The time squeeze of sustainability attempts and blogging

I started this endeavor knowing that (1) I wouldn’t be blogging full time at least in the foreseeable future – even if I would magically go viral and start to monetize as crazy – because of the thesis; (2) overnight successes happen rarely, so I better count on not being to live off a blog; and (3) I’ve always enjoyed much more blogs whose authors live off something else, makes them much more relatable and, when it comes to sustainable lifestye blogs, make their suggestions more viable. So I set out to be a twice-a-week blogger (yeah, insane!) doing several calendar-mandate recurring posts (money series and wardrobe update series) *and* a weekly outfit recap. On my own. While doing a PhD and – although that came later – establishing a KonMari consultancy.

So this is a ‘I’m pissed off at my own unattainable standards’ post. You see, I don’t care knowing that my favorite food bloggers do only that: come up with recipes tweaking them repeatedly for my ease of use. I somehow don’t compare my life with theirs and if this week’s recipe doesn’t resonate with me, see you next week! I understand that creating the perfect oven falafel burger takes time, and don’t resent them having all the time in the world to do that.

I have an issue with sustainable lifestyle bloggers, though. When style bloggers show off beautiful lives of pretty garments and sponsored vacations on turquoise beaches, I don’t care. I’m only there for pretty pictures. But the base assumption of sustainability DIY and ‘do this easy switch / ditch this horrible pollutant’ blogs is that the advice given must be replicable, easily so. And here we get into trouble…

Well, I get into trouble because I take all of it seriously and easily add new projects to my ‘true urban ecologist’ check-list. My eco-sin list was only part of my ongoing battle with all those ‘I should really’. Big part if the problem, of course, is that – at least I – tend to incorporate this stuff in my identity. I feel so deliciously smug being the person who gets a CSA veggie box, the person with only second-hand clothing, the person with the most sustainable yoga mat in my yoga studio, the person with the most nutritious whole foods plant based homemade meal in my work canteen. Self righteousness feels amazing! So I go on organizing anticaptialist events with local biodynamic wine, double fermented fair trade tea kombucha that I made myself and the most nutritious vegan brownie. Boom!

(On those mentioned: we left the CSA cooperative in May, I left the yoga studio too, not everything is second-hand, and the whole foods part of our eating is not true – white pasta, among others, for the win!)

What constantly ruins all this smug-fest of satisfying little gestures is that the day has 24 hours and everything takes time. Of course I’d like to, off the top of my head:

Start composting

Go zero waste and plastic free

Truly research the few industrial cleaning / beauty products we have left instead of relying on certifications and what the bulk shop guy tells me

Get all the produce from CSA

Go fully organic

Make my own bread

Start sprouting

Be 100% vegan whole food plant based

Reduce my possessions even more

Reduce my spending and move towards FIRE (1, 2), at least a teeny tiny bit

Do daily yoga

Meditate

Do morning pages

Experiment more with cooking

Take better care of our kombucha

Never fly again

Make my own snacks and sweets

Make my own plant milks

Make my own nut butter

Make my own ice cream

Learn to sew well

Cut my own hair

Look into natural dyes

Organize more events

Learn more…

You see where this is going, right? I’m already exhausted after just putting that list together. I want to do everything that’s cool on the Internets, I want to be good at it, and I want it now. And these are not all my goals, of course! Throw in a couple more languages (Russian, Catalan), several other arts (more drawing, analogous photography), cultural capital (literature, cinema), and you have my impossible life plan.

I know that my brain is doing that old trick of discounting all I’m already doing (nope, I won’t make a list of that, this is a different kind of post) and valuating all I’m not doing but I can’t really help it. Years of therapy around that Hamilton line is what expects me: “I will never be satisfied!” That’s the first part of my fit: frustration about not being able to do everything on the sustainability checklist. Knowing that even on the internets full of fringe lifestyle heroines I haven’t found anybody who would really do all of the above does not send a signal my brain can interpret adequately as “see, *nobody* can do it all”.

The second part is time spent blogging. Setting aside the whole question of if you went capsule wardrobe or zero waste and didn’t start a blog about it, did it really happened… I’ve realized that for me a post starts from 1000 words and often goes on for more (the body positivity post is the current record holder at 3180). I greatly enjoy inserting vaguely connected scholarly references and bits of song lyrics. The only post where the photos are not mine is the first one where they have to illustrate a point I cannot convey in any other way. (I have to admit that I despise – among so many other things and people, admittedly – content creators who use stock or other people’s IG photos. Yuck! Keep those in your Pinterest for inspiration, but do not make your visual identity out of those.) I love doing this, but it takes time. And the weekly outfit thing is stressing alright. And, of course, I’ve made a decision to stick to my initial concept of weekly outfit posts + the weekly substantial post, no summer vacations, no winter breaks, no PhD hiatuses. Thank you to all who worked so hard to instill all this self-imposed work ethic in me, great job, Grandpa and Grandma! On the other hand, this is a creative outlet after all, and I don’t really want to know what the counterfactual would feel like.

