Thought Provoking

Organize or Containerize?

A friend of mine called me earlier this year, all in a tizzy. “I need your expert advice!” she exclaimed. She went on to explain that she was watching her sister-in-law try to organize her home, and felt like something wasn’t clicking. “She keeps buying all these pretty matching boxes,” my friend puzzled, “and putting stuff in them. But it doesn’t seem to be making a difference for her. What am I missing?”

I knew exactly what was up - I’ve seen it so many times before! And it’s a really common misconception, so please don’t beat yourself up if you’ve done this too.

“You’re right, something IS missing,” I told my friend. “But what she’s doing isn’t organizing. It’s containerizing. And it’s just a short term fix for the organizing issues she’s having.”

Sound confusing and/or somewhat ridiculous? Let’s break it down. 

This space is containerized, but not organized. At this point, the client and I still needed to edit her items and store like with like in containers that made sense to her.

This space is containerized, but not organized. At this point, the client and I still needed to edit her items and store like with like in containers that made sense to her.

Organizing makes life easier. The way it does this is by making sure you can efficiently find and use the things you need to accomplish life tasks, from getting ready in the morning to paying bills to completing home renovation projects. Common tactics include storing like with like and keeping most frequently used items most accessible.

Containerizing is just what it sounds like: placing stuff in containers to make a space look nicer.

You can absolutely organize effectively without containers. It might look a little sloppier than you’d like, but if you’ve set up the system correctly, it should work for you. I went into this in a little more detail earlier this week, and you can see actual pictures there of closets I’ve completed for happy clients that involve fewer containers than most organizing inspo photos on social media.

You can containerize without organizing, but it will not make your life easier in the slightest - and might even make it more difficult! How? Well, visualize a cluttered space in your home. Now imagine that instead of crowded shelves and surfaces, there are matching baskets full of all the stuff that currently occupies that space. Sounds amazing, right? Ok, now imagine that you need to find one single item: a Sharpie. Where is it? If you just put stuff willy nilly into containers to make the space look nicer, you are going to have no actual idea where the Sharpie is, and you’ll have to ransack each and every basket in order to find it. Not so amazing after all!

Now, there’s no shame in liking to put stuff in containers. I definitely use wire baskets in my laundry room, drawer dividers in my closet, and canisters for dry goods in my kitchen. But in order to use containers of any kind effectively, you’re going to need to organize the stuff that goes in them first.

This is why, when people ask me if they should buy bins or tubs before they start working with me, I say absolutely not! There’s no way to know how we should containerize your stuff until we organize it first.

Got lots of containers and still feel overwhelmed in your space? Get in touch, I can help you get organized AND containerized!

LMW

Perfectly Imperfect

For the first few years of my business, I operated in a bubble of my own making. I served my clients, I learned from them, and I deepened and refined my own ideas about organizing. I did this rather intentionally: I wanted to develop my own voice, rather than glom on to someone else’s ideas.

This is an organized closet. The client can find and use everything. It’s just not a picture perfect closet, and that’s ok!

This is an organized closet. The client can find and use everything. It’s just not a picture perfect closet, and that’s ok!

And then I gained some confidence in my skills, got on Instagram and started following other organizer accounts and… hoooooo boy. The extreme precision and decoration on a lot of organizing layouts, sometimes seemingly to the detriment of actual usage of the system, really threw me for a loop. (Want to know what I’m talking about? Search #organizinginspo on Instagram.)

I’m glad I spent that time in my bubble, because it didn’t cause me to question my own work or become jealous of others’ success. Instead, I was able to approach this very powerful (and very pretty, it must be admitted) organizing trend from an inquisitive place. Why did I have such a visceral reaction to some of these pictures? Why did I instantly know on a gut level that this was not the kind of work I wanted to do?

It comes down to the whole reason I started my business in the first place: I fundamentally believe that the point of organizing is to make life easier. And organizing doesn’t have to mean custom labels ordered off Etsy, rainbow order everything, or matching baskets for days. Organizing means a system of dealing with stuff that works and lasts.

I was explaining this with no small degree of passion and hand waving to my business coach last week, and he looked and said, “besides, if something looks too perfect, you don’t want to use it and mess it up.”

