College Reunion Part 1: In which I lay my ghost.

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Me at Vassar College Reunion 2016

I didn’t really go to my college reunion at Vassar to see people. Well, I did – my ‘lifers’ and to keep a date on Sunset Hill. But, this reunion was more of a solitary pilgrimage.

I wanted to find my ghost. I needed to see my 21 year-old self and walk again in her steps. I had to confront her bad decisions and understand her good ones. I had to accept. I had to forgive.

Half a bottle of wine into a sunny afternoon on Sunset Hill, my friend and I reached the point of maudlin honesty, which was frankly pretty much a full regression to the over-sensitive college years than anything else could have been.

But, in vino veritas.

We asked each other what we would say to ourselves, had we a chance to intervene for one magical moment and change the course of our lives. For better? That question was left unanswered.

I didn’t even have to think what I would say. I have known for a very long time now. I would say to 21-year-old Caitlinn:

Trust yourself. Trust yourself more than anything or anyone. Trust yourself to survive your mistakes and to own your intelligence and instinct.

Yes, I admit the circular logic of well, would I have had the same life experiences that would lead me to this piece of wisdom had I been able to tell myself that? The answer is no, I wouldn’t have. I probably would have other advice to give myself.

But, the point is not so much to change the past as to take a moment recognize the true value of the time that has passed, and the strange, bittersweet gifts it bestows on us.

There are other things I would tell myself to do: make more friends, spend more time talking and listening, make more mistakes, break more rules, and for goodness’ sakes, stop RUSHING everywhere with such purpose.

I realized that I never just strolled around campus. I walked on missions, errands, timetables. I had places to be and things to do. I never stopped to just look at trees or study shadows. Perhaps that is another gift of time, though. I walk on missions, errands, and timetables on the streets of my life now, but when I come to Vassar, I have a chance to wander. And think.

I saw myself as the shy, geeky girl who lived half in her head, who dreamed impossible things, and whose big dares were in actuality just tiny little steps towards a new life.

My friend on Sunset Hill mentioned that what she found at Vassar was peace. That struck me because I didn’t find peace at all. I knew peace already from my childhood. At Vassar, I found freedom, with all its possibilities and terrors.

Freedom is a drug that comes in terrifying dosages, and I spent four years titrating it into my system. I could have done more. I could have flown higher, faster. I could have failed bigger…and better. But freedom requires courage, and courage requires experience, and experience requires life…and life requires time.

I realized that I could not have done more than I did. I was simply not yet the Cait I am today. I changed and grew as hard and as fast as I could, and there was no more I could ask of myself.

Therefore, I forgave my ghost’s shortcomings and fears, accepted the past for what it was, and thanked that timid shade for trying its best.

When I drove away from campus, I left my ghost at peace on a sunny hill, looking at the trees and the sky for the first time.

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The Business of Being a Writer with ADHD

An example of all the iterations of organization I go through to get to a workable to-do list for a day/week.
An example of all the iterations of organization I go through to get to a workable to-do list for a day/week.

Lazy. Lack of work ethic. Slow. Procrastinator. Distractible. Squirrel. Unproductive. Confused. Frustrated. Angry. Panic. Anxiety. Late.

Overwhelmed.

Yes, that could be any of our to-do lists. But if you suffer from ADHD, you know that no matter how many planners, apps, systems, and timer tricks you use, you will always feel behind and inadequate.

Today, I’m not going to talk about “writing” with ADHD. That’s a whole different barrel of squirrels.

Today, I’m talking about the BUSINESS of being a writer with ADHD. Yeah, OMG, I said the B-word. The nasty, commercial slur on our pure art.

Okay, distracted, gut-reaction rants on why writers need to be doing marketing and treating themselves as a small business aside, there’s still the whole issue of working with ADHD.

For most of my life, I didn’t know I had ADHD. I didn’t understand why I wasn’t as consistently productive as other people. I marveled at anyone who could exist without a list, or just settle down and plow through tasks.

My coping mechanisms were lists and deadlines. But coping mechanisms are a double-edged sword, and I began to have lists of lists, charts, calendars, and master plans. I had to play games with myself to get stuff crossed off my lists.

And then, just as I started to check a few things off my list, I’d feel the urge to rewrite it, and I’d end up with nothing crossed off and a sinking feeling of being behind.

I’d also be angry and frustrated with myself that I needed to take the time to constantly work with my lists. Other people just wrote stuff down and made it work. I had to write, rewrite, reorganize things two or three times before I felt I had a list I could work with.

Even after I started understanding that I had ADHD, taking Adderall, and doing cognitive behavioral therapy, I found I was still angry and anxious at the amount of time I still spent organizing myself before I could get down to work.

Then, two weeks ago, a minor miracle occurred.

Okay, it was a big freaking miracle in my world and kinda changed my life, but I don’t like to be melodramatic about things.

I accepted the fact that this was just how I needed to do things in order to get my ADHD brain to understand what I needed to, how to do it, and when to do it by.

