The Accessory Genius: Wowing Clients at Every Turn

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I love performing fashion miracles when I’m with my client in her closet.

Of course, they aren’t miracles at all. They are just minor adjustments to items they own but aren’t using. The result can seem huge to someone who hasn’t played around with jewelry or designed clothing. Simple minor skills can come in handy. With a pair of scissors and five minutes I can turn a problem into a non-problem. It’s fun for me and my client thinks I’m a genius!

I’ve had the reverse experience…many times! Like when I can’t seem to download an app to my phone so I hand it over to my daughter Caitlin. She fiddles with it for sixty seconds and makes it work. She’s clearly a genius!

I’ll never wow you with my techie abilities but I can share three genius moves I made to help make accessories work for three different clients.

 

Accessory Genius Move #1

jewelry repair

Decluttering a necklace made it more useful

 

This Carlisle necklace (above left) worked really well with a Carlisle brown dress that I picked out for a client one season. But after a season or two, it wasn’t getting much play in her wardrobe.

One day I created a new outfit for her and was looking for the right necklace to go with it. I lamented, “Gosh, I wish I had a black leather cord with a little something on it. That would be perfect!” As I was going through her necklaces I picked up this one and coveted the leather cord. I had to have it, I had to have it now! When I looked closer I realized all those wooden and resin pieces would slide right off the cord and I could rearrange them any way I wanted to. I asked my client’s permission to redesign it and she said go for it!

I fiddled with it for a bit until I narrowed it down to just those three rings on the cord (above right) which turned out to be just right. Now she had a simple necklace that could add interest to lots of outfits. We kept the other pieces in case we ever wanted to put it back the way it was. But we never have. It’s such a great piece for summer outfits. I can’t wait to use it more this coming season.

 

Accessory Genius Move #2

Then there was the fringed bag that was just way too rock and roll for a client of mine. She needed a smaller shoulder bag to wear on date night and it needed to be in gray tones. I looked high and low until I found this one for her at TJ Maxx. The only issue was that the fringe was about 18 inches too long for this mother of four. I wasn’t worried about the fringe. I knew I could transform it. I asked her if it would be okay with her if I trimmed it. “Really?” she said. “You could do that?”

She’s a doctor and has cut many things before but cutting parts off of this handbag made her nervous. I was eager to show her that the funny little fringy bag could be perfect for her in just a few minutes.

I spent a lot of years sewing so having scissors in my hand feels like meditation to me. It puts me in the zone.

I pulled out scissors from my closet kit and performed the necessary surgery. With a fresh cut it was perfect for her! So every time we use it in an outfit and I write out the details on her Wardrobe Chart, we always call it the Haircut Bag and have a chuckle.

A short surgical procedure on the fringe made the bag wearable.

A short surgical procedure on the fringe made the bag wearable.

 

Accessory Genius Move #3

A client had purchased a scarf on a trip because she was so attracted to the gorgeous lipstick red print. But she wasn’t wearing it. I understood why when she put it on. She’s quite petite with fine bone structure and the long fringe on the scarf was just overwhelming. When she put it around her neck, she was swimming in fringe. She was bummed. It was like falling in love with a perfect guy but finding out he had issues. The scarf had what she wanted–the color–but it came with baggage–too much fringe.

“I can fix this,” I said. “Really?” she said. She assumed this was a project that I’d have to take home with me and return to her at a later date. No, no, no I said. She’d actually have been happy if there was no fringe at all. I wasn’t going to do that but I knew I could make it seem like it was nearly gone. A few minutes later I draped it around her shoulders and she swooned. “That’s amazing!” she said.

Accessory adjustments

Getting rid of the fringe baggage made this scarf a perfect fit for my client.

 

Do you have some stories to share about accessories that you’ve redesigned? I’d love to hear about your genius moves. Please share!

Saying goodbye is hard to do; me in black and blue

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Mom and Dad always close

Mom and Dad always close

 

I’m sharing with you today memories of Alma J. Reiten, my mother. I’ve written about her before and I’ll be writing about her again.

