Category: Goals

Year of Discipline: July Accountability

“Summer has set in with its usual severity.” 
–  Samuel Taylor Coleridge

Hells bells, how on earth is it AUGUST already? Let’s not dwell on this too much as I may get dizzy. It’s time again to recap the successes and failures of the month against my yearly theme and this time I have a rather smug report to offer!

General Motivation

Kittens, I seem to have emerged from my funk…it only took half a year apparently! July was the month of Getting **** Done. From run of the mill adulting to bigger life planning, I felt more productive and simultaneously less overwhelmed by stupid stuff this month than I have in a long time. My anxiety seems to have mellowed a bit in the background and while still ever-present and humming, I’ve not been experiencing the spikes and flares that I was in the first six month of 2019. Here’s hoping the trend continues. Lots of small tasks and projects kept me on track this month and I was able to use the launch of my new 101/1001 list as a great jumpstarter for motivation overall.

Health

I’m still not exercising as much as I should, but I am exercising. I’ve been doing the occasional spin classes at the gym, yoga at home, and then supplementing this with basic activity like walking home from work and taking long walks at the weekend with Jeff rather than using public transport.

We’ve been eschewing takeaway food while at home, and I’ve been eschewing takeaway coffee in favor of homemade cold brew. Huzzah, summer! Cooking has been a huge priority this month as a result and I’ve been trying to eat much more diversely thanks to our continued grocery box delivery system, which I continue to heartily endorse.

Both in this category and financial below, I’m in the midst of a couple of 101/1001 projects that are helping me focus on both expenses and some basic life admin and not default to laziness when that would be the easy option. My normal grocery delivery service includes some recipe boxes for salads, which I used a few times to eat more veg in general and to try new recipes overall (a goal), and make meal prep (another goal) more easily accomplished. When we are at our least organized, food can become our biggest expense after rent so deciding to focus on this from both a health and money perspective–and as both a couple and individuals–has been an extremely positive choice this month. Which leads me to…

Financial

We did do some shopping this month. I purchased a top and work appropriate summer shoes to replace yet another pair of victims to London’s cobblestones (this city is extraordinarily hard on heels), both heavily discounted on sale. Less justifiably, I picked up another maxi dress and an unnecessary lipstick (because Lisa Eldridge released her second collection and I guess I wear pink now…) and some personal items that don’t fall in my restricted categories (underwear or socks and so forth). Jeff replaced athletic shoes that he had literally shredded.

However, those choices aside, this was a month for pretty successful discipline. Having changed up our budget and finances so significantly in June, and having reached the decision to move when our current lease is up…let’s just say that this was not a month that I was going to let my/our goals slide. This month we paid off the majority of our credit cards in full, paid for our immigration process, and tucked a sum into savings to begin building our emergency fund and also prep for the move. We want to accomplish as much of that as possible using cash! Once back from the wedding, the second half of August and early September are going to be dedicated to the move…and that’s going to come sooner than my brain can comfortably deal with!

Grooming

Ducklings, a revelation: I now understand why people pay to have professional blow drys. I had a work event this month that I wanted to look especially nice at and so splurged for a blow dry service and it was a game changer. My hair has never been as smooth in my life. Alas for poverty but if I were stupidly wealthy, I would absolutely pay for a glam squad to manage my hair for me and consider it money well spent. However, the experience was doubly useful because the pro gamely answered a ton of questions about product and technique for me and gave me a lot of pointers which I used throughout the rest of the month. See?! This is the kind of knowledge you lose when you only get your hair cut a couple of times a year and are too timid to ask questions!

A bit of a side note, my hair also offered a bit of a visual history of my general health and wellbeing travails over the first six months of the year. It turns out I had a hilarious ton of “regrowth” that was only a couple of months old but very evenly distributed all over my head, indicating when I previously had a lot of hair loss due to stress. Yikes. YIKES. At least it’s growing back.

Otherwise, I’m streamlining my style for summer (see the Other goals below), so am trying to put more emphasis on the “finishing touches” of accessories and presentation. This was a good month for that.

Other

Made a decision: we’re moving due to financial motivation. Therefore, did a LOT of property research, arranged viewings, found a great options and put in an offer for this fall. Fingers crossed that nothing falls through, we’d be really happy with this apartment even if it would be bittersweet to leave our current home.

