Why Reading Makes You Gorgeous: Truly Natural Practices for Timeless Beauty

“How long have you been using Botox?” the L.A. society lady asked my friend Ann.

Botox? Right. Ann barely wears make up on a regular basis.

I can understand the mistake. A few months shy of 50, Ann has great skin, a ready smile, and is in excellent shape. As I look around, I see a number of women with similar, simple, healthy beauty. Rather than the propped up and patched together appearance of a woman desperately trying to maintain her youth, these women make being gorgeous look easy.

And easy is always better.

As mentioned previously, I’m super lazy about beauty routines. If I’m in the middle of a good book there’s no way I’m going to get up out of bed to go put on eye cream, much less make an appointment to go get my skin peeled off. That said, I’m not interested in judging women who engage medical beauty processes. Women should do what they want to do. But if there are way cheap, painless ways to glean beauty out of our daily routines, I’m assuming Mud and Grace women want to know about them.

I’ve come to understand there are certain lifestyle investments in beauty that do far more than any expensive cream or treatment. Some digging has led me to identify the habits of the naturally beautiful. Some research has helped me to understand why these habits profoundly influence the way we look. Here are my findings.

Ann and Lynette, my health and beauty role models.

Beautiful habits

A quick study of the lifestyle choices that lead to beauty are as follows, in no particular order; sleep, read, go outside, eat well, enjoy what you eat, exercise, see your friends, be content.

That’s all doable, but why? What is going on in the pages of that book you’re reading that the most expensive skin creams just can’t deliver?

My research suggests that it all comes down to activities that manage our natural hormones and neurotransmitters. Bring on the oxytocin, the HGH and the endorphins, keep the cortisol at bay.

Natural maintenance

Human Growth Hormone (HGH) is the stuff our body produces to build muscle, burn fat, keep our skin elastic, generally grow and repair our bodies. It’s not big shock to anyone to learn that this decreases as we age. You could roll down to California, have synthetic HGH injected illegally, and enjoy the resulting side effects like growing extra long toes.

Or, you can increase the amount of HGH your own body releases regularly. Your pituitary gland (a little pea-sized thing, nestled deep in the back of your brain) secrets it throughout the day. Here are the conditions it needs:

Sleep

The release of HGH peaks while you are sleeping. Getting your nightly 7-9 hours is essential for optimum HGH production. It’s called beauty sleep for a very real reason. The release of insulin can interfere with the production of HGH, so avoiding foods with a high glycemic index (i.e. a whole lot of sugar) right before bedtime can be helpful.

Exercise

Weight training and regular, short, intense workouts promote HGH release. Long walks in the woods are great (more on them later) but to release HGH you need to feel the burn. I like to run sprints a couple of times a week, or just run up our hill really fast. A HIIT or a true Tabata workout on the exercise bike can do the trick nicely. Go on your long runs if you are so inclined, but a couple of short, fast workouts will help release your HGH.

This climbing trip was more exciting than a spa, and significantly cheaper…

Managing stress

You know how you look when you are stressed out? The exhausted, pinched expression on you face, that fabulous little grimace you carry around with you, the way you clench your fists and slouch without even realizing it? Such a good look, right?

When we experience stress, our body pumps out cortisol to prepare us for fight or flight. This would be awesome if we were actually face to face with a bear, but more often than not we’re stuck in traffic, or sitting in a long meeting as someone describes the grueling amount of work that will be added to your already unmanageable job. Long term elevated levels of cortisol lead to a whole host of ugly: weakened immune system, weight gain around the middle, deterioration of muscles, the list goes on. Basically, when your body is dealing with stress, it shuts down everything else: skin repair, hair growth, muscle building, reproductive systems, everything. So how can we deal with this stress?

Go outside

Being outside in nature boosts your mood. Researchers have yet to discover exactly why or how a walk among the trees, sagebrush, or prairie grass affects us, but there is conclusive evidence that time outdoors reduces anxiety and depression. Anything that reduces anxiety and depression is something all of us should be doing. You don’t need to go all Cheryl Strayed and hike the PCT on your own, just ten minutes makes a difference. Go get yourself a season appropriate coat and mud boots, then go take a walk.

