When I was working in the corporate world, I had two very distinct selections of clothing: “work” clothes, and “weekend” clothes.
If you opened my closet, you would have been easily able to identify which items belonged in which category. Work clothes consisted of lots of dry-clean-only type of stuff from Gap, Banana Republic, and Nordstrom in shades of black/brown/gray/cream– things like slacks, pencil skirts, suits, button down blouses, blazers, nice dresses, nylons, and lots and lots of high heeled boots and pumps. Weekend clothes were comfy and colorful things like jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, hoodies, socks, flats, and sneakers. Having two totally different styles of clothing for the work and non-work parts of my life were part of the reason why my closets and dressers were so jammed full of stuff–the other part being due to my unfortunate shopaholic tendencies.
I recently got an email from a clothing store advertising a sale on “weekend wear”, and it occurred to me that I no longer have a wardrobe that distinguishes between the two styles – pretty much most of my daily wardrobe is weekend wear, with a few slightly more dressed up options. As a full time actor, there are some mornings when I have to get up, dress presentably, put on makeup, fix my hair, and either go to auditions, a recording studio, meetings, rehearsals, or other events that put me out in public. But there are more mornings where I get up, put on workout clothes, walk Stella, eat breakfast, work out, answer email, and then start working from home on recording/auditioning/reading scripts/memorizing lines and before I know it Ron is almost due home from the office and I’ve yet to shower or officially get dressed or even stop to eat lunch. I may talk to a lot of people via phone or email during the day, but no one actually SEES me, so I don’t spend much time worrying about what I look like or how I’m dressed, especially if I’m on a deadline.
This means that things like my slippers get a ton of wear. I used to have (unsurprisingly) about four pairs of slippers, but in one of my early decluttering sessions after I started this blog, I got rid of all but my one favorite pair. They aren’t particularly expensive or fancy, but I really like the style and how comfortable they are. I’ve had them for easily 10 years, and have worn them a LOT (I am one of those people whose hands and feet are often cold – just ask Ron, who has to endure me getting into bed at night and putting my icy fingers and toes against his perpetually heat-radiating body to warm up). Last year, while we were still in debt-pay down mode, I was sitting on the couch with my feet propped up facing Ron, and I saw him stare at the soles of my slippers and then gently say, “Uhhh…honey, I know money is tight, but I’m sure we could figure out a way to get you a new pair of slippers.”
I knew why he was saying it. From the top, my slippers looked totally normal:
But from the bottom, they were definitely looking a bit worse for wear:
And you have to see the side view too, to really appreciate how
gross loved they were:
The thing was, I knew I could have afforded a new pair – Fred Meyer, Kmart, or even a Walgreens sell slippers very inexpensively, and often offer coupons as well. But since my mission has been to buy fewer, better things, and because slippers are something I knew I would wear really often, I wanted them to be a high quality pair that I LOVED.
Which made the process of finding a new pair become way too important and painstaking. It took me MONTHS. Well, to be fair, some of those months were in the summer, when it’s way too hot for slippers, but I cannot tell you how many online and in person searches I did to find a good replacement. I scoured countless websites, read hundreds of reviews, stalked various shoe departments, and still couldn’t find anything I felt was right – or more accurately, “perfect”. I was even wiling to shell out a lot of money for them – I saw some really similar but ridiculously expensive ones by Ugg, for nearly $90, and was seriously considering them, until I noticed that most of the reviews said the sizing was consistently either too big or too small if you’re a half size, like me.
And then, I finally had to remind myself that no matter how much I loved my new pair, or how much money I spent on them, much like my old pair, the new pair would wear out someday, and I’d have to buy new ones. And while I was wasting all this stupid time fretting over finding something “perfect”, I was spending every day of my present life walking around with holes in my soles.
A day after I had this thought, I happened to be walking past J. Crew, and they were in the midst a huge sale. In multiple baskets on the display tables were pretty pastel piles of cozy slippers. Next to the baskets were signs that said, “Additional 40% off.” And in the lavender color that I liked the most, they had exactly one pair left in my size. So I bought them – for a very reasonable $27.
