Winter Essentials – A Noob’s Guide to Survival in the North

Well, honestly, I feel like a bit of a fraud writing this. What the hell do I know about winter? Even my first winter in Vermont had the training wheels firmly in place. Only one or two days below 0F, hardly any snow accumulation ever, wind mostly behaving. But still – it’s more winter than I’ve ever experienced so far, and as such, my skincare and wardrobe needed some adjusting. So I thought I’d share with you guys a few things that saved my bacon over the last few months.

First, let’s talk wardrobe.

Right up until late November, my light North Face mid-layer jacket mostly did the job. But by the time December came along, it was time for the big guns.

The North Face Women’s Arctic Down Parka – $299

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I got this in navy. I tossed up between navy and teal, and the strangest thing happened while this was in the cupboard unseen between August and December – I forgot completely that I bought navy, and pictured it in teal in my head. Imagine my surprise when I pulled it out. I shhould have bought teal, but navy is one of My Colors and so I guess I just went with what I always buy. Big mistake! Anyway, it’s an absolutely excellent parka. It’s exactly what I wanted – waterproof, windproof, a big (faux)furry hood, deep pockets and long enough to hit me at about knee level. Worth every penny.

Uniqlo HEATTECH thermal underlayers – approx $20 a piece

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I LOVE this range. Honestly, next year I’ll buy even more of it, because there were weeks when I needed a pair for every day of the week. These are so soft and warm and not bulky at all, really thin and just perfect under any items of clothing including skinny jeans. Most importantly, they were absolutely perfect under scrubs, which is what I wear 5 days out of 7. Absolute winners in my book!

Uniqlo Women’s Extra-Fine Merino Sweaters – $30

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I actually got these in Australia, on the day of my ill-fated visa interview. It was a defiance purchase. “TELL ME I CAN’T GO TO AMERICA, WILL YOU?! JUST WATCH ME BUY THE MOST INAPPROPRIATE-FOR-AUSTRALIA THING I CAN FIND!” I bought three of them – one in black, one in red and one in teal. I have worn these ALL WINTER. They’re perfect as under-layers on especially cold days, and as mid-layers as well. On more spring/fall temp days they’re fine as outer layers. They’re soft, not cashmere soft (I wouldn’t wear this straight over a bra, for example) but soft enough for comfortable wear over a tank top, and thin enough fabric to wear, you guessed it: under scrubs.

Hunter Side Adjustable “Norris Field” Tall Rain Boots – $160

I was lucky enough to receive this as a gift for Christmas from my mother, who lives in the UK and knows a Hunter rep! As such, I’m not 100% sure that the ones in the link are the ones I have. But anyway – I. Love. Them. They’re so easy to wear – which sounds silly, but my other tall winter boots are fiddly and hard work to put on. These ones are just step-in, adjust the strap then go. I got some boot socks too which are really helpful when it’s very cold. I love that these boots are wide enough to not be tight on my large calves, and classy enough to be worn with nice jeans to a decent restaurant, for example. Huge fan!

As for skincare, well, I didn’t change too much. Maybe I should’ve – I’d love to hear if you guys have any must-haves for winter skin.

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The biggest problem for me in cold, dry weather is my lips. They are kinda wrinkly and weird anyway and they seem to chap and flake so fast. The only thing I’ve ever found to both effectively treat and prevent this is the Bite Beauty Agave Lip Mask. It’s pricey but it’s worth it, 100%. It’s honestly amazing. I sometimes switch to other things and the change is immediately noticeable. The only complaint I have about this product is that the product is extremely thick, so if it gets cold, it’s basically impossible to squeeze it out of the tube. But you only need a tiny bit, so the tube goes a long way.

I don’t like to put moisturizer or serum onto a completely dry face so I’ve been using the La Roche Posay Serozinc facial mist / toner to moisten my skin after the shower. It contains zinc sulfate so it’s great for combating spots as well as being a hydrating agent that’s perfect for prepping skin for treatments. The mist is super fine so it doesn’t feel like a jet of water in your face – bonus! The bottle is pretty big and I’m nowhere near finishing the one I got in early December – pretty longlasting for a mist!

