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shopping tips

a mindful shopping evolution

a mindful shopping evolution

I don't really have to shop anymore. Don't get me wrong, I still buy clothes whenever I need them, but I don't have to go out on expeditions any more or just browse for that thing I didn't know I needed until I saw it. Over the last few years, I've learned a lot about my style, my preferences, and what works for my lifestyle and I know from past experience will actually get worn.

saint louis personal shopper

I keep a running list of what I'm looking for at any point in time. When I see something that fits the bill, is high quality, and a good price, I just get it. Unlike most other things in my life, I don't feel guilt about it. 

Example: before I was pregnant, I had a pair of black Paige jeans, which were a pretty useful wardrobe staple. These jeans were great and super comfy, but they had ankle zips (lesson learned: don't buy pants with ankle zips, it limits the type of shoes you can wear with them). I sold those (lesson learned: if you buy good quality, you can usually get some money back when you get rid of them), and kept my eye out for another pair. While I was looking, and while my body adjusted to having created a human, I wore a cheap pair of black jeans from Old Navy that served a transitional purpose. I decided that this summer, at the Nordstrom anniversary sale, I'd see if I could finally replace that pair of black denim. I tried on a few pairs, the AGs were amazing, on sale for a good price, and the decision had already been made. Easy. 

The other day, I had a few minutes in between appointments and stopped in at The Vault. I tried on a bunch of things and found a few that had been on my list to be replaced. Since they were resale, it was great quality stuff for Gap prices. The things that worked, I bought. Took 30 minutes, tops. 

I'm certainly not saying that I have it all figured out. I still buy things that I don't need or things that don't hold up as well as I hoped they would (looking at you, Banana Republic cardigan). However, I honestly feel a lot less anxiety around whether I'm making the right decisions when shopping. If only I could find a way to get that feeling about the non-clothes-related decisions in my life! 

So, to keep myself accountable, these are the other things currently on my list: a cool bag that fits my laptop, grey cardigan, lightweight casual fall jacket, and Birkenstocks to replace current ones (hoping to find them on end-of-summer sale). Anything else will have to be super-special to even be considered.

Apparently, this works for my clients too. I sent out an email to all my clients this month, reminding them to book time for the fall. I got several responses to the effect of this one from Diana: "You taught me so well (how to know my style, weed out my closet, go shopping for one item at a time and with a list made ahead of time) that you might have taught your way out of job with me! I learned so much from having you as my personal shopper. Thanks to you, I feel confident in my clothes and am able to go shopping when I need to." and Persis: "I've learned something about which of my habits are abiding preferences, so the trip we did together was a very important step in the right direction." and Joanne: "The time that we spent with you last spring still influences how we shop, dress, etc.  As we clean out our closets and shop for new items, we think about how you helped us and the advice that you gave us.  I think that your sense of style, wardrobe planning skills, and the encouragement to get rid of what we're not regularly wearing have influenced us the most. I still don't like shopping, but working with you has helped me to put together outfits for myself with less stress." 

The whole process is more than a one-time reboot, it's a constant learning process

nordstrom anniversary sale picks

nordstrom anniversary sale picks

In case you aren't aware, the Nordstrom anniversary sale starts this weekend. If you have a Nordstrom card, you can have access now. The cool thing about this sale is that instead of things going on sale when they've been in the store for a while and are out of season, things are on sale BEFORE the season starts and the items actually go UP in price after the sale. You know that I don't advocate going crazy just because things are on sale, but if you have some items you've had on your wish list, this is the time to get a good price on them. 


When you only have a few bottoms, they wear out quickly. I'm really in need of a pair of black skinny pants or jeans. I love Madewell jeans, but they really don't go on sale often at the Madewell store. Luckily, Nordstrom also carries a few Madewell items and I might snag these while they're on sale. $85, after sale $128. (Edited to add: I actually bought these AG black high-waisted jeans instead - sooo comfy!) 

Speaking of bottoms, Paige jeans are always a hit with my clients, they're super soft and stretchy and comfortable. This pair is almost half off during the sale - I can't even find them that cheap on eBay. 

I'm sick of carrying around heavy tote bags, so I've had my eye on a backpack for a while. This one's cute.

