After 6 months of the big spreadsheet

This is a bit more complex than the first big spreadsheet report three months ago, because now I’ve covered winter and spring weather up to the beggining of the hot-hot summer. It’s cumulative instead of capsule-ish (but the capsule is dead) and garments appropriate for milder weather are bound to have more wears in total. Yet it still is a clear reflection of the functionality of my wardrobe (and of babysteps towards #100wears). The astonishing part even for me is that in these six months I have worn it all at least once! Boom. The ~40 garment wardrobe (~50 including shoes) works and might be the optimal one!

So here you have the wardrobe heroes by categories in 2018 so far with the number of wears in parenthesis:

Layers

Most worn: Julie’s cardigan (45).

Runner-ups: The red flea sweater (41) and my mom’s Zara hand-me-down trench (39).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The floral courduroy bolero (2) – it’s fancy and in Rīga, works very well (although takes it slightly over the top) with the HnM sweetheart dress, but not casual enough for every day even by my very lax standards.

Dresses

Most worn: The second-hand kaftan (16).

Runner-ups: My mom’s dark blue silk dress (15) and my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (15).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The HnM sweetheart dress (3) – again, it’s a party garment and lives in Rīga so that I would have a mainstay for all family celebrations and opera. Feels like a bit of a waste but I’ve had it since 2008, so it has to be somewhere in vicinity of those #30wears. Also, this February I finally found a nice way to dress it down a bit, this.

Tops

Most worn: The demon t-shirt still wins (40). This is weird, because I don’t have a feeling that I’ve worn it that much. Here, a proof that my memory and perception of frequency of wear cannot be trusted!

Runner-ups: The swap Forever 21 t-shirt (26) and my mom’s lace undershirt (23).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The WAG top (5) – Throughout these months I still hadn’t finished the beige skirt, so the only combination was with the set skirt which is (I finally have to admit it) very uncomfortable. Here, finally I have a combination issue! I have a top that can be worn only with (now) two bottoms which themselves are not that easy to wear, and that clearly doesn’t help to boost their wears. Ugh. At the end I should probably admit that the African set was a rather stupid impulse buy…

Bottoms

Most worn: ZIB black leave leggings (42), still.

Runner-ups: Liisa’s velvet skater skirt (32) and Amoralle leggings (30).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: Blanco paisley pants (1) – they live in Rīga and mostly serve as lounge wear decent enough to also head out in them. I had them in Barcelona last summer and didn’t enjoy them that much either. If I’d be spending any summer time in Rīga this year, they’d probably get their wears, but that’s not happening, not in 2018.

Footwear

Most worn: Arcopedico wedges (78) still, obviously.

Runner-ups: Veja Wata (43) and Veja Arcade (41).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: Nokian Hai wellingtons (1) – they live in Rīga and are rainboots. I keep wondering if bringing them to Barcelona could be a good idea…

Adornments

Most worn: Jēkabs necklace (24). It had been in my heirlom stash for years and I decided to give it a spin. Turns out I really like it!

Runner-ups: The red wooden necklace (18) and the bird and flower headband (12).

Never wore: Wore them all.

Wore the least: The flower ball headband (6) – I rescued it from the Rīga wardrobe and we had a great time together in London, but then in Barcelona I find it hard to wear. And the bicycle-headband incompatibility (the wind!) doesn’t help.

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Have has your wardrobe fared in these first six months of 2018? Do you think you have worn all that you have? Have you tried any kind of wardrobe tracking? Are you anywhere close the optimal wardrobe?

Style mood board: me-me-me!

Let me set the stage for you! Many people browse others’ content to find fashion inspiration; that’s the whole premise of Pinterest, including mine. However, as I’ve been editing drastically reducing my digital photo archives, I’ve got an heretical idea: I’ll do a style mood board of my own materials, ideas I’d like to go back to instead of trying out what other people are doing. Yes, very self-involved but also reafirming and comforting!

I did run into the problem of disentangling the memories, the photo (light, colors, posture) and particular garments… but Pinteresting – and all fashion inspo in general – has the same issue. We evaluate the overall feel of a fashion editorial, not every garments on its own merits. And the notion of style is about combinations not pieces. It’s garments by other garments by adornments by activities by ‘audience’, etc. etc. And my ‘conclusions’ are also more about mood than garments.

In case you have a couple of hours to spare and want to do something similar, these were my steps:

1. I went through my old photos starting with the older ones and copied (copy, don’t move! whatever photo system you have, you want the originals to stay in their place) into a separate folder all those that spark fashion joy. Treat it like scrolling through Pinterest or Instagram and ‘like’ the ones that inspire you style-wise! I ended up with 50 or so photos from 2005 to 2011. I consciously chose not to deal with the most recent ones, that’s what the rest of this blog is for.

2. Then I tried to find commonalities between the photos and key words for the common themes. And the winners are:

Wavy hair

Artsy

Defiant

Cozy winters

3. The rest was just formatting the photos to the same sizes, making them into collages by key word and then trying to figure out the reasons for their salience…

Wavy hair

This one needs a background explanation, because it’s not a purely aesthetic choice, it’s a mystery and an ongoing tension! My natural hair color is ash blonde, but I’ve been dyeing it different shades of red since I was 11, first with synthetic dyes and then with henna since 17 or 18. The length has fluctuated between none (hah!) and half-back, mostly being around shoulders. The texture has fluctuated between straight and wavy but always very thin. I have a child’s nose and a child’s hair, yes.