I had a terrible cold for the last few weeks, it’s finally kicking the bucket now (thanks at least in part to a z-pack I was prescribed after finally going to the doctor) but while I was blowing my nose every 8 seconds, the skin around my nostrils and upper lip area was cracked and red. It was horrible. It was so tender and painful, my life was hell! At least until I grabbed a little travel size tube of Gold Bond Ultimate Healing Skin Therapy “Aloe” cream. It really seemed to heal and treat the skin so fast! I applied it a couple of times a day and used a balm at night to lock it in (I just used the Bite Beauty balm), and my tender, cracked skin cleared up really quickly. So this is a very specific thing to talk about but it was such a relief that it immediately jumped to mind when I decided to do this post! It’s readily available at all drugstores in both travel size and full size.

You all know I adore my oil cleansers and my latest favorite is no exception. The Oskia Renaissance Cleansing Gel Illuminating Vitamin Facial Cleanser (phew!) has a pretty big following in the UK and since some of my favorite bloggers are British, it had been on my wishlist for awhile. Americans (and Australians) can pick it up from BeautyBay. It’s kinda pricey, but the container is large and the pump is fantastic. Its name is misleading – it’s really more of a balm/oil hybrid than a gel. It’s absolutely fabulous for getting rid of all traces of makeup and sunscreen at the end of the day, and it smells nice too.

Dr Jart+ Ceramidin Liquid is one I think I’ve talked about before. It’s basically a liquid hydration booster that I like to add to my skincare at night. Specifically, I like to mix it in with my CeraVe PM Moisturizing Lotion. The latter is one of my absolute favorite skincare items of late. It’s super affordable and packed full of hard-working ingredients – namely niacinamide and ceramides – to keep your skin looking and feeling hydrated. I actually use this in the morning too (minus the Ceramidin Liquid).

Finally, lemme admit something: my trend of being SO BAD at putting body lotion on has not gotten better but when I have remembered to use it, I’ve been reaching for the Nivea Cocoa Butter Body Lotion. I love the convenient pump pack, and I love the cheap-as-chips price. Lately my husband has had really dry skin too so I’ve been smearing this all over his arms and legs and it’s been working a treat to make him feel more comfortable. It’s a winner. It smells delicious too!

Thanks for reading, and like I said, feel free to share your winter products or purchases! Looking outside today you’d be hard pressed to believe that winter is over – it’s below freezing, windy as hell and this morning it snowed. What the heck, Vermont?!

Now that I’m working full time I don’t expect to be posting more than once a week. The days are longggg. But I’m gonna do my best to post regularly! I promise!

Love+++
F&V

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Style: J.W. Hulme Bag & Passport Wallet

I decided early this year that I wanted a forever purse/handbag. I wanted a bag that maybe sometime in the future my kid would use it. The hard part about researching it is that I’m new to the country, so I wasn’t sure where to look. I had a vision for what I wanted, but it was hard to put into words! I didn’t want a ‘designer’ type one, like a LV or Michael Kors or anything, partly because I am trying to source my “big” pieces a little more ethically (this is only a personal choice and absolutely not something I would judge anyone else for choosing not to do, not everyone is able to make that choice) and also because I wanted something with a more unique, “rough” feel. I honestly can’t describe what I wanted. But when I found it (thanks to my wonderful friend Danielle), I knew it was love. I decided on the Elliott Satchel from J.W. Hulme in Saddle Leather.

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You can see it’s taken a bit of battering already – just how I like my leather!

It took me a long time of trawling through the J. W. Hulme website to decide which one I wanted. My friend had bought the Washburn tote. I decided on the Elliot satchel (after a lot of opinion-asking, even of the JWH team themselves, poor things). One of my reviews of the website elicited a popup of the “join up to receive a discount” reminder so I did that too. 15% off $595 aint nothing to sniff at! Because that took like $90+ off the total price, I also grabbed myself a gorgeous green leather passport holder. I’ve wanted a passport wallet for a long time but couldn’t find anything perfect.

