Hacks I learned on the internet

Pinterest Fails is one of my favorite sites for validation. (Clothing! Hair! Nails!) While I love the world of DIYs and hacks for their lofty promises, I also love when people out them as the farce they sometimes are. Thankfully they do work sometimes, though, if you're really talented or you picked stupid-easy ones. I picked two stupid-easy ones.

The first --- keeping head scarves in place!  I tried this Refinery 29 trick to keep your scarves from slipping when you use them as a headband. I used the elastic-based grippy headband they mention. (They also have another one for headband scarves that worked somewhat, but not all that well. This one involves tying a knot at the top of your head and then the final knot at your neck.)

It worked! Previously I've never been able to keep fake silk scarves on my head and now they stay on with no fuss.

The second--- saving a broken lipstick - is really a reverse-tutorial success. I had an e.l.f. lipstick** that became dislodged from it's holder and was no longer usable. I planned to put the lipstick itself in a smaller container so I could still use it albeit with a brush and figured I'd check out broken lipstick DIYs for containers ideas or tips on how to do it neatly -- and instead I found a bunch of tutorials that had a million steps, heat sources and stuff like makeup palette spatulas involved. After reality-checking myself over at the For the Love of Vegan Makeup FB community, I proceeded with my original plan of dislodging all remaining lipstick with something sharp and pointy, putting all lipstuff in a new container and pressing it down. It worked and it took all of 30 seconds.

Both were ridiculously easy and both help me use things I already have. I'm trying to cultivate a mindset of using what I have and not dismissing things because they're cheap (e.l.f. lipstick) or easy to procure (so many cheap vintage scarves in the world). I'm hoping that talking about it will help me do so.

Let me know if you've picked up any super simple hacks you want to share. I like road testing the really easy stuff.

**I've recently found out the e.l.f. has crappy palm oil practices so I'm phasing out my use, and will eventually replace my makeup with stuff with better practices.) I have not yet wrapped my mind around palm oil in foods - I still use Earth Balance and eat crappy accidentally-vegan junkfood like Nutter Butters, which both have palm oil. Progress, not perfection. It is a long road.


OMG #konmari (not entirely a love story)

I dutifully read The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo after so many people IRL and online said they loved it. And so many people said it was changing their life. (Goop has video tutorials of the #konmari folding methods, even.) I usually go in for stuff like this - yes, Tim Gunn, show me how to cull my wardrobe. Yes, 33 items. Yes, minimalist capsule wardrobe. Yes, "if I have't worn it in a year" rule. But it hit me at a time where I was burned out on people telling me what to do with my crap and most of my stuff is fairly well organized and pared down. There were only a few areas where I felt I had too much stuff (paper! kitchen!) and I was just too lazy to do anything about it. It didn't hurt enough...yet. But when it does I assume I'll be able to organize those things like a functional human being.

I dug into the slim book assuming I'd find a bunch of lists and on one hand, there are. There are a bunch of detailed steps for you to complete in order. 

On the other hand, I was surprised to find an incredibly sad narrative of a little kid-to-adult and some obsessive behavior around cleaning. Like, your family tells you to leave their stuff alone after you've tried to clean it a bunch of times already and instead you cull and discard it and then deny it -- and you're like 12. You've been focused on cleaning and organizing since you're 5. Literally crying over shower slime on your shampoo bottle. When I say "sad narrative" it's not a judgement of fault -- something is not right with most of our kidhoods. I have terrible control issues over certain things that I for sure know are around childhood issues. But the control issues it manifested in this person just happened to come out in tidying -- and then it was put into a book. For the public to read. Later in the book Marie Kondo does mention where her tidying obsession came from, and admits it was rooted in emotional family stuff but I wish she did that at the start of the book. I spent most of the book trying to figure out what her self-awareness was around her behaviors -- because in order to teach others sustainable tidying habits that work for them she can't have the assumption that her starting point is the average starting point. I kept asking myself what in this book was borne of her learned skill and experience with what works for others and what was just a gift of her natural compulsion that people who don't think like her would not be able to sustain.

The premise - as you likely have read 100x elsewhere - is that you go through your place focusing on one type of thing at a time (clothing, books, papers, etc) and keep what you need or what sparks joy, find places for that stuff and discard the rest. The thought is that by analyzing what you love and what you got rid of, you'll learn what works for you and the lifestyle you want.  And while you will need to clean, you won't need to tidy. (I think the semantics around those two words are interesting and I do wonder if some people are so jazzed about this book because they think she means you won't have to clean again.) The idea is that once this process is done, you'll know exactly what to buy (or not buy) in the future and you will keep up on routine cleaning because everything has a place.

Did I like any of it? Yes:

- I like the idea of keeping what sparks joy for you

- Learn from your mistake buys

- Everything has its place

- I liked her ideas around folding! 