Suddenly, I was free. I was 20 pounds lighter in my heart. I wasn’t a struggling freak who was wasting time.

Writing, rewriting, organizing, and reorganizing was simply the way I managed my productivity goals. I accepted that I needed to build in time at the start of my day to do this. Once I felt I had a list that was reasonable (i.e. using my cognitive behavioral therapy techniques of cutting my to-do’s in half because the executive functions in my brain don’t work right and can’t calculate time correctly) and that I understood (i.e. actually seeing the reason behind what was priority for the day and accepting that other priorities would have to wait for tomorrow and the world wouldn’t end as a result), I could get on with my day and actually be productive.

So now, when I feel the anxiety rising, I realize that my thoughts are starting to run wild and that I need to sit down and take 10 minutes to reorganize myself. I make mini-lists based on the time remaining in my “work day” and what I can reasonably accomplish.

I still have multiple lists. I still have lists of lists. I still have master plans.

But, I don’t resent them anymore. I understand their purpose. I accept them as the helpers they are. Do I wish that I didn’t need to spend time working through setting up my lists? Heck yes! The things I could do with an extra half-hour a day!

But, better to lose that half-hour in list-writing and be productive for the rest of the day than become anxious, paralyzed by worry about whether I’m doing the most important thing I should be doing, unable to focus, and ending up curled in a little ball playing Soda Crush.

How do you organize yourself for your writing business to-do’s? I’m always looking to learn new strategies and techniques for time management and productivity, so feel free to share!!!

The way I look means everything to me – but not to you.

Before...coffee, shower, makeup, humanity.
Before…coffee, shower, makeup, humanity.

I’ve been thinking a lot about appearances, especially as I wrote “Angel Hands.” What I always find fascinating is how appearances can literally “change” as we get to know someone. 

I’ve met beautiful people where after just a few moments in their company, I notice a sharpness to their features, or an unpleasant twist to their mouth because of the way they act as a human being.
 
I’ve met people that at first glance I thought were really plain, and yet, now, I see beautiful eyes, delightful smiles, and something pleasing about the shape of their face because of how good and kind they are.
 

I do my makeup in the mirror (when I do it), and while I like the way I look all glammed up, my biggest desire is to look emotionally pleasing to the people who know me and love me right when I get up out of bed – funky hair and all.

 
Appearances are our strongest armor or our weakest point. The key is to choose FOR YOURSELF what you want your appearances to be.
 
I have a LOT of imperfections. I hate my nose (seriously, have hated it since I became aware of it at age 10). I wish my hair was fuller. I need to lose weight. I have a 10-inch scar running down the right side of my belly because of my kidney transplant. My lips are too narrow (it takes a lot of makeup to make them look full).
 
But, I choose to believe that overall, I’m not a bad-looking human being. And, no matter what anyone else says, it’s true that I am.
 
Because I choose for it to be so.
 
Seriously, anybody who doesn’t like the way I look can go fuck off. I want to be respected and ideally liked, but you know what? If you don’t like, then, honestly, I don’t care.
 
At the end of the day, I truly, truly don’t give a shit what other people think of me. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived long enough to see enough people come and go in my life to know that opinions, like people, are transient. Maybe it’s because I’ve lived through enough (you name it, I’ve survived it) to know that at the end of the day, I am the only one I have.
 
Maybe, it’s because I realized that everything and everybody is subjective…and that’s okay. It’s okay if you don’t like me or like the way I look. Your opinion is valid to you, and that’s fine. Because at the end of the day, you are the one with the choices in your life. Not my circus, not my monkeys.
 
My circus and my monkeys keep me busy enough without worrying about what other people think.
 
That doesn’t mean that I don’t try to charm the pants off everyone I meet. I do, because I generally like people. But, my self-esteem is not connected via life support to other people’s opinions of me.
 
I’m going to say that again.
 
MY SELF-ESTEEM IS NOT CONNECTED VIA LIFE SUPPORT TO OTHER PEOPLE’S OPINIONS OF ME.
 
Why? How?
 
Because I CHOOSE for it to be so. And, because I choose it, thus it is.
 
It’s that simple.

The Roots of Downcast Part 2: High School

High school graduation. Who would think such an innocent face would hide such a caustic sense of humor?
High school graduation. Who would think such an innocent face would hide such a caustic sense of humor?

Some of the classes that Stephanie Starr takes in “Downcast” are actual classes I took at my high school, including European History, and Honors (or rather, A.P.) English.

It was in A.P. English that I first read Jonathan’s Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” and Volataire’s “Candide.” These two satires resonated very deeply with me, as I had finally found words that saw the world the way I do – with its beauty, hope, and hypocrisy.

The assignment that came with these books was to write our own satire.

I wrote a piece called “The Quest.” It got an A+++ (I’m not kidding. That’s literally the grade it got).

So, for your satirical enjoyment, here is the masterwork from 17-year-old Cait.

***

“The Quest”

It all began with an innocent quest for the answer to the ultimate question: where can a girl buy a pair of run-free pantyhose?

