Snowy road in Central Park

February Three-R’s Recap

It’s hard to believe, but March is upon us and spring should be just around the corner! February flew by for me. True, it is the shortest month, but only by a few days. And I feel like I managed to fit a lot into those four weeks, going by my three R’s – running, recipes, and refocusing. (I also achieved my goal of a Frugal February by not buying any new clothes for the month, but it was almost too easy – it’s been so cold, I spend all my time in leggings and fleeces! So I’m tacking another month on to the challenge.)

 

Donald Duck is the main man for the Half, but I needed a photo with the grand master of the weekend, Mickey!
Winding down from Disney and gearing up for the NYC Half!

Let’s start with running. I don’t run for any particular speed or goal, even when I’m racing (which I didn’t do at all this month unless you count PR Day at November Project – with half marathons in January and March, I figured it was a good idea to take a short race break!) But I managed to run just about 100 miles this month, or 25 miles per week. I’ve been building up to this mileage level for about six months. The last time I was consistently running this much was last May. I injured my hip flexor last June and was out for two months, and even when I finished physical therapy in August the re-entry to running was slow and steady. I can’t believe I’ve made it back to my best running shape, and I’m excited to see what’s in store as I run my second New York City Half Marathon (the anniversary of my first half marathon, and also the two-year anniversary of when I started running!)

 

 

A Plate of Pumpkin Puffins
A Plate of Pumpkin Puffins

As for the recipes, I’ve definitely taken advantage of the chill this month to try out all sorts of heart- and hearth-warming treats. I’ve shared Pumpkin Puffins and Dreamy Peanut Butter Cookie Bites with you, excellent for dessert or breakfast or whenever you need a sweet pick-me-up. And of course there are a whole host of dishes from my first dinner party – which, due to the cold weather, became an inspired winter-warming Breakfast-for-Dinner Party! And thus has a menu for any time of day, whether you want to host weekend brunch or a fun evening event – recipes coming this week!

 

 

The long and winding road (or run!)
The long and winding road (or run!)

Finally, I’ve taken the time this month to refocus on the important things in life. Even when I’m tired or stressed, I try to keep the big picture in mind. There’s still a lot of world out there to see and experience, and I want to be my best self while I’m doing it! Taking a step back and reflecting on the past in recognition of National Eating Disorders Awareness Week was also very meaningful to me. I’ve already been through the wringer a bit, but there are a lot of people in the world who are still surviving with dark clouds hanging over them, and knowing that motivates me to get out there and try to help. It sounds both naive and cliche, but if I can make even the smallest difference in the life of another human being, I’ll feel like I’ve done some good in this world, and that’s the best goal I can set for myself heading into March.

Happy trails for spring (and let’s hope it arrives soon!)

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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The reservoir may be frozen, but I'm secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia...)

Moving Forward in Bites and Bounds

It’s only Wednesday and already I feel as if I’ve done enough this week to warrant a weekend of rest (which is not happening anytime soon, thanks to my recurring insomnia and realization that I’ve tried to cram an entire February of fun into about four days). Between school and my internship, running and yoga, finding time with friends and working on my Junior League volunteer commitment, and recently adding November Project to the mix, life’s been a whirlwind. But like Ferris Bueller (my film hero) tells us, life moves pretty fast, and if you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it. Not happening for this girl!

So I’m taking the time this week to tackle a few new challenges. I’m working to raise awareness during National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. I can’t fully describe how healing it was to be able to write about my own experience on this blog, and to have that post hit an all-time high of readership. Even if just one person read it and was encouraged to seek help or to come forward with their own story, I would feel like I was able to make a difference, taking past pain and turning it into something positive and far greater than myself. It’s already been so much more. And as I said in that post, part of moving forward with my life is staying healthy and happy so that I have the energy to enjoy new experiences that I never would have thought possible. To that end, I’m running through the winter (race you to spring!) and hosting my first dinner party, but keeping what’s most important at the forefront of my mind all the while.

 

Salt lasers across the metatarsals
Salt lasers across the metatarsals

Staying motivated this winter has been easier than expected. I don’t mind the cold as much when I’m out on the run. I guess it’s because I’m constantly in motion and keeping my heart rate up in a way that even a brisk walk won’t do (and I walk A LOT). But even I’m getting tired of all the white and grey stuff falling out of the sky and turning to slush on city streets. This morning, I was confused because I thought my sneakers suddenly didn’t match – turns out, the white lines I had begun to think were part of the design are actually salt stains. So I’m happy we finally had a few days above freezing, looking forward to spring, and getting ready to start my runs under a rising sun (though the sunrise is magical!)

