The Nitty Gritty

Let’s get down to it. 

The steps laid out by Cait in the epilogue of The Year of Less are as follows (grossly oversimplified by yours truly):

  1. Declutter your home
  2. Take inventory of the items you own the most of
  3. Write 3 lists:
    1. Essential items you’ll need to buy as you run out
    2. Nonessentials you’re not allowing yourself to buy for the duration of the spending freeze
    3. Approved list of purchases
  4. Unsubscribe/unfollow emails or social media accounts that tempt you to spend unnecessarily
  5. Set up shopping ban savings account
  6. Tell everyone you know
I think I nailed the sixth order of business, hmmmm?

One of my favorite aphorisms of Cait’s is that “personal finance is personal” and so is this experiment. I won’t be opening a new savings account for this six month sabbatical from spending or taking inventory of the items I own the most of. I am midway in my decluttering journey and no longer have large accumulations of crap I don’t need or use. I do however have medium accumulations of crap I don’t need so I will be beginning with step 1.

My plan:
  1. I am getting my floors replaced this upcoming weekend, July 4 and 5. My goal was to have the remaining problem areas decluttered by this weekend. I have all of three days to complete this lofty goal, but I’ll take my best shot at it.
  2. Skip
  3. My lists
    1. Essentials I can replace as I run out:
      1. groceries/food/cleaning supplies
      2. basic makeup and haircare
      3. toiletries
      4. gas and basic bills/expenses/upkeep items
    2. Non essentials I’m not buying for the rest of the year:
      1. books
      2. clothes/shoes/vanity items
      3. whatever random thing I’m certain will bring happiness at the moment 
    3. Approved spending:
      1. curtain for over my kitchen window
      2. photo gifts for my loved ones for Christmas – no more than $50 this Christmas **more to come on doing away with expected gifting
      3. a wedding gift for the one wedding I’m attending between now and 12/31
      4. intentional meals with friends and loved ones
      5. one PSL when they launch this year
      6. rugs for Gavin’s and my room
  4. I will be muting all of the accounts on Instagram I leave feeling less-than after visiting and unsubscribing from any lingering email lists I haven’t gotten to yet
  5. Skip
  6. Nailed it
I won’t be perfect at this. I will falter and fail and pick right up where I left off, and I will take you along for the ride as much as I possibly can.

Tomorrow’s post will be a compilation of my starting points for aspiring minimalists along with a collection of “before” pics.. 

Thanks for being here, this should be fun.

​Love, Ashley

A Half Year of Less

​Last week I finished listening to the audio version of the book The Year of Less by Cait Flanders. She so eloquently sums up many thoughts and experiences I’ve had while stumbling through the world of minimalism. Whether or not minimalism has any relevance to your life, I can’t recommend the book enough. She also covers topics that are widely relevant to humans in general and honestly calls herself out without tearing herself down. That’s a tricky balance and I think she does a great job.

That brings me to my own experiment with concepts derived from The Year of Less. We’re about to head into July which means the year is halfway over. I genuinely can’t believe the strange turns this year has brought us all, and can’t even begin to imagine where it will lead us for the second half. One thing that hasn’t changed in my life is my desire to live it more intentionally. 

I recently looked back through old journal entries and realized I’ve been praying for the same change of heart for years now. I want to put my people first and foremost, pay my full attention to what’s in front of me, and surround myself with only the things that add value. I love my people well (though there’s always room for improvement), but mindfulness and minimalism have not been anywhere close to “mastered”. I could tell you my priorities all day long, but I was speaking about them rather than living them.

I’ve been on a minimalism journey since around 2016 (or have I always been on this journey, technically?). I became obsessed with The Minimalists podcast, books, YouTube channel, every work of their’s I could consume. I went through decluttering and organizing sprees but quickly found myself back to my old habit of shopping to fill my time and the large hole in my heart.

It turns out old habits do in fact die hard.

Shopping has held a special place for me since I was very small. That was always THE thing to do on the weekends, after school, honestly anytime I possibly could. Herein lies a major discrepancy between how each of my parents operate in the world. My dad would buy a new $8 pair of jeans from Walmart and call it good for a decade whereas my mom could easily buy 8 pairs of jeans in a weekend. I’ll let you guess whose side I emulated. I didn’t understand as a child what I was doing, and I never took the time to question it. I continued these shopping habits into my post college years, though it ebbed and flowed. It’s only been recently that I started investigating into why I leaned into shopping so hard and truly came to grips with the place it was holding for me.

