Treading Lightly
Treading Lightly

The Average Age of My Clothes and Why It Matters

My clothes are ancient to today’s standards. In a world of 50-100 fashion “seasons,” disposable clothing that is only meant to last a night, and t-shirts that cost $5, my closet is an anomaly.

I have had everything in my closet and drawers, from my pea coat down to my running tights, an average of five years. And while at first that doesn’t sound like much, many of the pieces in my closet are still going strong 10+ years after they were handed down to me.

While I will be the first to admit that a few things in my drawers need to be replaced, for the most part my wardrobe—both my daily clothing and athletic wear—still looks like I bought it within the last year.

Travel capsule wardrobe in France, image

Why does the age of your clothing or wardrobe matter?

Lately I have been seeing posts from slow fashion and ethical fashion bloggers about #30wears and why it’s important to only buy clothes you can see yourself wearing at least 30 times. The idea is to ensure you don’t buy something you will never wear or only wear a handful of times before getting rid of it.

While I love this idea, I think we should hold ourselves to higher standards. With my closet, I try to only add items that I can see myself wearing frequently over the next five years. For basic pieces that will always be in my life like a coat or a dress, I imagine myself in it 10 years from now.

The longer I keep each item, the less of an impact I have on the Earth. Growing and producing fibers, manufacturing clothing, and shipping them around the world is extremely costly to the environment. The longer I hold onto a piece—and actually wear it!—the more I save in the long run.

Wearing clothes for years means you aren’t going out to buy a new one every year or so. It means you are saving all of those resources that are required to make a replacement in addition to the money it takes to purchase it. In other words, the longer you keep and wear your clothes, the smaller your impact.

CategoryItemYears owned
T-shirtWhite short sleeve10
White SL10
Black SL10
Gray SL1
Gray LS10
Purple LS8
Layering TanksNude5
White3.5
SweatersPurple LS cardigan9
Gray LS cardi9
Navy LS cardi1
Navy LS pullover2
Striped pullover7
Black pullover4
Gray pullover4
Striped 3/4 cardi7
White 3/41
LS black cardi1
Pink 3/4 cardi5
Black 3/4 cardi7
Nice TopsDenim3.5
Lace6
Peplum5
DressesNavy t-shirt4.5
Teal t-shirt4.5
Maxi5.5
Black5.5
Striped5.5
Ikat7
Polka6
Sweater DressesGray7
Camel6.5
Purple6.5
Teal1
BottomsCords5
Black jeans2
Navy shorts3
Black wool skirt5
JacketsPea coat10
Down coat5
Navy canvas5.5
Raincoat1
House ClothesTeal scoop3
Navy6
Teal v-neck3
Fleece sweats8
Average Years:5.3
Outer LayersThin zip-up5.5
Fleece1.5
Running jacket4
BottomsTeal running shorts8.5
Purple running shorts8.5
Black running shorts4
Navy running shorts3.5
Blue running shorts6.5
Navy crops3.5
Hole-in-knee crops3.5
Too short crops6
Black crops w/ purple+yellow6
Black crops6
Navy leggings5
Black leggings5
Purple winter running tights5
Navy winter running tights5
Yoga pants8
Running tights black/mint5
Running tights black/teal4
Purple bike shorts6
Black bike shorts0.5
TopsMint winter LS running top5
Reversible winter LS RT4
Blue LS running top4
Light blue LS running top5
Grugy "light blue" LS RT6
Crew short sleeve3.5
Teal race LS4
Coral race LS5
Purple running top8.5
Mint crew top5
Mint scoop top5
Gray tank6.5
Light mint tank4.5
White race tank3
Purple tank5
Teal tank3
Singlet4.5
Sports Bras
Lole0.5
Mint0.5
Teal4
Coral5.5
Striped2
Black y2
Black x3
Bathing SuitsNice two piece5
Bottoms6
Lap suit7
Sunshirt10
Lap 2 piece light blue9
Lap 2 piece navy9
Total4.9
Totals
Average age of wardrobe:5.1
Total # of daily clothes:46
Total # of athletic items:52
Total # of clothing98

What I learned from this exercise:

1. Many of my clothes came from my mom either as hand me downs or gifts. Thanks mom!

2. With proper care, clothes can last years, if not decades.

3. I get more joy out of clothes the more I wear them. Yes, I could have seven pairs of pants so each one is only worn once a week to theoretically stretch out their lifespans, but I feel great knowing that my black jeans that lasted roughly two years had at least 200+ wears over their lifetime. Not too shabby! I wear my favorites on a weekly basis, and I love them just as much each time I put them on.

