Effort vs. Effortlessness

I was thinking about Rebecca aka The Clothes Horse’s post about the tendency for people to aspire to have “effortless” style. I agree that it is in stark contrast to previous eras, especially the Victorian era when women wore three or four couture ensembles a day. Looking good was a matter of honor and social importance once upon a time. Nowadays, people spend hundreds of dollars for designer clothes that mimic the “style” of blue collar workers. I used to work at a place where people paid $100+ for jeans that looked like my dad’s work jeans: covered in paint, ripped, stained, frayed. It boggled my mind. Why didn’t they just go work while wearing a pair of jeans and eventually those jeans would show the wear and tear they had accumulated themselves. Alas, it is not cool to actually mess up your jeans doing manual labor; it’s only cool to be seen walking around the mall in those kinds of jeans. Of course. Of course.

Sometimes I spend half an hour trying on clothes until I find an outfit that I like for the day. Sometimes I pick out my clothes the night before. Sometimes I want to wear something specific on that day for whatever reason and pull other clothes and accessories to match. Sometimes I roll out of bed and throw on clothes as quickly as possible so that I won’t be late to wherever I need to go.

This is what I have noticed over time: more and more often, I am looking extremely well put together. I think it comes from paying attention to what proportions look good on me, such as tucked in tops when I wear my tulle skirt because it’s not quite a full length skirt and I usually wear flats. I rarely shop for clothing anymore, so I know my wardrobe very well. I repeat outfits or combinations. It is my personal opinion that the more well-versed you are in your tastes and your inventory (that is, your wardrobe and various accessories), the more effortless your style becomes.

I think that when you get to the point where you don’t even have to think about what you put on anymore and you feel absolutely comfortable in it; that is what some people mean by effortlessness. However, as noted in comments on Rebecca’s post, there is such a marketed desire to become or appear effortless that it actually takes longer to do so! It brings to mind a quote by Katherine Hepburn, I think, to another actress about how they spent longer getting dressed in menswear clothing and appearing casual in it than their fellow actresses who wore the expected women’s fashion of the day. Sometimes it’s simple to be mainstream, hah.

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Evolving frugalities

I was taking off my mascara and started thinking about how frugal I’ve become lately. The first one is how I related this train of thought to removing mascara…

  1. Using $1 cotton pads – to take off my mascara and eye makeup. They’re cheaper at the dollar store and the same thickness. I use one cotton pad per eye, so two pads per day when I wear mascara and/or eye make up. If I don’t make it to the dollar store when I run out, I buy the generic brand, Up & Up, at Target.
  2. Baby oil as makeup remover – which takes off the most stubborn long-lasting mascara and leaves the skin around my eyes very soft. After I started using baby oil, I noticed my eyelashes grew out to the longest length that they’ve ever been. (Or maybe wearing mascara discourages rubbing at the eyes and inadvertently causing eyelashes to fall out?) A big bottle of baby oil is much cheaper than an equivalent bottle of eye makeup remover. Some may say that this is a bad idea, but as a person with super sensitive skin, baby oil is one of the few body products to have never caused a reaction.
  3. Using the recommended amount of toothpaste  which is, according to the package, a pea-sized amount. I’ve found that this more than enough for me to thoroughly brush my teeth and all that jazz going on in my mouth. Any more than that much and I tend to feel like a rabid dog. Rather than putting a perfect glob of toothpaste the length of your brush, a pea-sized amount will work just as well and stretch the use of the tube. I think that I only buy new tube of toothpaste once or twice a year.
  4. Decorating with old nail polish  I have quite the collection of nail polish from my youth. I used to be really big into nail decorating. Nail stamps, stickers, glitter, the whole shebang. I fell out of the habit of doing my nails regularly in college, in part due to the jobs that I held prohibiting nail polish worn at work. It was just more convenient not to wear it. I have a couple favorite colors that I still wear these days not that I’m graduated, but I have a lot more bottles of old nail polish and nail decorating supplies that I don’t intend to ever use again. Thus, I used old nail colors to paint the plain decorative rocks that my dad bought me. It’s a long process because it takes forever to dry and there was a whole bag of rocks, but the completed ones look like lovely little jewels now. ( ^ __ ^ ) Another example, I used a sheet of leopard print nail sticker to decorate a page in my daily planner. It wasn’t very sticky anymore so I used deco tape to hold it in place.
  5. Glass jars as storage containers I began saving the glass jars from the pesto and spaghetti sauces that we buy. Also, Starbucks drinks from the store. Cleaned out and dried, they make great little storage containers for buttons, odd bits and ends from scrapbooking projects, painting supplies like that turpentine from that one ill-fated project… I’m also fond of the idea of decorating them. I painted some of the lids with acrylic and modge podge but it comes off when scratched hard, so I will probably try fabric scraps and paper squares next time. I like that I can store the glass jars on my bookshelf and still see my books behind them. Much better than buying those decorative organizational boxes from the store, I think!
  6. Homemade cleaner – I use the home made Windex cleaner recipe that I found on Pinterest to clean my mirrors and wipe down my bathroom counter and bedroom floor. It works on all of them very effectively and has a much milder smell than commercial cleaners.
  7. Using stockpiles of paper, pens, pencils – Over the decade and a half that I was in school, I accumulated quite the amount of lined paper packs, notebooks, paper in general, and a seemingly infinite amount of pens, mechanical pencils, highlighters, and such. I collected them all into a designated drawer/pile for the papers and a woven basket for the writing utensils. Slowly, slowly working my way through those instead of buying new things.
  8. Using notebook paper – instead of buying loose-leaf lined paper in college. Pretty much every assignment or page of notes I took was done on perforated notebook paper that I could easily tear out and turn in or exchange with someone else when necessary. Saved a pretty penny there. Also avoided losing lots of loose notes and assignments, which still happened on occasion but not nearly as frequently. ( ^ __ ~ )

