The De-Frumpiness Project

A couple of years ago, I read Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun. While there are issues I had with the book (one of the main ones being how much she spends to meet her goals throughout the year), I liked the overall concept: Take something you want to work on and break it down into 12 fragments, one for each month.

That appealed to me on so many levels but mostly in that it wasΒ  a long-term plan with short-term plans in it. There was instant gratification to be had and then a big payoff at the end. But I never really did my own thing. Until this year.

I’m not even going for a Happiness Project because you know what? I am happy. I have everything I could possibly need and many things I want and happiness is there for me when I’m able to acknowledge it. Kind of like in a fleeting moment as I’m walking to the Metro station, “Wow. I’m happy.” To me, happiness is as simple as that.

You know what isn’t? Fighting off the frumpies.

I blame my 30’s. I don’t really have any hard evidence or whatever but I just find it odd that it was around the time I turned 30 that I started gaining weight at a rate I’ve never seen before in my entire life and in my places I honestly did not believe could hold fat deposits. And it’s also about the time where I just started… letting go?

There’s another a more concrete reason to this and that would be my change in jobs back in 2010 (I actually started my new job the very same Monday of my 30th birthday week).

I take the MetroRail to my new office. And that means I walk from the station to my office. And from my office to the station. And my new job is not at a simple office building, it is in an office building located on a medical campus with all sorts of buildings spread out all over the place including a hospital I have to report to occasionally during my low season and at least twice a week during my high season.

So basically, there is more walking to be done during work hours at my new job. This contrasts significantly with my previous job which involved me driving to, parking at, walking up one tiny flight of stairs, and planting my Cuban butt behind a desk for several hours. Some times I’d get up and terrorize this or that person and some times I’d even go to either the floor above or below me to do that.

So when I made the switch to a new job it was in no time at all I realized something– the stilettos had to go. And not just that but wearing my traditional office job uniform of a pencil skirt and blouse was attracting unwanted attention on the train or the sidewalks. And before I knew it I couldn’t fit into it, or 80% of my clothes, anyways.

Ever since then it’s been a practical luge ride into Frumpidom. And I hate it.

I am not and have never been a high maintenance type of gal. I get my hair cut once, maybe twice a year. I don’t get manis or pedis. I don’t buy up lots of skincare products. I don’t wearΒ  makeup and when I do, I keep it light. I don’t do diets. I don’t go to gyms. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the way I look. If you saw me on the street, you wouldn’t know that.

The funny part about my new job is that many people on campus dress fantastically. And I wish I could just excuse myself and say it’s only the doctors and the people who drive here but I’ve seen many a polished person on the train as well. So what gives?

I’m not sure but I want to change it because I do believe the way you look affects the way you feel. And for a too-long while now I’ve been feeling dumpy. I’m not on a quest to dress sexy. I’m not on a mission to be a walking fashionista. What I want is polish. And I think I want this because it’s time for me to be kind to Me.

Every morning, I put time into doing Daughter’s hair. Most of the time it’s as simple as pulling it back into a ponytail and adding a cute clip or bow. But you know what? She looks at herself in the mirror and smiles a huge grin. And when one of her classmates or a parent or a teacher compliment her clip or her braid or her whatever, she beams.

Don’t we all?

And being exhausted, worried, stressed, hard-working women, don’t we maybe even need that sort of positive reinforcement in our lives?

There is a part of me that feels conflicted I’m having this preoccupation with my physical appearance, much less doing a year-long project dedicated towards that and not something more “noble” like getting healthier or freeing myself from debt or being more charitable or being a better mother or whatever more noble cause you can think of. I just feel that as much as there is such a thing as unhealthy preoccupation with one’s appearance, there’s also an unhealthy dismissal of one’s appearance. Maybe not for you, but apparently, it’s the case for me.

So I’m doing something about it because what’s the point in whining and complaining except that it could speed up the decline into frumpidom. And I’m going fast enough, thanks.

This month, it’s as simple as lipstick. I love lipstick. I love the texture. I love the smell. I love the taste. I love the way you have to concentrate while you apply it. I love that you have to sort of kiss yourself to get it nice and even. I love that when you kiss someone else, you leave behind a mark– a memory.

So far, it’s been going well. There’s a small group of fellow lipstick wearers on Google+ and I’ve been trying to regularly update with pictures and little things like that to keep it going and to keep it fun. I remind myself every time I’m going to step outside to stop and reapply.

And so far, it’s been making a difference. There’s this brief little happy flutter when I smack my lips and blow a kiss to the mirror. I can’t help but manage a small smile.

That’s not pathetic. Right?


