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Category: Simplicity

Minimalist Skincare


For some people a minimalist skincare routine is all about having a minimal amount of products. It might be to save time, space, money or to avoid over cleaning and treating their skin.

For others minimalist skincare is not about how many products they own, but using products with very few ingredients. The might focus on minimally processed natural ingredients. They might buy certain brands that contain few ingredients. They might make their own lotions and potions.

For some it’s about minimal packaging so they have minimal waste when they are finished.

My Minimalist Skincare Routine

Minimalism for me is about simplifying the things I do day-to-day and creating space to feel grounded and present. I hate feeling rushed. It makes me anxious. So I take my time with a short routine of rinsing my face with tepid water first thing in the morning and applying moisturizer and an eye cream. And later, after I’ve done my gratitude journaling, meditation, workout and had breakfast, I put on sunscreen and make-up. Though make-up is optional. It depends how polished I want to feel. I will write about my make-up choices in a future post.

In the evening I usually have very little energy so I want to gently cleanse my face and apply no more than a few products (serum, moisturizer and eye cream) and go to bed. I enjoy the process with a facial massage I learned from Reverse the Signs of Ageing: The Revolutionary Inside-Out Plan to Glowing, Youthful Skin, but often times I skip this step. I’m not a night person. At all.

In terms of the actual products I use, it’s varied throughout the years. I like to experiement – I’ve used drugstore brands like Neutrogena, fancy department store brands like Enro Laszlo, multi level marketing brand Arbonne, and small independent brands like Stark Skincare.

Right now, I avoiding ingredients that cause me irritation – read more about my reactive skin here – so I’m using products recommended by Dr. Sandy Skotnicki author of Beyond Soap: The Real Truth About What You Are Doing to Your Skin and How to Fix It for a Beautiful, Healthy Glow as well as a few DIY recipes.

This past year I’ve also outsourced some of my skincare. I see an esthetician for a monthly treatment following a plan she created for me after I had a Visia Skin Complexion Analysis. It has included a series of Venus Freeze treatments, IPL (in the winter) and a bit of microdermabrasion.

Creating Your Minimalist Skincare Routine

Learn your skin type. I think seeing an esthetician or dermatologist can help you figure this out, but they may try to sell you their product line. An impulse purchase is not what you want to do as minimalist so if you are still working on that you can determine your skin type on your own.

Ask yourself what you want from your skincare routine. Be specific.

Knowing your goals and what’s important to you ingredient-wise will help you decide on the right products and routine for you.

What is your budget?

How much time do you have for skincare?

Do you engage in any activities that may require specific products (like more sunscreen because you alpine ski)?

Do you have reactive skin and experience irritation on the regular. Do you know what is troubling your skin?

If you do have irritation you can see a dermatologist for a patch test to determine if you have a known allergy (I did that a few years back and it was helpful). Or you can consider going on a skin product detox. Much like a food elimination diet with a product elimination diet you remove the most common allergens and irritants for a period of time and then slowly reintroduce products one by one to figure out what is triggering what.

Then, when you have your answers, start researching brands that suit your needs and budget. Remember that there are effective products at all price points. Also, research DIY product recipes if that interests you. Two of my favourite blogs on the subject are Madeleine Olivia and Wellness Mama. There are some super simple, inexpensive and effective options in your pantry. I think a mix of both choices is a great way to go.

If you are looking to simplify your skincare routine, I hope this post was helpful. If you have any questions for me please post in the comments or head over to Instagram. It’s the best way to reach me.

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Fall Capsule Wardrobe

My Fall 2016 Capsule wardrobe is complete! Just in time for my start date of September 22nd. I wrote about my preparation in a previous blog post. Now I’m going to write about how I chose my main items as well as my extras. If you are building your own capsule or are just pairing things down, I hope you find my process helpful though the best resources for pairing down your clothing are Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up, Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris and Dress with Less and Create a Capsule Wardrobe.

