Update: February 27, 2023. This blog/website is no longer about minimalism, decluttering, or taking up less space. It IS still about conscious consumption, prioritizing what brings the most joy, and being true to your needs and desires.
I’ve struggled a lot over the intervening years with what to do with the “old minimalism posts” from when this blog began over ten years ago. And I’m going to copy and paste them into this one post and archive them. I’ll add updates and author’s notes as I go. And if you’re somehow here in the old archive… hi! Email me with the secret phrase “Butts” and I’ll send you a signed copy of my book.
Also, I really want to showcase the power of consistency for the writers and creatives I coach. I write better than this now. But I started here. And I don’t delete these old posts, because they’re a good reminder that I built my life as a writer, author, and creative coach one post, one sentence, one word at a time.
And I’m pretty fucking good at those things even if I wasn’t always. Keep going. Keep writing. Keep making.
My Journey to Less
Originally Published June 11, 2012
People (myself included) sometimes joke that I am a hoarder. I have a lot of stuff.
Clothes, books, trinkets, gifts, games, toys, collectibles, crafts, office supplies, etc… I have a serious problem with sentimental attachment to items, and I am a sufferer of “Just In Case” Syndrome. I can’t throw away that shoelace, what if I need to make an emergency tourniquet with it? I can’t get rid of that fluffy pen, what if I lose every other pen I own? Pay stubs from undergrad work study? Might need those. Every single membership/loyalty card to every single store? Think of the savings I’d miss. I’ll lose that weight. I’ll wear that next fall. I will definitely get around to reading that book. Those books. Half my books.
This week, I am moving into my first apartment. And I really don’t want to move all this stuff with me. It’s 500 square feet! I can’t FIT all of my stuff in there without it honestly looking like an episode of Hoarders.
So I started reading up on minimalism, and was inspired by the Miss Minimalist blog. I decided to purge my personal inventory of the things I didn’t need. It’s been an interesting few days since I decided to do so.
This blog will chronicle my adventure to less.
Author’s notes, 2023: Hoarding is a mental illness. Making light of it is not something I’m proud of. We’re gonna have a lot of notes like this. AND WE CALL THAT GROWTH. If you don’t cringe at your past, you’re probably not doing much growing.
Cleaning Out the Closet
Originally Published June 11, 2012
I started my journey to less with my closet. And dresser. And chest of “off season” clothes. I have too many articles of clothing. Pants and tops that don’t fit — and haven’t in years, pants too long that I meant to hem, clothes I bought so I could get over $25 to use a coupon in a store, clothes my mom suggested and that I went along with because, according to her, they looked good, but that weren’t my style in the first place and I have subsequently only worn each of them once.
I enlisted my sister to help and we went through all of my (clean) clothes. I didn’t count the dirty hamper, I figured I actually wore the stuff in there so it was pretty safe. My goal: To pare down my wardrobe to 50 articles of clothing. Socks, underwear, and bras don’t count.
Started with: 11 tank tops, 15 short-sleeved tops, 9 long-sleeved tops, 24 tee shirts, 3 blazers, 1 suit, 10 pairs of dress slacks, 1 pair of khaki pants, 5 pair of jeans, 10 sweaters, 5 sweatshirts, 1 vest, 3 shawls, 4 dresses, 6 cardigan-ish coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 4 pairs of shorts, and 1 satin cape.
Ended with: 5 tank tops, 8 short-sleeved tops, 7 tee shirts, 2 blazers, 3 pairs of slacks, 3 pairs of jeans, 5 sweaters, 1 vest, 1 shawl, 3 dresses, 3 coverups, 1 pair of leggings, 2 pairs of shorts.
After doing laundry I will post the final count, but for now I have pared down my wardrobe from 114 articles to 44. Mission accomplished.
The most surprising thing about my clothing purge was that it wasn’t even difficult. I had been holding onto sweatshirts and tee shirts (I found a whole cache of them in storage in the basement that weren’t counted here – probably 15 more) from high school and college and graduate school, always intending to turn them into a memory quilt. But I finally realized that if I hadn’t gotten to making that quilt over the past several years, I probably wouldn’t ever get around to it. So I tossed the sweatshirts and tee shirts. I don’t even really like sweatshirts!
The items I kept are items that I can layer for different looks and occasions, and that are simply designed – I only kept a few tops with patterns. Part of the reason I had so many blouses and pairs of slacks is that my graduate degree is in educational administration and I had intended to end up in an office at a college or university, rather than the jeans-and-sneakers every day position I wound up in an office at a chemical manufacturing plant!