The truth is I no longer need shopping to distract me from what hurts. I know how to sit with it now. And though I’m not perfect at it, I at the very least understand that I HAVE to sit with it. 

I did the hard work of burrowing out from under the sad bomb shelter I spent years creating, and I’m ready to embrace the next chapter.

I want to invest this time so that my future journal entries don’t read exactly like those of years past, wishing I behaved differently rather than actually behaving differently. The difference now is I’ve got two gentlemen on the scene who’ve already taught me so much. Rob is a natural at minimalism and inspires the hell out of me just by getting to witness how he operates in the world. Babies are  minimalist by nature, and Gavin has shown me how little things matter and how much our time together does.

Tomorrow’s post will outline what my “Half Year of Less” will entail in detail. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Love,
Ashley

Love in the Time of Corona

Happy quarantine day 39754836923 y’all.

Mother’s Day weekend is upon us. This holiday is one I had no idea was so triggering for so many until I wrote this post on the subject matter two years ago. Motherhood, the lack of our motherhood, the loss of our mothers, our mothers not meeting our expectations, us not meeting the expectations of ours mothers, etc. is very emotional and potentially carries immense hurt, joy, fear, love.

But the greatest of these is love.

In Untamed, Glennon Doyle writes,

“Parents love their children. I have met no exceptions. Love is a river, and there are times when impediments stop the flow of love. Mental illness, addictions, shame, narcissism, fear passed down by religious and cultural institutions–these are boulders that interrupt love’s flow.

“Your parent–your sister, your friend, the one who couldn’t love you–her love was impeded. That love was there–swirling, festering, vivacious in its desperation for release. It was there, it is there, all for you. That love exists. It just couldn’t get past the boulder.”

This is something I did not believe until recently. I’m sure I’m not alone in having deemed myself unlovable or the love not existing rather than there being a boulder in the way. It’s so much easier to vilify the ones who’ve hurt us than to release the situation from our hands entirely. It was really never ours to carry.

How others love you speaks only about their ability to love and not about how lovable you are. 

This is applicable to all interpersonal encounters, including the well-intentioned folk who ask when you’ll finally have kids, the oblivious well wishers who have no idea your pregnancy was unplanned, those who don’t even acknowledge that this is your first Mother’s Day since your own has passed.

We never mean to hurt our people. And yet there is so much hurt.

We won’t all become mothers, but each of us is a daughter. I am going into this Mother’s Day with a heart posture of gratitude for the one who carried me in her belly for nine months, and in her heart ever since. She hasn’t loved me perfectly, but that was never going to be possible. The love is there and has always been, and the boulder gets smaller each time I let go of the middle schooler in me who couldn’t understand any of that.

I so truly am with you this weekend, regardless of what your mothering situation looks like. Celebrate, don’t celebrate, do whatever you need to commemorate or simply get through this Hallmark holiday. I hope you feel seen and loved and appreciated, and that the mommas in your life feel the same–from six feet apart.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Love,
Ashley

********************************

PS- I hope you caught it, but just in case the title reference is to Love in the Time of Cholera.

“She had never imagined that curiosity was one of the many masks of love.”

Mommying Me

Photo by Sarah Beth Photography
​Maternity leave is quickly coming to a close.

Much as I assumed would happen, the time has flown!
And crawled.
And stood still.
And then flown again!

New parenthood is something for which you can’t truly prepare. Sure you can prepare for the baby, and prepare I did! But there is nothing else in the world quite like parenthood. There are ways in which puppy parenthood leant itself to the real thing, but you can’t shut the baby in his crate and leave for the day.

Sometimes you’ll want to though!!

Motherhood is undoubtedly the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far. There are plenty of parenting books out there, but not one of them was written specifically for the wriggly little alien they yank out of you and then send you home with. This means you can read each one and still not be any closer to answers for why YOUR baby won’t stop crying/pooping/barfing/seems to hate you. “The baby will stop crying” is a fun little ditty I was told while pregnant and the slow repetition of this phrase has gotten me through many a long cry sesh. Not entirely sure if I was trying to convince myself or Gavin of this, but the screams do always end.

