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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

“Your Black Pants Said What?”

Day 31
“Your Black Pants Said What?”

The next category of clothes that I tackled was the ubiquitous “black pants” group. I am pretty sure that most of you out there have at least one pair. And why not? I am all about building off of fashion basics. At a glance, I knew I had a few pair but I took them all out to sort.

Black pants are available in virtually every style, including jeans. Short to long, skinny to flowing, hip-hugger to high waist, the black pant is everywhere. In its casual form, the black pant is a step up in dressiness from the jean. In its dressy form, the black pant can be rocked with a tuxedo jacket or anchor a fabulous top. The question is: What does my collection of black pants say about me?

My collection speaks volumes about me. One thing I noticed immediately was the size range. If any of you wear the same exact size in everything then just stop reading now. For the rest of you, perhaps you can relate to the fact that I found 4 sizes of black pants in my closet. I found the “yay! I am reasonably thin and these skinny black pants make me look so sleek” to the “OMG! When did this happen? I hope these giant black pants conceal my ample size!” pants. I tend to save the smaller sized pairs in hopes of wearing them again someday and immediately donate the largest sizes so that there is no comfort in knowing there are there should I need them again. I also found that my favorite style is narrow pants, cropped at the ankle. I had 5 pairs. Apparently I feel like I have cute ankles.

After the sorting, my closet contains 5 pairs of black pants. I relegated the smallest and largest sizes to the “shopping bag.” I kept one skinny cropped pair, 1 nice-ish wide-leg pair, a flow-y pair and two ponte knit casual pair. As always, I can shop the “shopping bags” if I need to. My pants said, “Hey, girl with the cute-ish ankles—quit shopping and try to stay in the same size pants. We are good, but we can’t fix everything!” Noted.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Purple Heart Sees Sudden Spike in Donation Activity!

Day 28
Purple Heart Sees Sudden Spike in Donation Activity!

If you see this headline, it’s because the massive home clean-out continues. Inspired by my no-buy challenge, we are radically reducing the amount of stuff we have amassed over the nearly 20 years of living here. Boxes and boxes loaded up, just waiting to catch the eye of a treasure seeker at the local thrift store. To be sure we are getting the proper tax credit, we are using the cool donation itemizing feature in TurboTax. Depending on my mood, I find our things to be either worthless or invaluable, so I’m letting TurboTax assign a fair market value. WooHoo!

This all feels wonderful right now. We dance around and admire our newly cleared spaces. I will admit, I feel tiny twinges. I feel like I want to fill those spaces with new things. I did a pretty good job staying away from cute organizational products like multi-colored bins and wicker trays. (my friend Mary decided she could, in fact, recycle once she found out about the cute organizational products …) The moratorium on clothing purchases has spread to home purchases, at least for now. But, ohhh…. a new upholstered chair would look so good in that corner.
Wish me luck.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Project: Simplicity

Day 26
Project: Simplicity

It probably comes as no surprise that I subscribe to at least 6 magazines. I have tried reading magazines on my iPad but it’s just not the same. Along with InStyle, my favorite fashion magazine, I get People, People Style, Real Simple, Reader’s Digest and Coastal Living. I do not actually live on a coast, but I love the decorating ideas and vacation destinations featured in Coastal Living. The most recent issue features an article titled “27 Amazing Islands to Visit Now!” In a section called “Phenomenal Fiji” the author interviews a native Fijian (yes, they are called Fijian) about their general contentedness and asks, “Why are the native Fijians so happy?” He answered, “It’s all about simplicity.”

I don’t think we set out to complicate our lives. I am not aware of any magazine called Real Complicated. It just happens. Jobs, kids and commitments define our days and before we know it, the linen closet is overflowing and we don’t even know what’s in it. Simplicity, it seems, it hard work. As we continue to simplify our home, I feel like this hard work will pay off. Although firmly embedded in the habit of acquiring, I look forward to changing the habit to one of simplicity. It’s a good thing my challenge is for a year because I don’t think it happens overnight; any decent rehab program lasts at least 3 months. And now I have the name for it: Project Simplicity (yes, like Project Runway …)

I’ll deal with my magazine subscription problem on another day.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The 20/80 Rule

Day 25
The 20/80 Rule

A friend of mine with roots in fashion retail told me that there is a generally accepted rule that women wear 20% of their clothes 80% of the time. It makes sense, reaching into the closet for the tried and true. The way I see it, I have a closet 80% filled with hidden gems! Since I cannot buy new clothes, I am shopping in my own closet. This may require an industrial blower to remove the dust.