The ease of the clothing purge was inspirational, and I thought I could finally tackle my growing library of books taking up several boxes in my mom’s basement.
The Bookshelf Challenge
Originally Published June 11, 2012
I find that setting a goal before I even delve into the project is the best thing for me to do.
I knew that I had four (and a few extra here and there) boxes of books in the basement. I have always been a bookworm, but several things led to my willingness to purge books:
1. I got a Kindle for Christmas. Having books in a digital format means I can carry a whole library with me without the physical burden of carrying books to a second-floor walk-up and taking up valuable space in my 500-square foot flat. (Author’s note 2023: My abusive ex was Northern Irish and I thought it was so cool to call my apartment a flat, this is so cringe).
2. There exists a rather magical place called a library, where I can get my fix for the feel and smell of paper books, and then just return it when I’m done.
3. I haven’t even read half of the books I own. I bought many of them because Border’s went out of business and things were on sale and I just couldn’t stop. This ends now. (Author’s note 2023: It did not end then.)
So I opened up all my boxes, removed all of my books, and loosely organized them in giant piles on the coffee table. Then I cleared off a small two-shelf bookcase and deemed that my goal. I would only move as many books as I could fit onto that one bookshelf. And that’s what I did. My Harry Potter series and Dark Tower saga took up one of the shelves completely, leaving me with one shelf for the rest, including cookbooks. I managed! I went from 116 books to 34.
I let my mom and sister go through the books I was getting rid of and select anything they fancied to keep for themselves. My best friend will get to go through next, as she shares my love for books and all of hers were destroyed due to damage to the porch where she was storing them. I’m happy to let them go to a good home!
Author’s note 2023: RIP to my Harry Potter books, we don’t stan JKR in this queer, trans house.
Originally published June 11, 2012
With no furniture, I had to decide what to do about seating in the living room. A couple of chairs seemed ideal for portability (both in the moving process and around the room!) but I decided on a couch for snuggle potential and to give my sister a place to sleep when she visits.
So I wound up finding a secondhand couch for $40 at the Salvation Army store, and I scrubbed and vacuumed it, and I’m going to cover it with a white or off-white (or yellow, I haven’t decided) sheet because slipcovers are prohibitively expensive – more expensive than the couch!
My mom mentioned finding a chair or two for the living room as well, and I told her a couch was plenty. She insisted that it would be nearly impossible to have a conversation between three people with only a couch. I told her it was my apartment, not other people’s apartment to have conversations in, and they could deal with my couch.
I plan to use a trunk for storage and as a coffee table, and I will have my painting easel accessible from the couch. I can’t see any reason to over-stuff my small place with furniture for other people. I may add furniture as I continue living there if my daily routine shows me a need for it, but I am starting over clean and fresh and I refuse to waste money on things for the sole purpose of “just in case.”
Guilt and sentimental attachment
Originally published June 11, 2012
One of the hardest things about getting rid of stuff I don’t use or need is that a lot of times, that stuff I don’t use or need was a gift from someone I care about and I don’t want to insult anyone by getting rid of things they gave me.
I’ve been carrying around a gorgeous glass chess set that my brother got me for Christmas when I was 12 for twelve years and I haven’t played a game of chess in probably five. I just carry it around with me and stick it in a corner.
That’s just one example.
I have an old laptop computer my parents bought me when I went to college in 2006. I have every flower my boyfriend has given me, dried and in a vase and gathering dust because how on earth do you dust such a fragile item? I have ornaments and collectibles and stuffed animals and all manner of stuff and things that just get moved and organized from box to box, dwelling to dwelling.
But no more, I say!
I am taking an honest and frank look at the things I have. And it’s hard, because when I start going through my Rubik’s Cube collection, my sister shrieks, “You can’t get rid of that one, I got that for you!” When I mention getting rid of things, my boyfriend comments, “None of my gifts, right?” When I purge my closet, my mother asks “Are you getting rid of anything I bought for you?”
I know I am not going to be happy in my new place if I have to take stuff just for the sake of having stuff. What am I going to do with it? I have 500 square feet to work with, and that doesn’t leave a lot of space for knick-knacks and decorative items. A few, yes. All, no way. I cannot fit those things into my new place. My priorities have changed. I want to live more simply, and I want to live for myself. I feel like I have the burden of caring for other people’s gifts — things that I didn’t need in the first place and do not need to be happy — for the sake of the gift-givers’ happiness. What’s up with that?
