it's comfortable to walk on
but no flowers grow. ~Van Gogh
Struggle is a common word in this space. It's an honest word when it comes to parts of my journey toward simple, fair, compassionate living. One of the main things I've kept in mind from the beginning is that moving toward "fair" simply involves one choice at a time. I don't need to tackle an entire shift all at once...I move toward a fair wardrobe one choice at a time. I move toward zero-waste one choice at a time.
It is in these choices that I sometimes encounter struggle. As I address needs in my wardrobe, for example, the choices are not always black + white. Sometimes I can't find a fair + affordable version of exactly what I'm looking for. Sometimes one piece can't address fit, comfort, presentability, uniqueness, affordability, + longevity all at once...and I have to prioritize. Sometimes my desire for clothing to mask my imperfections + to say something about me too is just too much to ask.
This summer I struggled to assemble a collection of clothing that consistently felt like enough + like "me"...was presentable + appropriate + comfortable...wasn't too many pieces. It's been a couple of a years since I've felt such unrest in this area.
Learned :: Where there is struggle...the path to rest often involves some sort of surrender.
In regards to my clothing, one or more of the following could be surrendered:
1. want...I can't have everything
2. the desire to look a certain way...thin, young, hip...
3. less...I might need a few more pieces
4. the perfect fit
5. the idea of the perfect piece
7. style...I could just choose to give in to what can be found thrifting
8. the fairdare...I might not be able to find a completely fair version of something I need
9. materials...I might find that plastic fibers work best right now for some items
10. the desire for the perfect, simple collection of pieces
11. "need"...maybe I can uncomfortably do without
Sometimes it can be difficult to decide what to surrender...but I've found that at least sometimes it must be something. My values (fairdare, natural materials, budget, less) definitely provide some guidance. This summer after struggling to "fix" my wardrobe, I opted for somewhat uncomfortably doing without.
The dress above was one I carefully planned to purchase. When it arrived, I just felt unsettled. Yes, I think it's fair...and it's fun (+ I am worthy of some fun). It felt like the perfect thing to wear the day it arrived + on an upcoming vacation. But I couldn't think of a way I'd like to wear it as the temperatures dip...I wasn't completely convinced that it was flattering on me...and it's quite an investment piece. But I love the colors + the weight of the fabric... + it's fun!
Today I packed it back up to return + I instantly felt more at peace than I had the entire day before. Surrendering my "right" to own that beautiful dress + returning it was the right decision for today. The peace of mind confirmed it.
Also :: Perfect is the enemy of good. Perfection is always a good candidate for surrender. :)
I've been thinking a lot about struggle + surrender in the last few months. I've been working my way through the spiritual disciplines this year...practices including meditation, simplicity + submission. I wasn't at all excited about embarking on that last one, because I like my autonomy very much. Some big lessons came to light during my month of submission, however (and I have so far to go).
Richard Foster writes in his book Celebration of Discipline that the purpose of the disciplines is not the discipline itself, but freedom. (I like the sound of that.) :) He says that the freedom that corresponds with submission is "the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way." Oh, how liberating that would be!
We practice submission or surrender when we take a break in our day to let a little one nap. We practice surrender when we set aside a project to lend a listening ear to a loved one going through a tough time. We practice surrender when we choose not to purchase a piece of clothing that most likely exploited a garment worker or farmer. We practice surrender when we choose not to buy goods needlessly packaged in plastic.
We practice surrender when we choose compassion over our own desires. We can surrender our desires and still recognize + honor the value of our own bodies, beings, and lives. We may just make some different choices along the way.
"In submission we are at last free to value other people. Their dreams and plans become important to us. We have entered into a new, wonderful, glorious freedom- the freedom to give up our rights for the good of others."
It seems like we often gravitate toward simpler + simpler shapes + colors as we move toward simpler wardrobes. People who share their small wardrobes online often recommend a collection of black, white + grey pieces in classic shapes...a few tees (one striped), a couple of button-down shirts, a sweater, a jacket, black pants, jeans, a black dress, trainers, flats, heels. There is ample opportunity even within this formula to choose individual shapes + fit. It's a great basic collection that would serve almost any daily situation, + we seem to tire of these simple shapes + colors less quickly.
