Posts in LIFESTYLE
Life with Trichotillomania

I can't remember the actual first time I pulled out my eyelashes and eyebrows. The only way I can figure out the general year is the difference between my 5th & 6th grade photos: hair vs little to no hair. I do remember feeling like a crazy person at the time. Crying and standing in my parents walk in closet (I don't know why I chose that spot) and praying for help to stop (also strange because I wasn't religious but I must have felt like that's what you do when you feel like you have no one who could understand what you're going through and completely helpless in a situation)

At that time, 1996, there was no Google around to tell my why I was doing this to myself. Why I was pulling out my eyelashes and eyebrows that I desperately wanted to keep and yet compulsively could NOT stop pulling out. I didn't feel like I could confide in anyone because who could make sense of this strange behavior?

A shirt I embroidered representing Trich

A shirt I embroidered representing Trich

I spent countless hours bent over the counter in my bathroom, inches from the mirror examining each and every hair. Removing all the wrong ones, too long, too short, too blunt, bent the wrong way or slightly loose. In those moments the gratification of removing a hair outweighed every logical thought. They have to be pulled. And it feels good. There's such satisfaction in removing that hair, looking at it in your fingers then letting it fall to the ground followed by almost immediate regret. Yet I'll continue to pull more.

This has been my life now for 23 years. Some days, some months even, are better than others but inevitably I pull. It's heartbreaking and exhausting. You do so well and resist for so long, you see progress and then it's all gone in a matter of minutes. So discouraging.

An old photo I took to document my pulling.

An old photo I took to document my pulling.

I remember being asked as a young teen if I was getting chemo treatments, being forced to let a girl count my eyelashes because she thought I was so weird, not to mention all the activities I felt unable to participate in for fear of my makeup washing off and revealing I had no eyebrows. Sleepovers were so uncomfortable, swimming underwater was not an option. My self esteem was crushed.

Once I started attending college I began researching my condition and discovered it had a name: Trichotillomania. I felt a wave of relief somehow knowing I was not alone and finding it so intriguing that all of us who pull have such similar thoughts about the process. How interesting the brain is! How could we all be feeling the same way? Almost everything I read could have come straight from my mouth. The unfortunate thing I discovered is that there appears to be no cure, no proven treatment. Lot's of supposed success stories who overcame it and all you have to do is take their course or buy their book for $500. I can't believe it. Coming from someone who pulls and knows the emotional and physical strain this has caused in my life you can bet that if I figured out a way to cure this I'd be shouting it from the rooftops and helping anyone I could for free. No one should have to struggle with it and I find those supposed cures very suspicious.

In saying that I have spent a lot of time and money trying to find my own way to overcome it. Cognitive behavioral therapy, daily journals, cutting my nails painfully short to prevent pulling, getting acrylic nails when that didn't work. Removing or covering all the mirrors in my home even medication. All to no avail. I'm still experimenting with natural supplements but have yet to see any results.

At one point a few years ago I came to an unsettling realization that maybe there was a part of me that didn't want to stop. After all these years I had identified myself as a hair puller. I spent all of my developing years feeling insecure and unhappy with the way I looked. Hating what I saw in the mirror. What if someday I did stop pulling, all my hair grew back, and I still felt terrible about myself? Right now when I feel bad I can blame the fact that I've pulled out most of my eyelashes and eyebrows and tell myself if they were there I would feel better. But what if I didn't? I felt upset and mostly ashamed of how vain I could be. I had to stop letting the amount of hair dictate my value. To look at myself differently regardless of physical appearance. I've never judged anyone based on their appearance so why was I being so hard on myself? And honestly most people don't even notice the lack of hair until I point it out. Even then the reactions are not as they were from my childhood, people are generally understanding and above all interested and supportive.

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Now, at 34 years old, I may still be pulling but I'm not so hard on myself. I've also had my eyebrows microbladed multiple times and my eyeliner tattooed. It makes me feel more comfortable and relieves some of the stress when I pull too many hairs. I talk openly about trichotillomania to anyone who is interested or struggling with it as well because although I have no answers sometimes just supporting each other is enough.

A before and immediately after having my eyebrows microbladed. They are covered in a serum in this photo.

A before and immediately after having my eyebrows microbladed. They are covered in a serum in this photo.

If you are in Portland, Oregon I recommend Permanent Cosmetics NW. If you are in New Orleans I recommend Beso Makeup.

