Category: Goals

What I’ve Bought, Didn’t Buy, and Why

“Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you really want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping.” 
― Karl Lagerfeld

So, here’s the bit where I confess that I’m trying a bit of an experiment this year in my ongoing, unofficial series on consumerism: I’m restricting myself to buying only 18 personal items this year. Well, that’s the goal anyway–who knows what human frailties await us–but for the time being I’ve managed to keep on track with only 7 purchases so far in 2018.

Full disclosure, not all items count against this tally. I’m not counting things like replacing tights with holes in them, restocking underwear, and other utilitarian aspects of life, and books will never be subject to a quota in this household!

So what does count? Anything that goes on my person or for a hobby kind of activity–basically things I buy strictly for my own pleasure or wants are tallied up, as are big ticket items for the home.  Thus far, they have all been purchases for my closet:

  1. New works heels – to replace yet another victim of London’s cobblestones. I picked up a brand new pair from LK Bennett at a charity shop for about a 1/10 of the sticker price
  2. A vintage belt
  3. A black blazer – which is something I didn’t already own, believe it or not
  4. Wide leg trousers
  5. A casual shirt
  6. A pair of earrings, which I bragged on yesterday
  7. Another blazer – a gorgeous gray wool one, and vintage Burberry to boot

Every single one of these items was a planned purchase, had been considered for months, and by avoiding impulse buying I didn’t pay full price for any of them thanks to sales or bargaining. Four out of seven are vintage or second hand purchases, which is very much in keeping with my typical spending habits. This list comprises most if not all of my spring and summer shopping list. I’ve by using my list system to be much more thoughtful about my wants, and to identify and fill gaps in my wardrobe. Seriously, who says they love clothing and doesn’t own a black blazer?

A few other projects have been going on in the background over the last six months as well, including my now annual 3-month shopping ban–my gray blazer being a cheat item I bought during this time, but one I didn’t regret in the slightest because 1) it had been on my To Buy list for months so could justify a slight bending of the rules and, 2) c’mon, vintage Burberry on the cheap!

During this same time, I’ve gotten more ruthless with my closet and have donated several pieces to Mary’s Living and Giving. I found I was holding on a several items that I hadn’t worn in months or longer and, having decided on a use-it-or-lose-it attitude towards a lot of “stuff” in my life lately, I had no qualms in letting them go. So, in spite of a few new purchases, my closet continues to be more streamlined and slimmed down than it was a couple of years ago.

Finally, I’m trying to not buy any new makeup for an entire year unless I’m replacing an item I have completely run out of and cannot replicate with what I already own. Skincare is exempt because while the fashions and styles of makeup shift, skin is forever and I believe in spending money to keep it healthy and clear. I’ve got a pretty well established stable of products and very rarely see the need to deviate from them, so purchases here have so far been only to replace items once I’ve run out of something.

What are my other 11 purchases for the year going to be? I’m not sure! I’ve been thinking about getting a bike for a while (for nearly a whole year, lest you thing I rush decisions), but truthfully I’d rather get some more furniture for the house with that money right now. I’d like to get a couple more jewelry pieces as I slowly transition away from cheap and costume-y to more substantial stuff that I hope to own the rest of my life, but I can wait for the right ones to come along. Now that I’ve done my seasonal shopping, I am going to see how long I can go without adding anything else to my wardrobe because I really feel like there isn’t anything I truly need at the moment for either work or casual. Over the past year I really feel as if I’ve come to a much healthier attitude towards “things,” which in turn is allowing me to flex the muscle of thinking in long term goals. More on that later.

Have you done any spring or summer shopping for this year? What have you bought? Are you planning any future shopping, and if so, how do you choose and prioritize your purchases? 

Giving Up

A short list of things I’d like to give up in 2018:

Responding, “Busy,” whenever anyone asks how I am doing. It’s not a badge of honor, and frankly my inability to switch off is not making me better at my job, my mental health, or my personal life.

Hitting the snooze function of my alarm several times every morning.

Avoidance as a coping method. I was easy on myself this past year and gave myself permission to avoid or cut out things, people, or scenarios that were contributing to my anxiety and minor depressive episodes. I’ve had loving and patient people in my life allow me to do this because they agreed it was good for me and were willing to be generous with me. Guess what? It worked, and I’m feeling resilient and balanced again. That means it’s time to toughen up and stop using this as an option in the face of confrontation, stress, pressure, discomfort, or negative emotions. It also means I need to pay it back to the people who allowed me to lean on them by taking my turn being available to lean on.

