7 Tips for Organizing Your Closet Without the Pressure of Perfection

Quarantine Life – Day 5,046,000 and I finally got off the sofa, dusted the potato chip crumbs off my wrinkled t-shirt and decided I’d tackle organizing my wardrobe. I wanted to strike while the motivation of a new season was hot and the migraines were not!

I did a big purge a couple years ago so, this was one of my biannual decluttering tasks and not a massive undertaking. I thought I’d share the simple tips I use for keeping my closet “somewhat” organized. I say, “somewhat” because I’m not really the Kondo method spark joy type. Although I do like a neat and orderly space, I’m ok with a little mess. I can live with improperly folded socks and not colour coordinating my knits. Props to those of you who are so inclined, tho! My motto is to do what feels good and works for you. I personally, just need things to be kinda, sorta neat-ish and to be simple, and easy to execute. It doesn’t take much. I encourage you to do the same, let go of the stress, simplify things by taking the parts you find most helpful and trying them and disregard the things you don’t. 

That being said here are my seven tips for getting your closet neatish without worrying about getting it Pinterest perfect, because, let’s face it, for most of us our real lives don’t allow us to ever maintain that level of perfection once the photos have been snapped and shared with our followers and FB fam! 

Here are 7 Simple Tips for Organizing Your Closet

Closet Organizing Tip #1: Get Your Mindset Right

Ask yourself what the outcome you want to achieve. A Pinterest-worthy closet might be your goal, but I doubt it if you’re reading this post that encourages you to let go of perfection!

It’s great to go on Pinterest to get inspiration but watch out for those sneaky thoughts of envy and comparison. Acknowledge the thought, take a breath, then let the thought go if it does not serve you.

Remind yourself of the true purpose of this task. Accept that this is where you are right now. Get ready to get organized and feel all the good vibes that come with having a cleaner, organized, closet.

Closet Organizing Tip #2: Pace Yourself

My niece recently decided she was going to paint her living and dining room, by herself and in a day. She got it done but it took her three days and a second trip to buy more paint! She underestimated the amount of work it would take. 

Your closet might seem like a small space, but if you’re like me, and you have a lot of ‘stuff’, then organizing it might take you longer than a few hours. In that case, pace yourself by setting incremental goals, like, setting aside two hours and organizing one section as opposed to wanting to do the whole thing. 

Closet Organizing Tip #3: Seasonal Switch Up

Use the seasons as your reminder to give your closet a once-over. The beginning of spring when you’re transitioning from winter sweaters and boots to cute dresses and sandals is a perfect time.

Closet Organizing Tip #4: Dance like no one is watching

Go ahead and bump your fave tunes, you know, the songs you think you know all the lyrics too, but you really don’t but sing them anyway. Get hype and get going. 

Closet Organizing Tip #5: Divide and Conquer

If you’re like me you might find the idea of removing everything from your closet and dumping it into piles to be sorted, a bit overwhelming. Start with one section of your closet at a time. For example, I start with pants – they’re easier to sort and I can get a quick win.

Closet Organizing Tip #6: When in doubt, try it on

It can come as a shock to discover that those jeans from 1992 don’t fit anymore – how can this be? I know, I’ve been there. But it’s ok, it really is gonna be alright. Let it go and plan to buy a new pair that makes your booty look real good in 2020. 

Closet Organizing Tip #7: Get Hung Up on Hangers

Seriously, using one style of hanger does wonders for making your closet appear more organized even if things aren’t aligned and colour co-ordinated to perfection. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Once you’ve finished, step back, look at your work, and congratulate yourself on a job well done! Then treat yourself to some Netflix and a bag of potato chips!

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3 Steps I’m Taking to Get My Money Right in the Time of Covid19

Photo of a Happy Go Money personal finance book on a breakfast tray with a cup of coffee on a bed.

Since we are in the time of Covid19, I’ve been thinking a lot about money (and end of life planning) lately. Oddly enough, in March, at the beginning of the pandemic and up until about a month ago, I was spending, a lot. Instead of panic shopping on loading my cupboards with cans of beans and jars of pasta sauce, I bought ‘stuff’ for my apartment. 

Panic Shopping During the Pandemic 

I reasoned that my desire to spruce up my living space was because I would be spending way more hours in the space than I had done, well, in forever. So, there I went, new skillet, new toilet brush, new shower curtain liners, new fake plant, and on and on. Then, like many people, I need to make my workspace cute. I already had a desk, but I wanted to add more “personality,” so I bought some frames and had photos printed, a new desk lamp – purely for aesthetics because I honestly get plenty of natural light and have a large light above my head. 

I was in spend mode, with full justifications for all of it! I had a long list of other things that I “needed”. At the time, I didn’t recognize that my need to buy a bunch of stuff was probably more about a need to be in control of ‘something’ during a time of such intense uncertainty and fear. I was not alone in this. I mean seriously, I couldn’t even find a nail file or bedroom curtains to buy for months!

Overspending Reality Check

Two things happened to give me an overspending reality check. The first was my friend, who happens to be a lawyer, asked me if I had a Will. It wasn’t the first time she’d mentioned it and it wasn’t the first time I’d skirt around the issue. I didn’t want to talk about death and dying, especially during the pandemic. It was too scary a thought.