A closeup of my tattooed eyeliner done in Portland. I asked him to tattoo as close as possible to the lash line.

A closeup of my tattooed eyeliner done in Portland. I asked him to tattoo as close as possible to the lash line.

Q&A making money on Instagram

I’m sharing the information I’ve gained over the past few years in regards to making money on social media. Here is the original post I wrote on Instagram followed by the Q&A:

The subject of instagrammers and bloggers being paid for ads or receiving free products seems to be such a secretive and taboo topic.  It's been going on for so many years but rarely ever talked about! Why aren't we talking and educating others around the subject of getting paid to create beautiful and inspiring content?  I've seen a few people start the conversation and I'm ready to join.
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Instagram started out as a photo-sharing app. Anyone can join and anyone can share. But over time it has evolved into something more. Bloggers and designers are on there and they're making money. How. Why?
So, let's think about it: Why are you on Instagram? Why are you following the people that you follow? Maybe to stay in touch with friends and family, to keep up on news or to find inspiration. People like myself creating this inspiration are spending hours upon hours of time and money doing just that: trying to inspire. Additionally spending so many hours replying to questions, building relationships and trust with people who are following along.
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We are surrounded by ads all the time. On TV, billboards, podcasts, radio etc. It's no different on social media. Except now, you're following someone who is giving inspiration on a daily basis. Giving out DIYs, opening up about personal struggles, bringing awareness to important topics. Plus they're sharing products that they care about and think you might care about and all of it is done in a beautiful thoughtful way. I think it's an amazing opportunity for 'normal' people who may not have been in the industry or have access to it to be able to get paid because of their creativity and talent.
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So, when it comes to promoting a product and being paid for a job, the amazing thing about someone in my position is that I get to choose what I want to share. I get to work with brands who have gorgeous products that I would love to use or currently am using, or who are supporting people in small communities around the world. I also get to say no, I don't want to work with that brand. That is not something that I would put in my own house, not something I would wear, not something I would use in my life or I don't think it's good quality. I get to filter out the good and the bad so you don't have to.
Then, we get to conceptualize an authentic way to talk about that product whatever it may be. If you add up the hours it takes to brainstorm and create content (3-4 hrs per post) and the hours spent engaging by answering questions building relationships, Etc.(3-4 a day) that's a lot of hours! Plus there's the time it takes to write a blog, so consuming!
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I do understand that we are building a relationship of sorts through social media and a relationship is give and take. It's so important to be able to offer more than just a product review and more than just an ad which I think a lot of us really try to do and really try to connect in an authentic way.

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When I started this Instagram account a few years ago I had no idea there was even an opportunity to make money doing this. I was simply sharing our home. Now I get to partner with brands and get paid to do what I love! There's no space here for comparison or competition and I'm happy to share all information that I have to help anyone interested in pursuing this.
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What are your thoughts? Questions? Ask them here and I will answer everything in more detail on my blog!
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As always, thank you so much for your support!

Q: I'd like to know more about the process of collaborating on ads with another business. Do you contact someone because you love the product or do they see you use their product and then they contact you about a collab? 

A: It depends. If I'm starting a new project, like when we renovated the RV or if I'm moving into a new home, occasionally I will reach our to a company if they have a specific product I think will be perfect for our space. I will provide a proposal of what the outcome of the project will be including a design board. Depending on the value of the product I may ask for compensation or offer a trade of product for promotion. It's also important to include a media kit when contacting businesses. It's like a resume, showcasing your work, telling a bit about you and who you have worked with. 

In most cases the brand will contact me directly to collaborate and other times I get jobs through websites that I've signed up with that act like an agency. They have all my information on file and connect me with brands that I would be a good fit with. My favorite companies that provide this service are Collectively and Activate Social.  

Q: What get's you noticed the most amongst businesses?

A: If you want to be noticed by a brand start tagging them when applicable and when you're using their products. Most companies usually have a hashtag associated with their account that they may check on to discover people, start using that as well (example: @Rejuvenation uses #myonepiece) Once they find you, having a consistent portfolio of work is important to businesses, they want to know what to expect if they are going to collaborate with you. 

Q: How did you learn about photography and composition?

A: For me that happened over time and with a lot of practice. I've been on Instagram for about 4 years and have shared over 1265 photos. It's definitely been an evolution. I like to avoid really heavy filters and distorted pictures that create odd angles. It's just my preference but I think a room that is shot at eye level with straight lines is the most appealing. Luckily Instagram makes it very easy to adjust things like that right before you post a picture. Otherwise I use VSCO to edit my photos and most of them are taken with my Canon Rebel T6. I use a tripod and the cannon connect app to take all the photos that have me in them.