My goal was to have 33 items for 3 months along Project 333 guidelines. What I did is…

I created a page in my Bullet Journal to jot down my ideas for my capsule. I started off with my categories (Main, Extras, Accessories, Footware and Outerware) and numbered them. I wanted to use what I already owned so I looked at my closet to see what was appropriate for September, October and November in Ottawa. I had already removed what didn’t fit or was worn out. Since I did a major purge before I moved into my studio apartment I didn’t have much to choose from (on purpose). Most of what I had was black. I knew I wanted to have an accent colour or two and since I had a wine coloured blouse and a grey sweater I went with those (turns out it is on trend for Autumn 2016 – lucky me). From there I pulled out a burgundy Jacob sleeveless dress I’ve had for a few years and bought a beautiful floral shirt dress from Flock that I’ve had my eye on for a few weeks plus a burgundy blouse with a bow on it (I’ve wanted a blouse with a bow for at least a year, but haven’t found any in thrift shops so I decided to buy one at Flock since they are a local shop with Canadian made designs).



1) Black jeans 2) Blue jeans 3) Floral shirt dress 4) Burgundy sleeveless dress 5) Grey skirt 6) Black faux leather skirt 7) Grey sweater 8) Polka dot blouse 9) Wine coloured top 10) Burgundy blouse with bow


11) White 3/4 sleeve t-shirt  12) Black 3/4 sleeve t-shirt


13) Black top handle 14) Bird satchel 15) Beret 16) Tuque 17) Gloves 18) Scarf 19) Fancy scarf 20) Skull & crossbones necklace 21) Potty mouth necklace *


22) Zipper boots 23) Ballet flats 24) Black Jack Purcells 25) Joe Fresh high heels 26) winterboots (still need to buy these)


27) Jean jacket 28) Gap raincoat 29) Jacob 3/4 length coat 30) Winter coat **

* I will take pics of me wearing my necklaces. They are too fine to take well with my StyleBook app.
** The temperature will vary between -9 and +20 Celsius. It will likely snow in November – definitely in December. I will be swapping the jean jacket, raincoat and 3/4 length coat for winter coats once it gets below 5 degrees Celsius.

I still have room for three items. I’m saving them for an additional sweater once it gets colder, a special occasion dress (just not sure which one yet) and possibly my black suit. I’m waiting to see how cold things get at work and what is best for me to wear. Plus, I need to try it on and see if it still fits. Pants can be tricky for me given my waist to hip ratio.



I’ve been using the StyleBook app to mix and match my items to create different looks. I adore this thing. I’m still learning how to take shadowless photos of my items for easier backdrop removal, but even without perfect looking photos I’m find this tool so helpful.

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Fall 2016 Capsule Wardrobe – Prep

I’ve decided to start wearing my Fall 2016 Capsule Wardrobe on the first day of Autumn – September 21st. This means this week is about the preparation. I’ve usually followed the Ten Item Wardrobe from Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris, but this season I’ve decided to combine it with Courtney Carver’s Project 333 so I can have ten main items (which I have really enjoyed these past two years) and set a limit for my extras (footwear, outerwear, t-shirts and accessories).

My Process

First step is to make an inventory, refine and purge.

I’ve done a few major declutters of my wardrobe since 2010 so I don’t have much to do as the seasons change. I know what I have. Instead of a lay it all on the bed and go through things one by one what I do is more of assessment of a few items. I take an inventory of my 20 or so items of clothing to see what still fits and what doesn’t. I examine each item to see if it’s still in good condition, needs repair or if it is too damaged to be repaired.

Here is what I’m donating this season.