The second thing was an Instagram post that involved a question from someone who asked what they should be doing with all the money they saved during the stay at home or shelter in place orders. Wait, what?! There were people out there who managed to actually save money. Mind blowing.

The light bulb went off and I asked myself, how much did I ‘not’ save and take a closer look at where I spent my money and what goals were not being achieved because of it. Just as importantly, I had to think about the Covid19 virus and the potential of long-term health issues or possibly death.

How could I take this moment to put myself in the best position possible to deal with either of these scenarios? The answer was pretty evident, I needed to focus on putting in place better money habits pronto!

Road to Developing Better Money Habits

overhead shot of a personal finance book - Happy Go Money, and a laptop, notebook and glasses

Step 1: Seeing the Big Money Picture 

My first step was to set aside some time to finally complete a personal financial inventory / net worth statement my friend had given me ages ago – took me a few minutes to locate it. 

The inventory allowed me to gather and review banking and other important information – savings, loans, credit cards, assets, pension, life insurance etc. This exercise turned out to not be as scary or tedious as I’d originally thought. Instead it was a bit therapeutic in a way.

By taking the time to write everything down in one place and seeing a big picture view of where I stood financially, however bleak that position was, came with a sense of accomplishment and optimism. It was good to know exactly what I would be dealing with and then to develop of plan.

Step 2: Doing a Money Deep Dive

The next step was that I needed to go deeper and examine my debt and come up with a plan of attack. I turned to Melissa Leong’s Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right and Enjoy Life and re-read some of the pages I had highlighted the first time around. Such a great resource btw. She’s got a wicked sense humour and brings the kind if practical and mindful approach to personal finances that I need in my money life right now.

Here’s the thing you should know about me, when it comes to thinking about or talking about money, I always want to cover my ears with my hands and sing loudly, “La-La-La-La-La-La.” Super immature. I know. I wish I loved saving and, in the words of 50cent, love to watch my money pile up but the fact is that my aversion to talking about money and my expertise in spending it runs deep. I’m a Spender. I’m sure it’s in my DNA. It most definitely runs in the family and examining this bit of reality will require a separate post and probably several years of therapy to unpack it all.

Step 3: Getting My Mindset Right

stack of personal finance books on a night table in a bedroom

Anyhoo, I’m not a complete mess when it comes to developing healthy money habits. I’ve always been committed to educating myself on personal finances – not obsessively but I’ve read books, blogs, and articles. I’ve used apps and I’ve tried different budgeting resources over the years to try to break bad money habits I’ve inherited. 

Some of the personal finance books I’ve read in the past:

Happy Go Money: Spend Smart, Save Right & Enjoy Life (Melissa Leong)

Smart Women Finish Rich (David Bach)

Smart Cookies’ Guide to Making More Dough: How Five Young Women Got Smart, Formed a Money Group, and Took Control of Their Finances (The Smart Cookies)

The Wealthy Barber Returns (David Chilton)

You are a Badass at Making Money: Master the Mindset of Wealth (Jen Sincero)

Girl Get Your Money Straight: A Sister’s Guide to Healing Your Bank Account and Funding Your Dreams In 7 Simple Steps (Glinda Bridgforth)

It’s been a lifelong journey so far and one made up of struggles (think unemployment, underemployment, student loan debt, living in an expensive city, no family financial support and not to mention stats on race and gender and the wealth gap).

I know enough to know that my relationship with money and my money habits well, there’s a lot to unpack and blaming myself or thinking I’m a bad person for not being able to do better is unhelpful and not healthy. I prefer to put things in context, consider my background and know that other factors are at play that have influenced my mindset and behaviour when it comes to money. But I also take great comfort in knowing that, as Melissa says in Happy Go Money, “[w]herever you are in life right now, this too will change. You can look back at your choices and decide that going forward, you will choose differently.” Words to life by.

The Personal Finance Money Management Road Ahead

a small collection of personal finance books fanned out on a bed

Learning about money habits and my relationship with it is a lifelong journey and not always pleasant one, but one I’m willing to take if it means at the end of the day (read: retirement), I’ll be doing just fine. I’ve been slowly unlearning negative money habits and getting better over time at forming healthier ones. I recognize that my family history around money has played a big role too.

I also acknowledge the many setbacks throughout the years have been simply a part of life’s journey, while at the same time understanding the importance of picking myself up again and trying, each and every time. 

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

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Wardrobe Essentials: 20 Must Have Pieces You Need In Your Closet

collage of a black woman wearing nine different casual outfits

I’ve been feeling a bit meh about my wardrobe for some time now. Simply uninspired and bored. Yet, I’m also being more fiscally responsible and budget more and spend less.

My goal is to shop my closet and if I do decide to purchase an item then it’s gotta make sense and be a timeless (more sustainable) piece.

I wanted to start shopping my closet by going back to basics and finding the wardrobe essentials first and then take it from there. For this process I turned to my best friend, Google, and did some research to see what items of clothing should make the “wardrobe essentials list” in my own closet. Although there are lots of great options out there to choose from in terms of wardrobe must-haves lists, one of my faves is from the from Signe of the Use Less Blog.

