“Tiny but terrific”

The News & Observer "Tiny but terrific" with Nicole Alvarez 1

Over a month ago I got an email from Stacy, a reporter for our regional newspaper The News & Observer, asking if we could chat about small spaces and my blog. I’m always excited to talk about small spaces, so we met that very weekend. Fast forward to this Saturday’s front cover of the Home & Garden section, and there I was! A huge picture of me in my new apartment filled up most of the space above the fold, with the article continuing onto a second page. There was even a headline on the newspaper’s cover directing to the article!

The News & Observer "Tiny but terrific" with Nicole Alvarez 2

The community support has been overwhelming! People reached out from all parts of my life, from my parents’ church friends, to my middle and high school teachers, to my grandmother. It meant so much to me. Thank you!

A special thanks to Stacy for doing such a lovely job writing the article. You can read the full article here:

The News & Observer "Tiny but terrific" with Nicole Alvarez 3

A Year Without Buying Clothes

Clothes are a big part of our lives, and can be a big part of our budgets. In an attempt to simplify your life and save money long-term, could you commit to only “shopping your closet” for a year?

Marie is my most fashion-savvy friend. She’s never been afraid to spend big bucks on a fabulous wardrobe must-have. So when she told me she was not going to buy clothes for the year of 2012, I was a bit skeptical. Now, a year later, I can vouch that she did it! Well, mostly.

Simple Living - A Year Without Buying Clothes - Marie Fornaro

Why did you decide to go a year without buying clothes?

There were several reasons, but I primarily wanted to save money. I read about the idea in Real Simple magazine; a couple listed a year-long moratorium on clothes shopping as the best money-saving decision they had made. I added up the amount of money I had spent the previous year on clothes, and it was over $2,000! At that point, I was determined to make a change, and use that money for something more fun than hanging another sweater in my closet.

I had also recently moved to a very small town in the mountains (see her small home) without a mall or boutique in sight, so temptation to shop was at an all-time low.

What were the rules?

The rules were simple: don’t buy any clothes, either new or used, for one calendar year. I started on January 1, 2012. I did make an exception for costumes. Halloween is very important to me!

How did you fare on your challenge? Did you keep your word?

I did pretty well, but I wasn’t perfect. I made it all the way until August, when I purchased an outfit (see below) to wear to Penland School of Craft‘s annual benefit auction- a soiree so fabulous I felt it warranted the purchase of a new dress and shoes. And, I effectively ended my challenge on December 30, 2012, with a modest shopping spree. I know, I know, I was weak and couldn’t wait two more days!

Simple Living - A Year Without Buying Clothes - Revolver Boutique 01

What was the first thing you bought after the completion of the challenge?

I bought some great pieces from Revolver Consignment Boutique in Raleigh- my all-time favorite store. Two sweaters and a silk blouse.

How has this year of not purchasing new clothes changed your habits/lifestyle? What did you learn?

This year taught me that not buying clothes is a lot easier than I ever imagined. When you make the choice to “shop your closet” instead, you’ll be amazed at what you find in there! Also, after making the conscious decision not to shop for clothes, I began to make similar decisions with respect to other stuff, too. For instance, I stopped buying home goods, jewelry, and gift items as well. When I walked into a store, I thought: “Look at all this stuff I don’t need,” rather than “Look at all this stuff I want!” It has been incredibly liberating, and I hope I can stick with this new outlook as I settle back into life in the Big City of Raleigh, NC.

What’s your next challenge?

This year, I’m challenging myself to add something to my life instead of eliminating. I’d like to spend the year nurturing relationships with the people who are dear to me. Removing excess from my life a little bit at a time, starting with bad shopping habits, has cast a sharp light on what is most important.

Simple Living - A Year Without Buying Clothes - Revolver Boutique 02

La Simplicidad | Simplicity

“La simplicidad es una de las virtudes más complejas.” -Mario Borredetti

“Simplicity is one of the most complex virtues.” -Mario Borredetti

My 306 sqft Studio Apartment

Facts:

  • size: 306 sqft
  • type: studio apartment
  • city: Raleigh
  • inhabitant(s): just me!
  • my info: website | twitter

Describe your place:

My studio apartment is one of 5 apartments located above a dentist office, on the edge of Cameron Park historic neighborhood. It’s in one of the most walkable parts of the city. I live within a mile of so many amenities: a commercial center with 2 grocery stores, a couple yoga studios, a great park, a few of bars and restaurants, and even my job.

Although it’s small (306 sqft), my studio feels really spacious and open, thanks to big windows, built-in storage, and minimal furnishings. It has hardwood floors, mini-appliances, and a basement with laundry facilities and plenty of extra storage space.

What do you love about your space?:

Every part of my apartment feels intentionally designed and appropriately scaled.

The large operable windows really make the space. There are three windows in the main space and one in the bathroom – more than enough light to keep my studio naturally lit during the day. The west sun glowing through my translucent curtains makes me smile when I return home in the afternoon, especially when there’s a breeze and Broughton High School’s bells are ringing.

Also, the amount of built-in storage is incredible. The hook/shelf/pantry combo at the entry, and the nook just outside the bathroom accommodates everything: books, keys, food, cleaning supplies, clothes, shoes, linens, and more.

How would you improve your space?:

The only amenity that would improve my apartment would be a dedicated outside space like a balcony or roof terrace, to be able to relax outside or tend to a garden. But fortunately, I can walk 5 minutes to my favorite park in Raleigh, and commonly picnic there. So that park has become my backyard. And my windowsill has become home to a collection of potted plants helping liven up my space.

What do you like best about small living?:

This way of living has really influenced my lifestyle. I am more selective when shopping for anything from clothes to furniture, only purchasing what I need and what will last a long time. I am more conscious about my waste, recycling as much as possible, and I even started vermicomposting my food waste. And I walk more often!

Loving where you live really makes a profound impact on your life. My small studio influences me daily.

Tips for fellow and potential small-space dwellers:

You can make a small space feel spacious. Decorating can become overwhelming quickly, so keep furniture selections as petite and simple as possible. Having a few, key, and appropriately scaled items is the way to go. If your space is scaled down, so should your furnishings and decorations.

Living comfortably in a small space is all about editing out what you don’t need – both in your physical environment and your general lifestyle.

Anything else you would like to share?:

I have never been so excited about a place where I’ve lived. Living in this studio apartment has truly influenced my way of living and perception of space. As an architect, I can’t wait to design my own small space!