38 thoughts on “The De-Frumpiness Project

  1. Take the task, break it into 12 segments and do one a month. Brilliant. I am going to employ this strategy. To clean out the closet. I’ll report back on 1/13/13. I finally feel new direction getting rid of the lazies with this new goal accomplishment plan.

  2. I love this post! I’m all for a comfortable and comforting and rejuvenating defrumpifying process! (I think we can be comfortable and less frumpy, and isn’t frumpy in the eye of the beholder, besides?)

    I think your lipstick plan is delish. Sometimes I remind myself of the importance to do this with something as simple as earrings or my favorite hot (cool) bracelet. It perks me up, makes me stand up straighter, and usually feel better – about everything. (And of course, then I add shoes… no surprise there, right?)

    Hoping we get more lipstick pics. How cool is that?

  3. Like you, I don’t put makeup on every day; I may do so about once a year. But I do like lip color. My problem is that I suck at figuring out which colors look good on me. So I buy a lipstick, put it on, and then realize the shade isn’t right for me. Besides going to department store cosmetics desks, is there an easy way to address this? I hate the hard sell and the high prices at those places.

    I’ve been feeling rather frumpy, too, but the way I’m going to have to cure it is to loose some weight by exercising more. Bummer. I hate to sweat, but I’m getting my butt in gear, nonetheless.

    I do regularly get manicures and pedicures, though. A monthly mani/pedi/wax is my monthly treat. Waxing isn’t fun (but necessary since I get red bumps under my arms, etc. if I try to shave), but I love having my feet and hands groomed by someone else. I like trying different colors on my toes, but I skip color on my hands since it would get chipped off so quickly and look bad. The manicure is still a nice present to myself, though, and it’s good to have well groomed hands at work.

    • Fingers and toes are on deck for next month! Honestly the way I deal with lipstick is by CVS’ing. Besides lots of the beauty companies sold at drugstores let you return makeup if it’s a bad shade for you! Check out the return policy, you’ll see!

  4. I’ve lost 20 pounds since this summer, so had to go clothes shopping for the new job I start (eek!) tomorrow. I’m not as done up as I used to be back in the day, but it’s a nice 10 minute thing I do for myself every morning usually, even if I’m at home all day. I guess it’s just a habit? Possibly the only way I’m artistic since when I was a kid, I used to get into my mom’s makeup and play around with it, dressing up in her fur coat and doing bizarre things with my hair. Having said that, when we were camping this summer I didn’t wear makeup for 7 weeks straight and it felt really weird to see myself with it on again when I came home.

    I highly recommend lip stains though, mostly because I don’t like the lipstick remnants. πŸ˜‰ Oh, and my lips are shrinking the older I get. That doesn’t help. 😦

    Linda, I get most of my makeup through – great prices and good quality. You might try something like this?
    Try out different shades at home – ask someone what they like the best on you – and if you want something more portable, take the palette to a department store and find something that matches. I think of it like matching paint for your walls. πŸ˜‰ OR get a go-palette of only the colors you like.

    • That’s what I’m thinking of, more of a habit that is just for me! I tried a lip stain the other day! It has a really pretty erect but I didn’t like the smell our the application. Still, I’m happy to have it in my rotation!

  5. Not pathetic. Even if I’m in my yoga pants and a t-shirt at the grocery store, I smack on the gloss. It does make my no-makeup face and unshowered self feel prettier. Although to the unknowing stranger, I am a mess with lip gloss on. Eh. Babysteps.

  6. My mom is a lipstick nazi…She’s always telling me to put lipstick on and says I look like i’ve just been F-XXXed when I’m not wearing any. It really does make a big difference and only takes 2 seconds. I totally agree with you on frumpiness. I started defrumping myself in 2011 but I have a long way to go. I’ve replaced lots of my clothes, but I’d like to drop a dress size. I hate being out of shape.

    You know what started my defrumpiness project? Installing a full length mirror in my bedroom. Holy moly, I had no idea how horrible I looked in certain pants til I got that mirror.

    • I have managed to strategically place enough items in strategic places to render the full length mirror in my room useless. I need to drop a dress size too, this isn’t working for me at all. I honestly would never have expected Babci to be a lipstick nazi! She doesn’t make her own does she?

  7. I love the idea. I passed on that book, but I still like the 12 month idea and monthly focus. You’re scaring me with the weight gain in your 30s. I had weight gain in my 27s and 28s! I can’t handle much more!

    • I think I got slammed by a few things all at once– I stopped working out, I turned 30, and for the first time ever I’ve been on a consistent birth control regimen for more than a year. This is really the first time in my life, outside of my pregnancy, that I’ve been this heavy or gained so much weight so rapidly with no end in sight. Usually I’d just top off somewhere. My body is working against me!! I don’t want to drop down to my pre-30’s weight because I was honestly pretty skeletal but I’d like a happy medium.

