Journal: Instagram and Other Fake Lives

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I recently read an op-ed in the New York Times that encourages us to look closely at the lives we portray on social media– and question whether it deprives us of true happiness. Envy, the author says, often drives or proceeds from our portrayals of perfection in cyberspace; not only do we desire to imitate others, we also desire to outdo others. And in the meantime, we are missing out on real life.

I don’t think that these new cyberspace platforms can be properly assessed as absolutely good or bad. With a positive spin, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and yes, blogging) is a brilliant way to share your story and ideas with others. It helps us put our best selves out there and inspire each other to grow and change.

But with a negative spin, these media are all about constructing an image of ourselves that only represents the highlights that we are proud of. Even our public confessions can take on a constructed, perfectionist pretense that fools others into believing that all our thoughts are coherent and presentable. The human experience is most certainly not so.

So, how is a blogger to take this in stride? Well, we can begin by remembering that we are not our blogs. Our blogs only represent a part of us– a coherent, carefully selected facet that is designed to be useful to others. And this is a good thing! In addition to my Journal category, I like to keep a real paper journal, the contents of which I can decide whether or not to publish. These blog posts are constructed to be encouraging and useful, rather than a word vomit of everything that has crossed my mind today.

Finally, there is life beyond social media, beyond personal blogs. There is life outside of what is simply trendy or popular, or what can be found in department store windows or lifestyle magazines. Simplicity Relished is, in part, about how to build that life.

Want to read more about simplifying your life? Check out these great suggestions from Joshua Becker’s suggestions for the weekend!

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Wardrobe: Project 333 and the Challenge of Minimalist Fashion

Fashionable Minimalism: Can I make it through a month wearing only these?

Fashionable Minimalism: Can I make it through a month wearing only these?

There is nothing like packing and moving once every six to eight months to make us realize how much stuff we’ve accumulated. And yet, though I’ve packed, moved and stored every half year since 2010, I still have tons of possessions, and admittedly find myself eyeing more things. What is happening?!

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My list isn’t quite the same as Phil’s, but sometimes this is me at the mall or Williams-Sonoma.

Here’s my diagnosis of the situation: it’s not entirely my fault, but it’s still my fault. We live in a generation of excess; in fact, we’ve celebrated it for quite a while. Despite recent claims that the “happiest income” is $50-$75k, not many people in my immediate communities seem even to be trying to live on less. Ever since World War II, we Americans have proudly led the international economy, and we built gigantic home refrigerators to prove it. So it’s not entirely my (or your) fault that we are stuck with lots of things.

But, I still have to own up to why, every so often, I discover clothing in my closet that I did not even know that I had. Moreover, it’s often relatively high-quality clothing that I purchased within the past 8 years, thinking that it was totally my style. With regards to fashion, we allow our tastes to change too much; I myself vacillated between Yoko and Blair Waldorf within a seven-year window. Trying to determine my own sense of style was costly, and I’m still assessing the damages.

Now that I am married and will be sharing a closet with someone, it’s time to downsize— permanently. In addition to discovering fellow bloggers who share my passion (and far exceed my determination) for simplicity, I’ve decided to take some of their advice to simplify my own life before it gets too complicated. And I’m starting with my closet!

Enter Project 333…

Project 333, created by Courtney Carver just a few years ago, is a challenge for everyone to live on less by keeping fewer clothes in the closet. Her goal? Wear only 33 items over the course of 3 months (details here). Wow! I’m inspired already.

Since I’m currently moving, most of my belongings are in boxes ready for pickup, so I don’t actually have 33 items on hand. So instead of 33 over 3, I will make it my goal to show you it’s possible to get by on as few as 11 items in 1 month. The challenge here is not so much about getting rid of things, but determining which 11 items should make the cut– namely, the fashion staples. If we are to downsize our wardrobes, then we’ll need some gorgeous, high-quality pieces that are versatile and long-lasting: pieces that we will be proud to wear everyday, and worthy of the extra care or dry-cleaning.

A quick disclaimer: Because I’ve shrunk the numbers so much, I will be making a few exceptions to the number 11. I’ll be excluding shoes (for foot health), my only handbag, my driving sunglasses, and earrings (which don’t take up space). Hopefully it won’t look like I’m cheating!