  1. High heels that have seen better days. All 4 pairs have scuffed toes. The two middle pairs I’ve had for 12 years or so. They’ve earned their keep. The blue pair on the left were for a burlesque costume for an act I no longer do. The black pair on the right I’m so sad to see go. They are from a vegan retailer I quite like – Novoca – and were such smart looking shoes for when I had professional meetings and the like. But I’ve had them for over ten years and the scuffs are just so obvious now. I think I walk in a funny way that causes toe scuffing. :(
  2. A lilac cashmere wool sweater from when I stopped being vegan a few years back. It has some stains. I’m actually going to keep it for at home wear in the winter. Electricity is very expensive in Ontario and I’ll need to watch the thermostat.
  3. My very tiny jersey from my 21k run in the early 2000s. It really doesn’t fit and I don’t need the t-shirt to remember I ran the race. Not a fall item, but after this summer I knew it was time for it to go.
  4. A bathrobe that I never ever use. It was a gift from my mother so I kept thinking I’d wear, but I’m not a robe person. Keeping things just in case typically means that the items just use up space and are never needed. I follow The Minimalists’ 20 20 Rule on this one. Also not a seasonal item, but since my move I haven’t worn it once so I know it needs to go.
  5. A lovely top from Jacob that is long in the front and short in the back. I called it my fancy black top. I’d put it on and immediately take it off because it didn’t feel right. I probably wore it all of 3 times. This is a summer item that I wore only once. Hopefully, someone else will enjoy it.
  6. A black nylon security vest to store personal items. I’m more concerned for fire and floods so I store things like my passport and birth certificate in a fireproof, waterproof safe. Not a seasonal item, but you get the drill.
  7. Another cashmere sweater from my non-vegan stint. This is a dark blue turtleneck. I feel itchy around the neck and claustrophobic when I wear it. It’s in excellent condition so I’m hoping to sell it at a consignment shop.

Second step is to select which items will be in your capsule wardrobe. I need to try on the different options together to see which work best. I don’t want to deal with something taking up space that I never wear because it doesn’t feel right (see item 5 above).

For sure the core ten items will include: 1) short sleeve white shirt, 2) black blouse with white polka dots, 3) wine coloured 3/4 sleeved blouse, 4) blue blazer, 5) black jeans, 6) blue jeans, 7) long black jersey dress.

I will also likely include another dress and one or two skirts. I need to try them on with the blouses to see what works. These decisions will depend on my shoes. I have some new boots and I need to see what they work with besides jeans. Mainly though because I do a lot of walking and I’m on my feet all day at work I need to choose my shoes wisely. I’m aiming for three pairs flats, heels and boots.

Next up will be the extras such as base layer t-shirts which I already have – one white and one black. I wore them this summer and they are in great condition (thank you line drying). I will also need top layers for colder days and nights. I have 4 nice sweaters to choose from. I will see which work well with my core items and how far along I am in hitting 33 items.

Then is outerwear. I have mid-thigh nylon coat, jean jacket and fancy satin trench. I’ve had these for 15, 12 and 8 years respectively and they are still in great condition. The nylon coat has had its buttons replaced, but they haven’t needed any mending besides that.

Finally there are my accessories. I wear my FitBit most everyday, all day so I won’t be counting that as part of 33. Same thing with my earrings. I have had an irritation so I’m wearing studs for the next 6 weeks as it heals. What I’m left with are scarves, necklaces and bracelets. I have a very small collection so it should be easy to choose.

Putting It All Together

I’ve downloaded the Stylebook Closet App and I’ll spend the next few days adding my items to it and let you know next week my final decisions.

Overwhelmed But Want a Simple Wardrobe?

I hope by sharing my process you have a gained some ideas about how you can go about creating your own capsule wardrobe.  Still unsure – don’t stress – Courtney shares great suggestions in her post Ten Tiny Tips to Take Towards Your Tiny Wardrobe as well as many other posts on her website. She even created a fantastic micro-course all about how to do it. Highly recommended!!

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My Thoughts On Fast Fashion

Fast Fashion refers to a phenomenon in the fashion industry whereby production processes are expedited in order to get new trends to the market as quickly and cheaply as possible. As a result of this trend, the tradition of introducing new fashion lines on a seasonal basis is being challenged. Today, it is not uncommon for fast-fashion retailers to introduce new products multiple times in a single week. Read more at Investopedia.

Trends every week? Wow! I see it in the stores and on people out and about, but it’s not something I relate to. I know I’m influenced by trends I mostly crave classic items that will stand the test of time. I wasn’t always this way though.

