Monday, April 27, 2015

Living Small: Creating a Capsule Wardrobe

"So... I think I may get rid of all my clothes." Wait. What the what?
Yes, you read that first line correctly. Over the weekend, I took the plunge and emptied my closet. You may be wondering why on earth I did such a thing. What could possibly motivate a reasonably sane young woman to pare down her wardrobe so drastically? To toss perfectly fine items into the heartless black donation bag? To--gasp-- purge her shoe rack?

Well, the motivation was fairly simple: this post which led me to this blog.

"Capsule wardrobe" is a term I have previously encountered on the interwebs. In the past, I would scroll through the images of immaculate closets, with their wooden hangers arranged in precise rows, their stacked jeans, their color-coordinated dresses, their neat rows of wedges and flats standing at the ready. Raising my eyebrows in disbelief, I noted that some of these closets even had room for artwork. I mean, really? Come on now.

Yet the more I read, the more the concept of a capsule wardrobe appealed to me. More so than the wardrobe itself... the attitude behind the movement captured my attention. Constantly bombarded with magazine ads, Instagram, emails, and television spots about clothing, clothing, and more clothing, we fall under the delusion that we need this shirt, that skirt, those jeans, that new purse to feel fashionable, with-it, or beautiful. (Cough...Lilly for Target...cough) Sure, if you love the clothes, want the clothes, and have the closet-space for it, then by all means, go buy the clothes. All the clothes. For myself, however, I constantly felt that I was wasting time and money purchasing clothing that I only half-liked, would rarely wear, and then inevitably stuff in the back of my closet. And why? 

But before I go any further...what exactly is a "capsule wardrobe" anyway?

According to Caroline of the blog UnFancy, the main source for all things capsule wardrobe-y, a "capsule wardrobe" is a mini wardrobe consisting of versatile pieces that you totally LOVE to wear. Caroline proceeds into more detail, explaining that for her purposes, a capsule wardrobe consists of just 37 pieces: 9 bottoms, 9 shoes, 15 tops, 2 dresses, and 2 jackets. (The remainder of your clothes either go into storage, get donated, or go to your favorite second-hand shop.) From these 37 pieces, you create numerous mix-and-match outfits which should last you one season, a three-month time period. During that time period, you buy clothes once. Yes, only once. At the beginning of the three months, you take inventory, determine what you need, and purchase additional pieces as necessary.

The overall goals: to possess a closet that consists of items you truly enjoy wearing, to determine your actual style, and to realize that less really is more.

Cue the Great Closet Purge of 2015.

With a cup of black coffee and armed with enough black garbage bags to do Santa proud, I woke early Saturday morning and began the process of creating a spring capsule wardrobe. How did I start?

1. I took everything out of my closet. And I mean everything. I emptied every shelf, bin, hanger, you name it. I deposited all the items on my bed and stepped back to survey the damage. (At this point, I may or may not have dusted and swept the closet. #slightlyOCD)

2. I sorted the clothes into four piles. The piles had fun names. There was the Love-it-and-would-wear-it-right-now pile. The Wow-why-did-I-buy-this pile. The Sometimes-love-it-sometimes-hate-it pile. And the Aww-but-Blahblah-gave-me-this pile.

3. Once the items were sorted, I returned only the "Love-It" items to my closet. Everything else either went into a donation bag or received a second level of scrutiny. For the latter objects, I asked myself "when did I last wear this?" If I had gone through an entire season without wearing it, it went into the donation pile. If I had actually worn it a couple of times and yet was still hesitant about the item, I decided to put it into storage. After all, I could always donate it later.

4. Seven black trash bags later... I felt I had pared my closet down to the items I truly loved to wear. Items that I felt really defined how I dress. I couldn't believe the style that emerged as I arranged the "Love-It" items in my closet. To my surprise, a common theme did exist among my clothing choices. Most of the items possess a simple cut (pencil or A-line skirts, sheath dresses, simple blouses) and vivid hues (coral pink, turquoise, citron, and navy blue), toned down by a few of my customary little black dresses. No wonder I gravitated to these particular items and over again... they all possessed some similar quality that apparently suits my figure and personality. I didn't even know it before, but now it is glaringly obvious.