My Eleven Items

  1. My favorite Ann Taylor jeans.
  2. Vintage Missoni knit.
  3. Pink Ann Taylor mid-thigh skirt.
  4. C Wonder chambre button-down.
  5. Beige silk scarf.
  6. Olive BCBG shorts.
  7. Olive silk shirt.
  8. Long gold and pearl necklace.
  9. Vintage ivory flower necklace.
  10. Vintage Escada shirt.
  11. Yellow cotton dress.
The eleven.

The eleven– yikes!

In the following days, I will be showing you different combinations of these 11 pieces and explaining my reasoning behind selecting them. I hope you find my outfits inspiring and encouraging; ultimately, I hope we’ll all feel less inclined to jump on the next fashion trend or run to the mall on a bad day. Thanks in advance for your support!

OUTFIT #1: Missoni shirt + jeans + gold pearl necklace

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Dress up your favorite jeans with a fancy top and a glam long necklace.

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I love pairing gold and pearl elements with practically anything– such an elegant combo.

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A topknot, Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s style sunnies, and a pink lip make this look clean and polished.

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Let down your hair and take off the heavy jewelry for an off-duty look.

Let down your hair and take off the heavy jewelry for an off-duty look.

How to put together your take on this look:

  • Find a pair of jeans you feel great in– one that’s ok for the office.
  • Select a bright, bold shirt that you think is beautiful. It doesn’t have to be designer, but it should be high-quality. If you’re shopping for one, try the sale racks at high-end department stores, vintage consignment shops, BCBG, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, C Wonder, J Crew, Anthropologie, or another favorite.
  • Select a long, versatile, neutral-colored necklace that you love.
  • Pull the look together with polished hair and makeup. I almost always wear lipstick!

Journal: The Purpose of Blogging

Oasis in Yellowstone National Park

Oasis in Yellowstone National Park

Here is a story I am unafraid to tell. I started this blog, Simplicity Relished, in the middle of a panic. It was late winter in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and I had a senior honors thesis to complete. This was a project that had been not only selectively funded but also eagerly anticipated by some excellent scholars who were deeply invested in my education. Furthermore, I was told that the senior thesis would be the “crowning jewel” of my college academic career– and that unless I was to pursue a Ph.D., it could also be my final foray into pure academic research. With the thesis due in mid-March, I was feeling some pressure.

 

I mention the senior thesis because to a college senior, it was a really big deal. (Outside of the undergraduate History department, however, perhaps not.) At least for us, whether or not we wrote a thesis would come to define our senior year– namely, whether we would work hard or play hard. But somewhere in my tired intellect and diminishing confidence was a desire to step outside. The howling winds and snow-turned-ice were hardly a welcoming environment, but neither was the drafty library in which I found myself holed up, day after day. I daydreamed of a simpler life (though, arguably, reading and writing all the time is pretty simple), where there would be an oasis to which I could escape from the pressures of my narrow research niche, which felt a bit more like a burrow at that point. Perhaps a getaway was just beyond my reach, and if I tried hard enough I could go there without leaving my desk.

 

So I created Simplicity Relished that very moment. I had no idea what it would become, but I allowed myself not to plan anything. I wrote my first post, Desperation and Creativity, within the 10-minute break I gave myself.

 

The release was magical and immediate. It gave me momentum to find my nonacademic voice alive and well. And it seemed I could write about American intellectual history again. Just knowing I had a space that was just my own, without creative expectations or the burden of a due date, I felt better about my “real” work. 

 

Now that I’ve graduated from college and am transitioning into a new stage, Simplicity Relished has become more than just an escape from intellectual turmoil. I write to encourage, to remember, to confess, to comfort and to reflect– with close friends and fellow bloggers alike. I have already begun to look back at older posts and appreciate the moments I captured in words and photographs. SR also reminds me that despite all the senseless noise in this day and age, someone is always saying something soulful, and we should listen.

 

Perhaps my blogging story is a bit dramatic, and you wonder why anyone else should start a blog, or why I should keep mine going. To encourage us all, I would like to share Joshua Becker’s reflections on why we should blog. His listed reasons have given voice to my new desires, now that I have long recovered from my thesis. 

 

So why do you blog, and what do you look for in a blog? I would love to know!