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Good morning! Today’s DYL features Taylor of the fashion and lifestyle blog, Sterling Style. I admit that I don’t read that many fashion blogs, but Taylor’s has definitely caught my eye and I’ve loved following along in the past few months. Her California style and interest in fitness and Crossfit add such a unique flavor to her posts that I find really refreshing. If you haven’t seen her site, I’d recommend checking it out. Her blog is well curated and I’m dying over her Creme de la Creme tote she’s now selling on Etsy. As for Taylor’s intentions, I’m pondering how I can implement my own version of her last intention in my life as well.


DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Taylor of Sterling Style

I have always tried to live each day aware of who I am and how I treat others. Now, that I am in the public eye I feel it is even more important. I want to be a role model for women of all ages. I want them to feel comfortable in their own skin, be kind, and strive for the best. There is so much pressure out there for women to be skinny and look perfect. I want to show others that being confident and not fearing rejection and failure is a beautiful thing.

I believe that taking care of your health should come before everything! If I feel tired, stressed or out of shape my whole life crumbles around me. I make sure to carve out time everyday to focus on me.  Whether it is going for a run, heading to yoga, reading a book, or relaxing in a hot bath, I plan something to calm my mind and make me feel good. This keeps me sharp and ready for any challenge that may come my way.

I love that my blog is an outlet for my creativity. Every day I get to create a new experience for people and hopefully inspire them. I have always enjoyed working creative projects. When I was younger I would sit for hours cutting out images from magazines and making collages or directing and starring in music videos with my girlfriends.  If I don’t challenge myself to try new things I become restless and irritated. Lately, I have been reading a lot of blogs that feature DIY craft projects. It is so fun to come up with a new idea and try to make it work.

I think one thing people are surprised by when they meet me is what a goofball I am. I hate to take myself too seriously. Life is too stressful to spend every day worried and upset. Whenever I have a bad day I force myself to smile and find something to laugh about. They say that the simple act of smiling can actually make you happier. I also like to blast rap music and dance and act a fool with my boyfriend. It cures all my sorrows.

This is something I am trying to enforce, but is so difficult for me.  I want to eat dessert and shop whenever I can! However, I am learning that saving for a special splurge can make it all the more worth it.  I remind myself that if I eat healthy all week and hit my goals I can splurge one night and have a big gooey brownie instead of little pieces of chocolate every night. I also tell myself that if I stop buying so many cheap handbags that one day I may be able to afford my dream bag!

Check out past DESIGN YOUR LIFE interviews.

piper’s dream report: week twentyone

October 15th, 2010   |   Life

Hi everyone!  It’s nice to be back with my Dream Reporter post – especially since so many things are happening!!  To say the past few weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions is probably understating it quite a bit.  One moment I’ll be flying high, excited that everything is coming together and looking forward to the grand opening.  The next, I’ll be curled up in a ball wondering why I ever started this business and how do I possibly get out of it?!  It’s crunch time so there’s a lot on my plate right now – so much that I don’t think I can add one more thing  (yet it seems that I’m adding to my list daily!)

Oh and before I forget to mention…I just got my last paycheck.  Things just got real, people!  Gulp.

I had to share something I just learned with you all.  Whenever you’re going to an event, party or maybe even shopping – wear what you’ll be selling!!  I learned this the hard way this past weekend.  A friend of mine had a big birthday bash…I got myself dressed up and put on some pretty earrings I got in Key West.  Guess what everyone commented on and wanted to know where I got them?  Yep, my earrings!!  Are ya kidding me??  So instead of being able to say “oh, by the way, I’m selling these lovely earrings – here’s my biz card”, I had to mumble through how these earrings came from vacation and blah, blah make sure you check out my store for other earrings.  Such a missed opportunity right?  Lesson learned!!  I’m thinking I should just drape myself with my products at all times…I can go out with one of the bags I’m carrying and tote around pillows and tea towels – it’d be a conversation starter, right?!

