Category Archives: Quick Tips

Seven Tips for Keeping Your Sanity During Summertime Entertaining

As the summer unfolds, you may be planning to host houseguests for a weekend getaway. Of course you’re looking forward to spending time with friends and/or family. But you may also be just a bit concerned about how to have fun while taking care of the hundred-and-one details of entertaining others in your home. It can be difficult to maintain the balance between being a gracious host and feeling like an indentured servant.

I understand! My husband, Barry, and I enjoy entertaining guests in the summer at our home in Southampton. It’s important to both of us that our guests feel welcome, at home, and well taken care of. Personally, I tend to be very particular about each visit, giving much attention to detail; but there is a fine line between taking care of all the details and running yourself ragged.

And, of course, entertaining isn’t for everyone (and that’s okay!). If you don’t get genuine enjoyment out of opening your home to others, preparing for their visits, and entertaining guests, remember that you’re under no obligation to do so. There are plenty of other ways to make summertime memories with friends. (One important caveat: If you do choose to entertain, don’t do so with the expectation that others should reciprocate—doing so only sets you up for disappointment and resentment if your friends don’t share your love of entertaining.)

For those of you who are expecting guests this summer, I’d like to share a few strategies I’ve developed that will keep you from burning out, whether you’re having overnight guests or a simple luncheon or dinner party.

Consider your guest list. If you’re planning to invite several individuals at the same time, take time to consider how they might get along with each other. The last thing you want to do is invite people who have a negative history together. Individuals who have completely different (and clashing) personalities or viewpoints might not make for an enjoyable visit, either. (But don’t overthink this—you know your friends and loved ones and how they tend to behave in groups. If instinct tells you that certain people won’t work well together, follow your intuition and invite them on separate occasions.)

When Barry and I are planning on hosting multiple guests, our top priority is simply to invite people who will enjoy each other’s company. And since these are special “getaway” weekends for Barry and me as well, we don’t invite clients from business unless they also happen to be personal friends of ours. These weekends are for our enjoyment, too!

Plan your meals ahead of time. While this may seem like common sense, I can’t emphasize enough how vital planning can be in having a smooth, hiccup-free weekend. I like to check off as many things as I can before my guests arrive. For example, I typically check with guests to see if there is anything they are allergic to or don’t eat before heading out to the grocery store.

I usually make out the menu for the entire weekend about a week in advance, so I’ll know what to shop for and won’t be scrambling for meal ideas at the last minute. I typically place my order for fresh fish, chicken, or meat a few days before and schedule a pick-up for Friday morning. At this point, I’ll also pick up any last-minute items. Oh, and one more tip: I’ve found that I save a lot of time and money by growing a nice variety of herbs on the deck outside our kitchen, which ensures that we have fresh, flavorful seasonings for our salads and main dishes.

Freshen up your guest room(s). Over the course of daily life, most of us don’t spend much time in our guest bedroom(s). You may even keep the doors closed! That’s why it’s a good idea to air them out a day or two before your guests arrive. Make sure that everything is in order and that the linens are fresh. You might also want to plug in an air freshener or light an aromatic candle before your guests arrive. Personally, I’ll often put a fresh flower from our garden in my guests’ bathroom or bedroom to welcome them. I think this adds a nice touch!

Cook their first meal (and stick with what you know). If your guests have been traveling, it’s likely that they’d prefer to relax at your house, rather than get dressed up to run out shortly after arriving. That’s why Barry and I usually cook at home on Friday nights. We try out new recipes on weekends when we don’t have guests (so we don’t have any surprises!), then serve the “winners” to our friends. Barry handles the grill while I put the finishing touches on the rest of the dinner. If guests offer to help, I often ask them to set the table, put out hors d’oeuvres, or help serve drinks so that we can talk and enjoy each other’s company.

Make breakfast easy. After a good night’s sleep, you don’t want your guests to feel like they need to rush in the morning. Unless you’ve all agreed on an early morning activity ahead of time, let them know that they’re free to wake up when they want and come down for breakfast when they feel ready. For breakfast, Barry and I put out cereals, English muffins, yogurt, fresh fruit, coffee, etc. and let everyone eat what they want.

Ask your guests what they want to do. As a host, you’re the expert on your area, so you’ll probably need to take the lead in suggesting activities. But before you make any firm plans, offer several options to your guests and ask them what they want to do. Try to make the weekend about them. For instance, Barry and I usually ask our guests if they want to visit one of the special small villages like Sag Harbor or Southampton, shop and walk around, go to the beach, play tennis, or just relax and take a nap by our pool. The most important thing is that our guests feel comfortable and enjoy the weekend.

Spend a night on the town. If your guests will be with you for several days, you’ll probably want them to see all that your town has to offer. Saturday night is a great time for this. We usually take our guests out to dinner, allowing them to choose between a few favorite restaurants we like. Afterward, we might stop for an ice cream cone and walk around one of the villages. It’s such a fun way to end the evening!

Ultimately, the most important thing is that you and your guests enjoy their time at your home. The more you plan ahead and take into account individual preferences, the more likely that will be. I hope you all enjoy your summer visits, whenever and with whomever they may be!

Common Errors That May Be Sabotaging Your Style

For most women, image is important. With few exceptions, nobody tries to leave home looking sloppy, inappropriate, or overdone. However, as you know if you’ve spent a little time people-watching in a public location, those efforts don’t always succeed. And there’s a good reason for it.

One of the many things I have learned as an image consultant is that it’s fairly easy to provide constructive feedback on another person’s look—but that task becomes much more complicated when you’re looking at yourself in the mirror. No one can look at themselves in a completely objective manner. We all have literal and metaphorical blind spots when it comes to our appearances and how we approach constructing an image in general.

I most often find that my clients are 80 or 90 percent “there” with their looks when we begin working together. After we focus in on correcting a few misconceptions and making specific improvements, these women (and men!) typically feel that their looks and self-confidence have been kicked up multiple notches.

