Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed

I revised my notes of Kate Fletcher’s Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journeys (2014, London – New York: Earthscan from Routledge) and found a ‘make post about this’ note in Chapter 3 waiting for me since November last year.
However, as I had it on a limited loan from a far-away library, I only have my notes… and I was convinced that the all data cited about wear frequency were from the Dutch paper cited below. It’s not! I checked all 170 pages of that report… So get Fletcher’s book from your library and check.

Chapter 3 is dedicated to *use* and this phase of garment’s lifecycle is a tricky one as it’s private and individual. It’s hard to track, and the industry just love to put the responsibility on the consumer reminding that (a) ‘ha, you made a shitty decision’ and (b) ‘loads of energy gets wasted and water polluted via poor laundry practices’. And they are not wrong. So (and this is from my notes, Fletcher does not use the f-word):

– A garment spends on average 3 years and 5 months in one wardrobe
– Get 44 wears
– Gets ~3 wears between the washes
– If a person has 10 pairs of underwear, that means 36.5 wears every year (provided that all are worn equally and one per day)
– Most garments get only around 20 washes that cause a lot of environmental impact
– Washing is responsible of 80% of the energy impact of underwear
– Cold washing and line-drying reduces the lifecycle energy for polyester 4 times and for cotton – 2 times
– The increase of individual households with more machines and less people tend to cancel out the washing machine efficiency gains due to smaller load sizes
– The launderette as an alternative are: better because they are communal and guarantee maximal use of fewer machines while getting big loads, worse because they use higher temperatures used and tempts people into using the f*ing dryer

(obviously the averages here are statistical artifacts, provided that there are categories of garments that are washed after every wear and ones that are never washed)

From the Uitdenbogerd et al 1998 paper “Domestic Energy Saving Potentials for Food and Textiles: An Empirical Study” we get that, according to the behaviour of Dutch families in 1997, the most promising options for energy saving in household when it comes to textiles are:

– washing at lower temperatures, including 25ºC cycles,
– use of ½- or S-buttons for ½- and ¾- loads, and E-buttons on the machines,
– longer wearing,
– line drying.

So, following St.Kate’s advice and being mindful that notions of cleanliness has more to do with idea about culture, civilization, piety, propriety (as opposite to dirty) than dirt. And for the germophobes: as a species we are not very good at disease prevention via cleanliness, unless you boil and bleach everything, and even then… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

(A disclaimer is due here that – quite ironically – our household experienced an order from a doctor to up our temperatures for certain types of laundry lately… So, as always, follow your doctor’s orders.)

Stop the automatic ‘I take it off and put it in the hamper’. Look at it, smell it, ask yourself if maybe drying it on a hanger and/or spraying with a mix of water and essential oils could be enough.

If you have decided that a garment needs washing, collect them until you have a full load (cold washes allow for not separating the colors), get an environmentally friendly detergent and go cold at least with the often worn clothing (very few of us truly cover our garments with mud every day). Rethinking the function of underwear is an idea, too. Let’s keep in mind that one of its missions is to separate the living, breathing, sweating, etc. flesh from our outer garments. The practice of wearing an undershirt might be on its demise (and now associated only with Marlon Brando and old men not wanting to show their nipples), but just give it a thought, especially for places with winters. And remember that the ‘iconic white t-shirt’ is not much more than a rebranded piece of underwear.

The impact assessments tend to include bleaching and ironing, so forget about that shit and the softener too. You never needed those for everyday use anyways. In our household only an occasional stubborn fruit stained serviette gets a 100ºC bleach soak before going in with the rest of household textiles at 60ºC. And only C’s summer shirts and my handkerchiefs get ironed.

Forget the dryer if you can, line drying is a beautiful practice in the sunnier parts of the globe (dry your brights inside out, though, sun is the original bleach; on the other hand, your whites will love it) and the northerners with proper heating at home get an actual health benefit from drying their clothes indoors on a rack – no need for an additional humidifier! The only people I’d give a permission slip for the dryer would be those with a lot of small children and those using launderettes (which normally comes accompanied with no space for a drying rack and a tendency towards mold in their studio apartments). But with reasonably cold/lukewarm water, good detergent and full loads, eh?

And now, after the yearly ‘how to wash’ primer (this was the last year’s), here is the phrase that peaked my interest: “It is very likely […] that we all have durable unwashed items in our wardrobes, but probably have never recognized them as such” (Fletcher 2014: 107). This is part that got me thinking: what are my no-washes? And rarely washes? What would be the common characteristics of the garments that do not get washed?

*No washes* are my fluffy coat (2006),

my festive bolero (2011),

my cape (2013),

my red woolen sweater (2015),

my Lithuanian woolen sweater (2015),

my swimsuit (2015) – rinsed a lot, never washed,

Ginta’s Monton bird skirt (2016),

Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (2017),

my Pavlovo Posad shawl (~2013) and my Cien Colores shawl (2017),

Julie’s cardigan (2017).

