Why I Never Work in My Pajamas

I work from home as a writer and a data management coordinator, which means long hours of typing away at my laptop while my rabbits play quietly by my feet.

Some people call this ideal, and I'll admit that it's a pretty sweet setup, especially for someone with kids or a bustling social life. I don't have either of those things, so the solitude puts me on edge most days.

Still, I get comments like you're so lucky that you don't have to drive to work, and you're so lucky you don't have to deal with office drama. But my favorite unsolicited comment is this: you're so lucky that you can work in your pajamas.

Laptop on Bed

But I have never worked in my pajamas

And here's why: my mind and body will not respond like I want them to if I'm wearing the same clothes that I slept in.

It's the same logic that I used when I decided not to use the same shirts (like road race t-shirts) for exercise and as pajamas. I get mixed associations if I wear a shirt for running and also for sleeping. Should I get energized and start stretching? Or should I grab a book and make a cup of herbal tea?

I got into a bad habit in the past couple of months where I only wore exercise clothing while working because I thought it would help me be more active. That didn't work either; I found myself feeling exhausted before my afternoon/evening runs, versus the fresh energy I get from putting on running clothes right before a run.

So now I've learned to categorize my clothes based on the energies they evoke.

Why I dress up to work from home

My new routine includes pulling on a pair of jeans or a favorite dress first thing in the morning. I wash my face, splash some rosewater on my cheeks and comb my hair into a presentable shape.

Feeling good about myself is an essential ingredient to finding my flow, so I do my best to raise my self-esteem so that I can increase my productivity.

I am only wearing clothes for single purposes these days, which is a far cry from my previous attempts at applying one piece of clothing in as many ways as I could.

That means I have more clothing than I did a year ago, but this practice has helped me streamline my energy. I still consider my wardrobe simple, but I've expanded beyond the limits of what minimalism originally meant to me. (Read more about why I'm moving away from the word "minimalist" here).

Work Clothes

A note on assigning (and recognizing) energies

I'm not a feng shui expert (or even a casual practitioner), but I do pay attention to where, when and how energy flows in my apartment.

I keep my workspace out of the way of the day-to-day flow of the apartment, and I make sure that it's not the first thing I see when I wake up in the morning or come home from a relaxing day off. If I'm working on something creative (like blogging), I take my laptop to the dining table so that I can come at each post with fresh eyes.

I often see beautiful photos of bloggers writing and drinking coffee on their heavenly-white linen bedspreads. It looks divine, but I can really throw my self out of physical and mental alignment if I work from bed. Not to mention that caffeine + bed is a contradiction that I can't process.

I'm practicing this intention with more than just the clothes I wear and where I work. I've allowed it to spill over into the music I listen to, how I schedule my days and even which notebook I choose to write in. It's given me more control over the ebb and flow of my mind, which makes a huge difference in the long run.

So, how about you? Do you (or would you if you could) work in your pajamas?

Why I never work in my pajamas

Super-Quick Bathroom Update

There has been something weighing on me ever since we moved into this apartment: the lack of color in the bathroom.

Initially, the black and white bathroom tile won me over during our apartment hunt. It has a slightly funky, retro vibe while still being clean and classic. This tile is one of my favorite details in our apartment:

Bathroom Tile

But once I added our monochromatic shower curtain, I realized how ugly and dingy the room looked. The walls and built-in cabinet are painted what I call "apartment yellow," a color that instantly seems dirty and dated.

Before Photo - Bathroom 1

It also doesn't help that we just haphazardly put our toiletries in the cubbies.

Before Photo - Bathroom 2

Rather than add another coat of paint to the chipping surfaces, I decided to snag some contact paper to liven things up a bit. I know it's a bit college-y, but we wanted something temporary since we're not sure whether we're moving in the next year or not.

Choosing the contact paper

My husband had to endure about a dozen different options, and he was a good sport about it so I'm grateful for that. Here are some of the finalists:

Marble contact paper

I love what DIY-ers are doing with marble contact paper these days. Honestly, I am a little nervous about how this would turn out.