Honors realized how critical run-free pantyhose are for a first impression and vowed never to rest until she found the answer to this question and freed all woman-kind from the bondage of worrying about their pantyhose running.

For days, Honora tried to think of the answer to the ultimate question, but, alas, she could not find it. She then tried to think of how she could find the answer. She thought for many days and many nights, and finally found a solution.

“I must find a place where there would be people who would know where a girl can buy a pair of run-free pantyhose,” Honora thought to herself.

Being the bright girl she was, Honora sat and pondered until, in a burst of inspiration on the fourth day, she concluded that fashion-sconscious young girls would probably know where to get run-free pantyhose. The inspiration lasted long enough for Honora to realize that young girls are usually found in high schools.

Honors hopped into her car and sped (not literally, she was too honorable to drive faster than the speed limit) to the nearest high school. She walked in determinedly and put her nose in the air. The highly sensitive organ soon caught the smell of heavily fried foods and sugary deserts. Honor’s nose led her straight tot he cafeteria where she found clusters of students anxiously bent over sheets of paper.

“Excuse me,” she said to the nearest table of kids. “Are you students here?”

A student looked up and said scornfully, “We are seniors, not students. Furthermore, we are currently involved in enjoying our high school career, so will you please state your business succinctly or go away.”

Honors was taken aback, but not to be deterred.

“What are you doing?” she asked politely.

All the students looked up at her, each with an expression of absolutely terror and confusion.

“We’re filling gout college applications for colleges that we have to go to, or else our prestige and position in the world will be forever affected negatively!” said a panic-stricken student.

“Oh,” said Honora, not really understanding, “But what will happen if you don’t get in?”

But her question was lost to the students who had returned to filling out their applications.

One student spoke to himself as he checked off boxes on the application.

“National Honor and Sobriety Society President, Spanish Club President-” the boy was interrupted by a girl going for his throat with a her pen, yelling “I’m the Spanish Club President!”

A short, bitter fight ensued which ended quickly because both students killed each other rather efficiently. Four students from the Environmental Club came and took the bodies away for recycling. They gave Honor to understand that this was a fairly common occurrence, and that they had a special bin outside just for senior bodies, and another one for junior body parts (the juniors were not as violent yet; they were just practicing for the real thing).

The scornful student blinked and remarked, “Actually, I’m the Spanish Club President.” He then went back to his work.

Honors pondered this strange turn of events for a few moments, then embarked on another round of questioning.

“What do you put on your college applications?” she asked.

A harried-looking student looked up and said, “Everything we’ve ever done that was important, and if it’s not important, they have classes here that teach you how to make it sound important. For example, I have 16 scholarships, 27 extracurricular activities, two part-time jobs, and I do 10 hours of community service a week.”

Honor was astounded.

The student continued,” I also have a 5.23 GPA out of a 4.0. I have taken all the A.P. Classes there are.”

“What intelligent people these students are!” Honor thought to herself in awe.

“Who wrote ‘Gulliver’s Travels,’ and what kind of writing is it?” Honors asked. She had always wanted to know about it, but nobody had ever told her. Honor figured that these brilliant students could tell her.

The student looked sagely at her.

“Ahhh, that was a paper I got an ‘A’ on, but I do not remember.”

“Oh dear. Well, can anyone tell me the answer to the ultimate question?” Honor cried.

A girl looked up and said, “If I can, I can put on my application that I answered the ultimate question!”

“Where can a girl find a pair of run-free pantyhose?” Honora asked.

The girl’s face went blank, then she turned back to her application and wrote under awards: “Finalist in contest to answer the ultimate question: Where is it physically and geographically possible/probably to employ capitalistic principles of free market to gain possession of nylon habiliments that are technically designed to resist the destructive action of action.”

Honora realized that she couldn’t find the answer here. Disappointed, but not discouraged, Honora got back in her car and went home to think of where else she could find people who would know where to find run-free pantyhose.

After five days of intensive thinking, Honora came up with an answer.

“Pantyhose are sold in stores, and store clerks have to know about the products they sell,” Honora reasoned, “Therefore, I must go to a store.”

Honors got in her car and sped to the nearest clothing store. The moment she walked in the door, a bevy of salesladies swooped down on her, all smiling, offering assistance.

“What lovely, friendly people!” Honors thought, “Surely I can find the answer here!”

The saleslady with the broadest smile and the most robust offers of help shooed the others away and turned back to Honora.

“Hi, my name is Betty. Can I help you in any way? My job is to make your shopping experience here better and better and better…” the saleslady said, firmly grasping Honora’s arm and propelling her into the middle of the store where Honora could get a complete view of the store.

“I’m looking for the answer to the ultimate question,” Honor said.

“In the great mix-and-match sales rack of life, aren’t we all?” the saleslady replied brightly.

Honors paused then continued, “I was wondering where a girl could get-”

“You can get everything a girl could want right here!” cried the saleslady, enthusiastically flapping her arms to indicate the whole of the store.