Side note: I am allowing myself one box of sentimental “stuff” that I am willing to store in my new place. One box. If it’s too full, I will have to make some cutbacks. In the box so far is a stuffed animal I have had since I was a child, a box of souvenirs from my dad’s travels to other countries, a baby blanket from when I was born, and some other things that I can’t remember and so probably don’t matter.
The purge continues!
Author’s note 2023: Super fair to not make space for gifts just because they were gifts. I’m proud of myself for that boundary, as it started a long journey into not living for other people by making my own needs and desires as small as possible. I also still have that sentimental box of stuff. But my world is so much more colorful and stuff-filled now… I’ve realized that a lot of my minimalist impulses were complex and layered with my traumatic past. Minimalism meant I was unattached to my things (so no one could hurt me by hurting my stuff) and that I could pack up and go at nearly a moment’s notice (so I could always escape). Seeing the way I wrote about it is giving me so much compassion for that younger version of me.
The limbo box
Originally published June 13, 2012
On January 1, 2012, I started the official process of moving into my mom and stepdad’s house to live with them while I “got back on my feet.” It took me months to move out of my then-husband’s apartment, one box at a time, by myself, to my car, and one car load at a time to my mom’s.
I am tired of carrying boxes.
I have a lot of stuff that I don’t use, but that society insists I need. This post is about some of those things that other people think I need.
I have been going through boxes and boxes that I brought from my previous apartment, and re-packing the things I think I will truly use, and leaving behind a really impressive “yard sale” pile. If it doesn’t sell, I’m taking it all to Goodwill, because I am tired of looking at it.
My mother was observing the process when I found a small bulletin board and commented, “How many of these do I really need?” I have four. I mused on the subject, and decided to only take one small bulletin board with me to the new flat. Then I announced I didn’t need it, and I would put all four into the yard sale pile. My mother immediately defended the bulletin board. “You’re going to want that!” she insisted, “You can put it next to where you pay your bills!”
I had already decided that all bill-paying supplies and office supplies would be kept in a one-drawer end table next to my couch.
I put the bulletin board in a box. She looked on disapprovingly.
When I found my iron, I announced that, since I hadn’t used it in years, I wasn’t going to take the iron or my ironing board either. If she disapproved of my bulletin board discard, she was at arms about the iron. “You need that! You are going to need that! When you don’t have one and you have to go spend $20 on a new iron you are going to wish you had kept that! Listen to your mother, I know best.” (She actually said that).
I continued to insist that I wasn’t going to use it, but she was very determined I should keep it. I suggested a compromise: I would keep the things I thought I didn’t need and she thought I did in a box at her house, and if I did wind up needing them, I could come get them. She agreed. Bulletin board, iron, ironing board – all into “stuff limbo.”
Author’s note 2023: Still haven’t used an iron in ten plus years. I do remain a sucker for a bulletin board though.
Originally published June 13, 2012
Hi, my name is Caitlin, and I have an iPhone. There are so many apps for that. My phone gives me a daily barrage of information about people that I really don’t need to know. I wake up in the night and check my phone. This has to stop. (Author’s note 2023: It has not stopped).
I am constantly connected. Facebook is my biggest vice. I upload photos, share a dozen statuses a day, comment and like people’s posts, share funny photos, and exchange messages with people.
Facebook began as a way to keep in touch, not a means of being constantly connected. I would like to get back to Facebook basics. I won’t delete it, because it is my sole means of communication with several people, and I do use it to keep in touch with people from my past and present, but I need to cut back. Seriously.
Today, I went to all of my “Close Friends” pages, and switched off the “Close Friends” feature that sends their every status update, link share, and photo upload to my notifications and my handy dandy iPhone. Now I will only get an update when someone actually interacts with me.
Along with Facebook are Twitter and Foursquare. I downloaded Foursquare to save $10 on my vet bill last time I took my cat in for an exam. Seemed pretty awesome, free $10! Then I started adding my friends, and now my phone lights up all day with updates about where these people are. I don’t need to know that information. I deleted the app. I do not care if my childhood friend is at
his apartment, at the grocery store, at his apartment, at his grandpa’s house, at his apartment, at the convenience mart, at his apartment at any and every possible moment of the day.
Twitter is a source of entertainment that may soon go away for me as well, but I’ll keep it for now. It keeps me in the loop of my best friend and sister when I’m not talking to them regularly, and that’s nice. But do I really need it? No, I don’t. But I’ll save it for another day.
Back to Facebook! I challenge myself to only post one status update per day, for a week. I will see how that goes. People might think I died.