The aim of this post is not to announce that I’m shutting all this down or to just get yours ‘oh, poor thing!’, just to vent my frustration with – of course – my self-imposed rules. My blog effort mean that I take time off either the thesis, C, sleep, housework or leisure. And all these have suffered because of my blogging. The only silver lining I see to my time squeeze, falling behind on my posting schedule and ‘shoulding all over myself’ is an empathy that a full-time blogger cannot have. This experience brings me closer to normal people with more serious jobs and n other worries beside correct recycling and the most nutritional plant milk (it’s soy, btw).

Let me preach to you so maybe sth sticks to me as well! tl;dr: it’s OK to relax your sustainability standards to get through the day.

Here, have a spoonful of my climate pessimism! We are already all fucked and these little things are but feel good rituals of washing off the common guilt, taking an observer’s position to the havoc we as a species are wrecking and sigh ‘if only everybody would have said no to one more plastic bag’. Right now I’m unable to come up with a smart little bit of hopefulness, sorry. That stated above is my end of the day truth where the ultimate advice is not to have children and to get ready to witness a great deal more of misery. I re-watched George Carlin’s Jammin’ in New York recently and, curiously enough, I think he is ultimately right about the whole sustainability thing: “The planet is fine. The people are fucked.” I hope you all go zero waste and prove me wrong.

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Yeah, I fluctuate inexplicably between the extremes of ‘all the little things matter’ and ‘it’s all already lost anyways’. It may be the heat wave (or, as scientists would call it, this extreme weather event) making life unpleasant all over Europe that’s making me more rant-inclined than usual. (I have had angry outbursts before, though. They are all neatly filed here.) Is there anything that’s eating you? Do you experience the sustainability time squeeze? And where do you stand on the climate pessimism to optimism gradient?

The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

The first part = The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask.

Folder 2: Save + sustain
Eco-fashion, zero waste, financial independence, etc…

I’ve postponed this post for a long time due descriptions I wanted to write, as done is better than perfect, here you have them in descriptive categories.

Sustainability in general:

Ethical and green living with Lucy Siegle

Sustainable America

Fashion as Business:

The Fashion Law

Sustainable fashion / Fashion as Business:

Elizabeth Suzann

Sustainable fashion / Garment Stories:

Patagonia’s Worn Wear

Sustainable fashion / Conscious Dressing:

Kate Fletcher

Style Bee

Un-Fancy

Good on You

Sustainable fashion / Conscious Dressing / Minimalism:

Anuschka Rees

To Universe, With Love

Sewing / Upcycling:

Refashionista

Zero Waste:

Zero Waste Home

Paris to Go

Wasteland Rebel

Zero Waste / Whole Foods Plants Based:

Mama Eats Plants

Plastic Free:

(In Spanish) Vivir sin plástico

Zero Waste / Minimalism:

(In Latvian) Seek the Simple

Tidying:

(In Spanish) Orden y Limpieza en Casa

Spark Joy Podcast

Financial Independence:

J.L. Collins

Mr. Money Mustache

Miscellaneous:

Bonzai Aphrodite

Madame Manumus

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What are your favorite feeds for sustainability inspiration? Is there anyone out there in the blogosphere that changed your life? Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home is often the answer to this one, i know. Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions are more than welcome!

A year of blogging and adjusting expectations

As blogging brings both meaning and frustration to my life, I find it most useful to store it all right in the belly of the beast – the blog itself. Also, I always find it so soothing when other bloggers share their blogging kitchens, traumas and tribulations, so maybe this will serendipitously serve somebody else too. I already shared my six-months-of-blogging rant here.

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The traffic has gotten nicer in those six months, a typical week hits around 50 visitors which is enough for me to not be anxious. Obviously, it’s arbitrary but not having ’empty’ days is what makes me calm enough. The traffic spikes you see in July, December and January were (1) me asking for a click-gift on Facebook in July upon turning 29.5, (2) Instagram traffic fueled by a photo of mine being shared on the official KonMari account, and (3) the February Swap going more viral than ever before and bringing in traffic. And the occasional comment of ‘your content is great, thank you’ really makes my day.

