September Swap (7th!) recap

The 7th Swap I’ve organized – marking two years since the first one – came and passed, leaving many people with new-to-them garments and me thinking. Hold on, because this won’t be an uplifting one.

A) I got less joy out of this Swap than ever before. Is it because it’s not new? Is it because I didn’t find anything that I was looking for? Or is it that I was just too tired? I do think that I’ve got too hung up on how the event should run, so spending Friday shopping and cooking seems normal. Yes, that’s correct: prior to a Swap I – the person supposedly employed full time to write her PhD thesis – take a day off to prepare the food. It started with ‘let’s give people snacks’ turning into ‘vegan tortilla would be great’ and now suddenly the norm is tortilla, brownies, fruit, and more things… I should really rethink this, as I’m clearly shoulding all over myself and making another time squeeze out of ‘apart from organizing the Swap, I should also feed people, and it should be wholesome, homemade and vegan, of course’. In case you were coming just for the brownie, stay tuned, because it might not be there in December

The other reason for tiredness was that exactly the night before I gave a Skype lecture to Liliana’s students at Mexicali CETYS. It was a great experience, but meant intense preparation and some anxiety, especially about the technical side of the event. Here you can see my YouTube back-up of that lecture (in Spanish). So I wasn’t at my netal and physical best, but…

It is still the case that even under ‘normal’ conditions it takes a lot of work, carried out overwhelmingly by myself and by enlisting C’s unwilling support when I truly cannot manage it on my own. The basic to-do list includes: 0) spamming like crazy about the event through blog and FB weeks in advance, trying to think of new things to say and more people to reach, (1) bringing the leftovers to Ateneu on Thursday or Friday (because it it physically impossible to take that suitcase and all other stuff that needs bringing in one one-person haul), (2) shopping which might involve several different places (Casa Perris for chickpea flour, Mercadona for pistachios, Casa Ametller for chard, etc.), (3) sometimes bringing the clothes rack from Patricia’s home to Ateneu if she can’t make it early Saturday morning, (4) making the tortilla, (5) making the brownie, (6) washing fruit and tomatoes, putting snacks in containers, (7) running through the check-list to make sure that there is tape, scissors, tea towels, sharpies, curtains, water filter, etc., (8) packing it all and bringing to Ateneu… (9) taking the photos during the event while (10) making sure that the music is on, that everybody is happy and knows how this works, where the bar, ice, bathroom is… and after the event (11) making sure that everything is tip-top at Ateneu and that they have earned some money out of the event and that nobody will have to clean up or repair anything after us, (12) dragging back home all my stuff and the leftovers, (13) washing up, laundering the curtains and putting things back at my place, (14) picking up the leftovers not selected for the next Swap and bringing them to Banc Expropriat. And (15) making a cheerful recap post and starting to promote the next event. December 1, btw!

Already typing the list makes me nauseous. And dreadful of the next event.

This is just the basic checklist for point 7 above!

I have got some help for almost every event, and I am truly grateful to those people – C, Liisa, Mara, Coco, Margarita, Patricia, Chus, Aina, Roraima – but they are typically there only on the day of Swap and also often require additional coordination… Nope, delegating is not what I am good at. Controlling is, ugh. Also, I have trust issues, the stupid ‘if you want to make sure that it is done well, do it yourself’. And it turns out to be much harder to mobilize somebody for half an hour on Monday evening to bring the leftovers to Banc Expropriat than to have them hang around after the event.

Another character flaw of mine in relation to this is dismissing people’s gratefulness during the event exactly due to this twisted thinking of ‘dude, you have no idea about the amount of work that went into this’. The pure gratitude, no matter how heartfelt, does not registrate with me. No, share the event on your FB wall repeatedly, consume from Ateneu’s bar, leave me a tip, volunteer to cook for the event, to set it up, to wrap it up, to bring the leftovers to Banc Expropriat, to keep the ‘seed’ leftovers at your place… Now we are talking!

B) I had a fantasy of creating a whole natural fiber corner, which is impossible unless you have somebody curating in it real time… and then, when dragging heavy bags of leftovers from the previous Swap, sweared I would take no leftovers ever again.