I built my warm weather capsule wardrobe both to meet a challenge and to begin to prepare for a move. I used this challenge as an excuse to get a headstart on packing and begin boxing up other items, continuing to clean/cull/donate/sell as needed. Keep an eye out for the summary blog post on this project at the end of August

Upgraded lingerie drawer, and threw out old and worn items.

Finally, immigration paperwork submitted and residency successfully achieved! This was our big (and by far most expensive) task this month and I’m delighted to have it behind us.

 

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The Visual

“Fashion is what you’re offered four times a year by designers. And style is what you choose.”
– Lauren Hutton

Hey team, a slightly unexpected post, but given that I’d already written about this project and that I’ve already started packing for a move that’s not happening for over a month (type A problems, amirite?), I figured why not? Here’s what my capsule wardrobe looks like.

Disregard the stuff on the left, those are options for the various aspects of my brother’s wedding and photographic evidence that I am still debating betwixt. Say rather dithering, I have NO idea what I’m going to wear.

Focus on the right side. That is 20 items, all inclusive of bottoms, tops, and toppers. As I’ve written, I’ve made it a month so far with naught but what you see here and so far…I don’t hate it? It’s been interesting to see how little I actually need versus what I actually own. Not pictured are the three cardboard wardrobe-style boxes I have already pre-packed up in advance of our move, currently taking up too much space in our living room. Yes yes, I’m ridiculous, we know.

I’m curious if this project and our move will make me change my mind about keeping any individual items but for the moment I’m fine locking up that up (literally) as a problem for another day and focusing on whether I can stick to what you see here for another month. I confess I didn’t necessarily plan for a crippling heatwave!

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The List

“Anyone can get dressed up and glamorous, but it is how people dress in their days off that are the most intriguing.”
—Alexander Wang

So, capsule wardrobes. The internet is awash in content about it and recommendations on how to do it about. Some people encourage as part of a minimalist lifestyle (a worthy goal that holds zero appeal for me, an unrepentant maximalist), some people as a way to push a reset button when it comes to style or consumerism (which I think is a great idea on the whole). Books have been written about this stuff.

I ignored most of it. My intentions were not lofty but deeply practical. The major desired outcomes were ticking a box on a goal list, and finding a way to begin packing now for a move that wasn’t happening for another month and a half. Any added benefits such as a reduction in stress or faff when getting out the door in the morning were gravy, as far as I was concerned.

The only advice I followed, which seemed fundamentally sound was simple: have a color palette. The idea was that if everything came from the same general grouping of colors, the chances of everything matching one another and creating easy outfits was much higher. Blue and white together are one of my favorite color combinations generally and especially for summer, so I chose that with black and green (my other favorite mix) thrown in for variety.

I was most dubious about this idea working with workwear, notoriously tricky at the best of times and hugely intimidating for a London summer where we might legitimately experience all four seasons in a single week (if not day!), but thus far it’s working great. I’m getting use out of my investment pieces and have enough basic, mix-and-match items to deal with the variance in temperatures, sun, and wet.

Some people include shoes or accessories in the list of items, but I couldn’t be bothered with that, nor did I see any point in listing items like sleepwear, activewear, or other specialty items. My list didn’t include items for my brother’s wedding, for instance, or the t-shirts I often sleep in (usually purloined from Jeff…). The only rule I gave myself, plucked more or less from thin area, was to try and restrict myself to 20 core items.

Notwithstanding the general laissez-faire and last minute approach to this project, I’m still a bit surprised that the first month of this project has sort of just whizzed by. This indicates to me that I still have too many clothes (which is not news), but also that my general project towards overall wardrobe streamlining is working. For a while in my 20s, when I was still deciding who I wanted to be and how I wanted to dress, I had a lot of things that would never have gone together no matter how hard I tried. These days, the mix between reliable basics and statement, personality pieces feels correct and more like “me.”