Q: What are some things you wish you knew when you started this commercial and creative process on Instagram?

A: I wish I had done less work for free. I find it very frustrating when I see people promoting products that have very little value (socks, watches, etc.) for free (trade) Companies obviously see value in having products showcased on social media and it costs them very little to give these products out. However, the person promoting this product is spending time and sacrificing a space on their page for an ad that they didn't even get paid for. In saying that I have no problems helping out small shops that are just getting started and makers working from home that don't have budgets to be spending on advertising. My frustrations lie with bigger companies taking advantage. 

Q: How can businesses know that working with you was worth it?

A: Usually a business will provide the influencer with a specific link that is associated to them so when traffic is driven to the website they will know where it came from. These links are usually used in story swipe ups and on blogs. Other times they provide a discount code for the influencer to give out (example: LIZK20 which would give a discount to people and also let the brand know how many sales were made)

Q: How did you get started? How do I get started?

A: I was never a social media person, actually disliked it a lot, so it's pretty ironic that I spend most hours of my days on Instagram now. I started my account in 2014 because I was doing home staging and wanted quick access to something that would have all the homes I've worked on so I could easily show prospective clients. Instagram seemed like the thing to do. 

Slowly I started sharing our home on there and that's when things started rolling. I discovered that groups of people had hashtags that they asked people to use (example: #finditstyleit or #currentdesignsituation, those used to be big) As a group they would select a winner to feature amongst all of their accounts. That is a great way to gain exposure (if your are selected and featured). Start paying attention to these hashtags and use them, it really helped my account grow in an authentic way reaching people who are interested in the same things.

You can also submit you home to websites like The Jungalow, Apartment Therapy or Design Sponge and try to get your home featured in their home tours section.

As far as making money goes, start by signing up with the agencies I mentioned above and don't limit yourself to just those. There are a lot of good companies out there that provide this service, do your research and find reputable ones. LIKEtoKNOW.it is also a great one to sign up with. You can make money through them by sharing the products in your home and you get a percentage of all sales made.

Another thing to note: paying for followers or comments is a terrible idea. Businesses can recognize it right away. Plus what is the point? You want real people following and commenting. Some people are into comment pods as well, that's where a group of people all agree to comment on each others posts to boost the activity and visibility of their posts. I don’t participate in these either, I think much like paying for followers comments pods come off as inauthentic and businesses can see that. That is just my opinion though and some people may have seen some success from these pods (I'm not an expert just sharing my thoughts).

Q: Should it be mentioned in your post when you get paid or receive free product?

A: YES it is actually very important according to the FTC you must include #ad or #sponsored and from what I've read recently you can use the brand name followed by partner (example #airbnb_partner) using #partner alone is not enough. These tags can not be hidden amongst other tags where they may not be noticed. You need to be very upfront and clear about paid AND trade collaborations. Really just be honest, and be proud! You've been paid to create something and it's your choice to work with the brands that you want to promote so you should be confident in sharing that with your audience.

Q: How do people gain an audience with all the new algorithms?

A: Ugh, good question. This algorithm makes no sense. Keep trying to get features through hashtags so you show up on multiple accounts maybe? I haven't got any good secrets to spill on this one. Sorry! Stay active on Instagram, comment and like other posts are a few things I've heard... who knows.

Q: If a brand comments on your posts asking you to DM them to work with them is it worth responding or is it spam?

A: I never respond to brands that do this. It's probably just a generic comment left on your post or a brand who doesn't really value you. If they aren't taking the time to properly reach out via email or at very least a DM then they aren't worth working with.

Q: Do you have to have a big following to work with brands?

A: I don't think you need a big following to start partnering with brands. In fact I've read that it's more valuable to have a smaller audience who are more engaged with you than a large audience that doesn't seem to interact.

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I hope you found some value in this and can start making that money!

Going Gray

I found my first gray hair when I was 17.  The next 5 years I could manage it by obsessively pulling them out but eventually there were so many I had to start coloring my hair (I'm naturally a brunette)...  I wasn't ready at 22 years old to embrace the gray.   About 4 years ago the gray became so thick that coloring my roots wasn't working anymore, a month or so after coloring I was faced with a gray stripe down my head from the grow out which made me feel my older than I am!  So I decided to start the process of going gray and, as it happened, gray hair was very popular at the time, lucky me!