In thinking of my own must-have wardrobe list as a woman over 40, I want to build one based on my previous experience as a personal shopper and styling my work colleagues. These are items I feel are essential foundation pieces to have in your wardrobe and that work for those of us in an older demographic but are still pretty timeless that they work for younger women as well.

black woman wearing dark wash blue skinny jeans, black heels, a black blazer and white t-shirt

A Word on Investment Pieces & Trends

As an aside, I don’t own “investment” designer pieces so you’ll not find LV wallets or Gucci belts here (I do own a pair Chanel sunglasses that are about 12 years old). With that said, the low budget clothes I’ve bought have still lasted for years because I tend to shop for classics while avoiding fades. As I’m aging, I’m thinking more mindfully about how I shop and looking at now incorporating more sustainable clothing into my wardrobe overtime.

Also, I don’t own too many fashion trends. I bought a really puffy sleeved stripped shirt last year that I wore once, it not only had puffy sleeves shoulders but it buttoned-up in the back so putting it on was not fun. I’ve since donated because I really don’t know what was thinking when I bought that (I probably wasn’t really thinking too much!)

Each season, however, I do like to add a new piece to keep my wardrobe current. For example, I might update my fall wardrobe with a new sweater or add a floral print dress for spring.

I love shoes but boy do I hate the pain

Who was it that said beauty if painful? They weren’t kidding! Shoes. This is where I get a failing grade in the style department. Please don’t judge me! lol I love pretty shoes, I do, I even went to see the Manolo Blahnik exhibit in Toronto when it was here! I do have a deep appreciation for the craftsmanship, design and beauty of footwear. But, the thing is, I like them on display in the store store (and in magazines and museums), and not necessarily on my feet.

I’ll try on shoes and think, oh these are cute and feel comfy and then end up giving them to my niece or donating them to charity because eventually I find out they are uncomfortable. Flat feet and bunions are the likely culprit and lower back pain that can come with wearing heels. Not to be discouraged I’ve simple opted for a decent pair of black flats, a menswear inspired pair of lace-ups and white or neutral sneakers for my go-to footwear.

It may not be as adventurous or stylish but these kinds of options can work for most outfits and have you looking effortless stylish while being super comfortable an on trend.

My Pick for Top 20 Items to Have in Your Wardrobe

Here is my list of 20 curated items to every woman should have in their closet as a foundation for their Wardrobe Essentials along with a bonus list of accessories and what I think is important for my Canadian sisters who have to deal with the harsh winters but still want to look cute.

1. White t-shirt

2. Striped tee

3. Black pants

4. Black dress

5. Wrap dress

6. Knee-length skirt

7. Denim in a dark wash

8. Blouse

9. White Button-down skirt

10. Denim button-down skirt

11. Trench Coat

12. Denim Jacket

13. Blazer

14. Cardigan

15. Knit sweater

16. Ankle boots

17. Pumps

18. Flats

19. Rain boots

20. Sneakers

A Few Additional Essential Wardrobe Items to consider include:

Must have Accessories: Tote, Scarf, Sunglasses and Watch.

Of course if you live in a place like Canada, you need to add the following essential items to your wardrobe:

A super warm winter coats – winter coats have come a long way in warmth and style. Invest in one that’s functional, fits well, is a classic style that’s made to last you years.

A great pair boots that can handle at least -25C temps. I will never understand winter boots with heels. I just don’t get it but to each their stylish own!

Gloves – ones that can keep your hands from freezing but still look stylish (I have more than one pair because like umbrellas, you tend to lose them on buses, trains and in restaurants)

Warm chunky knit sweater in black, grey, or beige that you can pair with anything

That’s it! if you have these items in your closet you should be able to have a versatile enough basic wardrobe to be able to keep the outfit combos coming for quite some time. Of course, adding a new item each season also helps to keep you on trend and looking current. While, making sure to replace faded, washed out, stained items as needed to keep you looking chic and on point, all the time.

Black woman wearing white blazer an cropped denim

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

Posted in In My Closet, lifestyle, The Essentials | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wondering How to Wear All This Summer? Try These 5 Easy Looks

Summertime is my time to shine and one of the ways I love getting my summer vibes on is by wearing a lot of white.

Now, I know there are some people who will say they can’t possibly wear white. Their too pale and it will look horrible on them. To that I say, under a shade that’s most flattering to you and maybe incorporate a hint of color closer to your neck – maybe a printed satin scarf, to warm up your face. My philosophy is, don’t be afraid of white, embrace the chic. Also walk with a stain removing because there will enviably be some spillage (coffee, tea, ink marks, subway or car grease). Accept it and rock on!

I’ve put together five of my fave summer all white looks below. I’ve shopped my closet with pieces ranging from $24 – $89 and that I’ve owned for years. I’m all for low budget buying but spending on pieces that are classic cut and that I know I can wear for years (despite it costing less). One new piece is a replacement pair of white linen trousers I bought on sale at Banana Republic (at 50% off). I think owning a pair of wide-legged trousers or denim is a must-have Item for a diverse wardrobe and probably a topic for another post!

So, here we go! My 5 all white outfits for the summer that I hope will inspire you to try it out for yourself!

1. White Denim Skirt

We all know that the blue denim skirt is a must-have summer outfit staple but what about adding a white denim skirt to your wardrobe. A denim skirt in a pencil-skirt is ideal wear-to-work look or you can throw on a white tank top and a pair of slides with a wide belt and head to weekend brunch! Love this skirt (shopping my closet – this skirt is about 3 years old from Joe Fresh and cost about $29 (the top is Joe Fresh too). I wear it ever summer).