Maybe it’s just nature’s beauty, rubbing off on us?

Read

Reading is one of the most relaxing activities humans can do. For many women, reading lowers your heart rate and relaxes your muscles faster than yoga or even meditation. That’s because reading is relatively easy, and twisting your body all up like a pretzel and concentrating on nothingness is really hard. Relaxation is key for health and beauty.

The best news about beauty reading? Any reading material works! A good novel, a nice dense history textbook, an exhaustive Vanity Fair article, even this blog! You’re welcome.

I’m getting in a beauty read AND developing a better understanding on the influence of Mongol occupation on the trajectory of Russian history.

Be content

Psychology has placed a lot of emphasis on happiness recently, but happy is a specific mood. Contentment is a lifestyle. Accepting the life you have built for yourself as positive, the people in your life for who they are, and yourself as you are is a mindset that takes practice. But honestly, it’s got to be easier than applying liquid eyeliner. That stuff is ridiculous.

Happy afternoon with husband? Check. Eyeliner? Not on this date.

See your friends

One late December night amidst frenzied holiday preparations, my friend Julie stopped by. Her life was also crazy, celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah with various sides of her family and heading in for knee surgery right in the middle of all of it. But for the 45 minutes we sat together, time pooled around us. We laughed and talked, other family members joined in and we discussed everything from Rouge One to the best peanut butter cookies available.

The calm I felt during her visit and for hours afterwards wasn’t due to the glass of wine I consumed. Being with friends lowers our cortisol levels. Humans are hard-wired to connect with others. Our oxytocin begins to flow with a hug hello, and endorphins follow as we laugh and talk. You know how beautiful you look in the pictures taken of you and your friends? It’s because literally make you glow, and all that cortisol is cut short by a good laugh and the comfort of companionship.

Hiking with friends? Way better than a bee-venom facial.

The key to it all – Eating well

Eating a healthy, whole food diet is good for your mood, your body, and the planet. Eating slowly, and enjoying a good meal with family, friends or the pleasure of your own company lowers stress and feeds the soul. We’ve got to drop the American, puritanical approach to eating, and enjoy good food.

But these days, with 60 million food gurus sending us conflicting messages about what to eat, it’s hard to know where to start. Here are some simple guidelines:

Eat food as close to whole as possible

Avoid ingesting any human-manipulated chemicals*

Eat plants, any plants**

Enjoy your food, and eat slowly

Don’t be weird about restricting food; just eat in moderation

For more on how crazy nutritionism has made us, check out Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food( http://michaelpollan.com/books/in-defense-of-food/)

Blackberries, butter, whole grain flour? Sounds like chemical-free, mostly plant, whole food to me.

True natural beauty can be summed up in the French phrase bien dans sa peau, to feel good in ones skin. This is deep state of satisfaction and comfort in ones’ self. A woman who feels good in her own skin is confident in the life she has chosen. She has accepted her own, particular beauty and does not long to be someone she isn’t. It’s a state of contentment that allows her to be generous with others, and with herself.

When I think about the women whose beauty I most admire, Lauren Hutton, Michelle Obama, Cameron Diaz, my sister-in-law Erika, my grandma, they all have this sense of comfort and confidence in their own particular bodies and with their individual, lovely faces. Can I suffer through reading a good book, enjoying a nice meal and taking a walk in the woods to get there? I’ll try.

My goat, feeling good in his own fur. Me, trying to learn from his example.

*A quick note on human-manipulated chemicals: we don’t know what they do. When transfat and high fructose corn syrup first came out, the food industry celebrated these modern miracles, cramming them into every corner of our diet. Fast forward a few years and they are the pariah of the grocery store. Who knows what miracle chemicals we will discover are harming us next? Recent studies suggest that artificial sweeteners are causing weight gain. http://time.com/3746047/diet-soda-weight-gain/ I figure, until we know more, I’m just going to skip as many human-manipulated chemicals as I can.