So, I’m knee deep in entering content onto the store website.  I have to say it was like being a kid on Christmas morning when I first saw what the site looks like with my actual products on it!  It was the first time that it really, really hit me – this is happening – I’m going to have a store!!  You can’t imagine though how much detail and information goes into each product.  Price, description, inventory amount, categories the product should be listed under, recommended products, description of the designers and photos.  It’s taking a lot longer to enter this information than I would like – in fact, my poor hubby has been put to work on helping me enter information.  This is in addition to his current role as photographer & receiving manager (grin).  Thank god he comes cheap – so far I’ve been able to get away with paying in hugs (hmm, that doesn’t sound right!!)

I wish I could say that I was done writing the product descriptions.  It’s still a work in progress.  Needless to say – I can’t wait for you all to read them – my hubby and I came up with an idea based on our love for music and it’s been fun/hair-pulling stress working on each description!  (I swear, I’m going to burst if I can’t show you the site soon!!)  I also have to take photos of all the products – that’ll be this weekend’s project.  I’m hoping for sunny days!

One thing I just crossed off the list – packaging!  Thank you all for your input – very helpful.  I wanted to have custom tissue paper created using the stripe pattern my logo designer came up with.  Once I found out how expensive it was to have custom paper printed (guess I’m not West Elm yet!) it was back to the drawing board.  And then wouldn’t you know it – guess what I came across?  Tissue paper with grey and white stripes!!  Not the same as my pattern but close enough and the price can’t be beat.  I’m pairing that with yellow tissue paper and kraft shipping tags with a stamp of one sydney road and then it’ll be all tied up with twine.  I can’t WAIT to send out my first package – to me, it’s those little touches that make it exciting and fun to send out a package.  And…I’ve got something up my sleeve.  Every order gets a little token of thanks…I’ll give a hint…it continues the music theme!

So the opening date is October 25th…fingers crossed.  It’s dependent on the web designer and me getting everything entered, updated and tested.  I definitely have butterflies in my stomach.  I’m anxious for people to see the store and excited to share what I’ve been working on this whole time!  I’m trying to keep my expectations in check.  I need to keep remembering that this is going to be a slow journey – a marathon not a sprint!

designing a business with intention: PR

September 15th, 2010   |   Business AdviceLife

Given my declaration yesterday about the purpose of MML, I’d like to discuss why I chose to go with PR for Jess LC. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not here to tell anyone what to do, but I  can share my personal strategy. After years of selling almost exclusively via wholesale to boutiques, focusing on my online shop is an awesome chance to interact with customers and store buyers on a personal level.

Back in the day (circa 2008), I worked with an awesome road rep team who sold it to boutique owners across the country. They were great at their jobs, and Jess LC was quickly sold in over 100 boutiques. The reps made the relationships with the store owners in person, and I would receive a purchase order and we would then make and send the buyer the jewelry. It was a pretty simple system that required samples and commission on the items that were sold. However, the downside for me was a) the recession which hurt store owners’ credit lines – and many boutiques ended up closing, and b) I didn’t have much interaction with customers or buyers.

Oh, and I should also mention that I started this little thing called MakeunderMyLife at the same time that I did a giveaway for Jess LC on Cup of Jo in January, 2009. These two incidents provided me with a brand new understanding of what was possible with the web for brand awareness and for pursuing my purpose. I dove head first into blogging and marketing Jess LC through blog ads and the result was intensely satisfying: I was fulfilling my vocation with MML, and I was making real connections to customers who ordered online. Since then, I spend most of my time and effort spreading the MML message and introducing Jess LC to customers and store owners via the web.

But after my re-branding this spring, I decided to grow the online shop even more, which meant I needed to start reaching people outside of the wonderful world of blogging. To do this, I tried (rather pathetically) to fit my own PR efforts into my jam-packed schedule. It didn’t go well. Reaching out to magazine editors intimidated me: I didn’t know who I should be speaking with, and felt wary about sending samples “into the void” hoping that they landed on the accessories editor’s desk at O Magazine, Lucky, and InStyle.

This led me to taking the first real risk in the business, hiring a PR firm. A designer friend had great things to say about working with the ladies at Red Light PR in LA and New York. After interviewing them and a few other firms, I signed on and have been working with them since June.

