The Less Blog

An attempt to make space in life for the good stuff.

#lovetheclothesyouhave: Halfway There?


20161025_144956(This is me today, wearing my “L’Amour” sweater I bought from H&M three years ago, and have only worn outside of the house once.)

Well I’ve crossed the halfway mark of my self-imposed challenge to love the clothes I already own. I’ve learned a few things already, about clothing and about myself, and thought this would be a good moment to pause and reflect on what I’ve discovered so far.

1. A little meditation on my closet can help me make wiser decisions in the future.
I realized the majority of my unworn or rarely worn clothes are red. So: I either need to work out how to wear red clothes, or stop buying red clothes altogether. One of the problems I encountered in forcing myself to wear red, was that I only own three types of sweaters: green sweaters, yellow sweaters and purple sweaters. These are my favorite colors and whenever I see a sweater in these colors I can’t help myself!

But here’s the problem: green+red=Christmas, yellow+red=McDonalds and purple+red=those weird hat ladies. So I need to branch out in my sweater wearing. To do so would make a whole range of unworn shirts and dresses in my closet suddenly wearable. I would never have thought this had I not forced myself to make outfits out of these unworn things.

2. I think I have a weird aversion to wearing things more than once.
When I was a kid in 8th grade, I went to a camp for gifted students from across the state and I bunked with a very wealthy girl who came from the inner city. She was so rich she never wore play clothes more than once, and at the end of the first day she threw her outfit in the trash. I was horrified!

But you know what? Maybe I didn’t end up so different to that 8th grade girl. I love to create outfits, and every now and then I’ll stumble on something great, but am loathed to wear that exact outfit again. This necessitates more purchasing of clothes to create outfits afresh…or does it? The last couple of days have reminded me of the vast possibilities within those clothes I already have, and also that real creativity happens when possibilities are not limitless, but constrained. I found myself trying out new things, new combinations, simply because I had to, instead of creating the easy way (i.e. via the mall).

3. I remembered the best fashion asset I own doesn’t exist inside my closet at all.
Sometimes I can get so fixated on what I am wearing, I forget what I am already wearing: the face God gave me! I often feel like my face is something to dress up or hide, with jewelry or crazy glasses or makeup. But the other day, as I took one of my self-imposed selfies, I thought: “Hey face! I forgot about you! You’re actually pretty!”

Now, please hear me on this: I’m not telling you this so you can all chime in on your feelings about my face. I like my face all by myself, I don’t need the extra encouragement. But I do want you to ask yourself, fashion-nerd friends, do you also realize that you are beautiful, no matter what you wear? Because, if you are a friend of mine, I know you are. There isn’t a single person I have in my life I wouldn’t say that to in full honesty. Enjoy your face. You are gorgeous.

Lots of love as always,

PS. If you want to know a little more about what I’ve been doing this week, see the post below. It is a challenge to wear an unworn/rarely worn item from your closet, and to not buy clothes for one week. If you are behind, don’t worry, you can still join in tomorrow if you like!



Considering the average American is buying 62 items of clothing each year, and that we are purchasing 400% more clothing than we did 20 years ago, and that we produce 11 million tons of textile waste each year I find myself asking the question: what if we stop all this buying, and instead really start enjoying the clothes we already have?

You know there some really great things in your wardrobe already. That dress. Those boots. That perfect cozy sweater. You know the one I’m talking about.

And you know as well as I do there are some pretty neglected things in your wardrobe too. That shirt you have with the tags still on, for crying out loud. It’s about time you wear it.

So this is my plan for the next week. To love my wardrobe. As is. No new additions for seven days. To bring out the old favorites, and some forgotten beauties. Want to join me?

Here’s the challenge, should you choose to accept it. Take an item from your wardrobe you barely wear (or perhaps have never worn) that fits the daily category, and make your outfit go with that. Only use what you already have!
Here are the categories:

Saturday 22nd: Shirt
Sunday 23rd: Dress
Monday 24th: Skirt
Tuesday 25th: Sweater
Wednesday 26th: Jacket
Thursday 27th: Shoes
Friday 28th: Accessory

I can’t wait to see what you all come up with. Be sure to upload your photo to instragram with the hashtag #lovetheclothesyouhave, or post photos of your progress below.

