30 days with Camellia

Updated: Jun 6

Maybe you noticed but afraid to say something. Maybe you thought you noticed but didn't ask. Maybe you didn't notice my little 30-day secret at all.

As you may have surmised in previous posts, our family homestead consists of a small, approaching two century, farmhouse. Imagine a time when everyone’s ancestors were able to live simply with just a Hoosier cabinet storing their dishware, kitchen utensils, & food (instead of full wall of floor to ceiling kitchen cabinetry), a beautifully worn wood & leather steam trunk for linens, blankets, & whatnots (instead of dresser drawers), and a gorgeous stand-alone wardrobe (instead of a bedroom closet). I can only assume that eventually a wardrobe would become too small to contain Sunday best, chore clothes, & everyday attire. Great grandma must’ve had to do a lot of convincing grandpa to remodel our downstairs to add 2 bedrooms. Each with the luxury of a small closet! Their summer kitchen on the north side of the house was moved to the southwest side & sported the newest, modern 1950s metal cabinetry that I lovingly gaze upon & toil over daily. Our 2 bedrooms upstairs still do not have closets… or a wardrobe… or storage of any kind except for the creepy attics on either side that even a person of small stature has to squat to move around.

A few years ago, I grew tired of rotating my seasonal clothes from my small bedroom closet & dresser. Squatting into the attic, lugging totes up & down the stairs was becoming burdensome. Sometimes I procrastinated well into the next season finding myself wearing layers in front of a space heater or rolling up my sleeves & pants in front of the oscillating fan. What if I could downsize my entire wardrobe to fit in my small closet all year round? Where would I even begin?

I knew there were pieces I loved that would be hard to part with. It began with pieces not worn in a loooong time because they were no longer fashionable or had shrunk over time becoming too small. They were all kept "just in case" I could fit into them when the fashion circled around again. Riiiight.

One day, the purge began. After what felt like hours of sorting, there were still too many garments in my keep heap. I then decided to rid fabrics that made me feel stinky or itchy. Items that I didn't love like polyester (lightweight summer fabrics that don’t breathe) & acrylics (heavy & scratchy winter sweaters) would find new homes. That went easier than I expected. Finally, my brain became overwhelmed & went into shut down mode witnessing the messy chaos I had created. I had to be done. Surprisingly, at the end of the day I was able to cram all seasons into my closet & dresser.

Over the next few seasons, I thought about how I could reduce further. I decided to keep only 100% cotton pieces, rayon, & 2 wool sweaters. Before I realized it, I was on the verge of being a minimalist & that was exciting me! Side note: if I can just convince Scott & Kaycee to downsize with me, that’d be greater yet. They are both of the mindset to find & hold on to things “just in case” it can be used for something else later. In their defense, there have been times when they shop in our barn's free reuse/recycle section to fix, replace, or build something.

This year, I began a quest to reward myself with clothing that actually fit & made of natural fibers such as wool, hemp, silk, cotton, linen, or bamboo. Rayon was eventually purged as I realized that it is a semi-synthetic fiber & I found it still hot in the summer. Some heavyweight cotton blends have been sent away as well.

I was excited when I bought my first bamboo dress. I love the color, the softness, the bias cut, the handkerchief hemline. Now, having researched how bamboo clothing is made, my adoration for this silly piece of clothing is fading. However, I will continue to wear it because it feels heavenly, is cool & comfy, & I feel pretty in it. I will sentimentally keep it for what I thought was my first natural fiber purchase... for the time being.

For several months I studied up on merino wool. It proclaims to be wrinkle & odor resistant, breathable, temperature regulating, naturally soft, & quick drying. I ordered my first dress & promptly returned it when the style looked terrible on me. Hence my avoidance to shop online. My already fragile self-esteem prevented me from ordering another dress in a different style. Another month went by & another wool dress caught my eye. I ordered a different style, color, & size. My self-esteem tanked again with another dress returned to sender.

Both Scott & Kaycee encouraged me to try again; especially as I began to complain about the summer's quickly approaching heat & humidity. I found another style “Camellia”, color “plum”, & size “large” (not an xxl or xl that I have worn since the birth of Kaycee). It wasn’t exactly the most flattering on my curvy figure, but oh my gosh, it felt soooo good.

The company where I bought my wool dress had a challenge/reward program to wear the same garment for 100 days. That’s long time. Then they offered a 30 days challenge. That was doable for me. Camellia was a great help continuing my conversion to natural fibers & a minimalistic wardrobe. I found wool was surprisingly lightweight, versatile, durable, functional, & beautiful.

During my (now completed) 30-day challenge, Camellia built quite a resumé. She

did farm chores under my bibs, cooked & cleaned protected by an apron, learned how to enter/exit a car with feminine grace, came to my office job sometimes concealed under another dress to throw off anyone suspecting repeat wear, worn during numerous massages, attended a memorial of life following the death of the first Joe Jackson son, threw a 13th birthday bowling party tucked into my favorite skorts, celebrated & made me feel beautiful on my birthday, saw a concert looking fab with boots, a belt, & denim jacket, took walks with me through the woods, sat through my haircut & helped me give Scott a haircut, cuddled with fur babies as their fur easily wiped off, attended my first Renaissance Faire keeping me cool on a hot sweltering day, & helped me further purge my closet & dresser.

Camellia also helped push me closer to my weight loss goals as I was more mindful about eating foods that might drip or spill stains on her. The first day of my challenge was May 5th, "Cinco de Mayo”. I couldn’t skip my taco lunch that day, but I sacrificed having the salsa for fear of dribbling on my new dress. Egads!

After having switched to a crystal deodorant about a week before the challenge to continue down my natural health & beauty journey, my new wool dress never had issues with pit smells or stains. She has not needed to be laundered yet. I had no need to hang it up to air out or spritz vodka on her to refresh any smells. Camellia did go into the dryer almost every morning with a damp cloth & wool dryer ball to easily remove any creases after being carefully rolled up in a drawer overnight so as not to stretch on a hanger.

Before starting my 30 days with Camellia, I didn’t realize how long it’d been since really seeing myself in the mirror. When did I become an older version of me with more gray & wrinkles? Yet, somehow a little more confident & wiser? Sure, we all go through the motions of brushing your teeth & hair in front of the bathroom mirror every day. But when was the last time you really saw yourself? Even though they are called vanity mirrors, I seldom felt vane enough to admire myself in the mirror. At 53 years old, I finally realized it is okay to want to “feel” beautiful every day. The journey with this silly little dress helped me (1) feel comfortable in my aging, plump body; (2) not cringe when I saw myself in daily challenge photos; (3) accept compliments without making silly rebuttals; and (4) to accept the curvy, wonder woman that I am.

I intend to make new goals to keep myself engaged & aware. I need to keep it easy, fun, & attainable. I refuse to get discouraged & disgusted with myself. Take moments to enjoy your own personal journeys, you are worth it!

'Til next time folks!

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