This is also an organized closet. Using boxes for the sweaters on the shelf would actually have discouraged this client from using them!

This is also an organized closet. Using boxes for the sweaters on the shelf would actually have discouraged this client from using them!

I mean, he really hit the nail on the head there. Imagine setting up this big, beautiful organizing system in your closet… and then you wake up the next morning and need to get dressed. What do you do? Are you comfortable with taking down baskets to get out a pair of underwear, flipping through hangers, unfolding knits? Or are you so bummed in advance about the idea of this system getting messed up that you just grab what’s closest to the front and leave everything perfectly in place? I have to tell you, I don’t rainbow order my clothes, because I know I’m not going to maintain it. And I have a lot of practice with using and maintaining organizing systems!

It’s kinda like what I talked about last year regarding using things up and wearing things out. Of course, we shouldn’t treat our belongings carelessly, but we should also actively use them if we love them so much! As much of a bummer as it is to totally thrash a pair of shoes, all the joy taken in wearing them is irreplaceable, and the vision of them sitting perfectly untouched in the closet couldn’t ever come close.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that organizing is for real life. And real life is imperfect! That’s why I focus so much on the actual function of the systems I set up for my clients, and when I do consider the aesthetic of a setup, ensure that it blends seamlessly with the client’s existing home and style.

Later this week… what happens when you put the aesthetic first, rather than the system? Hint: it’s not actually organizing!

LMW

Organizing Is For Everyone

I have had clients who are men, women, children, adults, black, white, Muslim, Mormon, gay, straight, trans, cis, couples, singles, parents, DINKS… and the reason I tell you this is not to enumerate the rainbow of human diversity but to emphasize that organizing is for literally everyone. If you are a person who is just trying to get through this thing called life, organizing can help you!

Often when I tell people about my business, I get a funny reaction: “Wow, that’s so cool! I mean, I don’t need an organizer, but I’m sure lots of people do.” Sometimes, this is probably because those people are actually pretty freakin’ organized. But I have a sneaking suspicion that the majority of the time, it’s a defensive reaction - they feel like organizing is not for them. And reading between the lines, I find that it’s usually for one of these three reasons.

It’s not that this teenager didn’t want a made bed - she just didn’t know how to do it while keeping all the elements she wanted involved.

It’s not that this teenager didn’t want a made bed - she just didn’t know how to do it while keeping all the elements she wanted involved.

1) I’m just not an organized person.

For better or for worse, American culture reveres hard work and achievement. Not only that, but we seem to have been indoctrinated to think that a high level of achievement is more than result of hard work: it’s an actual personality trait. Here’s where the danger lies. If aptitude for organizing is a personality trait, then you’ve either got it or you don’t. 

How depressing is that?

Fortunately, there is no such thing as “an organized person.” Organizing is a skill. Some people are taught it and some aren’t; some people find it easier and some find it more difficult. But everyone can learn organizing principles, and use them to live an easier, simpler life.

2) I don’t really care about being organized.

Apathy is a funny thing. After all, if you don’t care about something, then you don’t have to think about it or consider the way it may be affecting your life.

My challenge to those who profess not to care about whether or not their home is organized is this: have you experienced life in an organized environment? My guess is either you haven’t, or the way in which that environment was organized didn’t work for you. And I predict that if you can create organizing systems and patterns that work for you, you will see a significant improvement in your quality of life.

3) I don’t have time to get organized.

This single guy knows what he likes in his home - he just needed help figuring out the details of how to make it all work.

This single guy knows what he likes in his home - he just needed help figuring out the details of how to make it all work.

Speaking of time… man, do I have a whole lot of empathy for people who are short on time. This world is tough and people are run ragged. Sometimes, even to me, it seems the height of absurdity that I ask someone to stop their life cold for three hours and focus on their stuff.

And then, every time I finish an organizing session, I remember why I do this. Whether it’s the woman who says she instantly feels ten pounds lighter, or the couple that finds joy in home cooking again, or the dad who finally feels like he’s regaining control of his life after his divorce, my client see real, tangible results even from the first organizing session.