“And what’s more,” she continued, “I’m here to make sure you get it in a pleasant and efficient way. I just want to let you know that anything you ask me to do will make me ver, very, very,very happy.”

Honors was delighted. At last, she had found the place where a girl could get a pair of run-free pantyhose.

“Then take me to them!” cried Honora.

The saleslady looked blankly at her.

Honora looked at the saleslady, taken aback.

The saleslady coughed suggestively.

Honora, being the bright girl she was, realized the saleslady didn’t know what she had come for.

“Run-free pantyhose?” Honora said sheepishly.

The saleslady paused a moment, then said cheerfully, “We have everything a girl could want except run-free pantyhose.”

“Don’t they make run-free pantyhose?” Honora asked anxiously.

“Oh, probably not,” replied the saleslady, shrugging, then smiling in a way that would have made most people call for the men in white.

“Why not?” inquired Honora.

“Let me show you the latest in pantyhose technology,” said the saleslady happily, dragging Honora over to the stocking section. The saleslady rifled through packages until she came up with the one she wanted.

“This is the newest pantyhose style,” the salesleady announced, holding up a package of ‘Banes Worry-Free Pantyhose.’

“These pantyhose are specially designed to free women from the threat of getting runs in their pantyhose,” the saleslady explained ebulliently.

“How?” asked Honora.

“Simple,” continued the saleslady jubilantly, “The manufacturers recognized the problem women face each time they wear pantyhose. Since we, the women of the United States of America, in order to form a more stress-free life, demanded worry-free pantyhose, manufacturers made pantyhose with runs already in them. That way, you don’t have to worry about getting runs in your pantyhose because they are already there! Now isn’t that just peachy and marvelous?”

Honora looked dejectedly at the package of run-filled pantyhose and asked, “How much are they?”

“A real bargain!” cried the saleslady, “Only $37.99.”

Honora was shocked. “Why do they cost so much?” she asked.

“Profit, of course. That is the great blessing of the capitalist system! But let me assure you, dear customer, that we here in this store have the lowest prices of anywhere in town. And if we don’t, and you can prove it to us, we will all happily commit suicide and leave you the store in our will, just to oblige you,” replied the saleslady excitedly.

Honora realized sadly that she would not find the answer to the ultimate question here. She took her leave of the saleslady and the store, with all the salesladies sending her off with bright cheery calls of farewell and promises of making her next visit even better and better and better…

Honora left the store and went home, despairing of ever finding the answer to the ultimate question. Upon her return home, she found the latest fashion magazine waiting for her. She absently flipped through it. Suddenly, she sat bolt upright. There, on page 79 of the magazine, in big, bold letters, was the answer!

Honora read it carefully: “The new trend in fashion: Out with nylon pantyhose, in with cotton stockings and knee-high socks!” Honora reflected on this and finally came to the conclusion that it was the best, most convenient and sensible answer. After all, hadn’t she proved that a girl can’t get a pair of run-free pantyhose?

A Dollar or a Dime: Support Me in the Climb4Life for the HERA Foundation

Cait and Jaime - we take a selfie after every chemo treatment.
Cait and Jaime – we take a selfie after every chemo treatment.

Jaime Wilson’s last day of chemotherapy is Tuesday, March 3. That will make 19 weeks of treatment. That’s four months. That’s 19 weeks of nausea, injections, surgeries, pain, insomnia, neuropathy, blood draws, scans…just to name a few. All to fight off an aggressive form of ovarian cancer.

I am climbing at the HERA Climb4Life Boston event on Saturday, March 7 at Central Rock Watertown.

There’s no sponsored “competition,” but I’m…just…mildly competitive with myself. So, let’s make this fun.

I am looking for donations of either $19 or $1.90 – a dollar or a dime for each week of Jaime’s treatment. CLICK HERE TO DONATE
Warming up on an easy peasy 5.6.
Warming up on an easy peasy 5.6.

If I get to $190, I will climb a 5.10. I have only climbed a 5.10 once before in my life. 

If I get to $380, I will attempt to climb a 5.11. I have NEVER climbed a 5.11.

Jaime will be there to document all the glory…and…well, the all the non-glory of my attempts.

Malpractice: When Writers Put Their Characters in the Hospital

My own private pharmacy.
My own private pharmacy.

This is the start of a series of posts I will be doing because I feel the need to save the world.

From what?

From stories where a character ends up in the hospital, and the medical writing is more injurious than the actual malady.

If you are going to put a character in the hospital, you need to know how to do it. You also need to know what happens inside a hospital and how long people stay. You need to know what nurses can and can’t do, what doctors can and can’t do, and why your character’s friend-of-family-doctor can’t simply take charge of her care. You need to know what happens after a character goes home in terms of when they can go home, why they are allowed to go home, and what the follow up care is.

Why listen to me? Because I’m a f*cking gold star club card holder at Massachusetts General Hospital. Here’s a list of my experience and “qualifications.”