My go-to hairstyle for the last few years has been a modified french braid from ear to ear followed by a normal braid that’s either just hanging or is pinned up to complete the circle. I came up with it when looking for an easy way to (a) keep hair away from neck, (b) not to gather the bulk of my hair at the nape as that is the last thing you want for inverted yoga postures, (c) do something more stable than the messy bun which in my case is a ridiculously small thing that keeps unraveling, (d) find a ‘do I can sleep with in Barcelona’s summer, (e) gracefully gather even dirty hair, (f) not to tire my scalp (f*ck ponytails!). An additional advantage is that it looks like I made and effort while actually I have it down to few minutes and then don’t have to think about it until the end of the day. Very practical and adult.

Yet when you look at the pictures that have moved my heart’s strings, I clearly long for my rebelious, uncommbed, wavy locks. I know that there are selection bias at play – those are the extra good hair days! And the causality is unclear as so many variables have changed since then: age, stress, food, water, air, shampoo, combing practices… so I wouldn’t even know how to go back to having such hair, yet I love the look:

Artsy and defiant (yes, those go together)

While I still dress quite differently than my peers and have done so since my early adolescence, I do have a feeling that I’m settling down… and it bothers me. So a great share of my inspo photos are capturing a more daring way of dressing.

There are lifestyle dictates, such as that pretty much everything has to be bicycle safe to be used on working days (this mostly restricts headpieces and skirt length). There are bodily whims such as my earlobes deciding that they will inflame with anyhting but pharmacy baby studs. And there are my more mature standards of comfort: no pinching waists, no tugging pants, no uncomfortable underwear, no chocking necklaces, and no street-sweeping hems.

But when I look back, of course it’s the ‘craziest’ outfits (and the occasional shaved eyebrow) that I appreciate the most and would like to go back to. It’s the feeling that I’m not pushing the fashion conformity enough, that I could do more to actively remind myself that clothing is means of expression and not to blend in (OK, you could, if need be) or to serve as an unpaid billboard (you really shouldn’t).

(I have a huge flower that few people would pick even for their wedding day on my head as I’m drafting this, though. So maybe I’m doing my mission alright on this London-Paris train surrounded by ultra-casual tourist wear and people in business suits. Also, there are enough garments that I did wear but wouldn’t want to go back to, my toy princess crown period in 2005 being just one of them.)

Curiously enough, my narrative is that pop feminism set me free. The message that I could do whatever made sense for me and that pleasing others was optional was a permission to experiment with dressing up to my heart’s content and not for anybody else. There were fails and occasional succumbing to (percieved) peer pressure (because at that age we are all so anxious about ourselves that other people barely enter our field of vision) but I felt like dressing true to myself most of the time.

I clearly have an underlying issue of having to stand out in a crowd, even if then I have to provide proof of not being as superficial and self-involved as it may seem. I now think that my loudest acting out coincided with my most normal dressing, but both could be just side-effects of being a teenager. Even though I abandoned the idea of becoming an artists at 15 – I might get back to it when I’m around 70 – dressing is one of the aspects of my life where I can be flaunting my (perceived and desired) creativity and extravagance. So far it has been a constant need and doesn’t seemt o be going anywhere.

Cozy (winters)

Climate conditions bodies. I am convinced that we learn to regulate temperatures according to the climate we grow up in, so… I miss proper winters! Salamanca still had enough cold for me (~ 5ºC on average between December and February), but Barcelona just doesn’t have any for my standards + it’s the stupid combination of cold at home and warm outside that drives me mad. The same way as Spaniards treat winter and cold weather as an annoying emergency, there is a part in me that loves it. The bundling up, the careful thinking through what layers to put on and in what order, and the smug satisfaction when managing to put together a good looking winter outfit that works both with your coat and without. I miss proper layering. I miss cold rosy cheeks. And I miss the collective milieu when being warm and cozy trumps everything else. (Barcelona has that in summer heat: all other standards of decency and formality get lowered to favour weather-appropriate clothing and sweat stains are not frowned upon.) I miss my big scarves and winter boots, all the cocooning. And, yes, insert a joke about Latvian summers and all of us having a winter coat, a spring coat, and a summer coat. It took me years to learn no to take a layer with me ‘in case it gets cold’. It doesn’t.

An additional coziness note about trousers: yes, I used to have and wear them a lot! Something switched, though, and I haven’t been serious about getting a pair since more than five years ago. Many of these photos made me think how I used to wear jeans and feel both comfy and cool. Maybe the desire to wear them will come back someday.

On a closing note, this exercise did remind me of three particular types of garments that I would like to get back to (September Swap, I’m looking at you!): (1) what I called my Mucha dresses – floral, dropped waist, bare shoulders, and short; (2) a dark turtleneck, could be with a subtle print or plain; (3) a jersey bodycon. These were the paragons of comfort and feeling awesome at the same time.

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What would be the major fashion inspiration themes from your past? Has your style ben consistent or are you changing? Can you see yourself going back to wearing garments similar to those you had when teenager? Or did you never stopped wearing them?

Swap VI and the problem with the threadbare

This Saturday is the sixth (!) swap (what’s a swap?) and I’m doing my wardrobe pruning in preparation for it. However, as my wardrobe goes shrinking, there’s another dynamic I’m less comfortable than letting mint condition garments that are not working for me find new owners… the pieces I’ve worn out completely are driving me nuts!

