Minimizing My Life: My Closet

"I mean...I just can't figure out my style. My look. And it's really bothering me."

My poor, dear husband had to endure me drone on and on, lamenting over my wardrobe. It was a trite, one-sided conversation and I'm fairly certain he had tuned me out as we drove down the 101 on our way home from my 40th birthday trip.

Regardless of how insignificant the topic, it was something that was truly bothering me. Whether we want to admit it or not, our clothes matter to us. We want to, need to, feel confident in our own skin and part of that in-our-own-skin confidence correlates directly with what we wear.

So there I was, 40 and stressed over what to wear. I officially hated everything in my closet and wanted donate the entire contents to Goodwill. When I mentioned something along these lines, my husband suddenly returned to the conversation. He was sweet, as husbands can sometimes be during these types of conversations. He told me that I always looked great and there was no need to get rid of every piece of clothing that I own. Of course, I knew that his resistance to a closet overhaul had less to do with my looking great and a lot to do with the amount of money dressing me from scratch would require.

I had a diverse set of issues when it came to my closet. There was too much; too many clothes and shoes and scarves and bags. It felt cluttered and I found myself stressed just standing in front of the racks. Much of the contents were cheap, bought at big retail stores, clothes that I was fairly certain were made by 10-year-olds in Bangladesh. I quickly decided most of the closet had to go. It was also filled with a lot of items that I had not worn in the past and would never wear in the future. My closet was full of items that were good purchases...until they weren't.

A few years went by and the whole "figuring out my style...finding my look" struggle raged on. A little purging had happened after returning home from our trip, but I was still frustrated every time I walked into my closet. I realize that this is a First World problem. (By definition: a relatively trivial or minor problem or frustration.) Shouldn't I just be happy that I have clothes to wear and a closet to put them in? Yes, but I am a First World woman who still gets frustrated when she's trying to find something cute to wear for dinner out with friends in L.A. and has a closet full of clothes and NOTHING TO WEAR.

Then I started to read. 
  • I read The 7 Experiment: Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker where she chose only seven items from her closet to wear for an entire month. Extreme, yes. But it was a lesson in overabundance. We have so much, much that we do not need. Better to wear things that you love, that you feel good in. Get rid of the rest.  
  • In Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist talked about having a rainbows worth of clothing but finding herself drawn to everything white, black, gray and blue in her closet. About how she was "more inspired by a near-uniform, a narrow set of parameters that make me feel most like myself."
  • I read articles about people like Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama wearing the exact same thing every day to help with something called "decision fatigue." Closets with nothing but black turtlenecks (Jobs), gray t-shirts (Zuckerberg) and blue suits (President Obama). One less thing for them to have to think about. There's a reason why these men are so smart and successful. 
Slowly I started pulling all of this together. I needed to minimize my closest like Jen Hatmaker, just maybe somewhere around 30-40 pieces instead of only seven. I was drawn to grays and blues just like Shauna Niequist so why keep all of the pinks and reds and greens. I wanted to waste less time on worrying about what to wear every day. I might not be Mark Zuckerberg but maybe I could dress like him. (You know what I mean.)

It has been a process. The suggested first step in minimizing your wardrobe is to completely clean out your closet. The husband helped as I pulled out, tried on, and emotionally examined each piece. He was patient and in the end helped carry down 4 bags of perfectly fine clothing. Even after all of that, I still have a lot to get rid of. Pieces I just can't let go of for one reason or other. Like I said, it's a process.

I have stopped shopping at places like Target for clothes. No more Target impulse purchases. (Not in the clothing department anyway.) Nothing against Target, you know I love me some Target, but instead of buying tons of cheap clothes I've decided to simplify by purchasing fewer, higher quality pieces. Pieces that will last longer than one season. Pieces that don't keep me up at night worrying about where they were made or who made them. Not to mention that my Target bill isn't nearly as high as it used to be.

