This is the first of a three part series of my thoughts and reflections on what minimalism has done for me or in many ways how it has worked against me.
Over the past month, I have caught myself feeling anxious, annoyed and mad at myself for accumulating more things again. I have even felt spiteful towards my friends who suggest that I need to purchase more furniture or that I should buy a car.
I’m moving into a new home with a great friend of mine soon. We are rightfully calling the new house The Oasis because of its beautiful garden, sunny interior and close proximity to a park and hiking trails. There is no doubt that this move will seriously increase my quality of life and yet here I am struggling to leave my tiny, basement level studio apartment.
The Thought of Minimizing
At 23 years old I was living in a four-bedroom condo that was fully furnished and chocked full of stuff. I was ending a 5-year relationship and moving across the country to return home to Wisconsin. I got rid of a most of my furniture, but took massive amounts of other things that I owned back with me.
I stayed in Madison for about two years and the last summer there I prepared to move across the country once again. This move was meant to be an even fresher start and I had no idea where I was going to end up living.
After working my exhausting and irritating office job for five years, the only way I knew how to create was while I baked cupcakes, bought new things to decorate my apartment or as I organized my next workout routine and diet plan.
This only tapped the surface of my deep desire to create. My number one priority in this move and minimizing my life was not about exploring a new a place, but to explore what I was really capable of creating.
I thought that I might be an artist, but I didn’t know for sure because my creative expression had been constricted by the circumstances that defined my entire adult life up to that point.
My Golden Rule
I made a plan and committed myself to only bring one tote of clothes, one tote of kitchen gear, one tote for misc things and I would take any lamps, shelves and tables that could be broken down to fit into one car. And lastly, when I arrived at my new destination I wanted to purchase a new bike and experiment living car-free for at least six months.
As the countdown to my big move began I created a new rule: every time I brought a new item into my house I had to eliminate three items.
I experienced so much freedom during that elimination and I began to realize the power that objects hold over us. Objects are placeholders of our emotions or of our memories. Minimalism is empowering because those intentions of elimination increases our freedom to gain clarity of our circumstances in life.
That clarity allowed me to better determine risk factors and build the confidence required for me to actually take on those risks.
My Minimal Life
My dog and I arrived back in Charlotte on August 29, 2014 with a carload of belongings and quickly found a new place to call home. My 600 sq ft studio apartment was exactly what I needed. I furnished the space with the bare minimum, simple shelves, a desk with one chair and just a mattress to lay on the floor.
I don’t have a television or a microwave and I’ve never used my dishwasher before because I don’t own enough dishes to fill it up. I lived here without internet for 18 months. I’ve now been car-free for 22 months. My chair actually broke about five months ago and I never replaced it.
I don’t leave Target with extra clothes, shoes or home decor that was on sale, because I can’t fit them into my bike bags. I don’t even splurge on Starbucks while I shop, because I won’t have enough time to finish a coffee before I get to the check out and have to get back on my bike.
All of these don’ts qualify as perks in my book, but there have been so many challenges, road blocks and frustrations that I’ve also had to overcome.
One of the consequences of my choice to be minimal and car-free is that now as a full-time professional artist, I can’t even transport my art on my own. Most of my art is too large to transport by bike or even a small car for that matter. And you can imagine what my little apartment looks like when I have multiple projects going on at once.
In part two and part three of this series on Minimalism I will share more of these challenges that ran me into dark places, how I choose to force myself to find the way out and how I was able to let go of the constant pressure I put on myself to prove that “Don’t worry I got this”.
Often, it is all too easy for any us choose isolation rather than to truly accept help, love and support from our friends and family, which is a shame because together we are capable of creating the most beautiful masterpiece of all: Community.