Both of these somehow merged into a new leftovers policy: keep only 100% natural or regenerated fabrics in good condition with intact fabric composition tags. No synthetic mixes, no pure plastic garments, no cut off tags. That was an interesting experience, that turned into a 3-in-1! A unified criterion for selection was nice, as previously there had been some clashes of ‘who the hell thought that this was worth keeping?’ And there were many exclamations from the wrapping-up volunteers along the lines of ‘yes, something, finally!’ and ‘not even 97% cotton?’ turning the into into an education event of developing the hand for natural fibers and raising awareness of how little there is going around in our events. And there was less for me to carry home. Win-win-win.

My ‘girl who moves house with a bird in her hair’ Saturday morning pre-Swap selfies from February and September.

C) Which brings us to the quality of the garments swapped… I’m only half-joking when I speak of swaps as immediate karma, because – statistically speaking – you are bound to get back exactly what you brought, as there is no other place where the garments will come from. And if somebody had any doubts about fast fashion and our life being an abundance of poorly made mixed-fiber garments, swing by on December 1 and you’ll see! there are several reasons: (1) That is what our wardrobes are made of! My key audience is young and more or less precarious women. This is what we have. Even more, (2) these are the discarded garments! Supposedly the better ones stayed in the wardrobe. People consistently overestimate the state of their clothing, so the discards tend toward truly worn-out, truly ugly, and truly irreparable. Also, (4) the magical line between ‘this is swappable’ and ‘this is textile waste’ still eludes people. So by the end of the vent we have piles elbow-deep of garments that nobody wants. I’d prefer less but better.

(The disclaimer here is that I truly see only the leftovers, as during the event I’m too busy with parts of the to-do list mentioned above to calmly browse through things. So unless something really jumps at me or an attentive friend picks out things for me because they’ve memorized my wishlist – I owe my best-slippers-ever and winter gloves to Margareta, btw – I go through garments only during the wrapping-up or at home after the event. I truly hope)

D) The quality of discards brings us to me passing the buck then to Banc Expropriat. First, every time there are rumours of them being evicted again from the public property they are squatting. So I get extra anxiety of ‘will I go there and find it closed forever?’ with all the leftover bags that Ateneu couldn’t be more eager to get rid of as they occupy valuable space. Second, the Sphinx-like faces of the ladies that run the Botiga Gratis still leave it unclear if bringing stuff is a good or a bad thing for them. I’ve teased out thus far that they hate Roba Amiga because ‘they resell donations’, although unfortunately that’s true only for a fraction of what they get due to poor quality and people not really buying that much. At the same time the backroom of Botiga Gratis is full of bags of clothing, indicating that also they are inundated by the same abundance as second-hand shops. I really want to research that place and its dynamics in depth once I hand in the thesis…

Bags, bags, bags of garments nobody wanted.

E) I had nothing to swap away. This is new and weird. In principle the expected result after 4 years of curating, but weird still… What left our household were C’s windbreaker and jeans, Marina’s backpack and leggings my mom passed on to me but I ended up not really liking them:

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At the end I did calm down, rested, went through the leftovers and picked for myself a little bright summer loungewear garment… but the doubt (and wish to improve the experience for myself) stays. What would your advice be? What would you change if you were me? What would you drop? Or what additional help would you ask for?

1.5 years of blogging and adjusting expectations

Different from previous blogging-versary posts, this contains very limited amount of what George Carlin would have called ‘free floating hostility’. If you want more on what’s wrong with fashion and internets, here: Six months of blogging and adjusting expectations and A year of blogging and adjusting expectations.

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As you can see above, the visitor stats have improved in comparison with my n00b year. In these 8 months of 2018 there have been twice as much visitors as in the ten first months of the blog that fell in 2017. It’s still, of course, nothing in comparison of what proper influencers get, but I’m happy to see that there is some payoff. And I can see a high correlation between me promoting the content and people actually coming over, so that’s the double-edged sword I’m now trying to tame: my work here is recognized at least with some interest, but every time I leave the blog a bit off – for thesis or any other reasons – I feel guilty, because of all the action I am missing.