Giving It Away
Originally published June 14, 2012
A big part of why I have accumulated Too Much Stuff is that I spent money on it, or someone else did, and I feel guilty throwing away something that I bought (or someone bought for me). Many times I decide to start a new hobby, or home business, and then I get bored, or it’s too much work, or I otherwise stop. I feel like a failure, and there’s all this Stuff everywhere that reminds me of my tired hobbies. I promise myself I will pick up again, really make some earrings, really book some home parties to sell my products, really get back in the (metaphorical) studio to do some paintings, really buy a domain name to sell those paintings, really make that quilt, and so on and so forth.
This has to stop. (Author’s note 2023: This is hilarious and I think we should make it a drinking game every time my past self says “This has to stop.”)
I am going to focus on one artistic hobby: Painting. (Author’s note 2023: Oh shit she got me, I do still only focus on painting. And now collage. But that’s kind of the same, it’s just painting with paper).
I will not buy any jewelry making kits. I will not buy a sewing machine. I will not buy tissue paper in every color of the rainbow. I will not buy any new painting supplies, until I legitimately need to replace something in my supplies. When I buy new things, there will be a one in/one out rule — I will toss one item for every item that gets added to the collection.
Today, I am putting into the mail a box full of my in-home party demo items, to send to another consultant in the in-home party business I attempted and have thus far basically failed at. All I ask is that she reimburse me for shipping. She’s getting hundreds of dollars of product, product I bought… and I really don’t care! I just want it to be gone! I don’t want to move it anymore!
Today, I gave away a box of craft items. Tissue paper, glue sticks, markers, crayons, colored pencils, card stock, ribbon, pipe cleaners, cake decorating items, and more. I gave the whole box (a very nice craft caddy box with compartments and lots of storage) to my boss’s sister with the caveat that I never wanted to see the stuff again. She happily left with her new craft items to go home and organize them in her own craft area.
Awesome. Two huge areas of my room, gone, donated, just poof! And I don’t care. I learned from my mistakes — no more impulse purchases, no more “I’ll get around to it” projects… I tossed all my old high school and college tee shirts because I hadn’t made a quilt out of them yet and I didn’t trust myself to actually, truly get around to it. Bye bye, stuff!
Author’s note 2023: In the intervening decade plus since writing this I’ve been diagnosed with ADHD, surprising zero people. I do still love painting and I got a sewing machine for my birthday in 2022, which remains unopened nearly a year later.
Unpacking the Kitchen
Originally published June 19, 2012
I moved to my new flat over the weekend – approximately 500 square feet. I did the move in four Honda Fit trips and one truck trip. Still more Stuff than I would like to have, but less than half of what I had to begin with – wow! Allow me to take a small moment to pat myself on the back.
I went from packrat to minimalist (or minimalish) in a week. I found a blog that inspired me — missminimalist.com — and decided once and for all that I was going to start over. With less. With enough.
However, toward the end of packing, I began just shoving everything into boxes and not being as careful about thinking it through. I wound up moving some Stuff that I didn’t need but took anyway to determine its fate later. I have a “yard sale” box already started in my flat that doesn’t even have everything unpacked yet!
First-tier purging was easy: I put all my books, clothes, shoes, craft supplies, etc. out, really looked at the pile, admitted that I wasn’t even using half of it, and tossed it into a “yard sale” or “donate” box.
Second-tier purging, as I unpack, has a lot to do with the space available in my flat. It also has a lot to do with the fact that I want to reduce clutter and knick-knacks and stuff on the prime real estate of my kitchen countertop.
(Author’s note 2023 please stop saying flat I’m going to die)
I have two kitchen drawers. I have two cabinets under the sink (I plan on putting cleaning supplies there along with my garbage and recycling bins), two low cabinets (already beginning to fill with small appliances), and two very high cabinets I need a step-ladder to access if I want to reach higher than the first shelf (dishes and food in these two). Aside from my fridge, which is housing my microwave on top and my tupperware and lunchbox inside (when am I ever going to fill it with food?), those cabinets and drawers are all my kitchen storage.
I started by prioritizing the things I would use most often — four plates, four bowls, four juice glasses, and four coffee mugs are on the lowest shelf. Then Pyrex mixing bowls and baking dishes. Another shelf of Pyrex. On top, I have extra napkins and the saucers and small plates from my dish set. I don’t need those all the time (or, ever, as the case may turn out).