I was at her side when she passed away on March 25, 2015…way too soon. I spoke at her funeral in Dent, Minnesota at the United Methodist Church two weeks ago today, on April 2, 2015. It wasn’t a eulogy; others did that. What I did was pretty easy, although my family thought it was a risky move putting me in front of the congregation. I hadn’t done very well seven months earlier at my brother’s funeral. My brother Kirk had to come and rescue me.

But when I thought about Mom, I thought about the two of them and it was easy to share about their love and my mother’s tenderness. Of course, there’s a reference to a fashion tip that I tried to share with Mom last year. She wasn’t ready to take my advice (and I wasn’t pushing it on her either) but a few people came up to me after the service and told me they were happy to find out that navy blue and black go together. Read on!

 

Seeing double

For many, many years, decades really, we kids have been seeing double. Where one parent was, the other one was only about one foot away.

It’s common to be in their home and hear Father say, “Mother, come sit down, let’s visit.”

And they’d visit…all times of the day and night.

Morning visits were in the blue recliners in the living room. Afternoon visits were in the front porch; evening visits were in the sunroom; and late night visits were back in the blue chairs in the living room.

What they had is rare. They enjoyed each other’s company and talked to each other, a lot! They took care of each other. They loved each other. When Mother had her miraculous recovery at the end of January in Fargo, I remember her face when Dad entered the room. She lit up. He was her everything! He stood up next to her, holding her hand — always holding her hand — and she said to him, “Will we get out of the woods?” “Yes, Mother,” he said, “We’ll get out of the woods.” And I could see it, the two of them, together and out of the woods.

 

Always holding hands, Fargo in January

Always holding hands, January 2015 in Fargo

 

Dad would share with me the dreams he had during those tough weeks. In every single one of them he was helping her get home to the lake house where they’d be together again, visiting.

Dad and I were sitting in those blue chairs the other day. He told me the story of the first kitchen table they bought. It was $70 and they bought it on payments.

He remembered Mother wondering out loud if they’d run out of things to talk about while sitting at that table. It never happened. For 64 years, they talked about their kids, their grandkids, their great grandkids. They talked about memories from the farm and their friends and relatives from Hastings and beyond. They talked about current events, birds, weather and the moon over the lake.

 

Celebrating Christmas on the farm in Hastings, ND, 1961

Celebrating Christmas on the farm in Hastings, ND, 1961

 

I believe Mother made it out of the woods, much sooner than we expected or wanted. She’s in heaven helping pick out spring flowers for God’s garden and my brother Todd is at her side helping her plant them.

 

She knew how to pick things out

Mother was an expert at picking things out. After all, she picked out Dad and we know how well that turned out.

I was on the phone Sunday night with her friend Lois Peterson. Lois exclaimed how talented Mother was. She said, “There wasn’t a picture hung in her house that wasn’t in the perfect place. And it was the perfect picture for that place!”

 

Lois and I in happier times are missing Mother in these sad times.

Lois and I in happier times are missing Mother in these sad times.

 

When Caitlin and I went to Fargo with her last summer, one of our errands was grocery shopping. Mother warned us that she was going to pick out a plant to put in the kitchen window box and she needed time to get just the right one. She didn’t underestimate the time it would take! We did all the shopping for the family and she still needed a little more time. But it was the perfect choice. She got the right one and she enjoyed every minute of choosing it.

She did a great job of picking out clothes and accessories for herself. She always looked nice and of course, she picked out Dad’s clothes all the time. He was always the best dressed man at the Hostfest when we’d be there at the festival together in Minot, ND in the fall.

I must have been paying attention or inherited some sort of gene of hers because for thirty years I’ve been helping people pick out their wardrobes and getting paid to do it. She came to see me as the expert and when I was around, she’d ask for my opinions and my help.

I did help her pack her suitcase in recent Januarys when I was visiting them and she was going out of town. One trip was for the funeral of her brother-in-law Chester and the following year it was for the funeral of her sister-in-law Vivian. We were in the sunroom and I was helping her choose some colors that would mix and match and helping her figure out which accessories she should bring. We packed Dad’s suitcase too.