I LOVE my new slippers. They are cozy, pretty, and sooooo comfortable:
And even better, they have non-slip rubber soles, with no holes in them:
And even better than THAT, I have them right NOW, and I am wearing them every day. (And yes, in case you’re wondering, I did throw the old ones away).
In the end, of course, we’re just talking about a silly pair of slippers. But the experience was a good reminder for me that if seeking perfection becomes your entire focus, you’re a) probably never going to achieve it, and b) you will spend way too much time during that process living with circumstances or things you really need to release.
What about you? Is there an area in your life where you are seeking the perfect something, to the point where you’re living without something you could really use right now? Share in the comments if you feel so inclined!
I’ve been asked a lot lately how it feels to finally be out of debt. And my first response is always the truth – that it feels amazing, great, a total relief!
But what I usually say next, because it is also the truth, is that life doesn’t feel that much different yet. In fact, we’re guessing it will be a few months before we really start to feel like we can relax financially. To get out of debt, we put every spare cent we had towards our credit cards, which means we were frequently down to our last couple dollars at the end of the month. As a result, there is no extra “fun” money cushion available to us at the moment, and we actually had some significant expenses this month that were planned and expected, but need to be paid all the same. For instance, we had to do some repairs to the duct work in our house after we discovered one had come loose and we were paying to heat the crawl space instead of the house, which cost about $500. We put off Stella’s annual shots and vet exam for a couple months due to our finances, which we felt really anxious and guilty about, so we said we’d make it happen this month no matter what and we did – to the tune of about $250 bucks. So we may not have to come up with our usual credit card payment anymore, but we still do have to come up with close to $1,000 this month. I’m just grateful we don’t have to come up with the credit card payment ON TOP of that.
So yeah…life is not all that different for the most part.
But there is one effect of being debt-free that HAS surprised me – knowing we will soon have some discretionary income again has made me want to get rid of more stuff! I had felt pretty plateaued out on the whole purging process, and felt like maybe I had finally reached my lagom in certain categories. But right after we got out of debt, I suddenly felt this surge of of wanting to get rid of things, especially where my clothing was concerned. Weird, right?
Well, maybe not. Because when I think about it, much of the reason I was holding on to some items was because I wasn’t sure how long it would be until we were out of debt and I was no longer on such a strict shopping lockdown. I was hesitant to throw out too many of my clothing options when I knew I couldn’t buy something new if I got bored. And that fear made me clingy.
But knowing that it’s now an option (within reason) to replace something that is worn out, or to add a new item to my closet that I really love and think I will use, made me start to reevaluate things I’ve hung onto that I don’t love as much. Also, the weather in Portland has been absolutely glorious, so a couple weeks ago I took my spring/summer stuff out of storage and retired my heavier winter clothes. As I was about to hang each stored piece back into the closet, I really took a minute to decide if I still loved each garment, and in several cases the answer was either “no” or “eh…I dunno.”
This time, instead of doing what I’ve always done – which is to just shove everything back in the closet anyway – I decided if the item wasn’t a definite “I love it” piece, I would test drive it. I would wear the item as soon as possible, and if it was uncomfortable, or didn’t really suit my lifestyle anymore, or made me feel frumpy, or dove me crazy in any way, it had to go.
It proved to be a great exercise. Some items I only wore half a day before I couldn’t stand it anymore and changed into something else. Some things didn’t even make it past getting dressed in the morning and checking my reflection before they landed in the giveaway pile. In truth, I was probably being super duper extra critical of everything, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing in my case. As someone who has been prone to emotional and impulse buying, it’s good for me to practice being really, REALLY critical of purchases, whether that’s before I buy them (preferably), or admitting that they were mistakes after the fact and letting that acknowledgement make me more cautious moving forward. I found myself learning a TON about what I really love and want, and what I need to carefully consider and avoid the next time I’m about to buy.
