Fuzzy thoughts

This morning I got my second vaccine shot. The countdown begins until I feel something – if anything at all. Z had his second shot yesterday morning. By 3 pm he came to me saying, “I have a headache in my scalp and ears and my joints hurt.” He woke up this morning with a bad headache and saying his fingers hurt. His body aches started last night and have gotten progressively worse throughout today.

It’s ok. This kind of sickness. This kind of pain is a good thing. We are fighting to preserve and extend our lives by enduring this. Safeguards aren’t always painless.

I’ve used this milestone 72 hour period as an excuse to binge. After this, I will be ready to be better in many ways. I bought a half dozen donuts from my favorite local donut shop – fill the aches with sugar! Sure, why not. We’d heard from multiple sources that staying hydrated – overly hydrated – helps. I’ve already made two pots of tea. Z’s large water glass is always full. Yesterday I started the hydration train with three pots of tea and a full pint of beer and more water later. We are thankful to have two bathrooms in this house. I’ve been binge eating and snacking and not caring. This is temporary. This is a last hurrah. A celebration. A “I can still eat all that and a bag of chips!” 20-something attitude because why not have fun with it 25 years down the line? I’m not alcohol binging but I’ve no doubt my body will be angry to some degree at the food consumption. Feed a cold! A terrible cold that’s (possibly) on the way! I’ve been living off udon noodle kits from the asian market. It’s like ramen packages but the udon noodles are fresh and cold packed. Throw in the salty broth mixes, add veggies, maybe some leftover chicken or pork, and always a soft-boiled egg. What’s for dinner? Who knows. Whatever we may feel like ordering from one of the take-out service apps. We already agreed that would be an option and depending on how I feel later may or may not be the only option. We are ok with this splurge. This binge. This spending all day in PJs because who knows what’ll happen, but let’s make the most of it. Z occasionally comes up from the basement, whimpers, leans on me for hugs and cuddles. I check his temperature and ask when was the last time he took a pain reliever. He refills his water glass and goes back to the basement where he reclines on the sofa, covered in a wool blanket and watches reruns of This Old House. I’ve decided to try making a coherent post of sorts before I feel too incapacitated to do anything – if anything happens.

For the past week I’ve been on a blog reading binge. Going back to old fashion blogs and “catching up” with what they are doing now. So many sites have fallen away over the past year and don’t post or have been deleted. Some have turned into more highly polished versions of their previous selves. Commercial-esque in nature, but holding a community vibe like the blog version of the Oprah Winfrey show. I don’t mean that in any sarcastic or condescending way because I do enjoy it so I can’t knock it. Entries from those still sporadically posting seem hopeful, tired, excited but still drained. Of fashion. Of thinking about what comes next. Of life. One blog I read/skimmed the entire backlog of because I wanted to know why so many others loved that particular one. When did that blog gain the audience? How? Did it change it’s tone or style or content? No, not at all actually and that was something truly beautiful to realize and I read from post to post noticing that while fashion was a part of that person’s blog so was life itself. I’ve never kept a blog long enough to have that sort of graceful aging happen to it. When I started blogging ages ago I was focused on photography and only that. Sharing life was of course part of that, but the photos had to take front and center. We traveled a lot more around the country so more of my posts were about our various National Park trips. Later I got onto the breakfast photo train and 365 photo train. Burn out. Deleted everything. A strange sense of too much of myself was thrown out there. Then after a while of not doing anything at all I started up this site thinking I’d do a mix of anime reviews and outfit photos. It never occurred to me that I could have had a blog all this time about all of the above because all of that is life. It’s my life and the phases I’ve been through. I suppose I like shutting doors and closing chapters and not looking back because I’ve had to do that many times. On events. On people. On moving multiple times. On toxic memories. On embarrassments. On not being able to accept those older parts of myself. My personal half-assed version of perfectionism seems to strangle me every 5 years. I begin to doubt and wonder why do I bother? I think those things because I am clinically depressed, which is a subject I’ve not explicitly broached on this blog. It’s not to say that those doubts and feelings aren’t universal and why many others have also shuttered their virtual doors, but I do see a trend in how my depression and anxiety cause drastic reactions. I’m unable to stop my own melodrama even though I hate melodrama in others around me. The lifecycles of blogs was a nice observation even though it wasn’t the reason why I was binging so many of them.

