Every breath's a battle between drudgery and gratitude and we must keep thanks on the lips so we can sip from the holy grail of joy. ~Ann Voskamp
I try to imagine a future vastly different from the present, one where people consume much less and restrain themselves much more. I hesitate to admit my hope, for the word has been debased- as "hope" is used in the context of the environment, people always seem to hope that the scientists are wrong, hope that their warnings are just 'doom and gloom,' hope that we'll "muddle through." Such is the message of the currently fashionable crop of "environmental optimists." But that's not hope- that's wishing.
Real hope implies real willingness to change.
~Bill McKibben :: Hope, Human and Wild
This autumn as I looked through Julia's clothing to see if she had enough + what would be needed to fill in the blanks, I started to get a little overwhelmed. Outfits were sketched, + a long list of items to look for formed. My budget did not seem up to the task, + I was getting stressed. Then it hit me...what if I tried to make Julia "a list".
My list of 25 or so everyday/all year pieces has worked out quite well, + Julia does not like having too many things in her closet either. I decided to just use the skeleton of my list... plug her existing pieces in...+ see what was lacking from that point. Wow...what a calming effect that decision had! Very quickly the shopping list became much smaller, + I felt that I knew just how to shape her wardrobe. It's also funny to me that when the list comes into play, the ability to let some things go (with less anxiety over whether they are helpful/necessary) gets easier. So not only did my shopping list shrink, some pieces were packed off to donate.
While making the list, I considered how Julia feels most comfortable, what she dresses for, special events, + weather. Julia is an individual + more into comfort than fashion...but I want her to fit in to some extent + do take "cool" into consideration (as far as she will wear it). We talked a little about all of it, + then I implemented my plans.
I was able to find three pre-owned, heavyweight, striped tops in brand names (Madewell + Everlane) I know quality-wise on eBay for good prices. I was also able to find a pair of pre-owned pants in just the size + style (Everlane) I was looking for on eBay. In the spring, we found a Patagonia jacket + a Madewell dress, both in great pre-owned condition, while thrifting. A pair of pants were sewn out of my jumpsuit. Julia's leggings (Pact) were replaced...and we are finished! For this cold season, Julia will be wearing:
4 striped shirts
3 pairs of pants (olive, denim, black)
2 pairs of leggings
-Budgetwise, these pieces were collected over time and are of a quality that will last.
-Heavier weight tops don't require extra layers, since I've learned that Julia doesn't like bulky sweaters.
-All of the tops can be worn with all of the bottoms (mostly including leggings for supreme comfort).
-Pay attention to measurements on eBay more than sizing. Sizing shifts even within brands + we don't know how a piece has been washed (shrinkage). Ask, if none are listed.
-Three of the pieces on eBay were found during the weekend, when it seemed more were listed. I snapped them up right away, since I knew just what I was looking for by then.
Not every teen is into "less"...I wasn't. :) I do think that the list could still be useful, however, with any teen. Maybe the list pieces are the ones that a parent will buy...and the teen can buy what they like outside of those pieces with their own money. Just a thought. ;)
Japanese sewing pattern books are a wonderful source of simple patterns + inspiration. When I mentioned using one for Julia's pajama pants, I was asked if I might share some of my favorite books...so here are my two current favorites. Happy Homemade :: Sew Chic contains a few shapes that I might like to try at some point. My favorite pattern is for the pants on the cover.
In order to trace the patterns, I use compostable parchment paper or tissue paper as I usually have some on hand. Don't forget to check if seam allowances are included on the pattern sheets or not (often they are not with these patterns, because smaller pieces fit better on the sheets).
I think this jacket would be a perfect summer layer to throw into my bag + could be worn over just about anything.
I've written about Japanese sewing pattern books a few times before. This is maybe the most comprehensive past post. They are one of my most favorite sources for little girl's clothing patterns in particular.
The jumper on the right is just the sort of easy, simple shape that I like...and the tunic on the left could make a lovely top as well.
Since I don't have everyday access to brick + mortar shop where I can browse through these books, my library is the most accessible place to look. Our library system has a small selection, but both of these were requested through interlibrary loan.
Stylish Dress Book also contains a few patterns that I'm intrigued by.
Amazon can be a good source of both the books + peeks inside the books. Another good source is Etsy. This shop + this one in particular offer a lot of books + peeks...but there are others as well. Search "Japanese pattern book".
This dress looks put together while having the most comfortable looking shape.
The shape of this top is appealing as well...simple + comfortable.
These two books have been translated into English, while some of the others are in Japanese. All of the diagrams + numbers are simple enough to follow in either language (in my opinion).