Anyway, here’s some pics of the Elliot satchel:

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Zip for security

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Plenty of room and no annoying dividers! Is that just me?

And here’s the passport wallet:

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ALSO MONOGRAMMED!

Anyway, a lot of my favorite people came together to help me fund this investment (my mum, dad, husband and parents-in-law) and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Shipping was fast, communication was great. I can’t say enough good things about this company!

Sidenote: just yesterday I got a little thank you card, hand-addressed, in the mail from JWH for making a purchase! How great is that! This whole experience makes me so happy.

And don’t get me started on the smell of leather…

Stay tuned for winter favorites.

Love+++
F&V

Style: New Vanity Pieces (Getting Back in the Game)

Recently I was feeling really overwhelmed and just not in the groove with makeup. Overwhelmed because my life was busy I guess, and being out of the groove because I didn’t have room in my life for makeup. Unfortunately that is a good signal that I was ignoring some important self care, so after a decent wake up call I decided to try to do a little revamp of my makeup area to get myself back on track.

First up, I bought a new lamp. One of my main reasons for not doing my makeup in the last few months has been that the light in my corner of the room is bad. I was lighting the area with some string-lights around the mirror, but it just wasn’t enough. In the summer, the outside light coming in through a nearby window really helped but since I feel like I live in perpetual darkness at the moment (especially in December, peak not-doing-makeup time) that hasn’t been helping at all.

I decided to pull the trigger on a lamp that had been in my Amazon wishlist for awhile. It’s the LAMPAT Dimmable LED Desk Lamp.

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This was decidedly hard to get a good picture of, sorry!

It has four different modes, which consist of different color “temperatures” – cool white, warm white, cool yellow and warm yellow (though the description refers to activities such as studying, reading, relaxing etc). I thought it would be perfect for makeup. It also has a USB charging point which is cool. When it arrived, I was impressed by its appearance, BUT! I realized that the upper “arm” of the lamp that contains the lights wasn’t able to be moved any lower. I thought it would, for some reason, and that’s kind of a pain because the light now comes from a little too high. It was disappointing but when I turned the light on and used it, I realized that it actually didn’t matter because the quality of the light is awesome and really projects well. Being able to sit the base of it a little lower would be ideal, but you can’t always have what you want. So apart from having to sit at an angle to get the light on my face, it’s great! I’m hoping at the next place we move, I’ll be able to have my vanity in front of a window or something super luxurious like that! Baller.

The following weekend I went on a rather delightful trip to the next town north of us with a friend. I had an eyebrow wax and a hair blowout and we also decided to explore the INSANELY overpriced but nevertheless adorable antique store next door to the hair salon. I grabbed a couple of zinc trays that caught my eye last time I was there.

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Featuring my Sephora birthday gift – Marc Jacobs mini eyeliner & lipstick

I didn’t buy them then and regretted it so I didn’t let them pass me by this time. I like the way they look and they’re perfect for blog pictures, don’t you think?

That same day my friend and I indulged our TJ Maxx habit. I was looking for a shallow tray, box or something similar to act as a catch-all for my vanity. One reason I think it gets untidy is that I’m kinda bad at putting things back where they are meant to go. The theory behind the catch-all is that when I’m done with a product or brush I toss it in there. That hasn’t really come into fruition; since I tidied up I’ve been putting things away better. But the catch-all I bought is the perfect size for my Sharpies (my Passion Planner is very colorful this year, ok?) and my insane box of samples that I’m trying to get through.

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I know, I know. I have a problem. Someone stop me NO DON’T..

So that’s what I used it for, and it’s actually great, it’s keeping the samples in my line of vision.

An older but still new piece (bought from TJ Maxx before Christmas) is this lipstick holder.