Navy blue has become my signature color. I'm drawn to it. It's my neutral. It makes me happy. When I shop I breeze right passed anything that isn't a shade of blue. Mix in some gray and white, eight pairs of jeans, and my new favorite camel colored hobo bag and that's all I need to be happy. (Yes, I still need to pair down my jeans. Baby steps.)

My clothes, my style, what I choose to wear matters to me. I take pride in looking good and feeling confident with whatever I have on. But I no longer stress about it. I don't waste energy on deciding what to wear. I don't feel the need to wear something in order to impress other people with my outfits. Now no matter what my plans are, no matter what I'm wearing, I'm happy. I'm happy with wearing a simplified uniform. I have this new navy blue monogrammed sweatshirt that I've worn two days in a row. I'm wearing it right this second. Fewer items worn more often creates less laundry. I'm trying to figure out how to minimize all of the closets in my house.

Less stress. Less laundry. Fewer decisions. Fewer clothes. Fewer purchases. More time. More confidence. More happiness. So far minimizing my life is giving me more of what I want.   

Some websites for you to check out:

  • Road Twenty-Two. They employ previously incarcerated women to make really nice t-shirts out of the Bay Area.
  • Aeon Row. They make a few basic black and white pieces out of recycled fabric in the USA and are reasonably priced. When you buy something from them they send you a postage label to return an old piece of clothing back to them for recycling. 
  • PoshMark and Mercari. Both are apps where you can sell your old items. Especially good for selling high quality items and designer brands. Have bought and sold on both. Might as well make a little money while purging if you can!

Birth of a Saleswoman

My first job was at a bank when I was 13. It was the summer of 1986. Arcades (remember those) would bring their giant bags of quarters to the bank for deposit. The bags would make their way to a little table that held a sorting machine where I sat waiting. I would stick my finger up a tube to keep the quarters from shooting out. The machine would count out the exact amount of quarters and I would then wrap them up before sticking my finger back up the tube. I did this every morning, five days a week for the entire summer. My finger was black and smelly from the dirty money. Glamorous.

I've had 12 jobs over the last 31 years. (This is not counting all of the babysitting jobs that I've had, including the one where the kid killed a kitten about 30 minutes before his parents got home.) There's been a variety: two summers at the bank, a card shop, a preppy clothing store, another bank, two separate teaching jobs, two different jobs at a church, blogging for Disney, and a Sunday columnist. All were great jobs while they lasted. Each job taught me a lot about myself and other people, the earlier jobs helping me to find both my strengths and my weaknesses when it came to employment.

One of the weakness that I quickly discovered was that of Salesperson. During college I worked at Harold's, the preppy clothing store on Campus Corner. Like most clothing stores, I earned a base pay plus commissions. The whole nine months that I worked at Harold's I never earned a commission. Not once.

I was really good at straightening up, saying hello to the customers, taking clothes to and from the dressing rooms. I was especially good at shopping while I was working. I loved having to wear the clothes to work in (most of my closet was already from Harold's thanks to my father's charge account) and thought it was cool that I had my own name tag with my name spelled correctly (been reciting "with an 'e' not an 'a'" for my entire life.) I was good at everything EXCEPT actually selling the clothes.

Five months ago I was approached about another sales job. My response was, "No, thank you." I knew anything that included selling something probably wasn't a good option for me. My opinion when it came to selling something was, "If you like it, buy it. If you don't, don't." (Hence never earning commission.) You would think I'd be good about bullshitting people ("You have to have that $150 sweater! It looks fabulous with your coloring!") but I'm not. Not about that anyway. I told my friend no and moved on.

The thing was, I had been using and loving the products for close to two years. I liked these products so much I found myself telling my friends all about them, selling them, on a girls trip shortly after turning down the job offer. And it was while I was selling my friends on these products that I realized that I was already doing the job that was just offered to me. But the way I was doing it, I wan't getting paid. Something was wrong with this picture.

So after the girls trip, I stepped out of my comfort zone and told my friend I was willing to give it a try. I might totally suck but I would have fun trying.