I wanted to know where I stood personally. Would I be affected by going back and reading all of it? I wanted to confront myself more than anything else. A new idea popped in my head and has been swirling around for a month. After reading a few other blogs I realized my idea is actually not very novel at all, but that’s ok. If I decide to do it I would make it my kind of novel experience for myself.

I’m confronting my dislike of the word Minimalism when I truly covet the idea of being a minimalist. I’ve never touted myself as one, but I did do a KonMari purge nearly 7 years ago. I read the book the winter before we bought our house. We lived in a 420-square foot apartment in the city. A solid third of my wardrobe was purged along with 90% of my book collection because I started reading everything on my iPad. Lots of mementos and knick-knacks were purged. We’d also purged 90% of the furniture because it was damaged from living above smokers for 10 years. I was shocked at how much I could purge when I’d always thought I didn’t really have all that much to being with. When we moved into our home, which is 1410 square feet – not including a mostly finished basement (we’ll round it to around 1700 square feet) – it felt cavernous. It was cavernous until the furniture arrived 3 months later. There was a sort of freedom in having such a huge, empty space. It is even more astonishing to see how full it is now in comparison. We do not have a cluttered home at all. I would say it is cozy enough for us. My recent addiction to having plants everywhere made the house feel all the more cozy now that there’s a form of life in every corner there is light.

I’ve noticed over the past 6 years minimalism went from being a word mentioned on some blogs to something akin to a pyramid scheme online and further into the corporate marketing around me. It started with the few, wanting to spread the word in hopes of inspiring others to look at themselves more closely and question what they value. It has worked to a degree. But as the word spread the trickle-down effect morphed into something else. It’s like the game where you whisper a sentence to someone and then go around in a circle, repeating the sentence until you get to the originator but hear a completely different sentence. Sure the core idea of it is known to all, but it doesn’t have the same meaning nor value and in some cases seems completely antithetical to what it truly is about. The word sustainability has undergone the same hijacking and seems to be more lucrative than minimalism. Advertising for clothes, home decor, house renovations, electronics and many other things will let you know how sustainable it is – in its own way since there really isn’t a standard. It feels similar to seeing the word Organic on half the items in the grocery store and noticing the slight price increase.

The pendulum has swung. Now there are posts about how minimalism isn’t the end-all, be-all. I used to enjoy reading those, but I also felt a bit sad because a clear trend became obvious: we rarely know how to live/be in the middle. It’s not to say people shifted from being minimalists to maximalists, but the worshipers grew tired of their clean, white, god and decided to leave the religion for another one that would suit their lifestyle or marketing interests better. Sustainability shortly followed (or maybe fell ahead – the two seemed to be neck and neck at first in the race for authenticity and popularity online for a while) and seemed to become a scapegoat to minimalism. People would stop being minimalists because they were more concerned about being sustainable while still consuming more than what truly is sustainable. I’m not sure where I fell into the trap because while buying up used Yohji Yamamoto items felt somewhat ethical (another keyword with its own church of worshipers!) I knew I wasn’t being sustainable with how much I was buying.

I think I’ve come to terms now with the words Minimalism, Sustainability, and Ethical. They don’t have standards attached to any of them in the same way Natural doesn’t on food items in the grocery store. They are completely personal on individual (and focus-group marketing) levels. The words stand up front with shadowing to be more noticeable. Within those shadows lies the various interpretations applicable to anyone who decides to use them. They are not sinister or wrong. Just words used in many ways by many people.