Freaking out over stupid stuff. I am alarmingly good at this.

Being lazy. This is also something I gave myself permission to do in 2017 after a rough year. It’s also worked, which means it’s time to pivot back to energy and effort, lest self care become permanent and unhealthy self-indulgence.

Social media. There is obviously no hope of this, but I’m pretty well convinced that Twitter doesn’t make me happy.

Guilt about writing. I don’t blog nearly as much as I’d like, but I’ve decided that the only cure for that is probably more frequent, shorter, and sillier posts like this one (hi, team!). I also don’t work on my fiction projects to the degree I’d like (and a lot of this in the past year has been about that avoidance and laziness I mentioned…) but I think small but steady chipping away at this will also help. In the meantime, I’m going to stop shouting at myself in my head for not being published yet.

You know. All super easy and basic things.

A Year of Health

“The First wealth is health.” 
― Ralph Waldo Emerson

I’ve been thinking all month of how I want to frame 2018 (I’ve talked about my 2017 theme here and here if you want a refresher) and I’ve figured out what I want to focus on: making an effort on health. It was the one facet of my previous theme that I felt I didn’t make as much progress on as I would have wished in the past twelve months, so I’ve decided to make it my priority for the next twelve.

This feels like the most basic of basic goals, but I’m hoping my take on it is broad enough to keep it interesting, with enough specific goals to make progress trackable.

Body Health
Yes, yes with the typical exercise and weight goals, but really I’m trying to just “mind” my body better overall this year. I’d prefer regular exercise to intense workouts, regular meditation to aggressive “detoxes,” and feeling good in my clothes and own skin to focusing on numbers. I am not a natural health bunny, I hate every moment at the gym and default to lazy every chance I get; the only thing that helps me overcome my tendencies are ingrained habits and routines so I’m going to focus on building these this year. I’m also going to try and confront or fix some longstanding physical issues I’ve had (migraines, uneven muscle tension, hormones, etc.) instead of just living with them. I’ve got a doctor’s appointment scheduled before the end of the year to address a couple of internal situations, and like everyone and their dog, I’m resetting my diet this January after a December of absolute nutritional debauchery. Farewell, sugar. Speaking of…

Get in the Kitchen
No two ways about it, we need to cook more and eat out/order in less. This is for financial health reasons as well as physical ones–we spend more money than we should on easy food or food that we end up wasting because we don’t use it quickly enough. I’ve been focusing on consumption a lot in different ways for several years now, but somehow I’ve never really cracked food the way I have other areas of our lives. This is something I want to change…but I also want to change what I eat. I’m a natural grazer who (at my worst) veers between binging on snacks and missing meals. I think that cooking more regularly and the planning that goes into it will help me cut down on this as well has help me eat better food overall.

Brain Health
My bad stress habits and anxiety are more under control than they’ve been in years, but I could definitely do with a bit of help here to really get my brain in better working order. I’d like to engage with a therapist at some point in this year to help me work through a few lingering issues. This is one of my goals, but it’s something I’d like to commit to doing in 2018 instead of having it as a free floating goal. I also want to continue the mindfullness practices I’ve picked up this year and try to simply make lifestyle choices that I know keep me balanced and sane: using my holiday time, separating work and personal life, regular dates with my husband, long talks with friends…all of these things are good for me and I want to make sure I make time for them.

Financial Health
This is a continuation of some of the best parts of my Year of Less But Better that I want to continue to focus on. I consider this part and parcel with brain health as nothing is more stressful than money. I’m going to continue to move ahead with the self-challenges I do to limit my shopping or consumption and find ways to game-ify savings or usage the way consumerism typically game-ifies spending.

In short, I want to make more of an effort this year to take charge of things that I have been more passive about in the past.

I know my strengths and weaknesses, and typically when I’ve fallen off the wagon on health goals in the past it’s because I’ve tried to tackle too many challenges at once. In giving myself a year, I’m more hopeful in making lasting changes. Already I’m trying to think of some blog projects to support this theme the way I was able to in 2017, but I’m wide open to suggestions if any of the minion coterie have some brilliant ideas for the kinds of posts you’d like to see here on SDS in the new year.

Thanks as always for following along!