The WAG set has gotten no washes, but I’ve worn it only few times, we’ll see this summer if that structured but unlined cotton begs washing. Rare (as in ‘once in a season maybe’) washes are my parka (2003; the outer shell, the inner one has been washed once in 15 years, I think), HnM sweetheart dress (2008), Ginta’s trench (2010), Ginta’s blue silk dress (2016).

So, the riddle is served: what do these have in common? (1) Almost all are outer layers, so that my filthy body does not touch them directly. On the other hand however, the same characteristic makes them more vulnerable to outside dirt: bike oil, bird poo… (2) Many of them are worn strictly seasonally or for special occasions, so the overall number of wears is small, hence reduced exposure to being dirtied. (3) Materials! Wool is my golden amazing darling that does not smell, basically auto-cleans and any minor mayonnaise stain can be fixed with a damp cloth and all refreshing these garments need is just some alone time in wardrobe with a baggie of lavender. (4) Fear and awe inspiring items: I’m scared of fucking them up and wearing them out by repeated washing + the swimsuit which seems to be doing just fine with its chlorine soaks and less-chlorinated rinses afterwards.

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What are your *no washes*? Are those things that don’t need washing because of their function or are those things that you haven’t worn enough? Do you have any secret garment refreshing techniques: spot cleaning, steaming them in shower, freeing them? Tell me, I’m all ears!

My sustainability fails

Hello, there! The lent might be in the air in this historically catholic country or maybe I just want to make a dent in the holier-than-thou issues of the blogosphere and consumption-based activism. Anyways, this will be a mea culpa of my poorest sustainability practices. While I can go through one of those long ‘get greener’ bucket lists (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) and tick off quite few, there are several big ones I suck at. Welcome to the club!

Flying!

Ugh, the elephant in the room nobody in the online sustainability crowd likes to talk about. What’s the point to bring your own napkin to a transatlantic flight? I took 17 flights in 2016 and 23 in 2017. Aha, horrendous. And those include 8 intercontinental ones, just to make it completely awful. It must be much less in 2018 as my ‘take your PhD on a tour’ conference hopping is pretty much over, but is has already been 5 flights just between January and February 2018. I have none planned at least until June, and I’m trying a new trick at throwing money at my problem…

The basic step I am doing: Trains! I’ve been hating flying for a long time (I enjoyed my first few flights, it was all new and exciting, you know, going places), so I’ve opted to go to my KonMari seminar in train: Barcelona-Paris-London and back. It has cost me 260€ (flying would have cost me around 70€) and will mean hours more. On the other hand, it’s a better environmental option and better option for me: more space, views to watch, not fretting about the exact luggage size, not having to go to and from airports in the middle of nowhere (Eurostar had me convinced years ago with their ‘go from Paris to London instead of Charles de Gaulle to Heathrow’ ads), etc. And at least in this route it’s possible.

Not happening: I am not considering going to Rīga by train anytime soon, but the idea is to keep flying down to just love miles. I’ll let you know!

Garbage!

We (a shared household, so) are so far from being zero waste. We recycle religiously but I get guilt ping every time I stuff a bag in one of the colorful bins, even more if something goes to the gray bin. In Barcelona there are five different containers lining streets: brown for the organic waste, blue for paper, green for glass, yellow for plastics and aluminum, gray for the landfill. The additional services include textile containers of two different NGOs, furniture pick-up once a week from the curb and Punt Vert where they will take everything that’s shouldn’t go into the gray container or any other: electronics, batteries, random pieces of metal, used cooking oil, cava bottles. Ah, and pharmacies gather the pharmacological garbage: unused medicines and empty blisters! So significant space at our place is already occupied by different kind of garbage waiting for their turn to get out. And, yes, we are very lucky and privileged to have all that sorting and recycling being done for us by the City of Barcelona.

The basic step we are not doing: Switching to biodegradable bags for the organic garbage! We take out our paper in paper, glass in whatever as jars have to go in one by one, and plastic in a plastic bag. We did try a biodegradable bag for a short while, but they were too small and fragile for the amount of organic garbage we produce. I know, I know, my grandma also takes her kitchen garbage out everyday… and during summer we actually do switch to smaller bags because everything in that garbage bin goes compost and garbage juice in a very short time when it’s 28ºC and extremely humid.

Further steps we aren’t doing either: Composting! Without even entering into the conversation about where exactly and which type exactly, C has given a hard no on rotting stuff at home and I’m not passionate enough to try to fight that.

Dental hygene!