After streamlining the dishes, I had to admit that I had excess Stuff in my kitchen. I probably don’t need all that Pyrex, but I haven’t been able to break up the set, and I have actually used every piece of it, so it stays for now.
I’ve had to decide if I really need that bamboo lazy susan that doesn’t even turn smoothly and I’ve never used in my life. Yard sale box.
Brand new 9×13 pan that I got in 2009 as a wedding gift. Did I mention brand new? Never used it. I got four 9×13 baking pans as wedding gifts. One I left with my ex-husband when I moved out, one I donated to my mother’s kitchen, and two I took with me — one metal, one glass (Love Pyrex. Love it). I decided I could do whatever I needed to with the Pyrex one, and put the brand new pan in the yard sale box. It hurt a little. Brand new. I also put a brownie pan into the box. Who needs a special pan just for brownies? Apparently I used to (I actually did use it several times, but I can make brownies in the pan I kept, I don’t need this one too).
I have a cake pan and two muffin/cupcake pans that I’ve never used but I got at yard sales, because I like to cook and bake. I really do! But, to pull from Miss Minimalist, the cake pan, pie plate, muffin pans… those are more for my fantasy self that spends all weekend Betty-Crockering it up in the kitchen, not really for my reality self that would rather go one block down the street and buy a fantastic vegan cupcake rather than making two dozen that she would then consume. Verdict on the baking pans: Undecided. (Side note: I started my purge with three pie plates and pared down to the one that came with my Pyrex set).
I could go on and on about my adorably tiny kitchen with its built-in breakfast nook (and only one accessible outlet, under the table — who does that?) and high cabinets and cute little cup hooks, but I think I’ve rambled enough for one post! Next up, getting my clothes to come out of the closet.
New closet, new rules
Originally published June 22, 2012
As described in an earlier post, Cleaning out the closet, I pared down my wardrobe to 50-ish items before moving from my mother’s house to my own flat. I am slightly ashamed to say that I did rescue one sweater from the purge pile, but I did add another shirt to the purge pile in its place. I also have a plan to make sure I only possess the articles of clothing I actually wear. I am going to share that strategy with you now!
I put my hangers in backwards. Every article of clothing in my closet went in on a backwards hanger. As I take out items to wear them, and they go back into the closet, the hanger gets reversed to the “normal” position. At the end of a certain period of time, whatever is still on a backwards hanger gets donated or sold, because I’m clearly not wearing it, so someone else should get the chance. Some of the things in this closet have the tags on, and they were purchased months ago. Yikes.
Tee shirts are in an under-bed storage bin, all facing down. As I wear them, they can get put away facing up. I rarely wear tee shirts so that should be an easy purge in a few months.
Typically, I sort by color, but I sorted my clothes by type this time. Tank tops, short-sleeve blouses, pants/shorts, dresses, sweaters, dress clothes. I think, for dresses, pants, shorts, tanks, and short-sleeves, I will re-evaluate in six months and take a look at what I wore and what I didn’t. For sweaters, obviously I’ll need some colder weather before I evaluate that. Ideally I would like to own only one suit, but my mother (she should get her own tag) assures me that, in case one pair of dress pants rips, I should have a backup. And a backup for my backup.
I’ll wait a few months and probably pare down the dress clothes too.
I would like to — ideally — end up with a color palette of “stuff that goes with black” or “stuff that goes with brown” and not have to deal with both… for now, I have blacks and browns and I love them both. Baby steps.
Author’s note 2023: There’s no reason to be ashamed to rescue a sweater from the purge pile, shame is a weird emotion that just makes us feel bad. Also, Jesus Christ let yourself wear some colors, you sweet little cinnamon roll baby who thinks neutrals are good because they’re unobtrusive. BE OBTRUSIVE. ALSO STOP SAYING FLAT. LOVE YOU BYE. Also, I desperately miss those pink plaid shorts. They ripped. RIP.
No chihuahuas in my purse
Originally published June 26, 2012
Big bags are a thing now. Bags big enough for books and puppies and three spare changes of clothes and, if you’re like me, a ledger’s worth of receipts for everything from stamps to dinner to oil changes three months ago.
Before my minimalist reboot, I was using a Timbuk2 messenger bag as a purse. I absolutely adore the bag. It is a fantastic bag. So many pockets, and I could carry practically anything. Padded shoulder strap, Grid-it organizer, so much storage… a wonderful bag. However, I have decided to experiment and try a tiny bag as a purse instead. The more room I have in my purse, the more room I have available to accumulate Stuff. (I had a rubber door stop in there when I cleaned it out for this experiment…).