The initial wardrobe editing is about taste, future self and frequency of wear/fit in your life. All very personal and subjective. And if it ever comes down to ‘this is pretty worn out’, most people have replacements already waiting for them right there in the same wardrobe. Yes, there might be pieces that one might want to work hard enough to find or make a copy but those don’t tend to be urgent as there’s an abundance of other garments. However, when I’m down to two bras, one pair of yoga shorts and eight pairs of footwear in total, seeing them wear out is a heart-breaking emergency. It’s as if, once selected as optimal, I’d expected them to last lifetime and they have tricked me by wearing out. Finding exact replacement for secondhand or hand-me-down stuff I’ve worn for years is not easy. And in many cases I would prefer not to buy anything directly from those people anyways.

I already shared my yoga shorts replacement fail and it hasn’t got better since then. The Decathlon shorts I bought second-hand in 2015 are in rag condition, and I have a strong aversion to going to that shop and browsing for new similar ones (as there are no identical ones available). According to their home page, I could get similar ones in organic cotton and elastane mix for f*ing incredible 4.99€ without a word about where the fiber or labour comes from. You tell me how that price is possible!

Looks that the solution of the shorts saga will be to – for a set of other reasons – switch back to home practice, so that showing my privates to people won’t be a concern at all. I still should admit myself the truth and send the old shorts to the orange container (oh, yes, those are well beyond a swap-worthy mint condition).

My parallel struggle with shredded-by-wearing items has been my sneakers. After discovering Veja Taua in early 2015, I though I was set for life. Oh, how naive! After three pairs worn to the point that my left little toe was sneaking out (always the left one!), I am now facing the hard truth that they are not planning to restock them ever again. I did try another of the more modern-looking sneaker models and I’m now breaking in their next best canvas sneaker, but it’s not the same. I want my Taua back! I’m even seriously considering buying the last available Taua in my size, although the color combination – white, very white – is clearly suboptimal for my lifestyle. Or writing them a very heartfelt love letter pleading for a new release of the black ones…

(On a side note, this is one of the big advantages of  heritage brands and styles. If you happen to like a model that the company has been doing for decades already, it’s pretty safe they’ll keep doing it instead of succumbing to demons of innovation and oh-no-that-was-limited-edition-and-we-will-never-do-it-again. I was just assured of this by the lovely Toni Pons salesperson in Born. They’ve been making Montgri since forever, so it’s not going anywhere.)

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According to my archives, that’s what November 2012 looked like in Salamanca, Spain.

It’s the time for the black flower shirt too. It has been patched up in armpits three times and keeps unraveling around them. This little viscose hand-my-down from my mom has seen so much more than #100wears. For years it has been my go-to throw-on for travel, errands and everything in-between. I draped perfectly, covered butt to be worn with leggings, felt amazing and looked lovely. Bye, bye, my love, I hope to find something similar enough one day.

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On a more typical note about garments that will go to the swap looking for new friends (for my outgoing for the previous editions see here, here and here), the only substantive swapped-aways will be garments I thought of as heirlooms until trying to wear them again after years of having them stashed away in my mom’s wardrobe. Both the military field jacket and the pink corduroy skirt date back to 2003 and 2006 respectively, my past self wore them a lot and they are in great condition. But not for my current self! And that’s enough. I hope they have a lot of wears with somebody else ahead of them.

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How do you deal with the conflict of knowing that something is worn out beyond repair and that you cannot replace it? Have you ever made bespoke copies of industrial garments you had loved? Have you crossed oceans, deserts and all the internets combing for a replacement?

After 3 months of the big spreadsheet

So the first three months of no-restriction-you-have-access-to-all-just-track-it wardrobe have passed…

Lesson 1: Go with the flow! After years of pruning and tracking I still struggle with the ‘but I *could* wear it more’ fallacy. Yes, I could. But should I? If something does not get worn ‘naturally’ it doesn’t mean that I have to force myself to wear it. More likely (a) it’s not the right weather, (b) it’s for relatively rare occasions, or (c) it’s not right for me in this season of my life, hence, bye-bye has to be considered.

Lesson 2: Taste and wishes change. D-oh! Some garments somehow fit in for years despite changes in my preferences and some don’t. That’s fine. Let it go!

Lesson 3: My wardrobe is still oh-so-ample! In these 90 days I wore 56 different items (and this is not counting underwear, scarves, hats, bags, hosiery). No wonder many didn’t make it to 10 wears.

And now the nitty-gritty of my wardrobe champions and the not-so-much champions of these 90 days by the category:

Layers

Most worn: my mom’s Zara hand-me-down trench (39), obviously. That’s my winter basic, my shining light, my everything. Now it really needs a wash, though.

Runner-ups: the red flea sweater (37) and the Portuguese cape (26).

Never wore: …wore them all.

Dresses

Most worn: my aunt’s hand-me-down PhD dress (11). I was clearly fed up with dresses after the 7 dresses experiment (1, 2). Hope my fondness for them will come back as the temperatures rise…

Runner-ups: my mom’s hand-me-down MnS linen dress (4) and the purple jersey dress (4).

Never wore: kaftan and my mom’s dark blue silk dress. Because, weather.

Tops

Most worn: the demon t-shirt (28).

Runner-ups: my mom’s hand-me-down lace undershirt/blouse (18) and Liisa’s hand-me-down black lace top (16).

Never wore: my mom’s hand-me-down white zipper blouse. Yeah, weather…

Bottoms

Most worn: ZIB black leave leggings (33). Let me explain the legging situation: I do yoga three times a week and swim twice a week, for those activities I leave home mostly in leggings. Then I also sometimes wear them for errands, and instead of tights when it’s cold and I want to be extra cozy. All the wears at home are not counted, but a telling sign is that these 2016 leggings had to be mended once already and now have a new rip again. These 90 days confirmed the central role leggings play in my cold-weather wardrobe, indeed. There were three pairs in my winter wardrobe and not was not too much by any means.

