Passion and Mom’s Closet

Via Pixabay

Passion is a curious, paradoxical thing. It has the capability of completely wiping out our energy stores faster than we can replenish them, at the same time endowing us with the energy we need to take action. It is a catalyst for hard work and dedication, breeding elite athletes, scholars, and artists. Passion makes us scream, yell, and cheer at sports games. It makes us cry and hit things when we feel frustrated. Passion keeps us awake at night, mulling over thoughts and kneading them over and over like a lump of dough. It is an emotion that is fraught with intensity to a level that defies logic. And that is why we must keep it in check, lest we careen over the edge of sanity and sensibility, and it turns against us and overdo ourselves to our breaking points. Then we step into the land of Unhealthy Choices.

Too often, we use stuff as a measure of how much passion we have. To show our passion for others, we shower them with gifts. We don symbolic jewelry and graphic tees. We plaster bumper stickers on our cars. We buy logos and proudly display them. We buy gear and supplies, often hoping that the purchases will guilt us into following through on an activity we’ve been meaning to do. We keep things to display to others who we are and what we represent.

These outward shows, as we know, are just the tip of the iceberg. We can draw some inferences from them, but only just a sliver. We truly get to know people by being with them, not by just looking at them or watching them from afar. By experiencing life with them. By having a two-way conversation with them. By listening, taking in, and comprehending. No need to agree or disagree with them, perhaps – but you know, the beyond-the-stuff and beneath-the-skin difficult and mushy stuff we all keep repressed deep inside.

The journey of sifting through of things and letting them go is a truly personal experience. And this was a journey my mom had to go through when she decluttered her closet. Decades of stuff piled up in boxes and on shelves were confronted and thanked for their service before being passed to another owner. And then the newly found time and energy was redirected to writing about her childhood memories. How awesome is that?! These stories helped me know her better than a pile of things ever would. Stuff has a way of occupying the mind despite not actively interfering with day-to-day life, and confronting it helps us refocus our attention to our passions.

5 Items I Don’t Miss & 5 Items I’m Glad I Own

via PixaBay

Is it ironic that a minimalist would write a post on “stuff,” the very “stuff” that we’re trying to detach ourselves from? Yes, humans invented millions of tools and objects, but I’d still give credit to the people who devise clever things that actually make our lives better or easier. I’ve decluttered hundreds of items from my life, but a few of them stick out in my mind as things I’m certain I made the right decision on.

5 Things I Booted Without Regret

  1. Bath mats. I used to own two memory foam bath mats and had them lying in my bathroom for my wet feet. They got so dirty so quickly, caught a lot of hair/dirt/lint/grime, took forever to dry, and had to be cleaned so frequently that eventually I threw them out. It’s not much extra effort to dry the bottoms of my feet before stepping out of the
  2. Dish drying rack. After a few iterations of dish racks, I settled on an oversink solution. I have a dishwasher and everything except my pots, baking pans, and knives are dishwasher safe, so I don’t really need more than that. More counter space and no more moldy plastic!
  3. All of my leather bags. Leather is high maintenance and good leather is expensive. My Patagonia bag is big enough for a 3-city trip in Europe and durable enough for daily bike commutes.
  4. Decorative porcelain and specialty glassware. Not worth the storage space/worry about knocking them over/cleaning off the dust, and like most decorations with no purpose other than to look pretty, I got tired of looking at them.
  5. Jeans. As an athleisure addict, I stopped wearing jeans. Even Uniqlo’s ultra stretch jeans, which I wore for years before finally donating them (and they were still in excellent condition!), couldn’t beat the comfort of stretchy skinny Ponte pants. Jeans are fashionable, sure – but if you’re like me and prize comfort/practicality over fashion (but look for pieces that intersect the two), you might find that jeans, while excellent for heavy-duty work or painting jobs, are just too stiff and take forever to dry to earn a place in your closet. There, I said it. I don’t own jeans, and it’s okay!