During the packing of my room at my mother’s house, I found a little zipper bag and thought “Oh, I can do something with this.” Normally that line of thinking is my downfall and leads to more and more Stuff (I can make a pillow from this shirt, I can make a lampshade from that skirt, I can make a quilt out of these fifty tee shirts I’ve had since high school). But not this time! This time, my accumulation of a Thing was for minimalism. I wondered if I could do it.
I opened my (very large, very full of cards) wallet and took out the necessary items: debit card, driver’s license, grocery store loyalty card, cash, etc. and I put them together with a kitchen clip. Into the tiny bag they went. Also into the tiny bag went a pen and a tampon. You never know when someone will need to borrow one. I know that’s not minimalist thinking, but seriously those are handy.
I took a look at my keychain next and decided I did not need all seven of those keys at the ready at any given moment. Two keys — one to my partner’s house, and one to my mother’s, were clipped onto a key clip inside the bag, so I had them if I needed them but they weren’t cluttering my main keychain. My keychain now features my three apartment keys (two doors, one mailbox), my car key, and my key for the office at work. I rarely need that one, it can probably go onto the ring inside the bag as well. My keys were previously kept on a long lanyard, which I have now repurposed as the purse’s strap, and I’m using a keyring my partner gave me as my main key-collecting device. So far, so good. I’m excited to see if I accumulate less Stuff in a smaller purse.
Also, the Timbuk2 messenger bag will continue to be used, as an overnight packing bag or camera bag, or both. Just maybe not as my daily carry-all.
Author’s note 2023: This post seems SO pointless. Also, the messenger bag and Grid-It organizer were both gifts (aka things he no longer wanted after he bought new ones) from my abusive ex. Gotta mention those in my blog so he knows I’m always thinking about him.
My new fantasy self
Originally published June 29, 2012
Miss Minimalist, my inspiration for this blog, has an excellent post on decluttering one’s fantasy self.
I’ve come to understand that the craft supplies and baking pans are part of my old fantasy self. The one that’s getting decluttered. I don’t really want to spend all day in the kitchen making cupcakes. I admire and appreciate people who do (and their cupcakes, yum!) but that’s not me. I’m not a baker.
I admit that I’m not a master seamstress, and I tossed the shirts that had been destined for a memory quilt for six years, giving up the fantasy that I would get to it someday.
All these things I’m letting go of in order to focus on other things, and now my fantasy self has swung the completely opposite direction.
I want less and less and less.
I want my entire bathroom to fit into a gallon zip-baggie. I want my closet to fit into a backpack. I want my kitchen to fit into a box. I want everything I own to fit into my car.
I want to declutter to my fantasy self.
I want to let go of the just-in-cases. I want to toss the curlers and the flat-iron and just love my hair however it decides to act that day. I want to pick a base color for my wardrobe (I love blacks and greys, but I am having a love affair with a brown button-down). I want to break up sets and only keep the pieces I use. I want to let go of gifts people have given me. I want to stop buying things in bulk to save a buck, because I would honestly rather have just enough and not have to store the rest in my space.
This new desire to shed and shed and shed scares me a little but it exhilarates me. I don’t have to be surrounded by stuff to be happy. In fact, I am finding more and more pleasure in empty spaces every day. I can breathe easier. I feel happier.
Author’s note 2023: This compulsion to take up less and less space, to be smaller and smaller, to be able to fit things into tiny spaces at a moment’s notice is honestly making me very emotional. Seeing how much I wanted to be small and convenient and knowing that I didn’t realize how much it was from hating myself and thinking I was too much… I want to wrap myself up in a hug.
Originally published July 3, 2012
I’ve been living in my flat for a week now, and six boxes remain unpacked. I’ve rifled through them on occasion to look for something, but I have yet to put them all away. A couple major reasons for slacking are that (1) I spent most of the week at my partner’s house, and (2) I still haven’t purchased 3M Command Hooks to hang some things, and I can’t put nails in the walls.
To be honest, I don’t even know what’s in some of them. The decluttering fairy approves, because that means I’ll have an easier time pitching things in the boxes into my yardsale box. A pitfall of my cleaning process is that I always wind up with one box of “junk” that I don’t get rid of but I don’t have anywhere to put it, so it just gets decluttered into a smaller and smaller box. (Author’s note 2023 THIS IS ADHD). Minimalist Me thinks that if I can’t remember what’s in a box, the contents of the box have lost the privilege to stay in the box. Goodbye, stuff!