When it comes to your image, knowledge really is power. Once you are aware of what might be keeping your look at “average” instead of “amazing,” you’ll be well on your way to smoothing out those wrinkles. Here are eight things that may be keeping you from maximizing your image potential:

*Your clothes don’t flatter your body type. Not all styles are created equal. What flatters a petite woman won’t have the same effect on a taller frame, for example, even if it makes the first woman look like a million bucks. It’s worth your time to research basic style parameters for your body type. Many fashion magazines and websites offer this type of advice—and a good friend or image consultant will definitely be able to help you zero in on what does and doesn’t work for you. I would also recommend that you get in the habit of regularly visiting a tailor. A well-tailored $100 jacket can look like a $600 jacket, for example—and vice versa.

*You focus too much on comfort. In a world of five-inch stilettos, scratchy fabrics, and constricting cuts, it’s no surprise that many women gravitate toward comfort when they’re off the clock. However, running errands looking like you’ve just rolled out of bed sends a clear message about you to other people—and it’s probably not the one you want them to receive. The truth is, a broken-in pair of jeans, fitted cotton tee-shirt, and soft leather loafers or ballet flats can feel just as nice as gym clothes, but look much more put-together.

There’s one current comfort-oriented trend that I want to highlight in particular: leggings. At a recent Giants football game, my husband and I were walking behind a woman whose leggings were so thin I could see through them—not a sight I wanted to encounter. And in general, I’ve observed more and more leggings on the streets. When worn with a longer top, tunic, or dress that covers “strategic” areas, leggings can look very nice—but too often, that isn’t the case. Please, don’t make the mistake of dressing as though leggings are pants! Your comfortable bottoms might be revealing more than you really want them to.

*You overaccessorize. Who doesn’t love a fabulous multi-strand necklace, sparkly chandelier earrings, or a brightly colored chunky bracelet? While the fashion world is full of great accessories, wearing too many of them at once can be overwhelming. Think of statement pieces as divas who don’t like to share the stage. Limit yourself to one standout accessory per outfit, and you’ll get more of the right kind of attention. Your goal is to be dazzling, not blinding.

*You’re too trendy. There’s nothing wrong with trying to stay in style, but when you’re too much of a slave to fashion, it’s easy to veer into unflattering territory. You can unwittingly put together ensembles that aren’t age-appropriate or that (again) don’t flatter your body type. Plus, if you switch styles every season, you can send others the message that you’re inconsistent and don’t have a firmly established sense of self. No matter what is being worn on the runways, strive to develop and express a personal sense of style that is strategically supplemented by trendy pieces.

*Your undergarments are making an unwanted appearance. The dreaded panty line. The errant bra strap. The not-so-mysterious back bulges. What makes these fashion faux-pas so insidious is that they emerge without our knowledge, often in hard-to-see spots on our bodies. And to make things worse, undergarments tend to draw others’ eyes like magnets. Here’s the solution: Suck it up and get help stocking your underwear drawer. Get fitted for bras. Ask sales associates and image consultants for professional opinions on what’s most likely to stay hidden while providing you with the shape and support you want. And if you don’t have a spouse or roommate around to give you an honest once-over before you leave the house, make sure to pause (and pose) in front of a full-length mirror.

*You stay neutral. The great thing about neutrals is that they’re easy. For that reason, some women pack their closets with blacks, grays, browns, beiges, whites, and other muted tones. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with neutrals, you don’t want to constantly wear camouflage that causes you to disappear into the urban jungle. Even a small pop, like a scarf, a handbag, a belt, or a piece of jewelry, can go a long way in making you more memorable. And finally, remember that there is a time and a place for neutrals. Nobody can deny the classic appeal of a “little black dress,” for example.

*You’re stuck on size. I’m a size X, you think, so that’s what you purchase. However, buying clothes based primarily on size is a rut in which you don’t want to get stuck. Whenever possible, try on pieces before buying them, and be honest about your body’s dimensions. Don’t walk around with a muffin top because your pride won’t let you go up a pant size…and on the flip side, don’t walk around in a tent because you’re so used to buying larges that you don’t even consider trying on a medium instead. Remember, others see only how you look in your clothes, not the sizes on their tags.

*You’re living in the past. I often work with women (and men, too) who think that they’re in style. And they would be—if it were five or ten years ago! Every once in a while, I recommend asking a trusted friend for a constructive critique on your look to make sure you haven’t fallen behind. Better yet, hire an image consultant who can suggest strategic pieces to buy that will help the rest of your closet transition gracefully into the 21st century.

No matter who you are, what your body type is, or what kinds of clothes you like to wear, I have one final piece of advice that I urge you to take to heart: A full-length mirror is a must-have accessory. If you don’t own one already, make the investment—and use it every day. Checking your head-to-toe reflection from several different angles can help you to avoid many fashion missteps. And when it comes to looking great, seeing really is believing. When you know your image is what you want it to be, you’ll feel more confident and positive all day long.

The Second Interview Blues: Advice for Mature Job Seekers

Whether you want a greater challenge, a better fit, increased financial security, or a new start after surviving the economic turbulence of the past few years, there are many reasons why you might be looking for a new job. But unlike younger job seekers, you may be concerned about the effect your age might have on your chances of being hired. What if employers pass you up because they believe that you’ll retire soon, you’ll increase their health insurance costs, or your experience is based on outdated industry knowledge and tactics?

If you’re in your 60s, 50s, or even 40s, it’s tempting to blame your birth date for the fact that you aren’t getting called back for second interviews in spite of ample qualifications and what you thought was a good first interview. But the truth is, your birth date may have less to do with the situation than you think.

As I always tell my clients, you are communicating before you open your mouth to speak, so it’s important to make sure that every aspect of your look is saying what you want to be saying. You should put as much thought and consideration into your body language, clothing, and grooming as you do into prepping answers to interview questions.

Since it takes an average of a year for workers 55 and older to find work (longer than any other age group!), it’s especially important to consider in detail the impression you’re making on potential employers.

