Sarah Carter Studio » artist | photographer | writer | advocate

Talking clothes and shopping can feel indulgent and disconnected from real world problems. I get that. I use that as an excuse to keep me from self-care a lot, actually. What I am learning, though, is that taking care of myself means making sure I have what I need to thrive. Dressing myself in a way that speaks value and honor is a good thing. We shouldn’t overindulge, of course, but building a quality closet foundation is a great way to empower us to step into our full unique identities and potential. 

I remember the days when shopping for clothes was fun. When it was inspiring and interesting and I could take my time to wander from store to store, trying on dresses and tops and jeans with ease. With joy, even. HA. Two kids later those days are sooooo long gone. Shopping is what you would make me do if you wanted to torture me and watch me cry. Just the thought of trying to wrangle two children into a store – the toddler grabbing various things off hangers and throwing them on the floor, the grade schooler rolling his eyes and asking how much longer til we can go home –  it all makes me want to curl up and take a nap.

The real drama of a shopping outing these days happens in the dressing room, where the unforgiving mirrors are there to remind you that you have, indeed, had two children (incase you forgot about the screaming overtired, hungry toddler who is clinging to your legs.) It’s especially helpful when your older child chimes in with extra commentary such as, “That shirt really makes you look like you have a baby in your tummy, mom.” (I DO NOT.)

Halfway through the entire endeavor, you just give up. You give up, because the toddler is now kicking and punching her tiny fists on the dirty floor and your grade schooler is crawling under the door trying to escape and because all the things you brought to try on are very clearly made for people who really are forever 21, of which I am not. God bless the tiny sales girl who politely knocks on your door, as she will have a war zone of hangers and tops and graham cracker crumbs to manage once we leave this tiny room.

Of course, these are just a few hypothetical reasons why a person, like myself, might not want to spend her time shopping. The problem I run into, then, is that I shop online and hope for a good fit the first time (<– that right there does not exist, folks. It is the unicorn that online stores use to get you to click “add to cart”.)

I end up never shopping, and am stuck wearing the same things in my closet that I’ve owned since the last time I went shopping, in 2008.

I had no idea how to solve this problem. I would go to dress in the morning and feel sad about the dated, worn-out clothing options in my closet. It was like anything I put on made me feel as old and ragged as the clothes I was wearing. Perhaps that sounds dramatic, but I am a big believer in how our environments affect us.  I’ve tried some solutions to this – I did the Stitch Fix boxes for a few months. But to be honest, as much as I wanted to love it, most of the things they sent me ended up not being me.

So when my friend Annette mentioned that she was giving the whole Capsule trend a try, I was intrigued. It took me months after our talk to try it for myself, but recently after another morning of standing in my closet feeling like I had nothing to wear, I decided to get serious about changing the way I do it. I researched and found a great blog devoted to the Capsule. It explains what it is, how to do it, there are even print outs and pdfs to help you along. She also posts her outfits and links to sources where you can shop them. (If you are at all interested in doing this yourself, I highly recommend jumping over to her page!)

Basically, its this: for three months, you decide on 37 items of clothing that you will commit to wearing. Everything else gets cleared out and put away – out of sight and mind. You make a list of what you have, what you need, and you set up a budget to purchase items to fill in the gaps. Every three months, you do it again. Slowly you are building a solid foundation of clothing pieces that you really love and need and wear.

I loved the process of this because it forced me to be ruthless about editing my closet. No longer could I keep the things that lingered in the back because I like the idea of them, but not the item itself. Perhaps it didn’t fit right, or I like the cut but no the color, perhaps it used to fit or holds sentimental value to me. Fine. Box it up and store it in the basement. But don’t keep it in your closet. That space became reserved only for the items I will be wearing for the next 90 days.

I loved the process because it helped me identify what I have an abundance of, and what I need to invest in. Most of the time I get so overwhelmed trying to figure it out, I walk away and stay in my leggings and tshirt all day. And that’s fine, friends. Stay in your jams all day – if it makes you feel good. The problem for me, however, is that it didn’t make me feel good. I felt tired, and old, and boring. I wanted to feel awake, inspired, fresh and creative. Dressing is a great way to do that. It can be a powerful tool.

I loved the process because it taught me how to shop. No longer was I making a rush decision, or finding myself purchasing something because I was bored or to fill an emotional need. I had a list and a budget and a goal. It was refreshing and motivating.

I’m excited for this process, and who knows, I may even find myself enjoying shopping again (while the kids are with a sitter, of course!) Below is an inspiration board for my early spring/summer capsule:


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  • April 9, 2015 - 10:19 pm

    Heather Hammond - Love this post! I am in the same boat with little kids in tow and still wanting to feel put together. I agree that our environment affects us – and for me, this includes fashion, for sure. I have wanted to try the capsule wardrobe (feels like mornings would be easier) but felt stuck with the because I feel like I would need to start from scratch (and don’t have a budget for this) but I’m intrigued by this blog and the idea of focusing on 90 days at a time. That feels manageable.ReplyCancel


How this happened, I do not know. I’ve been quite clear about how I feel about this – which is basically very very badly. There shall be no growing up in this house. ETERNAL CHILDHOOD! WE WILL DANCE AND PLAY AND STAY LITTLE FOREVER! And yet, somehow, they keep finding ways to defy me. I tucked my baby into bed last night, scratching his back and twirling his curls through my fingers. I held his hand, which more resembles a puppy paw, all padded and too big for his body. I slipped the covers over his arms, laden with slightly more defined muscles he is oh so proud of. My baby went to bed and woke a seven year old.

And what a fantastic seven year old he is. I am so over the moon for this kid. There aren’t words for the way I feel about him – proud is too weak a word to describe the feelings that swell in my heart as I watch him trust his compassionate compass. There must be a better word out there for what a parent feels for their child – love doesn’t feel big enough.