Like any new endeavor, it can take a while to establish your sea legs. I’m learning something new each day (if not each hour/minute) and it’s so cool to be taught lessons from a being who can’t even control their own bowel movements. Gavin is almost 10 weeks old and he’s finally starting to coo and smile and even giggle on occasion, but he’s very selective about handing those favors out. Guess what else he does?

He notices my phone.

I have tried (and failed) so many times to capture said elusive smiles on camera (phone camera), to no avail. As soon as my phone replaces my face in his line of vision, his expression goes blank and he stares at the phone. Not to go all Aristotle on your ass, but that spoke to me on a much larger scale than failing to capture a smile. I know that I don’t want him to be on social media, but what I hadn’t considered was that I don’t want him to equate happiness/smiles/laughter with a phone either. Sure, that can seem like quite a leap. But if every time he smiles at me I shove a phone in his face, what else am I teaching him? I want him to come to the conclusion he naturally did, which was to smile at the face of a person who loves and cares for him. We learn so early to smile for the camera (not just us millennials screwing up the next generation, even I learned that as a lil tot) but when did that replace smiling in our actual lives/circumstances?

I feel like this is where Instagram comes in to play. We’re all too happy to capture a perfect moment and post it for the world to see but by doing so, so often miss out on the real-time moments in the lives we actually live. I am a lover of photographs and that won’t change, but already my little guy is teaching me the big lessons. I love so much more that moment when he locks his eyes on me and smiles, and it doesn’t matter at all that I’ll probably never catch it on camera. It matters that I’ve stopped trying and am instead soaking it all in while I can. 

I know that I will fail him time and time again, but I also know perfection is not what loving him requires. He has lots of earthly needs and diapers are unfortunately not free, but as for emotionally, his needs are few and simple. (PS-same goes for adults!) 

I need to be there for him — fully there, without a screen between us and nothing else either (except a diaper, truly they need those things!). I want him to equate my face with smiles and good baby feels; obviously this should evolve as he does but for now I feel like that’s a fair ask from a nine week old. He certainly doesn’t need to see my iPhone whenever he sees me. 

I am admittedly a novice in the parenting arena, but I’m nothing if not a willing student so cheers to my newest little teacher.

Love,
​Ashley

Performing Pregnancy 101

Nora McInerney was the first person I’d ever heard speak on the idea of performing pregnancy.
​What did that mean exactly? Why wasn’t she interested in this performance? 

Sure, she was months into a pregnancy a very short time after her husband passed away, but wasn’t she the gushing, excited, beyond happy momma to be?

No.

And that is okay! It is also okay if your situation is very much different than hers and you’re still not interested in putting on a show for the world, which is something I could never have understood without going through this process myself. It is also okay if you ARE the glowing, gushing, over the top excited momma to be.

As you may have figured out, I fall in the former category. I do not enjoy the barrage of questions from complete strangers regarding a process that is painful and hard and sad while also being beautiful and miraculous and wonderful. HOWEVER, I need to stretch myself to understand that the questioners are simply trying to connect with me. And yes, it is sometimes in a way that may personally grind my gears, but ultimately I know this is not their aim. 

Full disclosure here, I’d typed out a bit of a rant post regarding how pregnant women (or at least me, as I am no spokeswoman) are peppered with inane personal questions. I never posted because it didn’t feel right (also, raging hormones), and I’m glad I didn’t. A coworker who I don’t work closely with was asking questions about my pregnancy while we washed our hands after a simultaneous bathroom break and then shared with me her own struggle with infertility, a ticking biological clock, and a deep longing to be undertaking the experience I am now.

As easily as she shared all that with me, something clicked. What the majority of us seem to want is to be acknowledged, seen, and heard by another member of the human race. I think this may be why pregnant women are often a magnet for others of both genders—they have an automatic in to speak to you. It is not about me or the baby growing inside me at all, but rather a way to connect with another person on the most basic human level. Like my brother said, “Everyone loves a pregnant broad”. 

To put it simply, the point is grace. 

