When you hear about reading and parenthood, images of bedtime stories, picture books, and chapter read-alouds come to mind--the building blocks of literacy and establishing a love of reading in our children. But what about reading for parents?Read More
Living intentionally has been a concept that has been popping up around me for the past few years, it’s becoming a more mainstream way of life that helps us deal with the constant busyness prescribed by our culture at large. I thought this was a new concept that I would have to figure out and study, but as I delved deeper into the way to live intentionally I realized it has really been something I was raised in from a young age, I just didn’t have a name for it.Read More
Everyone has goals, but not everyone achieves those goals. In fact, research by Strava showed that most people’s goals for the new year fail by January 12. That’s less than two weeks! Two weeks of working towards something before giving up for the entire year.Read More
Ten years ago I was begrudgingly planning my wedding (I was not excited about the big church wedding it was shaping up to be), but more enthusiastically dreaming about the life that was just beginning. Matt and I would graduate from university in late April, get married in the middle of May, jobs and a place to live to be determined. We were facing the unique situation of immigration - I was born and raised in rural Pennsylvania, while Matt was from Halifax, Nova Scotia.Read More
Shortly before moving into our home this past fall I stumbled upon the idea of living minimally. After owning two homes over the past six years, we have discovered what works for us and, mostly, what does not. At best, I am terribly indecisive about committing to trendy colors and designs, so the idea of maintaining a neutral color scheme and decor really spoke to us as we began to renovate our current home. Removing cabinetry, built in desks, and vanities, and even greatly downsizing our toy baskets are a few ways we created even more space to make our home appear larger and adapt a more open, less cluttered, feel.Read More
Our lives have been anything but simple from the beginning. From taking years to confess our love to a quickly culminated storm of pregnancy, engagement, a wedding and a baby all within a year, we are still finding ourselves sorting through the pages of our already heavily chaptered life.
Sam and I are young but destined parents, so when we found out we were expecting, we wanted to hasten a marriage but jump into the natural flow. In other words, our five-year plan struck us all at once like a lightning bolt, so we were happy with the gift God had given us, instead of treating it like a burden.
Our first apartment was the renovated attic of a very old house. The wooden floors were charming, the bathroom’s skylight (which came to be the only source of bright natural light) was refreshing, and the brick chimney gave it character. Unfortunately, the space was very small and became too cramped for us to ever want to be home. The amount of stuff we were gifted still haunts me. Bless my sweet and generous family, but even my car became too full of bags and boxes to fit any other passengers, and only got worse when Evelyn was born. I physically could not carry all the things we were given to the third floor while carrying a newborn too, so we had nowhere to escape. We were drowning in stuff and drowning in the cardboard, plastic wrap and trash that it came in from things we didn’t ask for and didn't need. In fact, we asked for people to stop giving us things. We became so torn between appreciation and being overwhelmed, and even feeling disrespected. I wish I could say we made it out of that place alive, but in a way, we didn’t. We moved after our one-year lease and got rid of (most) of the junk, never bothering to fully sweep through it until we were ready to pack up. I had never felt such a lack of control than I did when we lived as prisoners to that stuffy, unkempt nest.
In October of 2015, Sam, Evelyn and I moved into our current apartment. Even though it has one bedroom, it’s still bigger than our last. The ceilings are nine feet tall and there are long windows in each room that illuminate each corner, no matter the position of the sun. There are four spacious closets (our last had just one) and the kitchen is large and open. Evelyn still shares a bed with us, so there’s no need to take up space with a crib or a cot, though there is plenty of room for one when that time comes. It’s located on the second floor of a very old house in the center of our little town, has a very low rent and it’s all we see ourselves needing until we’re ready to buy our own house. It also happens to be right down the street from the coffee shop that Sam and I both work at and that he now co-owns.