As I plan my posts weekly, I’m also used to looking at stats as weekly columns. The best week – and also month – stats-wise on this blog was in February when Archana misspelled my name but linked to #100wears. That brought in 200+ visitors in that week, and this meager number clears up how quiet it gets here. In weeks I’ve been off-ish, less than 40 weekly visitors is a normal thing. Around 100 feels great and busy!

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I recently went through a lot of past posts while preparing Swap masterpost, or all the resources so far, and I am happy to admit that at least I am happy with my content. I really like it. So I am acing at least the ‘I’m writing this blog for myself’ section. And in June I wrote the so far longest post that I am immensely proud of: Body positivity, the average user’s guide. It’s also funny that it is only so marginally about fashion and completely not about material sustainability…

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Post length in general has been fluctuating. The graph below suggests a slight increase, the 2017 shortest Wednesday post was 293 words and the longest – 1806. So far in 2018 the shortest Wednesday post has been 322 and longest – 3180 words. And Sunday posts have gained word count since I started to do link lists below #wiw photos. At the total over 100k words on this blog, I really wish I’d write my thesis at such speed.

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And now, a list of annoying things I’ve noticed around the internets:

(I’m not being constructive here, mind you, this is just hate)

A) Wedding dresses + and the whole idea of buying something new for a specific event, maybe wearing it only once, and fretting that ‘these people have already seen me in this outfit’. Not to even go into the idea of ‘that one special day in your life’ that you have to find the right dress for… Meh. But I’m weird that way, we already went over that: My take on “formal” and dressing up out of a capsule.

B) Cookbooks. Those are obsolete. A recipe book will never deliver what internet has, so why not just give up with dignity? In an era when I expect dozens of photos from all angles documenting the preparation, searchable indexes, google-able ‘what can I replace x with’, and even videos, not to mention hundreds of versions of the same dish available, why would I want a set book with one photo at most?

C) And a similarly absurd idea: magazines. Especially fashion and lifestyle magazines. How can such businesses survive while printing the same year after year? And why would I want to give my money for a solid copy of assorted articles that somebody else curated just to then throw it away? Or, worse, hoard for years? Again, the internets…

D) Making a problem out of laundry routines… what’s complicated about it? Maybe I’m too into professional organizer internet circles, but the fact that there are whole posts dedicated to this issue treating laundry as this great chore that needs planning and separating ‘folding’ as a separate one is confusing. Not mention people having ‘laundry rooms’. I brush this off as an American thing, result of too much space, too many children, too much free time, and an obsession with germs. Explain it to me if there’s anything else going on!

A note on my perspective: (a) We didn’t have a washing machine until I was 11 or so, my grandma worked at a kindergarten and would just use their facilities after work (once every two weeks, I guess?) to her laundry in that more advanced setting. (b) I was a cloth nappy child too, not because my mother was zero-waste, but because industrial diapers did not exist in Soviet Latvia in 1988, so boiling a pot of nappies on the stove top was a normal thing. Also, potty training took much shorter time. (c) As for drying, line drying, either outside, even in winter – sheets that have been drying outside in winter smell amazing, btw – or inside is the only thing I’ve known in my 30 years, except for 6 months in Brussels where I was using a launderette and in my mini-studio there was no space and a humidity problem that prevented line drying. (d) The only person in Latvia I know that for sure has a dryer – and enough reasons to have one – is a friend that has three small children. She  described getting one as such a liberating experience that I do recognize that it can be a good idea… (e) As for us, we typically do three loads a week, two of clothing (cold and 60º) and one of tea towels and other linen (60º). We line-dry on the roof of our building or sometimes on the balcony using a little drying rack. I’m the one making an event out of this for the 10 minutes I dedicate to KonMari folding the tea-towels (like this!). The only planning involved – that often goes meh – is trying to not to have laundry up on the roof during a torrential rainfall or during the top summer heat hours… Where’s the mystery? More on laundry: Breathe deeply, it’s clean enough and Yes, there are garments that I’ve never washed.

E) The list of ‘basics’ that everybody needs. Nope, I’m my own person, thank you very much! And what’s the idea? That the reader of such crap will just throw out all the stuff she has and run out to get her Breton stripes and trench coat? F*ck off.

F) Trends in general. How the fuck dare you to tell me that now my bolero is so very out and those ugly mom jeans are in? Nope.