For instance, I’ve been a such a sucker for a sale in the past, that I’ve been known to buy things that aren’t my actual size, thinking I may take them to a tailor, or that the fit isn’t as bad as I think it is. The items I test drove reminded me that I will pretty much NEVER take something to the tailor (because I’m lazy), and the fit is absolutely as bad as I think it is. As a result I barely wear the item. Like this very cute blouse from Anthropolgie:
It was on sale, and I loved it. But it was one size above my usual size. I bought it anyway, and then every time I wore it, I spent a lot of time checking to make sure the neckline was still in place (it often wasn’t). It looked great if I stood perfectly still, but as soon as I did something crazy, like, you know, move around, I was showing the world my cute blouse AND my cute bra. Classy.
Also, both these skirts have been hanging in my closet for years:
I don’t wear them that often. Why? Because despite the way I WISH my body was shaped, my actual shape does not look good in a skirt that’s cut like this. Again, if I stand perfectly still, it looks great. As soon as I start walking though, skirts like this start inching up around my hips and I spend all day tugging them back down. They’re meant to hit just above the knee, but frequently on me, they scrunch up to miniskirt length. I did make it through a whole day in the brown skirt, but it made me miserable and when I got home, I immediately took it off and threw it in the giveaway pile.
This shirt is a perfect example of how shopaholic crazed I can get sometimes:
I saw it online, and it was on sale. I dawdled about buying it for a couple days, but then decided I was going to get it, because it was the style I was looking for, I loved the color, and it was on sale. But when I went back to the website to purchase it, they no longer had it in my size. Suddenly I went from wanting the shirt in a nonchalant way, to an obsessive, white hot panic to track down another one just like it at any cost. I trolled the web for a couple days and found another one for double the price of the one that had been on sale, and was just about to buy it, when I happened to check back with the initial website, and they suddenly had it available in my size again. I triumphantly bought it, and was so excited to get it…until it arrived. It was much cuter online than in person – in person it was much boxier, and the neckline was a lot lower than I’d realized. Much like the blouse mentioned above, every time I wore it I found myself checking to see if my bra was showing. I kept it for longer than I should have, trying to convince myself I liked it, because when I thought about the fervor with which I’d pursued it, I felt stupid. But that’s the trouble with keeping things that make you feel that way – every time you look in your closet, they mock you and remind you of your mistake. I decided it was better to admit my error and get rid of it, rather than have to look at it every day and feel guilty.
In the end, the size of the pile I amassed really surprised me:
But I didn’t feel hesitant about getting rid of any of it. I took it to resale and walked out with $84, which I’ve used to replace some of my worn out basic summer staples like shorts and t-shirts. Everything I bought I found on incredible sales ($8.99 for some summer t-shirts at J. Crew, are you kidding me???), and I love the colors I chose, the quality of the items, and how they fit.
I have less stuff in my closet now than I’ve ever had, and while there still may be a few “on the fence” items lurking in there, I am pretty thrilled with everything I’ve kept, and still feel like I have a lot of stuff – maybe even too much. It may not be be lagom yet, but it sure has been a pleasure to get dressed in the morning.
When Ron and I moved in together, I already owned my own home and it was fully stocked. And not stocked with hand me down stuff that someone in their early 20’s might own – I had nice, grown up, “I’ve been in the work force for a while” stuff from fancy places like Pottery Barn and Williams Sonoma. But I realized it was important for Ron to have some of his things integrated into the household, so as we unpacked his stuff, we did the whole “yours or mine” decision on any duplicate items.
I already had a coffeemaker- a little 4 cup one from Mr. Coffee, that was pretty new. At that point, I got free coffee every day at work, so I rarely made any at home, except maybe on a weekend morning, or a late evening when trying to sober up a drunk friend. Ron had a 12 cup coffeemaker from some random brand (HD Designs?) that he’d bought at Kohl’s or Marshalls. It was a pretty lousy carafe design and leaked on the counter every time you poured it. It was hard to tell if the tiny “on” light was actually on or not, so you had to cup your hands around the light to create a dark environment and then peer carefully at it to make sure it was actually off. It sucked.
However, Ron DID drink coffee at home, and lots of it. So I figured it was a good item of his to keep. We sold mine at a yard sale, and that was that.
