Advice for developing yourself, your style and your life

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Tomorrow, it will be six months since I set out on my self-induced "no new things for a year" challenge to be more thoughtful about how I spend my money and be more creative in how I style myself every day.

Since I'm officially at the half-way point, thought I'd take an intermission to write this post reflecting on the lessons I've picked up along the way. I'd also love to get your perspective on how to focus going forward.

*WARNING: This is a super long post, you should probably get a drink and a snack before diving in.*

Every Saturday morning at 9:15 a.m., I meet my personal trainer Vern at a gym in Lincoln Park and leave 45 minutes later pouring in sweat with renewed inspiration to eat well and take care of my body. This weekly appointment keeps me accountable, helps me to make better decisions, and is the only reason I have any muscle tone whatsoever. ("Build lean muscle" was on my 2015 goals list, jotted down in permanent ink after completing thorough research on tactics for maintaining metabolism, managing weight and staying young forever.)

Personal training is hands down the best investment I've made for my health, an expense that reaps long term benefits that is much cheaper than a wasted gym membership or prescription drugs for health ailments. The benefits I've enjoyed from working with Vern once per week for the past 15+ months include those I touched on in the first paragraph, but the best thing I've taken away from my sessions has been a minimalist fitness plan that fits my lifestyle.

Since getting fit with minimal time is what this post is all about, here's exactly how to do it:


One of the benefits of my full-time job's travel requirement is the option to travel to an alternate location for a weekend instead of to my home in Chicago. This was much more exciting when I first started and before I was married, but I still love to take advantage of it every now and then. It gives me a chance to stretch my light packing muscles! 

The people at vegas.com reached out awhile ago for my light packing tips for a weekend getaway to the Sin City, a place I've actually never visited but have on my short list. Even though I'm not planning to go any time soon, I loved the idea of a post on how to pack light for weekend getaways in general - especially for a place you've never visited! (By the way, I should mention that this post is not sponsored; I'm just stealing the pitch...) 

Without further ado, I'll share the six steps I'd take to pack my lone carry on for a theoretical weekend in Vegas, as well as a few tricks I use to make my minimalist, multipurpose approach to packing work:

Styling one piece multiple ways is one of the tricks I've used for years when traveling, but have started to apply the principle to my wardrobe in general as part of my minimalist challenge to stop buying new things for a year. Asking myself how I can wear a piece in a new way has helped me to get past the boredom, and "discovering" an outfit that's already in my closet has helped to fulfill my desire to buy. It's also helping me learn which pieces are truly versatile and deserve a spot in my closet, versus those that are just taking up space and should be donated.

A few months ago when it was still cold in Chicago, I wrote a post about five ways to style a basic black dress and since received a few requests to repeat the process for a summer staple. For me, a simple white dress is the epitome of a summer classic: it never goes out of style, and can be worn everywhere from the beach to the office. 

Here are just five of the ways that I style my longtime favorite white summer dress, a slightly oversize linen in a simple a-line cut from J.Jill (and for those of you who aren't on a buying fast, I've decided to honor your requests for recommendations on "best buys" and included links to similar items at the end of the post that I feel would live a long life in my closet.)