Runner-ups: Amoralle leggings (30) and Liisa’s hand-me-down velvet skater skirt (19).

Never wore: the sari maxi, the lyocell shorts, the rayon shorts. No guessing needed why January and February might not be the months for shorts, even in the Mediterranean.

Footwear

Most worn: Arcopedico wedges (41). They live at work, so the game is rigged in their favor.

Runner-ups: Veja Arcade (29) and Veja Taua Bahia (26).

Never wore: the birks, obviously.

Adornments

Most worn: red wooden necklace (8). None of my adornment got their 10 wears this time. I was trying to relax instead of forcing it, and winters are for cozy layers.

Runner-ups: Jēkab’s necklace (7) and bird and flowers headband (7).

Never wore: the flower ball headband! Ugh, I keep struggling with this one. It’s huge, and we have a love-hate relationship…

Future… and doubts

The show goes on! I’ve already started the next 3 month spreadsheet. There are some replacing to be done (both my Veja Taua are in shreds and I just noticed a tear in the lace undershirt/blouse – things really do wear out!) and some decisions to be made before the May swap.

After these 90 days I have no clear ‘outs’, the only one I’m doubting about is the ~2005 corduroy skirt that looks great but feels a bit off in comparison with my other skirts. I am tempted to toss it (oh, the purgers high!), but my keeper self is arguing against it: (1) they are beautiful, (2) also, they look good on, (3) that would leave me with only 4 winter bottoms, (4) I’ve had them for gazillion years, so, yeah, there’s some sentimental attachment from my ‘past lives’, (5) they are midi length, pink, patterned and sparkly; who on earth will wear that? And similar thoughts on the flower ball headband too – it’s so exuberant that I don’t trust anybody else to wear it either. Ugh!

This is why editing wardrobes of big volume is easier than small ones: the KonMari ‘power of the pile’ works it’s magic and it’s easier to pick out gems from a background of meh. True story.

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What wardrobe lessons have the first three months of this years brought to you? New styles, silhouettes, uniforms, outfit formulas? Letting go of the old ones? Moving towards more stimulating restriction or relaxing the rules?

Wardrobe pruning for minimalists: KonMari stairway to heaven

As you should have heard it from your local newspaper – and this blog – by now, the KonMari method for pruning our possessions is aimed at keeping only those objects that spark joy. She insists that you start with clothing because most people have an abundance of these ranging from sentimental favorites to never worn gifts, so it should be easier to develop our inner spark-o-meters. The way wardrobe editing KonMari style is described (and pictured, if you are into manga!) is a huge pile of garments in the middle of your living room and you going through them for hours (or do *this*). But… what if you have very few items already and the whole spark joy thing is rather menacing, because you know that you run a real chance of discarding all your wardrobe?

Well, that was the situation I was in early December – with a muted spark-o-meter! But then then I found ideas about what to do, both in her in-detail book and the social media: find your joy étalon and build on it! The idea is that even if we are unclear about some pieces, we are very likely able to identify things among our belonging that bring us maximum joy. And then, the second most joyful one, etc. etc. So in principle it possible to order all our garments ranging from most to least joy. In stats language, we are turning a binomial variable – “yes, joy” vs “no, no joy” – into a continuous variable ranging between these two extremes. For me this conversion took some pressure off the decisions, I separated the task in two: (a) order first and (b) then decide what to do with the low-joy end.

(A very important KonMari caveat for me that doesn’t get mentioned that much – probably because there is not much about it in the bestseller manifesto book – is that there are items that bring joy not because of their appearance or fluttery feeling they give to you but because of their function, and that is fine and still *counts*. Think hammers and winter underwear.)

And, as I appreciate rock’n’roll puns, in my mind these are stairways to heaven joy! So this is the joy order (not to be mixed up with joy division) of my dresses, from top joy to bottom joy:

Several interesting things happened while I was doing this. First, I was unable to order my layers in this way. And I accept that. The functionality is so *loud* winter jackets and sweaters that I don’t really hear the joy. All garments among my layers are either high joy or high functionality items, i.e. if I would throw away my parka – because of its sub-optimal silhouette, let’s say – I would have to replace it with other similar piece. Looking for a specific item that I have to buy bring me very little joy, so I leave my layers alone.

Second, once ordered I looked at the bottom of the list. (That’s the most interesting part because in theory all my seven dresses should be of the superjoy kind by now!) The last two live in Rīga, that’s clearly not a coincidence: I see them rarely and my Rīga ultra-capsule makes me wear them. The purple jersey one is actually a very nice one – a warm, stretchy and flattering hand-me-down from my mom – but it won’t last. It’s giving off treads and piling already, after ~10 wears. I’ll wear it out and will be loving every moment of it, but it won’t be long…

December 2008 – Brussels, Belgium.

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The little black dress is a weirder case. I bought it in H&M in late 2008, in a pretty low happiness moment of my life when browsing fast fashion and buying big plastic earrings made me feel better. The neckline looked good in carefully selected photos but was a continuous struggle and adjusting when moving around. Our seamstress added satin straps that took away the constant fidgeting but I still feel very self conscious when wearing this one without a layer (like this), hence most of the time it looks like this:

January 2018 – Rīga, Latvia.

