Fall has a way of washing over me like a warm bath after a long day. Swirling around in greens and golds, teasing candle flames with its gentle airs, soaking the senses with firewood and scotch and apple pie — fall is the warm, caramel refrain of your favorite jazz song. The coltish delight of learning something new. The onomatopoeia of uncorking a juicy Willamette Pinot, bone-dry leaves underfoot, the final seconds in a tied football game, yelling out deep breaths of wonderfully cold air.
And while there’s much ado about the effervescent month of December — the parties and the lights and the snow and the thought of January 1st, of Chapter 1 of 365 — I find myself more invigorated, creative, and balanced each and every September equinox. Over the past couple of months I’ve been tinkering away and settling into the cadence of this new season.
Last January I picked “balance” as my word of the year for 2016 (“no” was a tempting albeit less constructive option). I rolled up my sleeves and set about some small daily habits and got to work chipping away at a few larger projects that have since kicked me into gear with clarified intentions for this season. Here’s what’s been going on and what’s in store this season.
Everlane Lightweight Women’s Anorak in stone (wearing extra-small) and Heavyweight Tee in gray/cream (wearing small — but not often enough so it’s off to a new life). Similar fall rain jacket: Everlane City Anorak.
Complete closet inventory
It’s been two years since I wrote 5 Steps to a Better Wardrobe and a year and a half since I came across The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. In that span of time I’ve catalogued every piece of clothing that has made its way into my closet and am still keeping a Google Sheet of every purchase, donation, and package mailed off to a new home.
Last month I added a new tab to the wardrobe audit sheet and counted every last sweater, sandal, swimsuit, and camp sock in my closet. Each item was given an individual spreadsheet row, complete with columns for quantity owned and colors and sizes and any flaws. Identical items, like black ankle socks, were tallied up into a single row.
Seriously: having a complete inventory of your closet is incredibly illuminating. After one Saturday spent documenting wardrobe gaps and excesses (26 tanks and tees, 17 sweaters, 57 tops and button downs, 23 pairs of pants, 5 coats, 21 pairs of shoes, 15 work-out tees, 4 Halloween costumes), I filled up two big bins to donate and restocked the Tradesy closet.
Hopeless INTJ (read: stubborn nerd) that I am, I kept going. I dove into fresh research to improve my wardrobe system for everything that remained. I re-read The New Standard, sought out online closet survey results, reflected on Dieter Rams, enjoyed a particularly immersive podcast on trash and Für Elise, waded through the Women In Clothes Survey, and, inspired by this blogger’s project, eventually Lean Six Sigmaed my entire process of getting dressed, Ishakawa diagrams and all.
So I’m working on a better guide to wardrobe editing (Update: It’s here!)
It will be short and simple and useful and free. If you’d like to receive a copy, scroll down and type your email into the little Rose & Fig Notes subscription box on the bottom right of this page. In the meantime, a couple of ideas as we move through the fall transition:
The empty hanger trick
While I was cleaning this month, I realized the “turn all of your hangers backwards on the rail to see what you really wear” trick has never worked for me. Each individual hanger becomes an option to consider, and in a rush, I just reach for the same few favorites and never address the majority of still-backwards hangers.
I simplified this down by pushing every hanging item to the left side of my wardrobe rail and putting an empty hanger to the right of that last item. Each time I pulled something down to wear, at the end of the day I’d re-hang it to the right of the empty hanger. So: unworn clothes on the left, empty hanger at center, worn clothes to the right.
Every morning I’d just shop anything on the left side of that dividing hanger. After a month, I let go of almost everything that remained unworn. Between the inventory exercise and that empty hanger trick, in two months I’ve cut the number items of clothing I own in half, even after replacing a few bedraggled tops with fresh pieces.
The wardrobe as a jewel box
I’ve used the new empty space to add a mirror, design a cozy display of jewelry and bags, and reorganize drawer contents into single layers. Marie Kondo’s second book, Spark Joy, offers that we should think of our closets and storage spaces as small rooms — jewel boxes of our favorite things that should be proudly displayed and neatly organized into compartments. For me, considering the closet as a space for art, mementos, and light has also led me to keep it tidier. Everything’s in one place, so it’s easy to put something back into its neat little home at the end of each day. It’s also pretty refreshing to open your sock drawer and feel like you’re unwrapping a Whitman’s sampler with everything all tucked and tidy.