Without further ado, this is what my two month capsule looks like:

Tops (11)

  • White silk button up shirt (Everlane)
  • White silk button up sleeveless top (Everlane)
  • White silk tank top (Everlane)
  • Black sleeveless top
  • Black silk button up shirt (Everlane)
  • Blue and white polka dot silk shirt (Sezanne)
  • Blue cotton button up (GAP)
  • White linen shirt (found at a street market in Italy)
  • White t-shirt (Everlane)
  • Green cotton tank top (GAP)
  • Green and print silk button up shirt (& Other Stories)

Bottoms (5)

  • Black trousers (no clue)
  • Light blue jeans (Glassworks)
  • White jeans (GAP)
  • Navy pencil skirt (J Crew)
  • Navy shorts (GAP)

Other (4)

  • Black short sleeved work dress (MM LaFleur)
  • Navy sleeveless work dress (MM LaFleur)
  • Black and white print casual dress (J Crew)
  • White linen blazer (J Crew)

I’ll check in at the end of August and let you know how the project turns out, but I’m curious! If you have done a capsule, what did it look like? How did you build it? What were your rules, and why?

A Summer Capsule Wardrobe: The Background

“Clothes mean nothing until someone lives in them.”
—Marc Jacobs

Alright, we’re doing this. We pulled the plug and we’re moving apartments at the end of the summer. We have a lovely relationship with our current landlord, and truly love our current address, but when doing some mutual goal setting we just couldn’t deny how much money we could save if we changed our circumstances and the inconvenience of moving did not outweigh that number.

I’ve written about this before, but I love the cleansing process that goes into moving. It’s psychologically freeing. Growing up, every two or three years, I got the chance to “start over” in some way, in a new place with a clean slate. It’s not a perfect process and you eventually learn what’s indelible in your personality after a few moves, but the process was really formulative for me personally. It also gave me a much cleaner perspective on “stuff” by having to evaluate what was coming with you to a new city or country and what would literally left behind.

It also made me a damn effective and ruthlessly efficient mover. It should surprise none of you to hear that having made this decision, I am afire with Type A energy to prepare for this move. Bolstered by a military brat’s encyclopedic knowledge on the subject of packing and household transfers, Things. Are. In. Motion.

Currently there is a list of items that need to be thrown away or sold (farewell ironing board we have almost never used, you were purchased with good but flawed intentions). I’m starting to go through cabinets and cupboards for things that need to be eaten; no hidden hoard of dried pasta or canned beans is safe from this ruthless hunt. A large batch of chili has already been consumed with many more to come due to the sheer backlog of ingredients I’ve managed to unearth. I haven’t yet tacked that monstrosity of disuse that is our electronics drawer (or in our case, basket) but that’s on the To Do list.

And of course, both our wardrobes continue to be under review. Lest you think I’m the only clotheshorse in this family, Jeff is going through his stuff (with particular emphasis on work shirts) to evaluate what’s hopelessly stained or damaged and needs to go. The man appreciates his fashion just as much as me! We’ve both got items that have been gifted to us that we’re donating, we’re both going through the proverbial underwear and sock drawers to get rid of worn items, and just generally continuing to assess with a critical eye. I’m delighted with the overall state of my wardrobe, as I’ve written, but am still taking the chance to set aside some items to pass to my sister when we see her at the family wedding next month.

I was searching online for some plastic tubs for packing (as most of our prospective new apartments will have some kind of storage space – currently a major gap in our housing situation) when I had a bit of a brainwave. One of my projects is to do a couple of capsule wardrobes. What if I did that in preparation for the move and save myself a lot of hassle by simply packing everything else up?

In other words, what better time to start a new personal project, than in a ridiculously overbusy and crowded time where my stress will already be at a maximum!

Joking aside, I did it. I created a 20 item list, excluding occasion wear, athletic gear, and basic accessories, and decided I was only going to wear those items for two months: July and August. I was a bit hesitant to write about it until I was sure I could get the hang of it, but I’m nearly one month in…and it’s been fantastic.

So that’s what we’re going to talk about this week, kittens. In the next post I’ll go through the list itself, what I chose, how I chose them, and why. In the meantime, if you’ve ever tried this trend, how did it work for you? Let me know in the comments!

Year of Discipline: June

“Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself.” 
― Abraham Joshua Heschel

Another month gone, another check in on goals. This was not a brilliant month, but it was a steady one and that feels like a big improvement on spring during which I felt scattered and all over the place. Jeff and I have both made it through some big work projects which had been consuming a lot of energy, and are now able to turn our attentions towards the pleasures of the summer. We’ve got a wedding coming up, a potential move to plan, and our anniversary trip to arrange. Immigration work is skipping along and for now at least, we’ve got an overabundance of vitamin D. Life’s okay.

General Motivation: A middling month, the first half I remained consumed with work but in the second I was able to start doing things I mentioned in my last update like exercise and cooking.