4. My small closet has served me well through so many transitions and climates.

5. I generally avoid trends and any clothing that I’m on the fence about, and calculating the age of my clothes really reinforced those habits. I likely won’t want to wear “boyfriend” clothes 10 years from now (or, you know, now), just like how my emo band shirts from high school aren’t still hanging around. Classic, timeless pieces give me the best cost per wear, have the most longevity, and end up being the most sustainable.

6. Quality is almost always worth the investment. I hate shopping, and it’s extremely important to me that my clothes are high quality pieces that will last me for years. The pieces that have been around the longest or appear to be the most likely to keep going for another decade are the ones that are made out of natural fibers that age well, are constructed well, and are classically styled.

7. I foresee the average age of my clothing increasing over time. Most of my clothes were bought in college or right after I graduated. I had a school uniform K-12, and it took me ages to figure out what I actually like to wear. Now that I am getting the hang of dressing myself, I am slowly replacing old, not-so-nice-looking items for pieces I hope to see me through the next decade.

Don’t you have a lot of clothes for a minimalist?

My wardrobe is broken up into two capsules and three categories: cool capsule, warm capsule, and year-round essentials. In general, this keeps my clothes feeling fresh and saves me space in my closet and drawers since out-of-season clothes live under my bed in a zippered canvas bag. It also means everything that I pull out for the season is worn frequently, sometimes almost daily.

I have a lot of athletic clothing—more than what’s in my “daily wardrobe.” Half of my drawer space is dedicated to it. And yet I wear all of it frequently. In the summer, I layer with my long sleeve tops to stay warm to and from the gym. In the winter, my tank tops and running shirts are often hiding under my thick running tops to help keep me warm on brisk runs or gym sessions. My leggings are layered with sweaters and dresses, and when the temperature really drops my warmer running clothes become baselayers under my regular, non-athletic clothes.

That said, unless you are working out 6-8 times a week, this is likely aggressive. I could make it work with 2/3 of the clothes that I have, but I would have to do mid-week laundry and the load would never be close to full, which wastes water and energy. As is, most of my athletic clothes are worn 1-2 times a week, and this jumps up to a good 90 percent if you take seasonality into account.

Related: See what’s in my daily minimalist wardrobe and my workout capsule.

Why the Clothes You Already Have Are the Most Ethical

Ethical clothing is everywhere. From big brands to tiny blogs, everyone wants to be selling and wearing the most ethical items they can.

I’ve been feeling pressure lately to add ethical clothing to my closet, and I went through a stretch where I felt like the clothes I was wearing on a given day weren’t a good representation of my values. Many of my items have unnatural fibers that can leach into the water or environment, most were not created in safe or fair factories, and the dyes and other materials used were harmful on the environment and workers when they were made.

And yet the clothes already sitting in my drawers and hanging in my closet are the most ethical ones I could own. Why? Because I already own them.

minimalist ethical capsule wardrobe hanging in closet, image

Why are new clothes damaging?

  • Dying textiles is the second leading cause of water pollution worldwide, just behind agriculture. Independent.
  • Many of the chemicals used to dye clothes are toxic to humans and the local habitat/animals.
  • Independent.
  • Synthetic fibers like polyester leach small micoplastic fibers into the water. They make their way into the local waterways and the ocean where they are eaten by animals and humans. The Guardian, U.S. National Ocean Service, CNN, Scientific American, and the UN.
  • Fast fashion has led to 50-100 micro seasons a year rather than two to four. World Resources Institute.
  • “Cotton production is now responsible for 18 percent of worldwide pesticide use and 25 percent of total insecticide use.” True Cost documentary.
  • The textile industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than aviation and international shipping, combined. Vice.
  • We bought more than twice as much clothing in 2014 as we did in 2000, but kept those clothes half as long. World Resources Institute.
  • It takes 2,700 liters of water, enough drinking water to last a single person 2.5 years, to make a single cotton t-shirt. World Resources Institute.

The clothes you already have are the most ethical choice.

The emissions and harm from production and manufacturing have already been done. Now what matters most is helping them last as long as possible to lower their carbon footprint per wear, keep them out of the landfill, and reduce your overall consumption of clothing.