Then, about a month later, Ron bought a home espresso machine. Ron is equal parts snob and addict when it comes to coffee, and I don’t say that lightly. He is completely useless to do anything that requires concentration before he has had his morning espresso (and usually kind of irritable as well). But a simple cup of coffee is not enough to bring him to life. He needs ESPRESSO. If we are going to breakfast somewhere and he either knows they will not have espresso, or he isn’t sure, he will get up extra early to have time to make a couple espressos before we leave. In addition to our espresso machine at home, he has one on his desk at work. We went to the coast last year and stayed in a rented house, and he packed up his espresso machine and took it with us. The man is SERIOUS about his coffee – I mean ESPRESSO–consumption.
Once the espresso machine came into our lives, Ron never brewed another cup of coffee in the coffeemaker. And for a long time, I rarely did either, especially after I cut caffeine out of my diet. Being with Ron is like having my own personal live-in barista, who makes me all the delicious decaf mochas and cappuccinos my heart desires – served in special cups with special little spoons that fall down the sink and get caught in the disposal. So who needed a new coffeemaker?
But I am way too lazy to figure out how to use the espresso machine if Ron is gone, so if he is out of town and I want coffee, I have to use the coffeemaker. And, every now and then, especially if there are donuts on the premises, I actually prefer a plain old cup of coffee to a cappuccino. And that meant having to use the sucky machine. I became even more acutely aware of how crappy it was this past winter when my friend Kelley came and stayed with us, since she liked regular coffee in the morning, and had to use it every day too (sorry, Kel).
I’ve had several intentions to buy a new coffeemaker, but every time we’ve had a gift card to somewhere like Target or Fred Meyer’s, we would always prioritize another household item over it, because in the end, it doesn’t get used that often. For about three or four years now we’ve gone into one of those stores, put a new coffeemaker in our cart, and then at some point talked ourselves out of it and put it back.
But this past weekend, we found we had an unused gift card to Best Buy. And since it was Memorial Day Weekend, we figured there were probably some good sales going, and maybe we should go check it out and see if there was anything we could use.
We actually wandered around the store a lot, struggling to find anything we even WANTED, let alone needed, which was both weird and nice. We checked out the Soda Stream machines (too expensive) and Apple TV (waaay too expensive), and about a dozen other items, before we ended up back in appliances.
They had a 12 cup Mr. Coffee coffeemaker on sale. $24.99. I looked at Ron and shrugged. “I guess we could get it, but again, it’s so rare we make coffee…” I said, beginning my usual process of talking us out of the purchase.
“There is nothing in this store we want or need that we can afford with just the gift certificate except this and maybe a couple other small items, right?” Ron asked.
“Right,” I agreed.
“So wouldn’t it seem like the perfect time to replace the coffeemaker you hate so much?” he asked, making all kinds of rational sense. I had to agree. We got it, along with a car charger for my cell phone (grrrr…stupid iphone 5 with your new adapter plug), and a pack of batteries (you always need batteries, right?).
All for a total of .97 cents, after the gift certificate.
When we got home, I unpacked the new machine, and took the old one down to the Goodwill pile in the basement. When I came back upstairs, Ron said, “That old coffeemaker is kind of the end of an era for me.”
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“When I quit cycling and finally got my own place in Jersey and had to buy housewares for the first time, that coffeemaker was the first thing I bought. It’s like the last thing I have from when I was single and lived alone,” he said.
I was a little surprised, because just a few days before, I had made a decision to get rid of this basket:
It used to hold towels in our guest bathroom. But I recently made some decor changes to that room (more on that in a future post), and one of those changes was to get rid of that fish-topped basket. And although I can’t claim to love it, I was sentimental about it, because that basket was the first item I had bought when I was getting ready to move into my own apartment, without roommates (Why a fish topped basket? I have NO idea. I think I just liked it.). I have hauled it around with me to every place I have ever lived as an adult, not because it was beautiful or super useful, but because of what it represented – embarking out on a life of my own.
Funny enough, I had even placed Ron’s coffeemaker right next to the basket in the basement – the last two artifacts of our single lives, leaving us, together.
I recently realized that Ron and I have been together for a decade. We met and got engaged in 2003, and were married two years later. So officially, we’ve been married for seven years, which will soon be eight in August. I can’t believe it’s been that long – time has gone really, really fast.