Bonus (not pictured): my favorite underwear, which I'll definitely be stocking up on. 

Remember: keep a running shopping list of needs so that you're not tempted by impulse buys!

P.S. This post contains affiliate links. 

P.P.S. fern print pictured via etsy

a few thoughts about mindful holiday shopping

a few thoughts about mindful holiday shopping

It's that magical time of year. The time when all practical considerations go out of the window. When we get caught up in the hysteria created by marketing teams to make us feel that we'll regret it if we pass up an amazing deal. I posted last spring about mindful shopping tips, but at this time of year, sometimes all rational thinking deserts us. 

My thoughts: prepare as much as you can. If you have a list, stick to it. If you don't have a list, make one. Now. My list includes a leather jacket (has been on the list for years), a winter coat (I've had mine, which wasn't expensive to begin with, for about 6 years), a warm sweater with an interesting shape, the elusive lightweight bag, and replacements for my taupe suede booties and black suede wedge booties. If any of these show up with amazing deals this weekend, I'll know I'm buying because it's something I need, not because I'm seduced by the sale.

If you succumb to the excitement, keep your receipt and follow through on returning. (BTW, I returned the tank I got for 92% off from my last post. It didn't even fit well. I got sucked in by the deal.) Yes, I know it can be a hassle, but if you don't, not only do you lose money, but you're stuck with physical clutter. Either you return it now, or have to deal with it in a few years when you finally clean out your closet. Keep items that need returning in your car with the receipt taped to them and you'll be ready next time you're running errands. 

Talk to friends and family about gifts. I feel grateful that my family has never gone crazy with gifts. We send an email every year asking what we should do for gifts. Some years we've set price limits. Some years we've sent specific wish lists. One year we did a white elephant gift exchange. This year, we decided to just give small gifts to the kids. The real fun is watching little ones open things anyway. When I'm going through clients' closets, it never fails to amaze me how many things are given as gifts that the recipient would never even consider wearing. I understand that not everyone's family is open to discussing a plan for gifts, and if that's the case, genuinely and gratefully accept what you're given. The pleasure is usually in the act of giving for the gifter. That moment is really the gift, and it often doesn't matter what happens afterwards (i.e. that item doesn't actually have to live in your closet).

Hope this helps you shop a bit more mindfully this week.

P.S. a mindful closet gift certificate is always a great idea!

five tips for a mindful shopping trip

five tips for a mindful shopping trip

The actual process of going to a store and purchasing clothing can be overwhelming or frustrating even for those who enjoy it. As we head into the summer sale season, I thought I'd share a few tips for mindful shopping.

Various pictures taken on client shopping trips...

1) Before going shopping, MAKE. A. LIST. I can't emphasize enough how important this is. You can't go shopping without knowing what you're looking for. Well, you can, but I can guarantee you will regret most of what you buy. A shopping list should come from defining your style, evaluating your wardrobe, and thoughtfully planning what is needed to make it function at its best. Also, be specific. "Clothes for work" is not an appropriate item for a shopping list. "Slim leg, neutral colored, stretchy cotton blend pants" is an appropriate item. "Top" = no good. "Printed blouse in a washable fabric with an a-line shape" = good. Get the idea?

2) Go shopping at a non-peak time like a weekday or first thing in the morning, even if this means taking a half day from work. It's worth it. Everything will be better. Salespeople will have more time to help, they will be in a better mood, there will be less noise, fewer people, more sizes available. This all results in a much less stressful experience. Wear comfortable shoes and a cross body bag so that your hands are free. Dress nicely and do your hair and makeup so that you feel good about yourself. Bring snacks and water. This might all seem trivial, but trust me, it's the difference between mindful and meltdown.

3) While browsing, focus on only one item on your list at a time. For instance, if you are looking for the printed blouse in our example above, pull only printed blouses on your first sweep through the store. Next, go back and look for the neutral slim leg pant. This way of isolating things helps cut through the visual clutter that can be overwhelming in a store with thousands of items. Try not to get distracted. Recently, a saleswoman I often work with offered to show me pants that hadn't been put out on the floor yet. My client and I were both temporarily swayed by the prospect of "new!" "secret!" pants, but since we were specifically shopping for tops, we declined to even look. 

