It’s Not About the Clothes (Project 333)

I had a chance to see Courtney Carver speak in Vancouver a few weeks back and wanted to share some of my take aways from the event.

First, if you haven’t heard of Courtney and her minimalist fashion project, Project 333, I’ll get you acquainted. Courtney has been writing and speaking about simplicity through her blog BeMoreWithLess.com for many years. I’ve linked to her blog posts and writing often. Her minimalist fashion challenge called Project 333 began almost seven years ago and continues to have a large and dedicated following. Below are the rules for Project 333.

  • When: Every three months (It’s never too late to start so join in anytime!)
  • What: 33 items including clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear and shoes.
  • What not: these items are not counted as part of the 33 items – wedding ring or another sentimental piece of jewelry that you never take off, underwear, sleep wear, in-home lounge wear,  and workout clothing (you can only wear your workout clothing to workout)
  • How: Choose your 33 items, box up the remainder of your fashion statement, seal it with tape and put it out of sight.
  • What else: consider that you are creating a wardrobe that you can live, work and play in for three months. Remember that this is not a project in suffering. If your clothes don’t fit or are in poor condition, replace them.

Courtney was in Vancouver speaking and I was lucky to score tickets to her second night after the first night quickly sold out (Vancouver loves her!).

Takeaways from Courtney Carver’s Tiny Wardrobe Tour

I didn’t know what I liked. This statement from Courtney really stuck with me over the evening and into the days that followed. While Courtney’s speaking engagement was under the “The Tiny Wardrobe Tour” banner, her talk gave us so much more as she delved into her personal life and journey towards simplifying.

One thing Courtney talked about was that her idea of herself was of someone that loved shopping. As she went further along in her minimalist wardrobe experiment she saw that she actually didn’t love shopping. She loved the pick me up from buying something new. She loved the temporary high of a purchase, the distraction from any worries in her life. She didn’t love shopping but she also didn’t know what she really liked. It was a slow process for Courtney to get back to things that had fed her soul as a teen: photography and hiking. Finding out what she liked, becoming curious again, was a big part of her simplifying journey.

There is no perfect capsule wardrobe. I think Courtney kind of blew a few minds with this statement. There is no item of clothing that will make you feel your wardrobe is complete. This idea of perfection, this idea that theres is something out there that we can buy that will make things perfect and complete, is what keeps us shopping and consuming. We’re never satisfied. As Courtney shared she used to buy clothes for her clothes. It was never enough. It will never be enough. You need to let go of the idea of perfection.

Make your rules for your life. There were a lot of questions about wardrobe choices and counting for people’s different lifestyle needs. Courtney kept coming back to the same answer: create rules for what works for you. If you are just starting out and you have a lot of jewellery, count it as one item. Same for if you have a strict formal dress code for work: count work clothing as one item.

I wanted to share with you that Courtney has a new book coming out in December called Soulful Simplicity. One reviewer basically called it next level Marie Kondo and after hearing Courtney speak I’m excited to read it myself (pre-ordered and coming to me end of December!). Courtney has some great extras for anyone that pre-orders that you can find here . *I’ve ordered and paid for the book with my own money – this is not a sponsored post. 

Have any of you tried Project 333 or any other minimalist fashion experiments? What was your experience like? I naturally gravitate to a small wardrobe but I’m thinking of being a bit more deliberate and using the Project 333 guidelines.

Also, shout out to the lovely Minimalist Mom readers that came over for a chat after Courtney’s talk. Always fun to meet other people trying to navigate parenthood with less stuff. Stay strong on the kid’s clothes ladies (it does get easier). 

Storing (Less) Kid’s Clothing

 

It’s been a while since I talked about kid’s clothing and how we try and keep things minimalist-ish with three young kids. So I thought I would give an update on what we’re doing now, how things are changing as our kids get older (and bigger) and share some of my favourite strategies that work for our family for keeping clothing under control.