 

Mom and Dad all packed and ready to go to Seattle, January 2014

Mom and Dad all packed and ready to go to Seattle for Vivian’s funeral, January 2014

 

This week I came across the cheat sheet I’d left for her where I wrote out which outfit she’d wear on which day. I remembered when we talked on the phone she told me that she followed the plan and it all worked out beautifully.

I remember something about that packing day. I told her that she could wear black and navy blue together for an additional outfit. “Brenda, I’m not ready to mix those two colors together yet.” I didn’t push it. I loved her honesty and I loved that she knew her limits.

Today, Mom, if you’re checking us out, I helped Dad with his outfit. I think you’d approve and as you can see, I’m wearing navy blue and black together. I can hear you saying, “I couldn’t do it, Honey, but you look great.”

 

Always encouraging me, even when she didn't agree with me--like black and navy blue working together

Always encouraging me, even when she didn’t agree with me–like about black and navy blue working together

Dad on April 2nd

Dad on April 2nd

 

Thanks for your inspiration, your encouragement, your soft kisses and warm hugs. Thanks for being my mother, my mentor, my champion and my friend. I love you!

Keep warm this spring: tips for transitional dressing

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If somebody visiting the Bay Area asks me how to dress for the weather, I say what everyone says: Bring layers.

This is the same skill set my clients need to have in order to dress for spring weather in April. I LOVE helping them work out those details! And of course, I LOVE sharing them with you!

my Chico Prada jacket

My Prada Chico’s jacket

 

Details on  my Prada Chico jacket

Details on my Prada Chico jacket

Recently on an Office Tuesday, I opened up my closet and saw my Prada Chico’s jacket. I know the label says Chico’s but in my mind, it’s my Prada jacket. It has details that delight me just like a Prada jacket I helped a client buy once.

My home office is just at the other end of the hallway. It was chilly in Sonoma but I wanted to figure out a way to wear this jacket.

 

The history of my Prada Chico’s jacket

I don’t recall how many years it’s been since I purchased it. I do remember I was going to spend several days with my peers at my AICI industry conference in some very hot climate (Florida, I think) in the summertime and I was looking for something decent to wear that wouldn’t show perspiration. I’m not a tie-dye person but this jacket with 3/4 sleeves has a rich sheen to it (like silk, only it’s polyester) and I love the detailed ribbon collar, pocket detail and the tucks and pleats in the back of it. It doesn’t wrinkle. It sits away from the body so it’s perfect for hot weather and it’s very dessert friendly (important). I figured I could wear a camisole underneath it and pair it with a white linen trouser and heeled sandals, add jewelry and a luxe handbag and look good while pretending to be comfortable in hot weather (I’m not). It was a small investment for limited use and it turned out to be a big hit.

 

What happened next

I’ve worn it a lot. I always feel great in it and always get compliments on it. Who knew?

I wore it recently while shopping with a client in the designer section of Nordstrom where it’s hard to find a T-shirt for less than $350. The sales associate couldn’t stop gushing about my jacket and wanted to know who the designer was. I could not tell a lie. I said “Chico’s” but regretted it. She looked disappointed. I guess she’s not into the thrill of finding something inexpensive that when paired right looks expensive.

Okay, so what I’m really here to tell you about today is how to layer for this transitional and unpredictable weather. It’s not really winter but it’s not feeling too springlike yet either.

So on that Office Tuesday I solved that problem this way:

 

spring layering

Layered up for spring

 

I’d never put a white shirt under it but it seemed perfect now for both function and fashion. I love how the white brightens up the look. I love shirt tails and long sleeves hanging beyond jacket edges. It looks modern. I also love how a camisole plus the white shirt helps me stay warm. The jacket itself doesn’t offer warmth of any kind.

And then the fashion fairies gave me a present. I went to grab my taupe cashmere scarf because I was still feeling chilled. But what I found was a multi-colored one that was a gift years ago from a great friend. I love when she gives me scarves (and she does this often!) because it always makes me think of her. I had actually had the scarf folded, ready to put away for the winter because it was looking heavy to me, not springy. But when I picked it up and held it against my jacket, I couldn’t believe how well the pieces blended! It was as if the people at Prada Chico’s had planned it that way!