On the flip side, here are…

5 Things I’m Glad I Own (this list was harder to write!)

  1. My road bike. It is my workhorse in fair weather. It is my workhouse in less than fair weather. In exchange for just a little more time, it has greatly improved my commuting experience, strengthened my body, given me another appreciable form of transportation, and another network of friendships. It is a life-giving, money saving item!
  2. My electric toothbrush. If you haven’t upgraded from a normal toothbrush to an electric one…you’re missing out on epic levels of cleanliness in less time and effort. The first time I saw my dentist after buying an electric toothbrush, he complimented me on how clean my teeth were, and I stopped getting cavities!
  3. An oversized 8×10 shag rug. My mom had a couple of extra couches that she gave me, but I often have more guests around, and instead of buying an even bigger couch for my already small living space, I bought a giant, thick, and fluffy rug. It doesn’t shed, is insanely soft, and the high pile makes it fun to lie around in. The drawback of high pile shag is that they are harder to clean, but for how much use it gets, I don’t mind it at all.
  4. My speaker system. I grew up on music, and the difference is palpable when you have a sound system to enjoy it with.
  5. My iPad mini 4. Some minimalists may chastise me for this one. But I am an ultralight traveler, and bringing a laptop is almost always too much, and bringing only a phone is bad for my eyes. My iPad is just perfect. Apps can help me great fun digital content (videos, pictures…) and I can read eBooks on it. The portability makes it easy to record aerial videos and even whip up a blog post in a pinch.

It ended up taking me twice as long to finish the second list, which just goes to show how easy it is for me, and indeed most people, to take things for granted. Sometimes, it is a fun exercise to analyze what you have in the house and realize that your real needs (outside of survival) are satisfied by meaningful relationships, activities, and interactions. Everything else is just stuff. Stuff doesn’t reciprocate.

Bring on the good life, fueled by what matters most to oh-so-unique you.

10 Simple Living Starters for Aspiring Minimalists

via PixabayI used to be a millennial with extra-fancy (read: expensive) tastes. I had an eye for the ornate, which was fueled by a trip to Versailles and the antique treasure troves of Buffalo, New York. I was dazzled by porcelain with gold trim and expensive leather goods. I bought expensive food at Whole Foods and regularly ate froyo. I dumped money left and right on short term pleasures. Wanderlust was eating at me, but I was so bogged down by expensive, unfulfilling habits that my travel dreams could not be realized.

Being an unmarried, single millennial is a really good time to learn minimalist habits. Not owning a home, not owning a car, and not being a parent frees you from many “normal” adult responsibilities. Some of us may as well adopt minimalism for the sake of our financial situations, especially if we’re in student loan and credit card debt. We can establish habits that will expand our life skill kit and self-sustainability – critical keys to minimalist lives.

Before anxiously diving into assuming “normal” adult responsibilities, like taking out a mortgage or auto loan, why don’t we simplify our lives first and see if we can possibly reduce our footprints first? The less we need to worry about, the more clarity we have in our lives. Here are some starters for those of you who aren’t sure how to tackle this whole minimalism thing, or just want to see if it’s right for your situation.

1. Break free from your past. Confront your emotional baggage from the past, and find a way to break free from it. Making peace with your past will help you focus on the present. You can even make your own personal ritual as a way to represent letting go. For example, you can set it as your intention when you do yoga, or declutter one thing a day related to a painful past.

2. Start to get rid of your crap – especially the stuff that is tied to a past version of yourself. Yes, I do mean all the useless memorabilia and random things that have followed you into the present day without you noticing. Decluttering is hard, and that is why it took me several years to do and numerous trips to Goodwill. But it will also help you break free from worrying about your stuff, which we do too much anyhow. Don’t underestimate the cumulative effect of slow, consistent decluttering. It’s very un-KonMari, but it worked very well for me.

3. Make a list, on paper, of loose-ends that need to be tied. Schedule that doctor’s appointment. Pay off that loan. Open that bank account. Close that credit card. Buy that thing you need. Get that thing fixed. Then, set aside one day to tackle all of them (realistically of course). At the end, celebrate with ice cream.

4. Clean out your refrigerator. All the sauces you never use, the expired stuff, the moldy stuff – toss it out. Wipe down the surfaces and start anew.

5. Cook all your meals for a week. If a friend wants to go out, invite that person over to cook with you instead. Cooking with someone is a wonderful way to spend quality time together.

6. Start to read simple living books (see my reading list) to give yourself a mental boost.

7. Go for a run or a bike ride. 30 minutes is only a small percentage of your day – you can afford 30 minutes to devote to your body.

8. Trim your online presence. Employers do look you up. Assume that nothing you have online is private. Delete subscriptions from mailing lists, hide or delete photos (that one time you were drunk out of your mind? Who needs to see that, really?). Rewrite your short bios. Update your LinkedIn. You’re better than you were yesterday, and make sure all the channels you’re on reflect that.

9. Have an electronics clean-out session. Unless you’re a tech junkie, chances are, you’ll have spare cables and connectors lying around. You can organize them by using gear ties and labels or simply declutter them. Unplug all the things that you rarely use, save power, grow money mustache.