2. The White Shorts

I love the length of a walking short. It’s short and sexy. You can dress this up with a white blazer and heels or throw on a t-shirt and sneakers. It’s an easy, go-to all white summer look.

3. The White Trouser

Love this look for the casual ease of the wide-legged trouser. It makes you feel like you should be vacationing in a European city, looking cool, sophisticated and chic. Just try not to spill the espresso.

4. The LWD – Little White Dress

Nothing screams summertime ready like a little white summer dress. The white dress is a classic must-have in your summer wardrobe. You can opt for short, mid-length or a long boho-chic style depending on your personal style.

5. White Denim Jeans

And finally, if you love your skinny jeans, invest in a white pair that can take you from summer into fall (yes, it looks fantastic with a navy blazer, cognac boots, and stripped button-down shirt) and if you are one of the brave ones that will rock white denim in winter then you’re covered!

Hope these practical, real life low-key all white looks give you some outfit inspirations this summer!

Cheers,

Cassandra

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Know Someone Who Suffers From Migraines? Read This

Image ID: 161958141 © Fizkes | Dreamstime.com

Why Migraines & Headaches are Big Deal

If I were a superhero, say, Spiderman (migraine spidey senses being my superpower), then migraine headaches would be my supervillain – the Green Goblin, whose sole purpose is to torment me by threatening to sabotage my world and take me out! (insert maniacal laughter).

Sadly, I’m no superhero but, having to regularly suffer from migraine headaches can feel like an epic battle for over 2.7 million Canadians and mostly for women. Chances are you know someone who suffers from migraine headaches.

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month and I want to some facts about migraines. My hope is that this information will deepen your understanding of migraines and what your family members, friends or co-workers might be experiencing so the conversations you have will come from a place of compassion and empathy and informed awareness.

Migraine Headaches: Facts & Triggers 

Visual of a quote about migraines to convey the seriousness of migraines on individuals.

Before I found a course of pain management treatment that worked for me, my migraines lasted for over 14 hours. I couldn’t work, couldn’t talk to anyone I couldn’t do anything but try to be present with the pain. I would be in tears, curled up in fetal position on the bathroom floor (the darkest place in my apartment), cellphone in hand and wondering if I should call 911 for help. These episodes were, in a word, brutal. 

Migraines are more than a typical headache. They are debilitating in intensity, severity and duration. Episodic migraines happen less than 15 days each month but, sometimes they can last for three days. Chronic migraines, on the other hand, involve 15 or more days of headaches per month or eight or more headaches with migraine features each month for three or more months.

Migraine Common Symptoms & Triggers

Some common migraine symptoms experienced by migraine sufferers include nausea, vomiting, hypersensitivity to light, smells and sounds.

Common triggers include:

  • Hormonal changes (periods, birth control pills, ageing)
  • Certain foods (e.g., chocolate, cheese, caffeine, alcohol)
  • Weather (changes in temperature/humidity)
  • Strong odours (e.g., perfumes, cigarette)  
  • Physical factors (e.g., poor sleep, high-intensity workouts)
  • Family history/genes 
  • Stress 

Migraines Affect Us Differently

ID 114699618 © Daniel Dash | Dreamstime.com

Suffering from migraines just straight up sucks 100% for the individual and their loved ones. Having to miss the championship game for your kid’s basketball team, a piano recital or awards ceremony because of a migraine can be painful for the parent and the child.

People who suffer from chronic and episodic migraines have experiences that are unique to them. 

Probably the one thing we may have in common is that migraines are debilitating and severely impact the quality of life for migraine sufferers, including missing school, work and events and affecting productivity and time with family and friends. 

There’s also a great deal of emotional and psychological stress that these constant life interruptions can cause. Imagine for a minute having to worry constantly about making plans for fear that you’ll only end up cancelling “again” because of a migraine or worse, attending a wedding and having to leave early because of the migraine. Seriously, how can you live your best life if you’re always in fear of having a migraine attack? It’s frustrating.

There Is No Cure for Migraines

There is no cure for migraines but there are several migraine treatment options available. 

Since one size does not fit all when it comes to preventative treatments, we have to find the pain management treatments that meet our individual needs. There are preventative measures, like migraine-specific prescription medications.

There are also alternative options such as acupuncture, massage therapy or chiropractic treatments. There are also therapeutic options like BOTOX for chronic migraines (a Health Canada approved migraine preventative treatment).

Knowledge is Power

Pain management through a course of prescription medication, working with healthcare providers, and self-care practices allow me to take less time off work, get to spend more time with friends and family and don’t stress out as much about going on vacation. All this means less mental stress.

Don’t get me wrong I still experience debilitating days that can last for three days but not as frequently as before. I’m so grateful now for the pain-free days.

If you think your headaches might be migraines, speak to a healthcare provider to determine if that’s the case and what options are available to manage the pain.

Whether you are a migraine sufferer or know a loved one with migraines, go check out and share www.mychronicmigraine.ca It’s a helpful resource to learn more about chronic migraines and provides a simple quiz to determine whether you might be a chronic migraine sufferer and other useful information. Knowledge is power!

