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Consumer Culture

Happy Easter y’all!  I spent this weekend hanging out with family in Oklahoma.  It’s pretty low key up here, which is nice for a change!  I hit up a couple of thrift stores near my parents’ home and found some great items!  I love buying second-hand.  It keeps old threads out of the landfill and allows me to get creative.  When thrifting, you have to know what you want since there are no advertisements or displays in the store to control guide you.

I found a very large yellow, linen skirt that I was able to alter into a little peplum number.  That paired with a Shelli Segal top from 1995 made a cute Easter outfit!

Before

After

Trying on the finished product

I also picked up a black leater skirt, beige lace cami, sheer white collared shirt, and a black faux ostrich evening bag.  I used Rit dye to add some pink (ombre style) to the shirt.

I’m off to brunch with the family!  I hope you all have a wonderful Easter Sunday!

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I have earth-shattering news.  I have a home.

Have you picked your jaw up off the floor?

I’ve been waiting to post this update for a couple of months, as I was planning to include pictures and wanted to have the place looking decent!  However, I’ve been busy lately with other changes in my life, which I’ll share with you in the near future, so when my place is nice enough to grace the pages of Domino (I miss that magazine!) you’ll find them here.

First things first.  I’ll explain how it happened.  When I began my nomadic venture this past November, I wanted to find a permanent home that fit my needs, rather than jumping into the first thing that was available.  I wanted the right size, price, and location, and at the time had expressed interest in a job on my team located in Chicago, so I wanted to remain flexible and avoid a lease at all costs.

One of my very generous friends is a pilot, and I often crashed at his apartment when he was on trips during my extended nomadness.  Lucky for me, he had the opportunity to “upgrade” apartments in his complex and moved into a one-bedroom, one-bathroom place with new hardwood floors, granite countertops, vaulted ceilings, and a spare room.  Guess who is living in spare?  That’s right- yours truly!

The situation is perfect for me.  (I hope my roommate says the same!)  The location is perfect, space is just right, and my rent is priced accordingly, so I’m still able to stock away savings every paycheck.  We rarely cross paths so it’s a pretty low-maintenance relationship.

Here’s a drawing of my floor plan.  (Curious about the awkward shape?  In other apartments, this is a porch.  On the top floor where our apartment is, it’s a room.)  I estimate it’s about 100 square feet.  (It’s difficult to measure.  I tried.)  The only pieces of furniture I bought were my bed and side table.  I’d been storing the bulk of my clothes on a rolling rack in my boyfriend’s garage, so I simply transported it to my new room.  In addition to the rolling rack, the small closet provides all the space I need for my down-sized wardrobe.  My roommate found a plastic shelving unit by our complex’s dumpster, and it was the ideal size to store my workout clothes.

With this move, I’ve transitioned to a new personal challenge- micro living.  I’m obsessed with the idea and have read a ton of interesting articles on how individuals, couples, and families make this work.  (Read about it yourself here, here, and here.)  It stresses organization and efficient use of space.  A common theme with micro-livers is their disregard for material possessions and the high value they put on time, freedom, and money, which all increase exponentially in a micro living lifestyle.

I think it’s easy to see that I’m benefiting greatly from this arrangement- my overhead is still extremely low, but I have a tiny spot in the world to call my own.  I couldn’t be more grateful!

My family is extremely traditional.  My parents still live in the house where my brother and I grew up.    (It’s always refreshing and familiar to visit home and my mom always puts a package of Ferrero Rocher’s on my pillow before my arrival.)  Up until last year, holidays have been the same familiar routine.  We all congregate at my Grandparents’ home (built by my Dad and Grandpa in the 80s) on five acres of land with two dogs, ten chickens, one rooster, and eight vintage Farmall tractors (Grandpa’s hobby is restoring them) and stuff ourselves silly, no matter what we’re celebrating.   Last year things in the family started to change.  All of the grandkids are now adults.  The first great-grandchild, Baby Theo, joined the family last October.  My cousin Edward put down roots in China.  This year things are even more different.  Edward is now in India and Andrew, his brother, has joined him for a few months.  Elizabeth, their sister, is in Africa for a year, so the big family gatherings are considerably smaller. 

My brother Nicholas is going to graduate from college in May and is spending a lot of time contemplating what he wants out of life and what is most important to him.  Thanks to his introspective reflection on what he truly values, he suggested that instead of exchanging gifts on Christmas morning, we buy presents for a needy family of four.  My parents and I loved the idea, so on Black Friday we braved the consumer madness and purchased Christmas gifts for our adopted family.  It was a lot of fun to shop as a family, and it was much more fulfilling to give to a good cause instead of giving each other silly presents like kitchen gadgets, coffee table books, or Snuggies.  This new direction in gift-giving was a relief to me, because as a currently homeless person, I have worried about storing Christmas gifts in the trunk of my car where space is limited as well as what to do with the things people give me that I don’t have a place for.