Whittling Down The Wardrobe


So I decided I would do it after all: I will give the capsule wardrobe experiment a go. I have no idea if it will work for me at this stage – having only a few pieces accessible, and rotating every season – but I have to do something about the tidal wave of clothes that crash out of our walk-in wardrobe every time I open the door. At the outset of this exercise my clothes filled (get ready for it): one side of a walk-in, one dresser with 8 drawers, one coat closet, and six large plastic tubs. Plus the floor of the walk-in was covered with my clothes. There were a lot of clothes. Some of which I had never worn, or hadn’t worn in 5 years.

Now we come to the obvious question: how? How does one go from 100 million pieces of clothing to 37 pieces of clothing?

I decided that 100,000,000 -> 37 was too insane a step to make, so I started last week by simply whittling down what I owned into a pile of clothes that could possibly be part of my capsule. My method for doing so is kind of laborious but I do think it’s the only way that actually works. Here it is in a nutshell: you have to try everything on.

Everything. Every single thing. Even the things you wore last week. Even the things you really think aren’t going to fit or look good any more. Everything.

As I did so, I created 4 piles of clothing: leaving, storing, mending, possibly capsule-ing. I determined what went where by asking the following questions.

1. Does this item fit me? Does it fit on my arms, around my waist, my bust? Clothes that didn’t fit did not stay in the wardrobe. That’s just depressing. I let myself keep a couple of items in the storing tub that were in the realm of possibility of fitting me (just slightly too tight) but the rest went in the leaving pile. There were some that didn’t fit because they were too big! I couldn’t believe it. They went in the mending pile, as I might be able to make them smaller.

2. Does this item look good on me? This question is hard for some people to find an answer to, and I would say if that’s you – invite a stylish friend to help you out. In the meantime, here are the questions I ask: Is the cut flattering? Does the color make me look alive and bright or dull and washed out? Does it make me feel “yeah!” or “meh”? Would I wear this on a date? Items that looked good went in the capsule-ing pile. Items that didn’t go in the leaving pile.

3. Is it worn out beyond the point of looking good anymore? I actually had a number of these: mostly sweaters. I wear sweaters forever and then they start looking pilled and stretched and gross. Most of the sweaters went in the leaving pile – or in the trash. It’s kind of scary to suddenly go from a whole bunch of sweaters to very few sweaters but I am consoling myself with the fact that this is part of the process: determining what I actually need.

4. Do I like wearing this item? Let’s be honest, some things fit and are flattering but are a bit ho-hum. Not everything excites me to get dressed in the morning. I ask myself the question: would I buy this at a store again if I had the chance? Stuff that I really didn’t care about anymore, also went in the leaving pile. It’s time to let someone else have the chance to enjoy my unloved clothes.

It took me about 8 hours (across 4 days) to try on every single thing. But through this process I managed to empty out 4 of the 6 tubs, half the dresser, half the closet and there are no longer clothes on the ground in my walk-in. Oh baby, it feels good! It’s so weird but I actually feel like I’ve lost weight. For real. Now when I look at my clothes in the closet, everything looks amazing. Next step, to make the capsule!!

(Image: I wish these were my socks! Kelly’s photo at the madebywhite blog. Check out her awesome style!)

Have You Heard About Capsule Wardrobes?

capsule cut

“Ever buy some fun new clothes, but end up wearing your old favorites anyway? Me too. Ever go to your closet and feel like you have nothing to wear, even when your closet is filled with clothes? Me too!”

And thus begins the call to the “capsule wardrobe” experiment by Caroline @ Unfancy in 2014. The idea? To make a wardrobe of only 37 mix-and-match items, each of which you totally love to wear.

The process is as follows (taken from here):
1. Pare down the items in your wardrobe to just 37.
2. Wear only these items for 3 months (a season).
3. Don’t go shopping for clothes at all during that season until…
4. Plan and shop for your next “capsule” in the last two weeks of the season.
5. The amount you buy for the next capsule is up to you.

Included in the 37 items are: tops, bottoms, dresses, outerwear, and shoes. Separate from the 37 items: workout clothes, accessories and bags, pjs, underwear, painting clothes.