I switched to a children’s Humble Brush (the softest bristle but took time to get used to the small handle) years ago and I’m using an eco-certified vegan *with fluoride* toothpaste. However, Humble Brush has nylon bristle and my toothpaste travels to me by air from Germany clad in plastic (oh, all the waste and emissions of online shopping). I use dental floss every day knowing very well that it’s not biodegradable and peril to marine life. Oh, and I also chew a piece of plastic every night in the form of my mouth guard. It also has it’s own hard plastic coffin, of course.

The basic step I am not doing: Trying out real zero waste alternatives like baking soda or bar soap and neem stick. Nope! My gums are happy, my dentist and hygienist are happy. It’s actually funny because these people, despite the fact that they are peddling the latest super electronic brush, actually know a thing or two about dental hygiene. Nobody’s complaining about my current results while after a few months of experimenting with ayurvedic toothpastes years ago my dentist just had to intervene ‘with what have you been brushing your teeth? whatever it is, stop it’.

The teeny-tiny step I’m doing: Cutting my floss in smaller pieces, so that nobody could get tangled in it.

The tiny step I might do: Switching to Brush with Bamboo for my next toothbrush order (again, the flying packages!). Dental Lace, maybe? But, again, I have very sensitive gums and this stuff flies from far away (Maine, yo!).

Online shopping!

Of course I enjoy getting the best of all over the world right at my place. And I love receiving any kind of package! The excitement, the unboxing… and it goes to ridiculous lengths. My latest fails include (a) ordering four bottles of imported American apple cider vinegar from Madrid (and we did it twice as the first package had a broken bottle) without looking around in the neighborhood, and then I discovering that we can get French stuff in bulk for a very reasonable price in the shop I buy my almond oil and (b) being seduced by one of those companies that promote a ‘you buy and we give’ model and getting a present for C from the USA that didn’t ship to Spain so I had to engage an Italian friend to get it. Absurd! And Amazon Premium is nothing else than promoting laziness and killing local businesses. And so convenient, of course.

The teeny-tiny step I’m doing: For my German cosmetics I’m revising my existing supplies and postponing orders to make them big enough (and get free shipping, of course). I recently run out of lipbalm (the addiction thing keeps fluctuating) and made an excel (obviously!) just to find out that I’m up to my ears in toothpaste, solar protection, deodorants and cream. And the cream has fallen off my shopping list since I’ve discovered sweet almond oil! So I just stole a lip balm from my mom and carried on without buying more.

The other teeny-tiny step I’m doing: Stopping and thinking about possibilities to get what I want off-line. Barcelona is big and hip and there are a lot of great businesses either producing or importing. I do allow myself to buy online if I can’t find what I want or if the price is so much higher. The latest addition to our Amazon Prime basket of LED light bulbs and whatnot: (a) circle stencils for drawing that no shop in Barcelona had (I asked at several) and (b) a new Grids and Guides notebook as the previous one brought me so much joy; I suspected only one shop here to have them in stock and that would have necessarily been 10€ more. And we needed the lightbulbs!

The step I’ve completed: I’ve managed to stop buying books, headbands, and t-shirts with revolutionary slogans, though. Wasn’t easy. Very proud.

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These are only few, of course. Our food supply is patchy ranging from a weekly CSA vegetable box to palm oil in our conventional wheat tortillas. We wash our dishes constantly opening and closing the tap (and switching on the gas-powered water heater). We just bought a giant TV set…

On the other hand, I’m trying to relax my orthorexic and obsessive-compulsive impulses of living up to a sustainability perfection that cannot be achieved. Relax, sweety, relax! There is only one Bea Johnson, and I will never replace her. I’m not planning to turn my life into a one cause anytime soon.

So let’s talk trash! What are your sustainability stumbles you are not really planning to address? Any babe steps you feel immensely proud of? Any aspects of your life where you have decided to just let go?

Some things change: My bag now and 10 years ago

My Dad’s hand-me-down backpack I’ve been using since 2014. My sentimental investment has been allowing for the leather detailing, and my financial investment in repairing it were 25€ last year when the main zipper went kaput after all that strain. It’s also the perfect size for both carry-on luggage that fits under the seat in front and my everyday needs.

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Years ago there was a Latvian blog collecting photos and descriptions of people’s bags and pockets. I am unable to find it now, and I’m sure there are a gazillion more still doing it… However, having done such exercise in March 2008 and having found the email describing the contents when cleaning out my inbox, I just couldn’t resist repeating the exercise.

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So, the contents of my bag – a leopard-print plastic HnM tote, btw – in 2008:

For a bit of context: I was living in Ciudad Real then, doing my European Voluntary Service in a local NGO and actively learning Spanish. I worked mornings only and had lunch at home. The town is tiny, I walked everywhere, and actively tried to befriend the right people.