5. Once I had determined exactly what I wanted to keep, I could assess whether or not I needed any additional items to supplement the wardrobe. As it turns out, I do need a few things. My tee shirt drawer consists of two white shirts. Well.... that's a bit sad. So I may need to supplement this lack by purchasing a few tees and tanks for the spring and summer months. After all, you can't just wear the same shirt over and over again. Additionally. I have no flats. Not even one pair. I'm currently determining whether I want to purchase a pair of TOMS again or just head to TJ Maxx to scout for a basic pair of leather  ballet flats that will match anything. Purchasing my supplemental pieces will complete the entire wardrobe-makeover process. And then... no more clothes shopping until mid-July, when I'll create my late summer capsule wardrobe.

So what did I end up keeping in my closet?

Well, to be honest, I didn't follow UnFancy's 37 piece rule. I considered my own lifestyle and determined what I genuinely needed in order to maintain that lifestyle. For example, since we attend church regularly, I knew I wanted more than the two dresses allotted by UnFancy's wardrobe formula. I knew I would want a few nicer pieces. So here are my final results:

4 casual dresses
4 dressy dresses
2 maxi dresses
4 short skirts
2 maxi skirts
2 cardigans
1 kimono wrap
6 blouses
1 vest
2 tee shirts *
1 tanktop *
2 light sweaters
2 pairs of jeans
3 pairs of shorts
3 wedge heels
1 pair of pumps
2 pairs of sandals

total: 42 items *

*Tee shirts and tanks to be supplemented somewhat. 

An important note: this list excludes my workout gear, outerwear, painting clothes, lounge wear, accessories, and intimates. No one should limit themselves to two socks and two undies, people. Keep it realistic. 

And that's her! To be honest, I was mildly intimated by this minimalist challenge. But I am so happy that I took the plunge and created a simplified wardrobe. It not only has reduced the amount of clutter in my life but has created room for other things--things I really value--as well. For example, Mark has his own storage space for his hiking and camping gear, whereas before these items were stored in the basement. Plus, I now have a craft drawer: my very own space to store my paints, ModPodge, paper, and work materials, stored in space created by emptying out the never-used-sweater storage. It is truly amazing how cutting down the possessions you own can make you feel like you have so much more. 

So, what do you think? Do you think you would try a capsule wardrobe? Do you want to trade it all in and start fresh? Give it a try! I heartily recommend it! 

If you've been inspired by this post
and want to create your own capsule wardrobe, 
please share your progress with me
either on Instagram or in the comments below.
Follow @ampnabi for updates and more wardrobe details!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Coffee Dates // April

Welcome to April's coffee date! I don't know about you, but I am enamored with this spring weather! I just can't get enough of the sunshine, birdsong, and blossoms everywhere. Today in Maryland would certainly qualify as a dreary spring day--with this cool breeze and the slow-moving clouds. But I would still take this weather over the frigidity of winter... any day! So in honor of this new warm(ish) weather, brew yourself a cup of iced coffee and settle in for this month's coffee date!

Obsessing over...
Capsule wardrobes.

You may or may not have heard of this concept, but lately it seems like every where I turn this topic crops up. Whether it be in my email inbox, my Facebook homepage, my Bloglovin' feed, or Instagram. In keeping with a minimalist philosophy, a capsule wardrobe consists of a pared down clothing selection. You essentially limit your wardrobe to a predetermined number of clothing items from which you can create numerous outfits. The often-used number seems to be 37. Thirty-seven pieces including tops, bottoms, dresses, outwear, and shoes.(Your capsule wardrobe understandably excludes your PJ's, undies, workout gear, accessories/jewelry, and swimsuits. Because let's face it: we all need more than, say, two pairs of undies.)

At first, the idea of a "capsule" or "minimalist" wardrobe rankled me. Why toss out all your perfectly good clothes? After all, you spent good money on them! Yet, as I mulled over the idea, I found myself slowing agreeing with the philosophy. Why do I think I need so many pairs of leggings? Or jeans? Or heels? Or cardigans? How much money have I wasted on clothes that were oh-so-cute in the store... only to take them home and find myself wearing them only once or twice. While such a lean closet does still sound a little intimidating, I do find myself wearing the same pieces over and over again anyway. Why not just donate or sell all those pieces I never wear?

So, this weekend... the closet blowout shall begin. I may as well give this a try and see how it goes. Stay tuned for updates!

A life update...

