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ON MONEY: 10 IDEAS FOR FREE SELF CARE

There’s a booming, billion dollar industry built on wellness. But it’s a sort of ‘Instagram-ready’ wellness isn’t it? The fancy face cream. The $100 workout leggings. The expensive meditation retreat. Designed to have us all living our best lives.. for a price. All of it being sold to us as “self care”. Which makes it easy to treat yourself to these things under the pretense that it’s good for you. Which can become a slippery slope when it comes to trying to stick to a financial plan.

And I’m not here to argue that the pricey workout classes won’t get you toned, which may in turn lead to higher self esteem. Or that the $40 face mask won’t visibly decrease wrinkles and give you one less thing to stress about. I’m just saying that I don’t think these things are “self care”. Because if they are… it means that only a select percentage of women get to indulge in them. That, essentially, only the wealthy deserve “self care”. And that doesn’t sit well with me.

I think that the majority of the wellness industry should be considered treats. Just like buying a new pair of shoes. No need to deprive yourself of them if they fit within your budget and it’s something you want to prioritize – but if you’re looking for “self care” there are about a million ways to do it for free. Here are my top 10 favorite ways to feel like I’m truly taking care of myself, that don’t cost a dime:

  1. Phone a friend. I’m all for a quick text, but hearing a friend or family member’s actual voice in this digital age gives me such a true boost in happiness.
  2. While we’re on the subject of money, set aside time to check in on yours. I like to reserve at least 30-45 minutes once a week to review my budget. It makes me feel like I’m sticking to my goals and I’m in control of my spending. Adam and I actually do this together each week and it feels like self care for our relationship too.
  3. Fold and put away your laundry immediately. I’ll admit that the idea of this feels like climbing a mountain after already schlepping to the laundromat, but when I do it.. I feel SO much better. While you’re at it, make the bed each morning. The feeling of looking around your home and feeling at ease as opposed to feeling like you’re looking at one giant chore list is worth the extra up front effort.
  4. Learn something new. Google a random fact about a subject you’re interested in. Watch a youtube tutorial video or pick up a book that’s been lingering on your shelf. Just expand your mind for a few minutes.
  5. Stretchhh it out. It’s kind of amazing what a good stretch will do for you. You can easily Youtube some simple variations if you don’t know where to start.
  6. Play bartender/barista at home. There’s something that feels really great to me about taking time to fix yourself a nice drink. I love a gin and tonic with a twist of fresh lime or a big mug of peppermint green tea.
  7. While this one is free – it does require a partner so I realize it won’t be an option for everyone. But for god sakes if you’re lucky enough to have someone special in your life.. hug and kiss them! Daily! Multiple times a day in fact! It’s proven to promote feelings of happiness and closeness. And I mean, it’s probably the most fun thing on the list.
  8. Get your blood pumping. Sure – a good make-out session could do that too – but I mean working out. You don’t need a gym or fancy clothes or special training or sunny weather. I’m guessing you have 3 feet of free space and know how to run in place and do jumping jacks, sit-ups and push-ups? Great. Now repeat until you’re breathless and sweating. Pinterest and Youtube all have amazing, free routines you can try. If you’re not quite up for all of that, take a long walk instead. There’s nothing better in my opinion for clearing your mind.
  9. Go to bed 30 minutes earlier. For a long time Adam and I thought we didn’t need to go to bed until 11PM. Which meant we were still up watching TV at 11PM. We didn’t factor in that it takes us another 30 minutes to fold the blankets on the couch, lock up, wash our faces, brush our teeth, etc. etc. And before we knew it, the clock was striking midnight before we were truly asleep. Now we start to wind down everything at 10:30PM and I swear it has made a world of difference.
  10. They say the cure for anything is to just add water – and I really agree. If I can go for a swim, that’s the ideal, but if not I take a long hot shower or bath. Or drink a big glass of water. Or, if it’s really drastic, I’ll cue the waterworks (I’m not a cryer so this is pretty rare – but for some of you this may be a regular exercise which I think is great!). Either way, I always feel better after I’ve added water.

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THE STEELE MAIDEN BOOK CLUB: CHAPTER TWELVE

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I just realized that my last book club post was in 3 months ago (!) but honestly the time between October and the end of the year always flies by to me. So here we are. A new year and a new stack of books. Below – my reviews for the books I finished (many of which were some of the best books I read all of last year!) and what I’ve got on my shelf to read next.

P.S. In case you missed me mentioning it, my best friend from college and I started a new Instagram account @prettywords dedicated solely to our love of all things reading. A #bookstagram if you will. It’s been so fun to create a little space that has no pressure and is all about one of things I love most in life. Follow along if you want, but don’t worry – I’ll be continuing these posts as well!

