About Me

I'm a newbie minimalist who loves art, design, fashion and shopping. On my blog I journal my efforts to break away from consumerism and into contentment while still being me.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Never Enough Space

My friend, D, collects Star Trek memorabilia. Anything Star Trek related he has to have. He actually has an entire room of his house completely dedicated to Star Trek - but his collection outgrew the room and is gradually taking over other areas of the house. Every birthday and Christmas D receives an avalanche of Star Trek merchandise, and he buys more throughout the year. He absolutely refuses to discard anything. If it's Star Trek, it's sacred.

"You'll just have to expand the Star Trek room!" one of D's friends said.
"Maybe I'll just take over a neighbor's house and fill it with Star Trek!" he joked.

That's when I realized: D and his wife will never, ever have a big enough house. Even if they expanded the Star Trek room to quadruple it's current size, it would quickly fill up.

To me it seems like a sad cycle to be stuck in; being eternally dissatisfied with the state and size of your home, but being unable to part with anything, and always wanting more.

But D insists that his stuff makes him happy. I wonder if it really does.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

My Minimalist Wardrobe

These are all my clothes. Not pictured: socks and underwear.

When my husband and I moved, I got rid of any clothing I didn't really love. As a result, my wardrobe is pretty dang minimal. I was quite proud of the fact that my husband and I were able to fit almost all our clothing into a single suitcase. Here's what I currently have:

Tops: 15
Bottoms: 7
Dresses: 6
Coats: 4
Swimsuits: 1
Total: 33

These days I'm rotating between a few warm-weather tops. On the plus side, getting dressed is easy, and every day I get to wear my favorite clothes. But to be honest, after five weeks of this minimal wardrobe, I am getting a little bored, even though I haven't been shopping or looking at fashion blogs. My husband can wear the same shirt for several days, but apparently I cannot.

How do minimalist girls avoid wardrobe boredom? Any tips?

Friday, October 25, 2013

Warm minimalism: colorful quilt

It's always nice to find an example of minimalism that isn't white-on-white-on-white. The brass lamp really compliments the warm colors of the quilt well.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bracing for the holidays as a minimalist

Somehow the single room my husband and I share is slowly becoming cluttered, even though we haven't purchased anything new. A lot of the clutter is paper and mail, which I just need to deal with. It makes me dread the holidays, just a bit. Usually I love Christmas and I love presents - but we seriously do not have room for more things.

Around family, I am trying to slowly, subtly make references to me and my husband's new lifestyle, so that it sinks in before my relatives start buying us Christmas presents. I'm not announcing "we're minimalists now!" because that would be awkward, you know?

This weekend my brother-in-law had a birthday party, and my husband and I were offered party favor bags full of little plastic trinkets. We politely turned them down. Almost immediately the teasing ensued. "Oh, so our party favors aren't good enough for you?" they joked.

I felt bad. I considered accepting the party favors and then later secretly tossing them. But this way, my husband and I are sending a message that we are serious about not acquiring more stuff.

My mother-in-law mentioned that she is already collecting our Christmas presents. Reflexively I said,
"Well, we really don't have a lot of room right now, so-"
"I'll make them small things." She said, kindly.

It's a step in the right direction, I guess.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Warm Minimalism: A Floating Bathroom

I love the weightless simplicity of this modern bathroom. The bare lightbulbs and weathered mirror give it a slightly industrial look. This bathroom is from a stylish apartment in Berlin, and you can see more photos here. Imagine how few toiletries and beauty products you'd have to own to keep a room like this tidy!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

How Stuff Makes Us Happy or Unhappy

A lot of minimalism blogs say "stuff can't make us happy," but I don't think that's completely true. Yes, ok, material objects can't provide true, lasting spiritual joy. But I still like stuff, and having new stuff. It makes me happy in a small way. For example, one of my favorite possessions is this bud vase from Crate & Barrel. It's beautiful and I really like looking at it.

We all like stuff, let's admit it. Stuff can make us feel temporarily happy, but more stuff does not equal more happiness. More stuff can make us miserable. People who suffer from hoarding disorders or cluttered houses describe it as "suffocating", "claustrophobic", "overwhelming" or "like drowning." That's pretty serious unhappiness!

We've all done it: we bought something that we thought would make us happy. We bring it home and have nowhere to put it, because our house is full. So we put it in a corner to deal with later.
Then it stays in the corner, making us feel bad every time we look at it.
When we do look at it we think "I would deal with it, but I'm just so busy."
We trip over it and stub our toes.
Other family members start to complain about it.
When guests come over we feel embarrassed and apologize for the mess.
We push it back further into the corner so we can have more space.
We feel guilty about the money we spent on it.

