All Or Nothing

Heta Vajavaara

I’ve never been in a more minimal phase in my life than I am right now. My storage bins are full of pattern-filled, colorful items that haven’t been worn in years (pre-Bee days, perhaps?), replaced by a few basic textured pieces in blush, black, white and gray. My beauty drawer contains roughly three items and my living room is completely void of any toys that used to scatter the floors. It’s bliss for me, this season of empty and bare and less.

And this is where I chuckle at myself, because until this morning, I thought I’d reached grown-up status. I thought I was an official adult – someone who had everything they needed. Nothing less – and certainly nothing more. I thought this change was permanent.

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This is what I do. I purge and reflect and take a deep breath, and then I get distracted and forget to focus on the less. Or, better yet, I focus too much on the less and I fill it with more.

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Earlier this week, I had zero emails in my inbox. I celebrated for a moment before new and unanswered notes came through – new requests for my time and energy and attention. And I said “Yes,” because why not? My inbox was empty! I had room to think, room for “Yes!”

And I forgot that the reason I had room for “Yes” is because I’d said many, many “No’s.”

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This is what it’s like to live in the brain of an “all or nothing” girl. My husband’s biggest complaint (albeit gently) is my tendency to hover between extremes. All or nothing, he teases quietly as I decide that if I’m going to break my chocolate fast with a square of chocolate, I’m going to instead eat the entire bar. If I’m going to be a few minutes late for yoga, I’m going to skip it altogether. If I want to cut my hair a few inches, I’m going to come out of the salon near-bald.

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It’s the nature of my personality – a lover of moderation, but an irrational need for extremes.

When I worked as an art director, my greatest struggle was to balance my own quest for white space with a client’s quest for more. I would ask for an over-design and then an under-design, then another over-design, driving our graphic designer completely batty in the process. But we would play and discuss and shift and mold, and eventually we’d hit the right note. We’d finish strong, neither all nor nothing. We’d have harmonized, if for only a moment.

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Heta Vajavaara landed in my inbox this week, and her latest Helsinki-based clothing collection piqued my interest instantly. It’s gray and structured and minimal, three of my favorite things in all of the land. But it was so much more.

“A minimalistic aesthetic meets a chaotic collector,” she wrote. “100 Tavaraa is based on how people relate to their possessions and plays with the juxtaposition of two characters. The collection evolves from aesthetic Stoicism, square cuts, cut-outs and heavy felt to playful, silly trumpet hems, pastel color cacophony and marbled and polyurethane coated fabrics.”

Like this.

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And of course I love it. Because these are precisely my extremes, my alls and my nothings. The square peg – boxy and felt – married to the round hole – playful and eccentric.

In the fashion world, Heta’s collection might be criticized for lacking harmony or consistency or “flow.” But in real life, it’s perhaps the most consistent collection to date: honoring our structure while celebrating our chaos.

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It’s the understanding that we can be gray, that we can be more and less and no and yes. That we can be chameleons, and that most of us are. It’s the argument that dimensions exist beyond photos and layers exist beyond skin, and the outsides don’t always match the insides but – on some days – they do.

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It’s the celebration of evolution and transition and change – sometimes all in one day. But mostly, it’s the realization that there is no all or nothing. It’s always a bit of both.

Image Credits: Heta Vajavaara

p.s. On over-thinking.

  • Gray + {un}structured + minimal are three of my favorite things. This collection makes me smile.

    I used to try to be more moderate, but I have embraced my all-or-nothing-ness. It mostly shows up in passion + interest; as in, when something catches my interest, I am all in. Until the day when I’m not. And I do agree that all-or-nothing is a fallacy; it’s more like seasons change, as does life, and we change + evolve right along with it.

  • That all or nothing or yes/no is such a product of our western culture. We are steeped in Descartes’ dualism – either this or that but not both. Debate, find the answer, the one answer, which one is it?

    We often have a discomfort if we can’t define ourselves or something else this or that. Again, that all or nothing.

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately in terms of “ands” rather than either/or. I can be creative AND I can be organized/goal-oriented. I can let the muse inform my work AND I can take linear steps to get from here to there.

    There’s a lot of room living in the “and”. We aren’t either “this” or “that”.

  • When you described your personality “a lover of moderation, but an irrational need for extremes,” I thought YES! That’s me. I’m always talking about how I want balance, simplicity, moderation (all that good stuff), but then I say yes to one more thing, get exciting about trying something new, feeling the need to stretch myself.

    I usually just tell myself I’m crazy, so it’s nice to know I’m in good company. ;)

  • Your beauty drawer contains THREE items?! Whew-that does sound blissful!
    I enjoyed this whole article. Thanks for sharing!

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