In a way, you don’t have time NOT to get organized. The time you invest in creating an organized home will pay you back huge dividends of time in the future: time that you won’t be spending hunting for things you need rightthissecond or bickering with your partner.

More than anything, I want you to know that not only is organizing most definitely for you, but also that you deserve a beautifully organized home that truly works for you. You’re worth it!

LMW

Is There Hope For Teens' Messy Rooms After All?

You guys, I’ve discovered a secret super power. I love working with teenagers to organize their rooms, and it seems that they like working with me too!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

When I started working with this 17 year old on her bedroom, we couldn’t see the floor!

There could be a few things going on here. For one thing, I think it makes a difference that I’m not a parent. I have a lot of friends who are parents, and I hear from them about their struggles, so I can definitely empathize with parents’ frustrations with their teens’ messy rooms. At the same time, I’m not a parent myself, and so in some way I still self-identify as someone’s daughter rather than someone in charge. This allows me to relate directly to my teen clients.

In addition, from the very beginning of my business, I have maintained that my client is the person who lives in the space I am organizing. This may be the person who is paying me, but not always. This means that when I’m working with a teenager, I’m talking directly to them, and listening to their needs and desires for the space. 

Here are a few things I’ve noticed when working with teens and their parents - perhaps these observations might inspire you to approach your teen and their room situation from a new angle!

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

We affectionately dubbed the top of this bookshelf her “smell-good station.”

  1. No matter how messy a teen’s room or how long it’s been that way - they may hate it as much as you do! Just because someone lives in a disorganized environment doesn’t mean that’s their preference, they may just not have the resources or energy to change it. So often a teen needs help getting started and tools to keep going, rather than discipline.

  2. Teens learn how to live in a home from their parents over the course of their lives. So, if your home has perpetually disorganized areas, it should not be surprising that your teen’s room follows suit. And as a result, they’re going to be pretty resentful if you ask something of them (a clean room) that you don’t ask of yourself. Think back to your teen years - didn’t you hate hypocrites like none other?

  3. The teen years are all about the struggle for control. Teens feel like they’re ready to be adults, and parents are totally freaked because they know decision making skills have not yet been… refined. The good news is that a teen’s room is a pretty safe space to give them practice with taking ownership. If you let them organize their room the way they want to - even if it doesn’t map exactly to your vision - you very well may get a tidier space and a happier kid.

Above all, if you are the frustrated parent of a teen with a messy room, I beg of you: please, please, please DO NOT declutter and organize the teen’s room without their participation. It will totally backfire on you. Why? By doing so, you’ll break their trust. And trust, as we all know, is a really hard thing to get back.

 If you have questions about how to help your teenager get started on organizing their space, let’s talk!

LMW

Choosing The Right Type of Professional Organizer For You

Many people don’t even know that professional organizing is “a thing” - and yet, there are tens of thousands of us, working in more ways than you could imagine! Some organizers work as a side hustle, and others do it full time. Some organizers ride solo, and others build large companies. Some organizers work with families, others specialize in estate sales. There truly is an organizational fit for every person who needs help reclaiming their space!

Something else you may not know about the professional organizing industry: just because you meet and hire the business owner does not mean that said business owner will be in your home working on the project - or even that the organizers on your project will be employees who have been trained and supervised by that person! It is extremely common in the industry for professional organizers to hire other organizers on a contract basis for jobs they can’t handle on their own.

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

When you hire LMW Edits, you always get me and my bag of tricks - no alterations or substitutions!

There are upsides to this, for sure. This strategy ensures there are enough people on your job to get your project done in a reasonable amount of time. It brings the overall price down because the going hourly rate for independent contractors is well south of the value of the business owner’s time. It’s also a professional development mechanism - it’s very common for organizers just starting out to do different contract gigs to learn the trade. I did it myself - and still do for organizers I really like working with when they come up short and need a hand!

There are also downsides. As a contractor, I have shown up to a gig for an organizer I have never met in person and been directed into a room and told to start sorting. The only filter applied was a phone conversation and a contract I signed with the organizer’s company. What’s more, on a multi-day job, the team might have been different every day! So just when the client starts getting comfortable with me, I’m done for the day and an entirely different person might show up the next morning.