What you see here are:

My agenda
A notebook
A book: Taibo, Carlos. 2007. Movimientos antiglobalización (fun fact: this is the first book I ever read in Spanish!)
A CD: Veneno. 1977. Veneno
Headphones
MP3 player
A rechargeable battery
A USB drive 512 MB
Mobile phone
My purse
A Finnish lip balm
A Spanish lip balm
A pill-box containing chewing gum and pain killers
Honey perfumed kleenex
Passport
‘Libreta’ of Caja Castilla-La Mancha
Ciudad Real library card
A fountain pen
A marker pen
A ‘No sin él’ card holder containing: 2 debit cards, youth card, EU health insurance, AXA insurance, family doctor’s appointment card, bank password card,
A receipt for withdrawal of 30€
A boarding pass for a Brussels Airlines flight Brussels-Madrid

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And in 2018

I’m living in Barcelona, doing a PhD, commuting by bicycle, carefully planning all my activities and things to carry with me because popping home between, let’s say, yoga and work, would be a waste of time. I take lunch from home.

So 10 years later, on a normal Friday evening, I take out of my backpack:

My agenda
A notebook
Office key card
Home keys: front door, apartment door, postbox, both bicycle locks + bottle opener
Two cases for glasses: regular ones and sunglasses
Empty lunch tupperware with orange rinds, dirty knife and fork, a serviette in a cloth bag
A loaf of ‘German bread’ (a sad Spanish attempt at rye bread, ugh!)
Used yoga outfit: t-shirt, racerback top, leggings, knickers, socks

The pouch my mother-in-law made (she also made the two other ones inside) containing:

Phone + charger
My purse
Pill purse containing bandaids, painkillers, antivirals, a tampon
A Pusheen snack box with three dried figs
Oral contraceptives
Dirty handkerchief
Kleenex (those are a ‘last resort’ I don’t use routinely but you never know when you’ll end up in a dirty Spanish bar with no paper/towels)
A hand sanitizer
Earplugs in a case
USB stick 32 GB
A Latvian lipbalm
7 writing tools: a fountain pen, 4 markers, a permanent marker, a pencil
A hair elastic
A tiny clothes pin that was attached to Gulia’s present
A PAA card holder: ID, university ID, 2 Riga travel cards (one empty, one usable), 2 Barcelona travel cards (1-zone and 4-zone), a receipt for having spent 44 euros in the post office, debit card, bank password card, Catalunya health care system card, EU health insurance card, gym membership, La Festival buy 9-get-10th-for-free card

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Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi: while many aspects of my life have changed – the daily distances, schedules, tasks – other have stayed the same. I am still faithful to paper agendas and paper notebooks, and I still routinely carry with me a ‘first aid’ kit of wellbeing (that has expanded in last 10 years): handkerchiefs, kleenex, pain killers, ear plugs… I did finally switch to a smart phone last December and my lipbalm addiction is much less severe than before. But on days I’m not taking bicycle (rain!), I will always carry a book with me.

If you would shake out your everyday bag now and 10 (5? 15? 1?) years ago, what would still be there? What are the little things that help you maintain comfort when you are out and about? Is there anything you panic without? (I had that with lipbalms for years…)

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!

#whatiwore 2018w05 + Sunday links

This post marks a new year in the weekly outfit world – it’s Nº53. You can see them all via this link or on Pinterest! And on we go with the brain-food:

On sartorial butterfly effects: The Marie Antoinette Dress That Ignited the Slave Trade. Allows you to appreciate the pros of a multi-polar world when one dress (or dress-wearer) doesn’t have that much trendsetting power. Oh, no, wait, the fucking Kardashians & Co… + now we all have the power to ignite slave or – in the best cases – almost slave labor while eating brioche fruit flown in from faraway lands ans swiping left.

Menstrual cups are still a novelty or what? They just keep popping up in my feeds, see examples here and here, and on display in our local pharmacy. I’ve had mine since the winter 2012/2013 (this one, because C’s sister was getting one and Fleurcup does this pay-for-1-get-2 thing so she offered giving me the other one), I had to cut the ‘stem’ part off to make it comfortable and have been happy since. My cup is dark brown now because I do not obsess about cleaning it. It’s fine, only my cervix sees it and he doesn’t care!
What truly strikes me every time somebody writes about menstrual cups is the ‘oh, it was scary, oh, you get to go to places you have never been to’ tone. Really? Are we really missing so much sexuality education that people with cervixes don’t know how to locate them?
Nevermind, tl;dr – try a menstrual cup if you haven’t yet, especially if you are not sure about your basic anatomy, and get your hand in there! It’s about the time you understood where all that blood came from.

