Simplify Life with a Capsule Wardrobe

So what is a capsule wardrobe?

In short, it’s a collection of clothes comprised of a limited, but versatile, number of items. Susie Faux, a London fashion entrepreneur, popularized the concept in the 1980s. Since then, its popularity has ebbed and flowed. And right now, it’s flowing.

Why so popular?

Well, the claimed effects of the capsule wardrobe are quite coveted. They include:

  • Dressing better
  • Spending less money on clothes
  • Having an easier time assembling outfits
  • Enjoying a more organized and spacious closet

Now that we know what a capsule wardrobe is, and why it’s so great – how exactly do you put one together? What are the hard and fast rules?

Well… there are none. Just ask the creator, Susie Faux.

“The ideal size of your capsule will depend from person to person,” she says in her blog, Confidence Tricks.

We’re all unique individuals. And so what I need in my capsule wardrobe is different from what you need in yours. Most likely, we have different lifestyles. I don’t have to wear a suit to work each day, but maybe you do.

The first step of making a capsule wardrobe is to:

#1 Figure Out What You Need

Assess how many outfits (and what kind) you need, based on your lifestyle. As an example, I’ll share what this looks like for me:

  • Street Clothes – 14 outfits
  • Work Attire – 7 outfits
  • Night Out Get Ups – 6 outfits
  • Running – 6 outfits
  • Yoga – 7 outfits
  • Eveningwear – 4 outfits
  • Sleepwear – 3 outfits

Let me offer a little context.

For me, street clothes are my bread and butter. It’s what I wear around town and usually at work. I’d like to have enough variety so that I can wear a different ensemble for two solid weeks – meaning 14 different get ups.

But then there’s times when I want to look more polished for work (i.e. meetings, site visits, presentations). Having a rotation of 7 outfits works well for me.

There’s also a sprinkling of occasions when I go out and want to wear something chic, fun, and flirty. 4 ensembles now is the right number for me.

And finally, I have a pretty active lifestyle to consider. I run 5-6 days a week, so having 6 outfits means I can do laundry once a week and comfortably have enough to wear. Meanwhile, I do yoga a few times a week. But my fellow yogis always look so sharp and stylish, I feel obliged to at least try keeping up. Having 7 outfits in rotation means I can wear something different for about two weeks.

#2 Inventory What You Have

This took a couple hours. I encourage you write down every item you own. Seeing all my possessions on paper forced me to realize the obscene number of clothing items I own. (Over 250. Yikes.)

After you make your list, write down how you feel about each item right next to it. The categories I suggest are:

  • Love it
  • Like it
  • Meh

(If you do this project in excel, it can come in handy – stay tuned!)

#3 Sort Your Clothes

Sort out all your meh pieces. Remove them from your inventory. If you used excel, you can sort your “meh” pieces into a separate list. Then, you can go through your closet at a rapid fire pace and weed them out.

If you have an excess of clothes (which I imagine you do, since you’re reading this article) there’s no reason to waste your closet real estate on sub-par garments.

Donate them. You’ll get a tax ride off.

#4 Assess Your Clothes Inventory

Once you have pared down the clothing in your closet, assess how well the clothes you have meet your outfit needs. Write down what types of clothes you have an excess of, and which clothes you need more of. This will help hone your shopping pursuits so that you only buy what you need.

 

Eatpraylove

Eat, Pray, Love – 10 Years Later

Recently, I re-read Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert — which I had first read about 10 years ago, when I was in early college. Back then, Liz’s tale had seemed so irrelevant to my own life. Divorce, home ownership, a successful career. I was still trying figure out my major. What resonated with me, though, was her spiritual pursuit — her fierce desire to connect with happiness and God.

Now that I’ll be turning 30 in a few months, I see the book through a slightly different lens. While my writing career hasn’t had quite the  resounding success that Liz has had (note, you are reading this on a self-published blog), being closer to her Eat, Pray, Love age helps me identify more with her experiences. The dilemma of whether to have children, once so far on the horizon, is now breaking on my mental shores as friends have babies — or making the decision not to.

In college, I adored this book, and I still do. But I have to admit that I kept it in a drawer, not on my bookshelf. Visitors to my dorm had rolled their eyes more than once at the book. I admit, it’s not exactly what you would call great literature. (Although Liz is certainly capable of crafting that — her book published before Eat, Pray, Love was The Last American Man — a Finalist for the National Book Award in 2002.)

As much as I enjoy Eat, Pray, Love, I do see where the skeptics are coming from. Liz goes through emotional turmoil, but the internal battles quickly reach a resolution within a few pages. It seems she skims over the deeper parts of her battle, focusing instead on the rosy outcomes. Which, I think, is part of the appeal of the book. It’s relentlessly positive, making for a buoyant read that’s perfect for the beach.