The downsides are why I will never hire independent contractors. I would sooner refer you, a potential client, to a larger organizing company I know and trust, than I would take on the burden of sending unknown, untrained people into your home and hoping that it all turns out well. My service is built on a strong personal relationship between me and my client, which allows me to create organizational systems and setups that are specifically tailored for them.

That said, my style of service is certainly not for everyone! Many people prefer handing off the job to an efficient team and marveling at the end results. So, if you’re contemplating hiring a professional organizer, consider the following.

An larger organizing company or service might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a gorgeous “after” photo that looks like it’s out of a magazine.

  2. Your space is a large and/or tightly cluttered home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is the exact aesthetic featured in the organizing company’s photos.

  4. Your main concern is pricing.

My kind of individual organizing consulting might be right for you if:

  1. Your first priority is a system that works and lasts.

  2. Your space is a smaller home/apartment, or a discrete project area within a larger home.

  3. Your desired aesthetic is custom tailored to you, your needs, and your existing home style.

  4. Your main concern is security and trust.

If you think my style of organizing might be a good fit for you, let’s talk! You can schedule your free in-home organizing consultation here.

LMW

What. The. BLEEP.

I follow a lot of other professional organizers on Instagram - it’s fun to see what people are working on and get inspiration from their projects! But something I saw the other day really shocked me on a visceral level.

Below a picture of a spare pantry shelf featuring neatly categorized snacks in open wire baskets was a caption with a “pro tip”. The organizer suggested that to give your pantry a desirable, high end look, you should purchase attractive snacks and fancy water (SmartPop and Fiji were mentioned by name), store them in pretty rows and wire baskets, and then… Never. Eat. Them.

WHAT?? Guys. Wait. No. Seriously??

The first pantry I ever organized - nicely labeled and containerized, but still very functional!

The first pantry I ever organized - nicely labeled and containerized, but still very functional!

Let’s unpack this for a second. I’ve been processing this for a few days now, and I’m still just staggered that this organizer is suggesting you devote storage space to things that you do not need and will not consume in order to create a certain look. In a room in your house that NO ONE EVER GOES IN.

First of all, we’ve got the straight up waste. I don’t know about you, but food waste really bothers me. It’s not just a waste of money, but also of the resources used to grow, manufacture, and package the food. Food waste is also a huge environmental problem, taking up space in sewers and landfills. And there are hungry people in this country for goodness’ sake - it’s just extraordinarily poor taste to flaunt never-to-be-touched food in a public forum.

Second of all, this is an epic case of Keeping Up With The Jones’ (or Kardashians, if you’ve seen the pics of their cookie jars that no one eats from). It’s another example of mindless consumption at its least constructive. If you actually eat SmartPop and drink Fiji water, and have large enough pantry in which to store them in pretty wire baskets with lots of white space, awesome! But if you don’t, create your own custom version of a well organized food storage area and live your truth. I find it extremely ethically suspect to recommend that people put on a facade of a lifestyle they do not live. It can only lead to feeling more empty behind that false front.

Another straightforward pantry I organized for a busy young family.

Another straightforward pantry I organized for a busy young family.

And third, we’ve got the total perversion of the entire point of organizing a home. The reason to get organized is to make your life easier. Full stop. Organized living means you spend less time and energy dealing with your stuff, and instead devote those resources to the relationships and activities that truly matter to you. A pantry full of pretty uneaten food contributes to an easier life in exactly zero ways.

I’m just… I’m agog. It’s all well and good to create an aesthetically pleasing home. But to go to this degree in a PANTRY? Where no one goes except the people who live in that house? Just so you can post pictures on social media? Of measuring up to somebody else’s idea of what “high end” is and why that is desirable? I am so squicked out by the whole idea.

I’ve now been helping people organize their homes for over five years. And I can tell you conclusively that happiness does not come from more stuff, or fancier stuff. It comes from feeling love, connection, and contribution. A fake “high end” pantry will not make anyone any happier.