I discovered that it is easy to sell something you love and believe in. I liked Harold's clothes, but they were just...clothes. Beautycounter is different. Beautycounter is a company that I believe in. It's not just about the products. It's about the company's mission. I wasn't going to just be selling a product, I was going to be teaching others about the lack of regulation in the beauty industry, about the toxic chemicals that we aren't even aware of that we are putting on our skin every day. I was going to be helping people choose safer beauty products. Teaching. I had taught before. I could definitely do this.

Switching to safer products was something I had tried to do before Beautycounter was even a company. In 2008, I read a book called Gorgeously Green: 8 Simple Steps to an Earth-Friendly Life. I  saw Julia Roberts talking about it on a morning talk show. The book talked a lot about using "greener" beauty products. Going "green" was my thing. And who doesn't want to be just like Julia Roberts? I had written blogs about it. I was passionate about it. But it was HARD. It was expensive. I was already pretty environmentally friendly, but I hadn't tackled my bathroom until reading this book. I found myself throwing everything away and heading to Whole Foods. But the "green" replacements didn't last long. Not only were they expensive, they didn't work very well. I was back to using my old crap in no time.

Fast forward to 2014 when my friend sent me some samples from a new company called Beautycounter. In her message she told me that they offered body care, kids and beauty collection that are both safe and effective. She said the line was modern, high performing, and free of any known toxic ingredients. And then she said, "I like to think of the brand as Chanel meets Whole Foods." That was all I needed to hear.

But there was more. She wrote:
The social mission of the company is to put safe products into the hands of everyone and the long term plan is to change legislation. Beautycounter bans 1500 ingredients from it products. The EU bans 1300. U.S. only 11. Staggering, I know. I am thrilled to be a part of a movement that will bring safety and health for generations to come.
I loved the mission before I even tried the products. Then she sent me Beautycounter's Cleansing Balm and Rejuvenating Night Cream. Best stuff ever! Slowly but surely over two years I switched out my products to nothing but Beautycounter, including all of the makeup line that I completely fell in love with.

So I loved the products. Used nothing but Beautycounter. Was telling my friends all about them. And when I was approached about becoming a consultant my answer

I'm grateful to my friends who told me I should give it a chance. Friends are good that way. Especially the ones who truly love you and want the best for you. They see things sometimes you can't. And those friends? Well they are some of my best Beautycounter clients.

I love my new job. When it comes to selling, my opinion has changed. I now tell people the same thing my Mom used to tell me when she wanted me to eat something new: Try it you might like it!

Want to try it? Learn more about Beautycounter and our mission to get safer products into the hands of everyone at


Challenges of a Reading Challenge

It sucks to realize that you, well, suck at something.

I sucked at completing my reading challenge last year. Around this time last year, I posted about a reading challenge that I had found on another blog. If that blogger was giving grades for challenge completion, she would have given me a big, fat, slightly hungover, "F" for failure.

I keep track of the book I read on my Goodreads app. If you are a reader and you have never checked out this app, I highly recommend. You can keep running lists of the books you've read, want to read, etc. You can also rate the books you've read and leave reviews for other readers to check out. I'm not very good at writing reviews, so don't be disappointed if you hop on the app and become my friend. It is a great way to find out what other people think about a book before you click "Buy It Now" on Amazon and it is on your doorstep in 2 days. 

According to my Goodreads list, I read 30 books in 2016. Impressive right? I guess it all depends. My friends who aren't readers are thinking, "That's crazy!" My friends who are devoted readers might be thinking, "That's a nice effort. Better luck next year." Along with the reading challenge I found on the blog I mentioned, I also set a reading challenging on the Goodreads site as well. This challenge allowed you to set a goal for the number of books that you want to read for the year. My goal was to read 40 books. So, yeah, I failed that one too. But still! 30 books!

Here was the challenge from last year and what I actually ended up reading.

a book published this year: This one is easy. There will be many books published in 2016 that I'm sure I want to read, but I already have a few picked out. The Year We Turned FortyThe After Party, and The Nest all look good and will most likely be downloaded to my Kindle when available.