Rather than going out and buying new clothes, even used/second hand, to replace the items that don’t fit my values perfectly, I’m choosing to love and care for the things I already have. This not only saves me a lot of money, it also gives me peace of mind to know that I am making the most of the damage that has already been done.

And when they finally reach the end of their lives, I will carefully recycle them through a textile recycling program nearby before looking for a second hand option to replace them. If that fails, then I will buy new from an ethical producer.

See inside my minimalist capsule wardrobe.

What I’ve Read So Far This Year

It’s true what people say about freelancing: you’re either being hit between the eyes with a Super Soaker or standing last in line at Bi-Rite Creamery. Either drowning in work or in tears. (Or, let’s be honest, both).

The start of this year was painfully slow on the work front. I had come off the high of trying to do every possible project I could get my hands in October into the blissful month I spent in New Zealand. When December rolled around I wasn’t particularly worried, a slow month here or there won’t kill anyone. But by February I was desperate.

Which was how we got here. Those brutal, hungry months can lead to some of the best stories and most exciting opportunities, or crippling self-doubt. I went from not blogging because I was constantly pitching and worried about putting my best ideas here to barely having enough mental space to remember family birthdays and the last time I brushed my teeth. I find it challenging to make the time for words that I’m not getting paid for. I have to eat, and at this point in my life—despite what freelancers tell themselves—I work for everyone else.

Which is all to say life is good now, freelancing is just as challenging as everyone forewarns, and I’ve done too much reading and writing to fully catch you up. But that doesn’t mean I wont’ try. So here it is, seven months of reading in a single blog post. Enjoy!

Books on Nightstand — What I'm Reading

What I’ve Read So Far This Year

I would break the internet—okay fine, my brain—if I tried to give you a feel review of everything I’ve read since January. Instead I’m offering the reductionist version. Here’s a quick list with a couple thoughts thrown in.

1. The Imperfect Environmentalist: 2.3-3/5 stars… although part of that could be because I want to write a book like this, but better.

2. Lotta Jansdotter’s Handmade Living: 3.5/5 stars. Scandi-living candy. Did not actually get me to start decorating two years after moving in as hoped.

3. The Heart’s Invisible Furies: 2/5 stars. Went on forever. Not a fan.

4. The Kinfolk Home: 2.5/5 stars. Depressing. How can anyone afford to live like this? Liked most of the essays.

5. Still Life with Tornado: IDK stars. I don’t remember how I felt about this YA book. So I guess that says something.

6. New Minimalism: 3/5 stars. Nothing new or surprising to me here. Still liked it. Good place to start if you haven’t already gotten rid of 75-80 percent of your stuff and moved into a 275 square foot apartment with your partner.

7. Spark: 2.5/5 stars. I liked the first chapter. Then it felt like it went on too long.

8. Wing Jones: 4/5 stars. Loved this YA novel about finding your power and voice through running.

9. Fix Your Clothes: 3?/5 stars. Helpful reference. Still can’t really fix clothes.

10. Make Yourself at Home: 3/5. Book did not magically decorate my home.

11. Urban Jungle: 3/5. Have two new plants.

12. Sing, Unburied, Sing: 4/5 stars. Cried.

13. Little Fires Everywhere: 4/5 stars. Weird. Liked it.

14. Sage Living: Decorate for the Life You Want: 3/5 stars. Still have not hung up a single photo.

15. This Will Be My Undoing: 4/5  stars. Insightful, honest read. Recommend.

16. The Last Magazine: 1/5 stars. I wanted to leave this off this list to prevent drawing any more attention to it. Came off as sexist and racist. I have complicated because the author is dead so I feel like an ass for hating it and getting so worked up about it.

17. Born a Crime: 4.5/5 stars. Cannot recommend it enough.

18. Rethink The Way You Live: 2.5/5 stars. Kind of interesting? Have not rethought.

19. Tin Can Homestead: 4/5 stars. Gorgeous small living.

20. Goodbye, Things: 2.5/5 stars. Roughly translated, concept is just not for me. Repetitive.

21. Garbology: 5/5 stars. I cannot stop talking about this book. The history and scientific analysis of our trash blew me away. Please read it. It’s way more interesting and insightful than you could ever imaging a book about physical trash could be. So good.

22. How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky: 2/5 stars. So, so weird. I don’t get the hype. Wish I hadn’t finished it.