The takeaways I can share about working with PR the past four months are as follows:

  • PR is an investment – retainers are not cheap (at least for the good ones) and there are additional costs on top of the retainer for things like office supplies, shipping (though product requests are paid usually by the magazines/stylists), and display items.
  • There is no guarantee. This is not a science, and it can take weeks or months to land a credit in a magazine. The better the relationships the PR firm has with the magazine editors, the better.
  • Desk Sides are awesome ways for you to introduce yourself and your line to the editors directly.
  • You need to have lots of samples. In order for PR to do anything with your line, you will need to be willing to give them products so they can send them to the editors. The more they have, the better represented your line is.

So far, I have been really satisfied with how the PR has worked out and I’m excited to see what opportunities arise in the future!

Today I’d like to share how I’ve gotten many of my business projects off the ground over the past 11 years. There are three practical ways to accomplish big things without a big checking account. I should know: I started Jess LC back when I was 15 with a $5 bag of seed beads. Everything I’ve earned up to a month ago went straight back into the business with no outside investment: there was no venture capital, angel investors, or business loans for 10 years. But I never let that stop me from growing the business… one step at a time.

Below, I explain how I grow my business without running out of money. I’m sure other business owners out there will find themselves nodding in agreement with many of my examples. We all had to get scrappy – especially during the economic downturn of 2009.

This tactic is all about pulling up your Rolodex. Or in today’s terms, your Facebook, Twitter, and blogroll.

Go through your contacts and find out where you luck out. Do you just happen to have a friend that does photography and you need your pottery photographed for your website? Give your friend a call and offer to barter or babysit her kids for the weekend. Do you just happen to have a friend of a friend who knows a store owner who might be interested in your products? Give them a call. Don’t underestimate the power of the fortuitous connections you already have sitting right there in your Facebook account or cell phone.

Many times your friends and colleagues will offer to help you out at a fraction of the cost of a stranger. And when you think about it, the project is good for them too: they know you personally and can trust that you will pay on time, be honest and responsive, and super appreciative. And don’t underestimate the power of enthusiasm! Everyone wants to do something that’s meaningful. And if they can find meaning in your project, that might be worth cutting their prices for you.

In my case, one golden connection I have is the friend who photographs my jewelry. We met in college and have worked together on almost all of my photography projects. Though he lives in LA now, we still keep in touch and he totally understands what I’m looking for when I send him products to photograph.

The only major pothole* along this avenue to project success is that the enthusiasm of a lukewarm friend might wane over time, leaving your website unfinished for months. So be sure to establish a professional agreement, make sure the project payment is a win-win for both parties, and confirm that their skills match your expectations.

* The one place I have never seen successful friendships turn into successful business partnerships is in the line of sales representation. If your friend doesn’t already rep companies full-time or part-time, don’t waste your products or friendship over this trade. Stick with the professionals when it comes to reps and you will see real, sustainable results.

Getting crafty means recognizing where you need to put your dollars and where you can save your cents.

Time to think like a CEO: What is the secret sauce to your success? For a clothing designer the fabric, construction, and fit will determine whether the customer checks out or puts it back on the rack. On the other hand, the tags she puts on her garments are not the most important part of the sale; they are an accessory which add and aid to branding, but with a bit of creativity and careful planning – can be done by hand.

For example, the clothing designer might realize that she can order hang tags on business card size card-stock from Vistaprint.com for free, punch a hole at the top, and run some string through the hole and save herself hundreds of dollars on custom printed hang tags. And when her business has reached a level where the business card style tags aren’t reasonable, she will hopefully have the financial stability to order the more expensive custom tags.

I do want to warn that I’m not suggesting to throw out quality in all the less important items: but I am saying that you might not need expensive return address labels for a business that only sends mail to vendors. And there are many tricks to making something look more expensive than it is: like refinishing thrift store furniture for a clothing boutique. But remember, anything that will ruin a sale is subject to a share of the pocketbook.

I myself was fortunate enough to have a minor understanding of Photoshop and Dreamweaver and for five years built and maintained my own website. Sure it took tons of time, but I had time to give: money was the premium. On the other hand, I spent money on skilled help and gold-fill and sterling silver metal – things that my customers care about more than checking out on a site with lots of Flash programming.

This is where integrity is the name of the game. Don’t be shy about getting real with your freelancers. Tell it like it is.