Love is, of course. We tend to use it too much, so that it becomes commonplace and ordinary. But maybe that is part of what makes it so very beautiful. Love is tried and true. It is overused, under-appreciated, bumped and tossed around – we say “I love you” and “I love those shoes” in the same casual tone. Even so, love is the thing that remains when all else fails.

Through every up and down we’ve faced on this parenting journey so far, I’ve found love is also the deepest well we can draw from. There is no end to it. Only more. Abundance. I love my son with an abundance of gratitude and constant awe that he is mine to parent.

That is agape love right there. It requires sacrifice, a dying to self so that another may thrive. It is the love that comes from the source of love itself. That is the love God exudes toward all of creation, and it is the love a parent experiences for their children. It is a holy love.

He is the one who made me a mama – a title I’d dreamed of, fretted over, anticipated and revered. On that first warm spring day in the early morning light, I held my son and felt that agape love take over my heart, mind and spirit. I was forever deeper, wider, and more capable than before, because he was with me.

Today we celebrate him turning another year older (despite my pleas not to!) We cheer him on as he steps into a new season of discovery. We honor the years he has gathered so far in this life, all the memories and experiences having contributed to the person he is today. We humbly ask our Good Father for health and favor in the year ahead – but mostly we ask for God’s nearness. That God would be a familiarity for Emerson. That he would be so normal, so commonplace, so easily accessed that he even be taken for granted. Because that is what love does. It stands beside us and keeps on loving no matter what.

Happy Birthday, my boy. We love you with a God-sized love and pray you grow another year nearer to knowing that deep in your bones.


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  • April 5, 2015 - 8:24 pm

    » my baby is seven - […] How this happened, I do not know. I’ve been quite clear about how I feel about this – which is …read more       […]ReplyCancel


He was one when we first saw his photograph.  Rolls for days and eyes that stared right into my soul. He was our boy. I knew it instantly, although it would be months … years, even … before I would let myself say it out loud.  I won’t share his story or his background because those things are private and they are his alone to share. But due to extreme circumstance, little E came to be a part of the City of Refuge Ghana family that we were involved with while we pursued our international adoption.

Years went by, painfully, slowly, then quickly and excitedly.  We waited, and waited, and waited some more.  Then our agency closed down, taking our invested money with them.  My heart was broken into a million pieces.  But it expanded quickly, because a week after we found out our adoption had failed (in a sense, an adoption miscarriage) we found out we were unexpectedly pregnant with our daughter.  I was grieving the loss of a child while carrying a new life.  That kind of intensity requires an emotional maturity I am thankful to have found within the deepest recesses of my soul.  I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, and yet I know so many of us have walked a similar path of loss and hope.

For me, the next few months were a combination of silent grieving and morning sickness.  Then we heard our daughter’s heartbeat, and then we saw her sonogram, then we felt her movements – little kicks and elbows ramming my ribs and lungs.  She was alive.  She was really happening.  I began to let myself hope, again.

And then she was born.  Perfect. Alive.  Healthy.  She was mercy, incarnated.

And yet – that little boy we had prayed for and longed for still slept in another country each night.  I knew he was in good hands, safe and loving and honest hands, and though it provided comfort, I was still grieving that our story was shaping up differently than I had expected.

Last year I got on a plane and flew to Ghana and I got to hold my boy. I got to sit with him and listen to him tell me about his favorite color and why he loves futbol.  I got to watch him run and laugh and play.

There he was – Perfect. Alive. Healthy. He was love, incarnated.

Today he turned six.  Birthdays are hard.  Each one represents another year of life lived apart from each other.  But today, I woke up and thought of him and you know what? When I closed my eyes, I remembered what it felt like to hold him in my arms, and that holy holy moment when he played with my hair and put his hands on my cheeks and smiled right into my eyes.  I remember how it felt to see him playing in the sand with his friends, only to see me walking by and leap, LEAP, to his feet and rush to me for a hug.

10448782_10202717744200051_2083178238939872297_n I have these memories of him, I have held him, felt him, spoken with him, smiled and laughed and colored and danced on Ghanaian soil with my boy.  I had to get on a plane and say goodbye to him and it was one of the most difficult things I’ve done.  But I could do it, because I know he is safe, he is cared for, and he is in good hands.  That is a gift and it is why we will never stop advocating for City of Refuge.


This morning after I prayed for him and let myself relive our memories together, I made a special birthday donation to CORM on his behalf.  Now I’m not asking you to do the same, but if you feel compelled to honor our boy and our story in some way, a donation in any amount sure would be a beautiful way to do it.  You can also donate your voice and your social platforms by sharing this post or sharing the link to the CORM website with your facebook, instagram, and twitter friends.

Click here to donate to City of Refuge.

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Last week we spent a whirlwind weekend out west – first a Vegas reunion of sorts with some of our oldest and dearest soul sisters and brothers (yes, the original house church of Cold Tangerines regard) and then a hop over the desert to dip our toes in the ocean.  It was glorious – every second of it.  Sure, Vegas will always be weird (and a little sad – am I right?) but it didn’t matter where we were because we were together, finally, after four long years apart.  Yes, yes.  It was glorious and I am sure there is a separate post brewing in my heart, one I will spill with you anther time.  Today is about the ocean.  And Brittani. And about how incredibly perfect it is, the way her eyes match the color of the sea.  What a lucky, lucky gal.  It was an honor to spend some time shooting her in Newport Beach, California – doing my best to capture her in her current season of life: one that is brave and unbridled and ambitious and open.  Brittani – thanks for being brave with me and sharing your spirit with us all!

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