Also related to boxes, I purchased some collapsible canvas tote boxes to use for storage in my flat. They will keep things together and provide a home for loose items, such as my “office” box for post-it notes, paper clips, etc., and an “internet” box housing my modem and wireless router. It keeps them out of the way and reduces the amount of cords I have to look at. I’ve never been a fan of cords all over the place. I also plan to have a “cat” box, with my cat’s brush, flea medication, etc. so that all cat items are in the same place and easily retrieved.
I am still hopeful about my goal of having all my possessions fit into my car by next summer.
Originally published July 6, 2012
“Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu
I think this is a great quote to describe my rebirth into a minimalist lifestyle. I had been carrying around so much stuff for so long, and I was so wrapped up in the things I would need when I moved out on my own, that when I realized I didn’t need all that stuff to be happy, healthy, or productive, it was like seeing for the first time. I found that it was so easy to cast off things I had been carrying around for years, and I was surprised at how good it felt to shed so many physical objects and my intangible need to need.
I realized that I already had what I needed — and much, much more than I needed. By being content with the things I already have, and by getting rid of the things I don’t need, I’m much less stressed than I used to be. I have a long way to go, but I am sure I will continue on this minimalist journey. It feels too good — I can’t imagine going back to clutter.
I think Lao Tzu had it right — by being content with what I have, rejoicing in the way things are, and realizing that there is nothing lacking, I feel like I have more than I ever did before.
What are some of your favorite minimalist words to live by?
Author’s note 2023: So interesting to see this response to the quote above, because it’s not at all how I would respond to it now. To me this quote is not about physical things, it’s about the sense of being enough and embracing enoughness. It’s about not comparing yourself to others’ abilities, belongings, or lives. There is nothing wrong with you. And that sets you free.
Current events: Life without cash
Originally published July 10, 2012
I recently read an article online about Heidemarie Schwermer, a woman who has lived without cash for sixteen years! She started a year-long experiment to see if she could live without money, and relied on a barter system of goods and services to get what she needed to survive. After the success of her experiment after a year, Heidemarie was inspired to give up her possessions, job, and even her home in favor of living a nomadic life, free of a “greedy consumer society.” She relies on the kindness of others who offer food and shelter in exchange for her services of cleaning, gardening, and other skills.
I’m really intrigued by her success. For me, giving up everything would be too big a step to take toward a minimalist life. However, I definitely see the appeal and the freedom she has gained as a result of her extreme minimalism. Personally, I have too much going on at the ripe age of 24, and I still have debts to pay off and a family to raise (at some undetermined point in the future!) so I need an actual, physical home base. Maybe when I am 69 years old like Heidemarie, I can give up everything and travel with that incredible freedom!
Giving it all up isn’t for everyone, but reducing spending and consumerism is a wonderful and rewarding aspect of minimalism. Personally, I have begun focusing on the things I want to do instead of the things I want to have, and that is very freeing for me. By reducing spending on “Stuff,” I am able to save up for the things I do truly want to have a place in my life, and I can invest in experiences that will give me lifelong memories that don’t take up any physical space!
Has anyone else improved their life by curbing their spending habits?
Originally published July 13, 2012
I have a little buyer’s remorse over the purchase of two end tables at a yard sale over the past weekend. However, I have talked myself around to them for a few reasons:
- They are more functional for my needs as a bedside table than the storage ottomans I had been using, which were not totally flat and did not have adequate space for a book, my glasses, and my phone/charger without precarious balancing acts
- They were only $10 for the pair, a relatively painless amount of money
- Since I am so unattached, I can easily re-sell or donate when I move again, if I so desire
So now I have end tables. I’ll continue using the storage ottomans to store things (like fuzzy winter socks!), or if I find another way to store my fuzzy winter socks, I’ll give the ottomans back to my mother or my sister for college.
In addition to end tables, I have procured a desk. I didn’t initially want one, because I was confident in my ability to handle any and all computer tasks at my coffee table, but I caved and decided to get an actual work surface for tax deduction purposes. I can claim a home office (for my freelance writing income) if I have a designated work space for my “home business.”
My new rule for furniture (besides my couch and my bed) is this: If I can’t get it up the stairs and into my flat by myself, I’m not buying it. With this limit in mind, I re-purposed an end table with a drawer as my desk and then realized I would need a chair. Rats! Another piece of furniture.