The phrase, dolce far niente comes to mind. It’s an Italian phrase that Liz learned in Italy and means “the pleasure of doing anything.” As Americans, we often have trouble relaxing into sheer pleasure, without a feeling of guilt. Having Liz articulate this dilemma was pretty validating. Her book is a reminder that embracing dolce far niente is okay.

At the same time, the book sometimes dives so deeply into dolce far niente that it can feel a little insular. At one point, Liz feels guilty about lamenting about her “boy problems” back home. But, then she recalls how when her therapist friend had counseled Cambodian refugees (who had suffered terrible torture, crimes, and losses), they wanted to talk about ex-boyfriends. Liz says:

This is what we are like, collectively, as a species, this is our emotional landscape…. There are only two questions that human beings have ever fought over, all through history. How much do you love me? and Who’s in charge? Everything else is somehow manageable.

I felt that this quick assessment flattened the terror that Cambodian refugees have endured. Yes, those questions are important, but to disregard the hardships endured as being “somehow manageable,” can come across as naive. With prose like this, it’s understandable that Eat, Pray, Love has found its way into the “priv-lit” genre.

The book is one part spiritual journey, one part escapist. Let us not forget our narrator is a  wealthy white woman whose bank account opens doors that most could never touch because of responsibilities back home. Still, there are lessons that Liz learns, which I benefited from vicariously. For example, her sense of God. She writes:

What I have come to believe about God is simple. It’s like this—I used to have this really great dog… She was a mixture of about ten different breeds, but seemed to have inherited the finest features of them all. She was brown. When people asked me, “What kind of dog is that?” I would always give the same answer: “She’s a brown dog.” Similarly, when the question is raised, “What kind of God do you believe in?” my answer is easy: “I believe in a magnificent God.” … I think you have every right to cherry-pick when it comes to moving your spirit and finding peace in God. You take whatever works from wherever you can find it, and you keep moving toward the light.

Initially, I wasn’t so sure about Liz’s spiritual cherry picking. Was that just another verbal package for cultural appropriation? The two concepts do straddle a fine line. The way I see it, cultural appropriation is when you take a minority’s cultural practices for your own use, without honoring the original context or meaning. Think: the image of Buddha used to sell a bag of popcorn.

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If the image of Jesus were being used to sell chips, it would raise some eyebrows.

Liz’s spiritual cherry picking, by contrast, doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s an internal pursuit. Her God is her way of finding inner peace, whatever form it may take. In one particularly desperate moment, she looks inside herself for a sense of God, asking what to do. She then taps into a deeper sense of self that offers her guidance.

The experience she describes bring to mind the phrase, “namaste,” which loosely translates to “The God in me honors the God in you,” an acknowledgment that a piece of the divine rests within each of us, if we are willing to connect to it.

I enjoyed reading about Liz’s process, as well as her travels.

In spite of what cynics may say (including the cynic within me), this remains a book I greatly admire.

Stop People Pleasing

A friend is complaining to me about her family.

“The problem is that I’m such a people pleaser,” she says. “I always put everyone in front of myself.”

She says that she doesn’t want to put her own needs first because then she’ll feel selfish.

With this type of binary thinking, your actions are either people pleasing or self centered.

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The only time that you can “win” is if your people-pleasing actions also happen to meet your own needs.

I’ve noticed that my friend who identifies as a “people pleaser” will sometimes snap. She is so accustomed to doing things for others that sometimes she gets to a point when she simply wants things her way, and at that point, will act out in a way that can be surprisingly self-centered. This type of behavior also manifests when people are very passive. They can be so passive that sometimes they act surprisingly aggressive in backlash to their usual passivity.

But, we don’t think of being passive versus aggressive in a binary way. We see it on a scale, with being assertive in the middle.

 

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I think that the same principle applies when thinking about being a “people pleaser.” Those who identify as “people pleasers” sometimes think of themselves as martyrs. They see their selflessness as being a testament to their character, when really it is a sign of imbalance, much in the way that being too passive is.

Instead of being either a “people pleaser” or “self centered,” someone who is assertive considers the needs of those around them, while also making sure that their own needs are being met. It’s not a zero sum game. When this balance is struck, a person is able to operate in an assertive way.

 

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The next time someone laments the toll of being a people pleaser, it can be helpful to let them know that there are healthier options available so that they can manage their interactions in a more assertive way. Being a people pleaser simply isn’t sustainable, but being assertive is.

wabi-sabi painting

The Wabi-Sabi Philosophy

Wabi-sabi bowl

Wabi-sabi, with close ties to 15th century Japanese tea ceremony and Zen Buddhism, is a way of life conducive to simplicity, mindfulness, and harmony. It’s an ancient outlook, with roots extending as far back as 10th century Taoism. (1)

The word, “wabi” is derived from the Japanese root “wa,” which means “harmony and tranquility.” The word “sabi” means “blossom of time.” (2) Taken together, the phrase wabi-sabi signifies an embracing of natural simplicity in light of how fleeting and ephemeral life is.

