ACS_0020.jpgMy name is Flora and I am a hoarder. I will admit it. I am seduced by beautiful packaging, carefully styled items and I feel a pang of excitement as I put something new away in my wardrobe for the first time. When I am in one of my favourite clothing stores I turn into a sartorial adulteress, frivolously trying on new things whilst the wardrobe that has loyally served me well over the years, waits faithfully at home for another day out instead of having to share what little space there is the wardrobe with “the next new thing”.

I have decided to be a more conscientious wife  clothes owner and spend more time in the pieces I do have. Over the past year, I have really tried to curb this thirst and buy less and less brand spanking new things. Seven moves in three years has helped me to downsize a LOT, but seeing as it is January and the new year is upon us I thought I would set myself a challenge.

I am going to try to limit myself to buying one new thing a month. A few friends at work have given themselves a target of not buying anything new for 100 days, however, I thought I would set myself a more realistic and long-term target of minimizing my wardrobe and buying a maximum of one new piece of clothing per month. 12 new pieces a year. I take my hat off to those who have not bought anything new for a year or more but I want to make the goal a bit more achievable for myself.  Vintage clothes are exempt and I will also try to make my purchases worthwhile and investment pieces. It is going to take a lot of will power. I will share everything with you and keep you posted on my progress so keep a look out and wish me luck!

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In case you hadn’t read before, I have moved to Amsterdam one year ago. After living in two beautiful short-term lets (and two not so beautiful ones), we finally have a long-term rental agreement. The problem? You get a lot more bang for your buck with short-term sweet deals. Generally, landlords/ladies who are off to travel the world for a few months are more concerned with someone properly looking after their everyday home, than they are about making a profit. So, ultimately my budget got me a place that could do with a LOT of TLC but still has a bit of charm and character. And a stray cat that comes and visits us every now and then for a cuddle and a tin of tuna.

Consequently, I do not know when I will be moving out of this apartment, and I feel reluctant to put too much time and money into soft furnishings when the place isn’t fully ours to keep forever. The apartment is furnished with a lot of dark wood and red (eugh) something that is quite jarring with my preference for light, Scandi-style accents. However, after some serious consideration I think I have a few tricks up my sleeve for making your apartment feel a little less is tiny cosy and I would like to impart this knowledge to you:

Don’t compare your place to other people’s :

In the modern world, Instagram and social media are now part of our daily routine. We have never had such insight into how others live, most importantly how people with a lot more dosh than us live. It can be pretty discouraging trawling through pages of beautifully decorated spacious and light houses and seeing the rose-tinted view of an “influencer’s” home. Unless you are looking for inspiration, switch the phone off and start concentrating on how you can make your place look a bit better.

Pick a theme that will work for your home: 

For instance, trying to make the dark wood in my apartment work with a modern white-wash theme is not realistic. I cannot afford to change the green coloured curtains or put in a nice new pink velvet sofa. Instead, work with what you do have. I have covered the sofa in a lighter throw, giving it a more comfortable, less-worn look and have used lots of mirrors on the walls to maximise space. I have bought a few very nice velvet cushion covers (I found them for a reasonable price in H&M home). Look around locally, I picked up a great cabinet for 20 euros from around the corner on Marktplaz (Dutch version of ebay)

 

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Maximise your storage

Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” William Morris.

We have hardly any storage, and although I only came over to the Netherlands with a big suitcase and hang-luggage, working for a fashion brand means I do seem to have accumulated a lot of stuff, particularly as I cannot see anything go to waste. I need to use every ounce of storage I have to make my clothes fit. Put shoes in sensible places (we have a rule of only having 2 pairs out each) and use space wisely (fold re-ogranise and don’t forget to have a good clear out of the things you do not need). However, do not make things look overfilled, overstuffed ( I like to have all my surfaces clear with a few plants/ frames on them) to give the illusion of space. Look on Pintrest for some good ideas about how to save space and try to be creative.

Invest in prints and frames and pot plants:

Even better, create plant pots out of old teapots, fancy chopped tomato tins or anything else that would fit into your apartment. For me, green plants really set a room off, if you have a corner that needs filling putting a big banana tree in it can give a great sense of space and colour, and you can pick them up for a reasonable price, just make sure you take care of them. I have also bought a set of frames from a flea market in the summer and I am slowly filling them with some great prints, one of my favourite newly discovered artists is Margo in Margate who is from an area very close to my hometown. Decide carefully about the types of art/ print you choose. Pick something with meaning to you, not just an impulse buy from something you saw on Instagram and you will probably love it for a lot longer.

