Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Jennifer Scott and the ten-item wardrobe - mostly a ladies' post

After some of our comments on the previous post, I thought I’d like to say a bit more about how valuable I’ve found Jennifer Scott’s blog, videos and books.

Her TED talk on the ten-item wardrobe has been key, for me. I looked at capsule wardrobes for ages, but couldn't get it figured out somehow. But it's all fallen into place for me since I saw that - I'm not quite sure why. Now I can operate on a really small minimum of clothes without feeling I'm missing anything. I whittled it right down, and then a bit more.

Maria, who used to read on here, once made the wise suggestion of keeping a quarantine box, so if I change my mind I could retrieve things rather than having to buy again.

I do that, and have found it very successful. If, over time, I keep retrieving an item, wearing it for a morning, then remembering why I thought it wasn’t working in the first place, I  move it on (laundered of course) because by that stage I’ve got it firmly fixed in my mind why it doesn’t work, and I won’t replace it.

I think part of what has worked is the idea of a wardrobe with ten hangers in it.  My hangers are large and strong and have clips on the cross bar, so I can put a whole outfit on them – a skirt, blouse and cardigan. That helped me to think in outfits, and also limited me to thirty garments rather than ten, which felt easier to begin with.

Another contributing factor is that I’ve aged a lot in the last couple of years, and the tops I used to wear don’t suit me so well. Plus my size tends to fluctuate, so I had to work out how to address that: loose lagenlook linen dresses in the summer; in the winter stretchy straight skirts, shirts two sizes up tucked in, and a cardigan or waistcoat and jacket. If you aren’t sure what ‘lagenlook’ dresses are like, search ‘lagenlook’ on eBay/Google/Pinterest – very helpful solution for less than perfect figures and for women who like modest clothes but are not over-keen on the Little-House-On-The-Prairie look.

It’s well cold here in England at the moment, so I’m still in my winter wardrobe.

This is what I wear, from the base layer out! Full briefs, because they are practical and comfortable and I can’t see the point of briefs that cover only half my ample posterior. What they call a ‘comfort bra’ – ie a sort of stretchy crop top thing – because I have become very suspicious of the idea of tight corsetry around the bust; what about all those lymph nodes etc? What I wear is not very Trinny-and-Susannah, but I’m not all that enthusiastic about the Headlamps-Full-On look anyway, so hey. I wear a vest (underwear not waistcoat) if it’s cold.

Then in winter I wear merino tights. I am ashamed of the amount of money I’ve spent at Marks and Spencer buying tights in synthetic yarn, that all work downwards so the crotch is uncomfortably low. No thanks. Merino (also Marks and Spencer) stays put, is not scratchy, is warm but not hot. I like it. On my feet I wear ankle boots, flat walking shoes, or Vivobarefoot running shoes (depends where I’m going). I like the advice I read somewhere that you should be able to walk, run and dance in every pair of shoes you own. Not hobble please!!  In summer I wear leggings and sandals. I have to keep my legs covered because I have cankles and awful varicose veins.

Summertime I wear scoop-neck tees under a sleeveless linen lagenlook dress, with a loose linen jacket over the top if it’s chilly.  Winter, it’s skirt, blouse and cardi.

My summer colours are mainly grey, white and blue. My winter colours are brown, green and grey. I have three cheery scarves and some fingerless mittens. If it’s windy and freezing and I need a hat, I fold one of the scarves and wear it as a headscarf.

Until recently I had some trousers, but I found them difficult to manage. Fine when just washed, baggy in no time. And then that verse by Noel Coward kept nagging away in my head:

Go clad your lower limbs with pants; 
Yours are the limbs, my sweeting. 
You look divine as you advance – 
Have you seen yourself retreating?

Once the thought’s in your head . . .

But I kept one pair (winter) and have some to wear with/under a dress (summer).

I wear a little blusher and lipstick, and I always wear earrings.

Oh – I have two pairs of PJs and a dressing gown (a warm winter one and a light summer one) and bedsocks. And I have a set of funeral/formal ceremony clothes (black jumper/pinafore-dress and shirt, black cardi, with black tights and black flat shoes winter or summer).

That’s it.

Here’s my winter wardrobe.

Here are the cheery scarves. 

The empty shelf above is where I keep my PJs, but one set is in the wash and I’m wearing the other right now. The small flat box on that shelf has my beeswax candles in – protects them from bright light and makes the clothes smell nice.

See the two big boxes under the wardrobe? One has all my shoes (I have big feet!) the other has my summer clothes.

