Minimalist Wardrobe: Staples

Most people have repeat items that they purchase, or staples. The latest buzzword would be wardrobe “essentials”. What defines an item as a wardrobe staple? The amount of use? Practicality? Favorite colors? Fabric type? Seasonal variety?

Of course it varies by closet, by individual. I commute by bike to the office. My staples need to have the following qualities:

  • COMFORT: When traveling with colleagues, often they’ll change into “comfy clothes” before dinner. My office clothes ARE my comfy clothes and therefore, I can pack less and don’t change as often
  • Well made- Resistance to pilling
  • Technical quality- Some sort of nylon blend (not a fan of poly blends) to wick moisture
  • Simple/ classic designs- Suitable for office or casual wear
  • Black, gray or white- My favorite colors, easy on my eyes, play well with my introverted nature (not a fan of bright colors/patterns)

Last year, I kon-mari’d my closet. Since then, I’ve added items and taken away items as my identity and style have changed. Sometimes I feel uncomfortable wearing clothes that are strongly associated with a certain gender. The tie between sexuality, gender, and fashion constantly fascinates me. My current closet represents a happy medium. The items I wear every week can be dressed up or down and be used to create more masculine presenting outfits OR feminine presenting outfits. I’ve found that I can express a variety of looks through surprisingly few clothes! I used to have gobs of clothing. It was fun to experiment when I was younger, but I feel more grounded now in expressing a fewer looks that are more indicative of my identity, rather than trying on styles only for fun.

Not Perfect Linen: Linen oversize blouses 

Linen blouses make for breezy comfort- easily layerable in the fall. Can be dressed up or down depending on bottoms.

Ridiculous dolphin/laser cap, present from my wife 

This hat will likely stay in my closet for ages- as my wife bought it for me. I was inexplicably drawn to it. I hardly wear hats, but it makes me smile.

Lululemon: tech pencil skirts (striped/black)

I love being comfortable. My current position in grad school allows me a flexible wardrobe. Most people in grad school still go to class in workout shorts and sneakers. I like to dress up a bit- but in a relaxed sense. Athleisure, ftw.

When dressing more formal, I turn to my wool slacks. I wore these wool slacks for my wedding. The high waist is flattering, and the cropped length perfect for my petite stature. Tech slacks get me through the commute to and from school. They look great in the office and the logo is well hidden.

Pants: Blank NYC cords, J Crew skinny jeans, J Brand shorts 

Essentially the same pant, but in seasonal fabrics. My skinny cords can be layered with leggings or tall socks for winter. Lightweight skinny jeans help me through transitional seasons. Jean shorts for summer.

A shirt dress can easily be placed in my backpack for changing into once at the office. I can pair it over leggings for cool weather, and wear with bare legs for warm weather. The mandarin collar adds an updated look, and the long length is modest enough for teaching.

 

My oxford button ups are simple and make me quite happy. One silk, which I wore on my wedding day. One stretch fabric, and one short sleeve. The two on the right are both light gray (I overdyed them- both originally white). I am looking to add one more slim black button up into my collection. I still own a navy, light blue and white, but the cut is too baggy. Will likely sell or donate. I’ve recently discovered I prefer fitted oxfords for my petite stature, but was drawn in by the allure of the BF cut (thanks, Madewell, ha)! They don’t suit my body at all, they make me look (or at least feel) frumpy. No, thanks.

 

Clarks Ankle Boots, White Leather Vans, Black Chacos

 

Shoes- I love shoes. I tend to thrift shoes impulsively and then sell them online or donate as I tire of them. These shoes are my current favorites. I have cut down to four pairs. One pair of boots. I bike in them, wear them to the office, and on date night with my wife. White leather vans- also wear to the office. They make me feel like a badass. Black Z/2 Chacos in wide. So comfortable. Provide great support when biking, and also wear them to campus. No issue there- most college students at my campus wear some iteration of athletic sandals 24/7 (birks, chacos, tevas, etc.).