- Her ideas around paper organizing (planning to implement these)

- Thanking your possessions - Hear me out on this one. When she first describes taking off her jacket when she gets home and thanking it for doing a good job as she hangs it up, I balked. Whaaaat? Thanks anyway, I'm not talking to my clothes. But I jokingly tried it out - just to see! - and it does help reinforce that the stuff you has is valuable and is worth care and it also helps foster a feeling of "abundance" (to use a self-help buzzword)

^    #konmari -folded sweaters for the win!   ^ 

Did I hate any of it it? Yes:

- She says not to "downgrade" clothes from wearing out of the house to wearing around the house but I disagree on some points; I have a ton of graphic t-shirts I just never wore and they work as gym shirts just fine (better than the boring plain shirts I wore previously) and I have some yoga pants that didn't work out for yoga and ended up being loungewear or PJs -- I am into repurposing whenever possible!

- She really focuses on getting rid of stuff but not how to do it in a way that's at all ecologically responsible. Thankfully it seems a lot of people are pushing their stuff to consignment while using her process (this uptick in consignment is credited to #konmari) but I shudder to think of what other people are doing. How much is ending up at thrift shops that sell overseas and not at consignment or swaps? I think people should get rid of what they don't wear and learn from it - so that's all fine by me and stuff I do myself - but I think to encourage such a massive cull and not actually factor in personal responsibility for getting that stuff to where it will most likely be used is crappy. The book is so completely centered on self with a pretty minimal self-awareness that I'm not really surprised. I'm glad she wants people to have enough awareness to learn what works for them but I think self awareness is missing on this point - and another I'll get into next. {Marie Kondo mentions here to get rid of items in a way that "sparks joy" for you so while that could constitute as aligning with your strongest values, I'm not sure it's the same thing. There are many things I do that I feel strongly about and most proud of but they don't actually spark joy. Anyway, I don't remember reading anything similar in her book.}

Interestingly, when I was reading this book I also listened to Gretchen Rubin's Happier podcast (the "Cleaning Liz's Closet" episode) and they discussed how it was so much easier for Liz to let go of the stuff from her closet when she knew where it was going and she was sure it was supporting a good cause. I thought that was an interesting perspective -- and it certainly resonated with me.

- There seems to be this assumption that people will absolutely learn what not to buy in the future and won't end up with unwanted stuff. I don't know about you but I know what I wear and what I like and I try stuff on and I have stuff tailored and still - some stuff just doesn't work. Same with housewares. I can have the best intentions and end up with a dud. So I personally find that "tidying" needs to be on-going and not just a 1-time life event.

- There also seems to be an assumption that whatever habits that had you buying stuff that doesn't work for you will just be lifted. People accumulate items for a very complex set of reasons - some happenstance, some emotional - and different emotional reasons at different times. I feel like it's asking a lot of people to just learn from their mistake buys and their cherished buys and from that be able to reset these emotional habits -- every day, every minute, every mood -- to only the things that work best for them. It's taken me years of looking at what I buy, when and why to get anywhere on this one. And it's always a work in progress.

- Also there's an assumption that what best fits someone's needs won't change? Maybe I missed it but there was nothing I saw that addressed shifting tastes or shifting needs and repeating a "life changing" cull. Your life is going to change. I can't imagine how some fairly surface lessons learned ages ago is going to support that successfully.

In summary: Overall, I liked some of the tips from this book. I kind of wish it wasn't sold as a life-changing process because I think it lacks the emotional intelligence spectrum it needs to actually look at habits around lifestyle and consumption. I don't know - the skeptic in me is annoyed that this has been put forth as such a panacea. (There is a claim in the book that some people have lost weight and become healthier after tidying...for real.) Who knows, maybe a year from now people will still have completely changed lives due to her book and all their stuff is still pared down and no bad buys have been made and they're still totally on top of stuff and if so, I'm happy to be proven wrong.

I really loved some of the tips and I think they'll be really helpful. (Or so far I think they have been helpful - like the folding!) I liked the overall premise of keeping what sparks joy and intuitively trusting yourself to know what those things are instead of using an arbitrary list of staples or investment pieces everyone must have. It was so nice to not see a list of "10 staples every closet should have" including a white button-down and trench coat as the guiding light on the wardrobe front. That means you also have to trust yourself in getting rid of stuff and learn to be okay with getting rid of things that logically should work for you and yet, don't.

While I'm not sure I think all the promises this book makes will come true, I think the steps she talks about are worth doing in the areas you need. And hopefully you won't end up like this


In but not for the sake of being in

This summer shoes that I would normally not be caught dead in came back in style. I feel like this has happened before. Heels, Birks, certain sneakers or boots. And I've been able to resist wearing ugly things that I hate. Somehow. This year, however, comfort and urban hoofing really took priority. There is a trade off for walking miles each day on cement and asphalt and that trade off feels like fallen angels. Or fallen arches, whatever.

This year I purchased 2 hideously ugly pairs of "shoes" in the name of comfort but also gave myself a pass and barked at anyone who questioned them:  "BUT TEVAS AND BIRKS ARE IN THIS YEAR! THEY ARE." Normally I couldn't give two f's about what's in but it was my minuscule consolation prize for having broken down and becoming the owner of the ugliest pairs of "shoes" known to man (besides 95% of Fleuvogs and every single Uggs...Ugg?).