My first trip to the salon I told her I wanted to transition to gray and brought photo examples.  Unfortunately platinum/blonde/gray was not her specialty and she (for some strange reason) died my roots VERY dark and the rest of my hair a reddish brown.  I knew transitioning to gray was going to take a few steps because my hair was brown but this was all wrong... I didn't think to take a picture of the before but imagine it was just med brown....  This is the after below.

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That experience was a lesson learned.  It is so important to find someone who specializes in blonde/gray hair.  So, I did my research and found Zabic Stylehouse (in Portland OR).  They transitioned my hair to a blonder color with subtle pieces going up to my roots so as the gray grew out it would be less noticeable.  They also color with Olaplex which is much healthier for blonde coloring.  I used the Olaplex conditioner frequently to maintain my hair. 

After photo below.. 

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My next trip in I went even more gray blonde with a touch of purple and colored closer to the roots.

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My hair has grown out now for about 10 months since coloring and the transition is much easier with no harsh grow out lines.  This process will work if you are at least 40% gray, the grow out will blend your natural hair and the dyed hair...  The next time I go in to color (if I ever do) I may have some subtle highlights or balayage added.

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I've recently discovered Kristen Ess products.  Her purple shampoo and conditioner   is AMAZING (it's linked there but can also be bought at target)  You may have seen on my instagram when I was talking about how my hair was turning green.  I tried all the home remedies and so many different purple shampoos.  This was the ONLY product that worked to remove the green and brass colors.  I just tried her pink tint on the tips of my hair as well and love it!

So, I encourage anyone going gray to go for it!  Find a great colorist who specializes in platinum/gray and use good products to maintain!

LIFESTYLEliz kamarulhair, gray, grey
Q&A

About a week ago I asked everyone on Instagram to send me questions they would like to have answered about anything... I've answered the first 20 (or so)....

Do you have any editing advice for fellow thrifting addicts who have gone past the point of maximalism to hot mess?  Do you have a process for removing or staging items in your home to reduce the look of clutter?

I've definitely been there and know how addicting thrifting can be, at one point in our old home the guest bedroom was overflowing with thrifted treasures that couldn't fit in the rest of the house.  At that point you need to start looking at EVERY item in the house and decide if you love it so much you can't imagine life without it or if it's just okay.  

Every piece that's just okay needs to go, whether you sell it or re-donate it.  It NEEDS TO GO.  A house that's full of your absolute favorite items will bring you so much more joy.

What is your process for starting to design a room that's a completely blank canvas?

I like to start with something large, like a rug or a couch or piece of art.  From there you can start to build a color story and create a cohesive look.  The couch in our house was the starting point.  

If you are starting with nothing try painting a bold color on the wall or hang wallpaper.  It's such a cheap easy way to transform a space and create the overall vibe of the room.

How do I start a design account?  What to name it, use of #, how often to post.  Do I need a camera or can I use my phone? Do you plan out content or go with your gut.

When it comes to name an account I'm the wrong person to ask, I can never come up with anything clever like that.  I just used my name because I knew it wouldn't pigeonhole me into a specific style and I wouldn't regret it because it's just my name.

Hashtags are a very important part of instagram.  They allow your photos to been exposed to a larger audience and you can also participate in feature hashtags which means your account will be seen on other larger accounts.  Example: the hashtag #finditstyleit meant if your photo was chosen as a favorite it would be featured across 5 different accounts.  

Or if you've purchased an item from a store, use their hashtag for a chance to be on their account, example: #mywestelm

I like to post once a day, keep an active account, interact with people and build relationships.  My content is not planned out in advance, usually just photo to photo.  I like to make sure I'm not sharing too much of one area of our home so it doesn't become boring and repetitive.  Also, try not to overfilter your images and what filters or editing you do use, keep it consistent. 

Phones these days take such good pictures.  I have a Samsung and a lot of the time I just use that.  There are times however when my camera is so much better like on a dark day when the phone just cant capture the light correctly.  I use a Canon Rebel T6.

What do you miss the most about living on the road and what was your least favorite place?

I actually miss the small space.  I love having a home to decorate and rearrange but there was something so nice about having just a few items and making it so cozy.  It was a very easy lifestyle and I felt like we spent less and wasted less.  

I also miss seeing new places and trying new things every day.  There was no rut to fall into.

Nothing really stood out as a least favorite.  