This photo set compiles the bulk of my wardrobe. I didn’t photograph workout wear, jackets, or my few sweaters/scarves. They are secondary seasonal items. Is it a capsule? I don’t know- I don’t really think in terms of capsules. I’m constantly culling or replacing as needed, looking for the ultimate combination of items that suit my needs. Most items I can find second hand. I love using sites like eBay, thred up, and poshmark for workout wear- which gets pricey. All in all- I would say I love having a tiny closet. Minimal clothing (regardless of aesthetic) help me streamline my daily process. Each time I make a purchase it’s easier for me to determine if I’ll really wear an item. My wardrobe now follows a uniform pattern. I find it soothing. Others would find it utterly boring. Routine helps me feel comfortable, secure, and empowered- I feel more confident when I’m wearing an outfit that embodies my vibe.

What are your thoughts on capsule wardrobes? Uniforms? Tiny wardrobes?

 

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Minimalist Wardrobe: Bags

Murphy’s law, right? After I create a post about being a one bag girl, I encounter a bag that rocks my view on things.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times that I’m a bike commuter. I like to be hands free. Add joint sensitivity due to an autoimmune disorder and you could see why I prefer not to lug around army rucksacks (I have a penchant for hyperbole, ok?)  like most teachers/students/humans/women (???) !

I L.O.V.E. my leather Cambridge satchel. It’s classy, sexy, while remaining subdued. But, with its ability to hold a  15″ laptop (don’t own a laptop) it’s bulky and sometimes overbearing. Not water resistant. I noticed I hadn’t used it this month except on days my wife dropped me off at school. Even so, I’ve had three main things in it: phone, iPad, planner.

I was tempted the other day when I encountered this Patagonia sling:


I like that it has a single strap, and balances the weight between your shoulder blades. Light rain resistant coating. Cell phone pouch. Bought in black. It can slip by unnoticed, and allow me ease of hands free transportation and not flop around hitting my hip like a messenger bag does.

I notice a lot of professional men on campus carry black nylon backpacks, messenger bags, briefcases. I think it could easily be paired with office wear for an athleisure inspired look. Right?

I’ll keep tracking the usage of my satchel. If the level of usage continues to decline, I’ll likely sell it. Although I’m sentimentally attached, so I’ll probably hold onto  both bags for the time being.

My foray into minimalism has certainly shifted how I perceive an item’s true usefulness. While I love the slick, worn in texture of leather, is it practical considering my main mode of transportation? Hmm! Food for thought.

Are there any items you love but have recently identified as potentially impractical?

Minimalist Wardrobe: My Tiny Closet  

my tiny closet!

Downsizing my closet has made for easier moves, travel, cleaning and maintenance. When we moved to Arkansas, I had to choose between two closets. My wife took the bigger one, and I chose the mini closet. I no longer use a dresser. All of my intimates can be folded into a small drawer-

I use a lightweight  hanging organizer from Ikea to manage my foldables: workout gear, jeans, socks, intimates.

Everything else gets hung up or packed overhead (I use two shoeboxes to pack “out of season”) pieces.

I picked a general color scheme for my wardrobe, based on my favorite colors (aka clothing I actually wear).

Current color scheme: Navy, black, white, gray, Oxford blue, maroon

I have my clothing separated into categories

Outerwear: linen blazer, winter coat, rain jacket, winter vest, (2)sweatshirts

Work wear: (5) Oxford button ups, (3) slacks – two are technical fabric/ one is wool, (2) skirts – both technical fabric

Casual wear: (3) jeans, (1) jean short (3) linen tops (5/6) tees

Workout wear: (6) workout tops, (5) workout bottoms – comprised of leggings/ shorts/ joggers

I am in the process of redefining the shoe area of my closet- I prefer heeled leather boots for bike commuting

(2) pairs boots- one heeled/one flat

Currently on my list to buy: new pair of sandals/ new pair of black sneakers

I love everything in my closet! All my pieces are interchangeable and are made to last. Sometimes I count my things, not to focus on a particular number, per se, but rather- to see what types of clothes I tend to buy repeatedly. This usually is jeans and button ups- I should probably turn off my eBay alerts for Madewell jeans in my size 😉 I’m better able to pinpoint my true style if I constantly weed out the pieces I don’t truly wear.