Some simple wardrobe wearers inject a signature color or two for each season. This approach also requires restraint. Different people like different things, however, + I'm sure many have found their ways to more colorful, simple collections. I'm interested in exploring the possibility of building a small collection of a little bit more adventurous pieces...and to observe the speed of tiring of these pieces. Autumn colors invoke feelings of cozy rather than dread of the cold that is to come. They always call my name, so no doubt that has something to do with these thoughts...but not everything. I imagine that I'm not alone, as a wardrobe of paired down basics can get a little bland for some.
So anyway...here's a little collection of pieces that I imagine could make me quite happy in the season to come. I know that I often say something like that in a post like this. I'm aware that part of that comes from the fact that all of these pieces would be new to me...and I don't think that buying all new pieces each season is at all ethical or sustainable. So...obviously simply adding a less ordinary piece or two to my existing wardrobe is what I've really been exploring lately. What I'm struggling with a little bit is that I'm not used to seeing myself in pieces that aren't a bit more on the quiet side...and I'm wondering what's really "me"...or what I really want to wear. I'm still deciding. :)
The big takeaway was something called standpoint theory that was coined by the philosopher, Sandra Harding...and the theory basically says that people on the receiving end of oppressive systems..people at the bottom of social hierarchies...will see things more accurately than people at the top...the ones benefiting from the system. Black women, for example, will share a general body of knowledge about how society is...about how it works... because of their common experiences. And according to Sandra Harding that shared understanding won't just be distinctive, it will actually be better knowledge, more true, than the collective picture of the world that privileged people, like me, will soak up from our surroundings. ~John Biewen via
I highly recommend this podcast series on "men"...from the people who brought us the standout series, Seeing White.
Wearing what is in our closets is the most important element of zero-waste, fair fashion. It can also be the hardest part, because many of us are constantly searching for something new...something that will make us feel more beautiful, more stylish, more worthy, more unique, more like we belong, more...something.
I don't pretend to have the answer to overcoming all of that...but something that has helped me find connection with some of the pieces in my closet is making them "mine". Of course a piece becomes mine when I purchase or take possession of it. It becomes my responsibility...my responsibility to care for, wear, repair, + pass on thoughtfully. What I mean here by "making it mine" is adapting the piece to my preferences.
Sometimes a piece speaks to me in shape, but not in every detail. Sometimes the proportions are a bit off for my frame, but I can see my way to making it work with a well-placed dart or a raised hem or some volume taken out. Once I have made these changes...picked the stitches + restitched them...looked closely at the craftsmanship + participated in it...I feel a deeper connection with the piece. It is often this connection that can inspire a commitment to increased use + wear.
Connection is a tricky beast. On one hand it can make us hold on to things that we don't need...but on the flip side of minimalism...when we have purged down to the essentials...we need to nurture connection again...so that we can stop the cycle of waste.
So here I am...making a labored decision to invite a pink jumpsuit to be part of my wardrobe. (An essential, no?) :) This one arrived with long sleeves, upper flap pockets, low narrow pockets, + longer pant legs. Those rolled up long sleeves look best...but as such, the opportunities for wear are narrowed down significantly in my circumstances. It's too hot for long sleeves half of the time + they were too bulky to layer under a sweater the rest of the time. Short-sleeves will allow me to wear this piece during the summer + autumn...as well as layering under a cardigan better. Flaps on the pockets added volume where I don't need it. This jumpsuit seems to have been proportioned for someone taller, especially with the placement of pockets. The lower pair were too low + I prefer square ones, so I was able to use the sleeve fabric for new pockets + placement. The legs were shortened a little + now...this jumpsuit is "me". (I also have a little fabric left over for patching, if needed somewhere down the line.)
A large portion of the pieces in my closet have undergone some sort of alteration or embellishment. I think it enhances my connection.
P.S. Soundtrack playing in my mind for this post. :)
I was able to read Shia Su's Zero Waste as well as Alison Roman's Dining In this week. (I love our library!) Dining In is full of simple, delicious inspiration. It is not a zero-waste book necessarily, but the recipes are quite zero-waste friendly. It's interesting to see a new crop of zero-waste books coming out + the perspective of each author coming through. A few more include:
-Zero Waste Adventure
-Soon to be released Sustainable Home
-The original: Zero-Waste Home
What are you reading this weekend?