Do I consider myself a minimalist? I think in some way I always was a sort of home-grown or even “organic” one, but I’m not entirely sure. I may consider expanding on this in a later post. I don’t think I am at this moment and I definitely haven’t been for the past 4 years while shopping and getting rid of so many clothes, but when I think of other times in the past – maybe I was for a while or have been to some degree. I would like to work on that and I think my 5-year project will help me get a better grasp on it. I think it may actually help me act more mindfully about being sustainable in my choices as well.

The 5-year project is a challenge to myself to reduce my consumption of wardrobe items and create my own vintage wardrobe. The first part of this challenge harkens back to a time when I did not buy any clothes for 5 years around the 2006-2011 time frame. I’ve mentioned this dry-spending-spell before, but the posts about it have been deleted. The recession was in full swing then and I bounced around from one low-paying job to another and scraped by living from those few jobs, lots of unemployment checks (which was extended by Barak Obama – thank you!) and the help of my then-boyfriend-now-husband. We lived in that little 420 square foot apartment I mentioned above in the city and I didn’t have much to do then, but I knew I shouldn’t be frivolously spending money. What little money I did spend was for crafts and my savings account and I did have an Etsy shop at the time where I sold crafts and never made a lot of money off them. I did spend a lot of time photographing outdoors because after looking online for more job listings I’d go tromping off into the woods of a nearby park.

It wasn’t until I got a decent paying job towards the end of that period, after I’d been working for almost a year, when I realized I literally had not bought any clothes in five years. That was the longest I’d ever gone without buying anything. At all. Not even underwear. Nor socks. I had maybe 4 pairs of shoes. I lived in old, beat-up Keen Presidios, jeans, and polyester shirts from Express. I wore one pair of black pants to work nearly every day. I wore my “fancy” Express shirts 2-3 times a week, rotating colors. I had a work uniform and not only did I not notice it then – I didn’t even care. Otherwise, I had a lot of tee shirts. I never had a lot of clothes then, but I didn’t think I didn’t have enough. Fashion wasn’t even a thought in my mind. Get dressed. Good enough to pass for being somewhat professional? Sure. Good, time for work. I walked to work because it was 6 blocks away from the apartment. I tromped through a foot of snow to get there during a particularly bad winter and showed up looking like I needed another shower every day in the summer. After work I walked home, changed into my running clothes and walked the exact same way plus a few blocks south down to the river front where I’d run anywhere from 5-8 miles. I ran almost every day and recognized regulars along the river trail. I wouldn’t say it was a great time, but there was something peaceful and simple about it that has always remained in my mind.

During the tail end of my time at that job I started buying more clothes. I walked. A lot. Because that’s what you do in the city. Public transit isn’t great in Philly so instead of waiting for upwards of 40 minutes for a bus that might never show up (even though it was supposed to every 15 minutes – that 40 minute wait was notorious and regular for my route), I’d just walk instead. Walking into a shop downtown after a long walk with an iced coffee or cold boba tea in hand felt like an accomplishment and I deserved a reward. Anthropologie and Banana Republic were my “professional attire” go-tos. I remember the air conditioning blasts when I’d walk into Anthropologie in the summer. Sales associates holding bottles of cold water would greet people walking up the stone stairway from outside. It was in a historic building with another winding stone staircase in the middle. The sale items were on the bottom floor with furnishings/clothes on the main floor and intimates/accessories on the hot, third floor. Shopping felt like an adventure because it literally was in terms of the effort to get to the shops as well as getting home. If I shopped and had good shoes on, I’d lug my bags home and felt as if I’d conquered a mountain – mostly because the walk past the parkway leading into my neighborhood was a giant hill. I had a roughly ten block uphill climb after walking another ten blocks through the most of downtown traffic. Philly isn’t known for being great to pedestrians either. Walking is something of a contact sport there. You’ll almost always run into a car because the car is going even if you have the right of way. Add several shopping bags digging into my hands/shoulders to that and it’s easy to see why shopping would feel more like a sports challenge than consumeristic past time. I’d lay out my adventure spoils on the bed, admiring the trophies attained from my physically arduous efforts. I had a one-in-one-out mantra though so while I did buy more clothes, my wardrobe never looked too busy or full and I was none the wiser to my overconsumption.