As a bike commuter I lean heavily toward practical technical/ workout wear that can be styled and worn to the grad office rather than only upscale office pieces. I prefer to be comfortable rather than 100% stylish. I’ll wear bike shorts and a black workout tank on the ride to school and change into some slacks when I arrive. Easy to pack and go!

Could you live with a tiny closet? How big is your wardrobe? What types of clothing items are on your repeat purchase list?

 Minimalist Home: 3 Steps for Organizing Your Work Space


This is my current desk space. I’m constantly scouring the Internet for organizing ideas, especially revolving around Feng Shui. However, there are a lot of competing concepts within Feng Shui- so I tend to borrow the ideas that fit my lifestyle.

Here are a few steps I follow to stay focused when I work from home:

  1. I keep my desk as clear as possible. This works for my personality type. I have plenty of friends, professors, and family members who seemingly flourish amidst stacks of papers. Piling papers does NOT work for me, I feel scatter brained enough as it is. A clear workspace allows me a blank slate. I reintroduce items as necessary for my current task only. I keep books, papers, file folders in the closet within the office. They are nearby, but I don’t need them on a daily basis. My computer, iPad, journal and headphones are usually rotating in and out of my workspace. I use timers to keep on track.
  2. Surround yourself with an inspiring quote. I’m a visual learner. Keeping visual reminders of my goals and aspirations helps me tap into my creativity. As an agricultural communications graduate student, I keep a paper weight that illustrates the FFA motto:

    Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve

    This beautifully simplistic silver paper weight keeps me grounded and reminds my purpose to serve the needs of others every day when I work.  It also serves as a relationship symbol, as my wife gave it to me on the day I graduated from college. My cubicle at the grad office has quotes from people I admire pinned on my portion of the cork board.

  3. Integrate plant life! I chose a “lucky” bamboo, which flourishes in indirect sunlight. I have so many plants throughout my house, I tend to move them around based on my mood. For example, in my first workspace photo, I hadn’t yet added a plant. I love being surrounded with greenery. For me, plant life symbolizes growth and new life, groundedness. Raising plants also promotes the beauty of nourishing and caring for something outside of yourself. 

At the end of the day, I have a routine:

  • I tidy my desk
  • Put away any pens in my office supply/ printer stand (which lives next to my desk)
  • File away any papers I’ve accumulated during the day
  • Place my journal in the saddlebags of my bike, and
  • Place my devices on charge

I prefer to keep my space as minimal as possible to cut down on visual distraction (again, visual learner, here!) I also keep a copper & quartz crystal tree in the corner (rotates often), which was a wedding present from a dear friend. Also, a small linen coaster for my drinks. Voila.

It works for me, but what works for you?

What kinds of habits have you acquired for organizing your office/work space?

Minimalist Travel: An Ode to My Bicycle

One of my favorite things about living in a new city is exploring all it has to offer. Fayetteville is filled with cycling enthusiasts, and the city has certainly made it easy to bike-commute. The “Razorback Greenway”extends through three cities, providing miles and miles of trail ready to be conquered. The trails have their own stop signs and stop lights at major roadway intersections. Bike commuting has never been more appealing or accessible for me.

I recently started as a Graduate Assistant in the Agricultural Communications department at University of Arkansas (U of A). The parking on campus is horrendous. As such, I havent even applied for a parking pass (we’ll see how this choice fares, come winter). There are plenty of public transit options, including a university bus shuttle. My lack of parking pass encourages me daily to make healthier choices and integrate new modes of travel.

However, my bike is my “best friend”. Truly. Each morning I wake up a little bit earlier to enjoy yoga and some breakfast. I hop into some lightweight techwear that will survive the ride, my camelbak and saddlebags, and buzz up the greenway 4 miles to campus. My goal in traveling on two wheels is to incorporate daily exercise without worrying about making it to the gym with my busy schedule. By biking to class I get to be in nature, bask in the sunshine, feel the wind in my hair, and interact with fellow cyclists.