You may remember in this post that I recently began a new job for the vintage furniture shop Repurposed and Refined in downtown Frederick. Three weeks later and I am still in love! I'm sore, creaky, and covered in paint by the end of the day, but I always begin and end the day with a huge smile on my face. While working in a creative capacity does have its drawbacks (less pay, for example), I find myself making time for the things that truly just make my soul happy. I now have time to read, sip my coffee, and meditate in the mornings, whereas before, the long commute to work required that I roll out of bed before the birds even began tweeting. I have time to work on my own creative projects-- such as my Etsy, our home renovations, and my writing. Just this week I was able to add five new items to the Etsy shop!  Plus, working downtown allows me to walk to work, which not only saves on gas money but also provides an opportunity to get some exercise and to enjoy this wonderful spring weather we have been having.

Frederick readers, please feel free to stop by the store and say hello! We are located at 217 W. Patrick Street.

Check this out...

1. the ultimate guide to building your own capsule wardrobe

2. some spring outfit obsessions that I found myself drooling over

3. Don't forget about our book club with Wit&Spice! The general busyness of spring has pushed our April read to May, so you still have time to catch up on your reading if you want to join us. This month's book is The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling.

Image source for the capsule wardrobe shot can be found here. All other images are my own. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Photography // Baby Girl Harper

In January, I had the honor of conducting this sweet couple's maternity session. Now, four months later, they have a pink-bowed bundle of joy named Emma. Last Friday, we stepped out into the lovely spring weather to capture some family-of-three photographs. These are a few of my favorite images from the session.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Our Weekend in Photos // Spring in the City

Tax week for the self-employed is no festive holiday. We cinch our belts tighter and grumble at the happy shop posters and bulletins asking "what will YOU do with your refund?" Bah-humbug. Yet one benefit of living near a big city is the vast amount of available events and pastimes that are free. One of those delightfully free things is simply walking around the city enjoying the breathtaking spring weather. With this in mind, Mark and I woke up early Saturday and hopped a metro train to DC where we spent the day with sun on our shoulders, 

After spending the morning at the zoo (where I woefully did not take any pictures), we hiked up what seemed a never-ending hill to reach a metro station. Along the way, we passed row after row of gorgeous homes, all of which gave me googley-eyes. If only they didn't have million-dollar pricetags to accompany them.

One of my favorite places to visit in D.C is the Botanical Garden. Even though the flowers always seem the same, there's just something so tranquil about that place. So much light and color and natural beauty contained in one space, quietly growing in the center of such a bustling city.

For good eats, Mark and I love to head to Good Stuff Eatery or We the Pizza in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. These two yummy restaurants are fun places to hit if we're spending the day in the mall area. Plus, they're a relatively short walk away from the Eastern Market, one of my favorite DC attractions.

Our day concluded with sun-burned shoulders and sore feet. I don't know about you, but those two things signify a day well spent: outside in the sunshine with my honey. This weekend also reminded me that I definitely need to pull my spring and summer clothes out of storage. Sandal weather has arrived, my friends!

What did you do this weekend?  
Also, feel free to share some of your favorite DC spots!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Mr. + Mrs. // The Best Marriage Advice Ever

In all that you do, endeavor to make your spouse feel wanted, needed, and loved.

The night before our wedding, our officiant pulled us aside. Our rehearsal dinner was winding down, the guests starting to dissipate. Only our bridal party and a few family members remained, chittering and laughing over glasses of sweet tea, as excited as us for what the next day would bring. Noticing a lull in the festivities, our officiant--who also happened to be my best friend's father-- pulled us aside to a quiet booth tucked in a back corner of the venue. There, he proceeded to give us the best marriage advice anyone has ever offered to us. It's advice that I can't say that I've been faithful in remembering or living everyday... but I can honestly say that--on the days I do remember it--it has proven its worth.

"In all that you do,  in the actions you take, in the words you speak, in the decision you make... endeavor to make your spouse feel wanted, needed, and loved," he said. "Ask yourself: does what I'm doing make my spouse feel like she's wanted? Like he is needed? Does it make him/her feel that s/he is truly loved? If the answer to one of those questions is a definite no, then maybe you should rethink your words or what you are doing."

At that time, sitting in that booth clutching Mark's hand, I know that I didn't fully comprehend the entirety of his words. I understood that these were words springing from years of marriage experience and from godly wisdom. Yet in that moment, my mind brimmed with last-minute wedding worries: did we have enough napkins? Were there enough flowers in each centerpiece? Would the DJ play the right song when introducing us at the reception? The answer to that last one turned out to be NO by the way.

Now, after two and a half years of marriage, I think I'm beginning to comprehend what this advice may mean.