My plan for yesterday was a trip to get my hair cut (a fabulous hair cut, thanks Lisa at The House of Hair (810) 736-8779) and instead of the tried and true, I dug deeper into my closet and found a sheer, frilly black blouse that I forgot I love. Paired with skinny black knit pants, I felt pretty cute! The gals at the salon noticed right away. Instead of slinking in wearing jeans and a plain top, I walked a little taller, felt a little sassier.

Try it! Find something in your closet that you rarely wear. Maybe it’s a little fancier than needed or something a bit out of your comfort zone. Then own it! Why not look a little extra fabulous? Even as I will eventually decrease the inventory of my closet, I am going to try to defy that 20/80 rule.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Spillover Effect

Day 22
The Spillover Effect

We are experiencing the “Spillover Effect.” The organization, review and restraint dedicated to my wardrobe is now flowing over to other areas of our home. It feels so good. The methods are the same: gather items by category, group in a large, open area, then sort and decide. We can choose to keep, we can toss or we can place in a “one year box” like the shopping bags used for clothes. It’s just not as painful when you know you have a full year to decide if you really need something. We do have to make room for the unsightly “one year boxes” but my husband and I both know this is temporary. This process takes time but since I no longer shop for recreation, I seem to have some extra time.

We started in our dining room. My husband opened a cabinet that I reserve for candles and serving pieces. Why, he wondered, do we have this many candles? Indignant, I explained that candles add ambience and warmth to our home. Never mind that we rarely light more than the two that are already out. Who knows when we will host a lovely party that would be made exquisite my warm candle light? Also, have you noticed how dust is nearly invisible by candle light? Of course I have a cabinet filled with candles.

After evaluation, I kept approximately 25%, tossed 65% and saved 10% in the “one year box.” It was sad at first but now it feels good. Okay—one category down, countless to go …

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Let the Enticing Begin …

Day 18
Let the Enticing Begin …

Today Only Sale! Biggest Sale of the Year! Just Arrived! Final Clearance!
The competition for our fashion dollar is furious and unrelenting. I love it. I love the sale ads in the weekend newspaper, the television ads and even the email blasts. I don’t want to be the poor soul who missed the (pick one) trend, deal or must-have.

Over the past couple years I’ve become particularly fond of the store discount coupon. Often a reward for using a store-sponsored credit card, they arrive in your mailbox like a little secret message. Kohl’s is my favorite. You actually “peel to reveal” your savings. Talk about anticipation! A tiny piece of paper is lifted away to divulge how much I will be saving my family. Before he went to college, my son was the designated peeler. I would wait for him to return from school, dancing around with the coupon. C’mon, peel it. Big discount, big discount! He would make a big show of covering the coupon, seeing the amount of the discount for himself, and then slowly let his expression reveal the discount to me. Was it 15%, 20%, the coveted 30%? When he went away to school last fall I actually mailed a coupon to his college dorm with a self-addressed stamped envelope so he could reveal then mail back to me. The coupon expired by the time I got it back. Sorry Joey, I’ll be peeling the coupons from now on.

Never sure if the coupon received is random or formulated, I assumed they track my buying habits and respond accordingly. Visiting the store often? 15%. Haven’t seen you in a while? 20%. Zero balance on your store credit card? 30%! (Just a theory, I have no idea how it really works) The truth is—those coupons work to get us in the store.
My first Kohl’s coupon of 2012? 30%. Of course. They must know about the challenge.

I expect this will be the beginning of a year of increasing offers. I considered notifying my favorite stores of my challenge so they could reduce stock accordingly. Hey Kohl’s, Parisian, T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and Target! I may be looking but I won’t be buying. Send me your coupons, lovely sale ads and catalogs. You’ll have to get through this year without me.