Curiously enough, that’s something I never thought about when reading other blogs, even the ones I’ve followed for years. Generous comments is a really powerful tool to bring joy to your favorite small-time blogger. I imagine that with certain amount it becomes overwhelming and more of a chore, but I’m far from that, obviously.

This was a nice surprise and brought in quite some traffic and a lot of joy, thank you, KonMari admins:

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I am immensely proud of myself for the grit it has taken to keep doing this. This is the post Nº107 (obviously, I have an spreadsheet tracking them), and there have been two posts every week since February 3, 2017. Showing up consistently has built my confidence, outfit photos is part of my life now and I don’t need an empty home to do them anymore. Taking my time away from other activities (hi, PhD thesis!) is now legitimate for me, because I enjoy it. It fucking sparks joy! So everybody will have to roll their eyes and live with it.

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And now for the dark parts… while my ‘suddenly going viral’ fantasies have not become true, I keep playing with hypothetical decisions I might have to make someday, and few of them are becoming very clear and, surprise-surprise, all against monetizing, ugh!
I won’t be linking to examples, as that would be just mean and everybody acts according to their own criteria. Also, there are so many examples that it’s surprising to find somebody that has certain amount of internet ‘success’ and doesn’t do some of this.

(1) I hate sponsored content. By know psychologists have done enough for us all to know that unconscious bias and priming is a thing, especially if your livelihood depends on it. I also find the whole idea that my readers should hurry on and buy these ultra-ethical pants made far away just because I tried them and am offering a 10% off code completely ridiculous. Nope. I need to be able to carefully and proactively chose my things without somebody pushing their fair trade handbags on me. I need to spend my own scarce euros so that the things have an actual price and fit my real lifestyle. I need to be able to bash and criticize however I want, and to lament my poor decisions if need be. And, after all, the focus is sustainability and my own carefully curated minimal wardrobe: packages of sponsored garments flying across the globe to appear modest and do the ‘I tried three but kept one of these fine cashmere garments that costs several hundreds each’ is absurd.

Also, (2) I have very little respect for full-time bloggers. I can tolerate it if those are pretty-picture blogs that consist of fashion editorials, basically, and then we all know that they need the sponsored garments to both create new content and to live. But anybody who peddles a lifestyle while their only income comes from that lifestyle is bound to be out of touch with reality. And while we perceive that rather more realistically with the food and fashion bloggers and are perfectly aware that spending hours frolicking in snow while donning a supercute vintage dress and no coat or developing a new vegan ice cream every week on top of 3 other balanced meals per day is not normal, I do think that there’s a bubble surrounding all the minimalist, mindfulness, organizing bloggers. If you are giving people advice on how to keep heads, homes and wardrobes ordered while that’s the only thing you are thinking about, it has to become weird. How can you give ‘practical advice to everyday people’ if you are not living the everyday life?

The best of my rage is dedicated to globe-trotting eco-bloggers that clearly haven’t received the memo that flying is, ehm, well, kind of a problem… and when coupled with sponsored stays in eco-resorts in Bali and trying out these fabulous eco-beanies, courtesy of this company you should really check out. Dude, really, I cannot even…

Also, if you take outfit photos but work from home, where do you go in those outfits (that explains all the boring mom jeans and a gray t-shirt bloggers)? Grocery shopping and on ‘date nights’ with your partner who is the only one bringing in a solid paycheck (ugh, scary shit)? Quality blogging takes hours, yes. Much more if your content depends on other people, e.g. podcast editing, photoshoot support, etc., indeed. The efforts to balance out the three focuses of (a) aesthetic pleasure, (b) practical advice for others, and (c) income generating often end up creating weird beasts. In my mind, it requires a blog to be a side-gig to strike a balance: then the time you can dedicate to it is limited (because blogging is like housework – it can be stretched out indefinitely) and there’s an attachment to reality.

(3) Obviously, advertisement banners and such are tacky + everything about sponsored content still applies.

(4) The products, ugh! Condensing some of your ‘wisdom’ into a 80-page pamphlet with pretty pictures and little (but very deep!) text and selling that pdf as your exclusive minimalist e-book. Gosh! And when it gets to material ones with printed t-shirts, stationery and actual books… oh, my! There are very few books edited these days that deserved to become books. The whole business of (a) having a successful blog, (b) doing a TED talk, (c) writing a book has made bookshops very dangerous places. And don’t get me started about on-line courses…

(5) The whole thing of creating content only on Instagram or YouTube is too recent for me and feels wrong. I might not be millennial enough. Give me words!