When I got another job out in the suburbs and Z got his job just 20 minutes from mine, life turned into a series of frustrating commutes as well as instant-gratification spending. After a few months of us both driving separately we did something rather sustainable for us – we carpooled to work. The back route along the river was easiest, but hectic. The highway was too unpredictable. I could be at work in either 45 minutes or 2.5 hours. Z and I agreed going together would be best for my sanity and the fact that parking in the city is brutal so cutting down on cars going out was best. We’d be lucky if we could find a spot within 3 blocks of the apartment because most places don’t have assigned parking for residents. I dropped him off at his office first, then I’d drive to mine further on. At the end of the day I went and picked him up. He would then drive the more maddening river route home. Traffic was always worse at the end of the day. Everyone drove faster and the river route was narrow with lots of curves. I remember listening to NPR every morning. Even though we had the news on during the drive home, I only remember holding my breath, hoping we’d get home safely. Our commute was 45 minutes usually in the morning and 55 – 75 minutes coming home. Almost two hours every work day drained us. Eating well was the last thing on our minds. Online shopping started to become more appealing and Everlane became the new darling of the fashion blogs.

We bought our house with our jobs less than 20 minutes away. I’d KonMari’d everything the month before we moved. Easy commutes, less stuff, open space in the house and more time for ourselves. Z became obsessed with cooking. I became obsessed with losing all the weight I’d gained from the one year of 2 hour commutes. He was underweight. I was slightly overweight. We agreed to workout together. We were united in our wight training and clean eating goals. I also started running again. Shopping was annoying to me due to the weight gain and I’d somehow managed to justify a lot of crap purchases then. I didn’t realize I was using it as a crutch. I lost weight and started shopping even more to show off my fit self. I started this blog during that time. Online shopping and reading influencer blogs for the latest sustainable brand to be showcased occupied almost as much time as watching anime. (I watch more anime now.)

A clear trend emerged from the dry spell. Essentially, higher paying job = more spending. Stress = more spending. And with each job I’ve had since the spending increased exponentially. Moving less almost meant more spending – aside from the city shopping adventures. I was more focused on my best running pace time than what to wear.

The second part of my 5 year goal is to make my own vintage. This idea came from Of a Certain Vintage. It is part of her style resolutions starting this year. I love this idea and I do believe I already have some items I wear somewhat regularly that could head into that territory. According to wikipedia: “A generally accepted industry standard is that items made between 20 years ago and 100 years ago are considered ‘vintage’ if they clearly reflect the styles and trends of the era they represent.” I already own shoes that are 11 years old and I’m pretty sure I have a few articles of clothing in that same date range. I’m rather fascinated now to know and while I won’t be able to pinpoint the exact year of purchase for many of the older items from city jaunt days I have a date range to go by. I’m also going to make my own wardrobe journal as well. If I want to know if I’m making my own vintage I have to be able to track how old the garments are first, right? Even though I’ve taken tons of OOTDs in the past and noticed I wear many outfits repeatedly I could never say exactly how many times. Now I want to know. I’m not certain if I’ll do a daily OOTD, but I know I should at least track them in some format.

Does this mean I won’t be shopping for 5 years? No, but ideally yes. I say no because I know for a fact that shoes are my downfall and I have yet to get them right. Not in terms of buying shoes for the sake of having variety, but in terms of comfort. I suck at buying shoes that are comfortable. In my city shopping jaunts I wore shoes that left me limping and whimpering and blistered for days/weeks. I’d love to say that if I can’t walk ten city blocks in shoes without getting a blister then they are Good Shoes. Since I’m not in the city anymore I don’t have that standard. Instead, I’ve noticed I can use my 2 mile route in the neighborhood as a nice compromise. Lately I’ve been testing that out and yep – most of my shoes don’t fit the comfort bill. None of my sandals work. My nicer “casual” shoes also don’t work, which surprised me. I know the simple answer is – just wear sneakers when you walk. However, we are entering a post-COVID world and business trips are on the horizon. Walking 1-2 mile lengths through airports and convention centers for conferences and city blocks for client meetings in a form of dress shoe are eminent. I need to be ready. Right now is a good training ground time.