G) 1980s and 1990s looks. Nope. I lived through oversize sweaters in clashing colors, shoulder pads, and weirdly shaped pants when I was a child. Never again.

H) Curating your feeds with other people’s stuff. Ugh! Not cool. I do get the desire for a visual identity on IG, but just re-posting other’s pretty stuff is… dumb. And false advertising, imho. That’s what Pinterest is for. And I’m talking about credited work, of course, once you read the captions. Blatant stealing is a whole another hell.

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See, at least for this kind of venting the blog is accomplishing all I could ask for. Let’s see if this shit ever comes back to haunt me… as I’ve already dismissed as idiotic all the ways how people make money from blogs. What internet stuff do you hate?

The decision fatigue of sustainable living

My sustainability votes, according to some…

Welcome to another summer rant, closely linked to the previous one. Decision fatigue is a real thing, especially popular among the capsule wardrobe preachers, but lurking around all of us, especially if many frequent and complex decisions are to be taken. Obviously, the more concerned about the quality of your decisions you are, the more tiring it gets. When a happily oblivious person is hungry after work, she pops in the supermarket, asks herself what of things that she can afford appeals to her (that’s probably a decision interacting taste and convenience), grabs it and goes home to eat it. When a conscious consumer gets hungry, it can be a decision-making disaster…

There are many choices to make and – having assimilated that € = votes and that each meal is an opportunity to change the world – it feels important to get it just right. Following a tradition of long, anxiety induced lists of shoulds, here are the questions I’m frying my brain when making a shopping list:

Is it safe to eat? (Yeah, dumpster diving is not my forte.)

Is it vegan? Or shall I make an exception again?

Is it in season?

Is it km0? But really? Or do I just like to think like that for Canary bananas? That’s ~2500km in a straight-ish line, btw.

What are the conditions of production? Is it basically slavery, although on EU ground? Looking at you, Andalusian greenhouses!

What’s the packaging? Is it wrapped in plastic or other unnecessary waste?

Is it nutritious?

Is it organic? Or has it been laced with pesticides that will kill me in 50 years?

Is it easily attainable or am I supposed to go across the city for those bulk goods?

Is is an establishment worth supporting?

Is it something I want to eat?

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Already suffering from a time squeeze, being an urbanite, and having left the CSA cooperative because it was hassle, nothing I eat ticks all the boxes. Boom! And that’s where the haggling starts… which restrictions shall I relax? I’ll walk you through some of my staples whom I have somehow deemed to be good enough just to share my 1st world struggles:

Soy yogurt. I’ve eaten liters of this particular one this summer since I discovered that it makes for the perfect tzatziki-ranch-mayo style sauce for all my salad and dipping fantasies. Organic non-GMO French soy, no added sugar… also two pieces of plastic, one of cardboard (although these people at least make the cardboard easily separable from plastic) and 2.02 € for 400 grams of yogurt. That’s a lot of garbage and a high price to pay for a bit of fermented soy milk. Considering myself a person who can resist most of the bullshit vegan products, I find it very annoying that I finally have one I’m craving and raving about. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

Huelva strawberries. Ugh. This one is annoying, because I don’t even like the taste once I’ve fallen for them in March – after a season with only citruses – and brought them home, but it happens. These huge strawberry monsters are not really strawberries, it’s a frankenstein derivative that looks good, smells enticing but tastes like a bad cucumber most of the time. It took me 10 years of disappointment with Spanish strawberries until I tried Catalan mountain strawberries. Those do taste like the Northern strawberries I grew up with! But concerns about taste, pesticides and the distances traveled is only half of the reasons to avoid these sweet-smelling abominations of fruit. Most intensive work in the Spanish agricultural industry is done my seasonal migrants from Morocco and the stories that come out of Huelva’s strawberry fields, when they come because there is a lot of opacity in the industry, are heartbreaking. It’s all discrimination, abuse, sexual assault, labor fraud, horrible working conditions, etc. Fails at: eat local, think about the worker, chose organic ethos.

