Go Big or Go Home
Contrary to the obvious irony of her middle name, Micha Goebig Phelps is not a "Go Big or Go Home" kind of girl - at least not when it comes to inconspicuous consumption.
The novelist and blogger arrived to Seattle, WA from Germany in 2013 with only four suitcases and her laptop. As it often does, American assimilation set in quick and eighteen months later she managed to fill a "massive" walk in closet with more garments that she could ever use or wear.
To remedy her closet problem, Micha was drawn to the concept of capsule wardrobes but the idea of discarding most of her perfectly good (and recent) purchases didn't sit right either.
Minimal lifestyle aspirations nonewithstanding, Micha Goebig Phelps very much lives up to her middle name when it comes to passion projects -- in 2013 she and a friend gave up alcohol for 365 days and chronicled the journey on www.thebettyfordaholics.com.
"For a German, giving up alcohol is a very big deal," she explained. "But the level of clarity I achieved in the process changed my life forever. I am a much more conscious decision maker now."
The New Year Resolution of the Year
Borrowing from that experience, Micha crafted a 2016 new year resolution that smirks in the face of your 5 lb. weight loss goal - she would embark on an epic #YearWithoutShopping and document her progress via social media under her pen name, Olivia de Winter.
Say what? Nothing? No toilet paper? No food? That doesn't even make sense.
These were my thoughts, too. But there are practical guidelines: #YearWithoutShopping allows for the purchase of groceries, medical and personal care items. She also allows herself experiences like travel and dining (she just returned from 10 days in Spain with nary a souvenir).
But everything else -- apparel, accessories, home goods, decorative items, books, magazines -- nope. Notta. Zilch.
"Surprisingly, it hasn't been very hard," Micha reports.
She does miss the ability to replace wardrobe staples. For instance, her favorite leather flip flips broke in January and she really wanted a new pair for her trip to Spain, but she made do with what she had.
What doesn't Micha miss? Fashion magazines, which she sometimes acquires via her Buy Nothing Group (apparently buying nothing is a big thing in Seattle).
"I received a copy of InStyle magazine and was immediately flooded with cravings. Now I scroll through Instagram and study stylish people for fashion inspiration."
As she closes in on Day 274 of her #YearWithoutShopping Micha estimates she's saved around $500 a month this year.
Something tells me she isn't going to blow it all on something silly in 2017.
Up, Close and Personal Style: Micha Goebig Phelps
Thanks in part to a collection of timeless statement coats, her mom's vintage clutch and a beloved pair of (thrifted!) Gucci pumps, Micha hasn't sacrificed a drop of personal style during her #YearWithoutShopping.
JMB: Describe your personal style in three or four sentences.
Micha: I would call my style simple chic. The look I’m going for is a sophisticated, effortless minimalism with a twist. To make sure I don’t dress like everybody else, I always combine new and old, high-end and reasonable, purchased and inherited pieces. My favorites are usually vintage or made by young designers with small labels.
JMB: How does your lifestyle influence your wardrobe?
Micha: Place has a considerable impact: For instance, I don’t like outdoorsy garments or wearing anything on my head, but as I live in Seattle I own – and wear frequently - a hooded rain coat. It’s beige cashmere, though, because I couldn’t make myself wear actual outdoor wear. The frequency of my workouts also makes a difference: the more time I spend in gym clothes, the nicer I want to look the rest of the time.
JMB: How has your style evolved from your 20s to your 30s and beyond?
Micha: Nowadays, it’s pretty easy for me to say whether a trend is for me or not, without entering into unnecessary experiments. On top of that, I think I’ve become a little bolder. Knowing what I like and what suits me, I don’t care too much what others think. That wasn’t necessarily the case in my 20s.
JMB: Do you have a signature look or piece?
Micha: I have a couple of vintage two-tone shoes that I combine with just about anything I wear, and about 250 days out of the year I wear some kind of scarf.
JMB: Do you have a closet organizational system?
Micha: Of course! I’m slightly OCD, so all my clothes hangers must match. I prefer the slim, velvety type in black. I hang as many of my things as possible. Right now, only loungewear, jeans and layering shirts are stacked, everything else – including sweaters and t-shirts – is on hangers, sorted by type of garment and, within these categories, by color.
JMB: What are you wearing when you feel most like you?
Micha: Either a dress with a long cashmere cardigan and boots, or skinny jeans with a silk tee, blazer and heels. Those are my go-to’s.
JMB: If you had to give away all of your wardrobe except for 5 items what would they be and why?
Micha: That’s a tough one! All of these pieces are so versatile they go with pretty much everything and can be dressed up or down as needed.
- My black Armani statement coat with trumpet sleeves that makes me feel a little like Audrey Hepburn
My super comfy black Hudson jeans
3. Definitely a knee-length LBD (don’t make me decide which!)
4. Cognac-colored Gucci heels
5. A Chanel-style tweed jacket from Zara
JMB: Any packing or organizational tips?
Micha: I am an over-packer by nature, so when I have everything I want to take along out on the bed I force myself to put half of it back in the closet. It scares me to take along so little, but it’s always enough. For the plane, my most important items (besides a good book) are a cashmere cardigan or pashmina, fuzzy socks and a sleeping mask.
You can track the remainder of Micha's #YearWithoutShopping here. Follow her adventures as a writer and German ex-pat in Seattle on her blog Breakfast at Starbucks (a daily expense my husband would very much prefer I eliminate).
More about Micha:
Originally from Frankfurt, Germany, Micha lives in Seattle, WA, with her husband Scott and their 21-year-old cat Leighla. She received her M.A. in literature, history and communications from the University of Munich, Germany. After teaching German and French at Northwest Missouri State University in Maryville, MO, for a few years she returned to Germany, where she founded her communications agency, wort5. She provides translation and editing services primarily for customers from the German automotive industry. Together with a colleague, she co-authored her first women’s fiction novel, ‘Mopskusse’, which was published in 2009 by Random House. Her second novel in German, ‘Wann Wenn Nicht Jetzt’, was self-published in September 2014. In the US, she has published several short stories in print and online magazines as well as in ‘Chicken Soup for the Soul’ under her pen name Olivia de Winter.
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