Other than a couple of shoe purchases do I intend to buy much more? Again, ideally no. I do think I’ve got enough in my wardrobe right now to be happy. There are a few garments I may take to a tailor for remaking but most other clothes I have right now are good or can be altered to be better. I have a few sewing projects I want to attempt, which may become their own series if I don’t catastrophically mess up the simpler ones.

Am I going to break my No-Buy year for this then? Nope. Any purchases I intend to make will be made in 2022. It’s always best to let these things simmer for a while. Also, since I’ll probably be back in the office by this summer/autumn I’ll have a good idea of what I can get away with at work. Technically there is a dress code, but it’s not really enforced so I’m guessing I can be pretty casual if I want, which will help greatly. Not tee and jeans every day, but jeans and a button-down definitely. However, I’m considering a job change so that might put a wrench in things so it’s best to give myself the ample time to consider any possible work attire needs.

If there is any time I am willing to break my No-Buy year intentionally – it will be from September 11-21 because Z and I booked our trip to Olympic National Park and getting a souvenir park tee shirt is my tradition. I decided not to limit myself just to a tee shirt. If I find other fun souvenirs I want, celebrating our first vacation post-COVID, then I will allow myself that luxury.

Why 5 years? Vintage will not be made in 5 years. I know that, but I also know that jobs change and in most cases these days if you want to be paid what you are worth then changing jobs every 3-5 years is a decent standard. I’m due. I’m also not looking forward to some things about my job when I’ll be dragged back into the office. So I may start looking soon and I don’t want to lock myself down by this completely first-world-consumerism-problem challenge when finding a better job for myself should be more important. That is also why I’m not restricting myself entirely from not making purchases. Because Life.

It’s taken me all day to write this post. Soon it’ll be 12 hours since I’ve gotten my shot. So far no symptoms. Did the donut/sugar binge work? Fingers crossed. Please vaccine, don’t hit me like a train overnight! Z let me know his fingers stopped hurting and he might feeling better.

6 thoughts on “Fuzzy thoughts”

  1. There’s an inherent contradiction in being a sustainable fashion blogger and being sustainable if one is writing about brands. Definitely feels like a sustainability sheen in some cases on the same old way of doing things.

    I just started to make a wardrobe journal as I’m re-evaluating my wardrobe and decluttering. A few years ago I started keeping a spreadsheet of things I bought, so I have some idea of the age of some of my garments, but I’ve never made one of what’s currently in my closet. Should be an interesting exercise.

    I also suck at buying shoes that are comfortable. The problem is you never know til you’ve worn them out for a bit. A bit embarrassed by the number of shoes that have cycled in and out of my closet, but I think I might finally be getting better at making a wiser purchase in the first place.

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    1. Absolutely. I think Neela said it best on her blog: slow fashion consumed in excess = fast fashion. I get that helping spread the word about sustainable brands in order to help those brands do good is important because livelihoods are at stake in many ways, but it’s not right to treat the clothing/objects in the same way one would traditional fast fashion. I know I can’t tout myself as being sustainable in the least, but hopefully being more conscious of it will make me think more about purchases in every aspect of life.