Do you need to rehab a bakery but don’t have the funds to afford the contractor’s asking price? Say so. Be prepared for the contractor to walk away from the deal; but don’t be shy about sharing what your budget really is. They can’t fault you for the truth. Also think of alternative ways to bolster the bottom line through bartering, referrals, testimonials (hello, blogging!), portfolio projects, free products or whatever else could help improve their business.

It’s also a good idea to take stock and think about what you can bring to the table to make the project run smoother: could you do some of the grunt work yourself? That might cut their time commitment and thereby lower their rate.

My only word of warning is that you have to be honest: don’t low-ball someone just to save cash if you have a bigger budget. There is a balance in terms of price and quality. And in my opinion it’s just good karma to offer the best you can, responsibly.

So no more excuses! It’s time to get to business. Get lucky, get crafy, get real.

Just make it happen.

A few weeks ago, Shenneth, a MML reader, told me about a book she thought I and other MML people would like called Happy For No Reason, by Marci Shimoff. After glancing at the table of contents on Amazon, I promptly went to Half.com (a great site for cheap used books) and bought a copy for about $3.50. It came in the mail two weeks ago and I’ve been working through the chapters pretty quickly.

Though much of the content is similar to a lot of other intentional books (like my favorite, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People), there are a few gems throughout the text that I’m excited to share here in the THINK ABOUT IT series. The first fresh idea I came across is about how we as a society often try to accumulate happy experiences in order to create a happy life. If we can just get that next bag, apartment, house, puppy, job, smaller jean size, and boy then we will be happy. All of these happy events are like happy beads on our happy necklaces. If we have enough “happy beads” on our necklace than we have a happy life. But Marci points out that if you’ve watched any episodes of True Hollywood Story, this is not always the path to contentment. I’ve also recognized this reality during my desperate attempts to be perfect while in college, just before discovering the importance of making under.

But the brilliant point Marci shares is in the analogy’s conclusion. Rather than worrying about each new bead or event that comes onto our necklaces, we should focus on making the thread that is holding those beads, stronger. If we have a happy thread, then the good or bad events that come onto our necklaces have less of an impact on our overall sense of well-being. Sure, things can happen that can devastate, or delight us for a moment. But the longevity of our happiness is dependent ultimately on our threads, not our beads.

Though the message is essentially the same as Stephen Covey’s proactivity, I love the visual nature of the thread and beads. Jewelry designer or not, I can picture it in my head. And whenever I’m tempted to think a bunch of thoughts like,

  • I will be really unhappy if the re-branding doesn’t go well.
  • I’ll be so happy when I get a puppy.
  • I’m so bloated, I feel like I could float without treading water.

I ask myself, do I want to be dependent on events to be happy or sad at the end of my life? Hell no! I want to be a happy old woman who found a deep sense of peace regardless of what her life was like.

And that’s when I realize that I better start strengthening my thread today.

makeunder step two: exfoliate stuff

March 2nd, 2010   |   Exfoliating

[originally posted May, 28th 2009]


Okay, on to the dirty work of making under. This is where your space, reality, and life really start to be driven by your vision rather than the other way around. I’ve already covered how I came up with making under and before I get into the details of step two, let’s recap the makeunder process:

  1. Create a vision
  2. Exfoliate stuff
  3. Identify intentions
  4. Reflect and evolve

As I mentioned above, this is the step where you dump the stuff that isn’t needed for the life you want to live. Depending on your focus for the makeunder, whether your zoom is large or small, this process can happen fairly quickly or take place over several months.

I apply the word “exfoliate” to stuff in a makeunder because it is a great visual. Just like our skin, there is a lot of dead ‘skin cells’ in our homes that are clouding the healthiest, best life we want to live. And by sloughing off that unnecessary layer of crap, we emerge brighter and more purposeful.

Bring in the Troops

If you worry about making the right decisions to make real change in your life, have a friend over who knows your vision very well. The best kind of friend for this is the one who will actually tell you if you look fat in something, without hurting your feelings. Someone who says, “that designer must have been smoking something when they designed that dress’ bust line” is someone you want on your makeunder team. This person can help you with the tougher objects and can push you to make more fundamental changes. In a large scale makeunder, they also are a second set of hands to exfoliate.