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

Posted in Health and Wellness, lifestyle | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Do These 3 Things Before Decluttering Your Beauty Products

Sleek, clean and modern bathroom with natural wood and white and plants.

As COVID-19 self-isolation draws on and we’re entering four months of self-isolation, I’ve been finding ways to keep productive on weekends when I know the weekend brunch plans are non-existent as are visits to coffeeshops, the shops or even a few hours spent the museum or art gallery.

It’s not surprising that home decorating or home organizing are trending now since many of us are finding that we have the time to take a hard look at our living environment and maybe tackle some of the projects that we’ve never really had time for before – or made the time for.

One of the things on my quarantine to-do list is decluttering the bathroom cabinets. It’s not a big space but I’ve noticed it’s a crowded one. I’m talking about pore strips, exfoliating scrubs, serums, eye creams and hydrating masks. Then you have bottles of nail polish, cuticle creams, lipsticks and lip balms. I honestly believe I use one third of the products on a regular basis yet my cabinet shelves are lined and some is the small area around my sink

My goal for this weekend project was simple, eliminate the excess and bring more simplicity/spacious into my lifestyle (and probably on subconscious level, it’s really about mentally and physically preparing myself for all the anti-aging products I’ll need because I don’t plan on aging gracefully, I’m putting up a fight of the knock-down-drag-out variety).

What makes this a great weekend project?

  • It’s a small space so it will not be overwhelming and the time commitment should not be all-consuming and can be done in a couple of hours (minimal sweat equity involved in this project)
  • you’re likely to experience as big sense of accomplishment once you’re done (check-off that box on your to-do list!)
  • you’ll quickly create a spaciousness you didn’t realize you had in your bathroom and that is a pretty good feeling.

#1: Do ask yourself this one question

Overhead shot/ flatlay of a variety of makeup products - eyeshadow palettes, nail polish, creams in small jars and an assortment of makeup brushes

Do I really need ‘all” of this stuff?

Chances are, your answer will be “no” if you’re keeping it real with yo’self. I know, we love our beauty and skincare products. They look beautiful and smell divine plus they promise to give me that JLo glow and keep my skin flawless like Bey, and ageless like Naomi Campbell. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need every lotion, potion and serum currently lining your bathroom shelves.

Yet, if you think about it, you can be selective and happier if you keep the limited real estate of your shelves reserved for nothing but the ‘All Stars’, those core products that are your gold standard and make you feel really good when you use them.

If you feel you need ‘all’ of it, then you can still read on. You never know, even doing the next two activities might provide you with a different perspective and allow you to let go of a few things.

#2: Do sort the products

The Keepers

These are the gold standard products – the keepers. You know, the products that you replace the minute you notice it’s running low. These are the products you swear by and tell your girlfriends about.

These can also include sample products that you’ve been meaning to try but haven’t yet gotten around to, well, because, life. You still are curious about these products and you feel a little excitement about finally making the time to use them while in self-isolation.

The ‘Say Goodbye’ Crew

Makeup brushes and beauty products in clear organizer container on a bathroom counter

Seriously, when was the last time you used that bottle of serum you just found at the back of the cabinet hidden behind the tube of rash cream. You know the items that you thought you’d really liked but used it a couple times only to get distracted by something newer and shiner, that came highly recommended by one of your fave YouTubers and forgot about. We all have them.

Before you toss them out, can any of them find a new home? My niece has given me shampoo and conditioner she had when she recently decluttered her cabinets- she has a lot of hair and tries hair products constantly so she found herself with several bottles and realized that she hadn’t used many of them but a few times. I was a happy recipient because I typically go to the salon but COVID-19 put a temporary halt to that experience and I’ve had to do my hair at home.

To be clear, I’m not talking about giving used make-up products or any products that you could have contaminated with your hands to anyone. That’s just unsanitary even before Corona but even now, we need to be even more careful about what we are sharing and how we share it (for example, bottles of perfumes, shampoos or lotions might be worth considering).

# 3: Do check the expiry date

It will surprise you at how many products have expired without you realizing it. So even with the “Keepers” check the expiry date because beauty products expire and go bad – those natural products can expire faster than other products.

Also, using long expired beauty products is gross and cause skin irritation that you probably want to avoid like acne/break-outs or infections. Gross.

Now that you’ve gone through those steps you can go head and begin the process of making your bathroom shelves things of aligned, colour-code, beauty. Celebrate you freshly decluttered space by treating yourself to that lipstick you’ve had your eye on forever. Kidding! maybe enjoy the space for a bit longer before you bring in any new products always being mindful of creating more clutter.

African American woman blowing a kiss to a bathroom mirror

Cheers,

Cassandra

Posted in lifestyle, selfcare | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Book List: 7 Awesome Fiction Books by Black Authors You Should Read This Summer

Almost everyday for the past few weeks, I’ve woken up with a sense of dread wonder, what, if any, events unfolded overnight related to the global Black Lives Matter movement and calls for justice, equality and an end to systemic racism in all its forms. Did something happen that would create yet another dramatic shift but this time in a horrible way, causing things to slip so far backwards in time that it will be hell to put the pieces back together again and move forward? Or, will there be some awesome news that will leave me filled with hope? or will things be relatively quiet but still moving steadily forward? I just didn’t know and this was stressful.