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    Pre-biopsy? Pre-op? Post-op? Inpatient? Outpatient? Take your pic. It could be any one of these things.

    I’ve had a kidney transplant since 2007. I’m a walking encyclopedia on infectious diseases, pharmacology, and clinics.

  • I’ve had cervical cancer. Luckily, mine was caught early and completely by surgery. But, I’ve gone with my friend Jaime to her chemo treatments since day one. I know a few things about how chemo works now.
  • I have been hospitalized for infections, accidents, near-death drug interactions.
  • I’ve been taken in ambulances, taxi cabs, and driven myself.
  • I’ve ended up in the hospital in everywhere from Portugal to New Mexico.
  • I was hospitalized for pneumonia. Wheeze, cough. Cough. Ow.
  • I’ve been hospitalized for multiple infections of various kinds as a result of having no immune system (thanks, kidney transplant!).
  • I was hospitalized for a stomach infection (that had an upper GI endoscopy involved – SO much fun).
  • I’ve had miscarriages from 6 weeks to 5 months. (This does not imply I’ve got a lot of obstetrics knowledge. I don’t. I know my limits.)
  • I’ve had enough iv’s and blood draws that I could be an iv nurse. Or part-time vampire.
  • I’ve worked in hospital administration. I am surrounded by friends and family who are doctors and nurses.
  • I’ve had ultrasounds, x-rays, CAT scans, MRI’s, stress tests, bone density scans, you name it. Interventional radiology procedures like angiograms are lots of fun, too.
  • I’ve sat at the bedside of my father as he went through heart attacks, surgeries, and finally the strokes that killed him. I know what it’s like to watch someone die.
  • I know how an ICU works.
  • Blood transfusions. I’ve got a frequent customer punch card.
IV infusion of immune suppression meds? I call that Monday. And occasionally, Tuesday.
IV infusion of immune suppression meds? I call that Monday. And occasionally, Tuesday.

Basically, I am at the hospital 2-4 times every month for various reasons. Mostly outpatient appointments, but I’ve got a collection of more than 30 wristbands that tell the story of my inpatient experience.

There are things I don’t know about and won’t comment about:

  • Orthopedic stuff. I don’t know jack about bones, backs, and breaks.
  • Neurology. Closed book.
  • What happens in pathology or lab departments? Don’t ask me…though I do know someone who works in one and could probably help me out if I needed the inside scoop.
  • Colonoscopies. Another closed book.
  • While I know about ICU’s, I don’t know about NICU’s.
  • I don’t know what goes on in a psych ward, though I know a LOT about psychology itself.

I’m forgetting things I do and do not know, but they’ll pop up soon enough.

Basically, what I aim to do is for each post, take one thing that irritates the crap out of me when I read it in a story and explain what it’s really like and things that a writer should know about how and why it is the way it is. Like with iv’s. What is it with people who can’t write a decent description of having an iv? In fact, that will probably be my first post.

Obviously, I’ll let everyone know when I post a “Malpractice” blog, but if you want to make sure you get notifications for it, you can follow this blog, sign up for email (I never do email promo stuff because I’m like you and would either junk it or never open it, so it would just be an email for new post alerts), or follow me on Twitter @caitreynolds or Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/caitreynolds.

If you do follow me on Twitter or Facebook, just know that I rarely do promo stuff. Usually, I like sharing things that are funny and/or interesting. I like getting to know people, not just pumping out blurbs for my books.

Thanks for reading, and stay tuned!

Capsule Wardrobe Update

I am officially one month in to my experiment. I’ve had several social events along with regular everyday stuff. I’ve had a month of doing the laundry and resisting post-Christmas sales. I continue to catalog outfits and new combinations and pin them to my board on Pinterest.

So far, I feel great about my clothes. I haven’t felt stifled or bored. That’s not to say that I don’t get the “I don’t have anything new and exciting to wear” reaction every so often, but it’s easier now to say, “Well, then, just wear what you have.”

Accessory Capsule Wardrobe
Accessory Capsule Wardrobe

I also did a capsule wardrobe for my accessories (except for jewelry, because that’s my one indulgence in making outfits look different, new, dressed up, and dressed down). I’ve got shoes, hats, bags, and scarves here. So far, so good with my choices for all those.

I don’t have the bikini yet because who knows what size I’ll be by summer if I keep working out. Also, I don’t have the plastic flip-flops. I usually buy those at Target at the beginning of the spring, and yes, they are usually a loud, obnoxious color. Finally, I don’t have the yellow scarf. I did have one at one point, but I gave it to my mom, and I’m on the hunt again. However, this time, I think I want it to be in cotton instead of wool, and thinner instead of big and bulky.

There are few things I’ve noticed, and these may lead to changes in my selections for next year.

I have yet to find black pants. I know the ones I want. They are Cynthia Rowley “Pia” pants, but they don’t seem to have them in stock right now anywhere. Plus, I’m on the cusp of going down a size in my jeans, so I might as well wait. However, it’s interesting that I haven’t missed them so far.