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Coming back to the weakest link of my dresses’ stairway of joy: what shall I do with my little black dress? I know it brings me less joy than the rest, but… (a) what will I wear to the opera next time? and (b) when will I wear my floral bolero, as that garment was made to go together with this dress and no other garment or garment combination I currently own offers the same black canvas and balances out the extravagant shape of the shoulder detailing? My mission hence is no to throw it away, at least not until I happen to cross paths with the perfect LBD, but to steep with joy this one! One option to tone it down and wear more I found during these holidays is this one:

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I did the stairway exercise with my tops and bottoms too, and this is what the joy order of the tops are, again starting with top joy and going down to lesser:

The last three are here because of something else but joy as such: the black lace top is extremely versatile (and, as the purple dress, won’t live for much longer because of all the piling), the floral shirt is on probation and to be evaluated after this summer, and the WAG set – the result of my irrational whims – will also first have to see the summer and then we’ll see…

The order of bottoms you can see here, and I’m doubting only the last two items. WAG skirt has the same probation time as the top, although the skirt has a much greater potential (the top is so crop!). I’m still hoping that maybe somehow this set will be amazing in summer with no need for tights and layers + the option to tone it down with a pair of Birks. And – taddah! – the real outcome of all this ordering is that the little plaid mini, an American Apparel hand-me-down from Marina has to go. It’s too short and too tight after lunch – not enough joy!

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Lessons learned from this exercise? (1) It gets harder to prune when you have few items, as there is no pile of meh to fish out your joyful gems from. (2) This kind of ordering – taking into account both pure joy that garments bring you and their function – is helpful for making wishlists: you jot down the function and think of a better replacement. In my case the ones to replace would be the little black dress if I would come across one that makes me more confident (a basic quality black jersey bodycon could do the trick!) and when the black lace top dies, it could be time for a basic jersey turtleneck or boat neck. (3) You become aware of those with limited joy *and* function, and those garments have no excuse to be in your wardrobe. Let them go!

The capsule is dead, long live the spreadsheet!

My new ‘all-in’ spreadsheet (view full here).

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As admitting the truth is the first step towards a better life, I’m finally facing the obvious: all my wardrobe is a capsule. If it’s about “a collection of 30-40 practical and versatile pieces of clothing put together with the intention of being an entire wardrobe [for a season]“, that’s exactly what’s going in on in my wardrobe, except for the seasonal part. I’m currently living with a total of 42 pieces of main clothing + 8 pairs of footwear + lounge wear, accessories, etc. A grand total of 141 items, including every sock and earring.

I’ve realized that the seasonal extraction of the weather-inappropriate subset is pretty superfluous, especially with these fake Mediterranean  winters. And stashing away – in a big plastic box, no less –  things I could be wearing just because the calendar or the spreadsheet  said so (like for the 7 dresses experiment: read here and here) felt unnecessary and forced. While uniforms and super-reduced wardrobes are celebrated for the mind-space they liberate, I love and want my daily decisions. And then I want to track them.

Also, for me having all my stuff hanging (yes, Marie Kondo, almost all my garments look happier on hangers!) is more challenging than having a formal capsule and moving the plastic box back and forth. The implication of this new strategy is that my year-round wardrobe must fit on 30-40 hangers, because we share the wardrobe and that’s all the space there is. So I will still have exogenous limits, tracking, an empty plastic box to re-purpose, and all my joyful garment friends at my fingertips.

Our wardrobe!

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My current wardrobe feels more than abundant… It’s weird how careful pruning works: I have an abundance of exciting outfits and I love them. Never before since my adolescence I’ve had so few garments and never before I’ve been so satisfied with what I have… So, counting only main garments and footwear, I have 50 items but he spreadsheet has more because adornments and some lounge wear for casual days is included. It has been only eleven days of the new order, and:

a) I’m very excited to have all my things ‘available’.

b) Oh, I love my separates!

c) I’ve already worn 55% of what I have.

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The new goal is to maximize wears of those items that, for reason or another, have not received that much attention. In some cases – parka, rubber boots – it’s pretty much weather dependent (and in Riga), but many others just need love sweet love and, maybe, change of wardrobe if it turns out that we are not a match made in heaven. An important caveat when looking at the number is that those reflect last two years while some of the garments in my wardrobe have been there for more than 15 (that parka, my second-hand kaftan). However, even if I know perfectly well that my parka has had more than 100 wears, not having worn it much during last few years is an indicator too.

So these are the current underdogs I’ll be focusing on, weather and life allowing (it does make sense to include stuff from my Riga mini-capsule as I’ll be there for a week in February):

The WAG set (2 and 5 wears for the top and skirt respectively) – 2017: oh, the child of my sartorial weakness! It’s beautiful, flashy and tight (feels much better before dinner than after). I’ll do my best to give it as many wears as possible (beware, all the upcoming weddings!), but I’m still uncertain about it. After all, it’s on trial!

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The pink paisley corduroy skirt (3 wears) ~2006: I wore these a lot in high school. They’ve been hidden away in my Riga semi-capsule for years, but I think it time to bring back their pink sparkly goodness. Already tried them on the bicycle and they survived without getting trapped into the brakes, great! It’s amazing how old stuff can feel so incredibly ‘mine’ after years of scarce use.

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The striped jersey mini (3 wears) – 2017: the little versatile mini I scored at May’s swap got pushed away by the 7 dresses experiment. I actually already had the same model but in black back in 2011-2013 when we had an intense but short-lived relationship. I don’t expect longevity from this one either – thin H&M jersey is what it is. But it will be a beloved staple until it falls apart.

