I'm Okay, You're Okay... the Word Curate Is not Okay

I recently read a book that a bunch of people have recommended over the past several months. It's called The Curated Closet and I found it to be helpful and practical. (I mean, I've been reading fashion blogs for about five years so it wasn't like it was all brand-new information but still.) I could even forgiven the use of the word curated in the title, since curated is on my list of Overused Internet Words and Phrases. ("Intentional," I'm looking at you.)

The book highly recommends ruthlessly purging your closet, getting rid of anything you don't (or shouldn't) wear, and, over time, carefully curating (there's that word again) a wardrobe full of clothes that are high quality, fit well, and that represent you and your personality all while seamlessly mixing and matching for a multitude of outfit options.

That's the basic concept for capsule wardrobes, which have been all the rage for the past couple of years. And I definitely am crawling out of a years-long habit of buying clothes just because they're on clearance, paying little attention to their quality or even how much I really like them. (So dumb. I know. I'm judging myself so you don't have to.) I've been giving this whole idea a lot of thought, so last week I went through my closet for what felt like the thousandth time (I tend to purge every few months, to the delight of my sisters) and pulled out all that I could justifiably get rid of. (Shameless plug for my closet sale on Facebook. =) I can honestly say that at this point I really do like just about everything in my closet. It's not all designer quality (ha!) and I'm not thrilled with the fit of every piece, but I'm getting there and being a lot more selective. I've even developed (loosely) a color palette based on what I already have and what I like and hope to shop more within those guidelines in the future.

Here's a picture of an outfit that actually really did feel like me. Not just teacher me, or mom me, but just Ashley. Not weirdly specific to any one stage of my life- minus the flats because these feet haven't seen heels in a while. (Dress is Target, cardigan is Loft, necklace is The Jones Market, and shoes are Belk.)


This can put a lot of pressure on me (some of it probably needed, but still) while I'm shopping or even looking at the clothes I already own. "Does this fit in my palette?' "Will I wear this in three years?" "Can I mix it with several other pieces?" "Does it represent WHO I AM?"

Good grief. Does every single piece of clothing have to tell the world that I'm a former teacher, a first-time mom, a Disney and musical fanatic, or a slightly obsessive bookworm? Do my clothes all need to portray that I grew up on the West coast but have now spent almost half my life on the East coast? Or that I'm a former tomboy who still loves baseball? That's, um, a little much to ask of a pair of workout pants or a button-down shirt.

Not to mention that there's a fairly big disconnect between my past life (teaching, working in a professional environment, getting dressed up every day) and my present life (stay at home mom, chasing a crazy child everywhere, trying to strike a balance between real clothes and comfortable, walk around the neighborhood with a stroller/lunge across the room to snatch something dangerous from Alice clothes.) So should I throw out my dressy clothes knowing I'll only wear them a few days a month? Or purchase only athleisure until Alice goes to kindergarten?

I was/am getting stressed out just thinking about this.

Then in the midst of my mental angst, I was listening to a podcast episode from The Lazy Genius (one of my favorites, go check her out immediately) and it was like they had been eavesdropping on my thoughts (disconcerting but also reassuring that I'm not crazy.) Kendra, the host, made the statement, "Everything doesn't have to mean something."

Well, yes! Exactly! Not every single piece of clothing has to reflect my personality just like every single item in my home doesn't have to flow in perfect cohesion with every other corner of the house (I'm no Joanna Gaines, although who wouldn't want to be if for no other reason than to have her gorgeous hair) and not every decision is a reflection of the indefinable This Is Me, Everybody that we're all struggling to present to the world. (I died when she mentioned that choosing- on purpose- to eat an apple instead of a sleeve of Oreos has prompted her to call herself a wannabe hippie and total fraud.) I know the feeling. "You're buying an Under Armor shirt? What are you now, some kind of gym rat?" Me, meekly, to myself: "Well, uh, it's a good deal and I need some dri-fit shirts for running, but yeah I guess that's kind of pretentious. My bad."

I know. Ridiculous.

Anyway, this has all been a roundabout way to say that while I'm working to make more thoughtful (and therefore fewer) clothing purchases and I really do want a cute, functional wardrobe, it's okay to have a few things that are outside the box. It's okay to own an Old Navy graphic tee that isn't exactly my "aesthetic." (Well, is loving coffee an aesthetic?) And it's okay if, after all the curating and purging and planning, to still sometimes stand in my closet and feel like I have nothing to wear. I think all that just makes me human, not a mindless consumer. (I mean, I can mindlessly consume with the best of them, but you get the idea.)

So maybe today if you want to make a decision that falls slightly outside what you think you should do or who you think you are, I promise it's okay. You can be a healthy person and have a Snickers (in fact, I encourage you to have one) or you can hate exercise and still go for a run (and even wear Under Armor, you pretentious thing you.) But the world will continue to turn and it will all be fine. Don't system yourself to death and then feel totally restricted by your own system. It's like building a robot to do your dishes who ultimately chokes you with its little iron claw hands.

This is one of my favorite things in my house because it's such a needed reminder. (You can find it here.) 

Wow, a bit dramatic. Apparently clothing is an emotionally charged subject- ask anyone who watched What not to Wear. (Moment of silence please for the one and only reality television show I have ever and will ever watch.)

You do you, friend- curated or not. You're okay. Now go listen to my two-year-old niece's favorite song on repeat. You won't be as cute as she is singing, but it's still great. =)


  1. I just love you and your writing and everything you say. THANK YOU for being as annoyed with the word "curate" as I am. It makes me feel like my life is supposed to be a museum.

  2. YES. I love this post. Everything about it. Not everything has to mean something! ;) love it! PS you're adorable. That is all.


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