Real, Simple

You know, I'm really not one for resolutions or even goals for that matter.

Resolutions feel fake – for me, the most impactful changes tend to happen naturally throughout the course of the year. Putting a date on a desired change feels beside the point. It doesn't make me work any harder, it doesn't make the change happen any faster. Plus, resolutions are ideas that are made up to coincide with the month of January. (No offence, people who make resolutions.)

And goals? I have them. They look like this: Improve my financial stability, have a hyper-organized home office and a place that I own to put it in. I think of these more as "to do" items mainly because I put a lot of pressure on myself and the idea of creating a goal only adds more pressure. (And again, Good Girl Syndrome.)

I haven't yet embraced the now-trendy idea of giving yourself a word for the year. If you're not familiar with the practice, the idea is to give yourself a word to focus on for the year. Not a goal, not really a resolution, but more like a general, inspirational theme to base your life around. (Think of words like balance, well, refresh, etc.) 

This hasn't appealed to me partially because of the reasons listed above; mainly because I couldn't think of a good word.

But I do have a word that's becoming more like my general life practice. It's something I started last year, want to focus on in 2015, and continue with afterward.

The word, the idea, the very being is that of simplification.

Much like my slow embrace of minimalism which started last year with material items, I'm now looking to incorporate the idea of simplifying into all other aspects of my life. Deleting apps I don't use on my phone, organizing my Google Drive, minimizing work projects, multitasking less during the work day/all days. Of course, when it comes to simplifying, the mental/emotional and material worlds overlap. I'm now at a point – so deep in my "quest" (I guess) for simplification where I'm not second guessing or double checking – I'm listening to my gut and trusting my instincts.

It's saying no to projects, donating things I don't use, deleting e-mails, throwing out random socks or recycling tiny pieces of paper that could be reused (why do I keep these things?). It's cleaning the dishes as I use them, keeping my desk sparse as I work, buying a few nice things at the drugstore when I need them rather than a million cheaper things.

In other words, simplifying daily life in all forms. 

The idea here isn't to waste but to eliminate excess. I want my life to feel as clean and simple as it possibly can, so I'm ridding it of anything and everything that adds physical or mental clutter.

I've streamlined some of my work projects and will have some exciting things to announce in the coming weeks. I'm also going to stop using my blog Facebook page, and turn most of my attention to Instagram. (I know – keep breathing.) But it's even the little things like this – one more status not to update, please – that make me feel so much better.

So there. I guess my word of 2015 is simplify. I'm still not sure about the whole "word of the year" thing, but so far, I guess it's working pretty well.


Becoming Minimalist: Thoughts On Mindful Shopping

Embracing minimalism started with my move to London two years ago.

As I wrote about, there's nothing quite like the task of getting all of your items from a rented apartment in Brooklyn to a rented flat in southwest London to really make you think about what you own. Picture many, many suitcases, a shipping drop-off center, a waiting period, a van driver's buzz at the front door, and a girl answering that door and dragging her belongings up the stairs one...step...at a time to her new second floor flat.

If that doesn't convince you to clean up and clear out well then christ, not much will.

Favorite new shorts cut from my husband's old pants; beloved Chinti & Parker striped top purchased at a Notting Hill sample sale in my early London days

Minimalism had to do with my big move, definitely. But the desire to reduce my number of belongings is an emotional choice as much as a practical one. I plan to carry much less with me when I head to North Carolina at the end of the year. And with fewer physical items, I have a renewed sense of clarity.

Quite frankly, there's just not room up there for all of that clutter.

The slow embrace of minimalism is not just about letting go of what you no longer want, need, or use, it's also about changing the way you view consumption in general. 

Let's go back for a minute. While I won't bore you with details, let's just say that I used to shop...a lot. I mean, every girl under the age of 25 shops a lot, but my love for fashion and desire to work in an industry where you "need" to look good, paired with that full, pre-recession consumerist lifestyle and shows like "The Hills" and "Rich Girls" convinced me that I needed to shop, shop again, and then again.

And man alive, it felt good.

But that good feeling that I used to get from over consuming was shallow and fleeting, and left me wanting to buy something again the next day. Which I did.

As I've aged, I've shed that desire. I believe this change to be a product of the post-recession embrace of all-things local and genuine, my personal growth, and my desire to only own things that I truly value.