** OK, not poisonous plants or hallucinogenic plants, but all those other plants. Don’t be weird about carbs or nutrients or rainbows, just eat your veggies.

 

Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style: Part 2

7 items, 7 days to prove themselves, and a commitment to looking and feeling fantastic all week long.

I called it my week of dressing dangerously.

The rules were simple; I had to choose seven items in my closet that I liked, but was not currently wearing. Then I had to work each piece into an ensemble that looked and felt great, and wear it all day.

To be fair, I had to set each item up for success. Too often when I try to work unworn items into my regular rotation I’ll try some sort of crazy conglomeration of unworn items. And I’m surprised when the outfit feels weird?

For this experiment, I called out my heavy hitters – the denim jacket, my Frye boots, a favorite pair of jeans, the perfect cowl neck sweater. I did my research ahead of time and thought out possible ensembles.

If you missed last week’s post, here it is: Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style:Part 1

Monday – The odd colored pants

I bought them because: The fit was fantastic, and I thought I’d mix it up with the interesting color.

I never wore them because: The color was too interesting.

The final verdict: Success

Off to a great start!

You can tell from the way I am standing, this was my very favorite ensemble of the week. I love these pants! Paired with my favorite winter sweater and boots they look great. In the spring, a simple grey or white t-shirt will work nicely. Welcome to the regular rotation pants!

Tuesday – The swingy white sweater

I bought it because: I wanted a warm, light colored sweater to wear on cold days that didn’t look like I stolen the fur off a Yeti.

I never wore it because: The dropped sleeves made me look strangely broad

The final verdict: Fail

I’m unhappy and attempting to hide the fact that this is a weird sweater by carrying around a big bag all day.

I wore it, but I didn’t like it. The dropped sleeves and jewel-neck collar created a really wide line across my shoulders. I tried pairing it with a vest, with a jacket, with long necklaces, nothing seemed to work. I felt like I was wearing a tablecloth. I want to keep this sweater, because I’m under the impression that it’s practical. But this is Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style, and the swingy white sweater was given a chance along with everything else. It’s out.

Wednesday – The simple rust colored sweater

I bought it because: Loft was having one of those weird sales where the more you buy the less you wind up spending. I need to avoid those.

I never wore it because: I’m not really sure why, I just didn’t.

The final verdict: Success

I may have been making this harder than necessary…

This top is very simple. I paired it with corduroy pants and my denim jacket. It looks great with a necklace, and it was warm. The next time I’m reaching for a layering t-shirt, I will remind myself to grab this instead.

Thursday – Long olive jacket

I bought it because: It looked great in the store

I never wore it because: It seems a little sloppy

The final verdict: Success

This outfit was straight off Pinterest, and in fact was the inspiration for Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style.

As I was scrolling along I passed this outfit with a dismissive “I couldn’t do that.” Then I scrolled back up. I had every piece in my closet: wine colored top, long olive jacket, boots, scarf. I ran upstairs and put it all on. Dang.

The sharpness of the pants and boots make the drape of the top more manageable. The elegant top and scarf make the ensemble seem planned, rather than sloppy. The whole thing was fabulously comfortable. A few days later I found a picture of The Duchess of Cambridge in a similar ensemble, and that clinched it for me. The jacket stays.

Friday – Cheating with double denim

I was supposed to be wearing a piece of fan wear today. Our lovely assistant principal gave each staff member a great t-shirt and I haven’t worn mine yet because it is too stiff. I tried a DYI project of soaking it in salt water to soften it up but it didn’t work. The t-shirt looked terrible, to the point I didn’t pass the Allen, or any other, test. I plan to try other t-shirt softening schemes and will let you know how it worked.

It’s like I’m back the early 1990s, without the inconvenience of being in my early 20s.

So in the spirit of the week, I tried a look I’ve wanted to work on, double denim. It’s back, and I couldn’t be happier. Here I toned it down with a puffer vest. I will definitely be posting about the Double D in the near future.