Cooked chickpeas. Yeah, I can buy my bulk Spanish chickpeas and then boil them for several hours on the stove top. And time by time, especially in winter when the whole pot becomes a stew afterwards, we do. But a (vegan) girl has to eat, and soaking and boiling takes planning, time and fuel. I’m terrified of pressure cookers and we don’t have a slow cooker (and I don’t want to invest in another gadget). And I’m not that sure that 4 liters of water and chickpeas cooking on a gas stove top for several hours consumes significantly less energy than the industrial production. I expect those people to be more efficient than I am! Even more, taking into account the summer temperatures and year-round humidity, home cooking legumes messes with our quality of life by increasing already unbearable temperatures and humidity in summer and helping the fucking mold in winter. So I’m left with glass jars, metal lids and a couple of ingredients that my home-cooked chickpeas wouldn’t have, namely, calcium disodium EDTA and sodium metabisulfite. And hummus. And chickpeas for my salads. Fails at: zero-waste, bulk-buying, DIY ethos.

One of the reasons why I prefer swaps and hand-me-downs so much is that the decision fatigue so often becomes unbearable when a bigger purchase has to be made, and I’m so anxious to make the right choice.

A sports bra. My current fast-sport-fashion wonder from Karrimor – a desperate 2015 slip-up when I really needed one – needs replacing. It has been so much wears, both for yoga and casual, that it needed replacement a year ago but I just haven’t got myself to do so. Also, almost nobody sees it, so there is no social pressure… And I’ve already had enough failures in this field to know that the right breast garment isn’t necessarily easy to find. Examples: (a) I had a Nike top with built-in breast support from 2013 till 2017 that I used actively, despite the straps never being perfectly comfortable, even after several alterations; (b) I bought a basic Nike sports bra together with the Karrimor one in 2015 (oh, that was a shopping spree, I also got my athletic swimsuit then), but that one was so uncomfortable and itchy at the neck I just could not wear it; (c) my mom handed me down a top with breast support in January, but it was too big and awkwardly made… (d) and my yoga short fail still eats my heart, you would have thought that shorts were easy! Since I started to publish my swap wish lists, people are really helpful in offering anything sports bra-looking that comes around, but I know that my chances are very slim.

Internets do not make my life easier to get a new one. There was a Patagonia sports bra that, according to their homepage, ‘left Patagonia.com and joined a heavy metal band’. And another one. These people who wouldn’t disclose the no-name material described as ‘moisture wicking and breathable fabric’. Or these that wouldn’t reveal the country their stuff is produced in. And the merino wonders that had me ready to ditch the vegan prerequisite – it is true that all the synthetic athletic wear is stinky alright – but I couldn’t get their wares in Europe and then they discontinued the style I wanted…

Am I really asking that much? Is a basic comfy sports bra made for women with breasts produced in a Western country that much? And I’m not even looking at the prices…

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What are your sources of sustainability decision fatigue? Is it more about the little everyday things or about bigger purchases? What are your routine compromises just to overcome the decision paralysis?

The time squeeze of sustainability attempts and blogging

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

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

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

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

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

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

Start composting

Go zero waste and plastic free

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

Get all the produce from CSA

Go fully organic

Make my own bread

Start sprouting

Be 100% vegan whole food plant based

Reduce my possessions even more

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

Do daily yoga

Meditate

Do morning pages

Experiment more with cooking

Take better care of our kombucha

Never fly again

Make my own snacks and sweets

Make my own plant milks

Make my own nut butter

Make my own ice cream

Learn to sew well

Cut my own hair

Look into natural dyes

Organize more events

Learn more…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A year of blogging and adjusting expectations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A post shared by Birkenstock (@birkenstockportugal) on

Is Sustainable Fashion a Privileged Affair? Yes, and…

Standard disclaimer: This is a bit of August armchair sociology, converting personal demons in a generalized and generational lament. Bauman would be proud of me! Freud, too. Just to be clear, I’m normally quite cautious with the postmodern sociology but in the following context it does make sense. I am not claiming that “postmodernity did this to us”, I’m thinking more along the lines of “these are the postmodern responses to the same old problems”.