 

 

But my experiences didn’t just lead me to healing via exercise and eating right. They also taught me the importance of rest and relaxation. There’s a difference between being a bit of a sleepyhead, rolling out of bed anyway, and going out for a pre-school jog or meeting the November Project tribe to start my day off right, and truly pushing myself past the brink of exhaustion. Yesterday I woke up to the latter kind of feeling. So instead of going for 5 miles as planned, I stayed under the covers a little while longer, had a bowl of oatmeal with berries and some tea, and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before heading off to my internship. It was the best choice I could have made, and this morning I woke up refreshed and ready to get outside and greet the sun.

 

That leisure time also gave me a few moments to go over the menu for my dinner party on Saturday. I’ll be serving three courses, making most of the food myself (a few friends are bringing side dishes, but most will provide the wine and laughter!) As I sat there going over recipes and making a shopping list to pick up any ingredients missing from my cupboard, I realized just how far I’ve come. I could never have cooked for other people when I was suffering, the thought of being around so much food was actually frightening, and baking as often as I do now? With all the taste testing? It was out of the question. A few years ago, I read Brave Girl Eating. The author’s daughter struggled with anorexia, and while I don’t have a family that understood my experience in the way that hers did, the idea that food is just too fraught with complications in our culture struck me. We literally have policy debates going on about food, which is necessary but sadly so. While I don’t think that food necessarily equals love, I do think that food is food, and it should be whatever we want it to be – a source of quelling our hunger or experiencing new tastes or something that brings us together with other people. No one should have to feel like their decisions about food are anyone else’s to make, or like they have to justify eating or not eating anything. Hungry for an apple? Eat one! (Even when others think it’s too “healthy” – that’s why I try to share as much of my way of life as possible, because I definitely eat fruits and veggies alongside baked goods and ice cream.) Want some steak frites? Have that instead! Not hungry at noon? Eat lunch at two! Do what works for you, and listen to your own body and mind. This is what I make up my mind to do every day, and so far, so good.

 

The reservoir may be frozen, but I'm secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia...)
The reservoir may be frozen, but I’m secretly hoping one day the sun will overpower it so much it melts into instant spring (like in Narnia…)

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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"I go the distance for skinny jeans." Not me!

National Eating Disorders Awareness Week

Today’s post is a little different than the recipes and running tips I usually focus on. It’s about National Eating Disorders Awareness Week. When I was younger, some adults gave me the impression that eating disorders were a ‘privileged’ issue, something only the ‘lucky’ few might face, because they were not actually starving in a third world country or right here in the United States. Others understood that eating disorders affect many people, but limited the definition of a ‘real’ eating disorder to anorexia and bulimia. Those notions needs to change, and the National Eating Disorders Association works to spread the message that all kinds of people, no matter their gender, race, or socioeconomic background, develop eating disorders that can manifest in very different ways, and that it is essential to respond compassionately to ensure a return to health and happiness for all.

 

NEDA-Week-2015

 

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Yoga to the Max

I was serious about ballet for the majority of my childhood and teenage years, with some dabbling in gymnastics and cheerleading. When all that ended, I took up coxing and eventually running. So I’ve always been careful to stretch consistently, and can proudly say today that I’m still able to sink into the splits (albeit not as quickly as in my ‘youth’ – I may be a very young adult, but even at 23 I know my gumby days are probably behind me!) I’ve taken a few Pilates classes, and know how to get in a good strength-training workout with just myself and no fancy equipment. Pushups and press-to-not-quite-handstands-anymore, crunches and high kicks – all within my wheelhouse.

But yoga is another story. Friends kept telling me to try it out when I was looking for a way to engage not just physically, but mentally, and to find a calming activity. Instead, I started running. I’m glad I did, and I am definitely more of an outdoors and active person, so it suits me. But in the past year, I decided to give yoga a shot as well.

Yoga was always a little intimidating to me. Not the poses, or the physical fitness required, but the idea of being able to remain so completely still, or in the case of vinyasa flow, to know what to do and in what order. I never thought much about it, but everything has its own language. Unless you speak French, ballet terms probably sound quite foreign – but I grew up with ballet, so it was like a native tongue. Yoga poses were another story. I knew Tree. That’s it.