Editing

“Be a good editor. The Universe needs more good editors, God knows.” 
― Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Letters

I don’t always do a good job of remembering resolutions, but I have to say, picking a “theme” for this year has been a remarkable success. My mindset around a lot of life elements has taken a turn for the healthier and I’m in a more balanced place than I’ve been in years. I really believe that this has come from some purposeful editing of my life. I’ve gotten much better at saying no, worked hard to remove or improve things that contributed to my stress and anxiety problems, and become a lot more intentional about my money and consumption choices. It’s been a very successful project, and I’m already thinking towards how I want to frame 2018.

“Less but better” doesn’t have a uniform definition for me. For instance, we are currently living in our largest and most expensive home to date, but on the other hand, after 10 years of marriage and most of those spent in cheap digs, the decision to rent a nice apartment was a considered one. We are also furnishing it ourselves, meaning we are spending money, but we are taking that process slowly and very judiciously. Our home is still far less furnished than I would like…but we have chosen every piece in it together because we loved it, and not because it was the cheapest option on Craigslist. I love the idea of editing a home, carefully selecting what I put in it and not rushing to fill empty space just because I have it.

Stress levels: all time low. This time last year my nails were chewed to the quick.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I’m actually working more but in a better way. Going back to freelance and contracting has been a great decision. I have not only opened a lot of doors and opportunities, but I have finally discovered a balance between work and identity: what I do vs. who I am. This has not always been the case with me, as I tend to throw myself into things like causes, projects, and roles wholeheartedly, allowing the lines between them and myself to blur. Surprisingly, given the nature of freelance and contract work and how it can divide your attention, I’ve found that because I’ve been able to choose my work, I’ve therefore been able to choose (i.e. edit) how I direct my energy. This has also helped me train my brain to better separate work from my personal life and I’m more aggressive about holidays and an overall work/life balance. In other words, I may be working more, but my stress levels are lower than they’ve been in years.

Let’s talk stuff, generally. I had a whole month long blog project dedicated to my closet and bathroom shelf this year, and I continue to be really happy with where it’s at. I’ve actually shopped and bought less this year than I have probably since my early 20s. Granted what I have bought has tended to be more expensive, but I’ve been fascinated to physically feel the urgency and desire to buy things fade as the year has gone on. There’s plenty of reporting out there to suggest that brain chemistry can be affected by purchasing, and I wonder if I’ve been able to ween myself off an internal drug I didn’t realize I was on. I’ve been slowly editing my closet down and I now think I own less clothing than I did when we first moved to London on an item-for-item basis. What I do own, I wear more and I love more. The same goes with beauty; I’ve been focused on using what I already own instead of craving new makeup and skincare items. I’m actually in the midst of a shopping freeze (my second this year) in an effort to actually use up cosmetics and potions before I allow myself even to replace beloved items. I’ve done a few edits of my shelf throughout the year and donated or gifted a few items that I didn’t use enough to justify keeping. Maybe it’s a welcome byproduct of getting older and more self-confident, but I’ve never been more pleased with the woman in the mirror.

When it comes to food and overall health, I haven’t done as well as I would have wished. We are eating out less (yay, us!) but ordering in more (kind of defeats the purpose, C….). We have periods of focus on health, but other periods of intense laziness. One thing I’ve realized is how much I require a routine in order to stay committed to food, exercise, and wellbeing goals. I am not a natural health bunny, I do no default to healthiness–I default to deep friend potatoes and Netflix and am self-aware enough to acknowledge this. It turns out that once I’m in a routine, I am pretty good at maintaining it but if something knocks me off course (two straight weeks of houseguests for instance, or a particularly uneven month at work), I fall well and truly off the wagon and it takes herculean effort to climb back aboard. I haven’t figured out quite how to overcome this yet, but I suspect the solution will lie in editing out things that I use as excuses or distractions.

This has been a much better year than 2016 for me, and I’m feeling pretty positive about 2018 at the moment. It’s a good place to be.

Use It Up Challenge Check In

“I believe it’s perfectly normal to love both lipstick and literature, to be a woman who paints her nails while shouting at Question Time.” 
― Sali Hughes, Pretty Honest

I had given myself permission to purchase from the Victoria Beckham x Estee Lauder collection, but after lack luster reviews, I spent my fun money on a couple vintage clothing items instead and kept my wallet closed tight against all things beauty. In fact, I kicked off my next no-buy self-challenge a couple of months early! Since discovering that Makeup Rehab subreddit I mentioned last month, I’ve been enjoying a lot of self-challenges to use up what I own more than looking to buy new stuff. I’ve nowhere near given up buying beauty products long term (I mean, do you know me at all?) but I’m focusing a lot more on skincare than makeup, and my pores are thanking me.

