Ex-Apartment Therapy blogger now pastor offers advice for maintaining a spiritual life at home.

Beauty Lives Next Door To You

There is a huge pond, right next door to my house. In the photograph above you can see me pointing to where it is from the front porch of my home. Where my finger is, is exactly where the water is. A pond is my next door neighbor.

I never go there. Well, almost never. I go there when my body aches to move and I need to walk somewhere, anywhere, and next door is the easiest place. Or I go there when my soul aches for something beautiful, and then comes that whisper (which is probably the whisper of God’s voice in my life) that says: “you could, at the very least, go to the pond.”

And I walk next door.

And in the Winter there is snow and ice on the pond, and it is quiet and still. And in Springtime the leaves are bright green and new, and there are chipmunks and rabbits and squirrels busting out of the undergrowth. And in Summer there are kids fishing, and the water sparkles like a mirror. And in Fall every color you could imagine surrounds the water, even colors I didn’t know God had created. And every time I walk there I think: “Alison, can you believe all this beauty lives right next door to you?”

But don’t worry, this isn’t a blog post to boast about the house where I live. This is a blog post about this truth: beauty lives next door to you, too.

Beauty lives next door to you in the books and art and music that is around you and available to you: when was the last time you sat down with a good read, or took a weekend stroll in an art gallery in town?

Beauty lives next door to you in your partner: when was the last time you went out for dinner and sat across the table from them and let yourself see and fall in love them all over again?

Beauty lives next door to you in your children: when was the last time you sat down on the floor and played with them and listened to them laugh?

Beauty lives next door to you in that friend you who inspires you that you never seem to have enough time for: when was the last time you picked up the phone to call them and just talked for an hour, or even hours?

Beauty lives next door to you in God, in Jesus, whose other name was “Emmanuel” which means “God with us”: when was the last time you laid on the bed and poured out your heart, speaking a prayer? When was the last time you laid there, breathing in, asking “speak to me God” and just waited for God to speak?

I don’t want to write these things to make you feel guilty for neglecting to do them. Actually, I’m writing these things for me. Sometimes I think I have to go so far to find beauty. That to find beauty in a place I have to fly to the other side of the world. To find beauty in a person I have to make a new friend. To find beauty in my spouse I have to go through hours of counseling and “work.” To find beauty in God I have to climb a spiritual mountain. But the truth is, all that beauty is right there next door to me. Not far away at all.

And I write these things that I might remember. And perhaps you need the reminder too. Not to wait until your body aches for a walk, or your heart aches for something new. Go put on your walking shoes and spend some time with something beautiful, right now, today. It is right there, waiting for you. Because beauty, incredible breathtaking beauty, lives next door to you.


Color Lover’s Capsule: Step 2. Culling Clothes


PHEW! I spent multiple hours yesterday reducing my wardrobe from hundreds of pieces to around 50. What a crazy task. It took me so long I watched (listened to, really) 12 episodes of Beverly Hills 90210. I will blame Beverly Hills 90210 if my wardrobe ends up looking distinctly like something fresh out of the 1990s.

Alright, besides watching TV, let’s talk about how I did it:

1. I started by opening that graphic of colors I made and going through all my clothes and taking out anything and everything that matched one of the colors on my chart. I grouped items together by like color, which is what you can see in the photo above.

2.  Once I was done sorting by color, however, I was still way, way over my target of 37 pieces of clothing. So then I went through the clothes that remained and tried on every single thing. Trying clothes on, and really looking at them in the mirror is super important to check how something really fits and looks on your right now. Ask yourself, “if I was trying this on in a store now, would I buy it?” Or would you say “this is too frumpy, too lumpy, too tight, too big, too worn, too old, too young?” Anything that doesn’t gel right now is out. Marie Kondo suggests holding each thing and asking: “does this spark joy in me?”

Sometimes it’s hard to determine on your own if clothes look good on you: I get that. My friend Kerryn and I used to do this thing where we’d make all the easy decisions ourselves, and take the hard ones over to each other’s houses and try them on in front of each other. Have you got a stylish and honest friend who could help you do that?

3. What should you do with the clothes that don’t make the cut? Here’s my thinking: anything that is excluded from this wardrobe because it’s the wrong season or the wrong color, I put down in the basement in storage. They will come in handy next time I’m making a capsule wardrobe. But if there are things that I have never worn, or barely worn, things I regret buying, or things that are just never going to fit? They are going to be consigned at my local consignment shop. Things that need repair go to the sewing box, and anything that is too worn out I can’t repair? You know, stained or pilled to the extreme? It’s time for them to be retired from closet land forever.

Now I’m left with 63 items of clothing that could possibly make the final round for my capsule wardrobe. Some more culling will need to take happen before I’m done. Unfortunately (and kind of unbelievably) I don’t have one item of every color on my clothing chart: I owned no crazy fur or shiny silver or that jelly-like purpley-pink. I also have very few skirts. But that’s okay, I will deal with that later and everything I have hanging in my wardrobe right now is awesome. And oh boy, do I feel like a giant weight has been lifted out of my bedroom. Next step, to build the capsule!!