SHOP MY BOOK CLUBS PICKS:

Circe by Madeline Miller – This book really took me by surprise. I’m not usually a fantasy genre reader but after hearing good things about this book I picked it up on a whim from the library and really fell in love with it. A Greek mythology story that spans literally thousands of years but somehow still manages to be a page turner. Highly recommend. (5 out of 5 stars)

The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King – A look at the life and work of the inimitable Fred Rogers. This book was admittedly, pretty dry. But at the same time it was super endearing to hear the back story of such a known and loved public figure and I found myself collecting tidbits of parenting tips for the future. I definitely skimmed some bits – but my friend Claire listened to this on audiobook which I think may have been an even better option to easily digest. (3.5 out of 5 stars)

Save Me the Plums by Ruth Reichl – This memoir follow’s Ruth’s time as the Editor in Chief of Gourmet magazine in the late nineties/early 2000s. A time when Condé Nast editors were celebrities in their own right and magazines had seemingly unlimited budgets. Such a fun look into a glittering world that I always dreamed about from afar. (4.5 out of 5 stars)

Toil & Trouble by Augusten Burroughs – Aside from David Sedaris, Burroughs (who wrote Running with Scissors) is one of my favorite authors in a genre I like to call ‘anecdotal memoirs’. Short stories about their lives and observations about the world around them are told with equal parts honesty and humor. This particular set of stories focuses on the theme that Burroughs is in fact, a witch. I read it around Halloween which was fun, but honestly I would have loved it any time of year. (5 out of 5 stars)

City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert – Last year I waited months for this book to come out. I bought a signed copy as soon as I could get my hands on one. And then I didn’t open the book for about 6 months. As friends read it and text me to say how much I’d love it, I waited.. already knowing I’d be sad once I’d finished it. Which is silly I know. But as suspected I loved this book. And was in fact sad once it was over. It starts out in New York in the 1940s in a whirlwind of showgirl glamour and ends quietly in the same Gramercy neighborhood that I live. It’s so much fun and also heartbreaking and just all around wonderful. (5 out of 5 stars)

SHOP MY NEXT BOOK CLUB PICKS:

To be honest, this post is so delayed that I’m already halfway through the next stack – so expect another round of reviews soon! Most of these are recent library finds aside from Marilou is Everywhere which was recommended to me and The Dutch House which I’ve been excited about ever since getting bit by the Ann Patchett bug last summer when I read her novel Commonwealth. Happy reading!

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ON RELATIONSHIPS: START-UPS VS. MERGERS

Years ago I heard someone say that there are two types of relationships, start-ups or mergers. I’ve thought about it often since. It’s a generalization, but also rings so true to me. And besides being interesting to identify, I have found that little things like this can truly help you come to a deeper understanding of your relationship and in turn, learn to play to the strengths of your situation.

 So what does it mean to be a starter or a merger? Well, when I heard the phrase it was in passing – but here’s what I would define it as.

In a start-up, you meet when you’re young. Maybe you’ve had a relationship or two before, but still, you’re young enough to be bright eyed and bushy tailed and endlessly optimistic about the prospects of this new venture. You’ve got energy and resources to burn. All good things in theory. But as you grow, you’re going to have to figure out how to grow together. A start-up venture doesn’t have history on it’s side so you’re figuring out every little thing as you go. Many won’t make it this way. You’ll grow in different directions and go bankrupt along the way. But if you can withstand the growing pains, keep the same end goals in mind and somehow turn a profit – you’ll be an inspiring success story. The kind that people want to model their own business (ahem, relationship) after.

In a merger, you come in to this thing with assets. You’re a little older and a little wiser. You’ve got liabilities. You’ve likely been burned by business partners before. In a merger you are two already formed entities. And you have to somehow figure out how to get these two things to join forces and be better because of it. In the worst case scenario you find out these things will never be compatible. Too many stubborn differences, the pieces just can’t fit. But in the best case scenarios, a merger brings together two already strong individuals and makes something even stronger.

I believe that a great relationship can come from either, but I love thinking about it this way.

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HOW TO SHOP YOUR OWN CLOSET

Is anyone else doing a ‘no shopping’ January? Last year was the first time I ever tried this feat of anti-fashion.. and you know what? It was a cinch. And it effectively helped push me in the direction of truly understanding what my closet needed or didn’t need. What I loved to wear and what I merely owned to own. I’m doing it again this month and quite fittingly, I also happened to have a couple of reader requests for tips on how to shop you closet. So here goes.