23. Emergency Contact: 2.5/5 stars. It was okay. Would have been better if the text messages the story was built on would have had stupid typos and autocorrect nonsense like they would have in real life.

January Book Reviews: What I Read This Month

The fact that this post is going live a little more than week before the next edition is due is telling. Life can be frustratingly disruptive on the reading and writing front. But no matter, still we continue.

Escape the news, laugh at yourself (and the people toiling away in the gym while you eat a donut), dig into culture, and find a little happiness with these January Book Reviews.

January Book Reviews

January Book Reviews: What I Read This Month – Treading Lightly

Drop Dead Healthy: One Man’s Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection

I did get a few laughs out of Drop Dead Healthy, but I was kind of surprised at the weird knowledge he chose to follow and the lack of sturdy science. That said, it was mostly entertaining just to listen to his thoughts and follow along with his always-a-little-out-there experiments.

 

Big Mushy Happy Lump (Sarah’s Scribbles #2)

There are times when I read a book and I think “Yes, this author and I so get each other!” Big Mushy Happy Lump was just as great as Adulthood Is a Myth. When you can’t take the news anymore or you just want 30 minutes where it’s perfectly alright to laugh by yourself in a corner, I can’t recommend Sarah Andersen enough.

 

The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World’s Happiest People

Everyone is obsessed with Scandinavia. Even I can’t help myself. Both with The Little Book of Hygge and the latest, The Little Book of Lykke, I found myself thinking how at home I would feel  nestled amongst the candles, hot drinks, warm cinnamon buns, and bicycles.

This book was less handbook and more of an intentional eye-opener. I loved the stats and examples, and it made me start thinking of ways that I could live a little more like a Dane (preferably somewhere without snow and ample winter sunlight). Be forewarned, it will also make you want to hop on a plane and see what all of the fuss is about.

 

We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy

Ta-Nehisi Coates is one of those writers that I compulsively read, but he makes me work for it. His books are never well-suited for tearing through, but instead make you reread entire pages and stare off into the distance while you rethink what you thought you knew about the world or imagine a world that owned up to its mistakes and rectified them quickly instead of desperately clutching onto lies and undeserved power.

While it’s true that you can read most of the essays in We Were Eight Years in Power on The Atlantic’s website, I much preferred being able to take my time with them, set the book down when I needed to, and come back a few days later when I was ready again. I may be an outlier, but I also really enjoyed his introduction to each essay where he explained what was going on in his personal life, what he would have done differently, the work that went into the piece, and the parts of it that he still feels strongly about or has changed his mind on.

 

The Mother of All Questions

From the author of Men Explain Things to MeThe Mother of All Questions takes on rape jokes, violence against women, damaging masculinity and femininity, and the power of women who cannot be silenced.

Why I’m Not a Fan of Everlane

Revoke my Millennial card now – I’m about to commit internet blasphemy.

I don’t like Everlane.

The brand has made its name touting its transparency and ethical wares, but I feel strongly that it doesn’t belong on the same racks as truly sustainable, ethical clothing. Yes, it is fantastic that Everlane is making an effort to show consumers where there clothes come from and break down the real costs that go into each piece. But I don’t think the clothes they are making right now are deserving of the praise they’ve been getting. (And there’s an ongoing debate about if they are actually radically transparent.)

It may seem unfair to complain about a company that is trying to do better than most fast fashion brands, but that doesn’t mean that it belongs on every list of ethical clothing brands or in every conscious consumer’s closet.

Why I'm Not a Fan of Everlane

Before I get into my reasons, I want to be very clear. I have only bought from Everlane once and visited their pop-up shop in San Francisco once. Outside of my time in their shop, I have only tried on and touched three of their pieces: crew neck cashmere sweater, v-neck cashmere sweater, and a cotton v-neck t-shirt.

Let’s get into it.

Why I Won’t Buy Everlane

1. It’s Fast Fashion Lite

Trendy? Check. Cheap? Check. Built to last? Definitely not.

Everlane may not add new items to the site every day, but they certainly pump out their fair share of new styles and colors. Most of their clothes are on trend, which means they will quickly become dated. Are they the same as H&M and Zara. No. But they are more like fast fashion than most people would like to admit.