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So satisfying to look at. Sooooo satisfying…

I like this for similar reasons to above – it keeps my lipstick collection (well, about half of it I guess) in my line of sight so I don’t just go for the same colors all the time. That’s the theory, anyway! It’s working well so far.

The final piece is probably my favorite. I wasn’t looking for new brush holders, but when I saw this I fell in love.

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Lids included in pic but sadly stored in a drawer most of the time!

Unfortunately, the only brush types that would fit in the little spaces in the lids were eye brushes, but that’s ok, I just removed the lids from the other jars. I love this aesthetic. It also forced me to reduce my displayed brush collection (the secondary / less used brushes went into a drawer), a sorely needed exercise.

Here’s the whole thing put together:

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Featuring my annoyingly-underused Passion Planner!

I think it’s looking ok. Hopefully when we move I’ll have a better arrangement, light-wise. But the good news is that it really has revitalized my makeup applying game. I’m back! And I have a few products to talk about and review for you guys, so stay tuned.

Love++
F&V

Style: Tidying Up – A Short Part II on Folding

So a few people wanted a bit more information on the actual nitty gritty of the “Life Changing Magic of Tidying-Up” process. Without reading the book there’s not much more I can tell you about the mental and emotional process but the physical side, I can offer some additional assistance for sure.

I really feel like this book is a good purchase for those who are interested (even if you think you’re only hesitantly interested, I recommend it) so I don’t want to give too much detail. Buy the book! It’s US$7.70 for the paperback! But I do want to go over some things that are hard to describe in words. Specifically, folding techniques. In her companion book, Spark Joy, author Marie Kondo mostly repeats herself to be quite honest but she also does have some moderately but not hugely helpful diagrams of folding. I thought to save your additional $10 I’d just take some pictures.

Now, I’m no expert. I’ve just started doing this. I’m new. So just … take all this with a grain of salt okay?

Her basic folding advice is to figure out how your clothing wants to be folded. In order to do this, you figure out how to fold it vertically in order to make it stand up more or less by itself (a note on this later), and to make the folds you’ve made “stick”. Let’s start small.

Socks.

One of the greatest revelations in the book is that socks don’t need to be folded over themselves to be kept together. Just fold them in halves or thirds depending on length, and line them up. Kondo says that this helps the socks to rest after the hard work of being between your foot and the ground or your shoe all the damn time, you monster.

Underwear gets a little bit more complex, and yet still very beautiful. Firstly can we talk about how much I love you all that I’m showing you my underwear? Not the fancy stuff. That’s for my husband’s eyes only. Deal with it. Here we go.

You want to fold the crotchal region up, then the outsides towards the inside, then in half again. Donezo!

T-shirts are a little more confusing and complex. I had a head start with this method because this is more or less how my husband has always folded his shirts (because his mum folded them like this, clever lady). Like the underwear, you want to make a rectangle then smaller rectangles (in fact that describes the majority of folding techniques in this method).

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Still with me? Okay so what about jeans & pants, I hear you say? Right. The key for pants is to tuck in the pointy crotch bit. ……………..

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Aaaaanyway. Observe! First, fold the legs against each other and fold the legs in half.

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Then – and this is key – fold the crotch point in. Sometimes I tuck it underneath the lower part of the legs but for the purpose of this photo I left the crotch point on top.

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Then you want to fold the jeans into thirds.

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I find that this is the number of folds to make pants and jeans the most stable. Depending on the fabric, length of legs and how you’re going to store them, this may be different for you. You might need more folds, or less (shorts would be fine in half, I think). It’s trial and error – use your judgment.

Same kinda thing for leggings, though you may find that they need additional folds for reasons described above:

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Tank tops are relatively straightforward – just make sure you fold the straps on the inside to keep things neat and to keep any fragile straps (which I don’t own, for huge boob reasons) protected. Again it’s just rectangles inside rectangles to make a neat rectangle.