The number itself is kind of arbitrary. Caroline claims it was chosen for being both “minimal and generous” at the same time. Really, that was the breakdown that worked best for her:
9 pairs of shoes
9 bottoms
15 tops
2 dresses
2 jackets.
There’s no way that breakdown could work for me. I would do way less shoes for starters, and way more dresses. I suppose this is a tricky early step: working out how to best breakdown the numbers without inflating the wardrobe too much.

Her process for choosing what items to carry into the first season includes taking everything out of the wardrobe, putting must-wear-I-love-you-so-much items back in, and then trying to build a wardrobe for the season around that. You can read more about her process here.

Anyway, does this sound like an interesting/useful project to you? It does to me. My wardrobe is out of control. I have tubs upon tubs of clothes, and clothes on the floor, and who knows how many clothes that rarely if ever get worn. I need some way of wrangling it all.

Except: here are my worries about this particular assignment. Everyone who is really into capsule wardrobes right now are super minimalists in the way they dress: almost no patterns, no color: zzzzzzz. I couldn’t live. Is it possible to make a versatile wardrobe for a crazy pattern and color loving girl such as myself? Second, this woman’s budget for clothes is about 5 times what mine is. Before the season I can hardly go spend $550 on my dream wardrobe for the next 3 months. I would still have to store things that are not seasonal for the following year, and some things I think I hold onto purely because I’m afraid I’ll need it later and not have the money. Can this be done on a budget?

What do you think? Do you think this is a workable system for you? For me? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Facebook, How Do I Break Up With You?

facebook page

I took a break from Facebook recently. No biggie: I did it to reclaim some desperately needed time before finals. And as expected, I found myself with just enough minutes in the day to get everything finished at last. But here’s what happened that I didn’t expect: to find myself, also, reclaiming my mind.

Maybe I’m a complete idiot, but I never really understood before those few Facebook-free weeks how much social media shapes the low-strata thoughts that traverse my mind each day. Sure, ideas like “pick up the kids! make afternoon snack! go to bathroom!” are controlled by my environment and the needs of those around me, but the other ideas, the ones that seem to drift in on the breeze…what about them?

Without Facebook they looked like this: “Wow, Winter can be beautiful”, “I really want to read more Origin”,”I should write a letter to that old friend of mine”,”I wonder what it would be like to be a six day creationist?”, “Jono really is an amazing Dad.”

But with Facebook they look like this: “Amy Schumer is a joke thief?”, “Chandler can’t remember 3 years of Friends because he was on drugs?”, “The campaign against Hilary Clinton is so sexist!”, “The campaign against menstruation is so sexist!”, “Why wasn’t I invited to that baby shower??”, “I wish I looked like that”, “I wish my marriage looked like that.”

(By the way, never in my life would I buy a gossip magazine. The thought repulses me! And yet every single day I see this information, and think about it, and even talk about it: only because of Facebook.)

Straight up: I am really concerned there is something in the world that controls my thinking in this way. I am really concerned there is something in the world that controls your thinking in this way, too. That every day we log on and are served a veritable platter of ideas, which are “tailored” to us by a corporation, from which we can pick and choose, sure, but only in the way one can pick and choose “healthy food” from a McDonalds menu. And it’s starting to be proven that our mental health is affected by these ideas that we “eat”. Facebook stimulates our comparisons between ourselves and others, and makes us depressed, increases risk of suicide, and doesn’t help our sense of isolation, either.

The obvious answer is: get off Facebook. Tell everyone to get off Facebook. But here’s my concern: if every thoughtful, reasonable person suddenly thinks it’s wrong to be on Facebook, then what does that mean for the stream of public consciousness that is the Facebook feed? Disclaimer: I’m not saying here that I’M a hugely impactful person on Facebook, but if every person who was disappeared suddenly from social media? It would mean taking those voices out of the system. The good voices. The voices that give life. I just don’t know: is this the kind of change I should advocate for?

In the “real world” I wouldn’t usually advocate for people separating themselves from culture into “safety” enclaves. But how does one possibly both feed life into the minds of the world around them, and also allow life to flow freely into their own?


Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  (Romans 12:2)

What Could Be Done In A Day?


Sitting in class, starting to drift off as the professor talks on and on about literal, six day creation. What’s the big deal, I thought to myself, what difference does it make?