Why I'm Not a Fan of Everlane

2. Poor Quality

Their low prices should have been a dead giveaway, but my biggest disappointment has been the poor quality of their clothing. All three of the pieces I ordered, including two cashmere sweaters, were see-through thin. The same can be said for most of what I saw in the store. The fabric is not high quality and the pieces do not feel like they are built to last.

You cannot pay fair wages, produce things well, use high quality materials, and sell a shirt for $15. The math just doesn’t add up. Something has to give.

Every time I wash my only Everlane piece, a dark gray v-neck t-shirt, I am paranoid it’s going to rip. I wash it on delicate and in a garment bag because it’s so thin.

3. Materials

Ethical comes in all shapes and sizes, but to me ethical clothing needs to be sustainable. Everlane does not use organic cotton or other low-chemical, low-water alternatives. They do not tell you what kind of dyes or process they use. They do not use leather that has been safely tanned without harmful chemicals. Their jackets are stuffed with polyester and polypropylene. Pants and dresses from their work wear collection contain viscose from unspecified origin, polyester, polyamid, and nylon.

That said, most of their materials are natural and not man-made. They have gone out of their way to manufacture their jeans in a sustainable denim factory. The sustainability of their materials and production is something that Everlane clearly cares about, but they haven’t gone far enough for me across their entire line. (If I had to guess, the cost of organic materials is likely their biggest barrier at this point to more sustainable materials).

4. Personal Reasons

It would be unfair to leave these out. I have struggled to find pieces that fit both my style and my body. However, it’s all of the things above that keep me from trying new pieces or giving them more chances.

 

Take a look inside my minimalist wardrobe or read why the ethical clothing blogger behind Gretchen’s Closet Stopped Buying Everlane.

This Is Garbage

We need to talk about trash.

There have been some important stories about trash in the news lately that are weighing on my mind, and yet they seem to be going unnoticed.

GoodFor Aukland Zero Waste Bulk Grocery Store

If every grocery store looked like GoodFor in Aukland, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

The biggest is that China is no longer taking our trash. Before the new policy went into effect on January 1, 2018, China recycled about half of the entire world’s paper and plastics. Now they are refusing to take on our dirty business due to environmental damage, poor quality of the materials we send, and hazardous waste and trash that’s mixed in and bring down the value of the recyclables. Countries including England, Ireland, Germany, and Canada are already reporting a buildup of plastic recyclables according to the article in the New York Times.

As more plastics and paper products build up in cities and ports around the world, the article reports that many are looking to export their waste to other countries like India, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia. But what are these countries going to do with this overflow of trash? Without proper recycling facilities and a capacity to actually process the massive surge, these countries will be inundated with our castoffs and left with the same problems that has left China reeling.

Sure, it feels like you’re doing the right thing by recycling – and yes it’s better than throwing things straight into the trash – but this is yet another (7.3 million ton) reminder that recycling is not enough. So what is?

We, as an entire global community, need to make less trash. It starts at home, but we also need to hold companies accountable for the packaging they use and demand better options.

For more of what you can do to reduce your waste right now, go here.

 

17 Things I’ve Been Doing to Resist

It’s been a full year. A full 356 days of standing up for what I believe in, fighting for what’s right, and bracing myself for the next New York Times notification.

Many of the things below are not necessarily new to my life – some have been around for at least a decade – but they have taken on new meaning to me. Here’s a fairly exhaustive list of what I’ve been doing to resist (in no particular order).

Resist Reading List: Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud

1. Reading

Books are powerful. Written language carries weight and meaning beyond the letters on the page. There’s a reason the current administration doesn’t want anyone reading newspapers or getting their right to free education.

Newspapers, magazines, blogs, and books illuminate other perspectives and immerse you in someone else’s experience for a brief moment. They add context and gravity to the things happening around us and help us better understand the real stakes. While I think any reading can be an act of resistance (and self-care!), here are a few of the books I read in the past year that fired me up or gave me much needed understanding:

The first two are must-reads.

2. Supporting Real News

It’s vital to support valuable sources of truth with money. I have a NYTimes subscription, but just remembering to turn off my ad blocker and spending more time with their content can make a difference for newspapers and journalists.