To allay my fears, I signed up for beginner classes at a few different studios near my apartment. I tried them both, and discovered it wasn’t so difficult. I had to keep an eye on the instructor to know what to do, but I got comfortable with the basic poses. I settled on one studio, House of Jai, because they had a good deal of variety in their vinyasa classes (I have poor circulation and get overheated very quickly, so for health reasons I can’t do Bikram or other hot yoga). They also have a great Community Class a few times a week, taught by a recently-certified instructor at the wonderful price of $10 (I just can’t stomach paying the usual $25 per class as is de rigeur in Manhattan). A couple of times a month, I head on over for a yoga practice that stretches and de-stresses.

 

Yes, pink is my favorite color, and yes, I can't find my Theraband so I'm using a headband.
Yes, pink is my favorite color, and yes, I can’t find my Theraband so I’m using a headband.

 

And more often than not, I find that starting my day with just ten minutes of yoga can leave me feeling refreshed and ready to run – sometimes metaphorically, sometimes literally! All I need is my mat and foam roller (I’ll do some yoga mixed with physical therapy exercises, as my knee and hip still bother me occasionally) along with my trusty Theraband. I usually just do a few sun salutations and a few minutes of flow through, with some stretches afterwards and a couple of minutes of silence in child’s pose. I’ve tried a few Youtube yoga videos, but I think that my aversion to exercise classes in general kind of carries over here – once I know what I’m doing, I prefer to do my own thing. Whatever works for you is my motto!

 

 

 

 

There’s a whole 40 days of yoga challenge out there, and that might work for some of you, if you need motivation to get started or keep going! I’m a member of the Sweat Pink network of female fitness bloggers, and in honor of that 40 day challenge, the yoga brand prAna has given us a special offer to share – 15% off all purchases through the end of February, by visiting their website here and using the code leapnpinks15. I usually just wear my running gear to do yoga, but I know that dressing the part can definitely help get you in the right mindset – and I really don’t care what people say, I can and do wear leggings as pants, so yoga bottoms are actually part of my everyday wardrobe. I’m always on the lookout for deals when I need to refresh that wardrobe, because paying full price for Lululemon is a little much for my budget. So check it out – and namaste!

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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Snowy road in Central Park

A Long and Winding Run

I looked at my calendar this week and realized I was just past the halfway point between my two winter half marathons – I’m not sure how that happened so quickly! To be fair, it does feel like quite awhile since I was in Florida, having an amazing time running the Walt Disney World Half Marathon and fueling up with all the delicious allergy-free treats on offer. But I thought that it felt far in the past because of the winter weather we’ve been having in the Northeast…the realization that it was over a month ago crept up on me! I’ve got less than four weeks to go until the New York City Half Marathon.

 

At the finish line of my first half marathon!
At the finish line of my first half marathon!

 

While I’m sure lots of seasoned runners think nothing of running multiple half marathon distances in a compressed period of time, it’s a first for me. I cut back during the two weeks after the Disney half marathon, running only 4-6 miles a few times each week. About two weeks after the race, I did an 8-miler, and today was my longest in-between run of 10 miles. At this point in my running career, I consider anything over 8 miles to be a Long Run, and this one definitely felt that way!

 

The long and winding road (or run!)
The long and winding road (or run!)

Long runs don’t feel different than short distances just because of the length of time your body is in motion. In fact, I find that it takes me a good three miles to get into a run, and once I hit mile 5 or 6, it’s easy to keep going for another few. Any little aches or pains usually fade away (they come back with a vengeance post-run, but that’s another story!) What I really need to keep me going is to focus on something positive. I don’t necessarily mean that I need to think happy thoughts –  in fact, I’ll often devote a lot of time on long runs to thinking through a problem, something in my life that isn’t going quite the way I’d like it to. I’ll usually have found a way to put a new spin on an off-kilter situation by the time I’m ready to cool down. There’s something about being out of doors and in motion that puts all the little things in life in perspective, and my long runs give me the chance to take a metaphorical step back and gain that perspective, while also literally moving forward.