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Treat yourself to some nice bedding

Okay, I think I am officially a grown-up. I splashed out on some beautiful bed linen and a bed-throw and some big pillows (what have I become?) and it has made me feel SO much better about the whole place. My justification was that we spend one third of our life asleep, and dammit let’s treat ourselves once in a while. Bedding will last and is something you will use forever and it makes my whole room look SO much more cosy.

I would love to hear about your tips and tricks for making your place feel a bit more like home.

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If you follow any other fashion blogs you will probably have seen this phrase thrown around somewhere. The capsule wardrobe. Just the words to me sound minimalistic and chic.

The capsule wardrobe was (according to Wikepedia) a term coined in the 1970’s by a lady called Susie Faux and used to describe the essential pieces of your wardrobe. These integral pieces of your wardrobe can survive the constantly changing trends and create different interchangeable outfits.

How do you find your capsule wardrobe?

One way to find out  to do is try the 10 x 10 challenge. This challenge, invented and popularized by Style Bee is as follows:

  1. PICK ANY 10 ITEMS FROM YOUR CURRENT CLOSET
  2. STYLE THOSE ITEMS INTO 10 DIFFERENT LOOKS
  3. USE 10 DAYS TO DO IT
  4. HAVE FUN AND DON’T TAKE IT TOO SERIOUSLY!

It is worth noting that accessories do not count and you can be flexible. This is a fun way to try and make the most and work out what your true die-hard wardrobe pieces are.

Why do you want a capsule wardrobe? Because if you are anything like me, you’re tiny wardrobe space is bursting at the seams and it makes it pretty hard to find anything or stay on top of what you have got. I live in a teeny one-bedroom apartment in Amsterdam. My kitchen looks temporary and like it is not sure if it wants to stay or travel around festivals for the rest of the year (the hob we have can be picked up and most microwaves are bigger than my oven) . So, a capsule wardrobe is right up my street. Having less additional items you don’t need is weirdly therapeutic. And trust me, I never thought I would say that.

Another way to reach your sartorial bare necessities, is to have a serious clear-out of anything you have not worn in the last two years and a look at your go-to pieces. Narrow these down; a couple of pairs of trousers, some tops and a couple of pairs of shoes. This is your capsule wardrobe. How inventive can you be to reduce and create new outfits from these pieces? I like to wear white long sleeve t-shirts under dresses, and I opt for items that can be worn in multiple seasons with the addition of a pair of tights. If you are bored of your clothes, see if one of your friends will do a swap. Rent your fancy clothes from rental shops.

What is your best method of reaching a minimalist wardrobe?

 

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It is that time of year again.

The temperature is getting colder, the Christmas lights are going up and the oliebollen (balls of delicious doughnut covered in icing sugar) and being baked. I love this time of year. It means roast dinners every Sunday, winter walks and layering up so much that only your eyes are visible through your layers of scarf, hat and coat. Here are my favourite sustainable finds of October.

Too Good To Go

This is an app that taps into your location settings and finds the restaurants and supermarkets in your area that have excess food, and sells this excess food to you for a very good price around closing time. You can’t choose your food, you just get given a big mystery bag full of stuff. I have so far ordered four mystery bags, the best one was from Marqt on a Tuesday in a central location ( where I am guessing not a lot of people except tourists do their groceries) the worst was from Ekoplaza and admittedly only 2.99, and was vegan sushi, alfalfa sprouts and tabbouleh. Still pretty good for the price, just none of the stuff I would have bought normally. However, I got a banging bag from Le Pain Quotidien with fresh croissants, a chocolate tort and beautiful fresh bread. The app also means companies are dissuaded to throw out leftovers and it shows you how many carbon emissions you have saved!

De Ruilhoek / The Exchange Corner,

Maasstraat 146, 1079 BK Amsterdam. I went in here to sell some old clothes I had after a friend recommended it to me and wow, what a shop. It holds beautiful pre-loved pieces of clothing, that range from high-street to premium. They have everything from Acne Studios to Stella McCartney, at pretty fair prices. The fact is, THE CLOTHES ARE ACTUALLY NICE and organised and you don’t need to fish through 30 tea-stained items before finding something good, it is all pretty cracking stuff. If you are in Amsterdam check it out!