Color Lover’s Capsule: Step 1. Determining A Color Scheme

blue and pink

I have a lot of clothes. As in, a lot a lot. As in 1 wardrobe, 1 free-standing clothes rack, 1/2 a coat closet, 2 dressers, and a few tubs in the basement’s worth of clothes. Choosing a 37 piece wardrobe out of that is going to be a total nightmare. Unless I limit my options.

Since my capsule wardrobe is going to be about celebrating color, my idea is to begin here: with a color scheme. But how does one come up with a color scheme for a wardrobe? Here’s the way I approach this task. Perhaps my steps may be helpful for you, too.

First I make a note of the colors I am really drawn to at the moment. I really love royal blue and pale pink right now, like in the outfit I’m wearing in the photo above. I have no idea why, I just like those colors. So I note both royal blue and pale pink down for my fall wardrobe color scheme. What colors are you drawn to? List those as potentials for your color scheme, too. Be as specific as you can (i.e. royal blue, not just blue, and pale pink not just any pink).

Second, I look at your wardrobe. Maybe it’s hard for you to think of colors you like off the top of your head. That’s okay! The next step I take is to go to my wardrobe, and take a look at the clothes I really, really love to wear. Is there a color that repeats among them? What color clothes make my skin look bright, and my eyes stand out? What colors make me feel great when I put them on? For me, the answer is jewel tones. Also I have 6 mustard sweaters. I note this also. What’s in your closet? What colors especially work for you?

Third, I find inspiration in photographs of outfits I like. Do you have a Pinterest account? I know they’re kind of cheesy but Pinterest is pretty useful for keeping track of photographs that make you say “wow!”, so that you can come back to them later and determine what your own personal style looks like. I saw this photograph recently in an advertisement for Diane Von Furstenberg:

turquoiseand leopard.jpg

…and though I don’t particularly care for wrap tops or pencil skirts I was drawn to the colors: doesn’t that leopard print and that particular blue look amazing together? Both of these go on my list.

Other photographs that have found me all excited for the new season are those from my favorite Australian clothing brand, Gorman. I mean, just look at these things:

However, there are a lot of colors in these clothes. How do I know what colors, exactly, do I love according to these outfits? Well, what I do is I run these photographs through a color palette generator, like Pictalicious, or Color Snap. After putting a handful of Gorman dresses through Pictalicious, I found a few repeating colors: turquoise, petrol blue, mustard, orchid. I put all of these on my list. Why not run a bunch of outfits you’ve liked or pinned through something like this and see what colors come up again and again?

Last, I look at what designers and magazines are predicting for the season. I purposely do this last because I don’t want to be influenced primarily by others with my clothing choices, I want to be influenced by me. But sometimes looking at seasonal runway shows helps trigger some ideas I haven’t thought of before, as well as remind mw of what is seasonally appropriate. After taking a look at French Vogue, Cosmo and Elle Magazine’s hit predictions for Fall 2017, I found a few trends that interested me: turquoise (sense a theme?), denim, fake weird fur, shiny metallic silver. All of these are added to my list.

Once I was done, I made a collage of the colors I listed (ignore the items, they are just there to represent the colors). I feel like most of these colors will go together pretty well in outfits? I know there are a lot. I will probably whittle them down over time.


What do you think? What color scheme are you planning for your capsule wardrobe? Share it with us here or on my Facebook page!



A Color-Lover’s Attempt To Build A Capsule Wardrobe

fushcia lipstick

Jono’s away with the kids in Australia for the month. What to do? I lamented last night to a friend. “Do everything Jono hates you doing,” he says.

Here is one thing I love to do that drives Jono nuts: organize my wardrobe. Like, the kind of organizing that creates piles on the bed that lasts for days. Before he left he asked me why so many clothes were in IKEA bags. “I’m filing them,” I say. “Oh. Of course,” is his reply.

A long time ago I blogged about wanting to try a capsule wardrobe. Do you remember what they are? It’s a collection of clothes that is smaller than your usual wardrobe, with the idea that everything goes together and that from it you can make outfits with ease. The rules are different depending on who is telling them to you, but the most common capsule wardrobes you hear about are:

*Unfancy’s capsule wardrobe which consists of 37 items that you wear the whole season.  You can only shop at the beginning of the season, and sometimes just for something you realize you badly need in the middle of the season.


*Project 333’s capsule wardrobe which consists of 33 items that you wear for 3 months,no shopping until the end of the 3 months! (You can also read more about Project 333 on the Vivienne Files, a great fashion blog for capsule wardrobe reading)

Let’s be real, I’m probably going to have 37 items. I’m human, people.

But here’s the problem I have with a lot of capsule wardrobes. They end up looking like this:


(from Glitter and Glasses)

And this:

capsule cut

Which may work great for you, but for a color-lover like myself, these wardrobes are just way too boring! So here’s what we’re going to attempt, folks, while Jono is away: a capsule wardrobe that is packed full of color! Can I do it? Will I lose my bed under a pile of clothes? Eep! Follow along for updates!



#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 Origen”,”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)