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The Norwegian-Lithuanian wool sweater (4 wears) – 2015: I kept this one in Riga waiting for a cold winter that never came. Now I finally found a function for it: it’s perfect for hanging around home during the cold months as part of my ‘survive the fake winter without any heating’ programme. It’s great for lounging around and running errands. So-incredibly-warm!

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Marina’s American Apparel mini skirt (4 wears) – 2017: The skirt so short I can wear them only during the tight season. I’m still on the hedge with this one. On one hand, they look good, help me channel a Sailor Moon vibe, and this 100% polyester hard plastic will last forever unless I set it on fire… but it is extremely short for my standards! I still have a couple of weeks to decide if February’s Swap is the right place for this one.

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My parka (4 wears) ~ 2003: What can I do if there is no winter? The pics below are from the fucking 12 of *March* 2005 in Riga. The weather is clearly not what it used to be… I wore the outer shell as a trench (in January!) last week, and the whole garment is not going anywhere. I still have some hope for seeing white winters again.

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Nokian Hai rubber boots (5 wears) – 2016: A good buy after Latvian summer rain made me wear winter boots in August once! They live in Riga and wait for the rain. They are my Latvian weather insurance!

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Flower ball headband (6 wears) – 2011: My most outrageous headpiece! It leaves in Riga and comes to opera with me. I might be relatively audacious when it come extravagant patterns and adornments, but this is my limit. It’s rather sad to touch the limits… I should wear this one more!

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Floral corduroy bolero (7 wears) – 2011: A bespoke creation of family dead stock for my LBD. Again, we go to opera together…

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Ginta’s purple jersey dress (8 wears) – 2016: The comfy hand-me-down! I use the little summer lace blouse (also a hand-me-down from my mother) as a layering piece and look relaxed yet put together. Win! It stayed in Riga, because I lacked space in my luggage and was too eager to live on my Barcelona separates for a while.

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Swedish military jacket (9 wears) – 2003: Oh, Swedish army surplus, you so sturdy and ultra-casual! I liked it 15 years ago because it pissed off the adults, now I need to find a place for it in my wardrobe again. My clear adolescent inclinations towards military styles (it was all the rage in early-2000s! Remember the combat pants and camouflage everywhere?) led to two functionally similar jackets, this and the Street One military-inspired one (2006) I revived last year. At the moment it’s my only light jacket in Riga, and we’ll see what the future brings.

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So this is the colorful – notice the dominance of purple, red and pink hues – adventure that awaits for the next few months. What are your wardrobe goals for the first quarter of 2018?

How expensive is an ethical wardrobe? 2017 second half money talk

What can I do? Money is part of the essentials. So let’s talk about it!

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Money is almost always a tricky social issue, especially so when it comes to niches – like ethical fashion blogs – where people tell other people how they should spend their money. Blah-blah-blah, voting with your euros… and then sponsored posts and things-things-things! I already wrote a detailed post in July about my overall money-spending goals, so this one is an itemized update on last six months. The order of preferences has stayed the same: (1) intensively using up what I have, (2) incorporating mainly pre-loved garments, (3) ethically sourcing the ones I have troubles finding second-hand (underwear, hosiery, footwear).

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This is what January-June looked like:

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And these are the last six months in a nutshell:

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Two observations jump at me, and they are connected: (a) despite my July intentions, I’ve spent significantly more money on getting dressed than in the previous six months which already almost twice as in each of the 2016’s six-month chunks, and (b) I allowed myself to buy a set of two new main garments I did not need; without those 160€ my spending list would look much better. Here comes a complete run-down through each item:

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The birks: I was after a pair of vegan birks for a long time, remembering my knock-off footbed sandals ~2007 as the comfiest summer shoe ever. In July my trusty 2014 Crocs broke beyond repair, so now I have a pair of street sandals and the same model in EVA for the swimming pool. I’m very happy with both, despite the fact that the street pair is unfit for both cycling and long walks (Oh, feet blisters!). The swimming pool ones haven’t touched the street, so technically I could even exclude them from this list.

Verdict: Nicely invested 95€. Would repeat.

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SiiL knickers: Liisa made it possible for me to switch from LuvaHuva knickers – extremely comfy and well made but quite pricey – to ones made three street blocks from me. From organic cotton mixes bought in Barcelona and made by a friend = best ethical fashion! Also, these six pieces allowed to retire some worn out knickers, always a good idea. Although this pattern turned out to be better for winter than for Barcelona summer (the rubber band leads to chaffing), they’ve been great from October till now.

Verdict: Great! Mil gracias, Liisa.

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I bought naked “peinetas” – hair combs – to try to repurpose a pair of feather earrings Marina sent me. I re-crafted the feathers but the result was too exuberant even for me! So I passed them back to Marina hoping she could use them for her pre-Burning Men crafting sessions.

Verdict: Oh, well! Not all repair endeavors end up being successes, I tried my best.

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Swedish Stockings hosiery: I finally made the hosiery upgrade from Calzedonia to Swedish Stockings. The cashmere blend tights are ~3 times more expensive than the Calzedonia equivalent… I keep telling myself that that’s the right thing to do, but the price point still feels uncomfortable for me. I opened the tight season in November and so far have basically worn out three pairs of woolen tights: two Calzedonia leftovers I had from the previous winter and the Swedish Stockings one. That would mean a seasonal investment of around 120€ for three pairs of winter tights. The tights themselves are very nice: a generous fit (higher waist than Calzedonia has), very nice feel, but they clearly do not last forever.
I also bought six pairs of their step socks… Well, those are a complete fail! They are too tiny to stay on my feet, (and probably because of that) break very easily. Did not work.