I haven’t used either of my silk blouses. But, I have found that I am lacking a long, tunic-style casual knit top. One of those blouses might be swapped out for that if I can find one. I came to this conclusion after several weeks of noticing I was wishing for a specific kind of top to go with my leggings and jeans.

In addition, I have glanced several times through clothes that I have set aside for the year. Most of them are special and/or sentimental, and I have worn them in the past. There are a few pieces that are simply extraordinarily lovely or unique, and I would hate to get rid of them just because I’m not wearing them for a year.

This has led me to consider a “secondary capsule.” In other words, I think for next year, I would like to make a small, secondary capsule wardrobe of unique/accent pieces. Maybe 10-15 items total. We’ll see. I have 11 months to go in this experiment.

Laundry hasn’t been an issue so long as I do it consistently once a week. Yeah, there was a two week gap, and I was scraping the bottom of the barrel. However, I now know that I have to do the laundry at least once a week.

We have had one casualty and replacement so far. My grey t-shirt got a bbq sauce stain on it during the AFC Championship game. It didn’t come out. However, I was able to go to Marshall’s and get a replacement for $5.99. I even found the same style. Not bad. This means that for January 2015, I spent a grand total of $5.99 on clothes, shoes, and accessories. 

I’ll probably do another post at the end of February to talk about how I’m doing at the two month mark. Let me know if you are trying your own capsule wardrobe or want help/advice. I love doing this stuff and would be glad to share and work with you!

Below are a bunch of outfits I’ve catalogued for January.

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CD release party at a cafe.
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Running errands.
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Running errands.
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Chemo day with Jaime. Comfort required!
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Lunch with a friend.
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Robert Burns Supper – Scots wahey! (Wallace tartan leggings in honor of my husband found at Forever 21 last year).
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Birthday party after a blizzard. Bowling night. Mini-dress probably not the right choice as I may have accidentally flashed the entire bowling alley while jumping for joy at my strike.
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Super Bowl party! Comfy, cozy, especially with boot socks. Plus, I was sick of wearing jeans and leggings.

 

Cait’s Capsule Wardrobe

What is a Capsule Wardrobe?

I am telepathic. I know what you are thinking. You are thinking: “What is a capsule wardrobe?” and maybe, “Why should I care?”

The first answer is simple. A capsule wardrobe is a limited set of clothing and accessory items you pick for a period of time (a long vacation, a season, six months, one year, etc.). The second answer about why you should care has to come from you, and my goal with this post about my experiment is to offer a little life hack by disciplined wardrobe management.

There are varying techniques for designing a capsule wardrobe. Some people use the “333” method – 33 pieces of clothing and accessories for 3 months (which could be a season). Some people do a color scheme. I decided to do a 50-item, one year wardrobe of clothes, and then do a separate set of 30 items for accessories.

Now, my method won’t work for everyone, especially since I work from home and I don’t need much variation between a “work” wardrobe and a “casual” wardrobe. Though, there’s no reason you couldn’t do a 50-item, one year work wardrobe, and a 30-item, one year casual wardrobe. The idea is flexible enough that everyone could find a way to use it.

Why Do a Capsule Wardrobe?

Ah, incoming telepathic message.

“Why are you doing this?”

There are several very good reasons I am doing this. They are:

  • I will save money by not buying things on a whim or for a trend
  • I will save time when looking at my closet and trying to figure out what to wear
  • I will not feel overwhelmed by the amount of clothing I have
  • I will no longer have a “totally adorable top” that “I just need to find bottoms to go with it” and spend weeks and months looking for the bottoms before giving up and pushing it to the back of my closet.
  • I will be less vain and less pretentious about having to be seen in a “new outfit” all the time – if what I have in my closet looks good on me once, it will look good on me again…and again…
  • I will put to the test the theory that the people who matter in life don’t really give a shit about what you are wearing because you are valued for yourself, not your clothes
  • I will put to the test the theory that the people who don’t matter in life don’t even really notice you’re wearing the same things over and over…and even if they do, since they don’t matter, why do you care?
  • I will buy fewer things but higher quality things that will last and not eventually end up in landfills or garbage bags at Goodwill because they faded or pilled after four washes
  • I live in a small condo with limited storage space
  • I hate having to forcibly push apart tightly-packed clothing on hangers to find something…I want clothes in a closet, not sardines in a can

How Do You Build a Capsule Wardrobe?

Now, I’ve never really been into clothes. When I was little and my mom used to try and get me interested in buying my back-to-school outfits, I would beg off the shopping trip, asking, “What am I? Cinderella’s stepsisters?” You know, the ones who were always fussing about their dresses for the ball? Forget it. I had more important things to do like read books and write. Poor Mom had to slog off to the mall by herself.

But, after my miscarriage, I found myself scrambling for anything mindless and numbing to fill the endless minutes of physical pain and emotional agony. It started with Pinterest, and then turned into a full-on obsessive quest to build the perfect capsule wardrobe.

