When I started the New Year I knew that before I committed to any lofty goals or intentions for 2016, I needed to stand back and just press Refresh. Life looks different to me as a result of the experiences of last year—the loss of Mother and my youngest brother—and I don’t quite know where I’m headed.
This is unfamiliar ground. Usually I’m ready and eager to tackle a major project or two starting in January. But I don’t have that fiery energy at the moment. I think if I just look at my life and consider what’s working, what’s enjoyable and create more opportunities for more of those things to happen in 2016, I’d be happy. Happy enough. And if there are ways to make things better, I’ll consider those as well. But I’m not looking at big giant steps here, I’m looking at baby steps, gentle steps.
The “Twenty Things I Love to Do” List
In the earlier years of my career I gave my new clients homework. Some of that homework is what I still use today in the style interview. But back then I had them do one other thing: Make a list of 20 things you love to do.
When they showed up for the style interview, I asked them questions that helped me understand their unique style formula. I was also interested in any way I might help them enjoy aspects of their life that they may not be enjoying currently simply because they didn’t have the clothes for it.
So here’s what would happen. I’d ask them to pull out their list of twenty things they love to do. I wouldn’t look at the list myself. I would ask them to look it over and write down when the last time was that they did that thing. The answer might be last night (“have sex”), last year (“attend the ballet”), five years ago (“visit London”), or I can’t remember (“go to a concert”), and so on.
Looking at their list now that they’d written in the last time they did that thing, I asked them to see if there was anything on their list that they have not been doing or haven’t thought about doing because they didn’t have the clothes for it. Answers might be:
Go swing dancing
Hike in National Parks
Join girlfriends for cocktails
Plan and go on weekend adventures with my husband
Escaping to a metropolitan city for a weekend of museums, sightseeing tours and dining
Accompanying my husband to business meetings in European cities
I’d ask, “If you had clothes in your closet that would make doing these activities easier or possible, would you like that?” If they said yes then I’d add that to our shopping plan.
Maybe the fashion fix meant shopping for new hiking shoes and outdoorsy clothes so they could get out there on the trails again. Maybe they needed outfits to dance in so they could return to swing dancing. Maybe they needed some fancy tops to wear with their basic pants so they’d feel more appropriate for drinks on the lobby of a fancy hotel with their friends.
This exercise was a bonus for many people. They realized they were stuck in ruts or had lost touch with those activities that were stimulating and fun for them and they wanted to change that.
I stopped using this exercise in my style appointments not because I didn’t think it was great and potentially helpful, but I took it out in order to streamline the appointment. It wasn’t uncommon for me to spend three hours doing this appointment but I realized not everyone had the luxury of that much time.
But I love remembering it now! And who knows? Maybe I’ll bring it back as an “optional” exercise. I do know that I plan to sit down and make my list of 20 things I love to do and see what wardrobe fixes may help me do them more or with more confidence.
I know I want to spend more time outdoors this year on hiking trails in the hills nearby. And I also know I’m ready to do more socializing so I want some outfits that are distinctive from Monday-Friday work clothes. I think I’m also interested in expressing the softer, more feminine side of myself so maybe there’s lace, ruffles or blush tones in my future. I’ve started my 2016 color inspiration with my rose gold iPhone!
Would this be a January exercise for you to do? Do you want to make your list of twenty things and see what surfaces? It could be interesting! I’d love to hear what you learn!
JulieJanuary 23, 2016 at 7:08 am
BrendaJanuary 23, 2016 at 2:28 pm
Jennifer BowieJanuary 23, 2016 at 10:31 am
This is a great idea! Both generally and for thinking about your wardrobe! I’m going to do the list when I get a chance.
My wardrobe is nicely developed for the things I do or I’ve been working on it (recently adding playing in playgrounds with my toddler and that works best slightly different clothes than I had). I know how nice it is to say “I want to do this” and know I have the right things to wear to do it (and normally do it in style). But I can see how this would be a real stumbling block. And I remember those desperate moments of “I have nothing to wear!” before I developed my wardrobe. Now I see those moments really are “I have nothing to wear for X.”
I’ll be interested to see if any of my top 20 things are things I don’t have clothes for and had just stopped doing because of that!
Thanks for a great, thought-provoking post!
BrendaJanuary 23, 2016 at 2:31 pm
I really love the distinction you made, Jennifer. All of us can say, “I don’t have anything to wear” but you’ve really nailed it and made it a problem that would be easier to solve. “I have nothing to wear to X” is so very different, not as heavy somehow. I can’t wait to hear feedback after you’ve written out your 20 list. Would you check back in and let me know? Have fun!
DebbieJanuary 25, 2016 at 8:16 am
Your thoughtful post was timely for me. Last year I was still teaching junior high English grammar and literature at a parochial school. This year I am retired; I have a closet full of lovely clothing that I still am attached to, but I am not really wearing half of the items. I have always tended to dress up, rather than down, in all aspects of my real life. As I look at my somewhat pared down racks of skirts and hangers with dresses, I wonder if I am going to keep them or thank them profusely and let some more of them go. It is difficult to figure out what I really SHOULD keep and wear, what items would serve me best.. I now have a new (first!) grandson that I travel to and spend time with, I try to walk in my beach town every day, and I enjoy being out and about with friends as well as by myself. I travel with my husband on business occasionally, and I spend a good amount of time in NYC. I think I will work on that list suggestion. It should be a helpful tool to help me figure this out. I recently took only a carry-on tote bag when I tagged along with my husband to San Diego. I was amazed how liberating traveling with less was for me. I am now looking at my closet from a different point of view.
Actually I wanted to comment on and ask a question regarding what you mentioned in another post. You spoke about a client putting aside fine jewelry and going with more artsy pieces. Do you have any ideas on how to combine these two categories? Is it ever possible to make some of the finer jewelry more artsy? For instance, I have lots of (shorter) 14K gold necklaces, charms, pendants, etc. and they seem so ‘out of style’ or inconsequential when I wear them these days. Some of the pendants, for instance, are jade or lapis lazuli They don’t seem to make a statement. Maybe I could string some of them on a longer chain or ribbon. I was hoping you might mull this over and perhaps write a post about the dilemma. I am sure I am not the only boomer with a chest full of jewelry that has been inherited or received as gifts from our husbands. It is hard to ignore it and go constantly with the current trends of less expensive pieces. Thank you for your consideration. I own all of your books and love reviewing them. They are full of such gems of advice. I am hoping there is another one in your future.
BrendaJanuary 27, 2016 at 7:27 pm
You present a common challenge–how to work with those pieces of fine jewelry. It can be really tough!. Often you just can’t get the scale to be impressionable enough on their own. You may have to surround those fine pieces with textured scarves to create a more artful look. I will ponder this and see if I can come up with anything clever. Thanks for sharing your dilemmas since retirement. I think this presents a lot of ah-ha moments in one’s closet! I’m glad you’re on the journey and asking yourself some good questions!
DebbieFebruary 1, 2016 at 8:16 am
Many thanks for your reply, Brenda. I look forward to see what you come up with and I will continue to enjoy your interesting posts and Pinterest boards. Meanwhile, I will look at some of this jewelry with scarves and see if I can craft an interesting new accessory. Great idea.
MareFebruary 19, 2017 at 7:22 pm
Wow. What a simple way to reconnect with your authentic self!