My Closet, My Gastroenterologist (apologies to Mark Leyner)

Small closet spaces (and few dresser drawers) require style discipline in order to maintain some openness and order.  Closets that are overly crowded can be one of those small emotional drains—you know, the ones that, the seemingly minute, lead to a breakdown when summed over time.  Also, if you can’t see it, you won’t wear it, perhaps even not remembering that you even own it (and, three weeks later, buy “it” again).  Or if you do remember and can’t find it, you curse for a while before grabbing something without much thought.  To prevent this, I do the occasional closet cleanout, removing what no longer fits or what I am no longer interested in wearing (too dated, too faded, too “not me”.)

I’ve always been pretty good about periodic clothing purges, even when I had more space.  So I didn’t have those crammed-full closets.  But in the past year, I’ve moved things up a level.  And the bottom line is that now I have a closet full of clothes that make me feel wonderful when I wear them.  I know that many decluttering books and experts will tell you to adopt a three-pile system:  Keep, Donate/Sell, Toss.  Or they instruct you to keep only things you’ve actually worn in the past year.  Or they tell you to hold “maybe” items for six months and if you haven’t worn it, then get rid of it.  I’m sure these work for many people, but my “system” is a bit more minimalist.  Two sentences, two words each.



Be ruthless:  ditch the “maybes” and have only two choices, keep or toss.*  Don’t overthink.

Decide quickly:  go with your gut, your intuition.  If it tells you that you won’t wear something again, toss it.  Don’t waste time conjuring up scenarios in which you would wear it again (“I’ll lose ten pounds and it will fit again”; “Maybe if I got a blue cardigan I’d wear it”; “But what if I get invited to a pool party and need a long dress?”**)  Stop that thinking.

These acts of ruthless decision-making help you hone your personal style, whether you are a fashionista or a utilitarianist.

*Toss can mean sell, donate, or throw away

**Be honest—how many pool parties are you typically invited to

A Job Well Run

Kudos to moi for excellent cardio exercise this morning.  This miserable winter, with its thrice-weekly snow, constant bitter cold, and unrelenting cloudiness, has meant that my cardiovascular workouts have been mostly rowing and cycling, both on stationary indoor machines.  In the past couple of weeks, though, I’ve used the elevated track at a university gym—nice to have my legs remember how to run!  Today I decided to do my (usually) weekly endurance (read: long) workout at that track.  So, 10-plus miles of (mostly) running!  Twelve laps to the mile—I ran ten laps, walked two, ran ten, walked two, and so on.  I think I’ll be ready for my 10th Mini-Marathon come May (and my 12th half-marathon overall!)

William Morris’ Philosophy and the (Clothes) Closet—Part 1

It’s no secret that many people live with closets overflowing with The Okays and The Some Days, those clothes that are “okay” or that we will wear again “some day”.  The denizens of OkayLand include the shirt that is just not quite the right shade (“but the price was so good”) or the sweater that is serviceable and nothing more (“but I spent money on it and hate to get rid of it”).  Over in Some Day City we find the dress in which we looked drop dead fabulous—in 1983.  We spot the pants that made us feel great fifteen pounds ago.  In other words, these are the clothes that are in good condition but no longer inspire us or invite us to feel good.  We wear these Okays and feel frumpish or nondescript, yet wear them we do.  And while we no longer wear the Some Days, we pray for one of two outcomes—a weight loss (“now these fit again!”) or a fashion boomerang (“now these are in style again!”).  We are crowding valuable closet real estate with…what, exactly?


Now, suppose that every time you open your closet, you see clothes that you love.  Not “like”, not even “like a lot”, but LOVE.  A selection of sartorial choices that fills you with confidence, with radiance, with joy.  THIS is my closet philosophy (and more on this in one of my next posts).

Dress on Door

Okay, maybe I have an advantage—I have very little closet and dresser space.  Yes, I did say that was an advantage!  I’ve thought about this for some time (quite a long time, actually), namely that too-large closets are obstacles to the development of a personal style.  After all, when you have room for everything, then you don’t do the work of deciding.  Deciding is not easy.  But deciding allows you the practice you need for discernment, that refinement of your personal aesthetic.  And without developing that discernment muscle (“does this color work with me?”; “do these shoes express me or a fashion magazine”), one never moves up to the major leagues of A Personal Style, instead remaining in the Double-A or possibly Triple-A minors of mere fashion.


So, I ask you, what if, when you opened your closet, you saw only things you know to be beautiful?  Beautiful on you and beautiful for you.  Doesn’t that sound wonderful?


The Decor of Your Home: Thoughtfulness from William Morris

William Morris, the English artistic force (he wrote poetry, designed textiles, made art), stated an idea that I find very meaningful and thoughtful in these times of hyper-cluttered, tschotske-infested homes:

 ” If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody, this is it: Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

Think about it–hoarding is becoming so commonplace that it no longer shocks, but is still fodder for reality television, and the self-storage industry generates billions of dollars annually.  Do we really need all this garbage?  Must we save every little piece of popular-culture junk until we consolidate them into myriad “collections”?  Wouldn’t it be better (or at least more satifying) to have fewer–but better–things?