Above is what we have stored for our three kids. The top box is shoes and rain boots. The bottom box is summer clothing and hand-me-downs. My kids are now 7, 4 and 2 and our family is complete as they say/ we’re done with babies!! There is a three size gap between the seven year-old and four year-old and a one or no size gap between the four year-old and two year-old. We have cool to cold winters with a lot of rain and the occasional snow day and our summers can go as high as 30C.

Strategies for Small Kid Wardrobes

We’ve made it the last year and a half with two IKEA Antonius units storing all the kids clothes and diapers. It’s getting tight. The culprit: our oldest is wearing a school uniform this year (and they have TWO different uniforms) plus his clothing is getting bigger, just likehim. Luckily the school uniform will be gone at the end of June and we’ll get back 25% of the space once our youngest potty trains in a year and we’re out of diapers. In general I think we do a good job of keeping the kid’s wardrobes modest while still keeping them appropriately clothed. Things we do that help us have less clothing:

  • we don’t buy/accept a lot of clothing – simple but it helps immensely
  • we regularly cull the kids wardrobes for things that aren’t being worn or no longer fit
  • we think holes in the knees of jeans are cool. Someone asked me if we put holes in the knees of the youngest jeans ourselves, like as an ode to distressed jean fashion. I laughed. Nope. He’s just the third kid to wear those size 2T jeans.
  • if the outfit was clean at the end of the day (exception: underwear) it gets worn the next day
  • we try to invest in durable brands for our oldest son that will last through another kid or two. Especially in outerwear and rain boots.
  • we try and wear out items. I won’t send my kids out in torn (besides knees on jeans) clothing or items with big stains on them, but fading or some fraying from lots of use, that makes me happy. So we don’t replace things simply because they look old.

I’m not very particular about what my kids wear and so far they aren’t very particular about what they wear either. I know we are really lucky on this front. There aren’t fights about what to wear in the morning and, THANKFULLY, no one is asking me to go the mall and buy them the latest on trend piece from H&M. We do laundry frequently so at most my kids need a week’s worth of clothes. We try to wash clothing after it’s been worn two or even three times if possible and this increases the longevity of the clothing.

We don’t store a lot of hand-me downs

One thing I am seeing as my kids get bigger: the clothes are wearing out faster. We don’t have as many hand-me-downs to store as you might expect. Sometimes the middle child will be the last to wear something that was originally the oldest. Usually it’s because both of them wore that size for 2+ years so, combined with wearing things more frequently than a lot of North Americans do, the t-shirt is ready to be cut into rags or the jeans are ready to be made into jean shorts or sent to textile recycling.

I *never* buy ahead in sizes during sale season

My oldest did not grow in a steady pattern at all so I decided early on not to buy ahead at end of season sales. It’s just not worth it to me to spend money and take up our limited storage with things that may, or may not, fit one of my kids next year. A lot of our winter and fall clothing comes from Grandmas at birthdays and Christmas and if they have bought in a generous size I’ll store those items for next year. But that’s it. If buying ahead works for you, awesome. But my kids are all over the growth chart and we have very little storage so we get things in season as we need them most of the time.

I let my kids grow into and out of things

I let the t-shirts get a bit short in the body before going to the next size and that oversize sweatshirt gets to be a fitted style before it’s passed down. My oldest just passed down a zip up sweatshirt he has been wearing for over three years. We have adjustable waistbands on EVERYTHING. We roll up cuffs and sleeves for a few months while a child grows into things.

We keep shoes to a minimum

Our oldest is the shoe-a-holic out of the kids. He has four pairs: rain boots, athletic shoes, formal school shoes, pair of Converse. The other two kids have rain boots and a pair of running shoes. They each have a pair of slip-on style summer sandals that we keep out in the winter to wear to the condo pool downstairs.