I need to be better about remembering that these interactions with others are coming from a pure place, or at the very least a place that has absolutely nothing to do with me. But I need to do that always, not just when the questions are in a higher quantity because I am pregnant. As an introvert, it always sends me mentally running for the hills when I can tell a stranger is going to talk to me.

But how am I going to spread God’s love when I make every interaction about me? 

I can’t! Treating others kindly and in a way indicative of my faith is so much more important to me than answering the same questions over and over again is annoying to me. I shouldn’t need to utter a single word regarding my faith but it should be apparent in the way I behave toward others.

Pregnancy is hard and painful and full of curveballs but then so is life. Removing myself from the center of each and every interaction is important now as well as every other day I get to breathe and interact and be a human. I’m thankful for an incredibly easy pregnancy as well as for the experience to have opened my eyes to others in such a powerful way. 

We never really have a clue what another person is actually going through, so grace upon grace is how I aim to treat others. It sure is how I prefer to be treated.

Performing pregnancy is not the point any more than performing humanity is. And if you want to break it down (or have a breakdown) to a person who knows exactly how human you feel, by all means ask me something personal regarding growing another human inside me.

I’ve got you.

Love,
​Ashley

Home Improvement Week

Helloooooooo friends!

I recently took advantage of my pup’s neuter appointment as a good reason to use up some of my workplace’s generous vacation policy, but quickly realized I’d have a lot of downtime on my hands. You’d think they went to the vet for a spa day for all the inconvenience and pain it seemed to cause them! When it became clear they would not need me to cuddle them for five days straight as I’d figured (and hoped) they would, I decided my staycation would be better spent getting the house in order.

We’ve been in our home almost 3 years now, and stuff just accumulates so dang fast. It was time to declutter. Thus, Home Improvement Week was born! Luckily I happen to have the most amazing interior designer/declutter expert/most patient friend alive all in one neat package I call my mother in law (or Momma). We went room by room doing a mixture of decluttering, deep cleaning, and reorganizing. Our good friend Tom (who is more family than friend really) helped us build out my dream closet toward the end of the week too! It was a week of crazy hard work (returning to work will be a nice break from the manual labor, frankly) but so much fun and such a weight off my mind. As Spring cleaning time is technically nearing, I wanted to share in case you were in need of a clear out but needed some inspo!!

Here are some tips:

  • Utilize your tribe.
    1. PS if you don’t have a tribe, it’s crunch time baby. For Pete’s sake how do you get through the day let alone a full spring clean?
    2. “It takes a village” applies to far more than child-rearing. How do I know? Because I have no children, but I do have a village. Said village aided in my sanity and the pleasure of this otherwise dreaded task.
    3. When you start crying in the club because you didn’t realize you’re a crazy hoarder and want to keep all within said hoard, your friends can reign you back in. Or smack you in the mouth. Or dump all your crap into a dumpster when you’re not looking.
  • Understand that “a job well begun is half done” really applies here! 
    1.  Sometimes getting started on a big project is so daunting that you justttt don’t bother. Like me for the past three years.
    2. Also understand a good start is enough. Don’t half ass this, or your full ass gets to do it later. Do your future self a favor and get it doneeee.
    3. Make peace that you’ll get to do this particular project again and again and again, just like cleaning something. It’s never fully done but that doesn’t mean it isn’t worth doing.
  • This is a great way to get comfortable getting rid of shit that no longer/never did serve you. 
    1. This particular lesson can also be applied in other areas of your life. Bless and release alllll manner of ish you don’t need, material and otherwise.
    2. Like so much else, this gets easier with practice! Apply to affected areas.
    3. Make a habit of doing better so that you don’t constantly have to repeat.
Are you a Spring cleaner? Or one of those magical unicorns who is already super organized? If so I’d love to hear your tips and tricks. Let me know if this was helpful or made you giggle in any way, shape, or form.

All my love,

​Ashley

SINCE YOU’VE BEEN GONEEEE (read: Since I’ve been gone. Meant to be belted á la Kelly Clarkson)

This post is radically overdue.

To be fair, I was overdue for a break…fair is fair right?