Contact paper is contact paper at the end of the day, and I didn't want to look like I thought I was fooling anyone. (Plus, my application skills are not so great). I skipped this one because I was nervous to work with it, and because it didn't add the color I was really looking for.

Rose patterned contact paper

This one started to go in the right direction colorwise, but I worried that the duskiness of the rose color would add to the dated look of the yellow walls. The geometric pattern also might have been too harsh alongside our tile.

The winner: teal/blue patterned contact paper

This one caught our attention. It's not too geometric and the color is one that is repeated throughout our apartment. It's more white and blue than this photo makes it look!

It was super cheap for a large roll, so I sprang for it.

The after photos

This project took me about 45 minutes. I ended up being a bit sloppy with it, so I had to spend a little extra time on making a border out of electrical tape I had on hand.

It's not perfect, but it definitely helps with the bleakness of the bathroom!

 I figured my lucky bamboo would love the filtered sunlight we get in the bathroom, so here's his new home!

I figured my lucky bamboo would love the filtered sunlight we get in the bathroom, so here's his new home!

After Photo - Bathroom 2

There's still other work I'd like to do in this bathroom if we decide to stick around in this apartment long-term. Like, you know, maybe getting a toilet paper roll holder.

In a perfect world, these are the other non-permanent changes I'd still like to make:

  • Replace all the linens with brighter, more colorful pieces
  • Add colorful baskets to the cubbies
  • Snag a vintage decanter for our mouthwash
  • Replace our cabinet knobs with something more interesting
  • Add a line of succulents along the frosted window

But this will do for now! Any tips for what to do with the rest of this contact paper?

Why I’m Ditching the Word Minimalist

I’ve been blogging over at Minimal Millennial for three years, and it’s an amazing outlet for me as I pursue a more simple and intentional life. But in the past six months, it has started to feel a little restrictive because of a single word:

Minimal.

I’m grappling with the concept of minimalism and being a minimalist, and it just doesn’t feel right for me anymore.

Minimalism is (almost) a four-letter word

Minimalism is becoming quite the trend—it’s about doing more with less. A noble pursuit, and a wonderful counter-movement in this consumerist society.

But the word itself feels stark and conjures up images of a bleak, monotone home and wardrobe. To me, it meant that all shopping was bad shopping and that nothing excessive should adorn the walls of my home.

I know not all minimalists live like that, but it became difficult to shake that idea. Telling people I was a minimalist was alienating and made me “other” in a way that I never meant to be.

I was criticized both for having things and not having things because of the label I had adopted. So, I stopped identifying as a minimalist.

What I learned as a minimalist

When I was moving frequently, planning a wedding, and subsequently planning a move across the country, my extreme reduction of “stuff” and my strong identification as a minimalist helped me keep it all together.

Minimalism gave me a clearer head and helped me to redefine my relationship to things. I learned to pursue quality over quantity, shop less, want less and maximize small spaces. I lost touch with toxic people and invested more time with my most treasured friends.

I learned so much from my time as a self-labeled minimalist, but I’ve decided to close out my use of that term and enter into a new season of life.

I'm no longer a minimalist, but I still like to keep it simple.

Minimalist Desk

What am I now?

I don’t want to use labels anymore—hence the reason I’m blogging here instead of the blatantly-labeled Minimal Millennial. I don’t want to be solely defined by my age or my stance on material possessions.

So here’s my new approach: I’m setting intentions and letting everything flow naturally. I’m opening myself up to the whims of my heart, which was becoming difficult as a “minimalist”.

Being open about my whims or desires felt taboo as a self-appointed minimalist.

It's really a matter of semantics, but it's important to me to feel comfortable with how I describe myself. I'm all about not letting ourselves get boxed in by labels so this is a natural step for me.

Is there a label that you want to shake?

Wear the Dress Twice

Even though the average marriage age for my fellow Millennials has risen, I have managed to see most of my high school friends and cousins get married in the past few years.

That means I’m free of the dreaded “what to wear” question until the next wave of weddings inevitably hits. Or, dare I say it - baby showers.

You’ve probably been there, too: staring into your closet, mentally sorting through when you wore which dress, deciding which one is “summery” enough, and worrying about matching the bridesmaids. So before you drive yourself crazy, I’m here to give you one bit of advice:

Wear the dress twice.