So I did read The Nest. I gave it 4 out of 5 stars. But that wasn't the only book published in 2016 that I read. I did pretty good on this particular part of the challege. I also read: 

  • My Name is Lucy Barton
  • How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living
  • The Dinner Party
  • Modern Lovers
  • Lily and the Octopus (hated, couldn't finish)
  • The Hopefuls
  • Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind for a Simpler, More Soulful Way of Living
  • Truly Madly Guily
  • Girl in Pieces
  • Commonwealth (loved!)
  • Today Will Be Different (meh...)
  • The Children
  • The Magnolia Story.

a book you can finish in a day: I've already started this one. American Housewife is a collection of short stories that you can devour in one sitting. Of course it's taking me a day or three due to children, housework and sleep getting in the way, but I'm still counting it.

I don't know if I actually finished it in a day, but it was damn near close. I don't know if I've ever read a book in one day. I read too many books at once. Right now I'm currently reading 15 books according to my Goodreads list. Not kidding.

a book you've been meaning to read: Oh this list is long. Stupid long. Like, I could go without buying a new book for the next three years and have plenty to read long. But if I have to pick one (for sake of time), I'll go with Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. It's waited on my shelf long enough. There's also A Prayer for Owen Meany who has been patiently waiting and My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry that I bought at my favorite indy bookstore last fall looks soooo good.

I didn't read any that I listed above, but there were others that I finally read:
  • Orphan Train (listening on
  • Running with Scissors (crazy! but good)

a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller: Whenever I go to my favorite indy bookstores, I love reading the handwritten recommendations by the workers at the store. However...I have trouble with recommendations. Every reader is different. We like what we like and what we like might not be what others like. So, I'm not sure that this will be a challenge that I will be able to meet. We'll just have to see.

I receive a lot of recommendation by listening to the podcast called, What Should I Read Next. There have been several books discussed during this podcast that I have gone on to read or have in my gigantic, ever-growing to read pile. If you haven't discovered podcasts yet and you are a book lover, I highly recommend.

a book you should have read in school: Well, I'm sure there are plenty that I should have read in school, but I'm going to go with a classic The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. I've never read Twain that something about that feels sacrilegious.

Tom's gonna have to wait for another year.

a book chosen by your spouse, child or bff: My husband knows better than to make any recommendations for me, and I really don't want to read any Star Wars books that my children might pick out. My friends are good at recommending books, so this one might have to be their choice.

Again, the WSIRN podcast was my go-to for recommendations.

a book published before you were born: This would be before 1973. I'll have to do a little research for this one.

I  never did any research on this one.

a book that was banned at some point: Apparently Tom Sawyer was banned at some point, so that one will count twice.

Tom lost out again.

a book you previously abandoned: This is not a challenge that I'm going to mess with. Life is too short to read books you don't like. Not gonna do it.

And I stuck to my word. Too many books to waste time on bad ones.

a book that you own by have never read: Oh there are so many. I'll go with California and The Children's Crusade. There's also My Southern Journey that I can't wait to read and In the Unlikely Event that I would be embarrassed to tell my hero Judy Blume that I have not read yet!

Yep, so I still own all of those books listed above and haven't read any of them yet. Even though I read 30 books, the to-read piles in different corners of my house only continue to grow bigger and bigger. I read something once that this reader wanted all of the publishers to stop publishing books for at least a year, maybe two, just to give her time to catch up. That's how I feel. Let me catch up people. And now it's a new year which means there are lots of new books coming out. In fact, I think I have one that I pre-ordered from Amazon arriving on Thursday.

a book that intimidates you: I adore author Elizabeth Gilbert. She's also on my hero list. I just finished her book Big Magic and it made me crazy happy to read. Her book The Signature of All Things has been on my shelf ever since it was published. I bought it because of my clear adoration of the author, but the subject matter less than thrills me. Okay, it really doesn't interest me. At. All. The book doesn't intimidate me as much as it doesn't excite me. I think we can still count it.