This past summer was a game changer for me. I won’t get to the nitty gritty now (probably ever) but the point is that I was rocked. All the way to my core where I hadn’t truly checked in in years. And I learned and grew and came out stronger just like they always say you do…so if you’re in the middle please have hope. And also please understand that between our first and last breath, we’re all in the middle. And it SUCKS…for ALL OF US! Not a one of us gets out of this alive, after all. But it’s also a gift. We really do grow through what we go through and I can honestly view my summer from a point of gratitude rather than resentment or anger or frustration. Not because it was easy, but because I’m a better me now. 

I know we all process so very differently, but I turned to my first love: literature. Here are some of the books that got me through some SHITTTT…and can do so for you so write them down:

-A Return to Love by Marianne Williamson
-The Untethered Soul by Michael A. Singer
-Anxious for Nothing by Max Lucado
-Loving What Is by Byron Katie
-You Are A Badass by Jen Sincero

I spent a lot of time reading and crying to my friends and breathing through the hurt. Because of hitting such a low, ugly spot, I wasn’t exactly drawn to posting a highlight reel. We may crave genuine connection when we reach out to our phones, but I sought it in God and my loved ones instead. And then I kept seeking them…and it felt so much better than Instagram. 

My Instagram started as a way to promote the hair business I was working on. With absolutely zero intention, it turned into one more platform hawking stuff that you don’t need. That I didn’t need. I am a girl of Goodwill and DIY! Oh and by the way, I really wasn’t very good at it. Others do it far better. Some even do it with a stitch of integrity. 

As great as my disdain for disclaimers is, here goes:

I do not judge anyone for what they do or how they do it or anything at all ever. I am a sinner, you are a sinner, we are all the same. So to the bloggers I know and follow and love and admire: YOU DO YOU GIRLFRIEND! I love watching you grow and rooting you on and will never stop. I am so thankful for every opportunity and company I’ve gotten to work with! I have made such sweet friends and connections through it all, and I can’t thank them enough!! I am just no longer using this platform in that way. Because of that, starting my new job, and trying to live the truth I spent so long digging out of me, I haven’t spent much time on the gram. I miss my community of hair lovers and I hope to return to posting hair pics very soon! But I learned to place that last on my list of importance.

If everything is a priority, nothing is. 

I used to get anxiety at 8:30 pm daily if I didn’t have something I felt worth posting. WHAT A WORTHLESS WAY TO SPEND A MOMENT. I’m not interested in ever feeling that again. I want to pour into my people, the ones in my every day, the gifts straight from God who make my world go round. Instagram has to come last, because it doesn’t matter and isn’t real. The people though, in life and online, are real and every single person matters. 

All that to say, I have spent so much time and effort and had a lot of fun building this blog and my Instagram, and I’m not ready to let these babies go. I have a love for hair (and helping other people love THEIR hair) that has been inside me before I ever had an audience. So if you’re still here, I’m very glad to have you. I hope that I can bring something to your life other than a want for something you don’t have.

You are already equipped with all you’ll ever truly need.

Love,
Ashley

Shoes of Prey Review

Hey pals! 

As you probably (most definitely) have seen on Instagram by now, Shoes of Prey have taken custom footwear to a whole new level. I was so excited to work with them to design these beauts! Between undergoing three foot surgeries and having been blessed with my dad’s “caveman feet” as we so lovingly refer to them, shoe shopping can be a bit of a bear. 

I am typically a size 5, but heels can be difficult because I’ve got a surgery bump on my right foot, and my right foot is also smaller than my left! I loved the Lodi silhouette because the slingback is adjustable and I chose the 2.8 in height so that it was comfortable but still stylish.

Shoes of Prey offers extending sizing (2-15) in narrow, standard, wide, and extra wide for most styles. They have so many color and style options that they can range from classic and neutral (which is obviously the route I took) to completely eclectic and unique.

​You can even pick a custom inscription to put on the lining of your design…I went with the name of my brainchild and passion project of course! 
These already quickly made their way into my regular rotation of kicks, but the custom inscription makes them something I’ll keep forever! If you decide to design your own pair, you can use code FORTHEDAINTYDAYS
to put a special word or phrase into your design free of charge!

Have you guys checked Shoes of Prey out yet? I had a blast designing these babes and I’m sure you would too…such a fun gift idea as well for the Carrie Bradshaw in your life.