Now, let me stop right here at the very beginning and say at the outset: what I’m about to say is by no means an argument for the idea that the world was made in six days. I mean, what do I know? I leave that to the thousands of other teachers and preachers and theologians and scientists who mark out this battleground for their life’s work.

But for me, in a classroom, on a windy, dreary day, there was a moment of inspiration that got me thinking: what if it was?

I mean, what if it was made in six days? All of it. Heavens, earth, sea, sky, land, fishes, birds, Adam, Eve: all of it. And what if it was made in six real days, not six “God” days – not six days that stretch out across millennia because God is not bound by human concepts of time and space – what if it was made in six days as we know it: midnight to midnight, 6 lots of 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86400 seconds? What would that mean? Not for our understanding of God, or the earth, the fossil record and whether or not dinosaurs existed, but what would that mean for our understanding of the day?

Wouldn’t that completely turn on its head our perception of what can, potentially happen in one, single day?

When I wake up in the morning, to be honest, I have such low expectations as to what a day can bring. Perhaps today I will finish writing that paper. Perhaps I might get around to sending out the Christmas cards. Perhaps I’ll finally finish the hand washing. But I might not: there are only so many hours in a day, after all.

But then there are some days that bring monumental change: the day I preached the best sermon I’ve ever preached, the day my daughter was born, the day my son was born, the day I got married, the day I met my husband for the first time. On those days: change. On those days: God created for me.

What if we stood at the precipice of each day and thought: in these next 24 hours it is possible that God could conceive and create every plant and tree and fruit and vegetable upon the earth out of nothing! Would I then let the minutes whittle away while I do so little? Expecting so little out of the day that now God has, in turn, entrusted to me?

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day. (Genesis 1:1-5)

(Image credit: Chris Goldberg, CC on Flickr)

Clearing My Inbox, Clearing My Mind

bed with computer

Last night I unsubscribed from 101 product advertising mailing lists.

101. It sounds like a made up number, but I promise it isn’t. I actually get that much junk mail in my central email folder every single day. This morning when I woke up, there was just one email in my inbox – from my mother in law.

Occasionally as that thought passes through my mind: “I want to buy x”, I find myself wondering whether that impulse actually came from me or whether it was manufactured, constructed by advertising. But how do people advertise to me? I’ve been trying to figure that out. I don’t watch TV, read magazines or newspapers. It’s not like I live in a big city, surrounded by posters and billboards. I rarely go to the mall.

It must be the internet, right? And the internet is smart: it targets my taste better than TV or magazines ever did. Since I blogged about fashion last month, I swear my Facebook feed is 50% advertising for new clothing. When I blog about anything for Apartment Therapy, from tablecloths to wall hooks, you can bet the next week every side bar, every pop up ad is an ad for sales of household goods. And every time I buy something online I find myself unwillingly subscribed to their mailing lists. 101 mailing lists. 101.

And then here is the effect of all that: every morning, not too long after I get up, I check my email. Which means every morning I see about 20 new mailouts advertising new products or sales, from Urban Outfitters to the Scandinavian Design Center and everything in between. And the cumulative effect of all those emails is the following thought: “There is something to buy today.” Every morning one of my first thoughts is: “There is something to buy today.”

Imagine if every morning you had, not only your kids wanting breakfast at the dining table, but also 20 sales reps from companies sitting around telling you “Are you going to pop by our store this morning?”, “Have you seen this new sofa?”, “Are you interested in 15% off today?”. Argh! No! Get out! I want peace and quiet in the morning. And of all the things in the world, buying stuff is quite simply not what I want to be thinking about every single day! There’s so much more out there in the world besides buying stuff! Beautiful things, creative things, spiritual things. Things to do with my family, my friends, my home, my study, my writing, my faith. And I also despise other people telling me what I should want! Shouldn’t I be the one to come up with that all on my own?

So, 101 emails no longer come to my house. Sure, I’m going to miss some sales. So?? Up in my brain, it’s quiet this morning. There’s space to think about something else. Like…I’d better get back to my mother in law. And then, who knows? Perhaps I’ll have just a moment of peace.