A little fun Buzzfeed piece Here’s Why Clothing Sizes Are The Way They Are that so beautifully reveals the naïveté of early applications of social research. Serious and dedicated people going out there and doing thousands of measurements just to have the results completely off because their sampling was shit.

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What are your (sustainable) menstrual product preferences? Hand-made reusable pads, eco-tampons, period undies, a cup, or just bleeding all over the place your moon goddess magic? Was there ever a life-changing switch (that one for me was the change from maxi pads to tampons some 15 years ago)?
Additional dysmenorrhea pro-tip (I have street cred for painful periods, I’ve been taken to hospital in an ambulance): forget the anti-inflammatory analgesics and look for antispasmodics. Not for nothing those are called menstrual cramps!

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.

#KonMari for advanced minimalists


My first konmari tidying spree in 2016 resulted in giving my adolescent bedroom back to my parents.
Well, better late – at the ripe age of 28 – than never.

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I spent November under the spell of Marie Kondo books. I had already read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” last year, but now I binged through all three of them. Apart from enjoying them a lot, I have some reflections and suggestions on how to approach the (now somewhat subdued) “does it spark joy?” fever.

For anybody curious about the whole thing, I’d suggest this order of reading:

1. The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up: Being manga, it’s a very short read – you’ll be done with this in a couple of hours and will have either curiosity about the whole “method” or none at all. However, I do see how this less esoteric than “The Life-Changing Magic…” and clearly young-adult-professional-women-looking-for-love targeting book could put some of us off. Kondo comes across as the love fairy that will discipline you into throwing out your sentimental garbage, hence opening space for the handsome neighbor next door.

2. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The classical best seller that has filled Instagram. It’s short and follows the classical self-help book outlay of tracing the protagonist’s steps until they see the light and can now share it with the rest of the mortals. Kondo comes across as a spiritual teacher with a rigid “method” that you should follow without complaint in order to reach clutter free nirvana. While Kondo always repeats that relapse rate for her private clients is 0%, I am willing to bet that the great majority of people who read this one stayed with “oh, sounds interesting but a bit too harsh” and never did anything and the other ones did some purging of the obvious clutter and left it at that.

3. Spark Joy: This one is my favorite and has a very distinct tone from the other two. Kondo repeats the basic tenants of her method but also accepts all kinds of bending of the rules as far as you stick to things and practices that “spark joy”. This book is the real talk of “we are all weird”, going as far as the author revealing that her animistic relationship with objects is probably due to her difficulty of relating to humans. Boom! The stern fairy godmother just became vulnerable and human, although still suggesting ordering our lives along the lines of a slightly modified William Morris‘ maxim of “Have nothing in your houses [i.e. your lives] that you do not know to be [indispensably] useful, or believe to be beautiful [i.e. spark joy].”

Lettering by Kelly Cummings.

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Now, not to be counted among those “nice idea” people, I can proceed to lessons learnt and musings for future:

Having toyed (i.e. binge reading) with minimalism and capsule wardrobes since 2014, I have much less stuff to begin with. These are both good and bad news when thinking about a proper KonMari tidying festival. The good news are that the physical threshold of gathering my stuff in our living room by categories is a relatively easy task. On the other hand, my “joy-meter” is off and I don’t have a heap of little loved clothing to fine tune it. After several years of becoming what Kondo calls “a discarding machine” – and describes it as one of the tidying pathologies one can fall into – I’m able to rationalize throwing away almost anything.

Very few things are *perfect*. True indispensability and great design are very rare. If all my possessions are to be measured against the *ideal*, basically everything goes, and I’m left with the problem of finding the perfect replacements. The alternative explanation would be that my ~55 item wardrobe is already paired down to a reasonable level of joyfulness (and I have no 0 joy items to feel the difference) while I expect a joy-gasm just from opening my wardrobe. That’s one of the problems with an author promising *magic* – a lot of self doubt: if I’m not feeling the magic, is it because I’m doing it wrong or am I living the magic already without realizing it?

Objectively, the quantity of possessions and clutter we have is rather low. There are few black holes of stuff that would benefit from airing out, but overall we are kicking ass in not accumulating useless shit. To enhance the magic, here are some of my future tidying plans extracted from “Spark Joy”:

A) Following Kondo’s and C’s example, I’m ditching the seasonal wardrobe overhauls and the big plastic box for out-of-season clothing. Everything will be visible, foldables will be folded in the drawer below, the plastic box will get another job, and we’ll see how it all will work out:

So going from this

To this

Which in reality means this as we share the hanger space:
an ecosystem with natural limits

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B) I’m using my vacations in Riga to review (again!) my possessions left there, in line with Kondo’s warning to never ever send stuff to our parents’ homes. Thankfully, my parents live far away and their flat is small, so there’s little to no sense to store my things in Riga. My resolution stays the same as in August: only the indispensables that shouldn’t be moved back and forth (parka, rubber boots, winter boots, a dressing gown, and few more).