Anyway, before summer is over I figure out I should out myself for wearing these guys most days. The silver "Birks" I got were an impulse buy driven by hobbling around NYC in pain. They were knock-off Birks, vegan, silver and had a comfortable foot bed but no decent labor standards to speak of. (Birks themselves don't ship their vegan versions to the US of A - not sure if it's because they hate us or love us?)

The Tevas actually do come with an ethical supply chain and labor standards cited -- I found them by poking around on their site and seeing Ethical Supply Chain hidden as an afterthought at the bottom of the Customer Service page (but not FAQs). That essentially links you here. Thanks for hiding it really well, Tevas! That was a fun game. So glad you're really proud of it!

Urban Renewal dress
Tevas sandals
Cheap sweatshop necklace I caved on at Beacon's Closet


Real Struggles: Conflict-free Dessert

Ever since Whole Soy went out of business, I've been trying to find a vegan unsweetened yogurt that's actually unsweetened. Most of them are coconut-based and are sweet by nature or soy-based and taste disgustingly sweet due to added sugar regardless of flavor. I was recently introduced to Anita's Creamline coconut yogurt and while you can still taste that it's coconut-derived, it's just tart enough to use for savory stuff but creamy enough to use in desserts as well.

Alter Eco quinoa chocolate bar square
local nectarines
Anita's Creamline yogurt

The only downsides are that it's available in NYC only* (but - a plus - it's made locally in NYC!) and that it's pretty expensive (but - a plus - high fat means smaller portions). I'm very lucky that my local worker-owned food cooperative carries this so I can get it at a slight discount versus full retail price.

Speaking of, my local food co-op also carries this Alter Eco chocolate and local nectarines. Alter Eco is on Food Empowerment Project's "We Feel Comfortable Recommending" Chocolate List. (This involves both child labor issues in West Africa as well as selling a vegan product. Not all of Alter Eco's stuff is vegan but this quinoa bar is.) They also seem to use coconut oil in lieu of palm oil, but they're not on Selva Beat's palm oil-free list so I'll have to do a little digging there.

{*It's available in NYC only but also available at Lagusta's in New Paltz. Of course, since Lagusta's is home of all delicious things.}


My realistic minimalist wardrobe.

And so it begins. Fall essentials.

It's that time again. When new trends and products are identified as "musts" and "essentials", encouraging me to poke around many different "sustainable style" websites. I've actually purchased some stuff recently (almost all impulse buys) so I'm still trying to get a sense of how that stuff works in my closet. And pathetically, these new fall season emails from People Tree, et al are not helping me feel like I have enough. There is just always something in me - whether innate or cultivated by advertising - that's always looking for the next better "sustainable" "minimalist" thing. 

I think there's a lot of pressure on the perfect when we talk about minimalist wardrobes. I would like one. I'd like everything I own to fit me perfectly and to be exactly what I need. The reality of it is that not everything fits me perfectly, different days I feel like I need different things and my taste changes over time. I'll always have things I recently acquired that I'm "trying out" - to see if the fit, function and style work.

I need to come to terms with the fact that my wardrobe will always always be in flux -- but that doesn't mean I need to always be looking for things to add to it. It's okay to have an imperfect wardrobe and not continuously try to fill it with perfect things. (Seriously, I don't think it's possible.) I'd love to have a 33-item minimalist wardrobe but in reality it will be more like a 60 item love half || tolerate a quarter || am thinking of getting rid of a quarter type of wardrobe.

And that's fine. I just have to remember that.


Make It Good dresses - on sale.

Make It Good's tank dresses are my vision of a perfect summer dress. They're easy to slip on, shaped to be breezy and not clingy, a durable but breathable material and made by a conscious company that understands every piece of clothing has an impact but they do their best. These dresses are also made of a "pre-wrinkled" material, which makes them easy to pack and wear, even if they're not the most polished piece in your wardrobe. Since it's end of summer season, their tank dresses (and other dresses) are on sale.

All of Make It Good's stuff is made in their Portland space and they try to source their materials from the US.

Doing my best Sears stiff catalog model impression:

MIG tank dress in Shattered
Vera Meat necklace (made in NYC)
Cri de Coeur shoes 
(vegan brand, made in monitored mfg plants in China)



I'm finally remembering to wear the Bhava Percy flats I bought at Mooshoes before spring even sprung. Without sounding like an aging crone, I've been relegated to fake Birks for a while due to arch pain. (Never ever walk around both LA and NOLA two weeks in a row in the most thinly-soled shoes you own. Ever.) But thanks to both acupuncture and some stretching over the past few months, I'm back to wearing some semi-normal shoes. As long as they can handle additional insoles, anyway.

I like these guys because they're soft faux suede and work visually like oxfords but they're way more forgiving in the warmer months with the open toe and the porous material. The heel is wood but has a rubber bottom, which gives nice traction and helps absorb some of the crappiness of walking on cement and asphalt. And yes, I'm one of those people who wears all black in the summer.

Bhava is an all vegan brand and they state that the working conditions of their manufacturing partners have been personally vetted. You can find Bhava shoes at Mooshoes here, if you're interested in checking out the brand's options. For full disclosure, I'm interested in the Crosby (in black, obvs) for the fall if these work out well for me.