So, how did I do with my self challenge? Not only did I make some serious headway on my actual goals, but I also destashed quite a few bits and bobs to my little sister. I went away to university when she was very young, so I feel like I missed out on a lot of the fun parts of being an older sister like sharing beauty stuff. And so, sending presents, clothes, and makeup that she will love more than me is something I enjoy doing and she gets to benefit from my experience (ie, age) and pick up some goodies that she probably wouldn’t buy for herself due to price point. Spoiled.

I feel pretty! Oh so pretty!

Hit pan on at least one color in my Viseart neutral eyeshadow palette (BAM)

Use up my Bite Beauty lipstick in Pepper

Finish my Nars Velvet Lip Pencil in Red Square

Use up my Replica by Maison Margiela perfume in Jazz Club (got down to the dregs of the rollerball and finally chucked it)

Use just one blush – Tonga by Cargo – with aim of putting a proper dent in it (I hit pan on it!)

Use up one of my (many) sunscreens (going on holiday helped!)

Finish my Aesop Parsley Seed Mask

Finish my Glossier Moisturizing Moon Mask

Finish my Kiehl’s mud mask

Use up one of my hand lotion samples already! (Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Hand Treatment)

Finish one of my (many) pots of lip salve

Finish my current bottle of Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate

Hit pan on my Glossier Stretch Concealer

Empties Update

“My dad used to say makeup was a shallow girl’s sport, but it’s not. It’s armor.” 
― Courtney Summers, All the Rage

Back in April, as part of my Style Month project, I shared several months worth of empties–the products I’ve used to the last drop. I remain pleasantly fascinated with empties videos or posts from other writers and of course, I’ve been on a bit of a kick when it comes to thinking and writing about consumption myself. So obviously as soon as I had hit publish on my last post, I began stockpiling items as I used them up for an update. Six months later, it’s time for an update!

I’ve bought very few new products in the last half year and so have been able to use up quite a few things to learn more about what I like, what I hate, what I swear by, and what I think is just not worth the money.

Not too bad, C., you may say. Seems manageable until you–

Oh god, what kind of monster am I?!

Skincare first! There were quite a few repeats in here as this is my second bottle of Sunday Riley Good Genes, at least my bottle third Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Concentrate, my second Clinique All About Eyes Rich eye cream, and third Kate Somerville ExfoliKate scrub. All of these are beloved favorites, but I’ve made a commitment to use up much more of my own beauty stash before I allow myself to repurchase any of these items (particularly as they aren’t exactly cheap). You may be surprised to hear that I dislike a Glossier product, but their Super Pure formula is my least favorite of their three serums and I wouldn’t repurchase it. The Pestle & Mortar Superstar retinol oil was excellent, but I’m road testing a much cheaper version from The Ordinary which thus far I really like! Speaking of, I also finished off a bottle of hyaluronic acid serum from the The Ordinary displaced another Pestle & Mortar similar product as well. Quality doesn’t need to break the bank, kids!

Another bottle of Glossier Milky Jelly cleanser down. I already had a bottle of this on stand by that I purchased over the summer, but I’m ridiculously lucky and got two free additional bottles from attending the Glossier pop up earlier this summer, and then scored another back up as the G-team apparently mailed out some gift boxes as follow up to that press event later in the summer. Because they are freaking brilliant at marketing. Long story short, I haven’t had to repurchase this in a while, but I fully intend to when my stash runs down again. It’s a really good product, perfect as a morning cleanser or a second cleanse in the evening (if I’ve been wearing a full face of makeup and SPF all day). My evening cleanser for months has been the Oskia Renaissance Cleansing gel–a gel/balm formula that turns to oil on your skin. It dissolves most makeup and doesn’t strip your skin in the slightest. The Kiehl’s cleanser has been included in this stash for the sake of honesty. Technically it was Jeff’s product but I made liberal use of it in the shower and contributed to its demise–so into the bag it went! I’ve used up two masks, the Aesop Parsley Seed mask and Moisturizing Moon mask. I may repurchase them someday, but I want to try some similar products from other brands first…once my current mask stash is depleted. I definitely would not repurchase the Tidal cream by Sunday Riley–odd smell, nothing special as a moisturizer, and sparkly flecks in it to boot.