Of course, I know we could be more minimalist. We spent a month overseas and the kids took about 2/3rds of their wardrobe and with frequent laundry going we did just fine. I’m all about finding the sweet spot between making life comfortable and having less stuff. Right now this is what works for us.

For parents of many, how do you manage storing hand-me-downs? I would love to hear from those of you with big families, those of you that are the buy ahead type and anyone with an more elaborate or more stream lined system than mine.

Finally! Soft Star Shoes Review

soft star shoes

I’ve been in the book writing trenches for a few months and – hurrah! – just sent back my final review of the galleys to my editor. More posts in the next few weeks including a very exciting book giveaway next week from an amazing woman (hint: she brings a lot of joy to living with less).

Okay, you’ve been telling me for years: check out Soft Star shoes. And I am happy to report it has finally happened. So so many comments about Soft Star shoes on this post about my ‘investment’ shoes that fell apart after a few months.

Sarah at Soft Star shoes contacted me about doing a review of their shoes and it was the loveliest email to receive. I get many requests for reviews or endorsements of products and 99.9% of them are not a fit. This is a blog about owning less stuff so no, I don’t think anyone wants to read about a spring yogourt flavor or a big brand cleaning product. But minimalist durable made in the USA shoes that readers have been telling me for years are awesome? That actually fits.

Soft Star Ballerine Flats

I’ve been trying out the Ballerine flat by Soft Star Shoes for two weeks and so far I’m very pleased with the shoes. The style they sent me was a black suede paisley and it’s one part classic and one part earthy. I can slip these on with a dress for a summer date and they also work to elevate my casual daily look of jeans and a t-shirt. The Soft Star Ballerines come in some sportier styles like this one that would be a great pop in a neutral capsule wardrobe.

What I Love About Soft Star Shoes

  • they feel like slippers. It was actually disconcerting at first, I felt like I was leaving the house without real shoes on, but after a day in them I was used to it. So yes, A++ for being foot friendly.
  • the heel cut is very comfortable. You can see in the photo above that the heel comes in from the sole and it hugged my heels nicely.
  • the construction is beautiful. These shoes are handmade in Oregon and the seams are all beautifully finished.
  • these shoes are great for travel. If you do like to wear heels for a night out, or clip in bike shoes for your commute, these pack easily into a bag so you can change shoes at your destination. Ideal airport and travel shoes that you can slip off and on at security.
  • Soft Star is doing good. It’s hard to find companies that are creating earth friendly and attractive and wallet friendly goods.
  • they come in my size! It’s very frustrating to get recommended North American made or fair trade or eco-friendly fashions that only come in conventional sizes (I’m 6ft tall and wear a size 11 or 12 shoe and wear a 14 tall in clothing). But Soft Star has a great range of sizes and you can even custom order your own shoes in your color and material preferences.

This is a minimalist style shoe and the sole of the Soft Star Ballerine is a Vibram Cherry sole. There is no arch support or deep cushioning. The footbed is finished in ultrasuede and has a thin layer of cushion with it. I’m already acclimated to minimalist shoes so easily walked 6 miles a day in the Ballerines right out of the box with no blisters or foot pain.

My only small nit pick about the Ballerines is that the Vibram sole has a waffle weave mold – good for traction on smooth surfaces- but I stepped on a piece of wax and it took a bit of work to get it off the sole.

Price: these shoes are $120 and while I feel like my brain is stuck in the 1980s for pricing – what? apples cost over a dollar a pound??!! – I think the price is very reasonable for the quality of the shoe. Other minimalist ballerina style shoes that aren’t nearly as well made are retailing for $200. Soft Star shoes use mostly USA made leather and use non-formaldehyde tanning methods that are better for the earth and for us. They produce all the shoes right in their factory in Oregon. You’re paying for quality and craftsmanship with Soft Star shoes – not marketing and fancy packaging.

Soft Star shoes also have a selection of children’s shoes that are adorable and great for growing young feet.