      I will say seeing my wardrobe put on a spreadsheet (with photos) and set in a calculated format showing me age and wear and the projected years I expect to continue to wear them made a huge impact on how I felt about my spending habits over the past several years. I also realized that currently my wardrobe is really boring, but then I have to accept that’s ok. Having a consistent, boring wardrobe is good! It’s reliable. Except shoes, haha. You’re right, it really is hard to say when shoes will be comfortable – if they get to that point at all. I suppose a good metric for that would be – when I try on new ones, can I walk around without ANY discomfort at all? Take advantage of the return period to try them out before deciding and not make excuses for comfort with style – there will always be another shoe that’s better.

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  2. so many thoughts here, i had to read the post twice. thank you for sharing. i feel you on so many of the same things and love it whenever the bloggers i follow drop a new post, because it feels like there is so little reflection in this space any more.

    i have briefly considered deleting my blog, or maybe the more vapid posts from my uni days, but i’ve become comfortable with letting my words sit out there, even if i no longer agree with them, as they don’t really harm anyone except my vanity and sense of pride, probably. sometimes i look things up on my blog to help me remember when i bought something, or went somewhere.

    i really loved the Marie Kondo series on Netflix, because it was such a kind look at decluttering and making peace with material things, and i am not sure why so many people feel antipathy towards her. i suppose the product line is a bit cringe-y, but generally i have found her advice and approach towards materialism quite sound and realistic. and refreshingly unrelated to aesthetics.

    hope you are all recovered from the vaccination. my age band hasn’t been called up yet for vaccination in singapore, but fingers crossed it will happen by June.

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    1. Thank you for reading. I know I packed in probably 3 different posts into one on this, but sometimes the words just flow out. I definitely have had my vanity/pride get in the way before when looking back on old posts. Even now looking back on this one I see some things that make me think, “Why did I write that!?” I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the Marie Kondo method. It did work, but at the same time I think of things I let go and realize maybe I shouldn’t have. However, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be miserable now that those things are gone. Instead, I’ve become much more discerning and am keeping items for longer before deciding to let them go. I also appreciate her approach being less about aesthetics and more about what people truly value.

      I didn’t have any reaction to the second vaccine at all! I was quite worried for nothing. Usually if someone sneezes across a building I end up with a horrible cold the next day so I was preparing for the worst and it never happened. I hope you can get yours soon in Singapore!

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  3. I hope that you didn’t end up feeling too many side effects from your second shot! I felt pretty awful about 24 hours after, I had to take a half day off work and was feeling foggy, with body aches and chills (though no fever). We also took care to hydrate well and have easy-to-make food on hand for the day or two after our second shots.

    I’ve also had many thoughts about the “evolution” of minimalist fashion/lifestyle marketing and blogs. Seeing where it’s all gotten to by now, I feel a little silly for having been sucked in so much by “ethical” fashion brands back then. I was a pretty sincere “true believer” in the ideas Everlane was pushing back in 2015-2016 or so, but now I’m a lot more cynical. So many years later, I still don’t have many good answers for any of the big questions (all that I’m sure of is that it’s best to consume less and better to reach for secondhand if possible, but it’s not always possible for me personally).

    From my limited number of trips back to the office, my feet are definitely going to need some practice with wearing “real” shoes again. On my first trip back last November, I wore my well broken-in Sam Edelman booties all day, the pair in the softer leather, and they hurt pretty badly and I got ankle blisters. I was pretty surprised, but I guess it had been over five months since I wore real shoes for longer than an hour or two to go get groceries!

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    1. Zero side effects! I was shocked and thought I’d been given a placebo. I guess I’m one of the lucky ones.
      It is interesting to note how our mindsets about minimalism/sustainability have changed over the years. You’re totally right about Everlane too. It was novel back then, but now we can easily ask, “what’s the real story?” and hope to learn better information. I don’t think there’s any easy answer to any of these questions really, but they are worth thinking or challenging ourselves to think about. If it spurs us into action for the better, then great!
      I read somewhere that people have grown accustomed to their soft shoes and slippers at home so wearing constricting shoes for “going out” in any capacity is painful now. It begs the question – how much pain were we putting ourselves through to begin with and should we go back to those ways? More questions to think about!

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