We've been going to yoga lately, and the littlest things will bring me to the edge of tears. When we are nearing the end of our practice, our teacher often says that we may want to say "thank you". A thank you that I realize I almost never say...to my own capable body. When we take the stance called five star, we stretch our hands up wide + spread our legs...and our teacher says, "Take up all the space you need. You belong here. You are enough." My usual tendency is to try to take up as little space as possible when I am in a group. I want to be small, to attract no attention, to get in no one's way.
I think that "stuff" can be a way that we try to pile identity onto our small selves in order to matter...even if only to ourselves. We can use "stuff" like stickers or hashtags to label ourselves. Wear a leather jacket...put on the laid-back badass sticker. Pile up the intellectual books that I mean to read...put on the smart sticker. Cover the walls with concert posters, collect 1000 vintage records, + fill the closet with band tees...put on the cool, music lover sticker.
Am I still a badass if I show up to the protest without the leather jacket? Am I still thoughtful + curious if I simply check out a couple books at a time from the library (+ read them)? Am I still a music lover if my music simply streams through my headphones? These questions just sound silly...of course.
But I also know that we can get hung up somewhere between the last two paragraphs. And by all means, if the leather jacket or the record collection makes you happy... and there is enough room for it...and caring for it is a joy...keep it (or the best parts of it). If it has become a burden or a source of frustration...you are enough. Our things don't make us who we are. Two band t-shirts that get rotated every Saturday could be just right. A collection of the 12 books that really made an impact on how we think might be treasured rather than buried.
At some point we just might realize that that there isn't a "thing" that adds to who we are.
I am enough. You are enough. We get to take up all the space...not our stuff.
The last time I put this jumpsuit on, I just couldn't keep from changing. Maybe a jumpsuit (for me) needs to be a little bit more subdued...maybe it needs to have a little waist definition. I'm not exactly sure why, but this jumpsuit...while having a good shape, fit, + drape...being very comfortable...and pretty much what I thought I was looking to make...just wasn't quite me. The pictures of my outfits taken throughout October revealed that I'd only worn it twice. I knew that the second time I wore it...it just didn't feel quite right either.
Just a few days prior to this discovery, Julia showed me a hole in one of her pairs of pants...in a place that would not be a welcome spot for showing off a patch. Those pants will be patched + worn in the house...but she needed a new pair of pants.
So one thing turned into another. I ended up spending a few hours picking the jumpsuit apart in order to fit the pieces of the pants pattern on the legs. The pockets were picked off + sewn back on...just a little bit smaller in size. I was able to use the same Japanese sewing pattern that I'd used earlier for pajama pants. Julia likes her new pants...there was surprisingly little fabric left over...+ no money was spent.
I may make another jumpsuit with the pattern that I was able to fit by making this one...maybe in a breezy, lightweight lawn or a darker colored linen...when the temperatures warm up again. Nothing lost. I'd rather have this beautiful, soft, drapey fabric loved + used + valued. Mission accomplished.
Sewing pattern from Simple Modern Sewing by Shufu To Seikatsu Sha. This copy is from the library. I love all the surprising things we can find there! :)
The holidays are on the horizon + before the mood turns toward shopping, let's consider improvising. Entertaining is a tricky topic, because it looks different for all of us. For some of us entertaining is sporadic, and borrowing or just making do is practical. For others of us it is a regular practice, so having a little arsenal of items on hand may be a better option. (We'll try to keep the emphasis on little... + do as much double duty thinking as possible.) I'll do my best to offer some ideas to spark some further individual thought. :)
If we are entertaining in a smaller space, numbers matter...especially as the temperature dip making outdoor spaces uninhabitable. Consider saving larger scale get-togethers for warmer weather, when they can be held potluck style at a park. Each family can bring their own table service, lawn chairs, and a dish + dessert to pass. At a certain point in my extended family's growth, we started gathering in a park on Labor Day for my grandma's birthday rather than at one family's home for Christmas. This had the added benefits of taking the focus off gifts (except for Grandma) + taking some stress off of the holiday season. Another option might be to get together with far away friends/family at a third location + camp or rent an Airbnb together...whether at the holidays or at another time of year.
Ok, so now we may be thinking about less people as well as less extra entertaining "stuff". This "stuff" mostly pertains to eating...and if there are overnight guests, also to sleeping + grooming.