Based on advice I give my clients (male and female!) who want to refine their images during a job search, here are four reasons why you might not be getting that second interview:

Your body language and manners aren’t saying what you want them to. It’s smart to evaluate how your body language and manners might look to someone else and to make a conscious effort to speak the physical language of confidence and capability during job interviews. I recommend that you:

  • Have good posture when walking in and sitting at the interview. Also, keep your arms at your sides and not crossed in front while standing, and keep your hands in your lap when sitting. Keeping your chest open sends the message that you are open and receptive.
  • Show confidence, interest, and alacrity as you engage in the interview. Have a pleasant, relaxed look on your face and focus on meeting your interviewer with a firm handshake. During the interview, meet the interviewer’s eyes and try to refrain from mannerisms that might connote nervousness or insecurity, such as wringing your hands, picking at the material of your pants or skirt, biting your lip, etc. And don’t forget to smile—you want the interviewer to know you’re enthusiastic about the job opportunity!
  • Be mannerly—but not overly so. Specifically, make sure that the way you treat other people doesn’t make you seem disinterested or diffident. You shouldn’t dispense with courtesy, but be aware that being too polite, laid-back, soft-spoken, and self-effacing can be misinterpreted as a lack of confidence.

You are dressed inappropriately. While many of my clients understand the basics of interview attire and etiquette, I often find that there are small details they aren’t aware of or are overlooking. Here are some “hazards” you should avoid:

  • Trying to appear too youthful. Try to convey youthfulness with your attitude and ideas, not your wardrobe. Women, stay away from “sexy” pieces and/or those that show too much skin. Men, avoid overly trendy suits, such as those with matchstick trousers.
  • Ill-fitting clothing. Clothing that doesn’t fit well (too tight, too short, or too large) not only detracts from your look; it can also make you feel uncomfortable. You don’t want to be pulling at the hem of your skirt throughout the interview or be distracted by the fact that your shoes pinch! And you don’t want your interviewer to remember you because your pants were too short, for instance, or because they puddled over your shoes.
  • Dressing for the wrong time or place. Dated suits and shoes can work against you by conveying that you’re stuck in the past. And remember that fashions, as well as ideas of what’s in good taste, do vary from place to place. For instance, an office in Boston might expect different attire from an office in Los Angeles. And if you’ve ever lived abroad, the differences might be even more pronounced.

Your look is distracting. At an interview, you always want the person with whom you are interacting to be looking at your face and eyes—not your clothes—and listening to what you are saying. Above all, your look should be congruent. You don’t want your interviewer to be looking at your statement tie, your patterned stockings, your jewelry, your elaborate hairstyle, or your cleavage while you’re talking. Before your interview, look at yourself in the mirror to make sure that one element of your outfit doesn’t stand out compared to the others. While every job applicant wants to stand out from the crowd, at the interview stage it’s best not to do so via your look. Instead, focus on setting yourself apart by how you present yourself, your experience, and your potential.

You aren’t well groomed. When it comes to personal grooming, nothing is too small to overlook. As applicable, make sure that:

  • Your hair is in place and that you’re not touching it nervously.
  • Your facial hair is well groomed.
  • Your nose hair is not showing.
  • Your body odor is not noticeable and/or you’re not sweating through your clothing.
  • Your fragrance isn’t overly strong—your perfume or cologne shouldn’t enter the room before you do!
  • Your teeth aren’t yellow. Yellow teeth say, “I’m old!” while white teeth convey vitality. (Crest Whitestrips are quite effective if you don’t want to go to your dentist for whitening.)
  • Your nails and cuticles are groomed.
  • Your nail polish isn’t chipped or flashy. Play it safe and wear a nude or pale polish.
  • Your shoes are polished and your heels aren’t worn down.
  • Your clothing isn’t faded, worn, or pilled.

Above all, remember that the best thing you can add to your interview look is confidence. If you’re feeling pessimistic or defeated (which may be the case if you have been unemployed for a while), an impeccable outfit won’t be able to mask your attitude. Before going into your interview, do whatever you need to do in order to revive yourself and boost your energy. Listen to an upbeat song, read a motivational quote, or call your spouse or a friend for a pep talk. Even the simple act of hydrating with a glass of water can help!

When you walk into an interview feeling comfortable and confident, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. And you’ll also be one step closer to getting that coveted job offer.

Life Post-Tangle: How to Create the Closet of Your Dreams

In my last blog post, I discussed the common problem of having a messy closet. While it’s not something most people think consciously about on a day-to-day basis, a tangled closet can negatively impact your self-esteem, your mood, and certainly your appearance. After all, if you can’t find your most flattering pieces amidst disorganized piles of less-inspiring clothes and shoes, you won’t look or feel your best.

When I help my clients do closet audits, they’re amazed at how much easier and more enjoyable their newly clean closets make the process of getting dressed in the morning. But as I remind them, banishing tangled hangers and cluttered shelves doesn’t stop with getting rid of pieces you no longer wear or need. You must make a consistent effort to keep your closet organized and the pieces in it up-to-date with your current lifestyle.

Here are four strategies to help you do just that:

Store your wardrobe seasonally. Few people have large enough closets to comfortably accommodate both winter and summer clothes at the same time. That’s why it’s important to rotate your clothing seasonally instead of trying to cram everything in at once. Don’t forget to switch out coats, shoes, boots, and handbags, too. Having your warm weather sandals mixed in with your fall shoes will only make it harder to find what you are looking for when you get dressed. Keep in mind, though, that some shoes, totes, and handbags may work year round, especially those that are neutral or metallic.

Harness the power of organization. No matter what season it is, one thing about your closet should stay the same: its level of organization! I recommend grouping pieces by type (pants, skirts, tops, etc.) and organizing each category in order of color or print. While this level of detail may sound like overkill, you won’t believe how much easier it will make your life—not to mention how fantastic your closet will look!

Personally, I like to hang all tops left to right, sleeveless to long sleeve, light to dark. The rack begins with white and finishes with chocolate or black. In between are solid and print tops by color, with a special section reserved for multi-colored prints. I repeat this same process with pants, jackets, skirts, and dresses. With this system, if you are looking for a white t-shirt or a blue long-sleeved knit top, you know exactly where to find it.

Learn some space-saving secrets. The more organized your closet is, the cleaner it will stay and the easier it will be to see everything you own without digging for it. While it’s (mostly) empty, take the opportunity to invest in some space-saving items. Start with shoe racks. And if you have closet shelves, line them with baskets or clear bins so you can see everything easily. (If your budget is bigger, you might even want to install shallow drawers that pull all the way out.) To make getting dressed quick and easy, add plenty of hooks in the closet. They can hold belts, ties, handbags, or necklaces. Be sure to select hooks with a large arm to give you the most holding and storage power.