Taking A Moment To Look at What I Buy

money for sensible things

If we’re going to focus this month on buying less, it makes sense to start with a fair assessment of what I currently buy.

Most of our household budget is set firmly in place. Rent, utilities, car expenses, giving to church and charity, savings, healthcare costs are all worked out through set costs and a discussion between Jono and I at the beginning of the financial year.

My week-to-week monetary responsibilities include the following:

$10: My own personal spending. If I want to go out with friends or buy something for myself (clothes, books, haircuts), this is my money. It used to be $20 a week, but I have so overblown my portion of the budget over the last few months that now, in order to get back on track for the rest of the year, I’m scaling back to $10 for the next couple of months.

$40: Spending on the kids. It seems like a lot but it includes lessons for things, clothing, school supplies, stuff for their bedroom, haircuts, outings, whatever.

$110: to spend on food and family entertainment. This means whatever I can save on food, we can spend going out on dates, to concerts, eating out as a family and so on.

$10 (a roll of quarters): To spend on laundry.

Last week these were my expenses:

$15 – taking the kids out for lunch, $20 – back to school supplies for the kids ($5 left in their budget)

$7.50 – hooks from Container Store ($2.50 left in my budget)

$139.50 – food (over by $13.50 at the supermarket… and then I made a last minute trip to Chipotle. 😦 )

$10 – laundry ($0 left in that budget)

From the outset, it’s pretty clear where I need to spend less: on food. In particular, impulse takeaway food, but also at the grocery store. I also need to work out how to manage my own limited spending money such that I’m not spending it all on hooks.

I often feel like the portions of the budget I control from week to week aren’t that significant, but in thinking it over I’ve realized something important: they’re the only portions of our budget where we can save extra money. Which means that they aren’t frivolous at all, but incredibly important. I wonder – by buying less, how much can I actually save this month for our family?

Take a moment now, if you can:
What does your weekly budget entail?
What did you spend money on last week?
What could you do with that money if this month you bought less?

(Image: Purse from Etsy)

It’s The End Of The Month…Where To Now?

calendar kids room

It’s the end of the month, my month of less factory made clothes. What have I learnt?

First, that fashion is not worth hurting someone else. It’s wonderful to be able to express myself through clothing, but when it comes in conflict my desire to put the needs of others before my own, fashion needs to step aside.

It’s completely possible to stop relying on factory-made clothes for me and my family. There are so many options for finding perfectly good, used clothes in the world: our local thrift stores, consignment sales, eBay, Etsy, ThredUp – why do I need to buy new? My friend Aimee even sent me a link to fair trade underwear! ( if you’re interested). I feel confident now to stop buying at the mall and online, and instead save a bunch of stuff from landfill and reuse it for my family. I’m still not entirely sure this is the best way forward for the people of Bangladesh, but for now I can’t send my money into the pockets of people who oppress the poor.

Sometimes I forget to make the most of the things I already own. When I was digging through my closet for the post on “loving what you already have”, I realized “there’s a lot of great stuff in here I hardly wear!” Which leads to…

It’s possible to wear “fair” clothing but still be bound by consumerism. I haven’t really posted about this over the course of the month, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about the last couple of days.

Like I said at the beginning of this blog, I do enjoy fashion. I enjoy the expressive, creative, visual and tactile aspects of it. But fashion gets tainted easily, both when the clothing we wear is made unethically, but also when it is driven by a desire to buy, acquire, buy something new, buy something better.

Just because I’ve been buying my clothing this month at thrift stores doesn’t mean I have felt free from the drive to consume. I’ve still thought a lot about, written a lot about, buying stuff. “If only I had something new to wear today,” I’ve thought. “This room would look so much better if I just had…” “I’m so dying to get that…” “The kids would so love that…” Does anyone else out there feel that those thoughts go through their mind way more than they wish they did?

So for September, I’m going to shift the focus of this blog just slightly onto Buying Less. I’m not perfect at doing that, so I’m going to enlist the help of a couple of friends who are great at it. I’ll share my portion of the household budget with you, and track how I spend it (or, hopefully, don’t spend it). And I’d love to hear your thoughts too: How can I help you buy less? How have you learnt to overcome the drive to consume in your life?