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Now this next one is challenging. I am still working on getting better at these. The dreaded long sleeve shirt. Now, the basic method stays the same. Create a rectangle then smaller rectangles. It’s just hard because there’s more fabric. The key, I think, is to make the sleeves fold as flat against the first rectangle as possible. Like so:

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I didn’t bother taking pics of the rest of this, because it is mostly is exactly the same as the first shirt after this point. Fold one side of the shirt + sleeve in as usual then bring that sleeve back in line with the folded side. I hope this makes sense. Let me know if it doesn’t and I’ll try to take better pictures but I was running out of time (and space) at this point!

So, I wanted to also add a couple of notes about storage. The way you fold is going to be heavily influenced by how much room you have. For instance, if you have a long drawer and you don’t have enough stuff to fill the length of the drawer then you might have things falling over. These things should be posted with the “clean fold” up, and the open edge of the rectangle on the bottom of the drawer. That makes them more stable. But if they’re still flopping over the place and you don’t think they could benefit from different amounts of folds, then put them into boxes (shoeboxes work great for this) and put the boxes into drawers. Like I did with my pants and thermals:

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Kondo also talks about making your folded clothing into “bento boxes” – different folding directions and patterns can be very aesthetically pleasing 🙂 So I’ve been trying out different patterns with that too – including setting my tights on end like sushi rolls, lol.

I hope this helps with the folding technique questions!

I’m going to do a Favorites post soon, sorry I’ve been so neglectful but life has been fucking bonkers lately. I still love you guys I SWEAR! I’m going to try to be more organised for February.

As always, let me know if you have any requests for posts!

Love++
F&V

 

Style: My “Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” Experience

That’s right, I jumped on the bandwagon. Sue me. Give it a go. I have a great lawyer.

But no really, when I first read about this book I was skeptical. From what I was reading, the author recommended a lot of purging. Like, a lot. And I’m by no means a hoarder but I am quite materialistic so that made me a little nervous.

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My husband and I come from different backgrounds and we hold onto things for different reasons. I was worried that her recommendations would be too much upheaval for our household. It was important to me that I was respectful to his feelings. But I also strongly felt that I had too much stuff to ever feel like I had a tidy home.

A note on our home: we live in around 270 square feet of apartment space. For you Aussies and Brits and every single other country on earth, that’s about 26 square metres. Yep. It is insanely small. When you live in a small space, untidiness is not only more noticeable, it is really in your face and I found myself constantly trying to tidy which subsequently made me feel quite stressed out.

So I decided to give this book a try. A lot of people I knew and trusted had followed it with great success and none of them seemed to be sobbing with regret, or missing discarded items terribly. In fact, they all sung its praises.

So, let’s talk about the premise. Marie (Kondo, author) is a tidying guru in Japan. Her seminars book out instantly. She has a 3-6 month waiting list of clients. She’s hardcore. She advocates having ONLY what you need and what “sparks joy”, and discarding everything that does not meet these criteria. She uses that phrase a lot – “spark joy”. I’m going to be really honest with you. I’m still not clear on what exactly that means. There are some things I own that are necessary to my life, that I use all the time, that would be a great hindrance if I lost them – that do not ~~spark joy~~ in my heart when I touch them. But I like them? I love some of them? I feel like this book likes to attribute characteristics to objects that, to me, they do not hold. But that’s okay – I get her point. Keep things that you feel good about. Don’t keep stuff just “because”. Sure, ok!

I started with clothes. I got rid of a tonne of things that I had either not worn ever, or hardly ever worn, or that didn’t fit. I didn’t think I had any “maybe one day” items but turns out I did. No. Stop that. You deserve all of your clothing to be able to fit you now (unless you are pregnant etc in which case of course your entire wardrobe should not consist of maternity wear, that shit’s gonna end one day) so get rid of anything that doesn’t fit right or that doesn’t suit you.