Dress

But it’s social suicide!

First of all, settle down. It’s a piece of clothing. Twenty years from now, you won’t remember how you dressed. But you will remember how you felt celebrating with your friends.

There is no reason to let modern style conventions dictate how you spend your hard-earned money. If you’re buying a new dress for every wedding and giving a gift, you’re going to be spending weeks of your summer pay just on weddings.

If wearing the same dress twice matters to your friends, get better friends. Seriously.

Don’t buy cheaper, buy better

Instead of purchasing half a dozen cheap dresses (I’m looking at you - yes, you in the Charlotte Russe), buy one dynamite dress.

Look for one that is easily washable and can withstand long nights of dancing and wine-spilling. Go for ethical if you can - these brands might give you a good place to start

Grab one or two quality pairs of shoes and swap back and forth between those and shoes you still have in your closet.

But most importantly, don’t just think weddings. Think long term: networking events, summer parties, holiday parties (just add tights). The more purposes your dress can serve lowers your cost-per-wear and that, my friend, is smart.

Do I even have to say it? Smart is sexy.

If you’re still not convinced

You can always get a few combinations of skirts and tops to mix things up a bit, or you can add a second dress to the rotation.

If you have a dress that makes you look and feel like the bombshell that you are, then make the most of it. It’s a great opportunity to show off your flair for accessorizing or your skills as a makeup artist. (Neither of which, I’m sad to say, I have).

So what do you think? Will you be wearing any dresses for more than one event this summer?

Why I No Longer Collect Books

Buying books would be a good thing if one could also buy the time to read them in: but as a rule the purchase of books is mistaken for the appropriation of their contents. 
Arthur Schopenhauer

I used to have shelves full of books lining my living room, stowed away under the bed, in the closet, and even some stored away at my parents’ home. I felt safe with them, knowing that I had them close at hand for “some day” when I’d need them.

And then I had to move them. Like five times. The weight was no longer something I could justify.

Books

Why do we need so many books?

There’s a quote floating around the internet about how you shouldn’t sleep with someone who doesn’t own books. It seems a little harsh and will certainly scare you into lining your walls with books you’ll never read.

In fact, just think about why personal libraries were so great to begin with: they were a sign that you could afford books. Nowadays, with public libraries, free audiobooks, eBooks, and online subscription services, there’s no real need to hoard them anymore.

They're just not as rare and expensive as they were a century ago. Large personal libraries are now just for the aesthetic and the (sometimes false) notion that you must be well-read if you own books.

How to part with your books

I detailed my own process on my other blog a couple of years ago, but there are a few key strategies I employed when it comes to books. When you decide what needs to go, donate anything you can!

  • If you haven’t read it, get rid of it. Extreme, but if you haven’t read it and you have owned it for more than a year, it needs to go. There’s nothing like seeing an interesting book on your shelf and knowing that you still haven’t read it. Don't hold on to something for someday.
  • Consider reference books carefully. Cookbooks, dictionaries, textbooks, and other reference books are tempting to keep around “just in case,” but the internet exists now. Unless it is an heirloom book or you use it often, then it’s just taking up space.
  • Keep useful and beautiful books that bring you joy. This is my mantra - does it bring me joy? If a wall full of books is your happy place, then keep them. If the shelves stress you out more than they satisfy you, then ditch them.

Keeping books at bay

I am obsessed with the public library these days. I can hop in, grab a few books, and read them (or not!) at my leisure. This keeps my book collection minimal and also prevents me from spending money on books I’m not sure about.

Other alternatives to owning a huge library:

  • Audible or Kindle
  • Search YouTube for audiobooks - it takes some hunting, but you can find a lot of good ones there.
  • Librivox is a great public domain project that makes literature a little more accessible, and all for free. You can also volunteer to record available books!
  • Public libraries usually have an online portal where you can download audiobooks and PDFs.
  • Garage sales and thrift stores may not have exactly the book you want, but take a chance on a fifty cent book - you can donate it when you’re done with it.

Right now, my few remaining books are stored in a box under the bed. We repurposed our bookshelf as a kitchen spice rack and, to be honest, it gathers less dust that way.