 

Today, I shoved all thoughts of law school and my impending graduation and relationships and my upcoming dinner party and literally EVERYTHING ELSE out of my mind. Instead, I ruminated on running (of all the things!) as I ran. More specifically, the time I’ve spent running. Just under a year ago, I was gearing up for the same race, my first half marathon and only my fourth race ever! Looking back, I’m amazed at how far I’ve come – two years ago was the first time I ran a 5k distance without stopping, something I never dreamed of doing. I was the girl tried to get out of running the mile in gym class by bringing a note from my ballet teacher saying it was unsafe for dancers. Even when I started jogging as a coxswain, it was never more than a mile and change down the river path or around Oxford, and always with plenty of walking. Now, I have two half marathons under my belt, a third coming up, and a fourth already on deck for September!

 

Taking the scenic route by  a snow-capped Harlem Hill
Taking the scenic route by a snow-capped Harlem Hill

If I had told my 13- or 16- or even 20-year-old self that this is where I’d be at 23, I wouldn’t have been able to believe it. And that’s something I need to keep in mind. A long run is the perfect time to refresh my memory, because even if I feel a little sore for the first few miles, or the wind is a bit harsh, or I’m certain I won’t be able to finish – I realize that every step is an achievement in and of itself, pushing beyond imaginary limits into a new realm of possibility. It’s a wonderful thought, an even better feeling, and today, it was just the fuel I needed to finish 10 miles strong.

 

 

And now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time to refuel, because even the best mental state requires a plate of healthy, delicious and nutritious calories to maintain! I’m thinking a few muffins for a quick protein and carb fix while I whip up a plate of eggs and my special pancakes…

Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins
Banana-Maple-Oat Muffins
Saucy Cinna-cakes with scrambled eggs and fresh blueberries!
Saucy Cinna-cakes with scrambled eggs and fresh blueberries!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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Dreamy Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

Dreamy Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

Peanut butter is one of my weaknesses. Luckily, peanut butter is great fuel for a runner. I’m constantly finding new ways to incorporate it into recipes to avoid spooning it straight from the jar (which often happens anyway…but I digress!) Peanut butter is great for any PB&J treats, paired with maple syrup or honey like in my Peanut Butter Cup Muffins, or dotted with dark chocolate chips. But sometimes, I just want creamy (or crunchy!) peanut butter, pure and simple. For that, I turn to these peanut butter cookie bites, so simultaneously creamy, crunchy, and peanut butter-y, it’s tough to stop at just one! 

 

Dreamy Peanut Butter Cookie Bites
Dreamy Peanut Butter Cookie Bites

 

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NEDA Week

Waking Up for a Winter Workout

Although many people start off January with resolutions to exercise more and focus on healthy habits in the new year, winter doldrums can get in the way. When it’s cold and snowy (or sleeting, or icy, or just plain gray and gloomy) it can be tough to find the motivation to get up and moving.

Pretty but chilly!
Pretty but chilly!

 

I am one of those crazy runners who gets outdoors no matter the weather. Rain or shine, I can be found in the park or on the trail. I think there were 3 days in all of last winter when I went to the gym for a workout – and I still got in 4-5 runs every week! So far this winter, I’ve been able to keep it up, and haven’t been forced onto the dreadmill yet. But it took awhile for me to get into the habit, and even more time to enjoy the time I spend running outside in all kinds of conditions. So I thought I’d share a few tips to jump-start winter workouts!

 

Yak Trax
…ready to hit the snowy streets!

 

First, make a habit of getting outdoors unless conditions are truly unsafe. Make a promise to yourself to get outside and have all the proper gear for winter weather set and ready to go in the morning. That way, when the alarm clock goes off, you’ll be more likely to get up and at ’em – after all, you’ve already prepared and won’t want to waste the effort!

 

 

 

Second, ensure you have enough time to get in a workout before your day begins, and treat the time you have as, well, a treat! I think of my run as something I ‘get’ to do before doing all the things for school and my internship (and eventually my job) that I ‘have’ to do. It’s a little thing, but the way you perceive it can make all the difference.

 

Breakfast at the ready
Breakfast at the ready

Third, have everything ready to go at your house or apartment for when you return – clothes for the day laid out, breakfast supplies ready and easy to assemble, and your bag packed so you can get back out the door quickly. This morning, my run was pretty chilly, but knowing I had a couple of Pumpkin Puffins and a mug of dark and sweet blueberry coffee at home kept me going!