Do you have daily or weekly rituals to keep you focused/creatively inspired?

I don't.  I find that creativity for me just hits unexpectedly.  When I try to force myself to create it never works.  Sometimes just laying around in our living room I'll zone out and something will spark.  So I guess taking time to relax and let my mind wander may be my ritual.

What attracted you to New Orleans and what do you miss about the Pacific Northwest?

We found New Orleans exciting because it is so different from the Pacific Northwest.  Different culture, food, WEATHER.  It's a very lively place that honestly makes me a bit nervous at times but it's exciting!

I miss being closer to my parents.  We used to be able to drive 8 hours to see them, now it's almost 8hrs flying and much more expensive.

Do you budget for thrift shopping or just buy what speaks to you?  Do you sell your old stuff?

I buy what speaks to me.  As soon as I see something I love my eyes light up and I run over to grab it immediately!  There's not always a plan for how I'll use it in the house but that happens later.  I am trying to limit the amount of small items that I purchase, they usually end up becoming more clutter and I'll either sell or donate back.  When we moved away from Portland I had an enormous sale of 75% of everything in our home.  It made me realize that only 25% was actually important to me.  The rest was just stuff.

What inspired you to start up your Instagram page?

I started my Instagram as a way to show clients houses that I had staged in the past (I used to be a home stager in Portland OR). Slowly I started sharing pictures of our house and it took off from there!

Where do you store your excess home decor that you scored thrifting but don't use anymore?

I don't have any excess items anymore and I even do a small purge every now and then of what we do have.  After moving across the country I decided we had entirely too many things and really want to live more purposefully in our home from now on.

When you initially started out do you recall something that happened or a moment when you noticed you were gaining traction?  If so, what were your feelings about it at the time?

About 1 year in to being on Instagram and after starting to share our home I began to get featured quite frequently on larger accounts like Pottery Barn and The Jungalow.  My following started to grow rapidly and then businesses wanted to partner with me.  I couldn't believe it!  I didn't even know that Instagram could have so much potential and I was very excited but also very unsure of how to move forward. 

When thrifting, how do you tell if it's good quality and what else do you consider when making a thrift purchase?

When it comes to to furniture I always think the heavier the better.  Old and well built items just tend to be heavy because they're solid and built to last!  I try to look for items with nice details too or interesting shapes.  Don't let color or upholstery stop you from buying something.  You need to look beyond that and see what it could be.

How critical is your Instagram following for your biz and what other avenues have you explored to grow it?

Right now Instagram is pretty important to me which makes me nervous because who knows how long it will be around.  I'm trying to be more active on my blog because I have the control of that space.  I'm also moving towards designing items (wallpaper, curtains etc.) Really excited to start sharing more about that soon!

Sectional or two sofas?

Well, okay I guess that depends on the person but I prefer a sectional.   There's nothing better that stretching out on a sectional!  I've never owned one but someday I'll have the space.

What is the biggest culture shock moving to the south from the PNW?

I don't even know how to explain it.  The south is just different.  Not in a bad way at all and kind of indescribable.  It will take me some time to find the words to describe...

The thing we really have noticed (and a big part of why we moved) is weather related.  It doesn't rain 3 months straight here and we have days where it's 73 degrees in the winter!

What is the process of making a couch like yours?

Our couch was given to me.  I was at a staging consult and it was the only piece of furniture left in the house.  The guy said he was going to get rid of it so I gladly took it off his hands!  It's vintage, the orange and black fabric is original to the couch.  I had the seat cushions reupholstered and we nailed the cedar planks to the sides.

When looking at sofas think outside the box.  There are endless ways to transform a piece whether its cutting of the skirt, changing cushion or pillow fabric, or even just draping a blanket across the back.

What are the best ways you've found to market your interior design services and meet prospective clients?

I was doing a lot more design consults while we were on the road in our RV and I found the best marketing tool for me at that time was Instagram.  I had built relationships with people that were excited to meet in person, they knew what my style was and what to expect after seeing our home evolve online.

Has New Orleans influenced your style?

I don't know if New Orleans has necessarily influenced my style too much.  Most of the direction our house goes is thanks to the thrift shops.  I never have a plan when I'm looking for something so the house just evolves according to what I find!  I do think that after spending hours walking through the neighborhoods and seeing all the beautiful vibrant and colorful homes it definitely keeps my love for color alive!!

That's it for now!  Thanks for participating in my Q&A!