Resist: Bike to Farmers' Market

3. Riding My Bike

Every time I pick up my helmet instead of my car keys, I’m giving this repulsive administration a massive middle finger. Oil money has bought them off, and I refuse to put any back in their pockets. Instead I make every effort to ride my bike and pay for public transit. Each time I buy a ticket for the local train I am voting with my dollars and insisting that we need more funding and investment in our shared resources and sustainable transit. Riding my bike improves my community’s air quality, reduces traffic and road congestion, (hopefully) inspires other people to bike, and makes it safer for everyone. It also makes me really happy.

Who knew riding could feel so damn satisfying.

4. Calling My Representatives

I am lucky to live in a state/region that has politicians who are fighting for equality and justice. But that doesn’t mean they don’t need to hear from the people who support them. Actually calling makes me nauseous (and I totally cried once while talking to a staffer about health care and how much the Affordable Care Act has helped me), but I always feel better when I do.

Resist: Shop at Farmers' Markets

5. Eating My Values

I’ve been vegetarian for more than a decade. This year we’ve made an even bigger push to eat local foods by skipping the grocery store and getting our produce at our farmers’ market instead. Our veggies are from fields around the area and our money goes straight to the farmers instead of filtering through Amazon’s pockets. I refuse to give Monsanto or other massive agro-companies my money. We buy organic to protect our local environment, the workers, and ourselves. We’ve also been paying attention to foods with big carbon or water footprints and trying to eat them less.

Resist: Ditch the Trash

6. Working Toward Zero Waste

In general packaged foods don’t fit my values or come from companies I feel good supporting. Even more so, I can’t stand the idea of sending chip bags and granola bar wrappers to a landfill where they will either end up in the ocean or be buried in other plastic junk longer than I will be alive.

Reducing our trash has pushed us to support local business and farmers, discover new resources around us, reuse what we already have in different ways, and slowly cut down on our environmental impact. (You can see more about the changes we’ve made here.)

7. Refusing to Support Companies Who Support Hatred, Racism, and Sexism

A simple Chrome extension let’s me know when companies support the current administration. Before I purchase anything I do a quick search to make sure that the company ethically produces their goods, has sustainability practices, and aren’t in favor of the current regime. (Here’s a good list to get you started, compilations of dirty donors, or dive into the ultimate list of people and companies to boycott.

8. Keeping an Ethical Wardrobe

Creating an ethical wardrobe is about more than just buying from ethical retailers. Instead I have been taking good care of the clothes I already own. I have refused to buy from companies who don’t use sustainable materials and practices, don’t treat their workers fairly, and don’t pay fair prices for their raw materials. For much of the year, I just didn’t shop at all. When I did need something, I checked for used options first.

9. Reducing Online Shopping

Online shopping is a hard habit to break. I still research every purchase online before I buy it, but I’ve been trying to make purchases in a store rather than online. Sure, online shopping may be cheaper on the surface, but going to stores (especially when I ride my bike) saves carbon and helps starve oil companies. It takes untold amounts of oil to get all of our Amazon packages to us. Most things I can easily buy within 10 miles of my home. This also helps me cut down on packaging/waste.

 10. Supporting Independent, Ethical, Environmental Business

You don’t just have to shop to do this. I’ve been including more business that I believe in in the things I write (especially for other publications), following them on social media, and telling my friends about them when they’re looking for something in particular.

11. Staying Off Twitter

I refuse to fuel or partake in the distracting name calling and hatred that goes on in the space. It goes without saying, but not following the president and never retweeting him goes a long way. He takes power from people listening to him. Even retweets that are meant to show his idiocies or dispel lies turn into proof that people care what he says and that he’s being heard. Let him yell his lies to an empty void. (Related: Why I deleted my Facebook.)

12. Ignoring Clickbait

I refuse to teach publications that it’s okay to use the frequently unfolding horrors to drive clicks and revenue. I will not let publications get away with stories meant to inflame or needlessly entertain. This includes political ‘you won’t believe!’ stories, almost all celebrity stories, and anything that looks like it came out of a tabloid. I can’t stand the current president’s obsession with this “tv ratings.” I’m not watching. (That doesn’t mean I’m not paying attention or informed.)

13. Listening to New Voices

I’ve spent an outrageous amount of time listening to podcasts in the last 12 months. Top of mind are Seeing White from Scene on the Radio, Pod Save America (and its offshoots), and Call Your Girlfriend. They keep me up to date about what’s going, tell me how I can help, and help me understand the world a bit better. I’m also a big fan of the Small Victories newsletter that highlights the progress and good things that are happening.