LMW

Overwhelmed by Creativity

Creativity comes along with a lot of stuff. One of my very first clients absolutely loves scrapbooking. She has a ton of backlogged projects and is always finding new inspiration. She also has all the latest and greatest scrapbooking tools and a bountiful supply of card stock, paper, ribbon, washi tape, etc. for when the creative mood strikes! As you might imagine, all this equipment and material takes up an awful lot of space and is relatively complex to keep organized. 

A little #organizationporn for all my needleworkers and color enthusiasts!

A little #organizationporn for all my needleworkers and color enthusiasts!

When I work with highly creative, inspired clients, I’m still doing the same thing I always do: helping them to edit their belongings so that we can create a streamlined organizing system that supports their goals and is easy to maintain. This does mean that I help my clients edit their raw materials and project ideas. And edit is a pretty word for delete, or throw away.

This may sound like I’m trying to limit my clients’ creativity in the interests of creating a gorgeous organizing system. And I can see that perspective. But here’s why I believe that even the most creative people benefit from careful editing.

  1. A human being only has so much time and energy. Many incredibly creative people I work with can think of more projects in a day than they could complete in years. And the more projects you add, the more stuff accumulates… but the more projects remain unfinished, or even un-started. Which leads me to…

  2. The feeling of accomplishment when you’ve finished a creative endeavor and send it out into the world - whether it’s submitting a book for publishing or just getting that photo you’re so proud of framed and hung - is incredible. It’s rewarding, and it fuels you for the next project. If you have too many ongoing ideas, you’ll never actually get through any of them, and you’ll rob yourself of the opportunity to be proud of your finished product. And anyway…

  3. There’s freedom in limitation that can lead to all kinds of surprising inspiration. It’s like kids who play for hours with the box a playhouse came in and don’t seem all that interested in the house itself - the blank canvas of a box, although it has fewer features, gives them more room for imaginative play. Plus, there’s a dark side to endless possibilities…

  4. I often work with clients who feel a sense of guilt or inadequacy from knowing that they are not following through on some great ideas. I ask them the question: will it feel better to keep this project around and know that it’s available to you to work on, or will it feel better to acknowledge that you don’t have the time and energy to complete it and let go of the idea to focus on other projects? It’s often not until I voice this question out loud that they realize how much a of a burden some projects have become!

I have to admit, I identify  and sympathize strongly with many of my creative clients. As I build my business, I’m always coming up with new ideas and projects! But I have to remember to focus on delivering my services to the very best of my ability every day, and add only those things that I truly have the time and energy to maintain.

So, creativity is not the opposite of organization! In fact, a great organizing scheme can really support your creative projects and help you bring more of those brilliant ideas to fulfillment. 

LMW

4 Powerful Strategies for Getting Organized As A Couple: Couple Struggles Part 5

You may see yourself in one or more of my previous articles on struggles that couples face when trying to get organized:

  • Part 1: Every Couple Struggles

  • Part 2: Who’s Really “The Organized One”?

  • Part 3: Whose Responsibility Is It, Anyway?

  • Part 4: Just Get Rid of It!

If so, know that you are very much not alone! You’re also probably wondering how to tackle your organizing struggle with your loved one. Here are some strategies that I both use and recommend to keep the organizing process smooth and as low on conflict as possible.

Photo by  Kelly Vorves

Photo by Kelly Vorves

1) Acknowledge that it takes two to tango.

Both of you got your home the way it is today, and both of you are going to have to work together if you want it to change. This doesn’t necessarily mean that each of you contributed 50% of the mess or have to do exactly 50% of the work during the organizing project! It does mean that it isn’t productive to spend time and energy blaming one half the couple (whether it’s yourself or your partner!). Instead, team up as co-conspirators in the organizing process.

2) Avoid placing a value judgement on organizing skills.

Some people are good at organizing. And some people aren’t. That’s ok! Organizing is not an inherent trait, it's a skill that can be learned. So, if you’re already good at organizing, that doesn’t mean that you’re better or smarter than someone who isn’t - and the reverse is of course also true. If you can separate your feelings about your partner’s organizing skills from your feelings about them as your love and partner in life, it will be at lot easier to work together!

3) Give each person their own space.