Hair continues to be my personal Waterloo, but here are some of the mane-taming products I used up recently, along with a couple of shower bits. I’m not precious about my bathing and use Jeff’s razors and bodywash without shame. In fact, I’m positive I missed at least two bottles of bodywash that rightly should have been included in this confessional but recycled them first. Oops. My eczema continues to wreak havoc on my scalp, hence the two different medicated shampoos (also probably not an honest reckoning), but I did manage to make it through two bottles of conditioner. A powder style dry shampoo and leave-in conditioner round off the pack. The powder smells wonderful but I would not repurchase as I’ve found a much better spray formula. All the other items, however, are pretty much my standard shower rotation and their replacements are in situ.

While we’re being honest, that comment about stealing Jeff’s face wash? Same for deodorant. I just don’t see the point of the pinker, lady-friendly stuff when he has a perfectly good can of product sitting on our dresser that I can swipe. The Certain Dri roll on, however, is definitely mine. Also in the spirit of full disclosure, this stuff is fantastic and when I use it regularly/properly, it’s a miracle product. I tend to pick up a bottle whenever we go back to the States. I also used up a No 7 make up brush cleanser from Boots (great product!) and a bath oil from Sanctuary Spa. I take a bath almost every night, especially in cold weather and prefer oils to bubbles…even if it means I have to scrub the tub more regularly. It’s a small price to pay for zen.

Finally, some make up! Er, kinda? It takes me quite a while to get through make up products, though you may remember my recent discovery of the MakeUp Rehab reddit community which has inspired a number of “use it up” personal challenges for me. If I do another post like this six months from now, I’m hoping to have a few empty makeup tins and pans to add to the pile. This time at least, I made it through yet another tube of Maybeline Full ‘N Soft mascara–my go to for years. Glossier Boy Brow did good service in the beauty wars and its replacement is already in rotation. I loved this hand cream from Elizabeth Arden and will definitely be buying a full sized tube once my seemingly infinite amounts of other travel sized lotions have served their time. Finally, I used up a bottle of Hermes Jardin sur la Nil perfume which I loved but am happy to part with as friends after a four year run.

Your turn, kittens, if you feel up to oversharing in the comments. Do you keep track of items that you use up–if so, what and why? Is my fascination with personal consumption at all interesting or just weird? Let me know your thoughts, I’m braced for impact!

Summer Bucket List Check In

“Autumn seemed to arrive suddenly that year. The morning of the first September was crisp and golden as an apple.” 
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

I’ve mentioned that the weather has taken a turn for the autumnal of late, this past Sunday it reached a new high (or low, depending on your point of view). Ergo, we’re off to Greece, which as you may recall was the first item on my Summer Bucket List. Which means, given the weather, that it’s probably time for a check in on my frivolous summer goals!

Do you see this nonsense?

Buy new glasses. (See comment below!)

Get another piece of furniture for the house. And plants that I won’t easily kill. (I’ve got my eye on some shelves but that will have to be an end of month or October purchase, as we’ve spent that money on Greece. And I regret nothing)

Read a new heap of novels, both trashy and classy.

Finally get that call with my bank scheduled to kick off the proper investment and savings plan we’ve been talking about for months. (Call made but expat status means that we have to go through a few more hoops before I can start this properly. Annoying, but progress made!)

Do another month long blog project. (Nope, fail.)

Lose some weight. I’m typically wary of goals like this, but I’ve decided to just acknowledge that I’m going to work hard on some health and fitness goals explicitly. (I’ve started a new health challenge and X is my accountability partner. I’m only a bit of weight down, but I’m back to much better eating habits and regular exercise!)

Catch up with some long lost pals. (Another “fail,” but what I actually managed to do was make a few new friends instead. Gonna call this one a win.)

Knock out my audiobook goal.

Leave the office at a sensible hour most days.

Go to more movies. (I only made it to Wonder Woman, but I’m actually with falling down on this goal as we spent that fun money elsewhere, such as eating out at Hawker House.)

Throw some kind of party or get together.

Did you have a summer bucket list of any kind? What goals or triumphs have you ticked off over the warm months?