Ignoring the Reality of Fashion Manufacturing

I’ve been pairing down my wardrobe for a few years now, but I’ve not given nearly enough thought to the ethics of clothing manufacturing. I certainly haven’t taken significant action. I could use my low income as an excuse, but the truth is for a long time I shopped impulsively for emotional reasons (and more than anything I have the credit card balance to show for it). I would have cognitive dissonance about the backstory to my clothes. I still have many regrets about this (thank you, my weird guilty conscience that says I’m the reason for all of the world’s suffering), but I’m happy to report that I’m now much more mindful of the reality of fashion and I’m taking concrete action to buy more ethically and sustainable made clothes from now on.

I certainly have been aware for many years of the horrible working conditions in clothing manufacturing. I remember having an argument with a friend about it some 20 years ago. We used words like sweatshops and labour conditions. I was feeling very anxious and guilty about the low wages and dangerous working conditions. I felt my quality of life here in the West was due to the suffering of others. I felt awful and wanted to find alternatives. She argued that the wages in other countries reflected their cost of living and that stores like Gap and brands like Nike were improving things. Neither of us would budge in our opinions and we never talked about it again.

Afterwards, I did seek out more locally made and recycled fashion and more environmentally friendly fabrics, but I felt pretty limited in my options. I also was at the height of my shopping as emotional remedy situation. It took therapy to stop that harmful coping mechanism (among others).

Fast Forward To Now

I finally have much healthier emotional strategies and it turns out this bit of good health for me also spreads to garment manufacturing workers, the planet and my pocket book.  I say pocket book because my new frame of mind has me opting out of fast fashion. I haven’t bought much in the past few years. Definitely no impulse clothing purchases. Everything I now own is due to careful consideration. Well, in terms of a minimalist wardrobe numbers-wise. In terms of ethically sourced and made fashion, I have a lot of room for improvement and any new purchases will take THAT into consideration.

Yes, the time for change is now. So what will I be doing? I have decided to only purchase used clothing when it comes to blouses, sweaters, pants, skirts and dresses. When it comes to socks and underwear I will only purchase those that are ethically and sustainably made. I see no need for shoes in my immediate future. What I have is sufficient for a few years at least. Same thing for winter coats. I will need new winter boots though. I need them to be very durable, waterproof, and warm while also meeting my criteria for ethics and vegan materials. If you have any suggestions, please do mention them in the comments.

So that is where I stand TODAY on fast fashion and the ethics and sustainability of clothing manufacturing. I will be building my Fall/Winter Capsule Wardrobe soon. I will keep you posted on my thrift store finds for the few items I am missing or need to be replaced. Check out my Instagram for updates!

A Few Inspirations

Verena Erin of My Green Closet – Erin believes in ‘buy less, buy better” and makes YouTube videos about sustainable fashion, capsule wardrobes, natural beauty, and simplifying. I’ve watched her playlist on How To Shop for Ethical and Sustainable Fashion a few times!

Erin Boyle of Reading My Tea Leaves – I just adore how Erin curates her life in a small apartment in a big city. Her photos and text are beautiful, inspirational and relatable. Lots of good info on sustainably made (in North America) clothing and about sustainable minimalist living in general.

And I must mention my sister – She is a fantastic dressmaker (she has a made a few of my burlesque costumes) and has decided that the best way she can make an impact is by making most of her clothing (and that of her children) herself. While my idea of sewing is safety pins and a glue gun, she does inspire me to do better in my own way, with my own skills and abilities, and the resources I have at my disposal – thrift stores and meticulous care of what I already own (steam, baby, steam)!!!

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Summer 2016 Capsule Wardrobe

I’m a big fan of the 10 Item Wardrobe as described by Jennifer L. Scott in her book Lessons from Madame Chic: 20 Stylish Secrets I Learned While Living in Paris. She suggests curating your wardrobe in such a way to have 10 main items and a handful of extras. Creating this type of capsule wardrobe helped me simplify getting dressed and develop my discernment when it comes to my look. Poise is one of my Core Desired Feelings and having a well thought out capsule wardrobe most definitely makes me feel (and look) that way.