I will update this post down the road once I have put more mileage on these shoes but they feel very sturdy and built to last (unlike my other shoes). I’ve had dozens and dozens of comments and emails recommending Soft Star shoes so I am thrilled to finally be able to chime in in agreement: these are great shoes!

Disclosure: I was provided a pair of Soft Star Shoes for review but all views are my own.

Are Smart Wool Garments Worth The Price?

icebreakerreview

Are you struggling to find quality clothing that will last? Me too. I’ll be sharing a few of my finds, and yours, on the blog.

For years people have told me, on this blog and in person, that smart wool garments were a great investment. They were durable, functional and, get this, didn’t smell even after repeated wears. I was intrigued. But the price. Ouch.

My sister wore a few smart wool items as she hiked through the Swiss alps. She came back convinced that the garments were worth the expense when she had no access to laundry facilities and was hiking eight hours a day. The rumors were true: smart wool really did keep odor at bay, was cool in the heat and warm at lower temperatures. Because she could wear things a few times before washing she didn’t need to back as much. Okay, I was ready to give them a try.

Smart wool garments are expensive. Like really expensive. And this is coming from someone who is open minded about investing in things that will last and that I will get great use out of. But because I want to have less that I wear more often I decided to bite the bullet and test run some garments.

The biggest investment piece we bought was a black hooded zip up lightweight jacket for my husband. Chris received the Icebreaker Quantum Zip Hoodie for Christmas 2012. We both got a pair of socks and I got a t-shirt(like this but without the print on the front). Soon after Chris also purchased an Icebreaker t-shirt.

My Icebreaker / Smart Wool garment review three years after purchase and use.

We didn’t love all of our garments but there was one clear winner.

First, my women’s t-shirt was not a stylish cut as I had hoped. At the time I was living in the Isle of Man and ordered everything online so I wasn’t able to try things on for fit. This is on me because I didn’t inspect it in person first. The t-shirt also had an embroidered logo that I hadn’t noticed when ordering. This moves it into more hiking/workout territory for me. I’ve kept my eyes out for smart wool t-shirts with no logo, no print and a stylish cut but still haven’t found anything that really fits my needs.

All that to say, the t-shirt has been worn for workouts and all the hype is true: it’s lasted really well, doesn’t hold odor and works for different climates. Icebreaker Women’s t-shirt: B

Our Icebreaker socks didn’t fair so well. Holes in heels after one winter. Now, I wore my socks as slippers around our house in the winter so they got almost daily use. And, big catch, Icebreaker has a lifetime guarantee on their socks. But I just found out about that so those socks were not returned for new ones. Icebreaker socks: C+ with return policy

My husband had the best success with his Icebreaker Smart Wool clothing. His dark gray v-neck t-shirt is versatile and in a pinch can be worn casually to work. If I compare it to his regular cotton t-shirts the Icebreaker smart wool t-shirt has blown them away. It still looks great, the color hasn’t faded, it still holds its shape and, yeah!, does not hold odor. Icebreaker men’s t-shirt: A

But the biggest winner has been the Icebreaker Hoodie. It was/is a staple of his wardrobe for three years. It worked perfectly for our climate here in the Pacific Northwest and in the Isle of Man as a warm layer in winter and a lightweight jacket in summer. It was worn almost daily for three straight years. The only fault I can give this jacket is that the pocket design wasn’t great. We had an ahem, incident, where a passport fell out of the front pocket. I think this older model of the jacket had a pocket design that wasn’t meant to hold things, just warm hands.

This jacket was worn so much that Chris wore it out in three years of heavy use. As you can see from the photos above the sun bleached areas of the jacket into a purple shade, a small hole appeared near the elbow and the cuffs frayed. I’m going to send this to someone to upcycle into a smaller garment(s). For Christmas 2015 Chris received his second Icebreaker hoodie. Happy to report the pocket design has been changed and will securely hold a passport.

Are Smart Wool Garments Worth the Money?