My First Payment

I got paid this week and I made my very first payment on my student loan. The repayment period doesn’t start until June, but watching the interest rise so quickly every month is absolutely killing me now that I’m aware of it. Here are the basics:

My student loans have a principal of $29,750.00

Accrued interest up until today has been an amount of $967.63.

The total amount of my student loan debt was $30,717.63.

Debt Bar 2013-3-22

Oh my! It’s such a big red bar, isn’t it? But can you see that little sliver of barely green color on the far left? That’s the result of my modest $50 payment. According to the formulas that I put into MS Excel, that green slice is 0.16% of my total current debt.

I swear, in the last three months I’ve learned more about personal finance than in any of my required classes at school. And it was all motivated by my impending student loan reality. Which is no longer pending. It’s here. Oh, I feel ill….

(Thus concludes the melodrama surrounding my first debt repayment.)

Being honest with your lender; Oops?!

I had student loans in college. I should say, I still have student loans. After graduating, I knew that I would have six months of grace period when I would not have to pay anything, but the interest would still be racking up. Payments start six months after your graduation date.

Here’s the problem: my lender was changed (for some unknown bureaucratic reason) and when I was finally able to check out my account information with this new lender, I learned that they had my graduation date as sometime in the year 2016.

…what? (O_o)

For the record, I graduated at the end of 2012 and expected my repayment period to begin in June 2013. I struggled for a while as to whether or not to tell the lender the truth. On one hand, no repayments for four years! On the other, probably an IRS clusterfuck. Eek! ( > __ < )

Ultimately I did send an e-mail of concern to the lender and they adjusted my graduation and repayment dates accordingly. Now (unfortunately!) I have my grace period ending in about three months and I am freaking out about it! But I feel that I did the right thing; that I shall not use a false extended grace period to procrastinate on paying off my student loans.

Winter productivity; a Semiannual Update

Let’s make this a regular thing, shall we? Since the end of last July I have…

  1. Used up samples and extras of various bath and body products – I am on the last tube of conditioner from the hair dye packages (I seem to have miscounted last time) and I used some of the travel size / sample soaps that I had. For some reason I have a large collection of samples in those plastic pouches that are nigh impossible to use in the shower when your hands are wet.
  2. Cleaned out the garage – as part of my family’s winter holiday resolution, we donated a lot of stuff and rediscovered some things we thought lost. Now there is a pathway through our garage and I’ve found several of my blankets and a ton more books.
  3. Sorted out the found books – condensed into about 15 standard office size boxes that are stacked outside my door. I have quite a bit of reading to do this year as a result. However, we did manage to pick out a box or two full of books too young for me or were religious books. Almost all of the cookbooks went to my aunt that loves cooking.
  4. Obtained a clothing rack – that has been fixed with the use of a drill and some serious screws to be able to stand tall enough now that I can hang my coats on it. This cleared up some nice room in my closet and gave me something cool to look at from my bed.
  5. Cleaned the floor twice – because we moved the furniture around and I had gigantic dust bunnies under there. Consequently, I picked up everything and vacuumed the entire room twice.
  6. Painted the bathroom – the walls and ceiling are a nice turquoise blue and the cabinet, trim, door, and doorframe are painted ultra white.
  7. Emptied storage boxes – these had come in from the garage when we found they held stuff that I haven’t seen since we moved here. I redistributed things and threw some stuff away, found some things I’ve been missing. I was very glad to find some of favorite childhood toys which I’ve cleaned and put in a place of honor on my top shelf. ( n _ n )
  8. Filled the smashbook – currently at a little more than half full. It’s so random, just the way I intended it to be. I have found it to be a good catchall for the loose ephemera that I’ve squirrelled away in small shopping bags over the years.
  9. Graduated from university – my biggest accomplishment to date. Finally!
  10. Destroyed unnecessary papers – all those repetitive copies of legislative mumbo jumbo that come with the actual important documents, didn’t feel like wasting space by saving it all. I kept the most recent and up to date copies and destroyed the rest.
  11. Modgepodged the cabinet shelves – replacing the plain shelf paper that Mother had put in there. It took a couple days of bent over work that killed my back and left my hands sticky with glue, but it sure does look amazing.
  12. Moved furniture – which allowed me to put my bed in a more accessible and warmer place and gave me room for the clothing rack mentioned above.
  13. Lined the wire rack shelves – as my closet has a wire rack organizing unit in it. I had the idea to lay down some of the old shopping bags I’ve kept and they make a good liner for the wire shelving. The clothes piles sit neater and are less prone to tipping.
  14. Bought a dress form – made sewing dresses easier because the form was adjustable. Unfortunately, I lost several inches while I was going to the gym regularly so the mannequin is actually a little too big now!