This past spring, Sam left a well-paying job for a sabbatical after the daily stresses of work became too big of a burden for us to function. The work day never ended even after he’d come home. He drove a long distance, sometimes facing the temper of New Hampshire’s harsh winter, and would come home exhausted, unable to connect with me or with Evelyn or himself. Our initial thought was “this is just the sacrifice we must make in order to reach our dreams,” thinking that our dream was to live in a beautiful, rustic farmhouse as homesteaders with a handful of children, denying the pressure of today’s modern mantra of “work is life.” We were wrong. Our relationship felt muted, our weekends were for patching up whatever damage the week brought, and the three of us just never seemed to be at each other’s frequency. We were en route to a life of putting money before love. So, without knowing what lay ahead, we agreed it was best for Sam to leave his job and take time to reconnect with himself and God’s intentions for him. That’s when we realized our real dream was to live purposefully, simply, and rich with love.
I understand that with many families, either one or both parents sacrifice so much of their life and their energy into providing so that they can stay living a comfortable life, without the fear of losing their home or necessities. After Sam left his job and started working part-time as a waiter, we just barely made end’s meet. Luckily with our situation, we were not paying off any debt, had low bills and don’t pay for childcare (thank you, family!). Instead of driving an hour or two to get to work, Sam drove a mile down the road to a low-stress job with hours that allowed us to spend almost every single day together. That summer was the closest to our “dream” I think we’ll ever be. We’d wake up all together in a sunny room and hang out in bed until we felt like it. Sam and Ev would be sent to the coffee shop while I made breakfast, then we’d hang out some more until she’d go down for a nap. I’d make lunch, go to the gym or read a book with my beloved free time, and after she woke, we’d collect wild berries from our yard or go to a local farm or pick wildflowers. Sometimes we’d bring a blanket outside and eat our lunch, sometimes we’d sit in the grass eating mango popsicles. We were slow-living-artists in training with the best reward: clarity to go through our junk and to get rid of it. I started consigning our clothes at the local shop or donating the rest; we let go of books we were holding on to, old birthday cards, and baby toys. We rid ourselves of ugly lamps, useless documents and even our TV. To be honest, we’re about halfway done with what we’d like to accomplish, but we’re at the point now where almost all of our belongings that aren’t used daily can be stuffed into our closet and the chaos can be hidden by blank space. It doesn’t sound liberating, but that sort of containment has helped me gain back the control that was lost in our crazy first year of marriage, and with that control came lower anxiety levels, less stress, and even better sleep.
Before our dreamy summer came to an end, Sam was offered ownership in our friend’s coffee shop along with a new reality: a flexible job that Sam loves that also allows him to pursue his passion for woodworking on the side, and an overall, simple and cohesive life. Without him driving to work each day, we got rid of one car and started walking more. Our cheap rent and one vehicle allows us to save money, afford quality groceries and for me to stay home most days to raise our busy toddler. I work at the shop twice a week, which is a really fun way to get out of the house and to connect with other people and other moms, while also enjoying a hobby.
We went from doing what we thought we were supposed to do to doing what we thought God wanted us to do. I remind myself of that during times I feel like we aren’t growing at the rate everyone else seems to be, because good things take time. If we’re going to gradually inch our way to that beautiful old farmhouse, I’d rather do it with conviction and intent, never forgetting to mark these days with an unhurried morning kiss.
Alyssa, her husband Sam, and their daughter Evelyn live a relaxed life in their home state of New Hampshire. They are becoming more invested in their community and try to support local businesses and farms when possible. Sam spends his free time crafting beautiful wooden tables and Alyssa is picking up new hobbies each day. They love hanging out at music festivals, coffee shops, or in the comfort of their home.
Follow Alyssa on Instagram @alyssadelay
by: Elizabeth Santelmann
A note from Kate and Melissa: we both struggled with figuring out the best wardrobe for our changing bodies while pregnant. Even if you’re not pregnant, this article contains some words of wisdom on how to create a capsule wardrobe. So whether or not you’re pregnant or even planning to be, we hope you enjoy this piece on creating an intentional wardrobe that supports a simple lifestyle—something we can all get behind!
WHAT IS A CAPSULE WARDROBE?