The Need/Use/Love Rule

Whatever your time line, if you are focusing your current makeunder on some aspect of the ‘stuff’ you have (makeup, clothing, decor, garage storage, or computer files) the end goal is to only have those things you need, use, or love. As long as the object falls in one of these three categories and fits with your vision, it has a rightful place in your life. If it doesn’t quite fit any of these categories, chances are, it is actually causing you undue stress (consciously or otherwise) and is desperately needed by someone else in society.

Or, as my friend Amy explained, it could be considered selfish to keep things you don’t need, use, or love because there are so many people out there who don’t have basic necessities… or super fancy unopened coffee grinders. I’m sure some cash-strapped co-ed could really use cheap lattes right about now.

Let’s Get this Party Started


Armed with your mantra, vision board, or letter to yourself, systematically go through the objects in your life and hold them up next to the vision board or letter, or repeat your motto. Does the object in question fit this vision? If the answer is yes, then move on to step two: Is this object currently needed, used, and/or loved? If the answer is yes, it stays in your life. If the answer at any point is a no, it gets tossed, recycled, donated, or passed on to a friend. If you find yourself unsure about something, it goes in a special Stretch Zone pile to be dealt with later.

The Stretch Zone

Once the makeunder is complete, it’s time to deal with the Stretch Zone pile. Generally speaking, the objects in this pile are really unneeded, but we don’t quite have the gumption to let them leave our lives… yet. I suggest putting them all in a box(es) and putting them out of sight. Taking them to a parent’s house or storing them are great options. With a big marker, write the date six months out from today. By that date, if you haven’t needed to open that box, it goes straight to donation – unopened. There’s no reason to open the box and see what you ‘might’ someday need, when reality says you haven’t thought about it for 182 days. If you can’t trust yourself to not rifle through the box, have someone else donate the box for you.

A Sweet Ending

Personally, my favorite thing to do is take the unneeded clothing to a consignment store and see how much money I can earn. [Hint: Never watch them go through your clothes, I generally find myself offended by what they don't buy... even though I don't want it either.] Then I head straight to a donation location with the unsellable items. After that, it’s time for a trip to Molly’s Cupcakes and treat myself to a Cookie Monster Cupcake using the consignment money.

This week’s DYL features Brigitte of the blog, Covet Chicago. I first met Brigitte via comments and email, and later in person when she stopped by Macy’s during one of my trunk shows. We hit it off right away and I am incredibly grateful for the insights Brigitte had for MML. Before speaking with her, it never occurred to me that I might need to do a quick recap on how I found my purpose. And thanks to her suggestion, many people feel like they understand my story much better now.

I also had a feeling that Brigitte’s own personal intentions would be helpful for MML. And this single line from her intention to “know when to draw the line” is going to stick with me for quite a while, “my actions matter more than my intentions.” What a true statement. No matter what we vision boards we make, mantras we repeat, or businesses we dream about, until we put one foot in front of the other to make those goals become reality, we are going to sit as Henry David Thoreau said, in quiet desperation. Thank you for this awesome insight, Brigitte.


DESIGN YOUR LIFE: Brigitte of Covet Chicago

Live Your Values Daily

I admit…this first one sounds pretty vague. But it’s the most powerful of my intentions, because by forcing myself to sit down and define my values and map my life goals according to them, I have a roadmap for life. I read the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People at a time that I was on the path to conventional success (good job, rapid promotions, increasing salary and responsibility) but utterly unhappy. As I read, I really worked the book, dedicating my precious free time to the exercises. One that was particularly powerful for me came early. I had to envision my funeral and write my own eulogy. In imaging what I’d like my family, friends and colleagues to say about me after I lived my (hopefully long) life, I was able to clearly define my values. And I knew that if I wanted other people to describe my life according to my values, I’d have to live them every day. So my first and more important intention is to revisit my values every year and hold myself accountable to them.