To be expected, I’ve found myself, like many of you guys, having to work that much harder to cope and to find moments of optimism and lightness throughout out days. Seeking out little moments of gratitude and joy while still leaving the space to just feel all the feelings.

Little things like seeing all the wonderful booklist of Black authors that’s being shared all over social media along with an encouragement to buy these books from Black-owned bookshops and independent bookstores. This makes me happy and super excited about my reading list!

And since sharing is caring, I’m sharing with you guys seven fiction books that I’ve read and enjoyed, if you’re looking for fiction reads this summer. A few are newer while others are classics. 

One caveat, although reading is my fave pastime and I can easily lose hours caught up in a good book, I don’t pretend to be a book critic, reviewer or bibliophile. I read for the pleasure it brings me. I love the way a well told story can make me feel, whether it stirs my soul by being so beautifully written that I’m left in awe (read anything by Toni Morrison!), or the characters are so vivid they jump off the page and are unforgettable. I simply love a book that makes me feel something long after I put it down – no dissecting or deep analysis needed. But if you fancy that kind of thang, then, yes, all of the books listed below, in my opinion – and Oprah’s – are book club, deep discussion, second read worthy novels.

With that, here are my picks for 7 awesome books by Black author that you should add to your reading list!

1. Girl, Woman Other by Bernardine Evaristo (2019)

Bernardine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other, about the interconnected lives of 12 black characters in the UK over several decades, shared the Booker Prize win in 2019 with Margaret Atwood’s Testaments. Evaristo also became the first Black British woman to by number one on the UK paperback fiction chart. She speaks about this here

2. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (2017)

Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give is a young adult fiction novel that was adapted into a movie in 2018. I haven’t seen the movie yet but enjoyed this book a lot – appreciated the old R&B music references! The issues raised in the book are also very relevant now as in 2017 when the novel was published in terms of Black Lives Matter movement and the hard and necessary conversations about the black experience and racism that we are having today.

3. The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2019)

Ta-Nehisi Coates’ debut novel The Water Dancer was one of Oprah’s Book Club reads. The Water Dancer is set in the time of slavery (deep South and freedom in the North) but with a twist, the protagonist possess mysterious powers he must seek to understand and draw upon to fight for freedom not only for himself but for others.

At the time of writing this, Ta-Nehisi Coates’ non-fiction work Between the World and Me is currently topping the New York Times best seller list.

4. Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan (2011) (Canadian)

Esi Edugyan’s Half-Blood Blues is a Giller Prize winner set in pre-war Berlin and Paris and follows two aging jazz musicians in pre-war Berlin who return to Paris in search of their friend and trumpeter who was arrested during the Nazi occupation of France. 

This novel was her debut and won or was nominated for every literary prize in Canada and celebrated internationally when it debuted in 2011 even Oprah called it one of the best books of the year and it was praised by the New York Times. 

5. The Bluest Eyes by Toni Morrison (1970)

I absolutely love Toni Morrison, well who doesn’t? She’s just, wow! She’s also both a Pulitzer and Nobel Prize winner.

The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison’s debut novel turned 50 this year. It’s about a young, black girl praying for blue eyes so she could be beautiful when her life is anything but. I hesitate in listing this one because it’s a tough one to get through – in terms of gut- wrenching sadness. But it’s a classic that’s still powerful and relevant 50 years on.

6. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (1937)

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is a classic and set in Harlem Renaissance of the1920s.

7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969)

Now I know this is not fiction but a memoir but I felt to compelled to include it. I know Why the Caged Bird Sings was Dr. Maya Angelou’s debut novel and was published in 1969. It’s the first of a series of seven books and has become a classic. 

If you’re really want to get to goods on book recommendations, visit Well Read Black Girl because she knows what she’s talking about! 

If you’re support Black authors, also try to support small, independent bookstores, like A Different Booklist in Toronto, if you can. It will make a difference.

Happy Reading!

Cassandra

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5 Simple Tips To Help Get Your Closet Organized (so you can get you back to Netflix and chips sooner)

Rolling rack of stylish, minimalist wardrobe pieces and a trendy pale purple broad-rimmed felt had

Self-isolation Day 5,046 and I finally got off the sofa, dusted the potato chip crumbs off my wrinkled t-shirt and decided I’d tackle organizing my wardrobe. Plus, I wanted to strike while the motivation was hot and the migraines were not.  

I did a big purge a couple years ago so, this was one of my biannual decluttering tasks and not a massive undertaking. Thank goodness for that!

I thought I’d share the simple tips I use for keeping my closet “somewhat” organized. I say, “somewhat” because I’m not really the Kondo method spark joy type, don’t have that kinda mindset or patience. If you want that level of organization, then check her book and YouTube for some inspiration. I personally just need things to be kinda, sorta neat-ish and I’m good to go…back to binge watching some Netflix.