I didn't read anything this year that I found intimidating. I read whatever I was in the mood for. I don't need pressure from fat intimidating books.

a book that you've already read at least once: I'm not into this one. Unlike my son who has read the entire Harry Potter series twice (and some of the books even three times.) But me? Once I'm done with a book I'm done. I don't think I've ever read a book more than once. So I think this is another challenge I will choose to pass on.

Which is exactly what I did. Passed.

So here we are. After reviewing my failures, dare I attempt another reading challenge? You betcha!

Reading for fun. That's me. Although it looks like there are some challenges on here that are very similar to last year, damnit. But there's also this one...

I think I'm going to take a little from each and go from there. We'll see what happens! One thing I know for certain. I will definitely be reading this year. That's one challenge I happily accept.

Making the Team

We have been less than stellar parents. Mistakes a-plenty we have made. Most of the mistakes we've made were easy to correct, to sweep away. But every so often there comes a mistake that stings a little more than the others.

I shared a few posts back about our oldest and his first day of high school. How he came home and announced that he had signed up for the fall swim conditioning class. The class that the high school swimmers take before tryouts. The class for kids who are swimmers. Seriously swimmers. Real swimmers. Our son was neither.

And instead of praising him for taking matters into his own hands, challenging himself and trying something new, we freaked. We panicked. We doubted and questioned and doubted some more. We watched as the defeat began to swallow him up, tears starting to appear. We sucked at parenting more in that moment than we ever had in his 14 years. Our eyes met and we both knew we need to shut the hell up and let him go for it.

After a few weeks, he decided he didn't just want to be in the fall swim conditioning class for P.E. credit. He wanted to try out. Try out for the swim team. We had low expectations but a shit ton of hope. We saw how badly he wanted this, wanted to be a part of a team. We found ourselves separately praying for God to give him a break. To just let this one little thing happen for him.

Our son was driving the bus on this whole swimming thing. He had been since day one. But during the fall, I continuously asked, "Shouldn't you go practice? How's practice going? How's your time? Is it improving?" I didn't want to come across anxious or bossy, but I also wanted to do whatever I could to help. And since I couldn't get in the pool and actually swim the laps for him, all that left me with was nagging. That's all a 14 year old boy needs. His mother nagging at him.

The day of tryouts I woke up with a nervous stomach. He would have three opportunities to try out during the week. If he didn't make his time, 200 meters in 3 minutes, the first day, then he would get another opportunity the next day, and the next. I told my friends that morning, "He's gotta make it the first day. My stomach won't make it all the way to day three."

I knew the time of the tryouts. I tried not to hyper-focus on what was happening on the other side of town at the city's aquatic center. Derek was just as nervous as I was, but I was close-to-tears nervous, so when it came time to pick him up for tryouts I sent my husband.

I waited. No phone call. I knew Derek had picked him up, but no phone call. No text. Nothing. My heart sank. He's probably disappointed and doesn't want to text.

Then the garage door went up. He was smiling ear to ear when he walked in the door.

"YOU MADE THE TEAM!!!" I yelled over the lump in my throat. I hugged him and avoided making eye contact with Derek knowing it would make us both start to cry. He told me he had killed it. Beat his best time by 12 seconds. First try. Done and done. He told us that the other kids that were there trying out were all yelling his name during his last lap, cheering him on. I thanked God I wasn't there. As much as I would have loved to witness that in person, I would have been bawling like a baby, totally embarrassing my son that had just made the swim team.

When the order form came home to order his swim gear, I told him he could have whatever he wanted. I didn't care what it cost. He had earned it. Except for the $135 parka. We discussed it and he agreed that he really didn't need that expensive parka.

Because I had another plan. I was ordering it in secret to surprise him on Christmas morning. A few days before Christmas, the swim shop called to say they finally got the parka. When I arrived at the store and saw his name monogrammed on the front, I got choked up all over again.