C) I’ve done a partial joy-check with my books, and oh! that was hard. Having been raised by bibliophiles and having always aspired to have as many as possible, I took a deep breath and did my first division into “stays”, “will see”, and “out” trying to base it on the joy factor only… I’m still not sure how to go about books that can’t possibly bring joy due to their content. Global crises, totalitarian crimes, failing humanitarian aid schemes will never make a joyful read… I already realized it in Riga with my novel collection: it is much easier to sort out fiction this way!

D) I intend to carry out a full tidying festival focusing on joy instead of discarding. Only when I’m done – my plan is to give myself a very generous permission to *keep*, to use this process to reaffirm my love for my things (C could tell you that I’m often very careless with my possessions) via the positive focus of choosing what to keep instead of focusing on throwing away – with my own stuff, I’ll move towards our common komono.

E) For the household clutter and “maybe someday”, Kondo suggests mapping out the storage spaces to identify where to look. I’ve done that on paper already, and even in our tiny flat there are several pockets of mystery and miscellany to be tackled: rarely used cupboards, boxes under the bed, boxes on top of the wardrobe, items we “inherited” from the previous tenant and never started to use or threw out, etc. Again and again, I’m grateful of having a small flat with little storage space, I have no idea how people with n-bedrooms, basement, attic, and a garage do it. Oh, wait, they don’t!

F) To either put full stop on my KonMari fever or to enter the sect forever, I’m planning to do her consultant training this spring. The price is ridiculous, several of my loved ones have doubted my sanity, and I am aware that the most likely outcome of the course will be slight disappointment and a depleted savings account. But I want to do it. It will be my 30th birthday present to myself. Some people jump with parachutes or swim with sharks, why can’t I spoil myself with a Japanese decluttering seminar?

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Have you done any decluttering campaign with your possessions? How did that go? Have you read any of Kondo’s books? Did they spur you into action or did you find her method too extreme?

How to Survive *Winter* in Barcelona

Temperatures fluctuate, and you never know which mild winter you are getting.

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While I am complaining about the “fake winter” again, the midday 15-20ºC does not change the fact that we have no heating at home… OK, there is the hot air option on the AC and a little electrical heater but our windows are poorly isolated, ceiling is high, and we have tile floors, so we use neither. Hence getting out of under the blanket is a major life challenge from November till February.

The key is to get warm and comfy (read: under-blanket appropriate) as soon as possible after coming back home. This means a sports bra, leggings, woolen socks and a hoodie or a sweater. Looks like this:

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Although, to be honest, quite often this is the complete look:

I didn’t chose any of these infantile patterns – the hoodie is a gift from my mom and blanket came from C’s mom – but they only reinforce my resolution to be like Greg from Over the Garden Wall when I grow up.

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The major *winter* challenge is to overcome the stupor and the wish to stay under the blanket forever. In mornings I wake up to have breakfast with C, and afterwards get warm – instead of going back to bed – with a (typically) shortish yoga practice. When I feel too lazy for creative yoga and want instructions, I turn to doyogawithme.com. My favorite instructor there is Sarah Jane Steele (try her yin classes when feeling impossibly stiff) and my current go-to class is this 23 minute hatha flow.

Evenings are easier as there are things to do, meals to prep, and the local swimming pool is still 26ºC. I don’t use hair dryers, but I bring a hat to cover my hair on my way home! The swimming pool routine also helps to make sure that I get at least two showers per week.

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My minor – outdoors – challenge is to adjust to temperature changes due to movement. Cycling to work (downhill) is cold and breezy, coming back (uphill) is hot and sweaty + all the associated risks with then hanging out all sweaty and getting a nasty cold. Prevent pneumonias instead of treating them! Hat, gloves, and sunglasses (the sun is still here and going strong!) are my friends. So are woolen mix tights. I had given up tights for several years, and have no intention to going back to the typical transparent plastic, but I admit that a cashmere mix is much better than my previous combination of stay-ups and biker shorts under dresses (for warmth and for not showing the lacy parts of the stay-ups to all other drivers).

I still haven’t got a proper winter coat in Barcelona, because I – DO – NOT – NEED – ONE. I have two winter coats of varying warmth in Riga but they just don’t make any sense here. For the coldest days – around 10ºC – I will layer my trench with a wool sweater and be toasty enough.

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Despite my wish to go almost product-free in skincare (= soap + coconut oil + deodorant), November won and I made a big Lavera order. Oh, a hand cream and a lip balm can bring so much pleasure in life! Sweet almond oil also entered in my routine as supposedly better oil for the face as the coconut. Feels nice and smells delicious indeed. Coconut is still here for the rest of the body after the swimming pool chlorine.