Depending on how much space you have, you may also want to hang like garments together on multiple-bar hangers. You’ll save space hanging vertically, and you can also hang pieces that you wear with only one outfit together.

Maintain it! If you don’t change your everyday habits, your closet will soon return to its tangled, messy, frustrating state. (It happens faster than you might believe possible!) Fortunately, a return to black hole status can be avoided by following a few simple rules. First, commit to putting away clean laundry promptly and in its appropriate place, as well as to putting things back where they belong at the end of the day. You should also constantly audit the pieces you own. Finally, create an Attention Needed section in your closet, and use it to corral pieces that need tailoring, repairs, or dry cleaning, or that you’re considering donating or taking to a consignment shop.

Think of your closet as sacred ground and treat it accordingly. Hopefully you’ve read something in these last two posts that resonates with you and inspires you to make a change or two in your closet and then maintain your progress. Remember, the way you shop, the clothes you choose to wear, and the organization of your closet all reflect your sense of self. Make sure you’re treating yourself with respect and honor!

The Giant Tangle: How to Solve the Messy Closet Problem Once and for All

Do you dread getting dressed in the morning? If so, maybe a messy closet is the culprit. Shelves are crammed, hangers are tangled, and clothes, shoes, belts, and more are piled on the floor. You’ve got plenty to wear, but nothing inspires you. (Probably because you can’t find your best pieces!) Most days, you throw on the first thing you can find, slam the closet door, and try to avoid the mirror.

If you’re like most women, you know you should tackle the giant mess that is your closet, but other priorities—work, the kids, laundry, dishes, and so on—always seem to take precedence. Enough with the excuses—it’s time to put a clean closet at the top of your priority list, because a disorganized closet is a big problem that affects much more than just one small room in your house. A messy closet is a metaphor for a messy life, and it can have far-reaching ramifications.

The most obvious consequence of having a chaotic closet is the fact that getting dressed becomes a frustrating experience that has the power to ruin your day. And since you feel stressed and depressed just thinking about organizing your wardrobe, you end up spending too much money on new clothes. (Going shopping, you figure, is easier and more enjoyable.)

You may even end up buying pieces you don’t need, simply because you’ve forgotten what you already own. When I do a closet audit with my clients, I find that many of them own items that are beautiful, flattering, and comfortable—they were just buried beneath layers of less-inspiring clothes.

If you’re tired of feeling like your closet has a life of its own, and you’re ready to start making the most of your wardrobe, read on for six of my tried-and-true tips on how to tackle the giant tangle and successfully clean out your closet. In my next blog post, I’ll share some more tips to help you take the pieces that are left and build the closet you’ve always wanted.

Just do it. Whether it’s a new diet, new workout regime, or just a new day, getting started isn’t easy for anyone. However, you have to remind yourself that tackling your tangled closet will make your life better. You might even surprise yourself and have fun! I recommend planning ahead and scheduling time—perhaps a Saturday morning or several 30-minute periods on weeknights—to complete this project. If it’s on the calendar, it’s more likely to happen. And once you start, you’ll almost immediately begin seeing the benefits of having a cleaner, more organized closet.

Bring in the troops. The messier your closet is, the more helpful an objective third party will be. A friend, a family member, or an image consultant can help you make smart choices and give you honest opinions. If another person comes to your house for the sole purpose of weeding through your wardrobe, you won’t be able to put the task off with excuses. Plus, this person won’t be emotionally attached to price tags and memories. Regardless of who helps you tackle this project, you (and your closet) will appreciate having a voice of reason and extra moral support in the room.

Commit to living in the present. As I have said many times, when you wear old clothes that don’t reflect and honor who you are right now, your confidence and self-worth will suffer. Spend some conscious thought on matching your wardrobe to your current lifestyle. While it’s fun to think about how things used to be, our clothes have to reflect who we are now!

The simplest way to accomplish this is to do what I call The Closet Audit. First you need to sort through what you have. It’s not easy—if it were, you would have done it already. Everything must be tried on to get an accurate reading on whether it still fits and is something you want to keep. Ask yourself: Is it a flattering cut for me now? Do I ever wear it? Is it out of style? Is it great on me or just so-so? Does the color flatter me and my skin tone? And the number one question: Would I buy it again today?

Set up a trial separation. Clothes are often the diary of our lives, and that’s why they can be so hard to part with. For example, maybe you spent a lot of money on a fancy dress to wear to an evening wedding, but haven’t taken it off the hanger since. Or perhaps your mother or friend gave you a sweater that isn’t your style, but that you have a sentimental attachment to.

I suggest removing those rarely or never-worn garments that you can’t quite let go of from your closet. Box them up, or hang them in the basement or another closet. Leave them in this limbo for a year, then revisit them. This trial separation is easier on your emotions because there is still a way back. But if absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder—and often, it does quite the opposite—you will know it’s time to let those pieces move on!

Sort smart. As you begin to sort through the piles of clothes, keep pieces with similar fates together to make the rest of the process much easier. Divide everything into four separate categories: items to throw away that are ripped, stained, or frayed (this is the easy one!); items you are keeping; items worth saving that need alteration or dry cleaning; and items to be donated. Your to-be-donated pile can be further separated into items that can be used by Dress for Success (a nonprofit that donates professional attire to disadvantaged women), items that you wish to take to a resale shop, and items that could be donated to Goodwill or The Salvation Army.

Don’t forget accessories. Once all of your clothing is sorted, it is time to go through your shoes and boots, handbags, jewelry, lingerie, hats, gloves, etc. Often, you’ll find drawers of scarves that you’ve never worn, for example, and nearly forgotten shoes and boots piled up under racks of clothing. (And don’t forget to visit the coat closet!) Use the same sorting criteria that you did for your clothing. Remember, shoes that are worn out or that have a dated toe or heel can take away from an otherwise fabulous outfit. If beloved and still-fashionable shoes need new heels, soles, or a cleaning, take them to a shoe repair shop to give them a new lease on life. Usually, this is less expensive than buying a whole new pair!