Favorite black crewneck that I've worn for years; new earrings from a sweet friend at Formula

This desire to own less and enjoy more is one that's constantly evolving and growing.

Nowadays, when it comes to shopping for material goods, I try to purchase from independent designers and retailers as much as possible. It's a cliche at this point, but there really is something to say about the feeling you get from purchasing something from a favorite designer found online or that independent card shop down the street. It's the connection, and the feeling that you're doing something good for someone who will appreciate the help.

I'm lucky that my line of work occasionally leads me to these people. In fact, one of my favorite things about writing women's magazine market stories is the research aspect – I love finding small shops and new designers, meeting them, and following them as they build their businesses. I had a jewelry line with two friends in my early New York years, so I get genuine joy out of learning about small businesses, hearing the stories, and helping to spread the goodness of quality products around.

I aim for everything in my closet to either come from a maker that I know or to at least have a good story behind it. It's a goal I'm slowly working toward. Getting rid of (most of) the bigger, less-fulfilling pieces, and focusing on the smaller, more important ones.

My wear-every-day vintage Adidas sneakers bought at a Saturday market near our second flat in London

That's my definition of minimalism. It's not just clearing out your closet and stopping consumption altogether, no sir.

For me, minimalism is about getting rid of anything that doesn't mean something real, and giving the things that do a place to shine.

What's your favorite place to shop? It can be a small business or a large business – no judgement here. Leave a comment and let me know!

This is the third installment of a multi-part series on embracing minimalism. Read part one here, and part two here. 

 


Becoming Minimalist: What Happened When I Got Rid of One Thing, Every Day

It's been just over a month since I wrote about my plan to "become minimalist" by getting rid of one thing, every day, for 30 days.

It sounded like a lofty goal at the time, but once I started on my minimalist mission, something interesting happened.

I couldn't stop getting rid of things. Once I took a hard look at what I owned, I was shocked at just how many things I didn't really, truly want.  Here's how I did it:

 

1. Start With Clothing

Maybe you're already the type of person who keeps a close watch on their wardrobe. If so, congrats! You're better than the rest of us.

For everyone else: Take a good, hard look at your wardrobe and get rid of everything that you don't really wear, don't really enjoy wearing, and that doesn't fit properly. If it doesn't fit and doesn't make you feel confident and amazing, it's gone  – no exceptions. This will be easier than you think.

 

2. Move On To Footwear

Follow the same rules as listed above. Any shoes that don't fit properly, hurt your feet, or that you just don't wear are out. No questions. Continue this same step with jewelry for women, and accessories for men. You'll be shocked at the sheer number of things you have that you don't completely like.

 

3. Books

This is a tough one. I'm happiest in a home that's filed with books – real ones, not electronic ones. But I noticed that I had a lot of books lying around that didn't hold a significant place in my life. There were plenty of books that I'd read, liked ok, and kept just to have. If you didn't love the book, don't plan on re-reading it, and don't have an emotional connection to it, why are you keeping it?

Becoming Minimalist: What Happened When I Got Rid of One Thing, Every Day | Second Floor Flat

 

4. Everything Else

It's time for both the hardest part, and the part that's the most fun. After I'd already given away all of my polyester el-cheapo pieces (I donated one shirt with a material that was so cheap it made my skin crawl. Why did I buy that?), I took a good, hard look at everything left around me. Quite literally, I'd start and end my day just standing in a room in our flat, looking at everything. After a few minutes, something that I didn't want would almost always pop out at me.

 

5. The Snowball Effect

When you're looking for things to give away, you'll discover that oftentimes once you find one piece, you'll find another…and maybe even another. Before you know it, you'll have a mini-pile of things ready to be donated. This is The Snowball Effect.

 

6. Sleep On It

Not sure about that shirt, or that book? Put it aside and go about your daily life. After a few days of looking at it and realizing how much you don't (or do) use it, you'll make a decision once and for all.

During my little month-long experiment, I donated at least one large garbage bag of items every single week. And my god, did it feel good.

It felt good to make a decision about something I had and realized I no longer needed. It felt good to drop off a bag at my local thrift store (charity shop), and it feels good now to be able to look through the clothes in my wardrobe and dresser, see what I have, and know that I really want them.