I adopt this myself.  Always fairly consistent at removing much of the unneeded crap* from my home (and it is a home, not merely a house), I’ve adopted Morris’s philosophy more fervently this past year or two, even donating 25-35 cookbooks (don’t worry, folks–I still have a hundred or so left, but cooking’s my passion!)  Indeed, my guest room is home to some bags and boxes for donation (once we get a little bit of thaw, I’ll haul them to the Animal Rescue Fund thrift store or Goodwill).  In the coming weeks, I’ll work on more of this, especially as I continue work on renovating my home office.

Perhaps it’s because instead of investing the time and energy to devote to figuring out our own life-and design style, we take the easy way out and let the fashion, home-decor, and retail industries decide our style for us?  And that, by extension, means buying more stuff because they are in the business of selling said stuff.

*that’s the technical term

Will watching Super Bowl ads make me a hypocrite?

I will admit up front that I find the game of football less than scintillating.  Much less.  Oh, I’ve watched games (and have even rooted for teams like the Eagles and the Colts in the past).  I’ve always wanted my college teams to win, although not enough to actually attend games (waste of an afternoon).  So I don’t actually follow football.


Okay, I get that people enjoy watching and following football—I used to be quite the baseball and hockey fan.  And frankly, I didn’t care until recently.  What has changed is the increasing understanding we have of the effects of repetitive football head injuries (e.g. concussions) on the brain, specifically chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).  Once primarily associated with boxers, the prevalence of CTE in retired football players has been generating much media attention.  This is an ugly, tragic disease, one that is both progressive and degenerative.  Memory loss, aggression, cognitive disturbances—these are the symptoms of CTE.  Dave Duerson, a former NFL star who graduated from a local high school, committed suicide three years ago, leaving behind a message that his brain be used for research (he was found to have suffered from CTE).  Even parents are becoming leery of having their kids play football, according to a recent study.  So, if I follow football (or ice hockey, a sport I really did use to pay attention to), am I somewhat culpable in the likelihood of these players suffering years from now?  Would I be contributing to a culture that lionizes a sport with the potential for endangering even children?  Surely if there are fewer fans, then the NFL (or the NHL) would have to institute changes to make these games safer for everyone.


Which brings me to the Super Bowl.  Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto (US)American holiday.  I’ve thrown very successful Super Bowl parties (and attended them at the homes of others).  Sometimes I might actually be rooting for some team, though usually not.  What I always enjoyed most of all are the commercials—some very good and some forgettable.  So my dilemma is whether watching the ads on Sunday is innocuous (I’m not actually following the game and promoting football) or whether it is morally wrong (if I pay attention to the advertisers, then I am contributing to the “importance” of football).  Am I guilty of being the person who didn’t speak up?

The Long Winter

Ah, the title of one of my favorite Laura Ingalls books, which I read several times as a child (and not once since then).  These days, I’m left to wonder if the atmospheric patterns that were in place then (winter of 1880-1881 in the Dakota Territory) are the same as those driving (and dreary-fying) the current winter in the Midwest.   This pattern is similar to that of three winters ago, when the concept of the polar vortex first graced media reports.  Colder this time, but the similarities are frequent snows that simply do not melt much.  And constant cloudiness (okay, that’s pretty common here).  And the cold, oh the f%#king cold. Oh, how ecstatic I will feel once spring arrives for good!

Another thought:  I know that we tend to acclimate to ambient conditions (which is why early-season heat waves tend to be more dangerous and deadly than those later on in the season), but I’m wondering if emotionally we have more trouble at the end (or middle!) of drawn-out abnormal seasons.  Continual cold, clouds, and snow tend to wear on me, so that by the time February rolls around I am ready to burst out of my skin, irritable.  And it isn’t just the cold.  The summer of 2012 was a long, hot, DRY one in the Midwest (devastating for agriculture–I believe it may have been declared an exceptional drought in places, which is the most severe of all categories).  Every day it was hot and dry.  I didn’t mow my lawn for 2 months.  And I felt the same way by the end of July as I do now, only with a temperature/moisture inverse (hot/dry as opposed to cold/wet).  Could it be that early heat/cold waves may be more devastating physically but prolonged ones more likely to affect one’s emotions or psyche?

Pile of snowGrill with Hat

She Who Must Be Obeyed

Especially at 4:15 AM. You see, I share my home with a remarkably spoiled princess, a striking green-eyed, black-furred cat with a small patch of white at the collar.  So, while I may want to stay in bed for, say, another thirty minutes, she has other ideas.

And she is ever-so-fashionable.  The lovely Miss Bella typically sports a red collar (that red-against-black is so chic!)  Here she is!


The real reason I go to work–to keep Miss Bella in Iams Adult Hairball Care and tissue paper.




Is Radiant Orchid the New Black?

Radiant orchid, Pantone’s 2014 Color of the Year, is a rather vibrant, striking looking shade.  Indeed, I’m thinking about painting all of my doors in my combination office/laundry closet/cat-napping room*, providing some bright visual foci against the white walls and dark, dusty teal (aka Perfect Storm in Lowes-speak) trim.

Color of the Year?  How, exactly, is this contest run?  Are there hue equivalents of pageant moms?  Do they have to wear evening gowns made of cloth in their own shade?  Do people lobby for certain colors to win (or at least place in the circle of runners up)?  And what happens to the losing colors?  Do they go on to lead nondescript lives in far corners of a Michaels or Hobby Lobby?

*cat-napping, in this case, refers to an actual cat who likes to nap in office chairs.  Her name is Bella and she is quite the whiny little princess.