Here’s a cost and use breakdown for the hoodie my husband wore almost daily for three years:

  • Bought for roughly $250 CDN.
  • Use: 3 years, around 250 days/year (probably more).
  • Cost per use: ¢33/wear
  • Convenience of having a all-weather base layer/jacket that goes with everything: priceless.

After three years with some smart wool clothing I would recommend them to anyone. If you’re someone that spends a lot of time outdoors they can be a perfect layering piece, are very durable and you can wear them multiple times without washing. Ideal for camping trips, and adventures big and small.

Still on the hunt for more clothing that will last… will keep you updated.

Any other merino wool/smart wool/Icebreaker fans out there?

A Common Wardrobe Problem: Weight Fluctuation

acommonwardrobe

 

Here’s something I haven’t heard many people talk about: weight fluctuations are really hard on your wardrobe. Not just because you need multiple sizes but as you are growing out of things you stretch them out. Clothing gets misshapen. All that tension on the seams does damage.

My clothes are in rough shape right now.

Three babies in six years has left me with a wardrobe that is limping along. I gain everywhere when I’m pregnant and I gain early. I also like to pretend I’m not gaining weight because hey, I can squeeze into my regular jeans. I destroyed clothing by refusing to wear maternity clothing. Nice winter weight leggings? Stretched out. Good jeans? Waistband twisted and rolled over and seams clinging together.

Another factor on my diminished wardrobe: I don’t own a lot of clothing. So whatever I do have gets worn out fast.

Two years ago I was feeling happy with my modest collection of tees, cardigans and jeans but now I am back at the starting blocks. And really, a few miles away from the starting blocks as I’m struggling to shake off the last 15 lbs from this pregnancy (gah!! third baby!). Struggling and yet, dreaming and scheming of a “done with having babies” wardrobe.

Have you read The Vivienne Files? I linked to it on Facebook recently. One of my sisters tipped me off about this fantastic resource for capsule wardrobe building and packing for travel.

The Vivienne Files is written by Janice Riggs and the content… is amazing. If you have a closet full of clothes but nothing to wear, you need to start reading The Vivienne Files.

What’s different about The Vivienne Files? Capsule wardrobes are a common term and you can find information on building your own everywhere.

Janice’s system is different. She starts with a Common Wardrobe. These aren’t necessarily pieces that are old world classics – think beautiful but basic t-shirts instead of the standard white silk blouse. It’s capsule wardrobe basics with a modern twist. Think denim button down shirt and even coloured jeans. Yes, the other interesting piece to The Vivienne Files: you have to pick your colours.

This is an addictive blog! Janice’s writing about modern wardrobes and her methods, and all of her wonderful slides on wardrobe combinations, will have you sorting your closet and making 4 x 4 travel wardrobes. You start with a common wardrobe, you choose accent colours. You wait patiently and build. You let go of things that were bought in error or simply aren’t being used (you also forgive yourself for shopping mistakes!). I like that there is a focus on waiting and that if you follow Janice’s method, there is a clear picture of what you should be, and shouldn’t be buying. No temptations to purchase things that don’t fit your lifestyle, colours or wardrobe plan.

Also, Janice has Project333 help!

I did just give in and get a pair of well fitting jeans. Gretchen Rubin would label me a classic underbuyer: I put off getting things until well past when I first needed them. There is some good to it (you buy less) but also some bad: you buy the item quickly and don’t do a lot of research or look for sales. This underbuyer is excited to use some of The Vivienne Files’ worksheets to plan my post-nursing, post-babies, wardrobe.

Are you a weight fluctuator? How do you manage your wardrobe and do you find that shifting weight repeatedly is hard on your clothes? Also, do you keep clothing in different sizes? I’ve kept everything in my ‘regular adult’ weight to my post-babies weight but I long ago gave away my ‘skinny’ clothing from a brief time when I was almost 20 lbs under my usual weight.

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