10. Reduce your commitments. At the risk of looking like a commitment-phobe, I’m certain that a lot of us have a hard time saying “no” to events that we really don’t feel like going to. I really don’t feel sad, for example, if somebody doesn’t attend my graduation. I find formal ceremonies to be incredibly boring, and while some of them have excellent speakers, I went to a high school where I had to sit through 1,100 names on the stage, and the three-hour ordeal was (mostly) a waste of time. I wouldn’t expect friends and family to be willing to sit through that. We’d find another way to celebrate that is less boring and time consuming.

Decluttering Passive Entertainment (Media – Television, News, Radio, Sports…)

via Pixabay

What do TV shows, movies, sports events, Netflix, and radio talk shows have in common?

They all involve other people talking or doing things and you watching or listening. Open any news site, turn on the radio, watch the television, or open a magazine and you’re probably going to be bombarded with things like:

  • How [insert sports player’s name here] made a WINNING PLAY! And [insert someone’s opinion/prediction here].
  • How [insert celebrity’s name here] got involved with [insert 2nd celebrity’s name here] and said “[insert scandalous phrase here]”
  • How [insert product here] will relieve you of your pain and that you should talk to your doctor about it
  • How you might be the next big lottery winner

I admit, I have the fortune of naturally resisting passive entertainment. Even as a child, I hardly watched television, preferring to play with friends or play pretend outdoors. My brother and I would get on our bikes and pretend to order fast food at the mailbox at the end of our driveway. When I was in high school, I had an epiphany about myself that I still remember ten years later: I dislike watching things. I have very little patience for sitting somewhere and watching things happen, like they do at sports events, shows and concerts. I had a much stronger preference for doing those things. At the time, being able to “do” things was not within reach, because so much of my time was consumed by school and well, I was a kid. But when I was released into the real world, I earned my freedom, through hard work and becoming physically fit (read: discipline), and I earned access to doing more activities. That excites me more than any celebrity scandal or sports event.

In life, we are gifted a limited number of hours with which we use our time. Inevitably, some of those hours are going to be used for unpleasant, but important things, like filling out your taxes, dealing with a plumbing problem, calming a screaming baby, or just making some darn money. We do these things in exchange for peace of mind, health, or freedom. Once all the necessaries are done, instead of saying to ourselves, “all I want to do is collapse on the couch and do nothing,” let’s say, “now is my chance to do what I’ve been meaning to do but haven’t had the time.” I don’t know that vegging in front of the tube is something most people wish they had more time to do.

Your freedom is dependent on your financial means, physical means, and mental means (all of which are interrelated). That’s why it kills me that so many of us are using it not to find ways to optimize our lives and get ourselves some more freedom, but throw away the hours watching, sitting, and not creating, crafting, contributing, or well…being active and present in our lives.

Let’s avoid chaining ourselves to the tube of passive entertainment when there is so much out there for us to do. Famous people can be inspirational, don’t get me wrong, and some of them do deserve our attention. And there’s a lot of value in supporting people you care about at their own events and celebrations. But so many people that get the most attention don’t need it, and every time you devote your time and attention to them, you’re voting with your most valuable resource, your time.

Let’s devote ourselves to pursuits that align with our deepest desires. News stations, sports channels, and mobile games are sensational; not necessarily well researched or worth your time.

We can do better. Let’s declutter them.

Clean, Organize, or Neither? The Choice is Yours

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Who thinks they never have enough time?

*raises hand*

We always talk about being busy and complain that we don’t have time to spend with one another. Our busy-ness is sabotaging our relationships and making us exhausted and stressed. We’ll talk about decluttering our schedules another time, but one way we can free up some of our precious time at home is reducing the amount of home maintenance we need to do.

The idea of needing to spend a day “preparing the house” for guests is not new to me. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a large family in a very large house, but whenever guests were expected, the kids were responsible for helping Mom wipe everything down, put things away, pretty up all the rooms, weed the garden, polish the wooden floors, vacuum the carpets, shake out the rugs, and organize all the messes – magazines, bathroom products, clothes strewn everywhere, and so on. Because the house was so big, these were whole day affairs. Kudos to Mom and Dad for splitting the labor among us and teaching us home maintenance skills of course, but after doing it over and over again, I developed a strong desire to severely reduce the amount of maintenance I needed to do in my own home.