Anyone need a 30% off Kohl’s coupon?

If you know anyone who would enjoy following this change, please forward the link to my blog. If you enjoy it, pass it along or put it on your Facebook. Thanks!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Is a DVD an Accessory?

Day 16
Is a DVD an Accessory?

At certain milestone birthdays our doctors reward us with “screening tests” to get a “baseline” blah, blah, blah. I generally ignore such advice. It would be silly, though, to take control of one part of my life, like shopping, and ignore a bigger part, my health. Fine. I’ll get the stupid tests.

Up until now, I would reward such indignities with a new outfit to wear during or after the test, or some great food treat like a donut. Here I am, more screening tests than ever and no way to reward. Can’t buy clothes or shoes and can’t eat treats (or I will not fit into existing clothes). Where is the reward? Sorry to say, I am just not that inspired by a reward of “knowing I am doing something good for myself.”

One of the tests required a day of rest which should be a reward in itself. I decided I would spend that day watching an entire season of my favorite reality television show, Project Runway. I stumbled upon the show during Season 9 and I am hooked. These days, entire seasons of shows can be watched On Demand, watched online, rented or purchased. First I tried to rent a season of Project Runway. Not available. Tried to borrow from the library. Nope. Not online or found on On Demand. What’s a girl to do? Buy them from I bought seasons 5-8. It is a reward.

My husband was appalled. I bought something! “No! No!” I said. “It’s not clothes, shoes or accessories!” He pointed out that since the television series is about fashion, it qualifies as a forbidden purchase. I say it gives me ideas about recreating my own clothing (weak, I know). I did not cancel the order. DVDs are not accessories. What do you think?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I'm Dreaming of a Shoe Store ...

Day 14
I’m Dreaming of a Shoe Store …

There’s an old-fashioned notion that men can be grouped by the physical qualities in a woman that appeal to them. True or not, it is said that some men are attracted to cleavage, others to a woman’s behind and those that admire a woman’s legs. I think there are three types of women: a jewelry woman, a handbag woman and a shoe woman. I am a shoe woman. I adore shoes.

My challenge dictates that I cannot buy shoes, it doesn’t state that I can’t look. My final holiday return to Parisian (Rochester Hills) was a test of sorts. It is impossible to enter the store and not see shoes. It happens to be clearance time in which tables and tables of shoes are 70% off (and more!). I know this area well. I was afraid to just look, so I held my breath and hustled past but there was this nagging feeling. What was I missing? The prettiest, most comfortable, sexiest shoes ever at 70% off?

I’m dreaming of a shoe store with dozens of pairs of shoes, all in my size, all free …
Dream, schream. It’s time to stop whining and start doing. As kids, if we ever got whiny, my mom would say, “Dry up!” I made that shoe store with all the shoes I already own. I gathered them all from the several places in which they are stored and grouped them by style, season and heal size. I tried on each pair and evaluated for fit, comfort and appeal. I reminisced about where I found each pair and how big the discount was. Several pairs were found at a previous Parisian clearance sale. Hmmmm… were these pretty at one time? Did I ever find an outfit to go with these? Were my feet bigger? I had time to do this because I wasn’t shopping. Or I was …

This is my first category of items to be sorted and stickered. I put my top choices back in my closet where they enjoy more breathing room. They each have a sticker. The questionable pairs now sport a ribbon with an explanation. “Uncomfortable”  “Weird Color”  “Klompy”  I want to remind myself why they are rarely worn. In the end, about half my shoes are in shopping bags. I’ll shop them out if needed, to be sure. There won’t be a limit on the shoes I keep but I do want to know that I am keeping them because I will wear them.

It is absolutely amazing how many pairs of shoes purchased at 70% off (or more!) are in the bag. It’s becoming pretty clear that I am blinded by a sale tag.

 These are in the Shopping Bag, pretty but hard to walk in.
I arranged my own personal shoe store for a "fix."

