making happy: to absterge

Dear Internet,

April is clutching winter to its bosom with the bony tips of its fingers and won’t let it go. I decided that I’ve had enough waiting for the signals to move on to the next season and decided to force the signs myself.

I’m referring, of course, to spring cleaning. Mainly my closet.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been steadily working on minimizing my life, with the emphasis on not buying crap. The projected I started in 2013 and planned to continue in 2014 has been fairly successful. In addition to credit card debt being way down, I’m making smarter choices on where my money is going.

While I may not be gorging on shopping sprees as I once did, it has not erased the fact that I own a lot of stuff like clothing and accoutrements, all with varying sizes and fits. My weight has remained within a 10lb range within the last few years (and I am still at my heaviest weight ever) but of course, when I’m at the higher end of that range, clothes do not fit as well as they do at the lower end. Footwear wise, while my second ankle surgery was over a year ago, and it is two years this summer since the first surgery, my foot has yet to stabilize in size and I’m stuck, still, wearing a limited range of shoes.

This whole project is about curating a personal style that represents me, regardless of weight and mobility. In my case, my style has barely changed since my early ’20s: T-shirts, jeans, a cardigan of some type, and Chucks/Docs.

And there is nothing wrong with my style, I’m rather fond of it actually, but there are times when I need to play at being a grown up and that is when I start failing. This past week I had an all day interview for a position in California and I needed to pull together interview outfit(s) that I can wear with panache while staying true to my aesthetic. But with having so much crap, I often forget — very easily — exactly what I own. So the goal was to pull together several outfits to wear without spending a dime on new clothes.

How could I do this? What I needed was an app that could replicate for me what Cher’s closet in Clueless did for her, except with less building construction.

You’d think this would be easy, yes? We’re deep into a world now that revolves around having an app for just about everything, the ability to catalog and mix up outfits from our existing closets should be a piece of cake.

Well, not exactly. This has been a to-do on my list for a couple of years to find such a creature. I started searching in late 2012, early 2013 for an app that could do the following for me:

  • Run natively in iPad/iPhone
  • Allow me to add/edit my own photos
  • Sync between devices
  • Allow me to organize by type/season/etc
  • The app didn’t have to be free, but it should be reasonably priced AND it should have been updated recently
  • A calendar to show what outfits I wore, when

There was hardly anything on the market that matched my criteria. The results of the same search in early 2014 was not much better.

While there are dozens of apps for the iPad and iPhone individually, the list for both was scant. While you can run iPhone apps on iPads, I rejected most of what was available due to inability to sync between devices, last time the app was updated, and if it was geared more for shopping on sites and creating outfits from those sites rather than uploading and creating your own. There were two choices: Stylebook and My Fashion Closet

My Fashion Closet has not been updated in nearly two years, you could not add photos from the camera roll, and overall it was poorly designed.

Stylebook, however, was actively being updated and enhanced. It was well regarded in the fashion blogosphere. It was attractively priced ($3.99) with no surprise in-app buyins.

I decided to give it a go.

My cardigans bring all the boys to the yard.
My cardigans bring all the boys to the yard.


The first thing this app did was cement how much shit I own: 17 cardigans?  24 dresses? 10 pairs of pants of all flavors? 14 pairs of tights? I have not added in shorts, shirts (of any flavor), skirts, shoes, leggings, and other items. I’m kind of afraid to, considering I organized my t-shirt pile the same weekend I started cataloging my closet and it is at 178 t-shirts and counting.

The second thing it did was force me to start culling items that were damaged, I have not worn or do not like from my closet. I found myself fixing repairs on rips and loose buttons, cleaning items that had not been washed in some time, and finally creating a pile of stuff to donate.

The third thing this app did for me was to show just how much flexibility my wardrobe actually was and that was a big surprise. The weekend I started using the app, I was also able to pull together a weeks worth of outfits without any repeats (which tend to be mainly pants). I was able to pull together three distinct outfits for the interview (and yep, packed all three).

Because I still have so much left to catalog, I decided to break it up so that it is not overwhelming. It took me about 6 hours to scan, edit, catalog, and organize nearly 80 items. I decided the best way to handle this is by scanning in items in chunks, and with my t-shirts, as I wear them. My new goal is now wear all t-shirts in my collection at least once before repeating them, which should take a little over six months.

When I mention this project, people think I’m slightly insane for cataloging my closet. But they are also slightly intrigued as well.

But this app is not perfect and it needs some under the hood fixing to make it perfect.

  • The syncing between devices only happens when you turn on “Wifi Accept,” which works by transmitting between like devices on the same network. Why not take advantage of iCloud to do this for you for the automatic sync? Wifi Accept is cumbersome and clunky.
  • iPad version does not work in landscape mode.
  • Image size does not scale well when building outfits. In theory, all items should be the same size once they are added into the database, but this is not true. One of my interview outfits, the tights are 3x the size of the dress and the cardigan is miniscule in looks mode.
  • Creation of categories and subcategories is not intuitive nor easy to figure out.
  • Editing items also not intuitive.
  • Sizes are not saved, but brands are. This is a pain in the tuckus when adding an item, sizing for brands varies (and I wear both men and women’s clothes so I need to be able to differentiate that).
  • The controls to manually edit images is flighty and seems to be hit or miss, even with their tutorials.