As always, thanks for reading
x Al

(Image: Apartment Therapy)

Factory-Made Alternative #4: ThredUp (plus a $20 voucher for you!)

thredup booklet

ThredUp: the place I finally found some decent-condition second hand clothes for my 5 year old son!

What is ThredUp?

An online consignment store. Anyone can clean out their closet by mailing in bags of their used/barely used/never used clothes. As they sell online: a small amount of money goes to you, and a bunch goes to them.

What’s available on ThredUp?

Women’s clothes, shoes and handbags. Kids clothes!! A lot of designer and more trendy brands. No Target, Carters, Walmart stuff. Mostly fairly recent designs. Mostly almost new through to “still has tags and hasn’t been worn”.

Have I used the site?

Yes! I purchased a box of clothes from the site earlier this month. I bought a few things for Ralph and a few things for Ivy (pictured below). Here’s what I found were the pros and cons of using this as a source for used clothing.


(Ivy’s clothes: aqua cardigan, spotty leggings, Boden tulle skirt, and Zara corduroy skirt)


Loads of fantastic quality kids clothing.

All my favorite brands: Mini Boden, Boden, Modcloth, Zara, Anthropologie, Gap, H&M… Every single one.

Second-hand boys clothing in good condition.

Free shipping for purchases over $70.

Can pay using your Amazon account. So easy.

Amazing packaging. As though you’re buying from a boutique store.

Clearly labelled condition reports: some clothes are marked down due to pilling, fading etc. All are labelled as such.

Super large photographs. Just click on the picture of the item for an enlarged photo so you can inspect each item for yourself.

Returns are free within 14 days if you choose to have refund in the form of store credit.

No need to sift through mountains of junk in thrift stores, or to leave home.


(Ralph’s clothing: Mini Boden short sleeved shirt, stripy tee, fuzzy sweater, black Levi’s jeans)


You do incur an $8.99 return shipping charge if you wish to have the amount refunded to your bank account.

No mens clothing. (Argh, this would be so amazing)

It can be a little overwhelming how much there is. Also, sizes are listed according to their size on the tag for that particular brand – so a 5 for one shirt may be larger, or smaller, than a 5 in a different brand. I group these together because I think the way to overcome both is search for brands you know and know what size your kid (or you!) will be in that brand.

The cost. This is the major one. Clothes on ThredUp are probably twice as expensive than if they were in a thrift store. Basically, you’re paying for the fact that these are higher quality, well kept, top brand clothes. If these are the kinds of clothes you would normally buy: ThredUp is for you. But if you’re happy with Target, Carters etc you might find these items too expensive. Still: I wonder if ThredUp could be a source for you for a special occasion outfit?

Interested in checking it out? Click here for a $20 off coupon when signing up to the site. Now, I’ve tried my best to suss this out and as far as I can see, there is no minimum purchase to use the coupon so…find something for $20 and (I’m pretty sure) it will only end up costing you the $5.99 shipping fee. Also: if you use the voucher I’ll get one in response so…thanks in advance from Ralph and Ivy ;-). I’ve done some treasure hunting of my own and found a few amazing things you could get for your kids:

thredup girls clothing

(From top left to bottom right)

1. Zara Skirt Size 7-8: $11.99
2. Gymboree Dress Size 9: $10.99
3. Baby Gap Vest Size 2: $11.49
4. Zara Jeans Size 7-8: $15.49
5. H&M Fur Vest Size 5-6: $11.49
6. Mini Boden Special Occasion Dress Size 3-4: $28.99 (Yes, $9 over the $20 but it’s blue velvet.)

boys clothing

1. Crewcuts Shorts Size 6: $13.49
2. Zara Tuxedo Vest Size 9/10: $15.49
3. Hanna Anderson T-Shirt 18-24mo: $15.49
4. Gap Green Windbreaker Size XS: $16.99
5. Crewcuts Button Down Shirt Size 10: $16.49
6. Gap Jeans Size 6: $15.49

Of course, your sense of style may be nothing at all like mine. Anyway, for one or two cool items for $6, I do think it’s worth taking a look.

And if you’re interested in hearing someone’s experience consigning clothing to the site, check out this blog post on decluttering clothing at Wayward Daisy.

(Images: 1: Wayward Daisy, 2-5: Alison Gerber)