Saturday – The bat wing sweatshirt

I bought it because: I needed something to go with Lulu Lemon joggers

I never wore it because: I have other sweatshirts I reach for first, and I don’t wear the Lulu Lemon joggers that often

The final verdict: Fail

Saturday morning was the low point on the journey. I don’t hate this sweatshirt. I feel like it has potential but I just don’t wear it. The fabric bunches up around my belly, which is not a great look on me, and the rounded jewel neckline doesn’t do anything for me.

I felt like we should have been able to work together.

I put the sweatshirt on with the joggers and realized that the pants were a fail from the start. A heavier weight than the joggers I wear in warmer weather, they have a cropped ankle, meaning I would have to wear them with sneakers and no socks in the winter!

As if.

On top of that the joggers had too much fabric at the waistline, which might look dramatic if I were shaped like a two by four. When the pants didn’t work I bought the sweatshirt to go with them… brilliant. Both are out.

Sunday – The Thneed

I bought it because: It’s awesome! I’ve been wanting to try some sort of drapey, scarf/poncho/wrap thing. This was one is grey cashmere and only $18 at Buffalo Exchange? Yes please.

I never wore it because: It’s a drapey, scarf/poncho/wrap thing and I don’t even know what to call it, much less how to wear it.

The final verdict: Success

As it turns out, all I needed to do was put it on. I kept the underpinnings simple and let the cashmere do the talking.

I love it. It feels stylish and easy, and is fantastically cozy. I originally thought I’d save it for dress up, but wearing it with jeans a boots felt natural. I wore it to church, running errands and at a family lunch.

Wear a drapey, cashmere thing and you, too will be on the verge of making an insightful point in conversation.

And that was my week of dressing dangerously. A few items bit the dust, but in exchange I have four new items in regular rotation without spending a dime.

Lessons learned:

Don’t buy jewel neck tops

Don’t buy dropped sleeved sweaters

Keep pushing myself towards drapey tops, just balance them with a sharp background.

It’s OK to buy pants based on fit and fabric alone.* I have enough black, grey and white in my closet to accommodate a few funny colors.

Photographs are an excellent way to judge an outfit. Having hard evidence of how well an outfit works can keep you rolling back to it in the future, or avoiding the look all together.

Best lesson of the week: This was really fun. I didn’t expect to get giddy over forcing myself to try new things, but by the second half of the week I was in a fantastic mood, just ask my husband. This small, self-imposed puzzle gave me a challenge each morning, and the extra spring in my step that comes with wearing something new.

Coincidentally, I was teaching my psychology class about the study of happiness during my week of dressing dangerously. According to researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, shaking your brain up by making small changes can add significantly to your happiness. She notes that something as seemingly insignificant as altering the route of your jog can boost your mood. As I asked my students to try one of a number of similar positive psychology exercises, I was unwittingly trying one myself.

So while you are out there engaging in meaningful activity, creating strong connections with family and friends, being smart about your diet and exercise, go ahead and add a wardrobe puzzle to your week. You will wind up with new additions to your regular wardrobe rotation, spend no money and walk around grinning all week.

Did you try a week of dressing dangerously? How did it go? Let me know in the comments below.

*Within reason

Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style:Part 1

You will notice I am wearing my “chores” shirt. That’s because you and I have some work to do, my friend.

There may be mud involved.

You know all those items in your closet that hang there, taking up space, but you never actually wear? They fit your style, they are practical, they… just don’t make it into the mix. Like that package of quinoa you’ve been meaning to cook up, you know you should, but you don’t.

Well, it’s January, time to use it or lose it.

Shop Your Closet, Survivor Style is a seven-day, no BS strategy to get you wearing all those perfectly nice pieces in your closet you never wear. Here’s the plan:

  1. Choose 7 items

Be honest here. We all have a few, beautiful, beautifully made pieces that just don’t make the cut in the mornings as we get dressed. Take a good hard look at the items hanging in your closet or shoved in the back of your drawers. Choose seven pieces you would like to start wearing. Don’t ask yourself if you want to get rid of it. Don’t ask yourself if you should wear it. Just ask yourself if you want to wear it.