Overall, even with the problems, I’m extremely happy with this app and how it is changing my perspective of clothes and fashion, and especially giving me room to play with my existing closet. If you’re looking for a cheap way to recharge your wardrobe, this is a great low-cost investment that allows you to play dress up without spending a dime on new clothes.


P.S. This morning when I walked out to grab the newspaper, I saw crocuses sprouting in the front yard, their shoots a defiant shade of green against the brown mire of the leaves and yard. The gods, it seems, have also had enough of this dreary year.

This day in Lisa-Universe:2013, 2012

Magic, dreams, and wonderful, gorgeous mistakes

20120101-174339 For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been working on variations of this post, with versions that ranged from HERE IS MY RESOLUTION LIST to 2011 WAS OMGWTFBBQ.

2011 was just such an odd year and even the thought of recounting what was learned and experienced over the last 12 months seemed ridiculous – is this not the reason why I have a blog in the first place? All of those versions of a year end post seemed relevant as well as moot. Blame it on being a librarian and our stereotype love of lists, even though I’ve argued (to myself) that keeping a list of resolutions on my website would be public shaming into doing them, the truth is, I almost never end up finishing the projects I set out to do. I dream SO BIG and in the end, there are only so much of me to spread around.

And if I confine to you an open secret, many of my resolutions do not change from year to year, and I think that is the one thing that keeps me running is knowing that I have not, and probably will not, fulfill all that my heart desires – but I’m okay with that. Because I desire so much, that I want to accomplish so much, that there is only so many lives (well, one) that can handle all of the dreams I’ve set out to do, so therefore I must never, ever die (or get old, but that is neither here nor there).

When I was reading Neil’s Tumblr over the weekend, I came across his post on his New Year’s Eve benedictions of past, that for one, the image above, someone had turned into a poster of sorts.1 And as I was reading his other benedictions of the past, I realized, yes! This is what I need! It is not about lists, goals, and tick boxes but it is all about magic, and dreams, and wonderful gorgeous mistakes. That we break out of our day to day existence, and to live, to hope, to dream, to dance, to be silly and lovely and all the wonderful, magical things that can only come from a life that has been lived.

And that I do hope this year is filled with wonderful, gorgeous mistakes, that kind that make the best stories to tell, so that I can not only learn from them but also to share them, to engage, and to laugh and mourn over things that were incredible and things that were not so incredible.

So to you, my dear friends, I raise a toast to you on end of the very first day of 2012 and say to you that I love you and I hope the year is one of dreams and love and everything you could possibly desire and so much more.

This is my 2012 wish for you.

1. He did not have attribution for the image in his post, but I would love to find out if such a poster does exist!

The Fragility of All Things

Someone who had been an integral part of my past (I’ve known him for more then half my life!) has come back to me again, through the ultra convenience of Facebook. It was a struggle and a challenge this spring when he contacted me, working through what I was feeling as our last few encounters were fairly messy. I was pretty brutal to him the last time, he was brutal to me the time before. The pattern was always the same, whenever we met.

What has been most intriguing about these textual encounters is how much my own perception of myself was sharpened from the presence of a simple Facebook message in my inbox and the conversations that followed. Things I said to M. nearly a decade ago, explanations of my then life choices, are now crystallized. What’s striking is that I knew then, superficially, why I did things the way I did but it was only now, nearly a decade later, that the full realization of those actions are finally being fully understood.

Rationally, I know that I have always understood the reasoning, but it is obvious with a decade long follow up that I was perhaps afraid to vocalize the truth. I will also shamefully admit that I have not had big thinks in a really long time, most of the what goes in and out of my brain has been fluff and candy these last few years. In my youth, I used to write about my big thinks, streams of unconsciousness that would flow unencumbered but in the last few years, it has been far too painful. I wonder, now, if much of my world would have changed if I had not become so afraid?

The surprising thing about this textual relationship is that it challenged me in ways I did not expect. I knew, for example, why I married TheHusband: I love him, he makes me laugh, he challenges me to be a better person, he knows when to let me be fanciful and when I need to be grounded.

But what I did not really realise until that week just how clearly the TheHusband sees the inner me, the one that hardly anyone ever sees; that at the core of it all, really, is my extreme fragility. That my purity of heart, nobleness, and honesty is covered by the wrapping of obnoxiousness and brassiness to the rest of the world, shines like a beacon to TheHusband. He knows that I bruise easily and this is not a strong thing or a weak thing, and it is not a taking care of yourself thing, it’s a soul who’s a little too not of this planet kind of thing.

M. also saw that side of me, but the key difference is that TheHusband lets me grow and contract, whereas M. still sees me as a 17 year old and he would never let me get beyond that and could not accept the beyond that. This is why M. and I would never work, why we’ll never work, and why we’ll always remain a fond memory of a story and never a temptation of beginning, but always the heartbreak of the end.

There will always be a story of M. and I, that will never change, but that is the has been, while with TheHusband, it will always be the will be.