How to learn good wardrobe-building skills from PoupeeGirl

First, an introduction to PoupeeGirl, which is an online fashion community where you have a doll-like avatar (une poupée, French for “a doll”) that you can dress up with clothing, makeup, and accessories that you earn or buy through the game. You can earn ribbons, the primary form of currency in the game, by…

  • posting pictures of items from your own wardrobes. For each item you post to your online closet, you can earn a combination of an item for your Poupee and ribbons.
  • commenting on other users’ items.
  • receiving comments on your own items from other users.
  • updating your Poupee’s daily outfit picture.
  • selling items on the Poupee Market.
  • exchanging jewels, the other form of currency earned by paying with actual RL money, into ribbons at the Bank.
  • winning one of the contests held for best-dressed Poupee according to the contest theme.

Back when I first began playing the game, before anything was even translated into English and non-Japanese-speaking users had to follow the guides we found online to get through the basic functions of setting up an account, it was quite easy to collect every wardrobe item available for your little Poupee. If you worked hard at uploading pictures of everything you had and commenting on other people’s things, you could max out your ribbon earning income and buy the items made available at the in-game shop on a periodical basis. Then PoupeeGirl became very popular very quickly, began doing in-game events with sponsors and such, and introduced clothing that could only be purchased with jewels. The game events, which marked the updates of the in-game department store “getting new stock,” came more frequently and it was, quite frankly, impossible to keep up unless you were literally putting hundreds of dollars into the game per month.

So how does this game teach you anything (except to be careful about resisting the allure of pay-for-play systems)?

  1. You learn how important it is to have consistent earnings. At the very minimum you can earn about 10 ribbons per day by posting your Poupee’s daily outfit picture, but you won’t have very much money to spend when the event chock full of all your favorite things pops up without warning. PoupeeGirl is very much about taking advantage of the moment sometimes because they offer limited quantity or limited time items and few of the events are ever announced beforehand. This reflects the real world market in that you can expect certain sales around holidays or the end of the season, but sometimes flash sales can catch you off guard and you miss a good bargain. When you have a consistent source of income, it’s a lot easier to float a little money into a rainy day fund to pay for that in-love-at-first-sight piece you see in the shop window.
  2. You learn how much you’re willing to spend and how much to save. Related to the first point above, I’ve noticed the tendency amongst myself and others that after you put so much time into accumulating ribbons, then you’re less likely to blow it all on anything less than your absolute must-haves. Many will splurge on new events until they hit they’re minimum limit of ribbons that they require themselves to have in reserve at all times, which makes it easier to build your savings back up later. The same reasoning can be applied to your bank and savings accounts in that you should always have a baseline above $0 for your savings, and only dip below your line when it’s for a very specific reason.
  3. You learn to buy only the things you really like. After the changes PoupeeGirl initiated that I mentioned before, players had to focus their in-game purchases and be more careful with what they got for their ribbons. Some go for the shoes, some prefer certain colors, some like the traditional clothing, some the punk style clothes, and so on. You may like only one item from one event but nearly all of the items from another. Thus, you have to make those tough choices between what you want to get on the spot and what you might be willing to wait and try to find on resale on the Market later on. By the time an item makes it to the Market, you may find that you don’t really want it after all or that you can get it at an even better price than it was originally. Additionally, you have to take into consideration if the item will be of any use to you in consideration of the rest of your Poupee items. Sometimes an out of place item will be a dazzling punch to your Poupee’s outfit for the day, other times you’ll have a devil of a time getting it to match with anything! This can teach you to use the same strategy in your real life closet and avoid purchasing clothes and accessories that you neither love nor have use for.
  4. You learn to train your eye for style. One of the easiest ways to earn ribbons, as mentioned above, is to update your Poupee’s daily outfit picture. Other users can give you a suteki rating, basically saying that they think your outfit is cute. This is incentive to actually give your virtual doll a little style, which in turn will demonstrate your own tastes and help develop your creative skills. Sometimes the items don’t quite match up on the pixel level, so you have to get a little creative with layering items to achieve certain looks. This is one of the key skills that a person can learn to manipulate their real wardrobe to make it suitable for any occasion with just a tuck here or a repurposed skirt there. Your Poupee doll’s outfits might give you the inspiration to try a new look that you hadn’t thought appealing before, you never now!
  5. You learn to cull and save things. Since you can sell items on the Market, many people like to sell old items to be able to buy new items. This is tricky because you never know if you’ll regret selling something. This is often the hardest task people face in the real world, but in the virtual world of PoupeeGirl the risk is minimal and might help build your decision making skills as to what to keep and what to get rid of.
  6. You learn how much hair style and color can change your look. Users can often be pleased or frustrated by how changing hair color or style of their Poupee dolls can affect how they arrange outfits. The same can be said of real life where a little change to your hair can change the entire appearance of an outfit.
  7. You learn how important the little details are. For example, different mascara styles or that ring on your Poupee doll’s finger may seem irrelevant unless you zoom in to +200%, but from the normal view you may be able to see that there’s an extra little sparkle that makes the look just seem right. This can be an invaluable styling skill in the real world.