In short, it means to put each other first. To weigh your daily decisions and actions with your spouse in mind. To consciously choose selflessness. To be willing to make a decision you may not want to make or to do something you may not want to do simply for the other's benefit and joy. To seek your spouse's happiness above your own, to seek their comfort above your own, and to encourage them always.

When we're locked in a heated newlywed fight--whether it be the slamming door kind, the spewing tears kind, or the silent-but-deadly kind--this advice requires that you be willing to swallow your pride. To apologize sincerely, without having to be asked. To be willing to give some ground to spare the other's feelings. It requires bending your will in order to heal the other's heart. And I'll be honest: as a fiercely stubborn and proud person, apologizing first or admitting I'm wrong is one of the hardest tasks that I ever have to do. But then I pause and ask myself "Did what I say make my husband feel loved? Or needed? Or wanted?" If the answer brings guilt, learning to apologize and admit my own faults comes a little easier. As time passes, I'm learning that apology is just another part of marriage.

Lastly, it's important to note that this advice applies to both people in the relationship. These words aren't part of the wives-submit-to-your-husbands mantra. No. Ya'll know me better than that. Both parties should strive to uphold this advice. Because if each person endeavors to put the other first, well then neither one will miss out on much will they?

After all, I think our society could use a little more selflessness and kindness in daily life. And what better place to start that under your own roof?

What's some of the best marriage or relationship advice you ever received? Feel free to share! 

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Gratitude // Spring Plantings

This week, I've been thankful for grubby fingers and spring plantlings. 

For yummy berry-banana-spinach-and-chia concoctions for breakfast. 

For snoozey pups who snore and bark during their naps. 

For reminders of freedom's high cost, tucked right behind shopping centers. 

For evening walks done right.

It's funny how when you begin to count your blessings, the little things
suddenly amount to so much, becoming weighty and significant in your arms.
What have you been grateful for lately? 

Monday, April 13, 2015

The New Job // Paint, Wax, & Brush

Some of you have recently expressed interest in knowing what I do for a living. So today I thought I would share a "day in the life" style post. A little insight into the normal day job that behind the scenes of Amp & Abi,

Back in January, I shared this post, explaining why I felt the need to make a change in my life by leaving my M.A.T program. Shortly thereafter, I began a job at a nearby liberal arts college, working as their Assistant Director of Financial Aid. It was a great job--for the first time in my life, I had my own office. I had a title. My name plaque hung by the door. I had business cards.

There was only one problem: I wasn't happy. While the job paid well and was what many would consider a great job, it simply wasn't for me. Here we go again, I thought. Since college, it felt like I had two options: to pursue a career that would make money but leave me bored and unhappy or to choose a more creative job that brought me joy but paid significantly less. Why was life like this? I moaned. Why did one always have to choose between responsibility and happiness? Between what you wanted to do and what you felt you should do--whether due to personal or societal interpretations of "what you should do."

I spent many nights clutching a pillow to my chest and talking to Mark about how I felt. Finally, he shrugged and said "Baby, you're only 23. Now is the time to experiment and find out who and where you want to be. If you don't do it now, when else will you do it?"

He had a point.

The following Sunday found me at a local vintage furniture sale, talking shop and craft with one of the shop owners. To my surprise, that evening I found a job offer sitting in my email inbox. A part-time position working as a painter for the vintage furnishings company Repurposed and Refined. Rather than sitting in front of a computer, punching numbers and fielding phone-calls, I would get to spend my days covered in paint, turning cast-off pieces of vintage furniture into polished, refurbished beauties. The hours I didn't work I could devote to writing and my own painting projects. Um, yes please.

Here are a few images of the pieces I painted my first week (last week):

Needless to say, I've been in heaven since starting my new job. This experience has truly proven to me that money isn't everything. While it certainly helps to have extra cash, there's something to be said for simple happiness. Who knew that I would love working with my hands so much? One week alone has left me brimming with ideas for projects and pieces which my fingers itch to get started on.

I so look forward to what the future will bring as I devote more time to creative projects like these. I hope to share more photos in the future-- so stay tuned! In the meantime, if you have any furniture refinishing needs or questions, please don't hesitate to ask!

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Mini-Trip to Greenville

As we drove down I-85 to Georgia, a thought seized me: Why not stop for a moment in Greenville, South Carolina? I remembered going there once as a young teenager and vaguely recalled a beautiful park downtown. We had a little extra time to kill and supposed that taking an hour to stretch our legs would be worth the pause. Solo, we were sure, would appreciate an opportunity to bounce around and wag his little tail.