A wabi-sabi home strives for simplicity and acceptance of the materials in it. Broken bowls are mended. Classic clothing is purchased in lieu of trendy garments. Natural materials, like wood, are incorporated. Basic cooking tools are used instead of electric appliances (when possible).

Like a haiku, less becomes more. Having fewer items distills the preciousness of the ones that you have. Simple design begets serenity.

It’s the opposite of grandeur and perfection, and an outlook I am coming to internalize more and more as time goes on. Wabi-sabi manifests in the mindfulness that enters life when the space is made for it. It’s handing someone a book with the cover facing towards them. It’s the delicate tissue that packages a ripened pear. It’s being mindful of the small details that dissipate within a moment’s notice.

It’s not a look or a style — it’s a mindset.

 

 

(1) Wabi-Sabi: the Japanese Art of Impermanence, by Andrew Juniper

(2) Simply Imperfect: Revisiting the Wabi-Sabi House, by Robynn Griggs Lawrence

Chakras and Intuitive Eating

Chef Kayla Wexelberg, owner of Taste your Roots

Chef Kayla Wexelberg, owner of Taste your Roots

This past May, I was lucky enough not only to go to Lightning in a Bottle, but also to see Chef Kayla Wexelberg do a workshop!

She’s the owner of the culinary company, Taste Your Roots, and also completely blew my mind with her philosophy on intuitive eating. She describes how the food we eat affects our chakras.

A summary of what I learned is below:

Eating Protein and Roots Nourishes the ROOT CHAKRA

The root chakra (as the name might suggest) is associated with grounding and stability. Eating foods rich in protein helps satiate us and make us feel grounded. Roots (think potato, carrots, beets) are high in fiber and also help achieve this goal.

Fluids and the SACRAL CHAKRA

The sacral chakra, housed by our sex organs, is where we keep the most emotional elements of ourselves. This is the part of us that fosters our emotional connection to other individuals. Fluids help to nurture this part of us. A warm cup of tea in an intimate setting sets the tone for us to open up to each other. (Although a few glasses of wine can also do the trick.  😉  )  Rose water, cucumber juice, and peppermint tea are just a few examples of the fluids that nurture this chakra.

Carbohydrates and the SOLAR CHAKRA

The solar chakra (located by the mid and upper abdomen) is where power resides. It’s by the core muscles that we use to accomplish physical work, and so is fueled by carbohydrates like rice, potatoes, and corn — the building blocks of food that give us energy.

Produce and the HEART CHAKRA

The heart chakra, tied to our sense of love and openness, is symbolized by the color green. Springtime, when “love is in the air,” is also when green food (think vegetables and produce) is most readily available. Produce is also very good for the cardiovascular system, and so supports the heart chakra not just poetically, but physiologically as well.

Spices and the THROAT CHAKRA

The throat, from which our speech flows, is the bedrock of our communication. Sampling different spices and flavors gives us something to discuss and so activates the throat chakra.

Stimulants and the THIRD EYE CHAKRA

The third eye chakra is the center of insight and reflection. It represents clear vision and thought, and so is activated by stimulants like coffee and chocolate.

Breath and the CROWN CHAKRA

The crown chakra (at the top of your head) symbolizes a connection with a force of life greater than ourselves. I may be mistaken, but I don’t recall Kayla talking about nourishment for the crown chakra through food. But when I think about it, I feel that the breath is a great link to ourselves and the higher power beyond us. To me, breath is my way of engaging the crown chakra.

Photo Credit: www.tasteyouroots.com

 

Big Magic - Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic – by Elizabeth Gilbert

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When I read a book, I like to jot down the main takeaways. Writing them down helps me to fully understand them. To quote Joan Didion, “I write entirely to find out what I am thinking.”

After I wrote down my takeaways for Big Magic, I noticed that there were seven of them. And those seven happened to correspond to the seven chakras of the body. And so that is how I will reflect on them here:

The Crown Chakra and Cosmic Ping Pong

The crown chakra (at the top of your head) symbolizes a connection with a force of life greater than ourselves.

When Liz (the author) described her earlier days as a writer and struggle to first become published, she explained how whenever she received a rejection letter on a story she had submitted, she would ricochet that energy right back into the world with another submission — as if she were playing a game of cosmic ping pong. I love the imagery of this metaphor. A rejection isn’t an ultimatum. It’s simply your intention being returned back to you, waiting to be sent back out into the world again.

The Third Eye Chakra and Dual Exploration

The third eye chakra is the center of insight and reflection. It represents clear vision and thought.