Health: This month was much better when it comes to food and I did finally get back into an exercise routine in the second half of June by scheduling classes at my gym and prioritizing them. I have the bonus of having a family wedding this summer to look good for, and this provided some much needed motivation to focus on. Thanks, little brother #2!

Financial: This month, we consolidated our remaining debt. It was a big change and was possible due to a generous and unsolicited offer from my dad to cosign on a plan to help us get a very good rate. This means we can drastically switch up our monthly household budget and make better progress in paying down debt by throwing the same amount of money at it for better returns. This is what left me somewhat staggered and weepy earlier in the month, and frankly just awash with gratitude.

Whew *wipes eyes* let’s press on, shall we? When it comes to personal spending, I did buy myself some beauty products this month using my personal cash budget. When my ban officially lifted on my birthday, I only had eyes for one item which I decided to get as a “Hey, you’re 33, have a present!” gift to myself. It’s a beautiful creamy sort of bronzer which doesn’t give you pigment so much as glow. It’s very extra, not at all necessary, but lovely for summer. The sheer gorgeousness of the packaging doesn’t hurt either! I also asked X to pick up a couple of items for me in the States that I’m unable to source here in the UK, and will get to pick up when I’m Stateside later this summer, and an eyeliner. I’m flirting with another unnecessary but totally lovely lipstick just for giggles. Finally I bought a pair of blue jeans, which believe it or not I didn’t have since I ripped my last pair months ago. But black jeans in summer won’t cut it, so I add that to my year long tally. I’m clearly well into ridiculous summer frivolity!

Happy birthday to me!

Grooming: A comparatively good hair month. I took the advice of some work colleagues with excellent hair and tried a couple of new drugstore products that have kept frizz at bay as the weather warms up. I still hate doing it. This month I also had to switch up my makeup for summer, but British summers being what they are, we’ve sometimes experienced what seems like all four seasons in a single week! This is not an easy country to style for some times.

Other:

Preparing for a possible move. While we still hope to find a way to stay in our current apartment, we are preparing for the possibility that a move will be necessary. This means allocating some of our reconstituted budget to savings to able to pay for any deposits or costs in cash.

I set my new 101/1001 list and used it as a great opportunity to get a few tasks done this month!

I got new glasses (finally, after seven years), deep cleaned the house, sold some items via consignment, and made sure I took vitamins daily (which helps me noticeably with period pains and mood stability).

I sold several items of clothing I don’t use but have good resale value and Jeff is also planning to sell some less-used sporting gear to make a few less things to potentially move. My closet gets more focused and lovely by the year!

 

A New 101/1001 List

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” 
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden

I hadn’t done an update in far too long but my most recent 101/1001 goal list recently came to a close. My official reckoning ended at the end May and while I nearly had my list ready to go, I had a few more goals to add that I hadn’t quite decided on. The full list is now live and I’m excited about it–I’ve already put a couple of ticks against some of them to get me started!

Comparing my successes and failures of the last list (47 goal items achieved) I realized that many of them were probably always unachievable. There is no way, for instance, that I’m ever going to go skydiving. I have examined the innermost workings of my soul, and NOPE. It’s never going to happen. Meanwhile a lot of the challenge based goals really helped me jumpstart new habits or undertake long projects that had a measurable improvement on my life (my Year of Health included).

So this time, in considering what I wanted to achieve in 1001 days, I leaned hard into smaller, trackable goals and experiences. Travel features heavily, as there are still so many places I want to see. Learning also ended up taking quite a few slots, whether this means trying new classes, foods, or skills. And clearly I’m in the mood to prioritize experiences like concerts and comedy shows, things that I’ve not always carved out time for in the past.

In some ways this list is a bit less grandly ambitious than my last one, but reading through it, I think a lot of items on it are likely to help make me feel happier and more evenly spread as a person. As I’ve written before, work has really consumed a lot of both Jeff’s and my identities and time over the last six years and while I have no intention of scaling back on career goals, I recognize a need to “divide [my] energies,” as my brilliant friend Hannah once put it. I want to make time and space for creativity and pleasure much more than I have done.

Check it out and let me know your thoughts! And as always, tell me what your Big Ideas and Goals are. I love it when we cheer one another on!