Act Like Nobody’s Watching

I am the classic perfectionist, complete with the intense fear of failure that often accompanies this lovely trait. I cannot count the times I have passed up opportunities, because I was afraid to make mistakes, be the worst in class or simply to avoid scrutiny. On top of this, I was bullied as a child. I think that all adults who were once bullied hold onto a feeling that others are constantly watching them…waiting for them to slip up so they can exploit your failure for a laugh. About five years ago, I had a supervisor bluntly tell me, “It’s not all about you. No one cares one way or another.” I was liberated! No one cared if I succeeded or failed. My family would love me regardless, and other people…simply wouldn’t notice. So many of my current passions and hobbies were made possible by that simple, incredible statement.

Be Brazen…

I’m not quite committed to radical honesty, but I come pretty close. If I don’t like something you say or do, I won’t smack you in the face with it, but I won’t lie and say, “Ooh, I love that” or “I agree” when I don’t. Generally, I just keep my mouth shut. This makes me the worst person to fish for compliments with…because I’ll only take the bait if I actually believe in the compliment I’m giving. On the other hand, my friends know that they can come to me for the truth…and I’ve been told it makes my compliments that much sweeter.

But despite this habit in my daily life, I’m much more reserved when it comes to my writing and even how I define myself. Right now, I’m testing my personal limits, and I’ve let loose a few posts that feel like I’m crossing some sort of line on the public/private divide. But I’m finding that the posts that make me feel twitchy are the ones that I’m also most proud of. So…I’m daring myself to be as brazen in my writing as I am in person.

…But Know When to Draw the Line

This is where I admit that I’ve suffered from low emotional intelligence. I went all the way through college not understanding why some of my friends were “so sensitive.” One friend, in particular, would try to explain to me why my words were hurtful, and I simply didn’t get it. Of course I was kidding when I said xx (I really was). And, no, I guess I wouldn’t like her to point out yy fault of mine (but I only did it for the good of our friendship). I honestly couldn’t understand where she was coming from.

It took me 28 loooong years to figure it out. Some things just don’t need to be said. And whether or not I understand why something is hurtful (because it wouldn’t upset me) simply doesn’t matter in the end. My actions matter more than my intentions.

Always Offer a Helping Hand

When I was starting my career in PR (since abandoned!), I was helped by total and complete strangers. People I’d never met before went out of their way to meet with me, give me advice and introduce me to yet more strangers. I will never forget their generosity. That’s why, if someone asks me for my help, and I truly believe I can be of service, I don’t hesitate. I’ll review resumes, run through my rolodex or simply share some of the tricks that have worked for me. I’ve also worked an annual giving allowance into my budget, which is my way of saying thank you to the universe. And I’m ALWAYS willing to help a friend move or paint if there’s a slice of pizza and bottle of beer on the table.

Choose Joy for Yourself and Share it with Others

Would you believe me if I told you that I used to be a total drama queen? And a pessimist? I’m proof that you can change your outlook on life, simply by choosing to live the life that makes YOU happy. Not the life that others prescribe for you. I’m still a snarky girl (and I wouldn’t give it up even if I could), but I’m also a profoundly grateful and happy girl. I know that I can choose to seek out activities and books and even blogs that make me smile…or ones that trigger my heightened sense of outrage. Jess’s purpose in life is the makeunder philosophy. Mine is helping others realize that there are no safe choices…only ones that resonate deep within you and those that don’t. Always choose joy.

san fransisco stores + things to do?

September 29th, 2009   |   Business AdviceLife


As many of you know, I’ll be running the Nike Women’s Marathon in three weeks (October 18th) in the great city of San Fransisco. I’ve always wanted to visit California, especially San Fran. I decided the best way to make sure I see the city within the decade was to run there. So that’s what I’m doing.

I am also trying to make this trip as inexpensive as possible. Which means it might also double as a business trip (hello, tax deduction). I would like to spend Saturday afternoon walking to shops and talking to store owners. But right now, I don’t know any stores to visit. Do you have any boutique suggestions?

And on another note, do you have any suggestions on Napa Valley trips or hotels? We’d like to visit the wine country the day after the race. Again, on the cheap(-ish) if possible.