I took the scarf and put it in a hangman’s knot and my neck was nice and toasty. It didn’t look heavy at all.

A crisp collar was a new touch to my "old" jacket

A crisp collar was a new touch to my “old” jacket

These two pieces were made for each other!

These two pieces were made for each other!

 

The takeaway

So this spring, see if you can walk down the aisle of your everyday life wearing a white shirt under something that will enjoy something sleeveless in its place in a few weeks. It will make waiting for warm weather easier. And don’t forget the fabulousness of scarves: they are there to protect your pretty neck from the cold and also bring attention to your smile.

Enjoy this unpredictable weather!

 

Dressing for transition: Tips & Tricks

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Wearing flannel with flats

Wearing flannel with flats

 

I called my friend Patricia yesterday in Duluth, Minnesota. “It snowed here today!” she said. She’d been working outdoors and it took her hours to warm up when she got home.

Snow in April. The calendar and the weather are at odds and our wardrobes are confused! Is it spring? Is it winter? What is it?

Back here in Sonoma, last Monday on Easter Sunday, pastel frocks were less appealing than cashmere and layers. Brr! It was cold!

Even though we had a taste of spring weather last month, we can’t count on it to be consistent. My clients’  closets and my own are hanging in limbo. There are some clothes just aching to be worn when the weather is warm enough put it’s not time yet to dismiss those precious work horses that helped us through winter months. We still need our down, cashmere, tights, and more.

The trick is to press the fashion refresh button and find a way to honor the weather and the calendar month even if we have to fake it until we make it to warm sunshine.

 

How? Dress for transition, this middle season that for some of us goes on longer than other seasons.

In truth, when it comes to fashion, transition is my favorite time of year. I love fashion that’s just right for in-between seasons.

 

Adding a third piece gives me more warmth on a chilly spring day.

Adding a third piece gives me more warmth on a chilly spring day.

Here are three tips for getting fashion right, right now.

1. If one part of your body is warm, you can afford to lighten up on the other part.

My flannel shirt and a layering camisole under it keeps my torso warm in this sleeveless dress (above) that I turned into a jumper. My feet feel fine in flats. I don’t need to add the opaque tights or tall boots for some of these transition days. But if it were colder and I did add a boot, I’d sneak a wool sock on and not opaques just to keep the look lighter for April. Showing some bare skin somewhere-even if it’s merely at the ankles-will lighten up the look.

2. Add white somewhere.

My shirt has white in it so that lightens and brightens. I’m digging out my white jeans today and planning to wear them with a cashmere sweater in a lighter shade of gray. I’ll add a long silver necklace and some bangles shout, “Spring! I’ve got you in my sight!

3. Outerwear that looks lighter in color or weight can help you through the chilly mornings and evenings.

This coat of mine (below) is getting lots of use right now. It’s double breasted, has a fiberfill between the layers, is lightweight and white. It happily accompanies many of my pant outfits whether dressy-ish or casual. I wouldn’t say it’s got great hanger appeal, but trust me, it looks sharp in person. It replaces my menswear fabric coats that look more January than April.

 

A good transition piece

A good transition piece

 

As I create outfits for clients in this transitional time of year, I’m mostly focused on lightening the look up from at least the waist up. My clients still have some warmer knit jean cut bottoms, heavier jeans or black pants in their closets. In some cases we’ve changed out tall boots and replaced them with shorter ones, or dark ones are going into hibernation and we’re leaning on lighter ones when we’re going for the skinny bottom/tunic top/boots look. But we haven’t brought out any linen yet. Not here anyway. We’ll pull out the linen fabrics in May or June.

Can you celebrate April even if it’s snowing outside? You can if you try a few of these tips and tricks. You can still be warm while looking like you got the memo that spring has sprung.

Do you love this time of year like I do? What are some of your tricks and tips?

 

Stay tuned: More tomorrow on transition dressing! Enjoy!

The ABCs of Alma

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My mother is my champion, my inspiration, my everything. I made her promise to never leave me but I’m afraid she’s not able to keep that promise. In her last days spent in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, she has been comfortable and I have been by her side.