A quick Google search brought up Falls Park on the Reedy in downtown Greenville. So we decided to aim the truck in that direction. We found a beautiful, serene park boasting a waterfall and enough spring flowers to make us forget the long hours spent on the road. 

Located on South Main Street, Falls Park consists of carefully manicured little areas combined to make one lovely, terraced greenspace. A crumbly rock staircase festooned with flowers leads down to the park. Tulips, daffodils, and pansies--swaths of color are dabbed here and there across the green lawns. Here you'd find a little gazebo tucked among the trees; there you'd find a swing set or bench surrounded by flowering azaleas, blooming in sudden pops of pink and white. A blended chorus of song birds and laughter mixes with the thunder and rush of the Reedy River as it rushes through the park's center.

Since we were there in the middle of the afternoon on a Thursday, we had the park relatively to ourselves. The Southern sun warming my shoulders made me jealous of the early spring that comes to the Carolinas and Georgia. We couldn't stay long, just thirty minutes-- but Mark had an opportunity to stretch his legs and Solo to muddy his paws-- which counts as a small victory in the world of boys and pups.

Have you ever visited Greenville? What are some of your favorite spots? 

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Morgan & Newman // A Springtime Wedding

 So, I thought I might bombard ya'll with photos of my sweet friend Amber's wedding. Since I was a bridesmaid, I unfortunately was unable to take as many pictures as I would have liked. Every now and then, though, I just had to pull out my iPhone and snap a few irresistible shots. The wedding took place at the Mill at Yellow River, a beautiful converted twine mill that now serves as residences and as a wedding venue. Near Atlanta, the mill sits on the edge of a thundering waterfall framed by a beautifully landscaped little garden.

Before the wedding, we bridesmaids spent several hours in the bridal suite preparing with Amber. As such, most of my photos are of the suite and the "getting ready" session. I couldn't resist capturing the industrial charm of the place. Brick walls, original windows, pine floors... be still my heart!

I loved the contrast of the delicate crystals and lace against the stark brick and weathered wood. The pale pink peonies and roses of the bride's bouquet were so fragrant-- a perfect cluster of spring flowers. Everything perfectly complimented the spring season--from the blush pink of the bridesmaid dresses, to the peony bouquets, to the breezy tulle and lace of the bride's gown. 

Witnessing the bride prepare for her groom and the ceremony is a sweet, special privilege. Watching Amber apply mascara, smooth her hair, and perfect each aspect of her appearance underscored how much preparation--both inward and outward--goes into these special days. The bride isn't simply preparing for one special day or one moment of frill and fancy. No, she's preparing for an entirely new phase of life, as a new person, as someone's wife. Her identify takes on an entirely new facet. I remember the hours before my own wedding ceremony. I won't lie; I had some nervous tummy flutters. But then, calmness would settle around me, and I felt steady in my purpose. For the most part, I just kept thinking how surreal the day felt. I couldn't believe that something so monumental and important could be contained within a normal day's 24 hours. 

Can I just take a moment and comment on how beautiful Amber looked? My mother and I discussed it later: how brides truly seem to glow, their natural beauty suddenly so much more apparent. Sure, the stunning, ornate gowns, makeup, and professional updos may have something to do with that-- but I think there's more to it. My mom put it so perfectly when she remarked that she thinks that God gives brides a special anointing that day. Of course, there's no way to truly know-- but I think that perhaps God bestows an extra blessing of grace and beauty on brides. 

Sadly, I wasn't able to capture any photographs of the ceremony. The precious photograph below-- of the ceremony kiss- was taken by my close friend Krysten. It's bittersweet to watch a friend get married. Your heart swells with joy at their happiness but you tear up at the realization that childhood and the teenage years are officially over. Sometimes, it's easy to lament those lost days: the carefree times of hair braiding, nail painting, and flirting with boys. But time moves inexorably onward-- and we have to move with it. I'm thankful for the friends and loved ones who get to move along the pathway with us. I feel sure that there are so many wonderful days ahead, filled with new joys, new sorrows, new challenges, and new victories.

P.S. Don't you just love Mark's woolly beard? Jeez-louise, my very own mountain man! Let's just say a wife picks her battles... I have to admit, though, it is quite the beard. However, I think the Georgia heat convinced the poor man that we may have to bid the beard farewell once the weather warms up.
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