A capsule wardrobe is a collection of a few essential items of clothing that are timeless. Ideally, these items should all mix and match well, to create the most outfits with the least amount of items. I have been doing a capsule wardrobe for 6 seasons now, and I love how easy it is to get dressed every morning. My closet usually looks like I’m shopping at a boutique! I also love that there are no wadded up shirts in the corners of my closet, and there are no forgotten shoes hiding behind my mini closet dresser. It makes me feel happier about getting ready for my day.
For some reason it was harder for me to apply the rest of these capsule wardrobe principles to maternity clothes. Maybe it was because I felt vulnerable about how I look while pregnant. Maybe it was because I hated all the maternity clothes that I had left from my last pregnancy. Maybe it was because I love to find my capsule items at thrift stores, and second hand maternity clothing choices are limited. There is also mostly silence on the topic of maternity capsules in the blogging world. I don’t know why that is, the price tag they put on maternity clothing makes it vital to buy intentionally! Read on to hear more of my thoughts on creating a maternity capsule wardrobe.
THOUGHTS ON CREATING A MATERNITY CAPSULE WARDROBE
The first two things I do upon noticing my bump (or the swelling and gas that for some reason plagues me pre-bump) is to completely clear out my closet, and only put back what I know will look great over the next couple months. Those favorite pieces that do not fit just seem to stare at me and yell, “You are getting bigger!” Really, this is to make room for my new favorite items, because who doesn’t like having an excuse to wear jeans with an elastic waistband!?
I also wanted to make a hard fast rule on how much I could keep hanging in my closet, so I bought a pack of 24 velvet hangers. This really makes my clothes stand out, while limiting the number of things I can hang. Your number may be higher or lower, but I suggest setting boundaries for how many items you’ll have out at a time.
Each person’s wardrobe is made up of highly personalized choices. I will give very specific information in regard to what I chose, because that is what I know. Know that the individual choice you make may look different from mine, but the general capsule wardrobe principles hold.
The thing I had a hard time doing is being realistic about what I would want to wear. I didn’t like spring green before I was pregnant, but somehow I thought I would like it while pregnant. Growing a human inside of my body doesn’t change what makes me feel attractive. If you like A-line dresses, that slim sheath dress that looks cute on the rack, probably won’t make you feel beautiful. The way your body is shaped should inspire you to pick flattering styles: you are your own best stylist! I have been amazed when looking at my current maternity capsule wardrobe at how similar it looks to my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. That wasn’t intentional, but what I like hasn’t changed.
KEY TIPS FOR CREATING A MATERNITY CAPSULE WARDROBE
- Does it fit my changing body well? That pre-bump stage when you don’t really look pregnant, but tend to feel bigger than your usual self can be a hard transition. This is a great time for billowy tops, which hide the changes your body is undergoing pretty well. Anything in my regular wardrobe that isn’t form fitting can usually be used during the first 3 months; you might find the same. Some pre-pregnancy items can be used for quite some time, before I have to move away from them entirely. The longer I can stay in your regular clothes, the more I feel like myself.
- Does this style look similar to my previous style? I bought a bright green shirt with strings on the side before I got pregnant, I still have no idea why I thought I would love that when I got pregnant. It simply wasn’t my style, pregnant or not. Stick with your personal style and favorite silhouette’s as you create your capsule wardrobe. Pregnancy is not the time to experiment with trends!
- Can I wear this with my pre-pregnancy investment pieces? One of the things I have tried to do when not pregnant is buy just a few classic clothing items and more accent pieces. This makes switching from my regular clothes to maternity much easier. I can still use my trench coat, leather jacket, and my cardigans all throughout pregnancy. I can put maternity t-shirts under them and they will look just as classy as my regular size t-shirts.
- Does this item coordinate with the season I will be pregnant? I foolishly bought 2 sleeveless maternity tops, when most of my pregnancy will be through fall and winter. I had just found out I was pregnant, and I started buying what I would need for the current season, not the season I would be showing. Be patient and buy clothes during the season that you need them.
GENERAL TIPS FOR CAPSULE WARDROBE SUCCESS
- Does this piece of clothing help me create multiple outfits? If you buy colored pants, make sure the color goes with most of the tops in your closet. It’s not bad to buy a statement piece while you are pregnant, just make sure it’s one you will use all the time!