Throughout the cleaning process, remember to stay calm. Untangling your closet is supposed to be healing and freeing, so don’t allow it to overwhelm you with stress. It’s okay to take breaks and walk away from the task for awhile, especially if you encounter an item that strikes an emotional chord in you, or just to gain some fresh perspective. And again, don’t be afraid to call in help. An outside opinion can make all the difference, especially when it comes to those pieces that you just can’t decide whether to keep or let go of.

Be sure to stay tuned for my next blog post, in which I’ll give you some ideas to save space and stay organized.

Caring for Yourself in the Midst of Stress

Everyone goes through rough spots in life—it’s an unfortunate but unavoidable fact. You might feel worried about an upcoming move, overwhelmed as you try to deal with an illness in your family, or anxious about a looming project at work. Maybe you’re simply worn down by the never-ending stress and relentlessly hectic pace of modern life.

I can sympathize. I’m going through a rough spot myself. Due to several different factors, I have been extremely busy over the past few months. When I’m under pressure, I become stressed (no surprise there, I imagine!) and feel “wired,” meaning that I go to sleep later at night and wake up early each morning. And, of course, because I’m perpetually tired, I tend to worry more about significant and insignificant things. Not a very healthy cycle to be caught in.

After one particularly crazy day, it occurred to me that I should take my own advice. I always urge my clients to take care of and honor themselves in all situations, but especially when life is chaotic. If you don’t focus on your own well-being when times are tough, you won’t have the mental, emotional, or physical energy you need to change external circumstances for the better, either.

In this blog post, I would like to share a few taking-care-of-myself strategies that have been helpful to me the past few weeks, and that you can put into practice to help you make it through the next rough spot in your life, too.

Realize that things will get better. When you’re in the midst of a tough time, it’s easy to believe that things will never change. But sooner or later, there’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. No matter how you feel right now, the truth is that you won’t be stressed, anxious, or overwhelmed for the rest of your life. Think back on past obstacles you’ve overcome to give yourself motivation to press on, and ask a trusted friend or family member to help you put your current struggle into perspective. This last strategy is particularly effective because not only will sharing your burden help to lighten it; the other person might be able to help you think of solutions you were unable to see on your own.

Hydrate. Drinking water might seem a little odd a first glance, but it’s actually one of the best things you can do to keep yourself looking and feeling good when you’re under stress. Staying hydrated helps you stay energized, ensures that your body operates optimally, and can even improve the appearance of your skin (a welcome gift when you’re worried and tired!).  Personally, I drink a quart of water every morning, and I carry a bottle with me throughout the day.

Exercise. Working out is often the last thing you want to do when life is tough. (Flopping onto the couch probably sounds a lot more attractive!) But the truth is, even a little bit of physical activity can work wonders in terms of how you feel. Exercise makes you feel more capable mentally and physically. It can help you sleep better, reduce feelings of stress, and even relieve symptoms of depression as effectively as medication. In other words, a half-hour at the gym or a walk around the block is one of the best decisions you can make. That’s why, no matter how busy or unmotivated I am, I commit to working out at least two days a week.

Give yourself credit. When you’re upset or worried about one aspect of your life, those feelings can easily spill over into your general attitude and outlook. You start looking at your whole life through a negative lens, and if you’re anything like me, you start to focus on the mistakes you’ve made and the things you could have done better. If that sounds familiar, stop! Think of one, or two, or ten or twenty things you’ve done well in the recent past and give yourself credit for accomplishing them. Remember, nobody is even remotely close to perfect. Don’t make a tough situation even worse by remaining your own worst critic.

Prioritize. Especially when you’re feeling overwhelmed or stressed, it’s tempting to fixate on each shiny ball that rolls past instead of directing your energy and attention to the problem at hand. When your efforts are scattered, though, nothing gets done and you end up feeling even more frazzled than you did at first. Remember, you can focus only on one or two big goals at a time, no matter how adept you are at multitasking. As you work through the next rough spot in your life, sit down and decide what is most important to you. If spending time with your family is at the top of your list, for example, put them first and consciously make sure that other things remain on the back burner.

Say no. Many of us have trouble saying no for a variety of reasons: We don’t want to let others down, we don’t want to be seen as weak, we’re afraid to refuse, etc. However, until you learn to say no when you need to, you’ll never be in the driver’s seat of your own life, and it will be more difficult to steer yourself out of draining, stressful situations. Realize that you don’t have to do it all—nor should you. You don’t have to make every decision, supervise every person’s schedule, chair every event, host every party, and come to the rescue every time something goes wrong. Again, decide ahead of time what’s most important to you and prioritize those things. Then you can feel okay about saying no to some of the rest and focus on working toward your own well-being.

Take time for yourself. Whether the current demands on your energy and time are coming from your family, your job, your friends, your finances, or something else, it’s important to “get away” every so often—literally or at least metaphorically. To make sure that you don’t become too drained and burned out, do something for yourself. Maybe it’s sitting down to enjoy a cup of coffee in the midst of running errands, locking the bathroom door and taking a bubble bath, reading a motivational book during your lunch break, or going on a walk through the park. When you unwind and take a breather, your perspective will stay clearer and your stress will be more manageable.

In the end, you can’t avoid going through rough times in life, but you can decide how to respond to them. Remember that your own health and sanity are paramount, and most of all, have confidence that the sun will emerge from behind the clouds soon!

The Evolution of You: Seven Tips for Kick-starting an Updated Image

Do you know what it’s like to look in the mirror each morning and feel ambivalent about what you see? You don’t hate the way you look, but you don’t get excited about it either. If so, you’re not alone. We all get so caught up in other aspects of our lives that we let our images evolve (or not, as the case may be) on autopilot. And as I’m sure you know, when you don’t give a task your full attention, you usually can’t expect spectacular results.

One thing I’ve learned as an image consultant is that spending some focused time and attention on updating your look every once in awhile is well worth the effort. Not only will you love what you see in the mirror every morning, your image can also affect how confident, energetic, and balanced you feel throughout the day.