Verdict: Tights yes, socks no! I keep telling myself that there is no way back to high-street hosiery… My new plan is to take full advantage of Swedish Stockings’ recycling initiative. As they promise 30% discount for those who return stockings for recycling, my three pairs of cashmere blend tights would end up costing around 80€. Much better! The only challenge now is to stretch the hosiery I have until the end of the season, and to save them up to send to Sweden. Taking into account that it’s around 16ºC now in Barcelona and I’m getting rid of my short dresses anyway, seems doable.

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The WAG set: Oh, my! I hadn’t bought a *new* main garment since 2015. But ideas about African prints and find something made locally when visiting Cape Town fogged my mind. The attention to the customer was impeccable, we had a great time, I tried on a million things, and ended up paying a small fortune for an unlined set made of conventional cotton.

Verdict: There is no way back, so now my mission is to wear it again, again and again. I’ll do my best!

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Trench repairs: details of my hand-me-down trench needed repairs, and neighborhood repair shops – seamstresses and the cobbler – were able to take care of it.

Verdict: My trench is back in shape, and I feel immensely grateful for living in a place where there is still access to fixers.

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Bra strap fixers for Laura’s dress: I picked up this polyester dress in September swap and wore it 11 times to understand that it’s not for me. Knowing that the main reason that the previous owner had passed it on was a problem with bra straps, I first used safety pins and then gathered all my bravery and precision to make my first bra strap fixers.

Verdict: I’m so proud of myself! And you are very welcome, next wearer of this dress.

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A new pack of hair pins: I came to Riga knowing that my current go-to hairstyle is a pinned-up french braid but didn’t take hair pins with me. D-oh!

Verdict: Even I could use some better planning at times.

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How do you deal with additional time and money investment that ethical fashion implies? Do you fall for some decision-fatigue buys of “I need this and I don’t care” or “oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s too beautiful”? What was your most dubious buy of 2017?

Fashion, sustainability and tidying books I read in 2017

For the second year in row I’ve had the ambition to read more books than there are weeks in a year, and for the second year in row I’m failing miserably. I ended 2016 at 42/52, so 81%. At the moment I’m at 37/52, so 71%. Disappointing! However, 12 of those 2017 books were blog-related either touching the whys (sustainability, climate change, consumerism), hows (sustainable fashion) and aesthetic pleasures (style!). Here’s the list in the order I read them:

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Tuite, Rebecca C. 2014. Seven Sisters Style: The All-American Preppy Look.

A pretty look-book explaining the rise of the preppy look which I’ll always eagerly repin despite the class bias. The funniest part is that styles that we now associate with arrogance and careful selection to “look the part”, was born out of quest for comfort and were seen as highly inappropriate and rebellious at their time. What can I say, give me a mix of nice knits and emancipation of women any time!

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Black, Sandy. 2008. Eco-chic: The Fashion Paradox.

A bit outdated and avant-garde focused sustainable fashion book. A reminder that less than ten years ago sustainable fashion was an artsy fringe activity nobody expected to become relevant to the mainstream.

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Carson, Rachel. 1962 [2005]. Silent Spring.

Yes, I hadn’t read the seminal book that launched the environmentalism. And now I have. It still is a very powerful reminder of the arrogant recklessness of the industrial management of nature (that tends to bring unintended consequences of colossal scale). Although the pesticides of today are not exactly as horrible as the organochlorine pesticides that Carson was focusing on, we have more than enough toxic messes around the world continuing the proud tradition of human hubris.

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Sontag, Susan. 1977 [1979]. On Photography.

Aha, another classic that I finally read this year! While not neatly fitting in the overarching theme, a recommended read to everybody taking daily selfies. Somehow I do feel relieved that Sontag did not live to see Instagram… Diagnosis? We are all sick, but that won’t stop us from documenting the illness.

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Gilman, Charlotte P. 1915 [2002]. The Dress of Women: A Critical Introduction to the Symbolism and Sociology of Clothing.

Oh, this was such a treat! Gilman, the ultra-rational feminist hero – read her What Diantha Did for a 1910 (!) answer to the still-relevant housework issue! – charging against the stupidity of fashion. Early social scientists just wrote what they thought, interpreting their participant observations from the armchair (OK, like Bauman and other theorists of postmodernity still do / did until they left us). You cannot trust them as describing a representative reality, but they surely reflect certain stirrings of their time. This one is fascinating! I already mentioned this book here and here.

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Corn, Wanda M. 2017. Georgia O’Keeffe: Living Modern.

I got this gem thanks to Marina who was willing to cater to my “see an exciting book in a museum shop, decide later” whims. For me this book was just the right mix of art and personal style without entering personal life. Bravo! The argument is very convincing, and more so with O’Keeffe than with others: if the artists has spent decades carefully curating (and making) her wardrobe and surroundings, it makes perfect sense to analyze them alongside her paintings.

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Fletcher, Kate and Lynda Grose. 2012. Fashion and Sustainability: Design for Change.

Another sustainable fashion textbook, better than Black’s, worse than revised 2014 Fletcher below. In 2017 I was eager to build up an adequate knowledge base to start with, now I think I’m good, thanks! But I have to agree that in the last decade the sustainable fashion industry has moved with an incredible speed.

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Fletcher, Kate. 2008 [2014]. Sustainable Fashion and Textiles: Design Journey.