Makeup No Buy

“Treat your makeup like jewelry for the face. Play with colors, shapes, structure – it can transform you.”
– Francois Nars

At the start of the year I gave myself a goal to not buy any new beauty or makeup products until my birthday in early June. This was partially to reset my buying habits for this, my favorite category of guilty pleasure purchases, and partially to help carve out a little extra savings by reducing or eliminating some necessary spending.

Time for some accountability reporting!

When it comes to skincare, I’ve already blogged about how my habits here are a real source of satisfaction. At 33, my skin is probably the best its ever been and my main goal is to keep it that way as long as possible. Drink water, eat healthy, exfoliate, and don’t screw it up with ingredients that muck up the delicate balance–easy! …Right?

Hm, on to makeup then. In this category I did need to make some purchases that were within the limitations of the self-challenge as I had no backups already on my shelves when they ran out. In the past few months I used up my Giorgio Armani Luminous Silk Foundation and a Lancome stick foundation which doubled as a concealer for me due to the consistency of the product. I also used up a tube of Givenchy primer. All of these are excellent products that I’d easily recommend, but in the spirit of my financial challenges I wanted to see if I could find alternatives (at least for now) at lower pricepoints. With summer coming in and my skin in pretty good condition these days, I don’t need full coverage makeup and so picked up a Maybelline blurring primer from the drugstore, a skin tint from Glossier, and (the splurge) a Charlotte Tilbury concealer. All of this are working together really well so once again, I won’t be buying anything in this product category until I use them up.

So other than that, did I meet my goal of not buying new products? Well, no, I slipped up twice.

On a work trip that routed me through Heathrow Airport at an ungodly hour of the morning, the dutyfree beauty counters called to me and I wandered past Burberry in a moment of weakness. I’m not sure what’s happened to Burberry’s beauty brand, they were having a bit of a moment a few years ago under then-Creative Director Wendy Rowe, but that seems to have faded. This is too bad, because they had a lot of really good products and I wish they were easier to find these days. Alas for my self control at 4am, they ARE to be found at Heathrow and that’s how I came home with two additional lip products that I didn’t strictly need.

And then, because my brain really does exist in an all-or-nothing state, and because I had already broken my goal once, I found it easy to justify picking up a handful of beauty products whilst on holiday with X in Italy when we discovered a local brand shop and self indulged. I don’t even have the excuse of an early morning flight and sleep deprivation, it was just weak will. Beauty tourism is one of the pleasures of travelling with girlfriends and Italy is the home of many a global brand’s makeup manufacturing hub. It was always going to be a risk! In our case, we discovered the brand Wycon and I picked up a totally unnecessary highlighter, lipstick, and mascara. I also got a three-pan custom eyeshadow palette in the most shockingly basic shades…and I’m completely thrilled with it. It’s easily one of the most practical beauty purchases I’ve ever made. All of these items were at drugstore prices and, while a lapse, were not nearly on par with my infidelity with Burberry.

I atoned for both of these misdeeds by going through my arsenal to remove at least the same amount of items as I added. My sister is getting some more beauty products (that girl hasn’t had to shop for anything in years), and a few old or expired items went in the bin where they needed to be. My beauty shelves are still bigger than a lot of people’s but they are smaller than the last time I wrote about them. My love of beauty hasn’t changed but my tastes are shifting a bit, as is my knowledge as a consumer.

Most of all, my shopping habits in this area have shifted dramatically. As has been well-documented, I made the consumerist breakthrough with my clothing a long time ago that made me shop almost entirely second hand or through ethical brands with transparent production and labor information. Understanding my style preferences has also helped to shrink my wardrobe over time and shop less overall. The same is happening with my bathroom shelves.

Makeup and beauty is a bit different because they are perishable products, but the same basic premises of “reduce, reuse, and recycle” apply. This project has helped me focus on buying less, using what I already have in creative ways instead of justifying new products, and documenting what I use up (and how bloody long it takes!) before I recycle packaging. Where possible and reasonable I’ve also tried to shop from brands I’m happier to support with my dollars for their commitments to good practice, or just to support independent businesses.

Even though the project is officially ending, I think I’m going to try and keep the spirit of it going through the end of the year. While I may buy beauty items, I’ll continue to do so primarily to replace used up items and if I do buy something totally new, I will first get rid of something I already own that’s similar. I’ll also continue to do Empties blog posts (because I love them) a couple of times a year, so keep an eye out for the next one in August or so. In the meantime, watch this space for a few more posts on how my self has changed over the past couple of years, and why!