  8. Babysteps is certainly the way to go. Also, a full length mirror is a necessity. I believe life is too short to feel “less than” whether due to excess weight, small or non-existent clothes budget (Goodwill, etc. has really good prices and selection), or depleted energy. Like having a “bad hair” day, frumpiness affects your mood and your attitude.

    Great idea, supermodel. Keep us posted on progress! And, like your daughter, the compliments give me an added boost!

    • *sigh* Ok I think I’m gonna have to clear the way for the full-length mirror and actually check myself in it. I kind of feel the same you do. I’m still sort of freaked out my 20’s disappeared. I don’t want the same to happen to my 30’s. I want to enjoy them and enjoy myself the way I am at this age. I really need to take more advantage of Goodwill!!

  9. Now this is a project I could seriously use to do on myself – and I haven’t even hit 30 yet! *facepalm* I’m looking forward to more updates about this project πŸ™‚

    • Oh 30 wasn’t the sole trigger but I think it was part of it. Or maybe it’s just part of what’s motivating me, not sure. Thanks for the encouragement and feel free to join me for the ride!

  10. I’m trying to claw my way back up from the frumpy road. Maybe we should start a google+ group on it? My two kids are my task masters on this one. Over Christmas I finally found some fashionable comfortable boots to wear. I stuff them into my skinny jeans (hand-me-downs from a fashion minded friend) and throw on a glittery loose blouse (to hid my lady lump coming out and over the skinny jeans). It’s made the world of difference.
    I have a friend who must change her clothes 3 times a day and is always dressed to the 9’s. I don’t want to go that far but I use her as a beacon anti-frump.

    • I have a very small circle on Google+ of girls doing the lipstick challenge with me. I can add you! My daughter doesn’t really know what I’m doing, she’s too young to understand. But my boyfriend does and he is SO put-together. And my daughter does compliment me when I look “pretty” to her so I kind of have this thing motivating me to see if I can squeeze a compliment out of her without asking!
      I agree there is definitely a level I do not want to achieve nor could I achieve (finally or time-wise) but I’m really so far from it. Ok and speaking of lady lumps flowing up and over pants, why am I having such a hard time finding nice loose-fitting tops?

      • Add me- it will be fun!
        Last night I embraced my lady lumps and wore a tight shirt (long sleeves and long bodice) out on the town. Mike loves it! I in turn I wouldn’t let him out of the house until he had on some fitted jeans with a snug t-shirt. Is this to much information? πŸ˜•
        Check out Forever 21- they have some good options.

      • OK awesome I’ll definitely add you to that circle then. I’ve had trouble fitting in Forever 21! I think their clothes tend to be more cut for juniors and I’m not a very junior shape anymore.

  11. A completely worthwhile project! And just at the right time – because before you know it, you’ll be 40 and then 50 – and it will be way harder to dig yourself out if you have all those frumpy years behind you! Feeling like you look good makes a difference in how you think about yourself and how you present yourself. I’ve never been a makeup wearer, but I do like to pay attention to my clothes, to have a particular style – it doesn’t have to be expensive or outrageous – just flattering to you and your personality.

  12. This cracks me up. I just finished that book and I agree, I had some issues but agreed with the overall theme. However, The Frumpiness Project sounds much more appealing to me.

  13. I love this idea! And I’m so with you on 30 being when the frumpies happen. For me, I could blame it on the fact that my twins were born 3 days before my 30th birthday and that the toll of having kids this young kind of makes it impossible to not be frumpy. But other moms I know pull it off.

    Then there’s the guilt! After the holidays I took a gift card I received and went shopping for clothes for ME. No one else. I did feel a bit guilty about that. Why? Had the giver given me the clothes directly and not the gift card, wouldn’t I be just fine with that? So I purchased three new, lovely tops. And the feeling of brand new, nice looking clothes was so great. I almost forgot what that was like.

    So I think that’s my step 1: Get out of the hoodies! (I mean, a cardigan is just as easy to put on, yet looks so much nicer)

    Good luck on your project! I’d love to follow and see how it goes for you.

    • Ooooh that’s a brilliant one, you can have a No Hoodies month. I’ve recently discovered cardigans and how much I apparently love them. My wardrobe in general is a disaster that needs a lot of love and tenderness. I just found out last weekend I’m wearing the wrong bra size and everything. I kind of knew because every time I’d take it off I had the marks carved into my skin but I finally confirmed it via tape measurer. So new bras (on clearance) were the order of the weekend and it felt AMAZING.

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