For a still-relevant overview of the sustainable fashion industry from the point of view of design (and lots of optimistic hope about the designer’s power to be an influence for good), read this one! Fletcher is the fashion philosopher of NOW (of, the notion of “craft of use” is irresistible), but if you have other favorites, let me know in the comments.

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And then I went on a Marie Kondo binge you can read about here

Kondo, Marie. 2010 [2014]. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing.

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Kondo, Marie. 2017. Spark Joy.

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Kondo, Marie and Yuko Uramoto. 2017. The Life-changing Manga of Tidying Up: A Magical Story.

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Monbiot, George. 2006 [2007]. Heat: How Can We Stop the Planet Burning.

I read Heat for the first time in 2008, and it was a game-changer for me. I took several small, individual steps to reduce my carbon footprint but didn’t stop flying (bad, bad me…). Not being a home- or business-owner, those were really tiny, but the book cemented my convictions that (1) climate change is happening (I know that in the USA “climate change” is understood to be the doubting term vs. much stronger “global warming”; however, assuming that words have meaning, not only spin, the shit storm that has already started goes beyond warming and is changing the climate in a multitude of ways, for example, when the Gulf stream stops, we won’t see much warming happening)  and we made it happen, obviously; (2) we have enough knowledge since long ago about the causes, so in principle we could have stopped it; (3) but we are shitty animals, our brains cannot deal with gradual and impersonal danger, so deserve to die and leave it to lizard-people to build the next civilization. That third part is not Monbiot’s, he really tries to be optimistic about the whole thing, but re-reading ten years later and knowing that we are even more fucked now, oh, well! Monbiot’s book started my climate change education and nothing has changed my climate pessimism since I read it for the first time.

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What were your sources of wisdom and brain-food in 2017? Do you have any information-consumption goals for 2018? How about less screens and more books?

7 dresses x 3 months: lessons learnt

Intrigued by the idea of dresses-only capsule (or wardrobe in general), in October I set out to give it a try with seven dresses of varying warmth that should have carried me from the still very warm October till December. Now comfortably in my Riga capsule lounge wear and under a blanket, here are the main lessons learnt from this little experiment:

1) I was bored and missed my separates.

2) Most of them (4/7) were sub-optimal and will be sent upstate for a better life.

3) However, I love that each of them came from a person I know, so they have actual names.

Boom! Now what? Well, let me tell you about them, both those who have proved to be my wardrobe champions and those that will be up for grabs in the next swap:

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My loves

Ginta’s blue dress: the dark blue silk dress made and worn ~20 years ago by my mom is the winner. It feels amazing on skin, is just the right size, and I feel artsy and fierce when wearing it. I started wearing it only this summer and it already has 33 wears. And, being the perfect summer dress to look put together even in Barcelona heat, will get many more.

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Ginta’s plaid dress: The plaid Wizard of Oz reminding “we’re not in Kansas anymore” is a fast-fashion hand-me-down from my mom I adopted in 2016 and have worn 43 times. It’s a great summer semi-formal (again, very few items manage not to kill you and still look smart in Barcelona summer) and can be worn year-round, has pockets and whirls. This is one of those paradoxical dresses that looks like an effort while feels like pajamas. A gem!

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Inga’s PhD dress: The plastic fake wrap dress was a random hand-me-down from my aunt in 2014. She had got in a second-hand raffle of sorts, it looked meh on her and great on me, so I got it with a suggestion to defend my thesis in this one. More than 40 wears later, it’s the perfect no-wrinkle cold weather dress that I might actually defend my thesis in.

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My bye-byes

Laura’s polka dot dress: I fell for this one during the September swap. Oh, the color, the dots, the flow! I felt like figure skater while wearing it… But it’s 100% polyester and can feel rather suffocating (I’m still not really getting the whole “let’s make summer dresses from plastic” logic), plus the top kept slipping down my shoulders together with the bra straps. And just when I was really proud of having put in the bra-strap fixers, the rubber giving shape to the waist snapped. The dress is now queuing at the seamstress’ for a fix and then will be looking for a new home. I understand that the slipping top was the main issue why Laura gave it away, so now she can come get it!

I’m incredibly proud for having done this!

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Marina’s bow dress: I adopted this one from Marina’s wardrobe a bit too hastily. I get excited, what can I say! It’s 100% poly and ultra-short. Despite the melting polyester (already two visits to seamstress), this dress is clearly keen on travel. As Marina said: “I bought it on ASOS on sale in April 2011 when I lived in London. She had many outings and came with me on vacations to Italy and Egypt. She made a couple appearances in New York but after hanging in the closet for a year, it earned a new life with you!” Add to that life in Barcelona and a trip to South Africa. So, if you’d like a short semi-formal with lust for travel, this might be just the right dress for you!

Taking the dress out for two vegan ice creams in Cape Town.

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Liisa’s lace dress: Liisa brought this M&S dress to January’s swap and I picked it up, because who could resist dressing like a bridesmaid for work? Not me, clearly. And only in this autumn – after 20 wears – it showed that everyday life is not what this dress was made for. I’ve literally (and accidentally) felted on it a whole layer of pink pills from my pink cardigan, and that’s just not OK. So bye-bye it goes…

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Marina’s blue bodycon: Oh, the tight winter bodycon! We’ve loved each other for 20 wears, but have to admit that you need somebody that either sweats less or lives somewhere colder than Barcelona. Good luck, my little plastic friend!

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What garment lessons have you learnt in the last few months? What are your plans for 2018? Have you ever thought of a uniform or capsule containing only one type of garments?

#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?