 

 

 

 

Winter running
Taking trail conditions in stride

Having a few friends to run with is another great option – I try to do my long runs when training for a race with a friend or two, and workout buddies can definitely keep you accountable. Personally, my motivation for running (like my motivation for most other things in life) tends to come from within. I’m not the type of person who likes to follow a set training plan to the letter (probably because I’m not really big on following directions…as evidenced by some of my cooking experiments!) But if you do better when you have a schedule to stick to, by all means use one. And even if you tend to march to your own beat like me, having just one workout every week with others to mix it up and keep you honest can be just what you need to shake out of the winter blues (I’m happy that a friend led me to the November Project for this reason!)

 

 

Last but not least, if you’re goal-oriented, signing up for a race every so often if you’re a runner, or setting specific bars for yourself to reach with other workouts, can be the perfect thing to spur you on. Just as I’m wound down from the Walt Disney World Half Marathon, it’s time to start getting in gear for my second New York City Half Marathon in March (also the second anniversary of my ‘real’ running!) After that, I’ll take a break from racing as law school ends and the bar exam approaches…but yesterday, I signed up to complete my Coast to Coast Challenge with a friend from school at Disneyland in September with the Dumbo Double Dare. It’s a perfect post-bar-exam celebration and dreaming of that magical run in the sun is sure to keep us both going during the shortest and coldest month of the year. So figure out what works for you, and get ready to wake up to a winter workout in wonderland!

 

 

Watching the sun rise over the East River is a lovely perk of a winter's morning workout!
Watching the sun rise over the East River is a lovely perk of a winter’s morning workout!

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!

Oodles of Oats: A Gluten Free Instant Oatmeal Taste Test

One of my favorite post-run breakfasts in winter is a warming bowl of oatmeal. All it takes is some good gluten-free oats, a spoonful of Greek yogurt, and some cinnamon to make a delicious dish. Sometimes I’ll toss in a little flaxseed, a few berries or bits of chopped apple, but slow-cooked stovetop oatmeal needs no fancy garnish!

 

But sometimes, despite my best efforts, I simply don’t have the extra few minutes necessary to stand over the stove. Life moves pretty fast, and while of course I try to stop and look around so I don’t miss it, there have been mornings where I can’t curb the pace for anything – I need to get in from a run, shower, and get back out the door! In times like these, I turn to pre-packaged oatmeal. Yes, it’s expensive, and there are added ingredients you’d prefer not to include when fueling your body, but I tend to use the 90/10 rule – if I’m cooking and focusing on fresh ingredients 90 percent of the time, there’s a little wiggle room the other 10 percent. And if instant oatmeal is my convenient indulgence…well, there are far worse indulgences in this world!

 

The options for certified gluten-free instant oatmeal have expanded over the past few years. I performed a gluten free instant oatmeal taste test and have a few thoughts to share in case you find yourself in a breakfast bind and in need of guidance. I tend to go for the flavored versions when it’s instant, because often I am literally making my oatmeal in a to-go mug when I get to that point and can’t bring all my add-ins along with me. So without further ado, the three contenders:

 

Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!
Taste Test: Trifecta of GF Instant Oats!

 

 

Glutenfreeda:

Glutenfreeda instant oatmeal packets come in six flavors – natural, apple cinnamon, banana maple, maple raisin, cranberry cinnamon, and strawberry brown sugar. I’ve tried them all, and my favorite is definitely the banana maple (perhaps because it reminds me of the taste of my marvelous muffins!) The apple cinnamon is also good. The strawberry brown sugar comes in third place, and the maple raisin and cranberry cinnamon finish off the podium simply because I couldn’t really taste the flavors – which is fine, I like plain oatmeal, but when you’re expecting something else it can come off as bland. I am also not a fan of raisins, so I’m a little biased. The natural flavor is definitely the best plain instant oatmeal, but I’m not including it in the flavor rankings for obvious reasons!

 

Glutenfreeda Banana Maple Oatmeal with Flax (I had eaten half the bowl already!)
Glutenfreeda Banana Maple Oatmeal with Flax (I had eaten half the bowl already!)

 

Banana Maple with Flax: stirred properly, there is a taste of real maple syrup, and there is a healthy helping of small chunks of dried banana as well. For best results, mix the oatmeal with hot water and leave it to sit for 5-10 minutes; it soaks up the liquid to create a heartier portion just like slow-cooking oats. It’s a pretty thick consistency, which I like – I hate runny oatmeal!

 

 

 

 

Bakery on Main:

Bakery on Main instant oatmeal packets also come in six flavors – traditional, apple pie, blueberry scone, carrot cake, maple multigrain, and strawberry shortcake. I’ve tried the traditional, apple pie, and maple multigrain. I favored the apple pie over the maple multigrain, but for a good comparison have shown the maple here. The oatmeal is not quite as thick when adding the same amount of liquid and letting the oats absorb it for the same amount of time, but it is still very creamy and filling for instant oats.