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Me? I have too little traffic to even be offered sponsored content. And I’m planning to be on unemployment benefit vacations by October, after defending my PhD thesis. We’ll see how that will go… this blog may or may not take a surprising turn towards more of ‘what I read while wearing my pajamas (again)’ concept.

What are your blog-world frustrations or pet peeves? What are you willing to forgive to your favorite bloggers and where do you put a line? What would you like to know about the creative choices, income, and other invisible aspects of how your favorite digital content is made?

Also, to celebrate the 1 year of blogging and keep the content evergreen instead of duplicating, throughout the year I’ll be going back to my posts from a year ago and adding links, updates at the end of the posts, maybe correcting a typo. Here you have revised The Minimalist Wardrobe Masterpost: What Do People Do and Why? and My Wardrobe, Part 1: What Do I Have and How Did I Get Here.

The reading matter: part 1 – Art and inspo

The second part = The reading matter: part 2 – Save and sustain

My information diet is almost as lean as my closet: I have unfollowed everybody except my mother, my partner and some pages on Facebook, I don’t read press, I don’t use Twitter as a source of reading matter… I watch a Spanish late-night comedy show to keep up with the local news, Stephen Colbert to keep up with the American news and have my feeds to keep me warm. C did a search for a new RSS feed organizer when Google killed it’s Reader and found Feedly. It’s not perfect (very few things are, ugh), but does its job of bringing my news to me instead of me having to go after them. I really don’t get the ‘check my latest post’ logic on Instagram – if I like your content, I already have it in my reader, thank you very much!

So I’ll show you my reading lists… only the fashion and sustainability related folders, though, if you want recommendations for recipe blogs, illustrated sex toy reviews or my favorite academic journals, just ask. Keep in mind that while I might be critical (see the ‘nothing’s perfect’ note above), this is the content I enjoy.

Folder 1 – Art + inspo:
These are the pretty picture blogs that don’t care about sustainability or minimalism.
Also, a lot of illustration.

A Clothes Horse: breathtaking photography, orange hair, great style. I think I re-pin Rebecca’s photos the most. While she is neither into sustainability nor minimalism and a lot of content is sponsored, this is real style inspo for me.

A Curious Fancy: Indian, plus size, into all things cute. Think lace tights, thoughtful accessorizing, and very nice photography + an occasional essay on bodies, like this one.

A Robot Heart: Polish, sews some garments, occasional post-soviet anthropological references. Lately a lot of sponsored content, but time by time a styling gem like this session appears there.

African Prints in Fashion: I really tried to find some African fashion blogs with an aesthetic that resonated with me after I came back from Cape Town in late 2017 (oh, the amount of ’10 African fashion bloggers that are slaying it’ articles with broken links that I went through). This is one of the few satisfactory ones I found.

All You Need is a Wall: illustrations by Alexandra Dvornikova. If Clarissa Pinkola Estés would have been born Russian and more recently, this is what she’d be doing.

Edits All the Way: the classiest moodboards on Tumblr.

Cupcake’s Clothes (defunct): I’m so sad Georgina stopped curating her blog! It was the perfect over-the-top sweet plus size hybrid. And when C thought that the cat ear headband was too much, I threatened him with getting one of Georgina’s antler creations from her Etsy shop.

Gemma Correll’s illustrations on her Blogspot, Tumblr and Facebook page. She is great, dedicated to feminism, introverts and animals, so I find her merch so hard to resist.

Annya Marttinen’s Tumblr – her work is a lighter, more childish version of Dvornikova’s ‘she lives in a dark forest and runs with the wolves‘ vibe.

Taryn Knight’s work: What can I do, I love me some nice drawings… and hers are excellent.

Johanna Öst’s art and occasional dark pin-up outfit – Oh, when people live their art!

Kate Tokley’s blog: I came across this via #FashRev, I think. She crochets, she deals with anxiety, tries out capsule wardrobes. It resonates, I don’t know why.

Pauline aka Punziella who went viral with her casual Disney princesses. So much talent, so cute!

Madison Ross: again, a lot of wild women art I find hard not to buy.

Martha Anne illustrations. Defined borders, clear colors, female characters, and food! What’s not to love?

Miss Pandora: Oh, Louise! Elaborated editorials, background in art history and all that in French only. Rarely truly my aesthetic (too much heels and make-up to start with), but so undeniably cool.

Nancy Zhang: or when fashion blog meets illustration. Move over, Garance, this is the real deal!