A quote from Jennifer…

One of the many reasons why I love the ten-item wardrobe is it requires me to be thoughtful about my clothing. Nothing is shoved into the closet as an afterthought. If a garment is going to take up valuable real estate in my closet, it needs to belong there.

It also takes the stress out of getting dressed. Something I used to experience on the regular. It also saves me time and energy that I can use in more productive and creative ways.

My Ten Items & Extras

I put my summer capsule wardrobe together in May soon after I moved from Montreal to Ottawa. I was anticipating a bit of a lifestyle change because I changed jobs so I took that into consideration. Still, most everything I chose was from last year’s wardrobe (stuff I didn’t wear because of the actual uniform I was in 5 days a week).

See the notes afterwards for explanations, exceptions and transformations.

  1. Black Jeans +
  2. Jean Shorts ^
  3. Black Flowing Trousers
  4. Jean Capri +
  5. Black One Piece Romper <
  6. Black Jersey Tunic Dress *
  7. Short Capri Jersey Leggings
  8. Black Jersey Pencil Skirt
  9. White Linen Shirt >
  10. Blue Linen Shirt >

Pink Cotton Cardigan (for the occasional chilly AC type outing)
Black Raincoat (for the rain – obviously)

Fancy Black Sleeveless Tunic (this and all items below can be matched with my pants and skirt)
Black Sleeveless Blouse
White Tunic Sleeveless Top
Razor Back Black Jersey Tank
White T-shirt
Black T-shirt
White Tank Top
Black Tank Top

Black Polyester Mini Dress (for nights out and post-burlesque shows)

Sandals, black Jack Purcells, white Jack Purcells, pink rubberboots and open toe black stacked heels.

Recently I took some photos of some of my Outfits Of The Day that you can see over at my Instagram. I will take some more and post a final roundup of my summer outfits and post them all together here.

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

The black flowing trousers and black tank top.

^ I only wore the shorts once to the beach and then tried them on again a month or so later. They were too big. They quite literally slipped off my hips and past my bum without me having to undo them. I think my switch back to a whole food plant based diet combined with daily powerwalks caused me to lose an inch or so from my waist and hips. These shorts are now in my donation bag.

+ It has been a very hot and humid summer and the denim of my jeans are much too thick for 30 degrees Celsius and 70% humidity days and nights. I put these in the back of my closet and I will bring them forward once we have consistently cooler days and nights. Hopefully by the end of August.

< I adored wearing this romper this summer. It has been my favourite thing to wear to work and meet ups with friends.

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

* This dress was moved to my home-only capsule. This is stuff I wear around the house, when I do laundry, post workout but pre shower. Besides the dress it includes a pair of longer black leggings, grey sleep shorts and two worn but not see through t-shirts. The dress in question – I have had it for 5 years – was pilling in spots and looked a bit ragged for work and running errands. I purchased a black tent type jersey dress to replace it. It has a belt so I can wear it two ways.

> The only thing I bought at the start of the summer were the linen shirts, two t-shirts (1 white and 1 black) and a white tank top. These are things I didn’t have as last year I worked in a restaurant and wore a uniform 5 days a week. I needed a few things to fill out my capsule in a clean and polished way now that I work at a shop.

A photo posted by Seska Lee (@seskalee) on

And yes I know – I wear a heck of a lot of black. I make it a bit more lively by adding a pop of colour like with my Matt & Nat Triplet Loom Crossbody, Fuchsia (Pink).


Tedx Talk. – Video by Jennifer L. Scott

Dress With Less and Create Your Capsule Wardrobe – Mini Course by Courtney Carver

A Practical Guide to Owning Fewer Clothes & 8 Reasons Successful People Are Choosing to Wear the Same Thing Every Day – Blog posts by Joshua Becker

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My 2016 Day Planner

Early this morning I purchased my copy of The Desire Map 2016 Daily Planner by Danielle LaPorte. I got so much from my use of the 2015 edition and I cannot wait to use the one for 2016. Danielle and her team have made even more improvements over last year’s version – it is radically newer, smarter, wiser, funner, and sexier. So exciting!