Thursday, January 12, 2012

From the Mouths of Babes

Day 12
From the Mouths of Babes …

When I announced my challenge, to buy no clothes, shoes or accessories for a full year, the responses ranged from laughs to looks of horror. My son, the ever-practical college student, thought it was a great idea. Then he added his own twist.

Joey suggested that I arrange my closet so that every hanger faced the same direction. When I wear something, I am to turn that hanger the other way so I know I’ve worn it. At the end of one year, I will easily be able to see what I have worn and what I haven’t. I should gather up everything unworn in the previous year and donate it. I knew that boy was smart! I am one proud mom!

There’s a logistical problem to his suggestion, essentially the number of hangers and the fact they can’t hang an opposite way, but the idea is fabulous. So, here’s the plan: I am going to gather my possession in categories and evaluate. For example: I’ll gather all my casual t-shirts, lay them out and decide which ones I really like. I don’t want to get rid of everything right away! I’ll put the ones I am fairly certain about back in my drawer and the rest in a shopping bag (nice twist, storing in a shopping bag, huh?). Everything will get a sticker. When I wear something, the sticker will be removed. If I decide I really need something from the shopping bag, I will retrieve it. In a year, I should easily be able to see what I wear and what I don’t.  I will donate what I don’t wear. It could be a VERY good pickup for the Purple Heart.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Fear of the Unknown

Day 7
Fear of the Unknown…

I’m not gonna lie—this challenge is scary. Sure, the first few days, maybe even weeks will be tolerable. But let’s get real … some serious things could happen. Here are some of my greatest fears:
1.      I fear that the next Target guest designer will be someone really awesome, better than that Missoni collection, and since it’s a limited edition, I’ll never have it.
2.      I fear that in the epic battle of Menopause Vs. Weight Watchers, Menopause will claim yet another battle rendering my current wardrobe stretched to the seams.
3.      I fear that in the epic battle of Menopause Vs. Weight Watchers, Weight Watchers will win and I won’t have the optimal swimsuit to flaunt it.
4.      I fear that I really have no concept of a year and by next December I’ll be dressed in ill-fitting, last season, worn out rags.
5.      I fear that even if I succeed at this challenge, I will replace the shopping urges with clothes for my family, accessories for my home or shoes for my dog.
Next up: facing the fears. I think I’ll start by evaluating what I actually have. If you are thinking that would have been a good idea back in late December, yay for you. I was still trying to glimpse into the future to see what I might need. This week- I look at what I already have … 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Days Leading Up ...

Day 3
Looking at the days leading up …

The decision to challenge myself to an entire year without clothing purchases happened quickly. After a holiday lunch with friends (admittedly including a pomegranate margarita) my friend Kathy and I were chatting. In passing, Kathy told me about a woman in her dentist’s office who had a similar no-purchase challenge. Oprah has the “aha moments” and I reserve the word “epiphany” for more important things. For me, something clicked. This was a challenge I had to take on.

January 1 seemed like a good start date and that gave me more than a week to think this through. Over and over I thought through seasons, holidays and potential events. Did I have something for Easter? What about swimwear? How about a cool cocktail party? I realized I have plenty and I wasn’t even sure what exactly is in my closet. I’d save an inventory for a later date. I had until January 1 to fill in the blanks in my wardrobe.

The challenge decision came at the peak of Christmas Shopping Frenzy, the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas in which I (and I don’ think I’m alone here) purchase gifts at a dizzying pace. For me it means buying, returning, re-buying, and buying more. Not just gifts, but outfits for myself and family for each and every event, potential event and imagined event (Christmas carolers stopping by then joining us for warm drinks by the fireplace? Need plaid for everyone.) I decided to return a pair of hot pink texting gloves that I bought for myself (because how could I possibly survive another Michigan winter without them?) to Parisian, my closest department store. The afternoon was a blur but I know a returned home with a shopping bag weighing approximately 45 pounds. It was a darn good thing I went shopping that afternoon. I would never had survived the coming year without the following: an ill-fitting sequined t-shirt, an oversized cowl-neck sweater that adds 15 pounds to your frame, an everyday office dress in a color that has no name, leopard print leggings, corduroy pants and 4 sweaters for my daughter. Were these the missing essentials that would take me from a partial year of nakedness to a full and fashionably clothed year? I think not.
I returned it all.