Eventually the stress it brings has more than outweighed the happy feelings we felt on buying it.

Not pictured: happiness. image source

So, weirdly, the key to enjoying your stuff is having less of it.

That's my approach to minimalism. I don't think I'll ever stop liking stuff or buying new stuff - although I am working on becoming less obsessed with it. My goal is to have less stuff, so that when I look into my closet, or sit at my desk, or pack up to move to a new place, I feel happy.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The one where I don't buy anything

I went shopping today, just for fun, for the first time in a month. My sister-in-law and two of her friends invited me to go to an antique shop with them. I enjoy looking at antiques, but generally don't feel a need to buy them, so I figured it would be "safe" for the recovering consumerist that I am.

And indeed, the antiques were mildly interesting but I lost interest about 40 minutes before the other girls did. I did find something really cool - an antique Turkish rug in pristine condition, with a bright pink pattern on it. Immediately I envisioned it in my future minimalist home - the fresh colors contrasting with the pure white walls and shining hardwood floors. It would really pop in a totally awesome way.

But I don't have that chic, modern home, and possibly never will. That's something I came to grips with in my last move. I realized that I had been keeping all sorts of stuff with which to decorate my future home - vases, decorative pillows and picture frames. But my husband and I are probably several years from owning a home, and until then we plan to live a semi-nomadic existence.

So I decided not to weigh down my present with items for the future.

Besides, the rug was $400. So....yeah.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

On the efficiency of kitchen gadgets

Recently I was trying to prepare dinner in my in-law's kitchen. My in-laws own a lot of kitchen gadgets and gizmos meant to make cooking easier, such as onion slicers, banana slicers, tons of tupperware, etc. While I was preparing ingredients, I sent my husband on a quest to find the slow cooker. He had to search through cabinets, taking out all their contents, to unearth the slow cooker. Then he had to replace the items in the cabinet. It seriously took him five whole minutes.

"You know," my husband said, "Maybe these things save a little time in cooking food, but I bet they spend way more time just looking for them and digging them out of the cabinets!"

That is minimalist thinking!

Monday, October 14, 2013

One Month Without Shopping

So it's been one month since my husband and I moved from our spacious two-bedroom apartment into a single room. During that time I have not done any shopping, except for groceries, a single e-book, and a few other necessities. Nothing "fun," like clothes or makeup or chai tea lattes. I have not visited any of my favorite clothing websites or fashion blogs.

I have thought about shopping every. Single. Day. In fact, I've thought to myself that I should buy myself something nice to celebrate this one-month anniversary.

When will the consumer cravings subside?!?

But here's something that keeps me going: I am saving up my monies to take my friends out to a nice lunch. I've often wanted to treat my friends, but I never did because I had spent my money on things for myself. At the time I felt vaguely guilty about it, but not until now have I really realized how selfish I was.

I guess it's impossible to be generous when you're greedy.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Shopping is not Saving

When I was in high school, my mom put me through this personal finance class. I don't remember much of it (sorry mom), but here's the one thing I remember.

Advertisers use the word "save" differently than we do. They'll tell you that, by spending money, you are actually saving it. TV commercials are pretty blatant about it - in the commercial, maybe a couple is talking about how the economy is rough and they need to save money, so they go to the big sale! They bought everything they wanted while saving money!

The problem is that stores will say anything to make you feel like you're "saving." They could price a decorative pillow at $20. Or they can price it at $30, then say there's a deal going on for $20, so you can "save" $10. Either way, if I buy the pillow, I didn't save $10, I spent $20. The $10 "savings" is just a partially imaginary number at the bottom of a receipt.

The author of the blog The Unextreme put it this way, writing about extreme couponers:
For one thing, just because someone brags that they have saved $60,000 in one year (using coupons), doesn’t mean they didn’t spend any to get that savings. If you have $60,000 worth of merchandise, you have actually spent too much money. You have paid too much for coupons, too much gas, too much wear and tear on your vehicle, too much time, and too much on items that you don’t use!
Obviously, if there's something that you really need, buy it on sale if you can! There's nothing wrong with looking for a good deal on things you need. Just remember that shopping is not saving, no matter what the advertisements tell us.

And that's what I remember from my high school personal finance class.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Warm Minimalism: A Charming Corner

I don't think there's any way you'd be able to use a wallpaper as bold as this one if you had a lot of stuff. It would be too much noise. The artwork is also super cute and reminds me of a children's book.