Metal rolling rack of black and white minimalist clothing hanging neatly on wooden hangers

Here are 5 tips to get your closet looking neat:

  1. Seasonal Switch Up! Use the seasons as your reminder to give your closet a once-over. The beginning of spring when you’re transitioning from winter sweaters and boots to cute dresses and sandals is a perfect time.
  1. Drop it low, to the flo’! Go ahead and pump up the jams. Sing to your fave chart toppers, the ones you think you know all the lyrics too but you really don’t and sing them out loud like you know them anyways? Get hype and get going!
  1. Divide and Conquor! If you’re like me you might find the idea of removing everything from your closet and dumping it into piles to be sort, a bit overwhelming. Start with one section of your closet at a time. For example, I start with pants – they are easier to sort and I can get a quick win. Then I move on to dresses and work your way through in a way that’s most comfortable and that I know I can manage without the overwhelm.
A small selection of white clothing hanging on wooden hangers
  1. When in doubt, try it on! It can comes as a shock to discover that those jeans from 1992 don’t fit anymore – how can this be? I know, I’ve been there. But it’s ok, it really is gonna be alright. Let it go and plan to buy a new pair that makes your booty look real good in 2020. 
  1. Hanger consistency is key. Seriously, using one style of hangers does wonders for making your closet look organized even if things aren’t aligned and colour co-ordinated to perfection. It’s the little things that can make a big difference.

Bonus tip: #PaceYourself – I took my time, no pressure at all, and did my organizing in sections over a weekend. So, no need to feel any pressure to get it done, right now, all in one go. Pace yourself, take a break, have a snack, and get back to it. But, if you’re in the groove and hit a stride, by all means, keep at it. Sometimes you’ve gotta grab hold of that momentum and ride the wave while you can. Netflix will be there when you’re done.

It felt good when I was done, so good in fact that I was guilt-free when I went back to the sofa with my bag of chips.  

Cheers,

Cassandra McD.

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25 DAYS WORKING FROM HOME: TIPS FOR COPING

white minimalist workspace, white chair and simple white desk with laptop, plant, coffee cup and papers
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WFH ROOKIE

The last time I worked from home (WFH) was for a few days in 2018 when I strained the tendon in my right foot and couldn’t walk for days.

I’ve always preferred to go into the office than work from home I think it’s partly because I like to keep those two aspects of my life separate, there’s no proper workspace at home (no standup desk or ergonomic chair), and partly, my commute is fairly short and I enjoy that (I don’t have to contend with hours on a crowded train and traffic).

When the world began to grapple with Covid-19 (Coronavirus) and everyone who could, was told to WFH and #StayHome and self isolation began trending, well, I, like many people, I became a WFH rookie. I had no choice but to figure out this new normal and to come to terms with the fact that this would likely go on for several months.

I wasn’t sure how well I do on the coping scale, 10 being awesome, one being image needs medication. What with my previous struggle with burnout and anxiety, and dealing with the winter blues well, I was thinking maybe I’d end up scoring a four (extra points for resilience).

Woman sitting on a bed working on a laptop

The first few days were a bit disorienting, it felt like every day could have been Monday…or Saturday. But now 25 days in, I’ve got a much better handle on this WFH thing and can share with you guys a few things that made the transition from office to home, less uncomfortable.

Firstly, being an introvert definitely came in handy! The quiet and so much time without people hasn’t been much an adjustment (I do miss social interactions and my morning chats with the baristas such a normal way to start my day). I get this point clearly isn’t helpful if you’re more extroverted but keep reading, I’ll share more practical WFH strategies.

It’s also finally spring and the sun is out and the weather is warmer. Since I swear I suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), having this kind of weather and all this sunshine has been pretty awesome! My mood and attitude are better for it.

5 SIMPLE TIPS FOR WORKING FROM HOME

My introvert personality type and sunshine mood booster remedies asides, here are 5 practical tips that I’ve found helpful for adjusting to WFH if you’re new at it:

1. Stick to your morning routine – I try to stick to my mellow morning routine (with the major adjustment of not heading out to start my day, but staying in). I wake up at the same time each morning as if I were going in to the office, do a 10- minute meditation, and then 20-minute yoga using a free fitness app (mostly stretches for my lower back because sitting all day hurts), then shower and get dressed (in comfy clothes) and finally have breakfast before I log-on and start my workday. I treat it like any other workday and this routine helps me find and keep my daily rhythm.

2. Designate a specific area to work – I spent one day working from my sofa and realized that was a horrible idea (avoid working on your bed, unless you’re doing a photoshoot for Instagram, it’s really not practical).

I have a plain $30 Ikea desk at home that was being used as a dumping ground for magazines and papers but now serves as designated workspace with a chair from my dining table.

3. Take a real lunch ‘break’ – This is very important. It’s the perfect time to cultivate a new habit if you’re the type to work through lunch. Please step away from your workstation and take regular breaks. Eat lunch away from your desk, go for a 15-minute walk (social distancing of course) and feel the sun on your face, and simply enjoy the break to the fullest. It’s good for your health.

4. Move your body- I have chronic lower back issues and I don’t have an ergonomic set up at home so it’s important for me to avoid sitting for hours on end. Even without the chronic pain, it’s still important to stay active. Get a workout in, where you can. Think you don’t have time? Apparently, there are 7-minute workout that can get you sweating, your heart rate up and feeling good in no time.

5. Stay connected – Keep in touch with the coworkers and have a virtual coffee break, a laugh and enjoy that time of staying connected and virtual social interaction.

Numbered List of five tips for working from home set against a pink background

Theses simple and practical steps have helped me to have a smoother transition to WFH than I expected.