I was never taught about decluttering. Throughout grade school, classmates would crowd around the kids who owned glitzy cool stuff. Just having a cool thing earned you a ticket to popularity. But no one told me about the burden of ownership, so I thought that having things was equivalent to having friends. Sometimes this mentality leaks into adulthood – being friends with the one person with the cool house or cool car, for example, earned you inclusion into that social group or social standing. At home, my family taught me to conserve and capitalize on the resources available to me and appreciate everything we had. We never threw things away if they were salvageable in some way. The idea of not wasting things and money was drilled into my head, from eating every last scrap of food on my plate to the clothes I owned. Reducing waste is important, no doubt. But not throwing anything away led to a steady accumulation of stuff over the years, and I learned something along the way:

The intention is to save everything to waste nothing. But keeping everything does end up wasting something very very special:

TIME!

Time, our most precious, nonrenewable resource! How can we forget?

Cleaning and organizing are simply maintenance of existing spaces. And when you have to clean and organize over and over again – putting things back in their places day after day after week after week for years and years – every second you’re spending reorganizing is another second of your life gone forever. Sure, we won’t be eliminating it ALL or we will take it too far, but removing anything will still help reduce the constant organizing and reorganizing. Without that need, how many minutes of our lives can we save, I wonder?

Next time you reach over to pick up something to throw out, ask yourself if the time you’re spending is better spent elsewhere. Ideally, you’ll want to reach a state in which your home is guest-friendly within 5 minutes of picking up after yourself.

If no one else has faith in you, I do. Start today. Here’s a list to kickstart your decluttering efforts (and here).

10 Things to Declutter – Bathroom Edition

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With decluttering, sometimes we need that little push to get us started. Reading other people’s decluttering stories can sometimes give you the much-needed push when you hit a decluttering slump.  The “10 Things to Declutter” series is intended to do just that.

Bathrooms are special. They are temples for self-pampering and renewal, either to rejuvenate ourselves after a sleep, freshen up after a long day, or get ourselves ready for the world. They are relaxation hubs where we can reflect in peace. And so, naturally, it would make sense to keep them clutter-free.

via Pixabay

If I was to envision the perfect bathroom, I think of a serene, open space where I don’t feel overwhelmed by personal care products. Of course, we can highlight the plump, fluffy towel and tasteful soap dispenser, but as a general rule of thumb, bathrooms, like bedrooms, as relaxation rooms, should ideally be kept as minimal as possible, if even simply to make them easier to clean. And everyone prefers a clean bathroom. You know it.

via Pixabay

So now, without further ado, here are 10 things you can safely declutter from your bathroom.

  1. Are you a bar soap person? If not, why do you own bar soap? Declutter the soap, and the soap holder.
  2. Spent bath poufs and rags. They don’t last forever.
  3. That pile of beauty samples you collected. The world will go on if you don’t use them.
  4. Old, unfinished containers of lotions (Bath and Body Works has a way of making you buy millions of flavors of shower gel with matching lotions, hand sanitizers…you name it). You know the one you always reach for when you need to moisturize? Keep that one.
  5. Those dried out tubes of mascara and eyeliner. And the giant eyeshadow palettes too…unless you are a make-up artist or work in a profession that requires complex makeup (circus anyone?). While you’re at it, toss away the foundations and moisturizers that didn’t work for you.
  6. Those cheap razors that always make you bleed.
  7. Extra toiletry bags, and the junk in them that are in there because you don’t use them. You know the saying, out of sight, out of mind?
  8. Makeup brushes that you don’t use. Yes, it’s okay to declutter them, even if they came in a set. If you’re not using one piece of it, then your set is just a bit more minimal. You’re just make it work for your needs!
  9. Extra hair brushes. Why do we need so many again?
  10. Do you take baths? No? Maybe once a year? You really don’t need all the drama that goes with it. Declutter the candles, the bath bombs, and the bubble bath solutions.

Happy Decluttering!

Decluttering Furniture

via Pixabay

To me, furniture is the most satisfying category of stuff I can declutter. It’s so freeing to finally unload a heavy, bulky item from your living space and give your home some breathing room. I’m of the belief that less is more, but especially so with furniture. We worry about making our rooms look “homey,” so it’s tempting to fill our havens with lots of fancy furniture. This often leads to our rooms becoming cramped if our efforts get out of hand.