But it explains why I have also been noticing how beat up a lot of our housewares are. Some of our things were wedding presents, and some were part of our individual households before we met (though we mostly kept the housewares I brought into the mix, since most of Ron’s things were decidedly…purchased by a bachelor, shall we say). And yes, because I’m a shopaholic we’ve bought some new stuff over the years too. But a lot of our basics like sheets and towels and dishes are looking really worse for wear.
It’s like we have the seven year itch – for housewares.
We can’t afford to run out and replace everything right now, but I decided to make a wish list of items I’d like to replace in various rooms, just to have my thoughts and priorities in order if I were to stumble across a really amazing sale somewhere, or someone was giving away something in great condition. I asked Ron to give me his input as well, since I’ve learned over the years that our max-out level for items can be very different.
For the most part, Ron was like, “Okay, whatever” with my suggestions for things I wanted to replace. Until we got to the kitchen, when he immediately said, “I HATE our tupperware.”
We were in total agreement. In fact, not only do we both hate our tupperware, we both hate tupperware in general. I probably shouldn’t use the term “tupperware”, because we don’t actually own any of the official stuff – but it’s the same animal. Plastic food storage containers. It’s not that we don’t find it useful – we do. We use it all the time. And that is why we hate it. Storing all those different sized pieces and lids is a total pain in the ass. And we both HATE HATE HATE cleaning it – like the fact that it stains and looks all worn and gross even when it’s just come out of the dishwasher. And trying to dry it and get all the water out of the grooves in the lids under the lips of the bowls is one of my most despised chores (yes, I know, first world problem). And once it is clean and dry, it’s all about clattering around trying to Tetris the pieces back into the cupboard. I have noticed that when Ron and I unload the dishwasher together, we will both subtly work around the tupperware, hoping the other person will have to deal with it. And if you get stuck with it, you damn well take your time slooooowly drying it while the other person does all the rest of the work, because you kind of feel like the tupperware is punishment enough.
Our current set is a mix of actual thick plastic storage containers from one of those 20 piece sets, a partial collection of one of those “As Seen on TV”sets that came with a lazy Susan caddy that broke a long time ago, and a mishmash of those cheap Gladware storage containers you can buy a pack of at the supermarket. Some pieces are from taking home leftovers from my parent’s house at Thanksgiving, or pieces friends have left when they came over for potluck dinners. All of it looks terrible. The lids of several of the better quality pieces are cracked. Pretty much every piece has those white scratchy marks that come from washing it. Not to mention, we have about five billion more lids than we do containers, because for a while Ron would take the containers to the dog park as water dishes for Stella and forget them.
So it was unanimous – we put “new tupperware” on our list with the understanding that when we had the money, or saw a really great sale, we were going to get more.
Later that afternoon, while buying Mother’s Day cards, I was walking through Macy’s on the way back to my car, and I saw a “One Day Sale” on storage containers. But not crappy, hard to dry, looks horrible after a couple washes plastic containers – this was a set of glass Pyrex ones. They would not be a pain in the ass to dry! They would not look disgusting after a few trips through the dishwasher! They were on sale, and I had an extra 20% off rewards coupon, that would take the price down to $21. I called Ron for a quick confab, and we agreed to go ahead and get them.
When I got home, we pulled out all the old containers, and got rid of anything with a broken lid, or that looked super stained or terrible. We kept a small selection of the least worn supermarket Gladware, vowing to replace it when it started looking horrible.
Then we opened up the new Pyrex containers. Ron was actually really pissed when he realized the “10 item set” advertised on the box was counting the lids, so you actually were getting five containers instead of ten. I agree– that’s a cheap trick, Pyrex. However, I also kind of like that we have less containers, because one of my pet peeves is when we make too much food and end up eating the leftovers for days on end. If we don’t have enough containers to store the excess, maybe that will curb how much we make of something. Half the time we get sick of eating it or forget about it and end up throwing it out anyway. Maybe our lagom food storage collection will help us find our lagom where meal making is concerned a well.