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The summer fruits are out, but apples and citruses are IN. And the same goes for soups (miso is our lazy favorite) partly replacing salads. It’s Mediterranean, our CSA box has lettuce year-round!

My big cold weather switch is not going close to cold water and drinking a copious amount of herbal teas instead. My grandma’s magic are my favorites, but I haven’t been in Riga since August, so I’m long out of Latvian herbs. I spent the previous winter emptying local herbalist’s nettle reserves, but after a trip to Cape Town I’m back to rooibos all day. And as a special treat a colleague brought me two packages of this Swedish magic of passiflora, lavender, lemon balm, and mint.

Latvian heather full of grandma love.

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Rooibos is more robust than the herbs, so I leave it in the thermos for many hours, and just add hot water and more tea as I wish. Most herbs won’t stand this kind of treatment and become yucky after a couple of hours.

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So far I haven’t got a proper snot-and-bed time this, but if need be, here are the hankies (the only textile items I iron!) and the possibility to set up a little home office from the bed.


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Enjoy the season and tell me how you deal with cold weather, be it real or fake winters!


Curating the 100% comfort wardrobe

While our ideas about what is comfortable couldn’t be different, I agree with Caroline from Un-fancy that dresses are a shortcut to comfort and happiness.

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My wardrobe might not seem to fit the Pinterest understanding of comfort. I have very few oatmeal knits and boyfriend denim going on, zero to be exact. In the world where most of my peers pull on a pair of skinnies and a funny t-shirt/nice blouse, a wardrobe consisting of dresses and loud patterns might seem complicated. However, I insist that the wardrobe editing and curating that I’ve been practicing for last three years (1, 2) is towards 100% comfort: comfort about the ethics of my garments, physical comfort, and the aesthetic comfort in recognizing myself in my wardrobe.

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There is some heterogeneity, I know, but sustainable fashion brands normally do try to cover bigger share of the market by prioritizing neutrals and timeless shapes. Depending on your fashion strategy, for bold shapes and patterns you may have to look very hard, look into bespoke designs and secondhand market. No matter what your aesthetic preferences are – you have read any of my “be reasonable and take care of your feet” sermons, you’ll know that my brand of feminist fashion blogging is the now infamous you-do-you, especially when it comes to purely aesthetic choices (I do get more demanding about ethics, care, etc.) – you need criteria to decide which garments enter your wardrobe. Both buying new sustainable fashion and using hand-me-down chains have possible pitfalls. With new and expensive (because ethical and sustainable fashion is more expensive, and it has to be) you are afraid of wasting your money and a likely victim of sunk costs bias. Secondhand and hand-me-downs have the opposite problem of no entry barrier; why would you not take something that is free or almost free? I’ve been on a main clothing buying ban since 2015, and I sometimes wonder what my wardrobe would look like if my choices would be made among more varied offers of retailers instead of wardrobes of my family and friends. For example, I consider red to be my favorite color but my wardrobe is currently dominated by blues and grays! Go figure.

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My swap acquisitions are not random, of course, but they are restricted to a complex chain of path dependencies and accidents. To get there a garment has to be chosen to be discarded via swap by the owner, brought in (this part might get complicated due to other plans or hangovers), then I have to notice it before somebody else has taken it, like it, and it has to fit… And, no, there’s no other size, color, or one without that stain. Complicated alright!
However, I was surprised to read this Good On You piece claiming that the author was confused and unable to curate her style because of the hand-me-downs. Dude, that’s just weird! You don’t have to take all the garments that come your way! They are not puppies! Unless you have suffered a serious loss of stuff lately, you probably already have more than you need. It makes zero sense to move stuff that won’t be worn from one overstuffed wardrobe to another. That has nothing to do with poor hand-me-down sources, that’s just being hooked on getting new-to-you clothes!

All my swap acquisitions so far: nothing in October 2016, Liisa’s lace dress and velvet skirt in January 2017, Julie’s cardigan and an anonymous striped mini in May 2017, and Laura’s polka dot dress and a floral shirt of unknown previous ownership in September 2017.

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Not to sound creepy, but I pay attention to what people around me wear, I keep mental tabs on my partner’s wardrobe, and one of my biggest pleasures in life is when my mother is up for tidying her wardrobe with me… After almost two years of tracking what I wear, I can claim an advantage over those that don’t: with all that data, I have no way of maintaining illusions around garments. I know with great certainty which pieces are really *mine*, which ones are here as placeholders until something better comes around, and which ones are on trial.

Each garment that offers itself for my wardrobe falls into one of these three categories:
(a) I know it’s not mine, I’m completely unmoved. Examples include: neon colors, leather textures, white underwear, trousers… Meh!
(b) I’m not sure, I’m attracted but have some reservations.
(c) Things jump at me and it’s love at first sight.