Since the amount of furniture in your living space is dependent on your living arrangements, it’s important to understand that everyone’s situation is unique. I am unmarried without family, and I live in a two bedroom condo unit which is just the right amount of space – not too much space that I need to clean and not too little that I feel cramped.  It has a small kitchen, a dining/living area, and a small bathroom with just enough room for a bathtub, toilet, and sink.  One of the bedrooms has a closet and the other bedroom has two closets. There is a linen closet by the bathroom and a coat closet. I also have a storage locker in the basement where I can store bikes (but I do not store extra furniture there). In other words, I already have a lot of shelf space and closet space. The smaller bedroom is usually occupied by a roommate, so I will not count the furniture in that room as it varies when roommates switch.

With that in mind, these are the furniture items I currently own (the below are not affiliate links).

  1. 2 couches (1 3-seater and 1 2-seater) (inherited from family – not at all fancy, but do the job)
  2. 1 platform bed (this particular one comes with built-in nightstands)
  3. 1 rolling coffee table – I tried to do without one for a while
  4. 1 console table
  5. 1 rolling tv table
  6. 1 round dining table
  7. 4 stackable plastic dining chairs (plastic = easy to clean!)
  8. 2 folding chairs (for guests)
  9. 1 standing desk
  10. 1 rolling C-table

One theme you’ll see from the list above is my tendency to buy furniture with casters. Casters make furniture moving so easy. I love CB2’s “peekaboo” acrylic pieces because they don’t take up much visual space, making my rooms look bigger than they are (and making it easier to find things in general – no need to look underneath a table if it’s transparent!).

These are the furniture items I’ve decluttered:

  1. Ottoman – in a small space, ottomans take up too much floor space. I ended up needing to move it around all the time until I finally decided it wasn’t worth keeping.
  2. Dresser – after decluttering my closet, I happily got rid of my dresser. Behold my suddenly spacious bedroom! There are so many ways to optimize closet space. Since all of my clothes are stored in one place, I only have to check that one place to find something I want to wear.
  3. Extra chairs that don’t fold – another space saver!
  4. Side tables – typically they are just space hogs. I have my rolling C table in case I’m in need it extra table space.
  5. 2 small couches or loveseats – I had two darling couches from my antiquing days. They ended up looking dated and out of place in my modern space, so I sold them on Craigslist.
  6. 2 twin beds with mattresses and box springs, which I replaced with a single queen bed.
  7. Extra card table – the dining table does the trick. If I’m entertaining, I can put food on the kitchen counter instead of the dining table. Fewer spaces to wipe down, and fewer items to store.

Must you need more inspiration?

via Pixabay

Open kitchen and dining area – an example of how empty walls actually open up a room

via Pixabay

Just like my bedroom – a sanctuary that is simply a place of rest

Pixabay

If only my bathroom was this big…but even if it was, why fill it with stuff? It’s so serene the way it is.

Extra floor space – yes, please.

Unhealthy Minimalism

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Can we abuse minimalism? Can it lead to destructive habits and unhealthy mindsets?

There are many debates and criticisms around the topic, so I sure think so. Here are three manifestations of unhealthy minimalism.

1. The Obsessive-Compulsive Declutterer

Decluttering to the point of obsession can easily turn the purest of intentions into a crazy runaway train of OCD. We remove all the broken objects, then move on to the pointless objects, accelerating into a letting-go and throwing-it-all-away frenzy. We get a high from each removal, each responsibility lifted, each space cleared. Gradually, we are winning the power struggle against our stuff. The taste of victory is just grazing our tongues. Yes! We’ve finished decluttering, our spaces are clear, and our minds are free! Until they’re not.

I started to suspect that I was getting addicted to decluttering, especially at the end of the journey, when I looked around my living space and realized there wasn’t much left that I could remove without actually making my life harder, yet I was still picking at my stuff, wondering if I ought to get rid of more. It took me a while to adjust to my new decluttered environment and that’s not to say I never relapsed – I still found myself shopping for no reason, buying things and immediately regretting them, and eventually needing to declutter them.

Bottom line is, do not declutter to the point where the lack of stuff becomes a problem, or you get stressed out about all the things you do own. Because at that point, well, you’re kind of missing the point.

2. The Freeloader Minimalist

Boomers and Gen X’ers are scratching their heads at us millennials, an increasing number of us who still live at home or are spending lots of time “figuring ourselves out.” Consequently, some millennials are finding that they don’t need much stuff to live, and by way of circumstance, dub themselves minimalists.