I spent a couple of evenings playing around on Polyvore, trying to match up actual items in my closet with images of clothes on their site. It took some patience, but I ended up doing really, really well with the matches. I ended up with a 50-piece “set” that included all four seasons of clothing and outerwear.

I also had to develop a philosophy of what I wear and why I wear it. Questions I asked included:

  • Take time to think about how you use and wear clothes.
  • For a week or two (or three), try to stay conscious of exactly what you wear in your wardrobe.
  • Analyze why you wear the things you do: Comfort? Style? Ease of decision-making?
  • Do you tend to be hotter than everyone in a room or colder than everyone in a room?
  • What do I want to look like when people see me? Bohemian? Conservative? Powerful? Playful?

I decided that I wanted to have a practical, simple appearance that was based on really comfortable clothes, but I also wanted a slight European flavor to my look. I also tend to run hot in body temperature, therefore, I needed clothes that would allow me to rapidly cool myself down.

Now that I knew that, I started developing my rules for what went in my closet:

  • Layering: This was probably the key principle to my entire strategy.
  • Basic colors: I chose black, cream, and grey. This way, everything would pretty much go with everything.
  • Accent colors: There were a few things that I really, really wanted to keep in my new capsule wardrobe from my existing clothes, so they became my accent colors: a lavender silk blouse, a pair of Wallace-tartan pattern leggings, an ombre-wine silk formal dress, a sage green silk cocktail dress from Paris, a cheerful red summer romper.
  • Up or down: While I work from home, I do have to “dress up” enough to go to certain meetings or events. I needed a few key things that would dress up or down depending on the combination.
My 2015 Capsule Wardrobe
My 2015 Capsule Wardrobe

My set came together pretty easily after that.

Once I went through my closet and matched everything up, I removed all my other clothing and packed it away.

Please note, I didn’t give it away. I put it away. This was important to me because some of the things I put away were too beautiful or sentimental or potentially useful to get rid of. Plus, this is the first year of my experiment. If I found something really wasn’t working and needed to be added or switched out, I could first go to my existing supply of clothing before doing anything else.

Next, I went through my closet and made a list of the things I was missing in reality compared to my “set” on Polyvore. It turned out, I needed two t-shirts, a black-and-white strip 3/4-sleeve shirt, two tank tops, and a one all-season cream tunic/sweater. One trip to Marshall’s and $110 later, I was done. The things I bought were of decent quality and good brands. All of my clothing for one year now fit on one small rod of my closet.

The sight of that made me feel so good.

After this, I did the same thing with my accessories: shoes, purses, scarves, and hats. I excluded gloves and sunglasses because of my propensity to lose them. I also did the same thing with my jewelry.

Once all of this was done, I realized there were a few things I still needed for the summer: the shorts and the black sundress. However, I reasoned that since I was going to go back to working out, I would probably be a different size by the summer. It wouldn’t make sense to buy summer things now (even if they could be found) if I knew they wouldn’t fit in a few months. So, I still have three things to buy, but that’s okay. It’s just three things.

To summarize, the process is:

  • Study capsule wardrobes on Pinterest. You can check out my Pinterest board on them to get started.
  • Sign up for Polyvore and start playing around, building your own wardrobe. Do as many sets as you want until you get it right. I did five or six before I felt I had a real, workable set.
  • Do the same thing for your accessories.
  • Clean out your closet until it’s just the clothes for your capsule wardrobe. Pack everything else away. This is an experiment, not a gutting.
  • Make a list of what you need, go buy it, and don’t buy anything else.
  • Go through your jewelry. Same thing. Select what you truly love and put the rest away. It will be there if you want to reevaluate at the end of the year.
  • Breathe a sigh of relief.

The Rules of Living the Capsule Wardrobe

Okay, so now you have a wardrobe that you think will work. There are a few rules you will have to follow if you want to be successful at this. They are as follows:

  • You can only buy clothes or shoes if they become torn, dirty, damaged, or otherwise unusable.
  • You can only buy clothes if it is not the season for the store to be stocking them and they are missing from your actual wardrobe (i.e. buying summer shorts in January just can’t be done in Boston)
  • You can only buy clothes if you gain/lose weight, BUT, you may only buy replacements of the same item! i.e. You lose weight and your jeans become too big. You may buy a pair of jeans that fits, but you must put away your other jeans first.

There are a few other minor rules:

  • Workout gear is exempt from the capsule wardrobe because depending on how much working out you do and what types you do, you may need layers for outdoor exercise or specialized items for various activities. i.e. running shorts vs. yoga pants, strategic layers for weather, etc.
  • Sleepwear: keep what you have and don’t buy any more. Use it up. Then go through the capsule wardrobe process with your sleepwear.
  • Lingerie: I admit, I have a lot of lingerie. It’s wasteful to throw it all away when I do use quite a bit of it. However, same with sleepwear, I am using it up. As it gets to the point where I need to throw it away, I am going through the capsule wardrobe process for it. I’m halfway there.
  • Lingerie redux: Personally, I am aiming for coming around to black and beige for the basics, with a few accent pieces (no, there will be no detail about those, use your imagination). I like to have a well-fitting bra in both black and beige with coordinated panties. Once I find a panty style I like, I simply buy something like 10 of the same panties. This little trick has eliminated scrambling through the underwear drawer trying to find matching things or pushing aside the uncomfortable panties you don’t want to wear but don’t want to throw out. And there is no reason that your bra-and-panty sets can’t be drop dead sexy yet functional. Also, there is little that is sexier than a well-fitting black bra and panties. Just saying.