One of the main tips she gives is to “thank” each item before sending it on its way. I like this! Instead of just callously trashing an item, thank it for whatever role it fulfilled in your life for however long (even if it was just “thanks for teaching me what styles DONT suit me”) was something that made me feel better about ditching things. She also talks about treating your items kindly, for example, don’t ball up your socks – just fold them because they have been working very hard and it’s nice for them to have a rest in your drawers, not be balled up and stretched all the time. Ok, sure, that makes sense. And it looks attractive. Bonus!

However, here is where I want to start in on my first “con” of very few cons. Sometimes, feeling that way about things makes them harder to discard, not easier. If you anthropomorphize objects too much, you run the risk of feeling guilty for throwing them away. For example, she talks about gifts. If the gift itself is not something you see yourself using, then the purpose of the gift is in the giving, in the care that someone took whilst choosing it and wrapping it for you, yes? Sure. That was its original purpose. But then I would think about how the person who gave it to me might feel, depending on the item’s significance. And that made it harder to give things away. Thoughts like “just because this [item] has a hole in it / is missing is pair, or because I don’t use it, doesn’t mean I should just throw it away, it served me well!” began to permeate. But – yes it does. It does mean that. So the respect/love-for-items philosophy can be a double-edged sword.

Ultimately I felt like the winning strategy for me was to just think of the end result. Will I ever think of this item again? Will there come a time when I think “gosh, I know tossing that shirt out made my place tidier but AT WHAT COST? IF ONLY I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW ABOUT MY IMMEDIATE REQUIREMENT FOR THAT SHIRT AND NO OTHER SHIRT”? Almost certainly not was the answer in most cases.

The other great thing that I took from this book is how to fold things to be as neat and tidy, and, not gonna lie, aesthetically pleasing as possible. God, it’s so beautiful. She advocates the vertical storage method which is absolutely genius tbh. I had kind of done that with my t-shirts, because our set of drawers is not great and the drawers don’t really come out the whole way… that’s another story. But she said to store EVERYTHING this way, and I really see what she’s saying about this. It works great and looks really attractive and aesthetically pleasing on an organizational level. Let’s take a look at some highlights. I wish I had before pictures! But I don’t. So here we are.

IMG_0054Socks, tanks

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T-shirts

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Jeans, pants

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Pants, thermals, jarmie pants & sweats

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Hanging stuff – I tossed about half of this!

It was astonishing to me how much room I had left after I folded everything this way. I think that’s also because I got rid of a lot of things that I didn’t see myself wearing, and donated some warm stuff that I found I wasn’t wearing even though the weather was right for it. I took a large box of stuff to the local homeless shelter and threw out some stuff that wasn’t in great condition.

The rest of it didn’t hugely apply to me, honestly. We didn’t have a scrap of kitchenware (apart from a couple of very special pieces we got for our wedding which have not even been unpacked) so we bought or borrowed only EXACTLY what we needed and nothing more. We have two pasta bowls, four plates, four forks, four knives, three white wine glasses, etc etc. So not much work needed to be done there.

The other quite challenging part was my makeup. Now, you wouldn’t think having moved here in April would mean I had accumulated a tonne more makeup but you would be so wrong. Where have you been?! Anyway, there was a fair bit. There were a lot of items I’d purchased from the drugstore to “do dupe reviews” but that kinda never happened and I didn’t love them so they all went into the giveaway box. Same with things that were expired, and there was a decent amount of that too (sob, bye Chanel foundation). I had a kitchen-sized trash can full of stuff to throw out, and an overflowing shoebox to give away.

If I’m really real, I probably still have too much. But I’m only human.

I feel like this post ended up quite a bit longer than I planned (of course), so I will end it here. I also picked up Kondo’s new book, the “sequel” if you will, Spark Joy – An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up. I haven’t read a lot of it yet, but it appears to be a little bit of repetition of the first book, honestly. It DOES however have some illustrations for some of the more complex folding techniques she recommends which I have found VERY helpful!

So all in all, this was an extremely positive experience and I feel that I will really continue to utilize these techniques and hone them as I build a home for my family.

Would anyone be interested in a blog post that goes into any more detail than this one, on any particular subject? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading!

Love++
F&V