During the pre-challenge days I purchased the following:
1.      Running shoes. (I was due for a pair and they are super-cute)
2.      A bra.
3.      A tote bag for my new (thanks honey!) iPad. OK- technically it’s a purse but it is large enough to safely tote my iPad and it included an umbrella. It’s the most fashion-basic color: coral-y-orange (yes, that’s a real color).
Those three items will have to round out my collection to last an entire year.

Like starting a new diet, exercise program or behavior change, the first part is easy.
It’s day 3 and I’m OK so far …

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Day one ...

Bye Buy Clothes
Day One.

The Challenge: Buy no clothes, shoes or accessories for one calendar year.
Upon announcing this challenge, the first question I am asked is: Why? The question is accompanied with looks of humor (yeah, right …), shock (are you crazy?), and horror (mostly by my daughter who is sure this will affect her in some way).

I love clothes. And shoes. And necklaces and bracelets and scarves … I love them all. I subscribe to fashion magazines and watch television shows like What Not to Wear. I truly believe that clothes help convey to the world who you are. Never taken lightly, the daily clothing choice is important and thrilling. So why give up the opportunity to acquire more? I don’t have a single definitive answer but I know this:

This is NOT:
1.      A New Year’s Resolution. Although the timing is right, I’ll retreat to my customary resolutions of getting more organized and becoming healthier.
2.      A statement about anyone else’s choices but my own. I am not trying to start a revolution or suggest anyone should refrain from buying whatever they choose (so long as they can afford it). Heaven knows, I am not trying to wipe out the global economy.
3.      An effort to lessen my global impact, or footprint, or whatever. I do care but perhaps that will be next year’s challenge.
4.      A campaign to blame Barbie, the fashion industry, marketing geniuses or Target. I adore Barbie and credit her with inspiring some of my best looks. I will not cancel any magazine subscription or retreat from the mall. They do not force me to purchase things I do not need.
5.      An original idea. Others have done this successfully. I applaud them. Timing is everything, though, and my time is now.
6.      A hoax. Even if you were to follow me day after day, I could sneak purchases but I will not. This is not a challenge to find loopholes; it is a challenge to become more thoughtful about the things I do every day.
The Rules:
My challenge, my rules. Should you decide to challenge yourself, your rules would be your own. Since I refer to this as a challenge, I feel certain rules are in order.
1.      Absolutely NO purchases of clothing, footwear or accessories. This includes regular retail, resale, garage sale, or any other venue in which these items are exchanged for money.
2.      No stealing of afore mentioned items. I include this rule since I am unsure how this will affect my emotional state in the long term.
3.      I cannot request anyone else buy the items for me.
4.      The exceptions will be unforeseen tragedies (I have already had a friend offer to secretly set a small fire in my closet) or medical emergencies. I include the medical part because in the event I finally get my achy feet looked at by a podiatrist, some alternate footwear may be prescribed but that probably will not include pumps (even leopard print pumps, unless I find a really awesome podiatrist).
The Outcome.
Here’s what I hope:
1.      I hope to become more thoughtful about what I purchase.
2.      I will try to re-purpose or re-style my existing pieces.
3.      I hope to spend some of the time previously spent shopping being more productive, better to my family and better to myself.
4.      I hope to save money (we have a kid in college).
5.      I hope that by challenging myself I will begin to take control of the roller coaster that is my life.

This is day one. On my roller coaster, this is one heck of a big hill and likely followed by a plummet. I feel a giddy anticipation yet I fear I really have no concept of how long a year is. I invite anyone to join me. Your challenge is your own. Perhaps your challenge is for a month instead of a year, or to save a certain amount of money or to give some of your things away. Perhaps in one month I will realize that I am, in fact, crazy and we should all rush back to the mall.  As someone once said, “great challenges bring great rewards,” and I’m not sure what those rewards will be but I am really looking forward to finding out.
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