I have to take furniture into account as I plan for my fantasy-self-future, where everything I own fits into my car. I find myself looking at desk chairs and thinking, “There’s no way that would fit in my car and leave any room for other things,” so I rule it out. I am currently coveting the Ikea Jules swivel chair, in white. It’s small but functional, and would probably fit in my car with plenty of room for other things. I’m also considering folding chairs, to save even more space. When I have made a final decision about how to outfit my new minimalist workspace, another post with photos will surely follow, with my own personal tips and tricks for making the most of what I have.
How do you limit yourself when it comes to furniture? What’s in your minimalist office?
Author’s note 2023: Aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh. If I showed past me my current office she would pass out. Also that end-table “desk” made a terrible squeaking sound when I opened the drawer that still haunts me to this day.
One color palette
Originally published July 24, 2012
I read this book when I was a young Brownie Girl Scout myself. I didn’t even remember the book at all until I started this minimalist adventure — nearly two decades after I had known the book in the first place! Amazon provides a synopsis of the book, but the only thing I honestly remember is that the babysitter is described to wear black and white clothing, and the sole source of color in her wardrobe comes from her jewelry and accessories.
I remember being fascinated by that as a child. I wondered if people really did that.
They sure do! I recently read an article about actress Jamie Lee Curtis, in which she describes her style as an evolution, a distillation:
“My style is a distillation. I’ve etched out who I am through myriad haircut attempts, outfit attempts, beauty attempts, diet attempts. It’s been an evolution. I’ve let my hair go gray. I wear only black and white. Every year I buy three or four black dresses that I just keep in rotation. I own one pair of blue jeans. I’ve given away all my jewelry, because I don’t wear it.
My partner recently pointed out to me, “You have a lot of jewelry. That’s not very minimal.” (Author’s note 2023: Dick.) Like Ms. Curtis, I really don’t wear much jewelry, but I have accumulated quite a few pieces of it. That will be changing soon!
Jewelry aside, I wrote this post to talk about a black and white, simple, clean wardrobe. While I don’t think I’ll be a strictly black-and-white girl anytime soon (or ever), I have culled my wardrobe (so very nearly) to one where I can reach into the closet and pull together an outfit that works. I’m not as minimized as I would like to be, but I will get there one item at a time. Fortunately, I recently ripped a pair of pink plaid shorts, so I can replace them with a black pair that goes with more tops!
Anyone else aspire to a one-color-palette wardrobe?
What I am Looking For
Originally published July 27, 2012
I came across a quote from Helen Keller that really resonated with my new minimalist philosophy:
What I am looking for is not out there, it is in me.
This quote is a wonderful reminder of why I need to continue shedding the physical “stuff” around me and where my focus should really be. All I need to be happy is contained within myself.
I am coming to realize that I don’t need anything but me. I enjoy having things, certainly — paint, computer, music, good food — but if my house burnt down and I lost everything, I could get new paint, a new computer, etc. and pick up where I left off, because it — that proverbial it we’re all searching for — has been right here the whole time.
We are not what we own. We can’t be. Then who are we when what we own is gone?
Minimalism allows me to be me, because I no longer have anything to hide behind.
Author’s note 2023: Like the Lao Tzu quote earlier, it’s fascinating to see how these quotes resonate with me in my 30s after seeing how they resonated in my 20s. What I am looking for is not out there – it is in me. Now, that tells me that no amount of outside validation or others’ belief in me is enough for me to take the leaps I have taken throughout my life. It has always come down to me trusting myself. Minimalism wasn’t about removing things to hide behind – because I was hiding behind minimalism!
4 thoughts on “The Minimalism Archive: 2012”
I am a borderline hoarder. I started cleaning out my closet in March. I finally quit working on it in June. Maybe I will sart again in the fall . I am also the Mom-storage for 3 children. Which is a whole topic all by itself.
I definitely understand mom storage, as my stuff was in it, with two other kids’ worth! Good luck on your cleaning and decluttering!
I’m so excited that your blog is current aka taking place in “real time”. I discovered minimalism about a month ago and spend some time each week searching the net for inspiration and ideas. I am more of a practical minimalist than an extreme one. I probably will not number my things, in fact I’ve considered if it is “legal” to do your count on each room in your living space rather than a grand total. Lol. I read of an elderly woman whom when she died all her belongings fit into the trunk of a car. I think this is wonderful. She left the earth ready to travel on rather than tied here with her property. I hope that isn’t too morose. Wishing you the best!
Not too morose! Thank you for your comments – I am glad you’re enjoying the real-time-ness of the blog. I am only a month into this and I’m having a lot of fun. I don’t think I will count my belongings either, though I do enjoy reading about other minimalist’s “100 things,” etc.