When it comes to food, consider ::
-borrowing :: any extra plates, silverware, or serving ware needed :: alternatively keep 12 (or appropriate number) salad sized plates + make do (no paper plates)
-using jars as drink ware :: Bonne Mama or Mason jars work well for us + we always have plenty on hand (no plastic cups)
-serving what is easy to serve :: if we don't want to keep 12 mugs, maybe serve apple cider instead of coffee :: if we don't want to keep 12 bowls, maybe don't serve soup...or serve it in wide-mouthed Weck or Ball jars that can serve other purposes in daily life :: if we don't want to keep a roasting pan just to use it once a year, maybe make shepherd's pie or lasagna the new tradition
-potluck :: not only does this decrease prep work, but the amount of dishes + platters needed :: decreases costs + allows everyone to contribute + participate
-using the counter or dining table as a buffet :: (no extra long table or extra dining chairs necessary)
-doing a dessert buffet, hors d'ouerves, cheese board, or some combination to decrease whole meal expectations + preparation
-thrifting a table cloth + ripping it into a bunch of reusable napkins :: pull the loose strands + leave the fringed edges (or sew the edges, if you like) (no paper napkins)
-stackable stools, if extra seating is necessary :: they can be used as bedside or coffee tables in daily life (or can be packed away compactly) (folding chairs can be compact too)
-bringing an outdoor table in for extra seating + covering both tables with table cloths for a more uniform look
Overnight guests often require some additional stuff. Providing an extra space to sleep along with a bit of privacy can get tricky. Some of us have extra blankets + bedding, but this may not be the case when we are really trying to live light. After each of our moves overseas, we didn't have extra bedding or towels for guests. We were able to borrow a mattress + bedding when we lived in London. Back in the States, we have used our camping air mattress for guests. Since we are all in need of bedding + towels at the same time, it can be tricky to improvise. (We've done that too, but I won't expand upon it.) :)
Simplifying + improvising may be more about space than stuff in this area. Many of us don't have the desire to heat, cool, clean, maintain, + pay for the extra square footage of a guest bedroom...but it may make sense to dedicate a portion of a closet to a thoughtfully curated collection of guest "stuff" (if we have frequent overnight guests). A few options + alternatives can be found below.
When it comes to bedding, consider ::
-letting camping equipment double as guest bedding...a tent set up on carpet could even offer a little extra privacy or be fun for kids
-borrowing/sharing with family or friends (although this could get complicated around the holidays)
-letting the guest bring their own air mattress + bedding
-air mattress (es) :: they pack away compactly
-japanese mattress or folding cushions (can be stored in a closet)
-fold up bed frame (above) for those who need a raised bed or for college kids who come home more often
-a folding screen or tension rod + curtain to put up in a doorway without a door :: for privacy
-throw sized pillows :: take up less space + could be used in daily life
-turkish towels :: take up less space + could be used as a beach towel or throw in daily life
I truly believe that a simple home can offer a lovely, relaxed invitation to come be a part of our uncluttered, relaxed, calm lives. Entertaining, after all, is about enjoying the company of those we love + sharing our most precious gifts of time + presence. Whether we are offering tea + a store bought cookie or a holiday meal, simplicity is beautiful.
Do you have any tips for entertaining with less? Please share!! :)
As the evenings close in, the glow of candlelight is increasingly welcome. I like to use beeswax to refill my existing candle jars rather than always purchasing new candles. My favorite source of beeswax is the farmer's market, where I can find it local + package-free. Sadly, I did not think ahead enough to stock up this year (note made in my calendar for next year). When we saw a block at the health food store, I grabbed it, happy to see that it was sourced from a named farm within the USA. I had some soy wicks left over from last year, so nothing else was necessary to refill these candles.
In addition to smelling lightly of honey, beeswax burns more slowly + cleanly than other candle waxes. Instead of adding scents to my candles, I chopped up the scented wax left in each jar (leaving it in the jar, so as not to mix scents) + mixed it with the melted wax as the jar was filled. Soy wax + beeswax mix well, and the scents are deliciously complementary.
I have to admit that I made a bit of a mess doing this project this time. Let's just say that I learned that I should wear an apron + that a handled enamel pot would be lovely for pouring. Since I like using what I have, however, I used one of my enamel bowls to melt the wax over my small pot of boiling water. It works perfectly well...but a little slip up can happen.
Also...I do very much love P.F. Candle Co. candles. Their candles are favorite gifts of mine (especially to receive). :) The jars here are from P.F. candles, which are handmade in California with soy wax. Soy wax is a clean + renewable choice for wax as well, but it is best if the soy is organic + GMO-free in order to ensure that less water + no pesticides are used for its growth.
Now I'm ready for a little cozy glow.
I've been enjoying reading Justin Dillon's A Selfish Plan to Change the World so far. I like the thoughtful way Dillon differentiates between our efforts to save versus change the world. I'm seeking to clarify my own mission, intent, + next steps in this fair journey... + this book is providing some food for thought.
I also enjoyed taking a look through Janet Crowther's A Well-Crafted Home. Her style is lovely + the projects are totally doable.
Bored = brilliant.
The clinical term for what results when one is exposed to an indigo vat.
"I could live simpler."
Lady tested :: zero-waste. (thanks Jo.)
A clog primer.
Zero-waste wardrobe editing.
Keep warm this weekend, friends!
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time