These are some of the things that I think are important to building a well-developed and well-thought out wardrobe, which I also think you can learn from playing this game. I also view the game as a low-risk, low-impact way of exploring fashion and style. If it’s interesting to anyone, you can check out the site here; don’t worry, it comes in English now! ( ^ _ ~ )

Summer productivity; or What I’ve Done So Far

I’ve been technically unemployed this summer, but not completely inactive, so I decided to list all of the things I’ve gotten done so far.

  1. Switched from drinking weight-loss tea to coffee – the tea was roughly $60/month, the coffee is about $90/four months because I drink less per day.
  2. Used up hair dye products – I had bought hair color ahead of time, used all of the packages, and am now growing out my natural hair color. I began using the included tubes of conditioner instead of buying a new bottle of conditioner for colored hair. I am down to the last two tubes.
  3. Unpacked crates of books – and subsequently created stacks at the foot of my bed of all the books that I haven’t read yet. I will keep, donate, or scrap according to how enjoyable the read is.
  4. Converted all clothes hangers to ultra-slim hangers – satisfied my visual preference for identical hangers and creates room to hang more clothes so I can use the shelf space for other storage.
  5. Cut out patterns and materials – did this for all but the most recent shirt pattern purchased.
  6. Organized bathroom cabinet – I moved the plastic drawers from my bedroom to under the bathroom sink, enabling me to clear off the countertop and put my makeup in a more accessible location.
  7. Used up the cosmetic products I have – made doable by the fact that it was more convenient to reach for my makeup in the morning. I could also easily grab a face mask or one of the skincare samples I’ve collected over time, so the collection is slowly whittling down.
  8. Rearranged my bedroom – moving a cabinet to a better location against the wall, putting up two shelves, reorganizing my bookshelves according to what I use the most.
  9. Decorated my bedroom – I finally put together the decorative touches I’ve been wanting to add: a gallery section above my desk, displays of stuffed animals, figurines, etc.
  10. Repurposed food containers for organization – cookie tins now hold paper scraps and glass jars hold loose things like buttons and movie ticket stubs. I’ve taken to decorating them so they don’t look like they came from the pantry.
  11. Created a smashbook – using large paper scraps and recycling an old sketchbook. I’m rather in love with it.
  12. Taken two required classes – which means that I’m down to my last 12 credits before I can graduate, finally!
  13. Shredded 2+ bags of junk mail – several years build-up of credit card offers that I wanted to properly destroy.
  14. Modgepodged a crapload of stuff – decorated the inner doors of the cabinet, collaged empty puzzle boxes that were then used to hold more papers, recycled scraps into art for my journal.
  15. Filed my academic and work papers – sorted and filed all of my graded essays, tests, etc., by semester for my records. Did the same for all of my paycheck stubs and relevant documents.
  16. Gathered the electronics into one place – this includes any game controllers, cords, chargers, anything that’s used even if I don’t know what it’s used with. This makes going through the basket to match with the appropriate item an easier task than having to search through my whole room. Biggest time saver with this one!