14. Talking

There have been some falling outs in the last year over social and political beliefs within my extended family. But that hasn’t stopped me from seeing how important it is to talk to the people in my life candidly about what’s happening, how it’s affecting everyone, and what we can do to help one another.

15. Supporting Public Services

The library is one of my favorite places. It is one of the public services that I use the most, and I am so thankful for it. We have a great library system in our county. Not only does it mean I can read 79 books without having to spend a dime, but it offers so many programs to the entire community. When I go stir-crazy at home it’s the first place I pack myself off to for some quiet work or a much needed browse.
There are so many other things that fall into this category, but the others that I use or try to visibly support is bike access/parking in my community, public transit, and farmers’ markets and other open events.

16. Refusing Greed and ‘Me First’ Attitude

This obnoxious, toxic behavior is what got us here. We’re all trying to grab what’s ‘owed’ to use before the next person can, and it’s destroying our societies and our happiness.

I’m actively working on not getting mad at people who cut in front of me when driving, being mindful to hold open doors, wave other people through at stop signs, and generally reassess whenever I feel like I have to have something before someone else gets it. This also includes not chasing after the latest and greatest things and instead being thankful for the things we do have.

17. Recognizing Humanity

American society is weird. We pride ourselves on giving each other personal space and being self-reliant individuals. And yet we close ourselves off from others and ignore the humanity in the people around us. I’m all for gliding through the background unnoticed, but there are times when I think it does more harm than good.

This one is as easy as saying ‘hello,’ ‘thank you,’ or even ‘good morning.’ Start with people who hold doors open for you and move on to every service worker who helps you, homeless people, or strangers on your commute. Talk to the person in your office that you’ve never actually met. Get to know the people who take care of your yard or your local park. If an introvert like me can do it, anyone can.

Noticeably Absent:

This year I didn’t make it to any protests. I let my still healing ankle and fear get in the way. 2018 seems like a good year to change that.

 

November and December Books: What I Read

Phew, what a year.

This list concludes the rambling reviews/thoughts/complaints/useless nonsense I have written for all 79 of the books I read in 2017. (Yes, I too wish it was 80. Although that seems greedy given that I had originally set out to read 52.) More than any year in the past, these posts have reflected my worries, my hopes, my weird obsessions. These books have offered me comfort, answers, and a nice dose of ‘well at least it’s not that bad… right?’ I hope you were able to sneak in a little bit of that too.

2017 Reading Stats

For the curious:

Books read:79
Fiction: 32
Nonfiction: 44
Poetry: 3
Average length: 297 pages
Total pages: 23,432
Shortest book: 78 pages
Longest book: 707 pages

November and December Books

I got a bit behind on my monthly book posts, so you’ll have to excuse this massive post with both November’s and December’s list.

November and December Books: What I Read This Month

Say What You Will

This book was not what I expected, and two months later I’m even less sure what I think about it. I enjoyed that the focus of the story and the narrater is a teen with cerebral palsy who can’t talk or walk without assistance. For the most part it was a believable story that does a good job of keeping you engaged. Unfortunately there were times where it was just a bit too over the top for my taste.

 

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed

Add this to the list of things I fear and hope I never need to draw on. Jon Ronson digs into the frightening world of public (typically online) shaming and what it really looks like in the aftermath.

The main things I learned from So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed: women have their bodies and lives threatened, while men are made fun of and have their masculinity challenged. Women are more likely to be permanently marked by a public shaming, while men can move in on mere months and go back to having the life they had before. Being called out on the Internet can ruin your life, especially if you are a woman who relies on public acceptance for work.

Perhaps not a great vacation read, but I think it’s an important issue that we all need to be more aware of before we jump on the shame wagon and attempt to obliterate people off the internet.

 

Sourdough

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore turned out to be a tough act to follow. Robin Sloan’s new book, Sourdough, is also set in the Bay Area and features distinctly dystopian views of the world. The story follows a software engineer as she leaves behind a start-up job that makes her miserable in favor of learning how to make sourdough bread.

I enjoyed Lois and her oddities, and I can’t say I don’t agree with some of Sloan’s views on where our tech-fueled culture is headed. But I can’t lie. I was dissapointed that Lois had to choose between her career that she excelled at and a new passion. The whole book had me on edge. Maybe no one wants to read a book where women can carve out professional success while still having a fully functional personal life, but I felt like the plot followed old tropes.