Some of you know her and love her. Others of you never met her but if you had, you’d have loved her too. She’s irresistible that way. Her charm, humor and smile is ever present and infectious. She made friends with every stranger she ever met.

Every day she spent time with her crossword puzzles. In thinking about her, many words come to mind. I’ll share with you this meager list. I’m sure you’d have more to add. We love you, Alma, just like you loved us.

The ABCs of Alma

Amazing Alma

Beautiful Alma

Crossword puzzle loving Alma

Devoted wife to Donald Alma – 64 years of love

Effusive Alma

Fashionable Alma

“Girlie” or Alma, she answered to both

Hugging Alma

Mom's ginger molasses cookie recipe with feet

Mom’s ginger molasses cookie recipe with feet

Alma and the love of her life, Donald

Alma and the love of her life, Donald

One of her favorite Minnesota trees

One of her favorite Minnesota trees

My inspiring Mother

My inspiring Mother

Interested in everyone Alma

Jokester Alma

Kind Alma

Lefse making Alma

Makeup loving Alma

Neat and tidy Alma

Open-hearted Alma

Proud of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren Alma

Quilting Alma

Really good friend Alma

Shopping maven Alma

Teasing Alma

Understanding Alma

Vivacious Alma

Watcher of birds Alma

X-traordinary Alma

Yellow – bright and sunny like Alma

Zesty Alma

 

As we move forward may we do our best to love the way you did, Mom. Big shoes to fill, but we’ll try.

Born in Hastings, North Dakota on August 31, 1932

Died in Fergus Falls, Minnesota on March 25, 2015

 

Storage Ideas: From Books to Boots

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previously

Bookshelves store books, right? Well, my nifty bookshelves have been storing my books in my office for years. They’d still be there I’m sure except for a tiny water problem that happened on Christmas Day. We’d had storms galore and it turns out the gutter thingy that runs along the outside my office got clogged with pine needles and one day I discovered dampness in the carpet. Yup, you guessed it: water had backed up and it was time to rent a professional sized dehumidifier.

I learned this about dehumidifiers: It’s not good to be in the same room when it’s doing its job because we are 85% water and they can suck the water out of you. That’s what the rental guy told me anyway.

So I pulled out the bookshelves (they still have this kind at the Container Store) and all the books and let the dehumidifier do its thing. With time on my hands and no office to work in, I culled through all my books and did a deep purge. When everything was dried up and it was time to put the bookshelves back I realized it was time to redesign the layout of my office. And in the new design, I didn’t have a need for the open bookshelves.

 

currently

 

So with my books in a new storage situation, I had these bookshelves that were empty. Even though I’ve had them for twelve years, they don’t look shabby. I couldn’t throw them out. I had to find a new use for them.

And then it came to me! They are narrow enough to use in the back of my closet for storage. But storage for what?

I had an idea. I pulled out my boots and put the shelf against the back wall. And then I put my boots down to sleep in their little shelf beds.

I already have them stuffed with magazines to keep their shape but ever since I had my boots shined at the shoe shine place in the Denver airport, I’ve been heeding the shoe shiner’s suggestion of laying them down instead of standing them up. She claims it’s better for the boots this way.

 

Boot-Storage

 

Now everyone’s happy! I’m happy to have a “new” office space. I’m happy my bookshelves have a second life. And my boots seem awfully content in their new habitat, don’t they?

Is this something that might work for you?

Anatomy of an Outfit: Military meets pearls

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A necklace plays with a jacket

A necklace plays with a jacket

 

Appreciating people and what they’re wearing is a way I feed and train my “style” eyes. When I see something pleasing, I like to study it and understand what it is that’s delighting me. The conversation in my head often starts like this:

“Whoa! That’s cool! I like how that person put those two things together. Now why is that working?”

The answer might be that elements of the outfit play on texture, color, a repetition of details, maybe there’s a mix of scale that makes it interesting. It will involve an art principle most likely.

Sometimes when I figure it out, I will be influenced to try it on a client the next time I’m styling new outfits from her existing wardrobe. I’ll practice repeating the elements that were at play that caught my eye originally.