There is nothing like the feeling of having a blank agenda to start the year. So many empty pages to fill with my thoughts, goals, inspirations, to-dos, questions and concerns. Not to mention milestone life events, family get togethers, meetings, appointments, friend dates and date dates.

I chose the Signature version for daily entries but there is also a weekly version as well as a journal for those of you who already have a planner (paper or digital) .

I went with the Signature cover but there is also one with a beautiful art piece. Groovy.

They ship in November but as always it best to order sooner rather than later.


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My Simple Wardobe

I’m a huge fan of a simple wardrobe – also called a capsule wardrobe.

I have two – one for winter and one summer. The winter one consists of thick black leggings, a white undershirt and a black v neck sweater. I mix it up with grey sweaters or slim jeans. I also have one dress and one knee length black pencil skirt. I wear slim boots when it is above -5 Celsius or above. When it is colder and there is snow I wear my super duper winter boots. If I am going out to something a bit fancy and not doing much walking I have high heeled boots. At home I have a pair of slip on sneakers.

I keep things simple jewelry-wise too. I have two sets of earrings by Swarovski (one set of studs and one that dangle), a silver metallic watch and a simple band I got for myself when I first got separated.

Why does this work for me?

Getting dressed used to be a stressful experience I dreaded. Very much anxiety provoking. As a child it meant temper tantrums. As an adult it meant a horrible feeling of panic and countless clothing changes until what I wore felt just right.

I was working from the outside in. Mistake!

Once I realized I needed to do the opposite – identify how I wanted to feel first – I was naturally drawn to clothes that did just that and I got rid of the stuff that didn’t (I call it the great purge of 2012).

Shopping changed. My old pattern was to be compulsive and buy something that immediately gave me a rush or a sense of escape. My new pattern is all about selectively buying only things of quality that fit exceptionally well (or I alter them as need be). When I get dressed the experience is simply one that generates My Core Desired Feelings in me. No more drama or anxiety.

VISA now hates me, but that is OK.

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My Morning Routine

I have done so much clearing out this year. Of damaging habits, old strategies that were hurting more than they were helping. It is an ongoing process of internal, mindful recalibrating of the way I think, perceive and respond.

I have also been doing this in a physical way. Lots shredding of old university research papers and documents. Lots of purging of clothes, CDs, books and other belongings.

One of the other things I have done in this recalibration is a mix of the mind and the body. I have created a new morning routine for myself!

Reading Courtney Carver’s mini course How To Create a Meaningful Routine (disclosure: affiliate link) inspired me. So much that I have decided I will apply the principles (slowly – you gotta do it slowly) for my evening routine.

Before I had a tendency to let the day get away from me – you know, look at the clock and realize it was 2pm and while I had done some productive work I was still in pyjamas, unwashed and unkept. I had fuelled myself with coffee and nothing else. I also felt exhausted and a bit of a mess.

Slowly creating and implementing a morning routine as the mini course guides you to do has helped me cultivate one of my Core Desired Feelings – Equanimity.

The Routine

Open blinds & window, push back sheet and duvet, fluff pillows, spray with my homemade lavender fabric spray, start coffee (I prep it the night before)

Bathroom, cat litter, wash hands

Wash the sleepies from my eyes with water

Feed cats, drink 1 glass of water, make bed, put on workout outfit

Have coffee, read The Skimm

15 minutes of yoga (I started with 5 and slowly increased over a few weeks), 20 minute run, 1 set abs (My goal is three sets as well as 2x week of a strength training routine as well as 1 long 1x week – again, I will be slowly adding these day by day, week by week as per the mini course by Courtney Carver)

Breakfast (usually slow cooked oatmeal with blueberries and ground flax seeds accompanied by Yves Veggie Breakfast Sausages – the only processed soy I eat – I somehow digest it well)

Shower, get dressed

That might seem like a lot but it takes me about 45 minutes to do it all. I don’t rush. I simply get moving and keep moving, one task at a time. Usually, I play some music to keep me company, keep me smiling. The Garden State soundtrack is a favourite.

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