Unfortunately, C happens rarely. Most incomers in my wardrobe are Bs, and I do what most reasonable employers do: I give them a trial period! And this is where my spreadsheet love proves fruitful in making sure that those garments don’t just stay at the back of the wardrobe. I include the newcomers in the next weather-appropriate season and challenge myself to wear them at least 10 times during that season. Nope, not once or twice, but 10 times! We, humans, are masters of self-deception, and first few wears can still be liable to lies. At least 10 wears will show the fit – physical and aesthetic – for different weather, activities, moods… if it shows sweat, if you can sit down, raise your arms, walk, tie your shoelaces, etc. Very soon it is clear which pieces fit your needs and which ones are just not that into you. And you shouldn’t keep things that aren’t yours!

Let it go! Overcome both fallacies that might be holding you back: (1) no, you won’t suddenly start to wear it someday, and (2) no, it’s not your duty to keep them out of the landfill by turning your wardrobe into one. Yes, it’s a contradiction with my “use up what you have” commandment, but that rule is about full-time members of your wardrobe and is meant to prevent you from willy-nilly acquiring functional duplicates. The ones that are on trial are only partly in. You are trying out the relationship, and, if it is not working, the garment has to go. Yes, even if you paid for it! Sorry, have an ice-cream, assume the sunken costs, and try to make somebody else happy with that piece. Don’t keep it for one day, when… That day never comes! If you have done any wardrobe editing, you’ll know that you very rarely think of those discarded garments ever again.

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I’ll admit that consciously trialing garments is not always comfortable. Sometimes it becomes clear very early on and only stubbornness will keep me wearing the thing I now know I don’t want to own, sometimes – even worse – doubting goes on until the last moment. The thing is that you are already curating for comfort when you reach for the same pieces again and again. That’s fine, but what are those other pieces doing in your wardrobe then? I prefer to face the torment head on, give garments their chance, and act accordingly after that period.With such discipline in mind I encourage people to take B category garments home from swaps and give them a try: “bring it back if it doesn’t work for you!” I think that all garments deserve a chance to return to the rotation and to keep looking for the right wardrobe to fit in.

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Despite the fact that textile recyclers are overwhelmed by the quantity of discarded garments, a conscious wardrobe starts with a purge. My experience shows that the real editing for 100% comfort starts when you are down to around 50 main garments. It’s an exercise in honesty with yourself and a little field research. Is there a type of garment you keep acquiring but not wearing (fancy shoes? formalwear “for work”? funny t-shirts?)? Are there colors or patterns that attract you as artifacts but end up sad and lonely at the bottom of your wardrobe?

My recent material insight – under Julie’s educational influence – is that I find it hard to resist synthetics because my first criteria when looking at garments are color and pattern. I momentarily forget that I move more than most people and sweat more than most people, so an additional plastic wrapper is clearly not needed. I don’t mind the prolonged moisture of natural fabrics, but I want it breathable! So in January several plastic-oh-fantastic garments will go out and I’m making a pledge to do better work at avoiding them in the future. Not all synthetics will go bye-bye, because there are some that I love unconditionally, but so far I’ve marked five pieces as “outgoing” because of their fiber composition.

All four of these are among my synthetic favorites!

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From the seven dresses of my current capsule, two are going out for sure. They both have material *and* fit issues. I could deal with either, but both in one dress is too much. Laura’s blue dress is 100% polyester with a very nice flow but still plasticky against skin. The top keeps falling off the shoulders (I have been wearing it by pinning the dress to the bra), and the waist keeps climbing up. I’ll put in bra strap fixers before bringing it back to the swap (this is the first item I’ll be returning), that will fix the shoulder fit … I was attracted by the hue, the polka dots, the movement, but after 8 wears so far I know that we are not meant to be.

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The grey bow dress, a hand-me-down from Marina, goes out because of its shortness. After 7 wears, I know I just cannot live like this… Style icons like Twiggy, Jane Birkin or Pattie Boyd would not understand what’s wrong with me as this is not a super-mini, but the fact that I cannot roam around freely – or tie my shoelaces without losing dignity – bare legged is a deal breaker. Yes, there are tight and legging seasons, but that’s just not optimal. Also, it has no stretch (100% poly), so while it’s pretty much precisely my size, shoulder movements feel restricted. I’ve already had the armpit holes fixed, so it’s ready to go to somebody looking for a rather formal dress for no-movement events. Being below my 167cm might be an advantage shortness-wise.

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So this how I curate for comfort: trial period of rigorous evaluation and till death do as part unconditional love afterwards. What are your mental hacks around availability of second hand and hand-me-down items? When do you say yes, and when no thanks?

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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