But the best part of this experiment – aside from the fact that it's opened me up, mentally – is that it's made me a much smarter consumer. I think about every single thing I buy now. If it's going to end up in another garbage bag on its way to a charity shop, why even do it?

So: now it's your turn. I totally, completely, definitely challenge you guys to get rid of one thing every day, for 30 days. Do it! And let me know how it goes.

This is the second installment in a multi-part series on embracing minimalism. Read part one here, and part three here.


Clean Everything Spring | Summer 2014

Like most folks, I'd imagine, my taste can be pretty conflicting.

I go back and forth between living like Claire Underwood, and basically being a Mexican grandma surrounded by chotchkies, stuffed animals, and mixed prints for as far as the eye can see.

But let's pretend it's a good day and I'm feeling minimalist. When that's the case, I'm all about lines like Clean Everything who recently launched their latest collection. The line began as a series of rectangular-shaped handbags and accessories (I swear by their White Stitchless Wallet) and has now widened its range to feature backpacks and a variety of other shapes. 

These may be a little edgy for Claire Underwood, but would go down a treat for a night on the town or just if you wanted to look cool and keep your keys out of the way at the grocery store. 


Giveaway: Win A Handmade Wallet!

Here in London, we use refillable plastic cards (known as Oyster cards) to pay for our public transportation fare. Since Oyster cards can be read through your wallet, choosing a card case is key.

So when Cristina of minimalist accessory line Clean Everything offered up one of her Stitchless Wallets for a giveaway, I jumped at the chance. 

Clean Everything Stitchless Wallet / Second Floor Flat
Clean Everything Stitchless Wallet / Second Floor Flat

All Clean Everything products are handcrafted in Romania out of leather from Italian tanneries. My Stitchless Wallet in White has gotten a loottaa use these past few weeks and I'm obsessed. It's are also available in Red and Green (hello, stocking stuffers) and sold alongside a slew of other products, including billfold wallets and bags

Clean Everything Stitchless Wallet / Second Floor Flat

Want one of your own? Here's HOW TO ENTER

1. Follow Second Floor Flat on Facebook and Twitter

2. Follow Clean Everything on Facebook and Twitter

 

Winner will be contacted next week. Good luck!


Line You Should Know About - The Vamoose

The second in the series of Stores You Should Know About is The Vamoose—a U.K.-based jewelry line started by designer Kathryn Blackmore.

A small jewelry line that originally started out selling on Etsy has now into a full-blown collection with a bangin' e-commerce shop. The bracelets, earrings, and necklaces at The Vamoose are all handmade and perfectly strike the balance between being girly and minimalist—which is difficult, to say the least.

In my battle to dress like an adult I'm really focusing on wearing better made, simpler jewelry, and The Vamoose is just the ticket. Aside from being handmade from quality materials the pieces are also affordable which is, well, just plain rare.

Gemstone and Metal Necklaces , starting at £20/$32

Gemstone and Metal Necklaces, starting at £20/$32

Srsly, isn't this stuff beautiful?

Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult

I've always been one for printed cotton clothing.

I'm not sure why cheap prints are so attractive to me or any of my fellow middle-class female consumers, but they just are.

Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


There's nothing like the excitement that comes with the first spotting of a floral or geometric print. Something about seeing that bright, overtimulating print in a bright, overstimulating store is thrilling, but this thrill is always short lived. Pretty much as soon as you take your new, ill-fitting cotton/poly blend dress out of the Target/H&M/Primark/Forever21 bag, you're over it and spending that £12.99/$19.99 feels like a bad choice.

It took me a while, but studying fashion design finally made me understand minimalism and what makes it so great.

Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


Now, I'm obsessed and basically only want to wear well-designed solid color/classic printed pieces. I still have my slip-ups (Saturday's purchase of £6 Primark floral flats) but am (kinda) on my way to being the type of gal who can walk into H&M, see a printed dress I like, and leave without it.

Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


Junky Cotton Prints, Or The Battle To Dress Like An Adult


And if you've seen To Rome With Love: the reference the "junky cotton print" dress worn to a movie premier by a woman with ladders in her stockings felt like someone has looked straight into my soul and completely and totally understood everything about me.

From here, here, here, here, here, here, oh—and here!