4) Now you've made it to the dressing room. You've taken everything that might be an option, even if you're not sure. Things often transform when on a body, so don't rule something out because it doesn't look good on the hanger. This might mean that you're trying on 40, 50, 60 items. It's ok. Don't feel guilty about making work for the salespeople (or is that just me?), it's their job. Be quick and ruthless. If it works, put it aside as a potential buy. If it doesn't, don't take it personally and move on.

5) The decision making process will be easier if you follow the preceding steps. For instance, if you have the printed top on your list and you follow step three, you won't end up in the fitting room with things you don't need. If you have a snack, you won't buy something just because you're hangry and want to get out asap. So now you've tried everything. Revisit that first round of potential buys. Narrow down your options. Try them again. Take pictures. Get a second opinion (not because you're going to take it, but because it'll help you clarify what you really think). Do not take the opinion of the salesperson. Their goal is to get you to buy, regardless of whether you should or not. Ask yourself a bunch of questions: will this go with most of my wardrobe? Will I still like this in six months? Do I really need it? Why am I buying it? Am I buying it because it's cheap? Because it's on my list? Because it fits my style? Would I buy this if it wasn't on sale? Is this better than something I already have? (If so, get rid of the less good item in your closet immediately) Is this worth having an overstuffed, stress-inducing closet for? Will I want to return this in a few weeks, creating more work for myself?

We all make mistakes sometimes, but hopefully these tips will help you
avoid a few of them!

when mindful = boring

when mindful = boring

And no, I'm not talking about my preference for neutrals ;) Sometimes it just so happens that you've found clothes that fit. You have clothes that are practical for your lifestyle. You have the few special occasion pieces you need for unexpected events.  You've got all the layering pieces and basics and accessories to make any outfit you need. Everything on your list is checked off.

Then what?

After making a couple of quick shopping trips in early July, I have practical, stylish clothes that fit the body I currently have. I have several cute summer dresses (see evidence above), and that's more than enough for my current social calendar. I have everything I need for this season and this phase of life. Even after I had all of this, instead of relaxing, I felt an urge to kept frantically looking.

I stopped myself and thought about what was going on. I was feeling the absence of excitement of the new. I wanted to keep experiencing the thrill of the hunt, even though the hunt was over. When it's my turn to have a break from the baby, I had gotten used to seizing the moment to take a shopping trip. It is my preferred activity of choice, after all, for myself and for other people. On top of that, our apartment in Boulder is practically IN a pedestrian shopping mall. Everything is right there in front of me.

After reflecting on all of this, I realized that I didn't want to go shopping just for the entertainment value. I didn't want the temptation, didn't want to see something that I didn't know I "needed" until that very second. I even refrained from buying anything at the Nordstrom anniversary sale, people!

So, instead, I'll just acknowledge the feeling of wanting. I'll feel the space instead of trying to fill it. I'll review my style inspiration Pinterest page and and remember that I have what I need to achieve those looks. I'll go to yoga instead of shopping. I'll read fewer fashion blogs that showcase a different new outfit every. damn. day. I'll stop and pause to resist temptation. I'll try to stay mindful, even if it is a little boring. Or, maybe instead of saying "boring", I'll call it "peaceful".

five steps to a mindful wardrobe

five steps to a mindful wardrobe

So, what exactly is a mindful wardrobe? What does it look like? It's when you open your closet in the morning and you love every piece in it and every piece loves you back. It’s when getting dressed is easy and fun, not frustrating and stress-inducing. It’s when there are no longer sleepless nights worrying about whether you have the appropriate clothing for a given situation. It’s when you shop knowing exactly what you’re looking for and you make good choices. 

Believe it or not, it is possible. Here are my steps to get you on the path to enlightenment:

Step 1: Define your personal style. Before you ever get into your closet, you should know what you want to look like. This might seem unnecessary when all you’re itching to do is get in and start clearing, but it’s wasted time if you don’t do this first. For instance, if your style is boho-chic, pencil skirts are not going to get a whole lot of action and it’s better to know this going in. (Not sure what your personal style is? Check out my post on defining your style here.)

