Skeleton Closet

I just finished The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory. If you are a fan of historical fiction or enjoy learning about the English royalty this is an excellent venture. It’s the story of King Henry VIII and the Boleyn family rising to power culminating in Henry’s marriage to Anne and its subsequent downfall. Scandal, intrigue, and salacious stories about the cost of rising to power confined me to the couch until I turned the last page.

King Henry VIII was known for his ostentatiousness, spending outlandish amounts of money on jewels, tapestries, and entertainment. One of his many passions was women. He had five wives, multiple mistresses, and all were lavished with bejeweled gowns and precious jewelry. I can only imagine opening the doors of the closets of these women. I picture the gowns gracefully adorning the hangers, flowing down in rich beautiful colors. I see fabrics of silk, linen, and velvets, along with delicate embroidery and jewels garnishing each piece. Then there were petticoats, kirtles, hoods, and headdresses, all to match each gown specifically. My mind soars thinking about the layers of clothing and accessories required just to get dressed to go to dinner.

I can’t help but compare my closet to these ladies of royalty and see the contrast that presents itself. I have just completed a project of simplifying my closet, a concept that I’m sure was quite lost on these ladies of royalty. This past year I’ve had an overwhelming urge to clean out my old clothes. I feel I have a new me that new me deserved a new wardrobe. Let me back up.

For the past three years, I’ve either been pregnant (done times two!), post baby (done!), or breastfeeding (pending…). Prior to this I was working full-time so most of my clothes were business attire for the outpatient clinic or scrubs at the hospital. Add to this the fact that I’m skinnier now than before having kids and it’s no wonder my closet had fallen into disrepair. And no, I haven’t figured out the reason for the weight loss but I won’t go asking many questions since I have nothing to complain about.

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I’ve been making an effort to simplify my life. This has been a slow yet very satisfying process of de-cluttering my possessions which has served to calm my lifestyle. I’ve experienced the immediate relief of organization as well as unexpected fulfillment of enjoying experiences rather than materials. I couldn’t help but look at my closet these past few months and see a sea of neglect and unnecessary clutter. Old t-shirts, jeans that were too big, and dresses from college stood like stiff ghosts on the hangers. Why was I keeping all of this?

Thus began the purge. It started small with just the items I haven’t worn in years. I collected them and donated to local organizations. Then I re-aproached. I realized that there were so many pieces I missed. Another bag filled and was off to be donated. Then another. And another. It was almost addictive, as if I was challenging myself to find more. I started to ask my husband if I really needed to get rid of certain items. I wasn’t trusting myself that I would keep what I needed.

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The 92 hangers I cleared from my closet.

After the initial purge I gave myself some time to experience my closet with what was left. This was very insightful. I realized what I actually needed. I kept the words of a fellow blogger in mind: only keep or buy clothing that you love. This was such a simple rule but so hard to follow. If I didn’t feel great in the clothing and it didn’t fit perfectly then it wasn’t worth having. How enlightening!

I had some inspiration and help along the way from a blog called Little Dutch Wife. She was clearing out her closet around the same time as me and shared some good ideas.  She also shared a link to this adorable flowchart from a blog called Small Notebook. The flowchart helps you decide if you should buy a piece or not. Mostly I just followed my own senses keeping that one simple but, oh so hard rule, in mind.

After I figured out where the gaps were in my closet I gave myself permission to shop where I normally wouldn’t. The places that were always too expensive and I didn’t dare spend the money. It was the clothing I really wanted but never allowed myself to have. For me, this was Althropologie, Boden, and J. Crew. The additional rule I gave myself when shopping was that I wasn’t allowed to go unless I had an item I needed. That way, as I became drawn in by all the adorable clothing, like a moth to the light, I could remind myself what I was really looking for. It seemed to calm me. As much as I enjoy shopping, it overwhelms me and I actually get shaky trying to make decisions and thinking about the money I’m spending.

This entire process has taken about six months. At the moment, I love my closet. Like a little girl excited about her tutu, I am an adult woman giggly about getting dressed each day. My clothes take up approximately one-third the space they did before and there’s not an outfit I don’t like or an item that doesn’t fit. One of the goals in reforming my closet was to create more texture and color and I feel satisfied with my choices. I may not have the extravagant gowns of an English queen or a lady in waiting but it’s a closet that exemplifies me. We are all more confident when we feel good in the clothes we wear so spend the money on the right items and there will be no need for a closet choked full of unnecessary and neglected items.

A few samples of my new purchases.

A few samples of my new purchases.

Have you ever revived your closet or changed the way you buy? I would love to hear your experiences and ideas.

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Simplifying: The Makeup Drawer

A few weeks ago as I reached for my nail file in my makeup drawer I noticed old nail clippings scattered about. My face froze, then my eyes got big, and then my mouth crinkled up in disgust. I decided it was time to clean out the makeup drawers. My makeup is kept in a small square box on the counter. It’s embarrassingly old and looks like something a teenager should have in their bathroom. Plastic and purple. But I’ve never found another container the same size to replace it. There are three drawers and it fits perfectly in the space I have. I consider it a modest cabinet but there were many things I haven’t used for quite a while so out all the makeup came.

As I stood there staring at it all on the bathroom counter I kept in mind my recent mission to simplify my life. An eye liner here and an out of style eye shadow there and soon I had a much more manageable makeup collection on my hands. And it was so easy. The entire project took me thirty minutes. I now have three lipsticks in my makeup drawer. Actually, one lipstick, one lip gloss, and a chap stick. I’ve never had so few lip accessories since I was in middle school and started collecting.

It’s the small things that all add up to the great big picture.

Starting Off Easy: Organization

Four months ago on 7/16/2012 I gave birth to my second child, a baby boy. Previous to his birth I joked that things would calm down in our lives once he was born and it’s proved to be true. Sounds crazy, right? This year has brought on some of the most difficult times in the 12 years I’ve been with my husband (six of those being married) and most of it had nothing to do with having a baby. I’m not quite ready to delve into those dark details yet but I will say that out of darkness comes light.

Since Simon’s birth, Derek and I have gone through multiple phases: 1) elatement and adrenaline rush of a new baby, 2) sleep deprivation kicking into full gear, followed by 3) frustration and adjustment to life with new baby.

Simon, 14 days

This has lead me to search for something tangible and concrete that I can control in order to better the situation. Organization was my answer. Organization has taken on many forms in my life but most recently I’ve needed something more structured. It has given me some direction in what can seem like endless days of meal preparation, changing diapers, and laundry.

So I’m sharing a “Weekly Planner” that I developed. It’s a Monday-Friday schedule:

1) Regularly scheduled events are already written in on the day of the week. You’ll notice that Tuesday says “Derek” and Wednesday “Ashley.” Each week Derek and I get a night to ourselves to do whatever we wish (see friends, read, exercise, etc-I can see I’ll be adding blogging to my list now) and the other takes care of the kids for the night. This has eased a lot of stress for us.

2) The column on the right lists items that I do every week but maybe not on the same day. I fill it in at the beginning of each week, as well as, add any scheduled appointments.

3) In case you’re wondering “SS” stand for Stroller Strides. I’m a member and highly recommend it for a great workout and socialization.

4) It’s old school in the sense that I actually print this out each week and fill it in longhand. I know, a lot to ask, but there’s nothing like the act of writing to make you think and help generate ideas.

Weekly Plan

(wasn’t sure how to get it to upload as opened so you can view it right away…tips?)

Without boring you too much more I think I’ll stop there. Please share your thoughts and any ideas you have that help you stay organized week to week. It’s always an evolving process and I’m always looking for ideas.