panic shopping if I have a party or wedding to go to – I wear them so infrequently that they seem like new and I never mind repeating outfits!

This weekend, it’s Mr. Minimal-Lol’s birthday and we are going to go out in style to celebrate.  Fancy restaurant is booked, cocktails are featuring on the agenda and I will be reaching into my occasion capsule.

There are some who would reason that a capsule should be self-contained but this way works best for me.  I’ve noticed I have tiny capsules for jewellery, beach wear (worn once a year!), sleep wear and workout wear – these do not usually comprise part of a main capsule.   But I’m now so in the capsule habit that I have no desire to over-compensate in these areas.  The same principles apply.

Now, which piece to wear this evening?  I think it will be the red dress – always a favourite of Mr. Minimal-Lol’s – and it is his birthday!  Have a great week 🙂

 

Summer capsule – key pieces

Thanks to those of you who said pictures of some of my summer capsule may be helpful.   I have enclosed some of the key pieces that I find myself reaching for again and again.

Why these pieces:

  • Neutral colours
  • Lightweight materials
  • Classic shapes
  • Easy to style

However, I feel this capsule, as a whole, has not quite gelled for me.  I think I have too many pieces or maybe some are not versatile enough or I am not being creative enough!   Rather than angsting too much over this, I am treating it as an experiment and an opportunity to learn.

There was a time when a filled wardrobe would have led me to believe that I always had the ‘right clothes’ even though I used to stand in front of it, in despair at not finding something to wear.  Now, a half-filled wardrobe seems too full.  I believe I may have veered too much towards loving some pretty summer pieces, because they are a novelty in our climate, and not enough towards choosing versatile pieces, which earn their place.

I looked in my wardrobe today and thought ‘can I really call myself a minimalist?!’.  The answer is yes because all the ups and downs are simply another step towards a less cluttered, more meaningful life.  This is the beauty of minimalism.  It is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

When I feel overwhelmed, I often turn to other blogs which inspire and re-vitalize me.   Be More with Less and A Small Wardrobe never fail me!

A review of this capsule when summer is over should prove an interesting learning experience!

Is it just me?  Does anyone else feel they get setbacks when they thought they had cracked something?  I’d really love to hear from you.  In the meantime, have a great week 🙂

What’s in my summer capsule wardrobe

After all the planning and reviewing, my summer capsule is up and running.  I’ve taken stock of what I already have, bought a couple of new pieces, carried forward some from other capsules and dug some out of storage.  So, what have I included this year?

 

A few stats:

  • 8 bottoms (3 trousers, 3 skirts and 2 pairs of jeans)
  • 4 toppers (2 jackets and 2 cardigans)
  • 14 tops (of various sleeve lengths)
  • 2 dresses
  • 4 pairs of shoes (3 pairs of sandals and 1 pair of shoes)
  • 1 jacket (as outerwear)
  • 2 accessories (1 bag and 1 pair of sunglasses)

 

So 35 pieces in total – although 14 tops – hmmmm……. It’s only when I’ve written that down that it seems excessive.  When I was sorting out through my tops, they all seemed essential.  I’ll have to keep an eye on that and see the number of wears I get from each one.

Tips for a summer capsule:

  • I live in the UK and a range of clothes is preferable, due to the varying weather – it was cold and windy last week, it’s warm and sunny this week.
  • I’m a fan of Project 333 and it’s a brilliant framework, but it is a framework. A strict number of items is great when getting started but I’m a bit more relaxed about the numbers now.  I’m not going to worry about having 35, instead of 33 items (although those 14 tops …..)
  • Mixing and matching is what gives a capsule longevity and prevents boredom, so pick your neutrals with care. For years, I wouldn’t wear black in the summer, reserving it for the colder months.  But so many of my tops look great against a canvas of a black trousers or jeans.
  • Be realistic about how you’ll be spending your time. Dress for your real life – work, walking the dog, running errands, sitting outside – not a fantasy lifestyle.
  • If an item doesn’t work, swap it for one that does – it’s an experiment, not rules set in stone.

 

If anyone is interested in seeing pictures of the actual pieces, let me know in the comments below and I’ll include them in my next post.  In the meantime, enjoy your week 🙂