Olivia: simple living expert

I met Olivia on instagram several months ago and I am determined that someday we'll meet in real life. Olivia's blog Simply Liv & Co. is one of my favorite sources of inspiration for simple living - especially when it comes to curating an ethical and simplified closet. You will love her down-to-earth and practical tips for a simply beautiful life. I'm so thrilled to share Olivia's interview with you today! 

simple and ethical living tips

Share a little of your personal background

Oh goodness, where to start. I've lived in the midwest my whole life — a small mountain town in Colorado feels the most like home to me although I currently live in Nebraska with my husband Aj and our two daughters Evie and Mara.

I have a passion for slow living that I believe stemmed out of a time when my life wasn't simple or slow at all (unplanned pregnancy — we call her Evie now ;) — a rocky beginning to our relationship, dropping out of college...the whole nine yards). But through it all I've learned the value of each moment and choice and work hard to cultivate a life of contentment and simplicity. 

What does a typical day look like for you?

Probably much less glamorous than I portray on social media ;) We are usually up at the crack of dawn, thanks to the littles, and spend the morning making our favorite "pancakes" (with just oats, bananas, and eggs, if you want an easy breakfast idea...), cuddling, and wrangling the toddlers into their clothes for the day. 

During the week I work from home for Romper, a parenting website, and try to split my time between that job and my blog which is getting more and more difficult to balance. My goal is to able to go full time with my blog sometime this year! (Fingers crossed!) 

My husband works on the weekends at a distribution center for Walmart (not his favorite job ever) but it works out really well because he gets to stay home with the girls while I work. 

Once the girls are in bed, AJ and I either work on our own separate projects (ie. I blog and he plays video games) or we have a glass of wine and watch Netflix together. 

We have a very sweet, slow life and I love it. 

ethical and simple living

When did you start shopping ethically and what prompted that change?

a simple life

Although it's all been a very fluid transition for me, I think my journey into creating capsule wardrobes around two years ago was the catalyst that sparked my passion for ethical fashion. As I started to minimize and care about what was in my closet practically, it didn't make sense not to think through who made those clothes and how they were being made. 

I always knew in the back of my mind that the clothes I bought were more than likely made in sweatshops or by people who were being exploited, I just basically chose to ignore that fact until my wardrobe was too bare and minimal to ignore it anymore. 

The capsule wardrobe community morphed seamlessly into the ethical fashion community and about a year and a half ago I made the commitment to stop buying from fast fashion brands. It hasn't been easy, but I've learned so much and feel much better about my closet. 

Describe your personal style

It has taken me a long time to realize what my own style is, as I tend to be very drawn to what other people wear and love trying new things. However, since I've started "capsuling" I would call my style "cozy minimalist". I'm drawn to neutrals, stripes, and soft, feminine shapes. Obviously everything I wear is pretty casual, since I work from home/have two toddlers, but having pieces that are comfortable enough to wear at home yet still make me feel like I got dressed in the morning are my new staples. 

ethical shopping tips

What are your favorite brands to support?

My blog has put me in a really unique spot where I get to support lots of different brands that are all doing incredible things, but my current favorites are ENATSancho's DressThought, and Sudara

I also particularly love supporting brands that fight human trafficking (there are A LOT) and brands that are still in their kickstarter or fundraising phase. 

ethical style inspiration

Can you identify any major obstacles you've had to overcome in the endeavor? If so, how did you get past them?

I don't think I'm the first to say that money has been the biggest struggle when it comes to shopping ethically. Even as a blogger who gets to work directly with the brands and receives payment or product for my work, I still can't afford to pay $300 for a pair of boots or a new purse. 

The biggest things that have helped are these: 

1. Changing my mindset. I think our culture has really brainwashed us into thinking that fashion should be affordable. We are so used to $10 t-shirts and being able to shop as often as we please. When, in the past and in other cultures, quality mattered over quantity. Ethical fashion should be more expensive because the people who are making my clothes are being paid fairly. 

2. Knowing my priorities. I have a literal list on my phone of pieces I want to add to my closet. If it's not on the list, I don't buy it. 

3. Saving up or thrifting. If I can't afford a piece I really want, I'll usually look on ThredUp or local thrift stores first, otherwise, I've had to learn self-control and good ol' saving up for the things I want. 

How do you make ethical shopping work with your budget?

Aside from how great it feels to have a smaller wardrobe full of pieces I truly love and wear ALL the time, by far the best part about shopping ethically is knowing that instead of causing harm with my purchases I'm actually doing good. 

I've learned how great the power of the consumer is and instead of ignoring that little nagging voice inside my head that reminded me that my purchases *might* be made unethically, pushing it aside and buying something anyway, I've learned to do my research, shop small, and actually help people and the environment with what I buy. It's pretty empowering, actually. 

ethical striped summer dress

What's one piece of advice you would offer to anyone who wants to start shopping ethically? 

My biggest tip is to start small. It feels very impractical to shop ethically in our culture — stores don't make it easy and advertising works really hard to make slow fashion feel like a minority. However, if you take it piece by piece, a t-shirt at a time, slowly building a wardrobe you can feel good about, it's not as hard as you'd imagine. 

I use the "run out rule" all of the time and it's really helped curb my desire to buy too much too quickly. Essentially, I don't replace an item until it's gone (in the sense of make up products or things I physically use up,) or completely worn out (like with clothes). You don't have to throw out everything you own and start from the ground up. Start where you are and make each new addition an ethical one. 

simplified living

Be sure to check out Olivia's blog and follow her on instagram!