I don’t even know what to call this, but I definitely want to wear it.
  1. Remember why you bought each piece

There are myriad of social and cultural pressures that stand behind every purchase. My guess is Mud and Grace readers tend to make pretty good decisions when they shop. But not every well-thought out purchases gets worn.

I bought this scarf because I love sock monkeys.

After you have chosen seven pieces that you aren’t wearing, think back to the day you bought them. A pair of pants currently on my chopping block looked fantastic in the dressing room, but I came home to find the color didn’t work well with the rest of my wardrobe. Maybe you found a deal too good to pass up, and now you own a valuable sweater you never wear. You could have been pushing yourself to try a new style, and were brave enough in the store, but not on a daily basis as you get dressed. Remembering what it was you loved about an item can help you in your quest to use it or lose it.

  1. Pre-plan

Spend some time on Pinterest or Polyvore looking for inspiration. Narrow your search so you’re not falling down the Pinterest rabbit hole of ridiculous outfits and impossible breakfast casseroles. Type in the name of the item you want to work into your wardrobe (i.e. ‘red tunic sweater’, or ‘brown leather jacket’) and something about your demographic (‘women’s fashion over 40’, or ‘college student’)

If you are using Polyvore, find something that is similar to the item you want to match up (let’s pretend I found that leather jacket at Buffalo exchange.) Then surround it with ideal pieces.

I could spend all day on Polyvore.
  1. Set items up for success

Take your seven unwearables and pair them with your wardrobe workhorses. Too often when advised to ‘shop you closet,’ people are told to pair one lost and lonely item with several others. Just put a belt around the whole thing and it will be fine, right?

Instead, I want you to put your very favorite pieces with these closet orphans; your denim jacket, ( Friends for Life – You and Your Denim Jacket) the favorite pair of boots, (Kick-start your wardrobe with one investment piece) your best jeans. Let the fairy dust from these items rub off on the others. Once you’ve come up with a few ideas on how to wear the each piece, pair items together in your closet so they are ready to go in the mornings that will follow.

This shirt is like that smart, easy-going student who is willing to work with anyone on the group project.
  1. Spend a week dressing dangerously

Every day, for seven days, wear something that is not in your regular rotation. Once you are dressed, snap a quick picture of yourself.

The rules are you have to wear the item all day, and feel terrific. The ensemble must pass the Allan test. (For more on the Allan test, see Lessons From a Chronic Closet Cleaner)If it works, you get to keep the item. If not, it’s out.

Everything should make you feel like a super hero.

Caveat: Try not to buy anything new to make an item work, but don’t be weirdly unreasonable.

If you have a skirt that needs a certain type of tights, that’s fine. Go get the tights. But don’t be out buying five items to make that weird scarf work. This is an exercise about using what you have.

That’s it. Five easy steps to shopping your closet, with consequences. I can’t wait to see what the week will bring!

Here are my seven pieces on the chopping block this week: The swingy white sweater, the cargo jacket, the thneed, the rust colored sweater, a piece of fan wear, the odd colored pants, and the bat wing sweatshirt.

Winter all-stars and four practical ensembles

“Look good, feel good,” a friend’s husband often says. While I wouldn’t argue with the sentiment, looking like anything other than a walking pile of blankets is a challenge at this time of year. It’s taken me 4 decades of Oregon winters to finally hone in on practical, beautiful clothes that can carry me through the long, dark days.

Can’t I just let the barn look beautiful and go back to bed?

Today I have a list of winter all-star pieces for you, and four practical outfits to take your from work to play.

Winter All-Stars

Snow boots

Waterproof, cozy, stylish, these boots are good for any cold /wet day. Mine feel like my feet are wearing two warm hugs all day long. Wear them with jeans, leggings, or any casual pant. Add a sweater and puffer jacket and you are good to go.

My snow boots, taking a well-deserved break.