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I’ve felt guilty since entering adolescence: of my use of resources, of my privilege. This is not a feminist issues of “they are trying to shrink me”, this is “I am trying to shrink my guilt and my carbon footprint”. Win-win! And I’m clearly not the only one: KonMari’s “throw it all out” is selling like crazy, the internets are teeming with tiny homes, capsule wardrobes, out-of-backpack adventures, digital nomadism…

I’ve promised myself to never use the idiotic notion of “millenials”, although I do remember that year when shops were selling “2000” candles and t-shirts. I shall move towards a generalized “we” instead. In this case it means generation Y and also a certain socio-demographic. However, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, replace every “we are” with “Luīze is”, that should do the trick.

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We are attracted to (1) minimalism in numbers, (2) minimalism in aesthetics, and have (3) ethical (and global) sensibilities in line with Ahimsa. While it’s all beautiful and good for the environment (unless you are one of those people tossing out all plastic / fast fashion and replacing it with stainless steel / sustainable garments; using up and not replacing is the thing, obviously), they are an itch to scratch to a budding sociologist. Where does it all come from? And the smugness! And righteousness!
These are the ad-hoc explanations I can come up with (following the best Weberian traditions, yes, it’s definitely multi-causal and more complex, but let’s just relax and spitball):

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A) We are too well-off. To put it crudely, Russians have an expression loosely translated as “going mad because of abundance” (literally: “going mad because of fat” – “С жиру бесится”). Or, to be more refined, we have post-material values. In line with the infamous, unscientific, and intuitively true work of Maslow, these are sensibilities that arise from all practical needs being covered. And then we reshuffle the priorities! While few might have the discipline to follow the steps of George Monbiot, travel and festivals, and vanguard tacos might be ascribed more subjective worth (as *experiences*) than the biggest TV set and a mortgage.

Old problem counterfactual: Marie Antoinette playing farm and how believable we find that she could’ve suggested that the starving eat brioche.

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B) Our life is unpredictable, and, contrary, to the XX ideal, we don’t expect it to be otherwise. Even if living and writing code from Bali is not your dream, there’s also no certainty of living in this house, in this city, in this country for a reasonable amount of time. So acquiring numerous heavy possessions is not practical.

Old problem counterfactual: not having anything and the plague is coming. Possessions are meaningless, unless you can buy your way into the Decameron mansion, and we all are going to end up in a mass grave anyway.

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C) We can’t handle chaos, hence try to establish a little patch of order in our won backyard. We cannot control economy, politics, terrorism… but we can decide to wear 33 garments for next 3 months, and stick to it. At least something! The doom and gloom seems to accelerate, and if the X-ers were already f*ed (see Coupland for proof), we are beyond that… We are craving meaning and clarity, and feeling special, better than the rest (after all, our mothers believed the indigo children bs, so we grew up confident in our uniqueness and unavoidable success).

Old problem counterfactual: family patriarchy under Feudal or Authoritarian system.

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D) The knowledge economy has gone postmaterial, so we are (selectively) reducing the material stuff and entering the business of selling intangible skill and hot air. Coaching, consulting, curating, networking… several powerful devices and few other possessions might be all we need. We envy the techno-nomads and virulently share testimonies of living out of a backpack.

And we are our own brand! Such careful cultivation when the fruits of your labor are not material. Only the number of followers and “likes” measure our worth. We seek to project our ideal selves – glowing, smart, compassionate, and creative – into reality instead of killing ourselves and all other creatures.

Old problem counterfactual: the world is still material (knock on wood!), and parsonal branding is not new! Either for curating a successful philosophy (1, 2) or explorer brand (3, 4, 5).

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E) The eye has to rest! Contrary to Diana Vreeland’s advice, we might just be tired of all the stimuli. Every day we see a gazillion pictures, read as much snippets of texts, tweets, ads… it’s tiring.

There might be a spiritual-religious spark to it, too: looking for the enlightenment via (selective) renounciation and purity politics (the “clean eatingorthorexia horrors, anyone?), wishing to be on the right side of the history.

Old problem counterfactual: find a cave, become a hermit and wait for the magic to happen! Moving in a semi-secluded cabin and writing a tedious diary is another option.

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Is it that bad, doctor (or, better, holistic practitioner)? I prescribe persuasion by quiet example, *not* surround yourself with the like-minded, and better a smug blog than smug sermons at family gatherings.

Dos any of this resonate or is this really just me?