 

The difference between the whoa and the wow response

 

But sometimes someone appears in a combination that elicits more of a “wow” reaction from me than a “whoa” reaction and I’m breathless! I can barely think at all!

What’s the difference between whoa and wow? With a whoa reaction, I am pleasantly curious. I take my time to study and ponder the outfit situation. It’s like sipping a gin and tonic: it doesn’t have to go down quickly.

A “wow” response is instant, explosive! It’s like experiencing that first bite of a cookie pulled out from behind the glass case at Della Fattoria Bakery. The first bite has so much flavor to it, the pleasure is instant, and eating the rest of the cookie isn’t even necessary. Your world has been expanded and forever changed by that one incredible bite!

Okay, you might eat the rest of it anyway, but you’re more likely to want to share it with others. “Taste this, it’s amazing!”

Well, that’s how I felt when I was deep in conversation with two friends over breakfast at a hotel where we were attending an AICI conference. That’s when Elena walked toward me and although I don’t remember if it happened this way, my mouth could easily have dropped open and scrambled eggs could have fallen out as my style eyes experienced a “wow” fashion moment.

I remember two things: a military jacket and the most amazing pearl necklace I’d seen. It was so bold and magnificent. I knew this much, even though my brain was scrambled in delight: the same way complimentary colors sitting next to each other makes you appreciate each of them more intensely than if they were alone or with other colors, the bold buttons on the the jacket were intense just like the pearls were intense. And I appreciated them both! I really couldn’t tell you much about the rest of the outfit other than the fact that it supported that action that was happening from the waist up.

When I study it now, I think that if the military jacket was in a boxing ring with the pearl necklace –THAT pearl necklace– the pearl necklace would win. And somehow that “girl power” thing makes me happy. Coco Chanel would be proud.

 

Asking the fashion mixologist to explain

 

A week or more must have passed before I thought to ask Elena what had made her put that outfit together the way she did. I certainly had been thinking about it and was hoping she’d remember.

Here’s her explanation in her words:

let me see…the reason why i put that gorgeous necklace with that jacket…hmmm…i guess i am just a firm believer that when you buy things you love…they just end up going together…it helps that i’m a bit eclectic…but i love mixing the old with new…vintage 70’s necklace with a modern military officer jacket…and i love mixing hard with soft…the harshness of the jacket with pearls is unexpected…and i needed a little something something when i put the outfit together…so the necklace was a last minute add…

 

Elena 2

 

Somehow I just can’t imagine anything but that necklace teaming with the military jacket. But I’m sure Elena will wake up one morning and use one of those pieces in an entirely different way and it will be brilliant. Creative people are like that. I’m just happy I was in the right place at the right time and got to enjoy the impact of her combination of fashion and accessories.

Thanks, Elena!

Fringe trend: how would you like yours served up?

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Get your fringe on!

Get your fringe on in little ways!

 

Fringe is a big trend heading to stores near you. Or maybe you’re skipping the stores and heading to your closet and finding it there first.

Fringe is a big detail on dresses, jackets, tops, handbags, shoes, even jewelry. If you took a stroll around a store you might find it in all scales and weights: big, small, thick, thin, a little bit or a lot ‘o bit.

 

Why would you go for a little bit ‘o fringe if you could find yourself a lot ‘o bit of it?

Well, some of us are fashion timid rather than fashion bold.

Or we did the full blown version in our twenties and now that we’re in our fifties or sixties we feel like partaking in the trend but in a more modest way.

Some trendy items can feel more like wearing a costume. But if we wear a small amount of fringe, it still gives us pleasure. We can feel confident that we’re wearing it instead of it wearing us.

I look at this fringed jacket from Nasty Gal and have a craving to slip into it. But I truly think it may make me think of something I’d have added to our Davy Crockett outfits when my twin brother, Brent, and I were young and dressed alike. We would have had fun running around the farm pretending to be Davy Crockett with the fringe flying off our bodies as we galloped along on fake horses.