I find that a lot of organizing struggles stem from objects being commingled at random. Of course, many items in a home are shared among everyone that lives there - kitchen tools being one of the most obvious examples! But by mixing up things that clearly belong to individual people, you muddy the waters about who is responsible for organizing those items and the spaces they live in. And in a vacuum of responsibility, nothing gets done. The more you can separate belongings and give them dedicated, designated locations, the easier it is to assign responsibility and the more control each person will feel over their own belongings.

Photo by  Kelly Vorves

Photo by Kelly Vorves

4) Think about how tradition has affected your approach.

In pretty much all the heterosexual couples I work with, the female partner is in charge of the home - whether or not she works and/or earns more than the male partner. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s of course up to each couple to divide responsibilities in the way that works for them. However, this traditional division of labor can become a problem when it happens by default and/or puts a greater total burden on the female partner.

(Note: this dynamic can also exist in homosexual couples where the partners have defined their identities based on traditional ideas of masculinity and femininity.)

So, I really encourage you to talk to your partner about the goals you share for keeping your home organized and how each person can contribute to reaching them. This keeps the focus off divvying up major, well known tasks like laundry and dishes, since this traditional approach can obscure the many smaller tasks that contribute to a home but are often automatically picked up by women and unnoticed by men.

In conclusion…

All of the above are strategies, but none of them can be implemented without a shared vision. So Step 1 should always be to get on the same page about what you want your home to look and feel like, and how you want to use your space. After all, it’s impossible to properly share the load when you haven’t defined it in the first place!

LMW

Don't Buy Random Crap for Your Loved Ones

You’ve heard of The Five Love Languages, right? If not, the basic premise is that people tend to prefer to give and receive love in one of five ways: words of affirmation, acts of service, physical touch, gifts, and quality time. Once you and your loved ones figure out your individual love languages, it can help you show love to each other more effectively. In fact, if you’re not sure what you prefer, there’s an online quiz you can take to find out!

Recently, I’ve watched my clients struggle with the gift giving love language. Specifically, they have family that lives very far away and misses them very much, and shows their love by sending them inexpensive gifts regularly. While I haven’t met the gift givers in person, it’s clear to me that these gifts are sent out of an abundance of love, with absolutely no ill intent.

However, there are serious side effects to a regular gift giving routine.

  1. Those gifts add up fast. In thinking of one client in particular, her mom likes to send her costume jewelry, cloth bags, cute glasses and dishware, and general tchotchkes. My client, like many of us here in San Francisco, lives with her boyfriend in a one bedroom apartment. It’s plenty of space for them and their cats, but there just isn’t enough storage to accommodate the constant inflow of gifts. 
  2. Those gifts cause serious guilt. My clients tell me that they don’t want to donate these gifts because they know that if the giver found out, they would be hurt. The gifts, in effect, become an emotional burden and an extension of the guilt my clients already feel over living so far away from their loved ones.
  3. Those gifts can cause relationship strife. I have a couple of clients who deal with continuous gift giving from both of their moms. They are each uncomfortable with dealing with so much stuff from their own mothers, but end up taking that frustration out on each other and the other’s mom. While this is so common for all of us as humans - we redirect anger at a person we can’t confront to the people who see us every day - it’s completely avoidable in this case.
This is what years of inexpensive gifts looks like after I've helped a client decide what's important to keep... and what's not.

This is what years of inexpensive gifts looks like after I've helped a client decide what's important to keep... and what's not.

People whose love language is gift giving (and I am one of them, so I know of what I speak!) sometimes struggle with the idea that a gift could be a bad thing, and they often don’t know how to communicate their love in other ways that feel just as effective. So, I have a few suggestions!