This has all come together so brilliantly; I am delighted. The need to live with very few possessions is of great importance to me. Partly because of our slightly complex living arrangements – if I needed a large room to accommodate my belongings, the whole set-up would come unstitched. It’s also because, as a result of a series of big life events that made it essential I could manage in a tiny space with almost no storage, I gave up insisting on owning things and having the consequent space to put them in. I came to see that the possibilities open out in proportion to how few things I own. But, like other readers here, I do value books, so thank goodness for Kindle, eh?

Monday, 15 February 2016

I know, I know. This is not a very inspiring picture, but it’s my best offering instead of a selfie, after I got put off them by realizing pictures of me were all over the internet like a virulent rash. It’s a picture of what I’m looking at instead of a picture of me. So it has my eyes in it, if you see what I mean.

Ooh, yes – and – now this is worth commenting on – see that houki hanging on the door? That Japanese brush?

I started searching around for a soft brush to sweep out my room with in the mornings when I get up – but something beautiful, none of your nylon bristles and bright blue handle nonsense. Oh. Apologies if yours is like that and you like it. Never mind – moving on.

My searches eventually took me to this website. Oh, my. Take your time there. Look at all the pages. Made me want to throw everything in our house out and start again, sourcing our entire household implementary from that shop alone. However, as things stood, realistically, I didn’t even have the dosh for one brush – I mean, £85 ?!?  So, hey.

Undeterred, I continued to search, and eventually found a little houki straight outa Japan, meant for entrance ways and porches – so, pretty much intended for the size my room is, then. For a fiver. £5. ($7.50ish) And there it now hangs on my door. Bamboo handle, soft bristles from some kind of Japanese plants. Absolutely perfect in every way. Result! If curious, search on "japanese brush houki" – just "houki" leaves you lost in a gargantuan array of manga characters.

But that’s not what I meant to say. Had a difficult few days. Health trouble, people trouble, anxiety trouble – yawnworthiness in abundance. Not so much Te Deum as tedium. Life writ large, in my terms – so life writ medium in anyone else’s. Medium tedium, that's been me. Tired. Cross. Defeated. 

And what did I notice? It made me want to go shopping!!!

First, I wanted to buy clothes. Now, it has taken me much effort and application to get my wardrobe down to this.

A triumph, I can tell you – because what you see there does for every eventuality my life contains – meetings, preachings, walkings, gardenings, slouching-aboutings, visitings, cookings, houseworkings – everything I need to do.

So when I found myself Wistfully Wandering eBaywards (aye – deliver us from eBay!) I thought – woah – what? Don’t buy anything more for mercy’s sake – you only just weeded out what you had before. So I didn’t.

And then – weirder still – I took it into my head to buy a bed.

This – hang on, let me take a pic – this is where I sleep. 

It’s where I’m sitting right now. Very comfy. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. “Step away from your shopping habit!” says I firmly unto myself. And, on second thoughts, “What’s the matter?”

And I realized what it was. Trying to assuage the difficulties of things I cannot change by changing what I can even though I don’t need or want to. Trying to make myself more – more effective, powerful or something – by purchases. The endless game of acquiring and ditching. Purse-bulimia.

And this made me look harder at the real sore points – the things I really do want to change.

So – ha! Minimalism strikes again. It is good medicine. Or I think so, anyway. Takes me right out of distraction and into reality. Gandhi would approve, I think. And the Buddha. And Jesus.

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

The living spring

Be kind to yourself, my darling.

Can you see, in your mind’s eye, a steep hillside, the middle reaches of a mountain, clad with trees in young green leaf?

From the good earth bubbles forth a spring of clear, sparkling water – so clear that sunlight makes rainbows in it.

At the spring is a channel of cut bamboo, fixed on a frame to make a spout for the gushing water. Below it is a small wooden platform where you can place a cup. A beautiful cup, the best work of a skilled potter, entirely unique. The water splashes joyfully, unstintingly in to the cup, the morning light striking rainbows from its flow.

It takes bare seconds for the cup to fill. And as long as it remains there below the spring, it fills and overflows all the time.

Jesus said, “Abide in my love”. He said: “You are clean because of the word I spoke to you. Abide in Me, and I in you.”

You can drink these holy words, if you are parched and thirsty, if you are tired.

The gushing water is constituted of loving-kindness – that’s how it is pure enough for rainbows. Loving-kindness is the purest, clearest thing life knows.

Be kind to yourself, my darling.

Let the fountain of life fill, refill, go on filling you, overflowing like laughter that bubbles up and cannot be resisted.

This is the living spring that bubbles up to eternal life for you, in you.

The cup, the spring, the healing leaves of the trees in the sunlight, the rainbows – they are all inside you.

Be kind to yourself, my darling.

Abide in love.

Curl into peace.

Be blessed.