[Photo credit]

end of the week exfoliation

September 25th, 2009   |   Exfoliating

Good morning! I hope you have a great weekend lined up for yourselves. I will be relaxing tonight and running the longest run (20 miles) of my training on Saturday morning. After this run, it will be downhill… towards the San Fransisco Marathon on October 18th. We got a call earlier this week saying our new sectional is ready(!!). I’m hoping it will be delivered today so I can crash on it Saturday afternoon while watching the Michigan game with E. I’m dreaming of lounging on that chaise all afternoon long.

Take a look at the exfoliations this week. You’ll even notice our existing couch on the list- if you’d like it, let me know. We’re gonna sell it for cheap.

End of the Week Exfoliation


“It felt so good to “exfoliate” my closet last night, that I FINALLY put the following items into the “donate box” after too many years of holding onto them: a sweater that isn’t kind to my body shape, three skirts that are far too short, a belt that only fits too high, a turtleneck that looks dumpy, and three purses/clutches that are cute but too young for me. Simplify, simplify, simplify!”

- Shanti


“Brand new socks, tights, and slippers! All these things were in my closet/dresser collecting dust…what a waste when someone else could be putting them to good use!”

- Christine


“I found this jacket in my closet, and to my dismay, it still had the tags on it!  I think I may have bought it several years ago and just forgot about it.  The biggest bummer is that it doesn’t fit me anymore.  It’s too nice to just donate, so I may wind up trying to sell it on Ebay.  And if I can’t sell it there, then it’ll just be donated.  But, if anybody reading your blog is interested in it, let me know.”

- Nicole


“This is the cobalt blue microfiber couch that we’ve had for two years while living at our old apartment. It’s going to be replaced by our new sectional this weekend. If you’re interested in it, let me know. We’re willing to sell it *very cheap* if you live in Chicago.”

- Erwin (well, me on behalf of Erwin)


These are two pans from a starter set we got when we moved to Chicago. They are dirty (beyond dishwasher cleaning) and they make marks on our new stove top. So away they go.

real life makeunder: simone’s closet

September 8th, 2009   |   ExfoliatingWardrobe

Good afternoon! I got an email last week from a Simone, of Skinny Dip. She’s a MakeunderMyLife reader and she recently completed a closet makeunder and shared the process on her blog. Of course the first thing I did was hop on over to her site and read about her new perspective on buying (it’s pretty darn similar to my own wardrobe philosophy) and then asked to share it here as well. Luckily she agreed and you can read the full process below.

Simone’s Closet Makeunder

One of my current goals is to try and live more minimally. I’ve been really inspired by Jess from Chicago’s blog Makeunder My Life. What’s a “Makeunder” you ask? You can read about here but basically it means “designing your life with intent” by subtracting things from your life that you don’t need.


Over the past year I’ve really been examining how & where I spend my money, especially when it comes to my wardrobe. I realized that when I was younger (ie my late teens, when I got my first job & really started to buy all my own clothes) my shopping style was this: I’d save up and buy one or two items every month. I didn’t have a lot of clothes, but the clothes I had I loved. Oddly enough I never felt like I had “nothing to wear”. Sometime during my twenties, my shopping style evolved into what I call “Grazing”. I’d shop really randomly which meant basically whenever I walked through a mall, which was often. I also would buy things whenever I had a bad day. I ended up with a lot of clothes that didn’t work together. However, I kept shopping because I never felt like I had anything to wear.

Now that I am moving towards my 30′s I really want to shift my shopping style back to buying less, but buying better. I want to have a cohesive style that really expresses who I am, so that when people see me wearing something they say “That’s so Simone!”.

Before I get into my Wardrobe “Makeunder Strategy” that I’ve made for myself, I’ll give you a peak into my closet. Friends who have come over can testify that my closet pretty much looks like this all the time. I blame my neat-freaky nature on my German genes & the 3 years spent living in a student Co-op that had a communist-dictatorship style cleaning regime (which seems to have stuck with me).

I’d love to have a giant clothing storage space a la Sea of Shoes, but that just isn’t realistic when you’re living in an apartment in the city. Keeping things minimal is key. So here are my new rules:

1. PURGE: Get rid of everything you don’t wear, don’t love or don’t need & send it on to a new home. When I moved into this apartment I donated about 6 garbage bags full of clothes to The Goodwill. This summer I went through my closet again and found probably another 3 garbage bags full of clothes, plus about 20 pairs of shoes that I didn’t need. Combined with some other items around the house, my boyfriend and I had a killer garage sale. I really do believe that harboring stuff you don’t use is like harboring dead energy. It felt great sending all of those things onto a new home. My closet is probably the emptiest it’s been in a while, however when I look inside it feels good to only see things I truly like or love.