 

Lots 'o fringe

Lots ‘o fringe from Nasty Gal

 

Brent and Brenda in Davy Crockett outfits

Brent and Brenda in Davy Crockett outfits

 

I don’t know, the more I look at that fringed jacket, the more I want to try it on! What about you? Is there fringe in your fashion life?

 

Richard Ford and I play with index cards

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DSC_6544

Richard Ford was being interviewed by Terri Gross on her radio program Fresh Air. He had a new book he was promoting called Let Me Be Frank With You (HarperCollins 2014).

In this book he tackles the topic of aging. I vowed to pick it up. But what intrigued me even more than his thoughts on aging was when he and Terri Gross started talking about what he does with index cards. Yes, those white index cards that many of you may have done away with because you do everything on your electronic devices.

What he does is collect quotes on the topic of writing and then he transcribes the quotes onto index cards, one quote per card. Like if Ernest Hemingway said something about the writing process and Richard Ford found it fascinating, he’d want to write it down. He likes having the quotes on cards and being able to ponder them whenever he feels like it. Richard was talking my language when he spoke fondly about taking a random bunch of these index cards with quotes on them and carrying them with him on a trip.

When he’s on a plane he likes to read them. They inspire him and makes him appreciate the writing world he’s a part of. They reinforce his love of writing.

I could see him sitting in a seat near me on a flight. He’d be pulling out those index cards–maybe a little worn on the edges by now–and entertaining himself for minutes or hours. I’d look over at him and he’d be smiling, content.

 

DSC_6524

 

Making Beauty Cards

I play with index cards too. And like Richard Ford, I bring them on trips – always in carry on, never in the luggage compartment. I wouldn’t want to lose them. They don’t have monetary value but they have great spiritual value to me. I use the word spiritual because I can’t quite find a word big enough to explain what I mean. That’s a good enough place to start.

Sometimes I keep them in my hotel room and look at them before bed but mostly I stash a few in my purse so whenever I need to, I can pull them out and look at them.

I call them Beauty Cards. And they’re not just for travel, they’re for day to day life here at home, too.

I usually make them on a Saturday morning. I go through magazines and cut out a portion of an image that appeals to me. I cut it to the size of the index card. Then I grab my glue stick and glue it on. I look at it in my hands and I smile, content.

 

DSC_6525

 

 

Good times to reach for Beauty Cards

It’s remarkable how soothing these cards can be for me. They’re perfect to reach for when I’m feeling:

Tired

Anxious

Overstimulated

Lost

Discouraged

Impatient

Doubting myself

 

They bring me “home.” I love holding them in my hands and slowly taking in one image and then another one. Whatever cloud is over my head, once I’ve spent a few minutes with my Beauty Cards, it seems to go away. I feel more peaceful and quiet inside.

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Looking at these images of dresses, I am reminded of my love of beauty and fashion. Maybe in the same way Richard Ford reads the quotes on his index cards and is reminded of how good it feels to be a writer, these images remind me of how much I love working with beauty and style and fashion. They say “yes” to me. They say, This is your path, this is your home. 

Recently, after my brother’s unexpected death, I was feeling lots of things: lost, anxious, doubting myself, and more. Death of a loved one has a way of bringing you to your knees and making you question everything. I wondered if what I did in my professional life really made a difference in the world. Maybe I had taken a serious wrong turn! Maybe I was fooling myself!

Mother and I were talking on the phone nearly every day in that first month. I told her how I was starting to doubt myself and my choices. She quickly jumped in to remind me of who I was. “Brenda, you are doing exactly what you should be doing! Don’t think for a minute that you haven’t made a difference. You’re hurting now so maybe you don’t realize it. You need to be getting up every day and doing exactly what you’ve been doing,” she said.

I can’t say I instantly believed her but there was a resonance to what she said, the same kind of resonance I have when I look at these Beauty Cards.

 

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Beauty Cards with words

Some images stand alone on my index cards. There are no words on them yet they have the power to speak volumes, especially the images of fashion or nature.

But sometimes I like to combine words with images.

These examples below have quotes on them that I cut out of an illustrated weekly desk calendar. When the year was up, I repurposed the calendar. Some of the illustrations found their way to a vision board. Quotes that resonated for me were perfect for my Beauty Cards. All these quotes came from Sarah Ban Breathnack, author of Simple Abundance (Grand Central Publishing, 2008).