The best news is, you don’t have to totally revamp your wardrobe, your hairstyle, and your makeup to reap these benefits. Here, I’d like to share a list of tactics that can help you kick-start an updated image. Some of them will apply to you; others you may be “on top of” already. Just mix and match, then say hello to the new you.

*Schedule a closet cleanout… The messy closet problem plagues millions of women all over the world. If you’re one of them, your closet is probably a primary cause of your lackluster look. After all, if the state of your closet stresses you out, if you can’t find what you’re looking for, or if you can’t easily see many of the pieces you own, you won’t be able to maximize your wardrobe.

Make a serious commitment to go through your closet, determining which pieces honor you for who you are right now. That means you’ll need to remove clothes that don’t fit; pieces that are worn, stained, or out of date; colors that don’t make you look your best; things that don’t match your current lifestyle, etc. Be sure to try on everything as you go so that you’re making an accurate assessment of each piece. It might be a good idea to hire a professional or to ask a trusted, non-judgmental friend to help you with this task.

*…then restock your wardrobe. This task goes hand-in-hand with cleaning out your closet. As you discard pieces, make a list of items you’ll need to build complete looks with the clothing you’re keeping. For example, perhaps you discarded a blouse because it was damaged or didn’t fit anymore. Or maybe you need a new sweater or jacket to go with a skirt that you love, but with which you have nothing to wear. Once your list is complete, head to the store! Again, you might want to hire an image consultant or bring a friend along to ensure that you’re making wise choices. (Look back at this blog post for more ideas on how to clean out and restock your closet.)

*Figure out what flatters you. I’m sure you know that different colors look better on different people. The same thing goes for various clothing styles. The question is, do you know which colors and styles look best on you? If not, you might be unintentionally sentencing your look to “average” instead of allowing it to be amazing! It’s a good idea to revisit this topic every few years as both fashions and your body change. Get clear on colors and styles that are most flattering, and stick with those guidelines whenever you make a new purchase.

If you’re not sure where to start, many fashion magazines and websites offer general advice regarding what colors and styles tend to look good on various complexions and body types. You might also want to ask a trusted friend for honest advice. But if you want more personalized results, I recommend working with an image consultant whose trained eye can help you to look your absolute best.

*Do a handbag and shoe review. A good pair of shoes can transform how you look, how you walk, how you feel, and how other people perceive you. And a great handbag can have a similar impact on your comfort level—not only because of how it looks, but because it’s not too heavy while holding everything you need. Sometimes, though, it’s easy to ignore both shoes and handbags if you’re too focused on clothing.

Take some time to review your shoes and handbags. Which ones do you use on a regular basis? Which colors and styles do you need to complement your clothing? Are heels or flats better suited to your lifestyle? How high of a heel are you comfortable wearing? How large of a handbag do you need? Is a certain type of handle most comfortable for you to carry? Write these criteria down and refer to them when shopping. Don’t come home with ten pairs of black shoes!

For this season, nude or muted metallic shoes and bags make clothing look fresh, and can be carried throughout the year. Other neutrals (that category includes black and animal print!) are also good long-term investments. But don’t be afraid to spice up your look with a brightly colored pair of shoes or tote when the spirit moves you.

*Sort through your jewelry and scarves. Sometimes it’s the small things that make an outfit really pop and that help you—and other people—fall in love with your look. Do you own pieces that make you feel beautiful and excited when you get dressed? Or are your accessories an afterthought? Especially if you’ve owned the same things for years, this may be a good time to invest in a few key pieces of jewelry and/or scarves that will give you a distinctive look. Keep in mind that spending a little more money on fewer statement pieces will set your look apart. And the dollar-per-wear ratio will be in your favor over the long run!

On the jewelry front, I’m currently enjoying Alexis Bittar’s acrylic cuffs, which are accented with silver, gold, and crystal. (I wrote about them a few months ago as well!) They’re beautiful and unique, but because they’re clear, they match any outfit. I also recommend larger Majorica pearl statement necklaces and/or earrings as well as colorful jewelry of all types from Bounkit, which can be customized to complement your wardrobe.

*Face yourself. Your look isn’t all about what you wear. Your face is one of the first things that people notice when they meet you, and it’s also what they primarily look at as they interact with you. Unfortunately, beauty rituals pertaining to the face are one of the easiest ruts for women to get stuck in! Think about it: When was the last time you changed your hairstyle? Have you updated your makeup this century? And when was the last time you switched your glasses frames?

If you haven’t addressed any of these areas in awhile, it might be time for a change. Plan a visit to your favorite makeup counter, your hairstylist, and/or your optometrist. Explain that you’d like to update your look in a way that’s fresh, stylish, modern, and that plays up your natural beauty. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the right makeup, hair, and glasses take years off my clients’ faces!

*Take your clothes to a tailor. Many people I know are reluctant to visit a tailor because they assume the service is too expensive, or not worth the money. I promise you, that has never been my experience. The fact is, when your clothes are properly tailored and fit you perfectly, you’ll look great, you’ll feel even better, and you’ll get more wear out of the pieces you own. And guess what? When you love what’s in your closet, you won’t feel compelled to shop as often, meaning that the cost of tailoring will pay for itself.

Even if you don’t typically have trouble finding clothes that fit, I encourage you to visit a tailor. Almost everyone needs alterations to take pieces from “fits well” to “fits perfectly,” no matter what size they are to begin with. A few seams, tucks, and hems can take your look from okay to WOW!

If you’re familiar with me and my philosophy, you won’t be surprised by the last piece of advice I’m going to give you: When it comes to updating your image (or making any change in your life, for that matter), avoid things that make you feel uncomfortable, negative, or fake, no matter how trendy or in style they may be. Regardless of what you wear or how you style your hair, the best accessories are always a confident attitude and positive outlook that come from being authentic and true to yourself.

Your Spring Awakening: Mind, Body, and Soul

As the temperatures rise and the flowers start to bloom, do you catch the spring cleaning bug? If so, you’re not alone. If you’re anything like me, when the bright, warm rays of spring sunlight begin to finally stream through your windows, you feel the urge to make sure everything in your home is fresh, shiny, and dirt-free.