*Also, if there are things in your closet that you don’t wear but you still really love, try and figure out why you don’t wear them. If its something like you feel the hem is too long, get it altered. The money you’ll spend on the alterations is cheaper (and more enviro friendly) than buying a new item. I did this with a few of my dresses this season.

2. Buy Less but Buy Better: As someone who is a reformed “Grazer” I have started planning my purchases on a monthly basis. Instead of “grazing” throughout the month via after work browsing at Forever 21 and H&M, I’ll pick one or two semi-expensive “investment” items that I’ll buy each month. For example, this March I bought a classic tan trench-coat & a really great cashmere cardigan. These are both things that I know I will wear over & over again. I don’t have the budget to buy all designer clothing however I do try and buy the best possible quality that I can afford. I also try and pay attention to what things are made of & go for natural materials (wool, cotton, silk, leather for shoes & bags) whenever possible. By going for higher quality, the product lasts longer & usually comes with better service.
*By buying investment pieces I spend more on an individual item, but I find its actually now easier for me to track where my money goes. More often than not I spend less money overall because I’m not making a bunch of $20, $30, $40 impulse buys. Those purchases add up really fast but you don’t notice because it feels like you are spending less.
*I try to not shop during the rest of the month, but this isn’t always realistic. I always leave myself a little bit of gravy in case I come across a really great bargain (I love, love, love a good bargain!). I try to limit any additional shopping I do during the month & always set myself a clear budget that I stick to. I still love going to cheap chic stores like Forever 21, however when I find something I like there I’ll ask myself “Is this something trendy that I’ll wear once or twice to a club?” (in this case I don’t buy it) OR “Is this something that I’m going to wear all season (like a great tank-top that goes with a bunch of stuff)?” (in this case I will buy it).

3. The 3-way rule: No, this is not the latest dirty theory concocted by Barney on “How I Met your Mother”. When I’m considering purchasing a clothing item, I ask myself “Can I picture myself wearing this at least 3 different ways, or with 3 different outfits?”. If the answer is “NO” I generally do not buy it. Being able to walk away from a purchase once I have decided that I truly don’t need it has given me a new sense of power.

4. I’ll always love clothes: However, to stay on track with my plan I’ve been exploring other ways to make myself feel good besides shopping. I’ve started working out more, going to the library, blogging. I also attended my first Clothing Swap this spring–it was a lot of fun & I managed to score a couple of great pieces pretty much for free.

It’s all still a work in progress. My closet is emptier but inside it are things that I really love and are excited to wear again & again. It’s a good feeling.
My “nothing to wear” syndrome has been solved.

[If you'd like to share your own personal makeunder, email me at jess@jesslc.com.]


I’m having an affair.

My indiscretion with Stanley began a few months ago when Kaitlyn of Eat My Blog introduced me to this fruit and veggie all-star. Until that point I was in a monogamous relationship with a man called Trader Joe. But once I met Stanley, everything changed. Stanley lives at 1558 N. Elston. He’s not super easy to find, but the good guys never are.

So what does Stanley have to offer that leaves T. Joe falling short? Two words. Cheap Produce!


I have begun include more fruits and veggies in my diet, but while shopping solely at Trader’s, I felt restricted in the F+V department. Not the case at Stanley’s. I don’t know how they do it, but the produce is (almost always) super affordable.

They also have a limited selection of other food staples like dairy, grains, and meats. Those prices are usually cheaper than ol’ Joe’s also (I now get my sour cream and eggs at Stan’s as well).


The only discernible drawback to Stanley’s is the fact that often the produce can be on the ripe side, and consuming within the week is usually advisable. But other than that, I think this produce palace is a gift from Mother Nature.




Sorry Joe, I love you so,

but your for fruits and veggies,

Stanley’s is the place to go.

Reach Out


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