It is perfectly acceptable, even smart or necessary, to move back home…if the following are true:

  1. Your parents are not reluctantly letting you in. Some parents would be absolutely delighted to have their adult children live with them, especially as they grow older and need help around the house!
  2. You’re bringing something to the table other than an empty stomach and an empty bank account. Perhaps you are a caretaker or are splitting the bills. Perhaps you are living with your entire extended family and everyone takes care of each other under one roof (a common arrangement in other countries). Wins for everyone (especially if everyone gets along!)!
  3. If the above two aren’t true, you’re making a concerted effort towards your independence. Reducing dependency, after all, is a key tenet in minimalism.

If you are thinking, “my parents are supplying all of my needs so I don’t ever need to learn how to pony up and manage my life…” then you just might be shirking responsibility rather than living intentionally. Let’s not explain away freeloading with minimalism. Taking advantage of other people’s generosity and attributing a lack of responsibilities and stuff in the name of “leading a minimalist lifestyle” is an inaccurate use of the term. You can declutter yourself into a broke bum and declare yourself “above” adult responsibilities, but minimalism is not meant to absolve you of basic adult responsibilities, and freeloading is only going to exacerbate our bad reputation of entitlement.

3. The Cynical Minimalist

It is really easy to be cynical as a minimalist because minimalists are already deliberately opposing the status quo to some degree. Cynical minimalists tend to dwell on negative aspects of the societal norm and the expectations that are thrust upon people. They also have a tendency to rant about societal reform. I recently read a Reddit comment about how humans should worry less about being productive and more about not being destructive through productivity – an idea that really got me rethinking the necessity of “productivity” in our lives. Yet, should we really be clapping for people who hold their heads high and declare their pride for living a life of apathy (who does that anyway?)? For living a life that was neither destructive nor productive? For a life that was neither fulfilling nor unfulfilling?

We ought not to shame mediocrity and being conventionally uninteresting, and in any case we should not shame people for what we may mistakenly judge as mediocre anyway.  Anyone who decides that someone’s lifestyle is mediocre or unremarkable is passing unwarranted judgment anyway – why waste valuable brain energy on something so base? I truly believe that all of us are capable of doing good for others, and we don’t need to put forth a ridiculous amount of effort. Small victories add up to big gains.

To avoid productivity, taking action, and living idly due to fear is a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. An utter lack of doing things is not minimalism at all – and especially not active minimalism.

If minimalism is preventing you from taking action, then perhaps you are avoiding confrontation of that which is holding you back.

Minimalism when applied appropriately, is meant to be empowering.

Use it wisely. 

Becoming a Minimalist Millennial: Finding Yourself Through Decluttering

Blizzard

Blizzard

Millennials love to “find themselves” and talk about “self discovery” and take time to “figure out what they want.” Some millennials achieve this through extended solo travel. Some millennials find themselves through dedicated yoga practice. Some find themselves by starting a business. Or going back to school. Or a fulfilling relationship. Or having a child. Or buying a house. Or changing jobs. Or quitting a job. People talk about “finding their calling,” but that isn’t what this post is about.” When I talk about “finding myself,” I mean it on a more personal level. I mean it in a peeling-back-the-layers-that-make-up-a-person way. We don’t like to think of ourselves as complex, yet we are, thanks to our brains.

As crazy as it sounds, I started to find myself when I began to declutter.

Changes happen so suddenly. One day I was studying for my last final and the next I was completely free. I had already accepted a full time position at my first employer, so all that was left was to move all my stuff back to my parents’ house before hauling it all to Buffalo. Despite the graduation ceremony where we were repeatedly told that the world was beckoning us to make meaningful contributions, I was completely clueless in my protective little university bubble. I had no idea what I wanted my life to look like. Everyone tells you to pursue happiness, but for millennials, they want more than happiness – we want to lead fulfilling lives. The problem arises when everyone around us presents a different picture of what fulfillment looks like.

I spend too much time on social media, but I have learned a thing or two about my generation. A select few seem to know exactly how they want to run their lives after college, and they jump at it from day one. These people are most visible when they eagerly announce via social media when they achieve classic hallmarks of success – advanced degrees, dream jobs, weddings, marriages, relationships, buying their own houses, having babies, and achieving career milestones, soaking up the flood of “likes” and niceties and compliments from friends and family. They usually accompany these announcements with photographic evidence. For fellow millennials who witness the celebrations of these fast trackers, angst tends  to creep up and render us uncertain and unsatisfied, manifested in our tendency to move from place to place, job to job, relationship to relationship, not always certain of where our path will lead, but somehow certain that things will work themselves out. When we feel inadequate as we benchmark our progress against our peers, we feel compelled to justify our lives through less conventional ways, explaining ourselves by displaying other means of living a purposeful or enjoyable life. We travel, volunteer, cook, buy cool stuff, dress up, go out, eat fancy food, and show off our athletic accomplishments. And in so doing, we frantically tell the world that these are perfectly valid things to pursue, even if they are outside the realm of “normal adulthood.” We want to prove to the world that we are proudly unconventional. And if we aren’t doing that, then some of us swiftly criticize the rest of the world for “settling,” or vent our insecurities and injustices to the world in an attempt to say, hey, there is an important problem affecting us (though perhaps not me directly) and something needs to be done.