Silk long underwear

Every cold day, I wear a black or pink long sleeve silk top under my ensemble. Good silk long underwear is a grownup investment. Once you have decided that you don’t have to be cold, and are willing to spend money on something absolutely no one will ever see to keep yourself warm, you are an adult. I’m pretty sure car rental companies require a parent’s signature up until you can prove you own silk long underwear.

Mine is from Lands End, but it’s definitely not monogrammed.

Cute beanie

It keeps your head dry, your ears warm and looks adorable. The only problem with beanies is that you look silly if you keep wearing it all summer long.

This hat is made out of llama wool or some such.

Good slippers

My parents gave me these Ugg slippers last year, and I think I’ve worn them every day since. They get a mention as winter all-stars because as we sludge our way in and out of the house with muddy boots, these friends are waiting for me at the back door. We are not a no-shoe house, but having this comfy option at the back door makes it easy to peel off my boots and keep the mud in the mudroom.

Ahhhh….

A puffer vest

I’ve written about the style advantages of puffer vests in the past, but in addition to looking good they are probably the most practical layering piece you own. They keep your core warm while leaving your arms free for work, and are easy to layer over or under any number of things. I wear a cozy Patagonia down vest around the house all winter long

I love you, puffer vest.

Wool

Wool is warm, breathable, wicks away moisture, is a natural fiber, and can be found in nearly any thickness to suit your climate. Sadly, it’s also delicious, according to the moths who live around here.* Wool looks sharp and sophisticated, and it layers well. Just make sure it doesn’t pill, and that you are able to hide any moth holes with strategic scarf or puffer vest placement.

Please don’t get eaten!

Practical Ensembles

I put together the following four ensembles with the hope that you have most of this in your closet already. Your mission, should you chose to accept it, it to try to pull something similar together out of your closet, take a picture and send it to me.

Note: Please assume every ensemble has a silk base layer underneath. We’re all adults here.

Errands

Basic black will look elegant, even when the day is anything but. As you run all over town, picking up and dropping off children, groceries and tax information, you will look pulled together and weather-practical. And you can always shed that parka if you happen to squeeze in time for lunch with a girlfriend.

The reason you want to wear black all winter long is because it looks good.

Chores

Chore days around here tend to be inside/outside affairs. I am constantly running down to the barn, out to the woodpile, or upstairs to clean something. Jeans and a plaid flannel are my wintertime, at-home uniform. The beanie and puffer vest make the ensemble outside ready, while allowing me the freedom of movement to get a lot of work done.

No sense in not looking cute when you feed the chickens.

Work

Collared shirt/wool sweater/Frye boots will keep you warm and weather proof. Add a skirt or a pair of cords and you are set. This uniform can take you happily into March. Tights to wear with the skirts might be a nice cable knit, brown or grey will look good. Obviously, I work in a casual field. This wouldn’t fly in the corporate world. Of course, if you were smart enough to land yourself a job that requires a suit, I’m assuming you’re smart enough not to come to this particular blog for work style advice.

What more could you possibly need?

Snow day

Our town shuts down when it snows. We are currently in the middle of one of the worst storms in years and I just can’t stop staring at the snow. Waterproof pants, that wool sweater, a puffer jacket, good boots and a beanie are all you need, whether you are out sledding or are at home with no power trying to figure out how to save everything in the fridge.

Snow!!!!

Winter in Oregon can leave a lot of people feeling down. Starting the day looking good and ready for any foul weather that comes your way changes your approach to the challenge that is winter. Practical, beautiful winter clothes can get you up out of bed and outside to take on the world. They also look good with a cup of cocoa and a good book.

 

* Mothballs smell so bad they make my teeth hurt, and I don’t think there are enough cedar chips in the world to fend off the moths that live in the Oregon countryside. Any suggestions readers have for moth battling will be warmly received.

 

Mid-Winter Wardrobe Planning

We’ve got a long, long time until spring, yet already the fashion world is pressuring me to “refresh!” and suggesting that early January is the moment to break out a floral dress. There is mounting pressure to wear shoes without socks.

Right.