The soles of Jo's well-loved moccasins are cracked + coming away from the bottom of the shoe. She brought them to the cobbler in hopes of having them resoled. He said that Minnetonka used to offer repair services, when the shoes were still made in Minnesota... but now it would be cheaper to just replace the shoes altogether. Instead of replacing them, Jo said she would just continue to wear this pair on days without rain. (Maybe I shouldn't have asked her to walk around in the wet grass for these pictures.) :)
This amazing pair of vintage, Esprit shoes also belong to Jo. With wear over the last year or two, the soles started to separate from the bottom of both shoes. (I've had this issue with another pair of vintage shoes, so it just seems that the glue dries out over time.) One trip to the cobbler + less than $20 later...and these shoes are better than ever (because he gives them a little polish as well)! A good cobbler is a treasure.
Shoe making is an art. We all know the value of a well-fitted, comfortable shoe. Maybe it is an art that we can learn! Classes + kits are available.
Although most of the brands that made shoes in country even 10 or 20 years ago have moved production to China, there are a few places to find fairly made shoes. A few of the brands I have found are listed on the ethical brands page under the footwear heading. Please let me know if you have some favorites! I try to make sure to let companies know that I am grateful for their commitment to traceable production + fair wages when I make a purchase...so they will know that their customers notice + value this practice!
So...fair shoes :: 5 ways:
1. Wear what we have
3. Buy second hand
4. Make them
5. Buy fair
We find ourselves at an abundant spot in the season...especially as I've chosen to wedge myself between our garden + our CSA box. I've filled up all of my available jars (+ the freezer) with tomato sauce. I've put up a year's worth of pepper flakes. We've got a little stock of potatoes + sweet potatoes tucked away in a cool, dry spot.
Right now, I'm feeling most triumphant when we eat up some of our bounty. This meal did that alright...but it took some time to prepare. The process was easy + much of the time was spent simply waiting, after the initial chopping + mixing. Zero-waste meal preparation is often simple + straightforward...but it can also be a bit time consuming (which can be made a bit more so due to my minimal kitchen tools).
I'm not quite sure where I'm going with this line of thought, except to say that I don't spend too long in the kitchen every night. If I'm making rice, I'll always make two nights worth in order to save myself the time (+ dishes) another night. I make big batches of beans + chickpeas + then freeze them in jars, so that I have stock on hand. Greens get washed + stored once per week. Carrots can be chopped + stored in a jar with just a little water...ready to use. Pickled vegetables or kimchi can be batch made.
If I was cooking for fewer people, I would still make just as much + store the leftovers for lunches or quick dinners. Vegetables could be chopped + roasted once per week + tossed into salads, soups, or grain bowls as desired. I do think zoodles (spiralized zucchini "noodles") can be made as quickly as pasta though! :)
Zero-waste food may take a little more time to prepare than a microwave meal...but zero-waste food is much more tasty + healthy too! The connection we make with our food as we gather it + prepare it is beautiful + important. Food is one of the things that makes the rest of our lives possible...so we might as well enjoy the process.
Falafel + all the veg (measurements given for 4 servings)
from the garden:
from the csa box:
-2 zucchini, spiralized
from the freezer:
-salt + pepper
-1 tsp. cumin
-4 Tbsp. flour or besan
For roasted tomatoes + pepper :: Cut tomatoes in half (+ slice peppers), toss with a bit of olive oil + salt, spread in a single layer, and put in the oven at about 350F for at least an hour (checking periodically)...until roasted + a bit browned. (These are good for a few days in the fridge + tasted amazing on our avocado toast for lunch today.)
For falafel :: Mix chickpeas (I used about 16 oz. for 4 of us), onion, juice from 1/2 lemon, salt, cumin, pepper flakes, flour or besan in the blender. Form into patties + place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Cook at 400F for 10 minutes...flip + cook for 10 minutes more.
For zoodles :: Toss spiralized zucchini into hot skillet + cook for around 4 minutes.
For dressing :: Mix around 1/2 cup of yogurt, juice from other 1/2 of the lemon, dill, salt + pepper.
(I give measurements where they matter most + season or substitute as desired with the rest.)
on a journey toward zero-waste, simplicity, + compassion :: daring to choose fair one choice at a time