One technique for nurturing this chakra (discussed in this book) is “dual exploration.” Dual exploration is pursuing multiple channels of creative expression so as to clarify your thinking and vision in each of them.

As an example, when Einstein felt stuck when working on his physics theorems, he would play the violin as a form of relief. Transitioning yourself from a creative outlet when it becomes jammed gives that channel the opportunity to clear.

Eistein Playing the Violin

Eistein Playing the Violin

In my own life, I find that alternating between the work of my day job and my writing helps with both pursuits. They’re like two wheels of a bicycle, needing each other for support.

The Throat Chakra and Learning from Others

The throat, from which our speech flows, is tied to communication with others. Liz described how impacted she was by talking to a friend of hers who had more experience in life — being 90 years old. The nonagenarian explained how ten years ago, she had become fascinated by studying ancient Mesopotamia — and how life-changing it was for her. It’s inspiring to know that even at later stages in life, it’s possible to have experiences that can completely alter your outlook on life.

The Heart Chakra and Creativity as a Border Collie

The heart chakra represents openness — a quality that creativity craves.

Liz likens creativity to a border collie. A border collie is an energy-filled beast. It needs a purpose or task to pursue in order to feel fulfilled. Without a purpose or task, it becomes a self-destructive force.

Creativity is like a border collie

Creativity is like a border collie – if it can’t roam free, it will become destructive.

Thinking about creativity this way made me feel more validated in pursuing my own creative pursuits. Before, I saw it as self-indulgent, but now I recognize it as being a necessary outlet. Without an outlet, my creativity grows restless, much like a caged in dog.

The Solar Chakra and Embracing Challenge

The solar chakra (located by the naval) is where power resides.

Liz talks about how when her creativity was faced with a challenge, it helped to bring out facets of her abilities and power she wasn’t aware of before.

She describes how she had written a short story, scheduled to be published — only to be told that the word count had to be drastically reduced. Though Liz was initially jarred by this requirement, she later found that cutting down the length of the story helped her to cultivate a new stylistic way of writing.

The Sacral Chakra and Curiosity

The sacral chakra houses the most emotional elements of ourselves. When we are passionate about something, this is the chakra that gets activated.

Passion is a fun experience to have — and the lack of it can be disconcerting.

When I feel a lack of passion in a certain area of life, for me there is a sense of urgency to recover it. Yet, passion isn’t something you can generate by sheer will — it has to organically develop.

Liz suggests that instead of pursuing passion, a more natural path is to follow curiosity. IF we are curious about something, we should follow the trail it leaves. And who knows — it may eventually guide us towards that passion we crave.

The Root Chakra and Creative Liberation

The root chakra is associated with grounding and stability.

When we look to our creativity as a source of financial stability, an undue burden is placed on our creative stores.

Liz puts forth the idea that you shouldn’t look towards your creativity as being the only source of your financial stability. That would put great pressure on your creativity, and could ultimately be harmful.

This idea resonates with me. Having a relationship with creativity means providing for it as if it were your own child. You don’t expect it to earn its keep. It is yours to foster, nurture and cultivate – with no expectation that it return deliverables.

The Gen Z Effect – by Keldsen & Koulopoulos

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Generation Z is different. Most are using iPads before they can walk, and many will be running businesses before they can drive. I feel more of a generational divide between myself and someone ten years younger than someone three decades older. So what gives? (If kids even use that expression anymore.)

Well, this book sets forth an interesting thesis. The authors, Dan Keldsen and Thomas Koulopoulos, shed some light on Gen Z. They’re two big-time business consultants with a shared interest in the world’s youth, and a desire to understand them.

So first things first – what exactly is Gen Z? Well, according to the authors, defining them by birth date is gonna work. It’s a mindset, not an age.

But, if you must know – Gen Z’ers are general considered to have been born anytime between the late 1990s to the late 2000s. So anyone born between the 1998 release date of Mulan and 2008 release of Wall-E would be a Gen Z-er by the birth date metric.

Keldsen and Koulopoulos would argue, though, that it doesn’t matter what Disney movie came out the year you were born. As mentioned earlier, it’s all about mindset.

The Gen Z mindset transcends age, embracing the constant evolution of technology, social norms, and means of communication. Gen Z’ers aren’t locked into social hierarchies. They see any person as being a source of wisdom, regardless of age or status. PRogressive companies embrace this principle by employing “reverse mentoring” programs. In this arrangement, more season professionals are mentored by younger employees who are more in tune with the latest trends — and hence, can pass on that knowledge.

Gen Z’ers are also quick to embrace new concepts like “life hacking” or “remote work.” It doesn’t matter what age you are – you can adopt a Gen Z mentality by tuning into current trends and more efficient ways of getting work done and tasks accomplished.

This is a great read for a glimpse into what the coming future holds — and how to stay relevant as it unfolds.