Thank you for reading!

Love,
​Ashley

DIY Asymmetrical Knee Slit Skinnies

Hey pals, I hope you’re doing well. 

I wanted to share a quick post on my latest Goodwill DIY–I’ve yet to find denim like these so I decided to make my own! Luckily I found the perfect pair of Levi’s at Goodwill to use for this particular project, but any pair of true denim will do. “Jegging” material will have a very different end result, so for this DIY I’d stick to normal denim material.

BEFORE

​DIY


Put the pants on and make a slight cut where you think the top of the cuts should be. I always begin the cuts an inch or two above my knee caps but personal preference comes into play here! I purposely made these slightly asymmetrical so you might notice the right leg cut is higher than the left. Take off your britches and finish cutting. For the right leg I made one horizontal cut and then one vertical cut on the outer seam to make the flap effect happen, and the left leg I just cut two horizontal parallel (ish) lines for a smaller slit effect.
For the smaller slit, pull the threads out with tweezers. It can be tricky to get this started, but easy to finish up once you do! 
This is with all the threads pulled and pre-wash.
Post wash! The dryer really get it to fray so I usually skip the emery board step that a lot of slit skinny DIYs suggest.

AFTER

And that’s it! My favorite part about making your own knee slit skinnies is that you can cut them to fit your bod! A lot of the skinnies I can find in stores have the holes placed in spots meant for taller gals. They only get more distressed with each wash and wear, so the holes will change over time but I only love them more as they do! 

If you try this out I’d love to see your recreations 🙂

Hope this was helpful! If there’s any other DIYs you’d like to see, just let me know.

Love,
​Ashley

(mama mia) Here I Go Again

As opposed to the well-known “daddy issues” (how did Demi make this seem enticing?), I’ve got mommy issues. It’s not something I often share on here, but I figured now is as good a time as any to open up. 

My childhood is largely a blur. I took PSYCH 101 so no worries, I know memories are as messed up as we are. A lot of our “memories” have actually been misremembered, implanted in our minds via stories (so not really memories at all), or are largely false. Or maybe trauma led you to block some of them out. I can hardly remember anything that’s gone badly in my life, but I do remember how I felt in the aftermath.

My mom left when I was in 7th grade (or was it 8th? I wasn’t kidding about not remembering much). I will never fully understand whatever was happening in my parent’s marriage at that time, and I know I’ll never be able to truly grasp the conditions surrounding her flee from our house. I had a super easy breezy childhood, with the nuclear family much intact. I’m sure we had normal hiccups like the rest of the families on this planet, but I remember being pretty happy. Once she was gone, it was like a chasm opened up and a brand new reality tumbled out. 

I could dive as deep as if you were my personal therapist, but I think that’s for another day. As you might imagine, I have some trust issues with mommy dearest. She has some issues as well, of a rather different variety…but to be fair don’t we all? I won’t pretend to understand why she is the way that she is, but my love and respect for her has been punctured in a multitude of hurtful ways. Good interactions were closely followed by negative ones, and without getting too deep–I’m a bit guarded with her now. It’s the only way I can feel safe.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

While I try to extend the same grace which has been afforded me, I am human and fail on the regular. I want anyone out there who also agonizes in the Hallmark aisle for a card which reads “You scarred me and left but I hope you have a good Sunday and that one day I don’t hurt quite so much.” rather than the “YOU DA BEST MOM EVER!”. Just know that you’re not alone and neither am I. Maybe next year I’ll have unpacked this baggage to a place where those cards don’t make me roll my eyes (or let’s be honest, cry right in public like a psycho). Maybe I’m immensely unfair and I’ll never know that she was fully justified in doing exactly what she did. All I am certain of, is that I am who I am because of each and every thing I’ve endured, and I like that person. This life has brought me surrogate mommas in the most important ways. So here’s to my biological mom and every other woman who’s filled in the holes she left in me–

Happy Mother’s Day!

You really are amazing. I admire you, I thank you, and I hope you know that even if you messed up along the way–so did everyone else. Motherhood is such a selfless state (one I’ve clearly never entered the ranks of so I promise I’m no expert), but I know that one day I’ll carry along a bit of wisdom from each mom who’s treated me like their own. 

Love,
​Ashley