The Failure Garden- Part 1

I was at a large gathering, talking to a friend and concluded my story by saying: “…Thus far, all I have is a failure garden.” The phrase caught the interest of another friend, who inquired as to what I meant. I relayed my story about trying to plant things for the last two years. The first year I only came away with 3 pieces of radish greens and mint. The second year the mint took over, the radishes grew well, there was a surprise turnip nobody planted, some peas turned up, but a lot of things went to seed and my pumpkins never grew past the blossom stage. As a result, this year I did a bunch of reading and focused my efforts armed with new facts, but I wasn’t feeling optimistic, since thus far I only cultivated a failure garden. “Failure garden?”-she asked. “You’re growing more each year and learning stuff along the way. That sounds like a success garden to me.” Thanks friend! Her response got me thinking, and she was absolutely right. I was so caught up in my failure story, where my reality was not meeting my expectations, that I kind of missed my success garden.

So today, I want to focus on the resolves I failed, and what I sprouted as a result. There are quite a few examples, so this post will revolve around appearance related things.

Some broccoli (or at least the greens)

Frugal Haircuts

I posted a while back about the adventures of cutting your own hair. After doing the math and realizing that between the two of us we were spending upwards of $650 on this particular breed of grooming, I started cutting Mr. SS’s hair at home, and stopped getting highlights at the salon, switching to a box dye instead and grew out my hair for an easier cut. I’ve trimmed my own hair for about 18 months.

Now to look super sharp, Mr. SS likes a haircut every 3 weeks, realistically we cut it every 4 or so. As a result, I’ve done several of those cuts- roughly about 20. I got fairly good at it. I’m also pretty confident now, and feel inspired and encouraged to try new things. Each time I cut his hair, he loves it. And frankly he should.

I cut my own hair about every 4 months. I trimmed the ends ok, but butchered my side bangs. By the time they were passable, I’d need another trim. I believe I’d improve in 20 times… but that would be 10 years of bad hair. Plus, 4 months might be kind of long for spaced interval training, so I’m not sure how much knowledge I’d actually be retaining.

I concluded that I needed a professional. A hair salon in town offers no appointment walk in specials for $10 on Thursdays. I decided to try it out, so I went and sat beside the male retirees (I was the only female customer, and the only customer under 70). After a 10-minute wait, my stylist checked me in, and told me she’d have to charge me the full $15 since I had so much hair. I was a tad disappointed to miss the deal, but this seemed fair, as they were cutting the guys in roughly 7 minutes a piece. While still very efficient, my haircut was 20 minutes. My side bangs were on point, and my hair was bouncy again. At $20 (with tip), this seemed fine.

I was upset with myself for branching out of the home haircuts, but ultimately, how upset can I be? If I get even 3 of these a year, at $60 total, our savings will still be around $534. That’s not bad, and I’ll keep trying with my own trims, but I won’t beat myself up if it doesn’t work out and I need a few professional cuts along the way.


In January I declared that I don’t want to wear heals again. I wrote: “I never want to wear heels again. I would title the post that, but I believe that people change and grow and it’s not completely unlikely that at some point I’ll decide that all I want to wear are heels (ok, I guess it is unlikely but not impossible).”

Well, at least I know myself. I was feeling pretty good about this, until my new winter boots broke at the seam. Since they had a free return and replace/repair policy, I wasn’t too upset about it. I sent them off thinking the problem would be solved in 2 weeks or so. My only options were rubber rain boots (patched with super glue and reclaimed bicycle inner tube… I’m classy), or a pair of moderately high heeled boots from deep storage. Knowing that there’s casual Friday’s… and then there’s wearing muck boots to work, I sucked it up and put on the heels.

The compliments rolled in. I looked instantly more put together. Almost everybody noticed. But my feet were killing me. I hated it and loved it at the same time. The return process with the other boots dragged on, as sadly there was some type of miscommunication between Will’s Vegan Shoes in England and the US supplier. They ended up returning my money, but I didn’t get a new or fixed pair of boots. As a result, I was in heels for almost a month.

During that time, I read “Girl, Stop Apologizing” by Rachel Hollis. A part of this book spoke to me. I’m sure we’ve all heard the advice “just be yourself”. I’ve been struggling with this for the last year, because I interpreted it as make-up free, not dolled up, clad in somewhat presentable rags that cover your private bits, with not much thought given to fit and flare. But she used this very same line to explain her decision to get breast implants. That’s when I realized: “yourself” is not a one size fits all construct. Myself likes eyeliner, but doesn’t brush my hair much. Myself couldn’t care less what I work out in. And, turns out, myself likes to wear heels every now and then.

But not for a month straight. It is about balance and 95% of the time, heels are not a good choice of shoe for me. But that remaining 5%? I might just wear them because sometimes, I like to. I ended that post saying “I know I don’t want to wear anything, ever, for the wrong reasons.” Turns out I was doing exactly that.

My very first attempt. Only a few beans made it.

Conscious Consumer

I’ve gone back and forth on ethically sourced goods… a lot. Watching “The True Cost” made me swear off of fast fashion completely. Reading “Doing Good Better” made me realize that was not the way to fix the problem. I don’t have the perfect solution, but here is my current process.

  1. Try to go without, or find a substitute. This is easier to do with clothes than shoes. I tried subbing the heeled boots but it just wasn’t working in our winter and it was uncomfortable.
  2. Shop used. Again, much easier with clothes than shoes. We are still sticking with Project 333, but if we lose weight, or wear through something, this is where we find our substitutes.
  3. Comparison shop. Our rubber boots, made in the USA, cost a penny less than a very similar pair made in China. Our UK made Newtons are very comparable to athletic shoes like Nike, and they are my favorite pairs I ever wore (you have to buy them through Amazon to get those prices though).
  4. If you need something, you might just have to buy it. After my boots fiasco, I didn’t want to order from the same company. I appreciated the refund, but I was concerned that another pair of boots would break in a similar time frame. I spent another 2 hours on research (it took me 3 to find the initial pair) and ordered some online. When they arrived, I wasn’t happy with them, so I had to return them. Feeling discouraged, I purchased some boots at a shoe store in town. I needed something that was flat and I was done waiting. While initially I was disappointed that I did this, through another lens it’s somewhat crazy that I put up with cold, uncomfortable shoes for a month.


And thus, my failure garden grows, and I grow with it as I learn and adapt. Sometimes I fail at the things I try because it’s not working out, and sometimes my views change and the resolution no longer makes sense. I wanted to write these down, because sometimes a failure garden might be more fruitful than success garden… if you look at it correctly.

2 thoughts on “The Failure Garden- Part 1

  1. Abigail says:

    “Failure garden” is quite a turn of phrase! I get my hair cut every 6 weeks at a beauty school. I don’t like how it looks when my hair is all one length (the arid desert sucks all the body out of my hair), so I don’t trust myself to trim my own hair. Honestly, even if it were all one length, I’m not sure I’d trust myself. So every 6 weeks it is at $15 to $20 a pop (but no tip since it’s a school). And a color job, which is $35.

    But I feel infinitely better about myself when my grays are colored and my hair is behaving (inasmuch as it ever does). So I guess that’s part of the “be yourself” thing. I know myself and what matters to me/what I like. I like having new (to me) clothes from time to time, so I shop thrift stores. I like having my grays covered and my hair presentable, so I budget for it and remind myself that I’d be paying a helluva lot more if I went to a regular salon for my dye jobs.


    1. simplesweetspot says:

      You definitely would- mu cut and color used to be around $90. I can’t believe I paid that (I did have highlights though). Yours seem super affordable, and if they make you happy, they’re totally worth it!


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