The Curated Closet
On a similar note, Anuschka of Into Mind has just published an incredibly thorough book that tackles the entire spectrum of personal fashion, from defining personal style, to editing and wishlisting, to shopping challenges and wardrobe building tips. Waiting patiently for the September launch date, I pre-ordered The Curated Closet and was thrilled to find the editor had also shared an online version for me to review via NetGalley. I read the entire Kindle copy in one sitting a few weekends back and have just received the beautiful hard copy I’d pre-ordered. Y’all. This book is the single most comprehensive guide to personal style that I have ever seen. Anuschka has packed its pages with exercises, challenges, tips, and resources aimed at celebrating yourself through the lens of fashion. Whether you are just getting started on cleaning out old college clothes or are a seasoned closet cleaner, I highly recommend grabbing a copy — I plan on referring back to mine during every closet cleaning for years to come.
Cool weather dreaming
As daily outfits transition into fall layers and cold weather pieces, I’ve saved some space for a few winter staples. I can’t wait to see what the ethical babes at Everlane, Cuyana, Zady, Stone Cold Fox, and Elizabeth Suzann have in store as I anxiously await their upcoming collection releases. Up north, my friend Malorie is focusing on a handful of gorgeous Canadian designers with her new shop, Either/Or. And this Saturday, CPR and I are headed to Nashville for a full day of slow fashion and strong whiskey. I’ll be dropping by the Elizabeth Suzann studio for a factory peek and sample sale, and hope to also make it over to Ceri Hoover.
Earlier this month I joined Anna Russ for a full day of ayurveda education and remedy-making. If you are around Atlanta and interested in learning how to naturally balance your body and mind, keep an eye out for her next workshop this winter.
Daily habits… There’s an app for that
After a few false starts with paper journals and to-do list apps, I am back at it with the wellness rituals. Between daily, weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, and quarterly goals, it can become pretty overwhelming to keep track of a complete list of intentions.
I’ve been using the Habit List app to stay on top of everything from daily reminders to longer-term resolutions. I love the clean interface, list/calendar/trend views, activity export feature, and that, at any given time, you have the option to go back a few days and complete, miss, or skip any tracked habit.
Checking off daily reminders to hydrate, go outside, read, write down a few gratitudes, and just sit quietly for a few minutes are just as rewarding as when I get to tap laundry, gardening, inbox zero, groceries, and tidying off the list (and out of my mind) until next week’s reminder pops back up.
Speaking of domesticity, I really enjoyed this NYT article on modern women making house. Earlier this year I detailed my own adventures in simplifying the home. As a certain 1800s French philosopher whose name currently escapes me once summed it up: The most obvious way to make your home look more tasteful, expensive, beautifully elegant — is to simply remove a good bit of the furniture and clutter that’s already in it. Decorating by way of subtraction. Fewer objects also mean less maintenance, cleaning, shopping, brain space, and raw time dedicated to clutter. Win-win.
In August, our school’s writer and I took a moment to bury our noses into the freshly-printed pages of the annual report we’d been working on since July. There is nothing in the world quite like the smell of a day-old book. This week we also hosted a conversation with an alumna who delivered killer career advice and a frank discussion about empowering women in corporate leadership.
On the go
Earlier this year I quietly resolved to get more involved in my local community and start volunteering more often. I’ve since joined our neighborhood association as communications chair, and this season we’re raising money to support our schools, parks, and neighborhood safety.
It has been so fulfilling to stretch creative muscles for such a generous cause. Earlier this week I got to experience the full spectrum of nervous excitement and joy that goes along with designing and launching a brand new website, and in a few weeks, we’re hosting a fall brunch fundraiser in the park. If you’re in town, CPR and I will be there to share a Briny Mary or two over some great music!
And finally, as the first week of fall passes on by, so too does the first anniversary of our wedding day. A friend once offered that you should be certain to stop and look around on your big day, because it goes by so quickly. The glitter and send-off and sparklers are done before you know it. What they forgot to add was how fast the whole first year after the wedding will fly by.
More than ever I am reminded of the importance of taking time to celebrate, of making time for what’s most important, and to be mindful enough to set aside a few moments each day to appreciate, reflect, contemplate, and enjoy the sweet and simple honor of being alive.