When I get to the office, I lock up my bike at a carousel underneath my window, so I can keep an eye on it while I’m working. Talk about cultivating a relationship with your vehicle! I used to laugh at my friends in high school who were constantly washing, waxing and detailing their cars. I never felt that coonnection until I purchased my current bike a couple of years ago. It carries me through my day, and I spend an inoridnate amount of time wondering if it’s okay (bike theives abound on college campuses, right?!) and itching to hop back on at the end of the day.

With the exception of the appaling lack of work-ready techwear for women, I’m pleased with my decision to bike commute while attending U of A. A daily 8 mile ride is just what I need to calm my busy mind. Plus, it saves me plenty in gas money!

Over the next few months (years?) I’ll be chronicaling my experiences on two wheels, including the types of techwear I invest in for riding. I dislike changing constantly, so I’m going for the sporty office look (again, not much on the market, SHAME on you, techwear companies!) Thankfully, I work in a casual-ish grad office. I’m aiming for easy tank/ shirt layering, throw on a blazer and be done type looks.

Minimalist Home: Downsizing Kitchen Appliances 

Firstly, cooking is a passion. Every process tickles my creative side with joy. Baking, fermenting, smoothie making, I love it all. New gadgets are released all the time. Sometimes I take notice- sometimes not. It seems I’m destined for a life of tiny kitchens. Each of my apartments have had abysmal storage space, so I’ve had to get creative over the years. My wife and I currently rent a townhouse, which actually has a wrap around counter. Hallelujah! Quite refreshing to have space for our microwave, fruit bowl, and utensil holder. My goal in releasing kitchen items (of which we have only a few) is efficiency. Necessity vs. luxury. Ideally, I want to keep the items that I truly do use and let go of the rest. I have a penchant for kitchen items because I adore cooking. Regardless, I do know how to practice self control, and I’ve recently identified which appliances receive the heaviest use. Here are the list of appliances I’ve purchased in the last few years, which ones “made the cut” and which ones “got the axe”:

  • Vitamix blender (use multiple times a day), bought reconditioned for a low price.
  • Instant pot pressure cooker. Replaced my crockpot, steamer and rice cooker. Apparently it does it all! Beans cooked up in 20 minutes? Don’t mind if I do! After recently purchasing, I’ve been so happy with it’s quick steaming abilities, especially for my plant-based diet. I can cook up large batches in a relatively short amount of time.
  • Coffee grinder. Replaced  the omega masticating juicer, because I ended up using it for grinding flax seed, and now I have a compact device that does the trick as opposed to a 16 lb monster!
  • Electric kettle. Life-saver. We drink so much tea, it makes our lives so much easier. Love it.
  • Mini electric griddle. Use for pancakes, fresh tortillas, etc. It’s deadly hot, and Den and I have both burned ourselves multiple times. Skeptical about keeping this one. May replace with a cast iron skillet.
  • Spiralizer. Not sure if I will keep this. It was inexpensive, mounts on the kitchen counter with suction cups. Have used when traveling a total of ONE time in the last 2 years.
  • Crock pot. Handy for cooking up big batches of soups and beans (vegan/plant based diet requires this).
  • Rice cooker. Rice, quinoa, bulgur, etc. all used to get cooked up in my trusty rice cooker and steamer.
  • Omega juicer (sold on eBay). I enjoyed juicing for a short period of time,and then realized how much organic waste I was creating, without a viable composting option (at the time). I do enjoy using juice pulp to make flavored spice breads, but it wasn’t enough. I love smoothies for the high fiber content.

Minimalist Wardrobe: The Case for a Single Bag


Like most fashion-aware American teens, I grew up chasing the ideal purse. I gobbled up fashion magazines (Nylon, anyone?) and kept a close eye on what purses were trending among my peers. In high school, I had a collection of (mostly thrifted) purses that took up a good deal of my upper closet shelf.

Currently, I own one purse. I’ll acknowledge up front that prior to my journey to acquiring better and less, I created a great amount of waste. Time and energy spent hunting, shopping, money saved and spent. With the rise of online selling, I was able to recoup most of my financial input, and it’s not like I’ve ever had the ability to drop a serious sum on a designer bag, to the benefit of my wallet ;).