You must also change your mindset to accept the following:

  • You will wear some of the same combinations over and over again. This is not a bad thing. If your clothes look good on you and fit both in style and shape, you simply look good over and over again.
  • People don’t really care if you wear the same thing over and over again. And if they are shallow enough to care and judge you for it, should they be your friends in the first place?
  • You will get to a point where you stare at your wardrobe and say, “I have nothing to wear.” This is false. What you are actually saying is, “I have nothing new to wear.” You kind of have to beat your head against this a little bit, but then you start to realize your fall back choices are actually your key outfits.
  • You might do an extra load of laundry a week, but it will be a small one because you simply don’t have that many clothes to wash. Also, drying t-shirts, tanks, leggings and other cotton knits on a drying rack instead of the dryer will preserve their condition and make them last longer.

Results So Far

I have been doing this wardrobe since mid-December, so it has been about a month.

Frankly, I LOVE it.

I know I will look good in whatever I pull together.

I know there is a high probability that whatever I pull out of my closet already coordinates.

I have gotten through “I have nothing new to wear” urge.

I save so much time in getting ready because I’m already developing key outfits that I just grab and go with.

I already know that I will need to buy a replacement pair of jeans in a smaller size in about a month. That’s okay.

My accessories have worked perfectly so far.

I have yet to be disappointed in an outfit I put together or feel like I’m not looking my best when I step out of the house. This is because everything goes. That was a shocker and a pleasant side-effect I had not anticipated.

I have not really missed any of my other clothing because I can’t see it and haven’t had a need for it.

I have yet to spend any money on clothing, accessories, or jewelry since my final wardrobe-completion purchases.

My life has definitely become simpler in this small way, and I welcome it very much.

I think that from time-to-time, I will post outfits and combinations I wear here so you can see how I’m doing. I will share my progress on the experiment as I go along, and I love questions!

So…that’s it. Here’s we go. To a simpler, chapter 2015!

The Price of Lettuce

Okay, I’m just going to come out and say this. I do not enjoy blogging. At all.

It’s too damn bad that I have to blog as part of my marketing/author platform. I struggle all the time to come up with ideas for blog posts.

It’s not that I don’t have ideas – I do. But, they generally all have to do with an actual story or my daily life checklist. Not blogging.

RomaineLettuceTo me, blogging is a bit like small talk. Can I do it and do it well? Yes. Of course. But to me, many times blogging reminds me of talking about inconsequential things…like the price of lettuce.

We’ve all be stuck in those conversations where someone is describing her latest grocery store trip and commenting on how the price of lettuce has gone up this week, and how she had to compare the bagged romaine hearts with the regular heads of romaine.

You nod understandingly, eyebrows up as far as they will go to simulate interest, wishing for an Acme Anvil drop – for you or her, but one of you needs to be put out of your misery.

But not a blog-reader or follower. It’s not that I don’t like my fellow bloggers – I love many of them dearly.

It’s that I subscribe to the Sherlock Holmes theory of brain capacity. Watson was shocked he didn’t know the Earth revolved around the sun. He immediately replied that it was interesting but that he would endeavor to forget it as quickly as he could because the mind can only hold so many important facts at a time.

With ADHD (and pregnancy brain to top it off), I only have room in my brain to remember and handle X amount of information. I enjoy the quick, bite-size updates I get on Facebook from the people I care about and am interested in. Anything longer than that, and I begin to get anxiety.

That same anxiety plagues me when I attempt to figure out what to write for a blog post that could be even remotely interesting for anything more than two or three sentences. Right about now, I’m starting to panic that this is just all a bunch of boring hooey, and that you, the reader, are beginning to get fed up with spending precious minutes of your life reading this.

I’ve also found that when I’m in the writing cave, it’s even harder to pull myself out into the meta-sociability of blogging. For me, it’s the equivalent of bringing your laptop to a cocktail party. When I’m writing, I become incredibly unsocial, needing isolation to maintain the energy and focus I need to drive the last words home.

This is a brutally honest post, and I sincerely hope nobody takes offense to it because none is meant. There are many people out there who blog and write beautiful, interesting things, and who have the talent for bringing people into their lives via blogging, sharing stories, skills, and knowledge.

I’m just afraid I am not one of those people because I can barely stand talking about myself in real life, let alone on a blog.

Does anyone else out there have trouble between blogging and writing/social media and introversion/need to promote and fear of being boring?