Not to mention, it is soooo much neater and easier to store:
On Friday, I had an early morning audition, and it happened to be right across from the mall. I had been meaning to visit the Macy’s at that mall, because there was a handbag I had seen online that I was curious about, and I wanted to see it in person. Not to buy it, mind you – I did realize that I JUST pared down my handbag collection like a week ago, and I am still working on my debt and not supposed to be buying stuff, but I didn’t think it would hurt to just visit it. (I’m sure you can see where this is going.)
I looked at the bag, and I liked it, but I resisted the urge to buy it right then and there, even though I really wanted it. I put it down. I walked away. And then, like a shopaholic zombie in search of brains, I found myself wandering among the housewares, pining for a new set of towels. Then I decided I should put the towels on hold, since a sale was going on, and who knew how long they would be there. Then it seemed like a good idea to put the purse on hold too. And then I walked out of the store into the mall, instead of out of one of the doors that led to where my car was parked.
I’ve always loved to window shop. But if I’m honest, there isn’t too much “window” involved. I almost always end up buying something. And that day, my mood was all about wanting something new. When I’m in that mood, a mall is a very dangerous place for me to be.
I drifted from one store to the next, trying on clothes, admiring household items, and smelling new perfumes. And almost every store yielded something I really, really, REALLY wanted. I am aware enough of my own behavior when I get like this to enforce some prevention methods, which for me means putting any items I am interested in on hold, and walking away for at least fifteen minutes till I feel less feverish. That day I put several items on hold, and made notes of what the item was, why I thought I needed it, and the price.
I took a moment to sit down in a neutral zone (one of those little sofas they have in the middle of the mall), and looked over my list of hold items. I can honestly say I really do still want most of the things I put on hold. But as I sat there, it also occurred to me that I have not even begun to purge my wardrobe, and until I do that, and get rid of what I no longer wear, and get a clear idea of where the gaps are, it would be pretty dumb to buy a bunch more stuff. My hope is to get my possessions down to a manageable collection of things I absolutely love – and piling more new stuff into the mix will only create more stress and confusion.
Here is the list of what I wanted to buy:
- Gap: shorts, scarf, t-shirt: $92.95 (possibly a little less, there was a sale going on)
- Victoria’s Secret: Pajamas and a bra: $104
- Macy’s: New towels for the master bath and a handbag: $178
- Ann Taylor: Two blouses: $103.50
- Nordstrom: Perfume: $78
If I had followed my want monster, that window shopping trip would have ultimately cost me $556.45.
So that settled it – I walked out without buying a single thing. I left the mall feeling vaguely depressed, but also kind of proud of myself for not doing my usual buy now/guilt later routine. And I actually wasn’t completely empty handed – I got some perfume samples from the fragrance counter at Nordstrom’s to play with, which I guess is better than nothing. I hope there is a day where I truly learn the art of window shopping – where I can feel just as fulfilled by only looking as when I actually buy something. Right now though? Still a buzzkill.
Okay, so remember how I swore I wasn’t going to buy any more candy until the candy we already had was gone?
Yeah, me too. Well, I kinda cheated on that promise.
In my defense, I have been SO GOOD. I lovelovelove Easter candy, and I did not buy ANY this year – not one delicious, sugary, pastel, chocolatey bunny/chick shaped piece of happiness. I was very, very, VERY good.
But then, I had to go to the store to buy a birthday card, and there it was – the 50% off all Easter candy table. Piles and piles of Peeps, peanut butter eggs, bubble gum eggs, chocolate eggs, and jelly beans…a table of temptation.
And did I mention it was 50% off? I did? Well, it’s worth repeating. IT WAS 50% OFF, PEOPLE!!!
I looooove me some jelly beans. An not the fancy-schmancy tropical fruit flavor, Jelly Belly gourmet blahblahblah beans, or jumbo sized/mini sized/anything else clever. Just the basic, old school, primary/secondary colored, normal boring jelly beans. And they had a bag just like that on the table. For fifty-nine cents after the discount.
So, I broke my promise.
And you know what? I honestly don’t feel that bad about breaking it. They were cheap. They were exactly what I was craving. And the bag is pretty much devoured already, so they won’t be taking up cupboard space for long.
Being a little bad felt a little good. I need to remember that.