- Is this piece in good condition? Are there rips, or holes? Its it stretched out? Does it have any stains? It really doesn’t matter how much you paid for it; If it’s worn out, it needs to go.
- Does this fit my lifestyle? As a stay at home mom I can’t buy fragile fabrics. Right after my son was born I bought a half dozen gauzy shirts. They were really popular at the time and I stained them and ripped them to shreds within a few months. I also choose not to have a collection of yoga pants, because if I do I end up neglecting the rest of my clothing! Unfancy blog has an awesome wardrobe planner that helps you map out your activities, so you can correlate them to your lifestyle. Find what works for your lifestyle and build a wardrobe around it.
- Do most of the colors in my closet go together? Choose colors that compliment each other and stick with just a few colors. My goal is to have all my clothes coordinate together. I also try to stick with mostly black as my basics (skirts, pants, shoes) since it’s a pretty easy color to find. Find what you look best in and buy your basics in that color.
MY MATERNITY WARDROBE
This is the list of what is in my capsule, and why I chose it. I hope that seeing specific pieces and the logic behind why I picked them will help you to think through what you want to pick. These choices reflect the lifestyle of a stay at home mom, who likes to look nice, but doesn’t like to think about getting dressed very much. If these aren’t pieces you would have worn before you got pregnant, just substitute them for a color or shape that feels more “you.” Let us know in the comments below some of your favorite clothing choices, and what has made them fit into your closet.
White V-neck T-Shirt – perfect for layering under a blazer, black leather jacket, or a sweater
Black V-neck T-Shirt – looks great with my gold jewelry, or a trench coat
Cream and Black Stripe T-Shirt – looks good by itself for the lingering hot fall days in Oklahoma
Grey T-Shirt – excellent for layering with a scarf, or my coral jewelry, puffer vest, or sweaters!
Teal Shirt – pop of color that goes with my color palate
Grey ¾ Sleeve Shirt – great neutral to go with multiple outfits
Sailor Stripe Shirt – this is a “normal self” staple that needed to repeat into my maternity clothes.
Grey Stripe Shirt – not my favorite. I already had it, and I know I can put it into a lot of looks that I like.
Red Plaid Shirt – red plaid is another of my pre-pregnancy staples, so it made sense to carry it over.
Mustard Sweater – the color that defines me, so naturally it’s in the mix.
2 Sleeveless Shirts – Would have been great for a summer pregnancy, but they are my “what was I thinking” purchases.
Blanqui Maternity Top – This allows me to wear all my pre-pregnancy jeans up to 6 or 7 months since I don’t bump very big at first. Supposedly as you get bigger it works as “support wear” too!
A Simple Black Dress - One cannot understate the versatility of a black dress!
Stretchy Chambray Dress - I removed the belt loops, so that it can be belted above my bump. I can wear this with a trench coat, a sweater, or my puffer vest.
For Bottoms I usually go very simple. I have one pair of skinny jeans and one pair of boot cut jeans. One of them is usually in a dark wash and the other a light wash. I also have a pair of maternity jean shorts.
For Skirts I have a black maxi, bright color maxi, and one floral print skirt. Maxis are great while pregnant because they stretch so much, and they can be layered to make a variety of outfits for any season!
ONE FINAL WORD
Capsule wardrobes have caused me to be much more intentional in my choices of clothing. It allows me to spend a little more on each item, because I know I will love it, rather than spending a little money on a lot of stuff that doesn’t work for me. In the world of maternity dressing sticking with what you already know works for you is vital! Then hang those choices in your closet with pride. When you look at what you have created it should bring so much satisfaction and joy. Getting dressed should be a breeze, because you have done the work ahead of time!
Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand.
"What I love most about living simply is the ability to actually enjoy life even in the chaos." - Trina CressRead More
By: Elizabeth Santelmann
I grew up in rural Illinois farm country on what my parents called an “Old McDonald Farm.” That meant we had a little of everything and farming wasn’t really what my dad did for a living.