We outwardly and swiftly fault the world for its shortcomings, but procrastinate taking action to work on ourselves.

Our lives are not necessarily going to look like status quo, but we still want to feel accepted and validated by our peers. It’s a perfectly normal human desire. Anyone who states otherwise is probably in denial. The reality is, there will always be naysayers and there will always be supporters, no matter what path we choose.

Whenever I began to question my path in life, I first turn to my stuff because it is the most visible evidence of choices I’ve made. Items chronicle lives as physical representations of moments, however insignificant. They conjure up memories, like pressing play on a videotape filed away in the depths of our subconscious. I had, for example, a little white teddy bear that I won in third grade. The class had had a naming contest, and whoever’s name was one of the most creative would win the bear. I named the bear Blizzard, and a few weeks after submitting my entry, a lady called me and left me a voicemail (this was a huge deal for third grade me), telling me they loved the name Blizzard and that I could pick up my bear at a local store. Many years later, I found myself looking at this bear, wondering why I held onto it for so long. The memory played in my head so clearly, but it would be so silly for an adult woman to be cuddling a teddy bear from her childhood. No one cares about such a moment in my life, and winning a stuffed animal in third grade isn’t something that I need to broadcast the world. I never quite found a good place to stash it other than my desk or closet. I struggled to get rid of it, because gosh darn it, I named the thing, and it was mine and no one else’s. I concluded that that was a silly reason to keep something.

These collective confrontations with my belongings are a huge part of how I live as a minimalist. Interrogating the physical clutter forces me to confront my mental clutter – the two are intimately tied.

I invite my fellow millennials to do the same, because when we let go of relics of the past, we remind ourselves that our present selves can move forward without anything holding us back. Blizzard probably was not holding me back in a way that an ex-lover’s letter or an oversized antique chair that I despise would. We can live with utmost intention. We ought to thank the past for what it has taught us, then cut the baggage and move on.

10 Things to Declutter Right Now

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With decluttering, sometimes we need that little push to get us started. Reading other people’s decluttering stories can sometimes give you the much-needed push when you hit a decluttering slump. So without further ado, here are 10 things I think you can safely declutter without much consequence.

1. Cheap jewelry that you wore as a teenager that would look completely out of place if you put them on right now and wore them to work.
2. Wedding favors from other people’s weddings. Napkins, containers of long expired candy. Why do we keep these again?
3. Freebies from job fairs, like stress balls, frisbees, other things with company logos. Heck, you could probably get rid of these types of freebies or “prizes” you obtained at current or past jobs you’ve held.
4. Unitasker kitchen items, like slicers that only cut one type of fruit, pancake presses, or egg separators.
5. Stuffed toys and other cutesy gifts you received from past lovers. They’re not helping you move on. Remove them and give yourself the mental and physical space for real love.
6. Ugly tote bags you’ve collected over the years and only use when you’re in a hurry.
7. Single socks…unless you like to wear mismatched socks.
8. Textbooks that are no longer relevant to your career and education. LIkewise, notebooks from your schooldays. If you need something from it, scan it or take a picture of it and file it away.
9. Craft projects you haven’t touched in years. It’s time to let it go.
10. Instruction manuals for stuff you’ve already assembled. You could probably download most of these online anyway. How many of your belongings would you disassemble and reassemble using the instructions?

Celebrate a lighter, freer life. Happy Decluttering!

Post-Decluttering: Living with Intention

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When we think about minimalists, we often think about decluttering and not having too much stuff. However, the most important thing about minimalism is who we truly are and who we become after we strip away the stuff. After all, our stuff defines our lives, and we buy stuff to help us live our lives the way we want to, don’t we?

A few weeks before I started this blog, I had entered my final stages of decluttering. I was still finding things to get rid of here and there, but the 5-10 new eBay listings a week slowed, I had difficulty filling a donation bag, I had more shipping supplies than I had items to sell, and, in a odd state of awe, I suddenly had more free time. At first, the shock disturbed me. I had become so used to not having enough time to accomplish everything on my to-do list, and the first words that popped into my head were:

“uhhh…now what?”