My Wardrobe Mistakes

The conscious wardrobe seems to be getting a lot of spotlight at the moment, and consequently there have been an array of secondhand online shops that are trying to dissuade people from purchasing new items and consider buying pre-loved items. At the higher-end there is the Vestiaire Collective and Depop, and The Resolutiopn Store where you can get a good price for designer items, but for those whose purse strings don’t quite stretch to those kind of prices (mine certainly does not) there is nothing wrong with a good old ebay browse not forgetting charity and secondhand shops in your area.

Everlane 

This online retailer is making waves in the fashion industry by being completely transparent about their fashion supply chain. Within each garment, which are usually strong stable basics for you to adapt to your wardrobe, you can find out the true cost of every piece from the material to the payment of factory workers. The factories they use are under constant scrutiny with compliance to things like working conditions and fair wages. I have not yet bought anything from here myself, but the idea is that Everlane creates good quality pieces that are built to last with transparent pricing

Good on You App

This is an ethical shopping app that gives a round up evaluation of the companies who are doing their part to make their clothes more sustainable and eco-friendly or their workers conditions better. The people at Good On You rate the companies based on its impact on the planet, people and animals to make its evaluation. You can search almost any brand and get a quick summary, which will give you some insight before shopping.

The Letdown, Netflix. This one is a little bonus that has nothing to do with sustainability but is a good watch. I am not a mother myself, but weirdly I feel complete empathy for the new-mum protagonist in this programme. Firstly, this series is hilarious, it comes in short manageable episodes and the characters are completely relatable. For me, shows that  portray an unpolished, unfiltered lifestyle and important, particularly when illustrating the reality of motherhood, give it a go!

 

 

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You may remember a whole year ago when I first moved to Amsterdam. Life was not as rosy as I  assumed it would be.  My first few months were stressful. I was living in a teeny tiny room on Airbnb;  the “double” bed barely fitted us in and there was nowhere to sit to eat dinner except on our bedroom floor. I was working horrendous shifts at an unfriendly “restaurant” on the Leidseplein (eugh!) and would come home in the wee hours of the morning, being very much underpaid (below legal minimum) and overworked. At one point, the  manager was so rude and unkind that I burst into tears on the restaurant floor.

It was cute.

One whole year on, and I can start to look at everything in a much more positive light. Perhaps I should not have jumped into a job so early, but we had no money. One of us was studying, with no student loan, and our food bills were adding up.

Which brings me to the positives, or rather looking back and seeing the silver lining. Returning home at 2am each night on a very low monthly wage meant I had to get a bike to reduce costs and travel time.  Which meant that I could practice cycling (something I hadn’t done in about 5 years) in the dark when no one was really around on my way home.

Having no money meant that we learnt creative ways to bulk out our food, beans and pulses became our culinary best friend and this is something we still do now. It made me a better cook, as I would try to recreate my favourite culinary dishes at home. For those who enjoy Chinese, I cannot recommend Omnivore’s Cookbook blog enough. I can now make sweet & sour tofu, Pad Thai and Kung Po tofu off the top of my head for a fraction of a restauranteurs’ price. It also meant that when I did have some cash to go out for dinner, I really appreciated it. I would get dressed up to go out and spend hours reading reviews to make sure to spend my hard-earned pennies well.

I discovered the best time for a sale at the supermarket and the best markets to get cheap fruit and veg. I asked for recommendations for  the all the vintage shops and flea markets that were worth going, IJ-Hallen being the biggest (and cheapest). I made my own facepacks, body-scrub and cleaning products.

Moving to a country with no friends has meant that I push myself socially, I learnt to say yes and be the instigator of social events, instead of retreating to my well-known social circle of friends with similar views and opinions.

I was honestly prepared to give up, to cut my losses and  move everything back home to the familiar and easier and better socially connected life. Sometimes though, it is great to be out of your comfort zone. Before taking the job I currently have, I was warned several times that my manager “could be a bit difficult to work with” . Compared to the management in the restaurant he is a pussycat, and experience with more difficult senior members of staff  has made me a lot more resilient and thicker skinned. In the words of Nietzsche or Kelly Clarkson (whichever floats your boat) what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes you need to hit rock bottom to put things into perspective.

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