Someday I’ll display our books again, but not until I can find a way to do it that is functional and makes me happy.

Is book ownership a must for you?

A Single Pair of Sandals

Back in 2013, I celebrated because I had reduced my extensive shoe collection to seventeen pairs.

I've read different posts saying that the average woman owns between 20 and 27 pairs of shoes, so that number actually falls a little below average. But to me, it's still too many.

If shoes are your thing, great! (Like these lovely style bloggers.) They're just not my thing.

After reconsidering my needs, I reduced my collection to six pairs. There are a lot of shoes I no longer need since we moved from Indiana to California, but living ten miles from the beach doesn't mean that I need more sandals.

In fact, I own fewer than I did in Indiana: I own one single pair. And as crazy as it might sound, I believe that we can all get by with just one pair.

My one pair of sandals

My Salt Water Sandals have been through a year of being my primary footwear, and you'd never believe it. They're comfortable, safe (I was tripping all the time in my previous pair) and adorable with almost anything.

I might invest in a black or red pair someday, but for now I'm sticking with my trusted camel-colored pair. I can't imagine ever switching back to my cheap Target-brand sandals.

The only thing that would make them better, although I'm not sure if the quality would suffer, would be if the leather was vegan. Well-outlined fair trade and ethical business practices wouldn't hurt, either.

Your one pair of sandals

It's not as scary as you'd think to have only one pair of sandals - it's liberating. No more debating which one of five pairs looks best with that dress.

If you want to cut down, think about these three factors:

Classic style

To rock a single pair of sandals this year, look for something that's not too trendy or overdone. Heaps of jewels may catch your eye, but remember that they can fall out, meaning you might not get as many miles out of the sandals as you'd like.

Look for a simple, classic shape that you can foresee wearing in multiple settings (heels don't work well on long walks). Sturdiness is also essential – look for secure straps, quality materials and try to stay away from those little stretchy things by the clasps. They break.

Multipurpose color

Black, charcoal or brown are obvious colors – I chose brown because it's less harsh and still goes with my black dresses.

Take a look at your closet – would a red or blue pair work better? Maybe yellow or pink? Get whatever matches the most of your clothing. Just be sure you're happy to wear it all day every day.

Comfort

This is so important. I had a pair of sandals that were just a little too big for my feet, and I bit the dust half a dozen times before I decided that they just weren't working for me.

Make sure that your sandals don't give you blisters, have adequate ankle and arch support, and are (obviously) the perfect size. I took a chance online and ordered without trying the shoes on, but it all worked out.

If you're too nervous about that gamble, find a store that sells the brand you're looking for and try them on first.

Are you willing to take the plunge with a single pair of sandals this summer? Am I committing a terrible style crime, or is this a reasonable effort?

My Current Favorite Ethical Brands

My shopping habits evolve every day. In high school, it was whatever was cheapest.

In college, it was also whatever was cheapest, but with an emphasis on what would be cool at the bars. (If you're wondering, my sense of "cool" was long vintage skirts worn as dresses and 80's shirts covered in sequins).

After college, I still went for cheap, but I wanted "brand name". Hence the Banana Republic and Express Goodwill finds that never were the right color or exactly the right size. Basically, I was buying into an idea, but a secondhand one.

When we moved out to California, limited packing space made me go almost entirely utilitarian. I stopped shopping altogether, in fact, which was kind of a nice break. 

After all that, I now have a wardrobe that works, but it doesn't necessarily work for me. So, this time around I want to really invest in clothing that I like, regardless of what other people think. And I want to invest in clothing that has a positive impact, versus the junk I was buying before.

If you haven't seen it yet, I'm obsessed with John Oliver's take on the fashion industry, and of the consequences of the fast fashion that is so ubiquitous today.

Still not convinced?

Choosing quality over quantity and focusing on brand ethics instead of brand names is surprisingly affordable. I won't say cheap, but if you shop intentionally and moderately, your bank account won't know the difference.

I'm still just at the beginning of my search for the best all-around brands, but these ones have stuck out to me so far.