My first tip is to clear your closet. I used to stare into a packed closet and feel sort of ‘meh’. And it’s because so many of the pieces were wrong for me. They never really fit right or they weren’t my style anymore (or frankly ever). And so at a glance it felt like I had nothing to wear. I used to try on 2-3 outfits in the mornings before finally settling on something. But then last January I drastically cleared my closet. Essentially keeping only what ‘sparked joy’ if you will. With only pieces left that fit my figure and my style – it made it so much easier to shop my closet and look at what remained with fresh eyes.

From there – every time the season changes and I’m tempted to fill my closet with say, all the new pretty spring things, I do this trick instead. I look at some of my favorite brand’s websites and instead of thinking of the individual items I’d buy – I look at the styling of the clothes. So many times I realize that I have similar items and can just style them in a new way. Maybe a long cardigan would love totally new belted over a dress. Or I’ll get an idea for a new color combo (seen here – light brown, teal and sky blue). I swear so many times when you walk into a store or browse a website, what you’re falling in love with is the styling and you don’t need the individual pieces at all.

And after that – it’s all about accessories. Dig out a silk scarf and tie it around a bag you’ve had for ages. Put on a fun pair of statement earrings with an everyday sweater. I find when I’m really utilizing all the tools in my arsenal so to speak – the options feel endless. Pro tip: organize your belts, scarves and jewelry in a way that you can actually see them and easily access them. It will make all the difference.

Happy shopping (the things you already own)!

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THOUGHTS ON SUBSCRIPTION SHOPPING + AN HONEST REVIEW OF NUULY

If you have been following along, you already know that last January I made a major shift in how I viewed money and shopping. I overhauled my personal finances, completed a “no shopping” January (which led to 3 other “no shop” months throughout the year) and donated or sold probably a quarter of my wardrobe.

Now, when I add a new piece to my wardrobe it’s thought out and strategic. Can I wear it multiple ways? Does it reflect who I want to be? If I waited a couple of weeks would I still want it? If it was full-priced would I still want it? It’s been a strategy serving me well this past year and it truly helped to break that unnecessary urge to always have something “new”. Not to mention it’s far more sustainable as I wasn’t constantly picking up fast fashion that I probably wouldn’t wear for more than a season or two.

But what if you could have that something new feeling without financially committing? I’ve heard plenty of people (blogger’s especially who always want to have new things to wear) rave about shopping subscriptions like Rent the Runway and I have to admit – I was curious. So when Nuuly – from the geniuses behind Anthropologie/Urban Outfitters/Free People – reached out to offer me a free 3 month subscription, I knew I wanted to give it a try. After 3 free months I paid for one additional month so far just so I’d have a true customer experience.

The Pros: You get to pick 6 items of clothing each month for $89/month. They handle all of the dry cleaning, repairs etc. so what you get looks brand new. Overall, I thought the selection was great with brands you’d find at Nordstrom and Shopbop plus new arrivals from Anthro, Urban and FP. I gravitated towards more fashion/trend pieces – a fun coat, a statement dress – that I otherwise would have been tempted by on a trip to Anthropologie, but saved myself the $200 price tag and the need to make permanent room for it in my closet. And usually at the end of the month, I was fine returning the pieces.

The Cons: I’ve mentioned before but I’m a sentimental person, especially when it comes to my wardrobe. If I have a particularly great memory while wearing something – it’s very hard for me to let it go. Which means after I wore this perfect sequin dress to a holiday concert with Adam.. I couldn’t part with it. The upside is that you can buy items at a pretty good discount and don’t have to ship them back. However, if I hadn’t been trying this service – I likely would have not been tempted to get something new for the concert. So if you’re someone who is going to be easily tempted – this could actually end up make you buying more.

Overall? I like the concept. For something like a vacation or the holiday season, I think it’s a really great way – for a relatively low cost – to have a fun assortment of pretty new things to wear. Like this cute minty fresh jacket. Or if you’re in a transitional phase like a new mom or someone who is kind of figuring out there style – I think this is such a great way to get to try things on and see what you like before committing your closet to a direction or size.

But if I were to do it every single month, I kind of feel like it would eat away at the mindset I worked so hard to achieve – which is the feeling that what I have is enough and I don’t always need more, more, more… new, new, new. And, for someone who is set on building a closet full of things I love that carry memories I want to hold on to – the fleeting nature isn’t really in line with that. I’m going to hit pause on my subscription for next month, but may use it again in March when we’ve got a warm weather trip planned!

I’m curious if any of you have tried subscription shopping and what your thoughts have been? P.S. If you’re interested in trying Nuuly they gave me an offer code to share that gets you $20 off your first month. – this post wasn’t sponsored, but as mentioned my first 3 month trial was gifted.

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The Steele Maiden © 2012

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.