A couple of days before Christmas, my mom and I discussed what we would do in lieu of gifts.  Go for a family jog?  Not with dad’s bad back.  Make a breakfast feast?  Not before a day of feasting at the Grandparent’s house.  Would we be bored without the excitement of a gift exchange?  On Christmas morning, we were slow to get up and about.  It was so relaxing not to be pressured to get up early and open gifts.  There was a small arrangement of packages under the tree and my mom still filled our stockings with goodies (candy, nuts, magazines).  Gifts from “Santa” were simple- a Visa gift cards for us kids, wine, scented candles, hand cream, travel books.  It was our most minimal Christmas yet and we loved every minute of it, just sitting around the Christmas tree enjoying the company. 

The best present was a letter my brother wrote to my mom that brought us to tears.  The sincerity and sweetness of it was absolutely moving.  We all agreed that as a family we are blessed, and have everything we need.  Obligatory Christmas gift-giving is now behind us and it is a relief for everyone.  We can look forward to future Christmases in which we give to another needy family, avoid the hustle and bustle of the shopping season, and just spend time focusing on what’s most important in life: each other. 

Merry Christmas yall!

My decision to become “electively homeless” or “nomadic” was relatively painless.  I simply decided I’d take it one day at a time and when I get tired of it, I’ll get a home again.  Easy.  The difficult decisions had to do with my stuff. 

In our culture, though we may not want to admit it, we often correlate a person’s success with the things that they own.  Cars, clothes, and homes are the most obvious examples, when we don’t know if the person living in a pent-house and driving a luxury car is maxed out in debt.  We live in a land of consumer-culture driven by big businesses placing ads everywhere to entice us to purchase.  Have you ever bought something to “reward” yourself for an accomplishment or to “treat” yourself on a bad day, even if it wasn’t the right thing to do financially?  I definitely have! 

Over the years, I’ve amassed a nice collection of stuff.  Some of it has sentimental value (souvenirs from trips, gifts from special people in my life) but most of it is purely functional (even if that function is to make my home or self more aesthetically pleasing).  Moving, whether you’re downsizing or not, is the best way to streamline the things you own.  Each time I’ve moved, I’ve been amazed at the little things I’ve found.  My roommates and I would say, “Wow, I had no idea we still had that!” Or “What is this thing and how long has it been in this drawer?”  The opportunity cost of not knowing what you have is that you are missing out on a chance to sell things before they’re outdated or to donate to someone less fortunate who could benefit immediately. 

My very first step in the purging process was to make a mental list of everything I owned and decide if I needed it on hand as I stay from place to place, if I wanted to store it, or if I wanted to get rid of it.  It seemed simple at first, but it was a much more complicated process than I’d anticipated.  The knick-knacks from my trip to Spain.  The bottles of sand from Costa Rica, Bermuda, Australia.  The pictures from high school and college (pre-digital camera).  My journals.  These were things that I don’t need, but didn’t know how to part with them because they can’t be easily replaced, or replaced at all.  I finally decided that all my souvenirs had to go, and I would refer to digital photos when I wanted to reminisce.  Done.  Pictures and journals would store, and everything else, literally, would be sold! 

It was both scary and liberating to pour my life’s possessions on my front lawn, watch strangers rummage through it all, and challenge my prices.  How could someone NOT think my Pottery Barn vase isn’t a steal at eight dollars!  I paid almost fifty for that!  It amazing how quickly things we purchase depreciate in value.  Garage sale experts say to price your belongings at 30% of what you paid, but my experience was not that fruitful!  After two long, hard days, it was all gone.  No more furniture, books, pictures, dishes.  All I owned were my remaining clothes, laptop, camera, basic toiletries, a suitcase, backpack, and towels.  The garage sale was successful as a) I got rid of everything and b) made more than enough money to pay off all my credit card debt! 

The last few nights in my empty, echoing house sleeping on a borrowed air mattress were depressing.  I told myself to cherish the time, as I still had a roof over my head that I could call my own and would have a lot less alone time as I stay with friends every night of the week.  Admittedly, I never made it through a full night at my house because it was way too quiet, and I prefer the company of my peeps to being alone.  Fortunately I had people to call anytime I wanted to see a friendly face.  Without any stuff or even a home of my own confirmed my feelings that I’m at a point in life in which I measure my success by the relationships I have, not the inanimate objects that surrounded me for years.  This makes me happy and on Thanksgiving I thought of you all and how much I appreciate you in my life!  From the bottom of my heart, THANK YOU!  xoxo