 

We Were Feminists Once: From Riot Grrrl to CoverGirl®, the Buying and Selling of a Political Movement

I dragged my feet on We Were Feminists Once. I take issue with some of the underlying premises of this book, but I too sat in a class only a handful of years ago where I was one of two women, out of 20, who raised their hand when asked if they considered themselves a feminist.

Andi Zeisler chronicles the commodification of feminism and the glaring misunderstanding of what it means. (Apparently she was spot on about that one. Why did so many people have to look up ‘feminism’ this year?)

It didn’t revolutionize my world, but I do think it’s an important read to understand the last decade and where we need to go from here.

 

The Sun and Her Flowers

Rupi Kaur is the poet I wanted to be when I was 13. I say screw the establishment’s uproar and turned up noses. I’m all for more accessible, heartfelt poetry that so many women can see their own lives in.

 

The Moth Presents All These Wonders: True Stories about Facing the Unknown

Tears were shed. Socially inappropriate laughs burst out. This collection of true short stories that were adapted from live tellings gave me a much needed hit of unforgettable performances.

 

The Chemist

I enjoyed The Chemist more than I’d like to admit. Since leaving her job at a secret government group, the main character is on the run stay one step ahead of everyone, including her previous boss wants her dead thanks to the secrets she helped them uncover.

I liked the premise of the book. The main character’s paranoia felt right at home, and her problem-solving skills were believable (and often humorous). The chemistry portions of the book made it feel fresh and less like a shoot ’em up spy movie.

My gripe? Stephenie Meyer yet again made a book that could be about a woman fighting for the control of her life into a story about how said woman gives up everything to follow a man. You can see the love story coming from the first brush, and it annoyed me.

 

The Song Machine: Inside the Hit Factory

Something about The Song Machine just didn’t work for me. Its sweeping coverage of song making since the ’60s left me feeling unmoored and bored. There’s no connection with the people he writes about, and it often felt like he spent too much time on certain people and decades. I wish that it had been more about individual songs or albums. It was just too hard to grasp if you aren’t obsessively following producers and the charts for the past 20 years.

It was interesting to read about how song writing and making has completely transformed into a corporate group effort. The assembly line has been brought in, and it robs the most popular hits of their individualism and soul.

If you do love the top 20, you will hate this book. It will show you that every song you listen to is heartless and made like a shitty inexpensive sports car. All flash and no lasting power.

 

Lust & Wonder

Pure love. I first read Augusten Burroughs in high school, and this autobiography had me flashing back to sitting against a locker while desperately trying to devour as much of Running with Scissors as possible before I had to go to class.

Along with David Sedaris, Burroughs perfectly hums along with my humor. His life choices drive me absolutely insane, but I don’t want him to stop telling me about them.

 

Artemis

Artemis is one of the books I looked forward to most this year. I still recommend The Martian to people, and I was hoping this one would be just as good. I was so desperate to read Andy Weir’s latest that I actually bought it (it was one of the maybe four books I bought all year).

The plot is outlandish as Jazz Bashara, Artemis’ unofficial smuggling expert, takes on her biggest project yet. But overall it’s easy to be fully onboard with the world Weir creates and his community on the moon. The book was great fun.

 

Girl Up

Written for teens, this book is a handbook for carving out your life in a sexist world. Laura Bates acts as a friendly guide and a wise older sister as she breaks down some of the most frustrating and unfair things girls come up against. Her advice is spot on, and I enjoyed the humor she was able to bring to what are often stuffy, overly serious, scarring conversations.

 

Adulthood Is a Myth

I think Sarah Andersen and I should be friends in real life. But the kind of friends where you mostly text and only see each other in quiet, uncrowded places. My introverted soul nodded along to every page of this fun illustrated book.

 

Ramona Blue

Set a little more than a decade after Hurricane Katrina, this YA novel brings together race, poverty, and sexuality without it feeling forced or preachy. From her off-kilter friends to her fierce protection of her sister to her constant push and pull with her hometown, it’s hard not to dive right in alongside Ramona as she struggles to choose her future and let her family stand on their own. Julie Murphy managed to make Ramona Blue entertaining and relatable even when tackling the realities of being stuck in the wake of a disaster.

 

Want more? Here’s everything I read in 2017

October
September
August
July
June
May
April
March
February
January

My Top Books of 2016 and 2015

You can see all of my book reviews here.

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