The next three months in Oregon will be cold. Rainy weeks might be broken with a few glorious days of sun, or we could get an inversion of fog that leaves us unable to see the sky for days. Family schedules will resume at a hectic pace. Work will spiral around me with deadlines and expectations. But I plan to enjoy each of these busy, bad weather days and look good while doing so.

Here is my winter wardrobe planning checklist. I’ll knock these out in early January to make getting dressed easy all winter long.

Hello, beautiful winter.

Be realistic about your winter

“There is no bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” my husband tells the students in his outdoor, environmental literature class. They are expected to go outside for class, everyday, no matter the weather. We should do the same ourselves. Warm, durable clothing that can withstand a little mud is a must. A stylish, well-fitting winter coat and good boots can make the worst winter storm a fun day for a hike.

No day is a bad day for a hike.

That said, don’t live in a fantasy winter. Recently I found a great pair of NorthFace ski pants at a quarter of the original price. As I headed up to the register a little voice in my head said, “But… you don’t ski.” I argued with the voice that I wanted to learn to ski and that maybe if I had these great pants I would. The little voice reminded me that I hadn’t bothered to learn to ski for the last 44 winters. I reminded the voice that these were great pants. The little voice in my head gave me a look (or whatever) I put the pants back.

There are a lot of fun winter clothes out there, but I only need the ones I will actually wear. In Oregon, a silk base layer, warm wool and flannel, and a well-crafted rain jacket suit me perfectly. Check to make sure you have the gear you need so you can get outside as much as possible, but don’t pretend you’re mounting an expedition to Denali, even if you find a gorgeous ice axe for half price.

Yes.
No.

Pack up the fall, pack in the winter

By January I am over the rich browns and warm oranges of my fall wardrobe. My winter tastes run to gray, navy, jewel tones and a few pastels in warm wool or cashmere. I like to take time to pack up a few fall pieces, and pull out the deep storage of gray wool sweaters.

Make sure everything hanging in your closet is something you want to wear now, and pack up the extras for a much deserved winter rest.

Welcome back, gray wool sweater with rainbow hearts!

This is also a good time to think about how your fall wardrobe worked as a whole. In your style notebook, make a few notes about what you loved and what didn’t quite work. Looking back, I had more choices than I needed this fall, and that slowed me down every morning as I got dressed. Next fall I’d like to tighten up my choices. Take a good, hard look. Are there any fall pieces that just didn’t get worn? Now if the perfect time to send them off to the resale shop, or hand them down to a friend who can get some use out of them.

It just wasn’t meant to be.

Check for comfort, watch for sloppy

It’s a steep decline into wintertime sloppy, isn’t it? The weather is miserable, you woke up late because it is still so dark out, and really, it would be fine if you wore that old sweatshirt just this once, right?

Three weeks later you are trapped in a rotation of two sweatshirts and a pair of jeans that haven’t looked good since 2012, and have no idea how to escape before spring.

I bought this on the way back to Oregon after Shayla and Eric’s wedding. I believe their oldest son is now in college.

Check your winter wardrobe to find plenty of comfy ensembles that look as good as they feel. You deserve to be warm and dry. By having an advance plan for those dark, dreary mornings, you will be less inclined to reach for the old sweatshirt.

Cozy and stylish

Take a break from buying

January is a great time to give your hunting and gathering skills a rest. I feel like I spend all fall finding gifts, tweaking my wardrobe, cozying up my house. By January I’m ready to leave the world of commerce for a while. Sometimes we get so into the habit of shopping that we forget how much we have. While there are crazy January sales happening all around me, I’m just going to opt out for a month or two.

Looking inside, rather than outside of my closet for the perfect outfit forces me to think more creatively, and helps me to appreciate the good choices I made in the past.

I could go shopping, or I could stay home and play with my goat!

The still, gray winter skies of Oregon inspire me to snuggle in, reflect and be grateful for the comforts of home. Winter has its challenges, to be sure. But a comfortable, weather-proof wardrobe frees me up to play in the rain, and the decision to keep it simple allows me the time to do so.