Bakery on Main: Maple Multigrain
Bakery on Main: Maple Multigrain

 

 

Maple Multigrain: Not quite as much of a taste of maple syrup, but definitely still a good flavor and much better than being overly sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

Chex Gluten Free:

Chex cereal is great for gluten-free folks who still like some crunch to add to their morning bowl of milk or yogurt. I love classic Corn Chex, and some of the newer flavors are great (I hate that they don’t have plain Honey Chex, though – Honey Nut is not for the nut-free!) So I was excited to see the new Chex gluten-free instant oatmeal on shelves. (Psst…Chex also makes quick-cooking rolled oats, which are running a close second to my Country Choice rolled oats for use in some of my recipes). The instant oatmeal packets come in Original, Apple Cinnamon, and Maple Brown Sugar. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, Chex Apple Cinnamon and Maple Brown Sugar are the way to go.

Chex Maple Brown Sugar GF Oatmeal
Chex Maple Brown Sugar GF Oatmeal

Compared to Glutenfreeda and Bakery on Main, Chex Maple Brown Sugar definitely had the strongest maple taste. If you don’t like overly sweet oats, stick with the original flavor or try a subtler oatmeal from one of the other brands. The oats were thicker than average for instant oatmeal, but did not approach the same consistency as the other brands using the same amount of liquid (in fact, I had to spoon some out to prevent eating oatmeal soup). The packet contains 45g (relative to 48g for Glutenfreeda flavored oatmeal and 50g for Bakery on Main) so it isn’t a substantial difference, but I’d advise reducing the amount of water or milk added by a tablespoon or two.

 

 

To sum it up: all three brands offer some great options, and which one you prefer is going to depend on your personal tastes – do you like your oatmeal thick or do you prefer it to be a little more spoonable? Sweeter or subtler hints of flavor? Portion size? All good to consider! Personally, the win for me has to be Glutenfreeda – I just love thicker oatmeal, and it definitely hits the target in that regard. But I really like the others as well, and honestly I will probably buy whichever brand is on sale when I’m in need of some grab-and-go oats. So, for now…”oats-ver” and out!

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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(Pre)-Spring Cleaning

If you’re anything like me, your closet is stuffed with clothes ranging from a just-purchased pair of running shoes, to dresses you wore to college events three years ago, to T-shirts from high school beginning to show their six or seven years of age. Every so often, I make an attempt to clean out the stash, bagging what I no longer wear to donate to Goodwill or the Salvation Army. My family always did this when I was growing up; I was always the recipient of hand-me-downs because I was the smallest and youngest girl among my friends and family members, so once I outgrew my outfits, donating them was the next logical step.

A year or two ago, I realized I had finally gotten all the clothes that no longer fit me out of my closet (meaning anything I wore before age 16 or so, save for sweatshirts and the like) – it was time to move on to a new sorting method. When I graduated college, I decided to donate any item of clothing I had not worn since high school. Now, as the end of law school approaches, I’m trying to impose a four-year limit; if I haven’t worn it since I was 19, someone else could probably make better use of an item of clothing than I currently am!

I’ve always had a tough time giving clothes away because I feel like I *might* end up needing that one dress or pair of shoes at some point in the future, weeks or months or years from now, and then I’d regret my decision. But I’m taking a harder look at what I really need these days, and it’s time to put my organizational skills to use in Project Closet Cleanup (or Cleanout – I just don’t think it’ll be even close to barren anytime soon!)

As part of the project, I’m trying out a couple of the new clothing exchanges for the tech-savvy generation. On the list are three T’s: Threadflip, Thredup, and Twice. Threadflip is basically an online consignment store – you send in your items and they list them for sale with a suggested price (that the seller can adjust manually if desired). Thredup and Twice are a bit different in that you send your items in and they make you an offer right away, then list the items themselves as sellers. All are free for sellers – create an account and they’ll send you a bag to fill with items for sale, pre-addressed and stamped to be shipped right back. Both Threadflip and Twice offer the option of donating your clothes to charity if they are not accepted, and/or having them returned to you for a fee; Thredup offers a clothes-recycling program or return for a fee.