It's proof that minimalist interiors don't have to be boring. In fact, without a bunch of clutter, you're free to make some pretty crazy design choices!

Friday, October 11, 2013

He told me so

The other day I mentioned to my husband that I had blocked all my favorite clothing websites from my computer, so that I wouldn't be tempted to buy things I don't need.

He gave me a high five! And not even like a sarcastic high-five, like a really happy high-five.

Three weeks ago I finally realized what my husband has been trying to tell me for years: that I was spending too much time, energy and money on shopping, and my desire for things I couldn't afford was making me miserable. I always bristled, annoyed at him for being "judgmental." Fine, maybe I'm a little obsessed with shopping, but at least I don't leave my clothes all over the floor LIKE SOMEONE I KNOW.

But a quiet corner of my heart knew he was right.

It took a big move and a shopping fast (currently ongoing) before I came to this realization on my own. Looking back, I see that my husband was right. He was not being judgmental, he was being honest.

Now that I've come around, instead of saying "I told you so," he gives me a high five.

I should listen to this guy more often.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

My Story: We sold our stuff

When my husband and I moved three weeks ago, we sold a lot of stuff. Here's a breakdown:

A webcamera: $20 on Amazon

Three college textbooks: $60 on Amazon

Two canvases: $30 on Craigslist

Our tv: $80 on Craigslist

An Xbox 360 controller: $20 on Craigslist

My desk chair: $40 to a friend

A board game: $50 on Amazon

...and various pieces of furniture.

Between all of the things we were able to sell, we raised enough money to pay for the moving van rental! Which was awesome! Less packing, more money!

In some ways, selling things is painful because we can rarely sell things for even half the original price. It makes us feel the pain of stupid purchasing decisions. However, one surprising exception was the board game. It had gone out of print, so we were actually able to sell it for about $10 more than we bought it for!

The college textbooks were "I might need it" clutter from my husband. In our first move, he sold about half of  his textbooks and kept the other half "because I might need them." But this time, he was ready to get rid of them all. Good thing, too, because they were thick, HEAVY books! So glad I didn't have to pack those!

Warm Minimalism: a Mid-Century hallway

As a lover of mid-century furniture, I love this minimalist hallway. While many interiors labeled "minimalist" can feel cold and sterile, this one is warm and has some color, too.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Story: Giving Up Shopping

I didn't think I had a problem.

In my early twenties I discovered fashion blogs. I began to spend a lot of time browsing fashion websites, interior design blogs, and then clothing retailers and furniture stores. Because my husband and I live on a tight budget, I was careful about what I purchased. However, I was always window shopping, planning the next thing I could buy, wishing I had more money, wondering how I could get more money, envying the nice clothes and pretty houses my friends had.

Out of a need for cheaper rent, last month my husband and I moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a single room. We are extremely limited as far as storage space goes, so no more shopping for me. No new clothes, new shoes, new books, new decorations. I blocked my favorite shopping websites from my web browser, and installed an app to block their advertisements.

I didn't think I had a shopping problem. But now that I can't shop, boy oh boy do I feel it. I had no idea how much I used shopping as an antidote to boredom and dullness. I had no idea how much I relied on it as something to look forward to when I felt down. Like an addict, I miss the very thing that made me unhappy.

I worry that I'm missing out on things I wanted.

I worry that I'll become frumpy and dated.

Basically, I worry that I'll become unattractive.

To fight these feelings, I am trying to keep myself busy with hobbies. I've picked up knitting again, and my sister-in-law gave me the yarn so I didn't even have to buy any! I am also looking for a good book to read.

It's going to take a while to get used to this. I hope that, like an addict, the craving for shopping and new things will decrease over time. I need to be strong.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Girl Becomes a Minimalist

Last month my husband and I moved from a two-bedroom apartment to a single bedroom. Not a single-bedroom apartment, a single bedroom.

And thus, a minimalist was born.

Sort of. Not quite. See, for the last two years I've been really into decluttering. I made many trips to the donation stations of Goodwill and Salvation Army. I threw away bags of stuff. I sold things on Amazon and Craigslist. Our apartment was fairly tidy.

And yet, when we moved, we packed all our stuff into a 14" moving van and I was dismayed by how much we still had. "How can we have this much stuff?!" I groaned as I looked at the towers of boxes. "I got rid of so much!"

That's when I realized that "decluttering" wasn't enough. At least not the kind of decluttering we read about in Oprah magazine or something. I needed a whole new mindset towards things, stuff and shopping.

And that's when a minimalist was born.

I'm going to record my thoughts about minimalism, consumerism, decluttering on this blog. Join me!