We had a quarter acre garden, and a parade of several cows, sheep, a horse, chickens, ducks, and pigeons that came and went. My dad also planted an orchard with cherries, apples, peaches, and many other kinds of fruit. We all worked together most days of the week to weed the garden, pick fruit, gather eggs, pick wild mushrooms, care for our animals, and bale hay. We learned about pruning fruit trees, and grape vines at a young age. We also canned and froze a majority of our food for the winter. Working and playing together gave us lots of fun memories together.
A majority of the families in our area rarely left the state. My parents raised farm animals for additional income, so we could travel. If our animals sold well for the year, we would have a two week long road trip (usually ending in Northwest Washington where my dad grew up). Mom and Dad were great, by the time I graduated from High School I had been in every state west of the Mississippi and a substantial group of them east as well. We seldom took the same route twice. So all year we bottle fed baby lambs and pitched hay to the cows with the hope that a long vacation was in our future.
Then I moved to Oklahoma City for a job where I met and married my husband. After our son was born, I freaked out! Nothing about the environment where I was parenting was similar to what I had experienced as a child. I desperately wanted to give my kids what I had as a kid, but that seemed impossible with my current environment. (I mean have you tried gardening in Oklahoma?!?! Also for some reason they don’t smile on people bringing farm animals into backyards.). I stressed about this for about a year and gave up. I thought there was no way I could take the lifestyle I grew up with and infuse it into my kid’s life, and there was no way that we were moving onto acreage with the kind of job my husband has.
At some point I had a change of heart. I started reading about raised bed gardening and lasagna composting. I decided to do a modified version of gardening for my back yard. I started that fall collecting bags of people’s leaves from beside the road and topping it with dirt and chicken manure from a friend. (People recommended buying cow manure at Lowe’s but the farm girl in me rebelled. I seriously considered dragging some back with us from Illinois, but my husband put his foot down. Thankfully, a friend with chickens stepped in and saved me from insanity) I watered it a few times over the winter, and stirred it up with a shovel! Come to find out it works great. My baby would play on a blanket near-by, while I worked. It was a continual reminder for me to take him outside whenever the weather was nice!
Fast-forward two years, out garden isn’t perfect, but we have so much fun. We now have 4 raised beds and the dirt is incredible. Since I’m not a huge fan of just sitting outside with my son, I’ll pull a weed or two, straighten my tomato cages, or pick lettuce while he plays. I have learned how to plant Marigolds, and basil at the bottom of my tomato so the hearty Oklahoma bugs don’t gobble them up before we do. I am amazed that here I can plant a winter garden that we harvest in the spring!
Of course I still go back to Illinois and have garden envy. Their plants are always bigger and more green than mine are, but that isn’t my goal. My goal is for my little, city boy to know where our food comes from. On that level I’m already a success. He begs me to pick him organic sugar snap peas, so he can eat them while he swings. He loves for me to point out ripe tomatoes so he can pick them himself. He asks me what plants are weeds and which are vegetables. At some point we hope Oklahoma City will sneak through a law allowing chickens again, but until then we will play with what we have!
Elizabeth is a transplant from Illinois to Oklahoma. She moved to Oklahoma for a year-long internship working with inner-city youth and during that year she met Joseph her now husband of 4 years. When their son was born she came to realize that motherhood was a continued exercise in “stopping to smell the roses”. Since then she has been learning to slow her mind and heart, and enjoy as many snuggles as possible. You will often find her in the back yard, almost always with a cup of hot tea and a book in hand. She and her son enjoy looking for bugs, picking vegetables, and blowing bubbles in the summer wind!
Brandi McIntosh lives in the hills of central Texas with her husband Dan of 16 years, 4 kids, and a few farm animals. The slow, simple life suits them just fine, a life in which they make time and space for what matters most. Brandi can often be found behind a camera lens, wandering outdoors with her kids, reading aloud to the family, kissing baby rolls, working as designer on their house projects as well as for the homes they restore, and sipping kombucha on her back porch. Follow along their intentional journey on Instagram @mcintoshhomesteadRead More