1. Seamly

Sewn in Colorado from surplus, USA-made, or responsibly made fabrics, these garments are fascinating. Seamly makes classic basics and wardrobe staples that will last you a long time. I own a grey Versalette, one of their convertible pieces of clothing. They're currently sold out, but it looks like they're updating it for late 2016!

2. Naja

Oh how I love Naja. This company sells undergarments for women, and boy are they cute. They have some lines made from recycled materials, and all of their garments are made in a supportive, responsible way. I'm crazy about the way they choose to empower women through their products.

I currently own one bra from Naja, but I'm converted - no more cheap Target bras for me. Naja's going to be my only provider from now on. You can get $15 off if you use this link!

3. Threads 4 Thought

I first saw Threads 4 Thought for sale at Whole Foods, and when I went home to do some more research I discovered how diverse their offering really is. As I write this, I'm wearing these Firefly Leggings

Great for activewear and unique, colorful pieces, this should be a stop for every discerning consumer.

4. Alternative Apparel

Another brand that is available at my local Whole Foods, Alternative Apparel also produces unique and delightful pieces.

They have great basics, and do the slouchy tee really well - flowy, not frumpy. Expect classic patterns and surprising asymmetrical pieces that can be dressed up or down.

5. The Citizenry

Okay, so I haven't purchased anything from The Citizenry yet. But these home goods truly are good - they're fair trade and handmade. 10% of the proceeds get reinvested into the artisan community as Entrepreneurship Development Grants. 

I've been looking for non-IKEA pillows for our couch and bedroom, and their pillow collection is divine. I'd be a lot more happy to flaunt an artisan-made pillow on my bed than something I spent $8.99 on at a warehouse.

6. Purse & Clutch

My old Target wallet (that I spent like $5 on, surprise, surprise) is on its last leg, so I've been scoping out Purse & Clutch's wallets. Too bad I just invested in a new bag last year, because I'm crushing on their purses too.

Their designs are modern and still have the lovely handmade look that I love. I also like that they posted their ethical principles on their website (every company should be this clear). 

I'm still on the lookout for a denim brand, since my only pair of jeans is an $8 pair of stretch skinnies from Old Navy. They're starting to do that weird pucker thing that cheap pants do after a while. 

Nudie Jeans and AG Jeans are in the running, but since summer is on its way, I'm not in any hurry.

There you have it! My six current favorite ethical/sustainable brands. I'm keeping a running list, so I'll have new ones all the time.

Anything you'd like to add to my list?

Creating White Space in Your Home

If you’re anything like me, it’s next to impossible for you to keep a surface clean for more than a few minutes. As I write this, my dining table is covered in crochet projects, calligraphy practice and other random clutter.

It’s incredibly stressful.

So I’ve decided to dedicate one surface to nothing but useful and beautiful things: the top of my dresser.

How to create white space

Like any good designer knows, well-used white space is an essential element of good work. I’m no designer, but it is a thing that I’ve heard.

But why not use that same principle in your home?

You can do it by overhauling everything and getting rid of half the furnishings in your home, or you can take it down a few notches. I chose just one surface for now, since I’m cultivating a habit of clearing spaces when I’m done with them.

Find a surface you see (but don’t necessarily use) regularly. Take everything off and give it a good wipe down - who knows when the last time you dusted was?

Now comes the fun part. Add back only the items that are absolutely essential for that surface. For me, it’s the books I am reading before bed, a journal, chapstick, and my essential oils and diffuser. Keep it simple and functional.

After those are set up, you can add in a few things that make you happy.

For me, it is a heart-shaped rock some dear friends brought us from the shores of Lake Michigan, a llama with a bow from my best friend, a little bear from my family, and a rabbit an old coworker brought me from Colorado.

Again, keep this simple but choose the best of the best. You might even consider pulling a beautiful object from another part of your home so it can have the space and attention it deserves.

How to maintain white space

Yeah, so this is the hard part. I’ve made it a rule to remove anything the second I am done with it on that surface.

If I need to place a cup or a mug on the dresser before bed, I bring it to the kitchen when I wake. 

Since everything else in the apartment is chaos, this is my little oasis of (literal) white space. It brings me peace before bed and it makes me smile in the mornings.

Where is your white space?