Step 2: Get rid of everything. Just kidding. Get rid of most of it though. Remember, having too many choices is draining. I like to break this down since it can be an overwhelming process, so this is the first round, the easy stuff. Here are things you should get rid of immediately:

  • Clothes from high school or college or ten years ago. If it has sentimental meaning, put it in a box. Get it out of your closet.
  • Clothes that were a gift. I know, I know, you feel like you need to wear it in the presence of the gifter. You know what? They’re big kids, they’ll have to get over it. Ask people to give you gift cards instead.
  • Hand-me-downs. Hand-me-downs are for five-year-olds (anyone else get mistaken for a boy as a kid because you were wearing your cousin’s clothes?), not for grown adults. If you didn’t choose something because you loved it, it has no place in your closet.
  • Stuff that doesn’t fit. Please please please stop hanging on to those clothes that you’ll wear when you finally get rid of that extra five pounds. Let’s face it, that might not happen for a while and when it does, these clothes will probably be outdated. Anyway, you should reward yourself with new stuff at that point!

Step 3: Going through the “maybe” pile. This is where the real willpower comes in. These are pieces that you feel like you should wear and yet you don’t. Things you’re saving for the one occasion they might be appropriate for but never happens. Things that you spent money on but never wore. Things that only go with one other piece in your wardrobe or that require purchasing something new before you can wear it. Things that make no sense for your lifestyle. Like the clothes that don’t fit, these things are not just cluttering up your closet, they’re cluttering your mind. They’re like toxic friends, spewing negative messages and inducing guilt every time you open your closet. Let them go. Tell them you are no longer going to let them intrude on your newly found zen-like state. Tell them that you can’t control their actions, but you can remove yourself from being around them.  Wait..sorry, what were we talking about? Oh right, clothes. Got side tracked into a therapy session there. Back to the point. If something’s going to get a coveted place in your closet, the answer to these three questions should be yes:

  • Do you love it? As in, so much that you want to marry it?
  • Do you feel good in it? When you look good and are comfortable in what you’re wearing, you will have a better day. You just will.
  • Is it “you”? See Step 1: define your personal style

Step 4: Make a list. After all this purging, you may realize that you have 20 tops you love and only 1 pair of pants, or vice versa. Maybe you have a closet full of cocktail dresses, but nothing to wear for real life. Make a list of what you really need and stick to it when you go shopping.

Step 5: Stop buying stuff! Seriously, if you’re buying clothes while you’re grocery shopping, it’s probably not a good idea. If it’s not on your list, you better think twice. If someone tries to give you stuff, politely decline. This is where the “mindful” part comes in, because it’s really hard to be so picky. Save your money for one beautiful blouse, rather than four impulse buys you’ll never wear. Don’t settle. You deserve better.

Too much for you to take on? Take the Making Space course and get led through the process with videos, worksheet, and a supportive Facebook group. Sign up here!

closet case study: colleen

closet case study: colleen

It's been a while since we had a case study, and Colleen was the perfect candidate for one. She contacted me because she was getting frustrated getting dressed every morning. Before we met for a consultation, I sent Colleen a questionnaire I send to all my clients (you can see it here). During our meeting, we discussed her answers on the questionnaire and clarified her needs. We diagnosed her style by looking at images from the Lucky Guide - definitely American Classic. Then we moved on to her closet. Colleen's wardrobe issues did not result from too many clothes, in fact, she's a great purger and her closet was very small and tidy.

colleen closet.jpg

Isn't it awesome?! We started to go through piece by piece to figure out why she was having so much trouble getting dressed. A lot of her shirts were boxy and ill-fitting and many of them looked well-worn. Both of these problems stemmed from the fact that they were not great quality in addition to overzealous washing, resulting in pieces that were only a few months old but were already faded and pilling. Feel free to disagree, but I believe that unless you've worked out in it or exerted yourself, most things don't need to be washed after one wear. It varies for each person and each type of garment.

Even with those problem children, Colleen still had plenty of great basics and cute pieces, but she felt like she didn't have any options because she was very unsure of how to put them together. Her workplace is pretty casual and she didn't want to appear too dressed up. She also had a fear of wearing the same thing too often. Of course, I quickly reminded her that's not usually a real issue (outside of your own thoughts) since most people are too self-absorbed to pay much attention to anyone else.