 

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My Beauty Cards are self-nurturing tools. I wonder what your cards would look like if you made yourself a set?

Storage Solutions: Special hangers create peace

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Bringing Zen to the closet

Bringing Zen to the closet

 

Sometimes I say bad words out loud inside my closet. It can happen when I’m reaching for a hanger. I lean over and pull on one of the extra Slimline hangers I have stored in a favorite basket on the floor of my closet. It should be easy but it’s a hassle. Instead of one coming out, several do–but only halfway! They’re caught on each other. When I investigate, the culprits are easily revealed. Somewhere along the line I picked up some slim, velvet hangers with hooks on them. Big mistake I thought. They’re just annoying!

 

Slimline hangers

Slimline hangers

 

Creating order in the closet is one of the things I do in my professional life. But in my personal life, it’s so much more. Creating order in my closet is essential to my well-being. It’s maybe like walking meditation is for others. You’re doing something (walking) but it’s calming at the same time. When I’m editing, sorting, or organizing my closet my thoughts slow down, and so does my pulse. Concerns are far far away. I especially love puttering in my closet on the weekends. It’s a great way to end the week and an even better way to start one!

 

Closet meditation

Of course, saying bad words out loud doesn’t sound calming now, does it. But recently what had aggravated me turned out to be the thing that brought me tremendous peace and satisfaction. Life is funny sometimes!

In one of my closet mediation sessions, I discovered a few patches where I have more than one version of the same thing. I’m sure this is true for you too. You don’t have one pair of black pants, you have five. You don’t have one white blouse, you have several.

I have multiples in the gray sweater department. I have a gray V-neck Burberry sweater, a tunic style charcoal gray Vince sweater, a gray-on-gray striped sweater, a couple of raglan sleeved gray sweaters and a gray sweater with ruffles.

My editing mind thought: Maybe you have too many gray sweaters!

But I disagreed with that editing mind. Each sweater style had a point to make. I loved them all and used them all. There would be no further editing at this time.

Then my organizing mind took her turn and offered a brand new idea: “Hey, Brenda, how about you take these hangers with hooks and use them to connect similar gray sweaters? You’d be using less space on your closet rod if you stacked two additional sweaters on each single hanger.”

Ah-ha! Brilliant, I thought! So I gathered together the hangers with hooks and put them to work! My six sweaters now took the space of two sweaters. And they looked so pretty hanging together that way. They looked so chummy and friendly!

It wasn’t peace in the Middle East but it was peace and ease in my closet!

 

Hanging like items together

Hanging like items together in a client’s closet

 

Will it work for others?

The next obvious step was to spread peace across the land…or at least take this idea into my clients’ closets.

They weren’t new to the idea of Slimline hangers. I’d introduced them years ago and they were happy to make the switch. But I couldn’t remember: had they purchased ones with hooks or did they have the hookless kind? The next visit to their closet would give me the answer.

Each closet I went to the following week had slim hangers with hooks. In one case, I had to go up to the attic to find them but I hunted and gathered and had a few to work with.

I said to one client, “Can I show you a nifty trick?” Intrigued, she said yes. Then I looked for objects in her closet that were similar and hung together like dressy T-shirts, white blouses, striped shirts, casual pants, work pants.  I asked her to turn away while I re-hung a category.

“Okay, you can look now,” I said.

She turned around, saw the transformation and loved it!

I tried it with the next client. Again, success!

 

But here’s the yellow caution light

Now I don’t expect everyone to be a closet nerd like I am but I left those closet appointments feeling like I had spread more than a little joy by sharing this tip.

If you’re going to try this yourself at home, I want to caution you about something first.

Nearly everyone has too much stuff. I happily endorse using this tip in well-edited closets ONLY.

Be sure you aren’t re-hanging clothes that have expired physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Get rid of anything that is no longer useful or attractive, first. And then dive into your stash of velvet hangers with hooks and start making your closet look pretty.

Do you have ways that bring joy to your closet? Please share!