I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to capitalize on my newly found free time, and I spent some time pondering my new reality. Marie Kondo was not kidding about tidying up being “life changing,” but she left so much unsaid about life post-decluttering.

Fortunately, The Minimalists address this – decluttering is not the end-all be-all. It simply marks the start of a transformation – one that takes place when your energy stores is redirected towards your passions, discovered or undiscovered. And that is when we get to the magic words that minimalists love: “living with intention.”

Living with intention is simply the opposite of mindlessness. Rather than live a certain way because of reasons like:

  • I don’t have any other options
  • This is just the way things are
  • I have nothing else to do

We strive to live a certain way because of reasons like:

  • I want to make a contribution
  • I want to do my best work
  • I want to meet a goal
  • I want to create art
  • I want to be an inspiration

Intentional living is about acting in harmony with your motives and life philosophy. What that looks like will be different for everyone, but if you are curious, here is my life philosophy. If you don’t already have one, the next time you have 5 minutes of peace, grab a pen and peace of paper, and write out your life mission without putting down your pen. Don’t think too hard…just write like there is no tomorrow. Let the words flow without abandon.

Your mission is yours alone – a raw, beautiful piece of you.

Active Minimalist Decluttering: 5 Questions

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Decluttering is different when you’re decluttering as an active minimalist. Whether or not I still love an item and when I last used the item are still important questions, but there is more to  consider if you live an active minimalist philosophy. Below are 5 questions you can ask yourself as you declutter or consider a purchase.

  1. Is this item weighing me down? Item weight for someone who is always moving around becomes more significant. I am a huge fan of minimalist travel and ultralight packing for this reason, as getting from place to place is not just a breeze, but with your speed, you can even create a breeze!
  2. Does this item restrict my movement? Similar to 1, but instead of focusing on weight, we are focusing on size. Every “thing” takes up space, and it’s up to you whether or not the real estate it is occupying is worth the expense of not being able to move, dance, do cartwheels, or whatever your heart desires. A decluttered space or home also gives me room to breathe, just as a boyfriend fit shirt allows my body to move freely with no inhibitions.
  3. Is this item representative of my active philosophy and does it enable me to stick to it? Being active can mean something different for everyone. On this blog, I refer to active in a physical/fitness sense. Thus, it would not make sense for me to keep a comprehensive collection of pencil skirts, but it would make sense for me to keep an ample quantity of workout clothes so I am not always doing laundry.
  4. Is this item “aspirational clutter?” In other words, is this something I keep around just in case I pick up an old hobby again? This recently happened to me with arts and crafts. I used to make clay miniatures, draw anime characters, and scrapbook. Since my interests shifted to circus, fitness, and cycling, I retired those hobbies and the materials that went with them. It was really, really difficult to let go of things I used to be so passionate about, but I’m glad I did it, because it freed me from the angst I felt every time I looked at unused supplies and unfinished projects, wondering when I would pick up a former hobby again. Ultimately, letting go helped me accept and appreciate my new interests – I ended up becoming more passionate about them too.
  5. Is this item hard or time-consuming to maintain? I talked this topic to death already, but it is hard to do things when your stuff is demanding your time. Anything you own is a demand on your time or your mind in some way, so we ought to choose carefully – will a thing truly make my life easier, as its creator claims?

Now, go forth, and declutter with ease.

10 Things I Wish I Can Declutter

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While I have pared down my belongings to only stuff that adds value to my life, there are still things that I keep purely out of obligation. We all face mental blocks when we declutter, and “just in case” syndrome strikes every aspiring minimalist at some point. Here are 10 things I own that I struggle to come to terms with.

1. High heels. I have one pair of black office pumps that I never wear. Why? Because I dislike wearing heels. I am less agile. I feel pain. I have to actually think about how I walk. Why do I have them? “Just in case.”

2. My one business suit. I work in a casual office, so the only reason I have this suit is for job interviews or formal business events. Suits are fussy – they need to be dry cleaned, ironed, and hung. They are tailored and stiff, so it is hard to move around when I’m wearing it. They’re difficult to transport. Well…since I work in the finance industry, I just have to own a suit.

3. Boxes used to transport kitchenware, such as my beloved Le Creuset dutch oven. There is no better box that can transport my dutch oven in the event that I decide to move. Even though I don’t plan on moving anytime soon, I still keep the boxes “just in case” I do.

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