My forays into each forum have led to a couple of conclusions. First, there is definitely a trade-off between receiving more money for what you sell, versus being guaranteed to make the sale. By listing your clothes on Threadflip, you’ll control what price you are willing to sell an item of clothing for, and the price you command will be higher than on the other websites – in some cases, substantially higher. For example, I “flipped” a Vineyard Vines corduroy skirt for $36 on Threadflip, and a J. Crew cardigan for $24. When I sent similar items to Twice and Thredup, I received payouts of around $20 for both items – 66% less. The payouts were also bundled, so that I could not be totally sure of how much I was receiving for each item. However, I was guaranteed a payout immediately, whereas with Threadflip, I waited until the items sold, which several others had not within the 90-day limit. I could, of course, ask for those items to be returned to me for a fee, and send them to one of the other forums, coming out slightly ahead. But it’s a longer period of time and does require more legwork on the seller’s part.

The verdict? All three T’s are wonderful for girls looking to clean out their closets and maybe earn back a bit of the investment they made in their wardrobes. Which forum you prefer will depend on what you have to send in, how much work you want to do, and what price you’re willing to accept. If you have anything on the very high end (couture clothing, shoes, and purses) Threadflip is probably your best best because of the pricing. Even though it’s a deep discount off retail, you’ll still earn a bit back – some good examples of what to expect are here and here – because even used, high fashion items command a premium, and lots of shoppers will see the value. With mid-range items, it’s more of a toss-up for the seller. And it’s important to keep in mind that Threadflip’s cut-off for acceptable brands is higher than Twice’s, which is in turn higher than Thredup’s. And if you have any old clothes that aren’t strictly women’s sizing, only Thredup accepts those. (I had some children’s-sized stuff in my closet because I often go for the child-size coats, etc. if it is the same thing – it’s cheaper!)

So, if you’re on a mission to clean out your own closet (perhaps as part of joining me in a Frugal and Free February!) take a look at all your options. And of course, if you happen to have female friends or relatives who might have use for what you no longer need, or if you want to donate everything to charity, those are both EXCELLENT ways to go.

 

Ready for it to be spring...until then I'll be out there running and dreaming of this view!
Ready for it to be spring…until then I’ll be out there running and dreaming of this view!

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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Frugal & Free for February

I’ve been lucky enough to grow up in a family with parents who provided a loving home with all the little luxuries we’ve grown accustomed to in the Western world. I was given the opportunity to pursue a wonderful education, to study ballet with great teachers, to read every book that caught my eye, to travel to faraway places from a young age, and to make friends through these experiences who I could not imagine a life without.

One thing that I’ve realized over time is that what’s really stayed with me from my childhood into young adulthood is what I took away from those experiences. While the ‘things’ were always nice, they were not essential. Of course, I do love the books, and the small souvenirs from journeys around the globe. I enjoy having good running gear, and it’s comforting to know that I have the resources to keep a supply of cable-knit sweaters and leggings, sundresses and sandals, and boots and boat shoes in my closet (the high heels I could do without!) But the memories and the lessons learned – those are what made me the young woman I am today.

I have so much more than I could ever need when it comes to the material things, and yet like many in my position, often find myself looking at, say, a new scarf, and wanting to buy it because it’s cute, it’s ‘me’, I will eventually need a replacement for what I currently have, or any number of reasons. Every so often, I’ll go on a mission to clean out my closet and donate a bag or two to Goodwill, but the amount of “stuff” seems to hold steady. So I’ve decided to do something different. This month will be one of frugality, in which I will not buy any clothing or shoes. It will be freeing, because I will not spend time browsing in stores or shopping online – giving me a little extra time to accomplish all the other goals I have in life! Since it’s February, it will be a short, four-week experiment, but who knows – I might continue!

I have friends who have done the dollar-a-day challenge to raise money for charity, and they’ve achieved some awesome results. This is a little different, because I’m doing it to see if I can change the course of my life just a little bit, letting some of the superficial ‘wants’ fall away so it’s easier to see what’s really important. I like the idea that by consuming a little less, my footprint on this earth will shrink just a tad – I do think that we should all care about our planet! And maybe with the extra focus and time, I’ll get around to finishing a few of the short stories I have filed away, or trying out some new recipes. So here’s to a frugal and free February!

 

More time to dash through the snow with my puppy!
More time to dash through the snow with my puppy!

 

 

 

 

© 2015 Renaissance Runner Girl. All rights reserved.

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