This year, I encourage you not to stop with sponging the baseboards, dusting off the shelves, and washing your windows. Take this opportunity to clean out your life, too! Think about it this way: Just as it’s easy for dust and clutter to accumulate (relatively) unnoticed during the short, dark days of winter, it’s also easy for bad habits, poor outlooks, and unhealthy relationships to pile up in your life. If you don’t make a conscious effort to detox, they’ll continue to hold you back and weigh you down. And what better time than during the renewal of spring to refresh your mind, body, and soul?

Read on for six ways to breathe some fresh springtime air into your life.

Clean your closet. A messy closet is a metaphor for a messy life. For many people, a reluctance to change something as simple as the contents of a closet is a symptom of a bigger problem. Maybe you’re afraid of change and what the future holds. Maybe you just ended a romantic relationship and are clinging to the past. Maybe you’re dissatisfied with your life overall and don’t feel ready to take the initiative to change it. Whatever the case may be, it’s time to stop procrastinating. Decluttering the spaces in your home will help declutter your life. I promise, there’s something really refreshing about walking into a clean, organized closet. It will make your mornings less stressful by cutting down on the time it takes to rifle through and find the perfect outfit for the day. And when you look good, you’ll feel good.

First, get rid of any clothes that are old or worn, that don’t fit, that you never wear, or that don’t honor you and your lifestyle (ask a friend for help if you want an outside perspective). Then, organize what’s left, and treat yourself to a few new pieces that embody the blooming spirit of spring. This is also a good time not only to give your closet a good scrub down, but also to evaluate your wardrobe. Your winter coats, wool scarves, and other cold weather items should be packed away until the fall to make room for floral prints and pastels.

Get some fresh air. Unless you’re fortunate enough to live in a location where it’s balmy all year round, you’ve probably been cooped up inside during the cold, icy winter months. Welcome the sunshine and springtime air by taking a walk (or run!) outside a few times a week. Not only will this help you clear your mind and make you feel more energized, it will also aid in shedding some of those unwanted pounds we all put on during the cold winter months. And as a special bonus, if you’re anything like me, seeing the beautiful colors of blooming flowers and trees will put you in a great mood for the whole day.

Do some weeding. I’m sure you know how a few weeds can ruin the beauty and health of a flowerbed…and also how quickly they can spread. Well, people are the same way. Individuals who are critical, mean-spirited, jealous, or just plain negative can spoil your own happiness and even infect you with their poor outlooks. It won’t be easy or enjoyable, but it is important to evaluate the relationships in your life.

Think especially about your friends: Are they supportive or snide? Do you feel energized when you spend time with them, or drained? Are compliments genuine or backhanded? If your friendship with a certain person isn’t enriching, back away. Choose to spend time with people whom you genuinely like and who make you feel good. Life is too short to spend time with people you don’t enjoy.

Set healthy boundaries. Moving away from toxic people is a good start when it comes to filling your life with healthy relationships…but don’t stop there! With everyone in your life—even with people who make you feel good and who have your best interests at heart—it’s important to set healthy boundaries. In other words, you need to be clear about what you need and what you expect from others.

For example, let people know what’s important to you. (“My birthday is something I really look forward to, and it’s important to me that we celebrate it as a family.”) Learn how and when to say no. Don’t let yourself be bullied or guilted into overcommitting and overextending yourself. Lastly, stop making excuses for other people; for instance, I’ll overlook that comment—that’s just how she is. If you don’t set clear boundaries like these, even good relationships can turn sour and become weighed down by resentment. But when you’re up-front about what’s best for you—in a kind way, of course—you’ll enjoy more authentic, mutually beneficial relationships.

Get rid of bad habits. Chances are, you can name several of your bad habits off the top of your head, and some focused thought would probably reveal a few more. Maybe you’re always running late or you’ve been overspending lately. Perhaps you tend to procrastinate on big projects until the last minute, or you stuff yourself with junk food when you’re stressed.

The truth is, we all have bad habits. And here’s the good news: You can change them! You can consciously improve your reactions, change your routines, and become healthier (mentally, emotionally, and physically!). For this spring cleaning project, pick one bad habit—something that causes you a lot of stress would be a good choice. Then design a game plan that will enable you to kick it once and for all. For instance, if you’re always dragging into work late, you might set out your clothes and pack your lunch the night before, wake up 15 minutes earlier, and refrain from turning on the TV until after you’re showered and dressed. You’ll probably find that in most instances, bad habits really aren’t that difficult to change. Summoning the motivation to change and taking that first step are the hardest parts!

Plant yourself in something new! If you want a flower to bloom as beautifully as possible, you make sure it’s planted in nutrient-rich soil and placed in a spot with just the right amount of sunlight, warmth, and water. The same principle will hold true for you, too. You’ll blossom when you’re doing things that make you feel happy and fulfilled. As the days get longer, take this opportunity to finally sign up for that art class you’ve been dying to try, for example, or attend a hot yoga session with a friend.

Overall, as you work to spring clean your life, I advise you to simply be aware. Be aware of what feels good and what doesn’t, of what’s healthy and what isn’t, of what makes you happy and what makes you sad. Try to pay attention to areas of your life that you normally take for granted, and ask yourself, Is this working? Does it honor the person I am right here and right now? You may be surprised by how much dead weight has been holding you back…and by how quickly you bloom when it’s gone!

Interview Attire 101: Seven Suggestions to Help You Make an Impression…and Hopefully Get an Offer!

One of the most stressful rites of passage in an adult’s life is the dreaded job interview. There’s so much to worry about: how to make a good impression on your interviewer(s); how to present yourself as the absolute best candidate for the position; and, of course, what the heck you should wear!

The clothes you wear to a job interview are a big deal, because the image you present to your interviewer can sometimes make the difference between getting and not getting a job offer. Whether you want to admit it or not, your appearance speaks volumes about the kind of employee you might be. Are you sloppy or put-together? Are you flamboyant or appropriate? Do you pay attention to details or not? Remember, in this situation the wrong kind of attention is worse than no attention at all.