Back in the day, I’d use my meager allowance to thrift vintage tooled leather bags, mini backpacks, large canvas totes, and even source funky fabric for sewing my own. One could certainly describe me as purse obsessed. Then came the dreaded label phase. All of the “cool girls” (I.e.: preppy) had Coach bags and Burberry scarves at my high school.  I still remember the various sizes available. The cooler you were, the bigger the purse. A massive tote denoted high ranking clique status. My teenage desire for acceptance drove me to drop vintage for a bit and explore brand names. As a practical Capricorn, I aimed to save money. Trips to the outlets brought home a small horde of mini Crossbody bags, which I favored for traveling (Crossbody bags are harder to pick pocket or steal when on a bus or subway). I found out that a purse slathered with logos didn’t suit my personality, I didn’t feel any cooler, just a bit more poor.. The cliques I wanted to identify with still had me pegged as an oddball regardless of what I was wearing. Perhaps tolerable, but not really “one of them”. Or so I felt. I noticed that even that clique acceptance transcends physical identifiers. Fun social experiment in understanding internal vs. external validation. Consequently,  I ditched the preppy scene and went back to my vintage/ bohemian roots. Since then, I’ve wandered between a desire to follow trends and practicality based on my lifestyle. Regardless of style, the number of handbags packed into my closet still abounded. In the last 4 years I managed to have around 2 purses, a travel bag, suitcase, and usually 2 backpacks. 2 years ago, I set out to find the perfect bag to end all bag purchases. The goal: One stylish, durable, multi-functional purse. During my quest, I’ll admit, buyers remorse has set in quite a few times. Here are a few of the bags I tried between 2014 and 2016:

Baggu leather tote.
Sold on eBay. It shed leather bits all over my Oxford button ups, making me look like a shaggy yak.

Madewell transport tote.
TOO huge! Beautiful, but too big. I’d lug the tote to class and stuff it full of books, snacks, and tech, wreaking havoc on my shoulders. Sold.

J Crew black leather cross body.
Too small. Had rivets on the inside of the strap, to adjust length. Found out that said rivets, while attractive, were placed just so they could dig into my clavicle. Painful and hardly a useful size.  Couldn’t even fit my iPad mini . Sold.

Baggu canvas daypack. Decent size, functional for short trips. Straps offered no padding and eventually dug into my shoulders. Donated.

Topo Designs camo klettersack. Awesome pack. Used for camping and traveling, pre-downsizing. Ended up being way too big for my current closet and overwhelmed my petite frame. Better for taller/ more broad individual . Sold.

Now, we come to my all time favorite…

The purse to end all purses, for me at least, is:

The Cabmbridge satchel.

Pros:

  • Definitely durable.
  • Made from strong leather.
  • Perfect 15″ sizing.
  • Bought second hand.
  • Classic rich navy.
  • Adjustable, comfortable strap. Can be worn on one shoulder, or across the body with ease.

Cons:

  • It’s narrow in depth. Which could also be considered a pro, because of my habit to overstuff bags. The width simply refuses me the opportunity to do so!

I can’t wait to see how this bag will age. It fits my iPad, a moleskine journal, pen case, snack, phone, wallet,  reusable baggu bag, and occasionally another book. I have vowed to love this bag until it falls apart. Which reminds me, must purchase weatherproofing spray. After years of searching, this bag fits all my needs. As a graduate teaching assistant, I need to look professional, while remaining a slightly casual. It can be dressed up or down, and pairs easily with all of the colors in my closet . When I bike to work, I leave it at home. When I go out via car, I take it with me. Simplifying my belongings has meant searching for multi-purpose pieces. Now, a year after purchasing on eBay, I don’t look at handbags. There is no need. Not on eBay, not in new online shops, thrift stores, and so forth.  It took years of  searching, trying on different style personas, graduating from college, etc. The satchel is a classy and understated piece. It reminds me of my British heritage (grandparents are British), cost a minimal amount, evokes a nostalgia for classic school bag designs from the early part of the century, and gets used daily. What more could I ask for? All that is left is the further development of appreciating the things I have rather than constantly seeking the next best “new” thing. When it eventually does die on me, I’ll be replacing it with another pre-loved Cambridge satchel. Perhaps even a smaller size, as this one is sized perfectly for the laptop that I do not own.