I'm going to be a total mess at his first meet.

Bad vacation luck.

"Sorry folks, moose outside should have told you. Park's closed."

We have the worst vacation luck. I don't know if there is such a thing as vacation luck, but if there is...well, we don't have any. Nothing disastrous or life-threatening, mind you. Just moments that make you want your money back. Don't believe me? Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a quick list just of some of the vacation expectations that I spent both time and money planning and dreaming about:
  • We planned a kayaking trip while we were in Hawaii across a bay where we would snorkel before kayaking back.
  • While both boys were studying American History, we planned a Spring Break trip to Colonial Williamsburg and Washington D.C. during peak cherry blossom season.
  • We rented a cozy cabin in the Sequoia National Forest while we explored and hiked and went horseback riding in the forest.
  • We surprised the boys at Christmas with a Disney Cruise which left the following month.
  • We booked a ski trip to Lake Tahoe where the boys would take snowboarding lessons and enjoy time in the snow.
Vacations are fun and exciting. You count down the days until you leave. You make sure there's plenty of space on your phone for all of the pictures you are going to take. You pack and plan and prepare, all with anticipation. Expectations are high. So it stands to reason that when things don't go the way you intended, the way that you dreamed they would, you would get a little upset. When it happens once? Your disappointment is short lived and quickly replaced with better memories. When it happens every time you go on vacation? You start to feel cursed.
  • Since we were on a work trip with Derek, we only had one day to do something fun all together. The day we were scheduled to kayak in Hawaii it was extremely windy. The bay was rough, making it difficult to paddle. When we finally made it to the other side, the snorkeling was cut short so we could get back before the weather got worse. On the way back, Palmer's motion sickness kicked in and he started throwing up over the side of his kayak. Total bummer.
  • An Arctic blast moved into Virginia the week of our D.C. trip causing us to postpone the trip until the summer. Everything I booked, all of the plans I made included our private tour of the U.S. Capital building that I spent months getting, all lost. 
  • The cabin in the Sequoia was down this long road with lots of short twists and turns making Palmer extremely carsick. Even though it was June, it was unusually cold. It was really cold up the mountains. We were completely underdressed and were freezing all night long. The next day we drove back down the mountain, Palmer throwing up the whole way, to find another place to stay. Everything was booked except this shit box of a place that we finally settled on. Misery.
  • The weather for the Disney Cruise in January, even though it was Florida, was cold. Really cold. Like you don't want to even bother getting in the heated pool kind of cold. One day into the cruise, I caught a horrible stomach bug that kept me quarantined to my room for the rest of the trip. I was disappointed but grateful it was me and not one of the boys. The last night, Palmer was up with the bug which later included throwing up on the plane ride home all the way from Orlando to L.A. Good times.
  • And the latest trip...Our drive up to Tahoe took 5 hours longer than it should due to snow, Palmer getting carsick on the way up (seeing a pattern here?) The next morning, while waiting in line to pick up our rentals, Bentley started throwing up in his hands thanks to altitude sickness, causing him to miss his snowboarding lesson. Palmer hated his snowboarding lesson so the day was a total bust. The next morning, after heavy snow all night long, the entire mountain was shut down due to wind and the threat of an avalanche. The heavy snow continued all day leaving us with little choice but to sit in the hotel room. And finally the last day we gear up to find that the majority of the mountain was experiencing a power outage. You just can't make this stuff up people.
And like I said, this is just a snap shot of the bad vacation luck that we've experienced. With each vacation, we made the most of the trip, did what we could to still enjoy ourselves. But after writing out the details, I have come to realize that vomiting comes in first place for ruining our vacations, bad weather as a close second.

There's really nothing we can do about either one. It's become a family joke. We've gotten used to having vacations either partially or totally ruined. Of course, this hasn't stopped us from vacationing. We will book more vacations. There will be more vomiting. There will be more bad weather. It will all happen and for years and years to come one of our favorite parts of each vacation will be laughing about our bad luck. I guess there are worse family traditions to have.