Because Colleen's wardrobe was so small, I was able to photograph the majority of it. To help her see the options she actually already had, I made a series of photo collages showing outfits she could make from her closet. I added in a few things that we already knew she was going to add to her wardrobe - a white tee, brown boots and the two necklaces.  This gave us a total of 12 tops, 8 bottoms, 1 dress, 2 necklaces, 1 scarf, and 4 pairs of shoes. She had a bit more than that, but that's what I ended up using in these images. I very quickly came up with more than 30 outfits (a month's worth!) and could have kept going indefinitely had I had more time. Here are 27 looks (27 only because it make 3 neat squares of 9 looks each!) Again, keep in mind this is only with what she already owned.

If some outfits look similar, it's because they are. Sometimes all you need to do is change the accessories from brown to black, or change a necklace for a scarf for a whole new look. If some of the outfits look simple, it's because they are. You don't always need a million complicated pieces.

After we went through everything in Colleen's closet, I came up with a list of pieces she could add to maximize her options and refresh her wardrobe. We decided her neutral would be brown to make sure that everything went together and so that she didn't need different accessories or shoes for each outfit. Here's her shopping list by priority:

First priority:
-lightweight jacket for layering in a neutral color
-white boatneck or long sleeve tee for layering
-dressier, classic brown knee high boots

Second priority:
-one more pair of work pants, in camel/tan
-1-2 fun printed blouse, other than button down, in a silkier fabric, flowier shape
-1-2 fun statement necklaces
-1-2 accent scarves
-long cardigan in a neutral

Third priority:
-(replace) brown flats
-bright or leopard flats
-(replace) dark skinny jeans

At this point, some clients like to just take the list and run with it, sometimes checking in to ask my opinion on various options. Others prefer to have me do the shopping for them. Colleen had always been overwhelmed by shopping and wanted to get a little better at it, so we planned an afternoon of shopping together.

We started at Nordstrom Rack, which can definitely be overwhelming with its racks of seemingly unorganized clothing. I asked Colleen to focus on finding one thing at a time. For instance, instead of attempting to find all the items on her list at once, we started by just searching out lightweight jackets. Next, we focused on printed blouses - easy to pick out of the crowded racks. I encouraged her to grab anything that remotely looked like a possibility.

When shopping, it was easy to show Colleen the difference between the quality of a few different pieces in the same store. She was drawn to a Vince henley style silk top, but it was about $120. For a more affordable option, we pulled a similar style from a cheaper brand, about $30. When Colleen tried it on, she could tell that the cheaper top was made of polyester and had a bulky fit. When she put on the Vince top, she sighed audibly. It was soft and draped in all the right places. We didn't end up getting that piece (or the cheaper version), but it was a great experience to have. Colleen did choose to spend a little more on a different quality silk top, from the brand Joie. Of course, being at Nordstrom Rack, it was still a great deal. She absolutely loved it and will wear it for a long time.

We moved on to the Galleria and quickly picked up a few additional items at H&M and the Limited. Colleen also picked up a few pieces on her own. Between her work and our shopping trip, she ended up with almost everything else on her list (all the pieces in italics above were purchased).

With the new pieces and the basics she already had, she'll be able to make dozens of new combinations. 

Here's a little of what Colleen had to say:

"I really appreciated your calm, cool demeanor and kind way of handling the clothes I had and the issues I had with them. I never once felt embarrassed or uncomfortable. You are great at putting someone at ease in what is obviously a really personal situation. I also liked how customized your service really is - you seem to value the fact that everyone is going to have unique issues and so there's not a perfect formula for how you interact, you can just go with the flow and tailor it to what they need most.

I learned how to tackle the Nordstrom Rack craziness and how to speed through the mall staples. I also learned you should take half days off work to go shopping so you don't have to torture yourself on the weekend!

I seriously feel so much better. I wore the jacket yesterday and just smiled whenever I caught my reflection - I felt pulled together, just like I wanted! Thank you so much. I feel a million times more confident."