Olga Valeska: Her photos, paintings, collages, etc. etc. are so stunning I don’t even care for her religiosity, and that’s rare! Truly breathtaking and makes my 19th century Russian-aesthetics-loving heart rejoice.

Pagnifik: another source of ‘wax hollandais‘ magic.

Serina Kitazono’s illustrations.

Zuzana Èupová’s aka Suwi’s illustrations.

Third local: a Ugandan now in France, urban, mostly pants and very cool. And a side of beautiful photography to go with it.

And just for fun in the same folder also Pusheen and Heart & Brain live.

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What are your favorite feeds for pretty pictures? Whom am I missing in my list? Suggestions more than welcome.

Six months of blogging and adjusting expectations

I started this site convinced that I had something to share. And none of the fashion-minimalist-sustainability blogs I was reading ticked all my boxes. Hence I set to write the blog I wanted to read!

This is the eight blog-like thing I’ve set up. Yeah, I came of age with the internet, so I started early. The first one was in 2004, and the only ones that survive are I ♥ Being a Girl, a collective effort with my YSAFE people between 2010 and 2015, my tumblr, and iza.feels.it, my visual diary since 2008. Each of them was an effort at “me-me-me, look at me, I have things to say!” and none of them really went viral.

Yet, I found functional explanations for each of them. iza.feels.it is nice to browse through after a while, it provides time stamps for certain events better than all my photography folders, and for a while my mom knew if I was OK by the frequency of posting there. I ♥ Being a Girl was my own little feminist boot camp. Nothing builds consciousness and discursive repertoires as having to explain stuff to others. The tumblr serves as an alternative to Pinterest because my aesthetic pleasures go beyond the puritan user norms of that place. With this blog my key consolation is that one above: this is the blog I wanted to read.

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However, the numbers worry me. A lot. Every time I visit the WordPress stats site is either a confirmation of “yay, this is working!” if somebody has wondered by or a soul-crushing “this is useless” because nobody has visited the blog today. It is ridiculous, I know… but that’s the truth.

The number are not even that bad. I’ve been harassing my friends intensely enough (most of my traffic comes from Facebook) and some interested strangers appear time by time; in last month there have been four days with no clicks. I am not expecting comments, as those come in after a much higher critical mass of views. That July peak is me asking my Facebook friends to share the blog with their friends as a gift to me. Worked very well! I know what I’ll be asking for my birthday – more clicks.

To keep this labor of love pure and true, I want to spell out the demons surrounding it. I want to leave the doubts here and carry on, so here we go:

  • I fret about the stats constantly. Not healthy! I have my self-worth attached to clicks, even if somebody ends up here by mistake and do not linger. I like my content, but I also like external validation. A lot.
  • I am anxious about constantly spamming my friends with my little outfit photos. We can’t all be Brain Pickings going viral with a little curated newsletter of “look what I’ve read recently”… I am sure that there are quite few people who have unfollowed me on Facebook or who roll their eyes deep into their heads with each of my updates.
  • Wasn’t I supposed to be a serious scholar? How come my Facebook is full of me striking poses in hand-me-downs from my mom? Where is the serious high-brow critique of late capitalism? (Ha, I’m doing an embodied critique!)
  • Am I running out of content? Am I over the whole substract-spark joy-capsule thing? Have I reached a new equilibrium where I know what I’m doing? We all know that the most attractive content is that of redemption, the prodigal son, the recovering shopping addict… My “story” is not even slightly dramatic, I don’t have scary enough “before” pictures. I’m just another obsessive-compulsive disclosing my love for spreadsheets and believing that my strategies *should* work for other people. Well, guess what? Other people are other people. With different characters, needs, and strategies in life. You need a lot of messianic belief in your “method” to tell people that there is one definite way to fold the underwear.
  • What sense does it make to keep updating random passersby about the number of knickers in my drawers? All there really is fits on a napkin – THIS! – the rest is pure entertainment, recycling of the same information and making posts out of thin air.
  • I hate Instagram. It’s bullshit and social only in the worse possible way (conspicious self-projection, anyone? #ad, anyone?). I don’t want to have a social media strategy. I have this clearly idiotic idea that creating (imho) good content is enough. Oh, the naïveté! I wish I had the guts to eliminate it… I have the same “hate-but-it-might-be-useful-someday-somehow” relationship with both Instagram and Twitter. The desire to purge is cyclical.

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How do you feel about the behind-the-scenes of your internet presence? Are you able to separate # of likes and your self-worth?

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P.S. – This is my only social media “triumph” (ha!) so far:

É mesmo este fim de semana que começa o outono? @unarmarioverde #birkenstock #birkenstocklove

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