I know I said I didn’t much care for WFH but I’m so grateful for the ability to do so when so many people around the world don’t have that opportunity. I think having a sense of gratitude is the biggest impact on my mental wellness in a time of self-isolation.

Hope these tips have been helpful!

Cassandra

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My Experience with Fibroids & 7 Things I Learned as a Black Woman

photos of african-american woman sitting on bed with up of coffee. Caption reads, 7 Facts About Fibroids and Black Women

I decided to write this post because this topic has come up in conversation lately. It caused me to reflect on my own experience with uterine fibroids and wondered what, if anything was different about the experience about this particular health issue as a black woman.

Growing up, I vaguely recall other black women in my family, and in the community, sisters of friends, who had this thing called “fibroids” but that was it. It wasn’t discussed, no details were shared. I didn’t know what it really was and no one explained it to me. I just knew that some women had it and then you had to have surgery that would leave you unable to have children. This of course wasn’t exactly true, but that’s what I believed. Until I was diagnosed with fibroids in my mid-thirties.

What is Fibroids, anyway?

Aside from my struggle with migraines, I was pretty healthy and fibroids was never on my radar as something I needed to worry about.

So, what is fibroids? Fibroids are growth(s) in the uterus that are noncancerous, are different sizes, and often happens to women in their 30s – 40s. Fibroids affects about 80% of women before the age of 50. Alarming stats.

There isn’t a known cause but it’s likely linked to genetics, hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and pregnancy. I would later learn that family members also had this issue.

Are There Fibroids Symptoms?

I got annual check-ups and made sure I underwent the dreaded PAP tests (Argh). I was given the all clear in terms of my health. Then, one month I noticed that my period was messed up – flow was very heavy and lasting longer than usual. I knew something was wrong. I also had a bit of an enlarged abdomen but honestly thought it was just weight gain that happens with age.

Typically women don’t have any symptoms but if there are symptoms they really look like they can be related to anything or nothing. These include:  

  • heavy flow or last longer than a week or very painful.
  • pelvic pressure or pain
  • need to pee a lot more often or you have trouble peeing
  • lower back pain 
  • swelling of, or larger, abdomen

When I realized that my period was abnormal, I immediately went to see my family doctor who sent me to get an Transvaginal Ultrasound (I still shudder thinking about it and yes, it’s as invasive and uncomfortable as it sounds) and then to see a Gynecologist for another pelvic examination, another transvaginal ultrasound (double shudder) and finally a diagnosis. I had fibroids and needed to consider my options.

woman sitting on bed, with a cup of coffee, and looking at her mobile phone

What Really Scared Me About Fibroids

When I found out that I had fibroids, I was initially freaked out. I mistaking believed that my only option was to have a hysterectomy. I didn’t know if I was going to have children but I wanted that choice to be mine.

According to research, no what women with fibroids worry about? Women who are dealing with fibroids tend to worry about the same things that I was worried about, what negative affect this would have on our future health and our bodies – would it cause cancer? how would it impact our relationships with our partners?

Black women and Fibroids

photo of a black woman in a graphic tee shirt of a black woman with an afro. The text includes Fibroid and black women and lists seven factors.

What also surprised me to learn from doctor, and later reading some research on the topic, was that fibroids tends to happen more in black women.

I’ve since learned that there are also some differences where it comes to how black women experience fibroids.  

According to the Mayo Clinic and Journal of Women’s Health’s national survey, there are a number of facts that affect African-American women when it comes to fibroids than white women:

7 surprising facts about fibroids affecting black women:

  1. Are at a higher risk of having fibroids than women of other racial groups. 
  2. We have fibroids at a younger age 
  3. We tend to have larger fibroids
  4. We tend to have more severe symptoms
  5. We are more likely to report a fear of future fibroid growth
  6. We worried a lot more about fibroids impacting our ability to have a successful and healthy pregnancy
  7. It would lead to depression

Looking back, a lot of these facts make sense to me now. In fact, I didn’t realize how many of black women I knew had experienced fibroids until I spoke openly to family and friends about what I was going through.

I spoke with the doctor about my options. A hysterectomy is one option but not the only one. It’s always good to have options and to think about what is best for you given the circumstances and sound medical advice. But, this can only happen if you pay closer attention to your bodies and go get checked out in the first place.

Finding Gratitude and Raising Awareness

The crappy part of this experience for me was finding out that the fibroids might grow back at some point. This was disheartening news but also totally out of my control.

I’ve decided to focus on the positive. The fact that this was a common, treatable health issue and noncancerous. As a Canadian, I also have access to good health care to address the issue if it comes again. For that I am grateful.

I know that we all experience our health issues differently but given that this is a common occurrence among women, and particular for women of colour, you would think there would be more information made available to us, especially if black women are known to more likely wait for years before getting a diagnosis than their white counterparts.

There was an article I read recently that talked about cancer being a taboo subject in the black community (and the impact of lack of health data on Black Canadians) to the point where families don’t talk about it to the detriment of their relatives who later are diagnosed with cancer, not knowing there was a family history.

Although the research study mentioned in the article looked at breast cancer and cervical cancer among Black Canadian Women, I could relate to the taboo surrounding the issue and lack of available data on black women’s health. This is one of the reasons, I decided to write this post. I hope by openly talking about my fibroids experience and sharing the little I know is even a tiny bit helpful in raising awareness on the issue.

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