  1. Take a picture of the cute tchotchke, send it to your loved one, and tell them why it made you think of them. How fun is a random loving message in the middle of the day? You get all the benefits of gift giving, like reminding someone that you love them and showing that you understand what’s special about them, without any of the downside. This also gives you the opportunity to see whether or not your loved one actually wants that item! If they text back “hahaha, love that, I miss you too!” then the thought was enough. But a text that says “OMG I need this!” means you have the green light to send a gift!
  2. Give experiences rather than objects. This is something my family has wholeheartedly embraced as part of our gift giving tradition and we all absolutely love it.  You get the gift giving experience - opening something, the surprise, the feeling of being special to the giver - and then you get to extend it by talking about the upcoming event, planning for it, then doing it and reminiscing about it after the fact. My sister gave me a trip to Jackson Hole for Christmas a couple years ago and it was one of the best gifts I’ve ever gotten!
  3. Direct your gift giving energy to people who are in need. Every holiday season, my husband and I adopt a family through Compass Family Services, and take great joy in making their Christmas magical. I love giving to friends and family, but it's even more rewarding to give to people who truly need and appreciate the gifts.
  4. Save your gift giving effort (and budget) for select occasions. Often, people send many cheaper gifts because they feel that the number of gift giving occasions should be maximized but they don’t have the funds to purchase high quality gifts that often. When it comes to gifts, like many other things in life, I recommend going for quality over quantity. Two high quality, beautiful gifts per year will give your loved one all the surprise and delight you crave, and because you have the extra time and money to spend on selecting it, chances are much higher that they will use and love the gift.
  5. When in doubt, just pick up the phone and say “I love you.” Because that’s what we’re all really trying to do with gift giving, right?
This not my family's Christmas, but the gifts prepared for our adopted family this past holiday season!

This not my family's Christmas, but the gifts prepared for our adopted family this past holiday season!

I, personally, will never stop loving the process of opening a present that someone has selected just for me, and then watching them open something I know they’re going to love. But I love it even more when it’s a truly special moment and not just a regular thing.

LMW

On Imperfection

I will not be the first or last person to talk about imperfection. Insert trite truism about our social media airbrushed perfection image driven society blah blah blah here! Plenty of people smarter and more articulate than I have written powerful pieces on the topic.

Instead, I want to tell you what imperfection means to me. Specifically, I want to tell you about my skin.

Hangin' out in the skin I'm in at The Peak, Hong Kong

Hangin' out in the skin I'm in at The Peak, Hong Kong

I’m super pale. I come from a long line of people so pale that some of our freckles are white. For most of my life this has been distinctly unfashionable, so in my teens and twenties I absolutely hated my pale skin and tried to tan. Emphasis on "tried." 

I’m covered in freckles and moles, because see above: pale skin and sun damage. Some of them are cute (my mom used to refer to the crop of freckles that would appear on my nose every summer as brown sugar sprinkles), but a lot of them are bumpy, uneven, and weird (yes, I get my skin checked from head to toe by my dermatologist every 6 months).

I have cellulite. I’ve had it since I was about twelve years old. No matter how much I weigh, no matter how much I exercise, no matter how well I eat, the skin on my butt and the backs of my legs is lumpy and dimpled.  I spent a lot of time when I was younger tying sarongs over bathing suits and being sure that no photo ever captured me from behind.

In all my pale, freckly, cellulite-filled, scarred glory from a bachelorette party this spring!

In all my pale, freckly, cellulite-filled, scarred glory from a bachelorette party this spring!

I have a few scars. There’s a line on my lower abdomen from my emergency appendectomy in December 1995 (in Nairobi, Kenya - it’s quite a story). My bellybutton is a little wonky from an ovarian cyst removal in 2007 (it was 10 cm in diameter and my best friend named it Alvin - good riddance!). I have a long keloid on my inner left arm from the removal of a melanoma in 2016 (it had not spread, I’m lucky). 

There are a plethora of self tanners available, even ones that don’t make a person as pale as I am look orange. I could have larger moles removed if I wanted to. There’s a procedure to fix cellulite. My dermatologist has even offered me a shot to make my scars less prominent. For reasons that are only starting to coalesce to me now, I don’t do any of the above.

To me, my skin is part of my story. Yeah, it might look a little gross in places, but the human body is a little gross. That, and it makes me look interesting. No one else on the planet looks quite like me.

I love to be active and try new things, whether it’s a new workout, travel destination, or clothing style. In the past, caring about my imperfections has hindered that. These days, I put on my sunscreen and wear my workout clothes or bikini, and get on with it. The more time that passes, the fewer f*cks I give about whatever anyone thinks of my pale, moley skin with cellulite and scars. I can’t say I totally love it - at least not yet - but I’m getting there!

LMW