Whether you’re a soon-to-be graduate looking for a first job or a seasoned professional who’s eyeing a new position, read on for seven of my tried-and-true interview attire tips:

Focus on quality, not quantity. Always, always choose interview clothing in the best fabric you can afford, even if it means starting out with only two suits or outfits. (You can build on that base later once you’re receiving your new paycheck!) Quality clothing looks best, holds up longest, travels well, and doesn’t need to be dry cleaned as often. I recommend investing in wool suits and skirts specifically, since wool is durable and easy to maintain, and can be worn at least 10 months out of the year in most climates.

Make sure your clothes match you. In addition to choosing high-quality pieces, it’s also important to make sure that your interview clothes are the right color and shape for your age, coloration, body type, and career. Ask a friend, sales associate, or image consultant for advice if you’re not sure what works best for you. Specifically, avoid pieces that are too short, too tight, or (for more mature applicants) too young. Remember, a flattering, well-tailored outfit shows attention to detail and makes a good first impression about you and how you will do business.

Be classy and memorable. Every job applicant wants to stand out from the crowd. But during the interview stage, it’s probably best not to distinguish yourself sartorially. Above all, you don’t want to make a lasting negative impression with wobbly too-high heels or an in-your-face tie. If you don’t want to be forgotten because of your “boring” beige suit, focus on setting yourself apart by how you present yourself, your experience, and your potential. Remember, people are making decisions about you from the moment you first meet, whether you realize it or not. So when in doubt, err on the side of dressing conservatively. You can think about moving closer to the cutting edge of fashion after you’ve been hired.

Find a balance between fit and comfort. Another reason to make sure that your interview clothes fit is simple: comfort. Think about it: If your jacket is a little too tight under the arms, for example, you’ll be distracted when it’s most important for you to be on your game. And if your skirt allows for only a narrow range of movement, you’ll be that much more ill at ease. Make sure that your interview clothes are comfortable so that you can focus on the meeting and on letting yourself shine through, not on what you’re wearing.

Tap into the power of the column. Column dressing is a sure-fire way to make sure that you dress successfully for your interview, as long as the color is flattering. Whether it’s a dress, a top and a skirt, or a top and pants, you can’t go wrong. Your jacket can be the same color as your column or an accent color. I promise that you’ll look pulled-together—which will please your interviewer—as well as taller, thinner, more successful, and smarter. What’s not to love?

Don’t forget the details. The details of any outfit are crucially important! Here are some things you should consider before heading out the door to your interview:

  • Your shoes should be polished and in great shape. No scuffed or kicked-in toes! Replace or repair them when necessary.
  • Your hair should be groomed and styled conservatively. If possible, schedule a trim a few days before your interview.
  • For ladies specifically: Invest in closed-toed pumps with a moderate heel height, and wear stockings (it’s best to stick with solids). Also, it’s a good idea to manicure your nails. Go with a neutral color that is easy to repair if chipped while traveling.

Top it off with a tote. Chances are, you’re not going into your interview empty-handed. At the very least, you’ll probably have copies of your résumé, a notepad and pen, and maybe even a portfolio of some sort. If you’re traveling, you might also be carrying your iPad, laptop, and/or other work files. Clearly, you’re not going to look very professional if you’re hand-carrying all of those things! I suggest that you look for a tote—preferably leather—that keeps you organized, looks great, and allows you to have all of your files and accessories at your fingertips. (Just make sure to turn off your phone’s ringer before going into a meeting or interview so you aren’t left digging around in your bag to turn it off!) Remember, a durable, professional bag is an investment, so if at all possible buy one that will serve you well for years.

When you walk into an interview feeling comfortable and confident because you know you’re dressed for the occasion, you’ll be setting yourself up for success. And you’ll also be one step closer to getting that coveted job offer.

 

 

Want to break a habit?

Whether it’s mindless snacking, sitting on the couch instead of exercising, sleeping with our makeup on, or biting our nails, we all have bad habits. I think that most people know when a particular habit isn’t good for them. But they continue to stick to their less-than-ideal routines because forming new habits is just too time-consuming or frustrating, or because other tasks take priority. (I know I’ve been guilty of this!)

Over the years, though, I’ve learned that the seemingly little things have a big impact on your overall quality of life. Say, for example, that you habitually run late in the mornings. On the surface, it might not seem like that big of a deal. After all, you may be rushed during your commute, but you usually make it to the office (more or less) on time. But what if you allowed yourself an extra ten minutes to get ready? You would be so much less stressed while getting dressed. You might have time to eat a quick breakfast. Your blood pressure wouldn’t shoot through the roof every time you hit a red light. And you’d feel calm when you sat down to begin your work day.

Trust me, it’s almost always worth the time and effort it takes to break habits that aren’t enhancing your life. The key to making it work is to figure out what the payoff is. In the example above, the payoff would be smoother, less stressful mornings (very important since mornings can set the tone for your whole day!). I’ve found that if you can explain to yourself why a new habit would make your life easier or better, you’ll have the motivation you need to follow through with real change. Here are some examples of changed habits that have happened in my family recently:

  • Whenever a restaurant brings out a starter, like bread and butter or chips and salsa, it’s so easy to eat it mindlessly while waiting on your meal. But really, wouldn’t you rather save your appetite and calorie intake for the entrée? My husband, Barry, and I have recently started sending the bread away so that we can savor what we order. The payoff is that we can eat our meal without feeling overly full, and without feeling guilty about all of that mindless eating. We have also started ordering peppermint tea instead of dessert.
  • Barry’s blood sugar tends to get low in the afternoon. In the past, though, he was often so absorbed in his work that he ignored the way he was feeling. Recently, he has set up an alarm on his computer that goes off mid-afternoon and asks, “Do you want an apple?” That’s Barry’s cue to eat an apple and take a short walk around the office to talk to employees. He feels so much better, and he’s more productive afterward.
  • I really love my job! And sometimes, I’ll stay on my computer late into the night. (I suspect I’m not the only one.) Now that I am married to Barry, though, it’s important to me to spend quality time with him. If I get caught up in work after hours, he’ll remind me to come watch a show or drink a glass of wine with him. I’ve found that my career hasn’t suffered…but my personal life has really improved.

Make a short list of habits that you would like to break, and then figure out what the payoff for doing so will be. I look forward to hearing how your life has changed for the better!