Saturday, September 29, 2018

Life as a Minimalist

Hello friends, and happy Saturday! I hope you have a fun, relaxing weekend ahead. It seems like everyone is sharing pictures from apple orchards or of cute fall outfits every time I check Facebook. The season is definitely here and with it, all kinds of fun things to enjoy  (though don't even get me started on pumpkin spice - blechh). Anyway, I'm looking forward to visiting family this weekend and spending some time out of the office with a coworker. And you know what we're doing today? Shopping.
Now, as many of you know, earlier this year I adopted a minimalist mentality. I spent roughly one week absolutely gutting my apartment, getting rid of nearly half of my possessions. I sold what I could, donated the rest, and threw out what couldn't be saved. It was absolutely liberating, and what remains are only items that I find useful or meaningful. I've very much enjoyed creating my minimalist space, and it has been a huge help to both my stress levels and my wallet. So shopping today isn't going to be a 'spend fest', rather an opportunity to replace a few things that have grown old or just been overused. (And I have a niece turning two in one week! AH!)

But planning a shopping trip with a friend has gotten me thinking about how my shopping habits - ok, most of my habits - have changed since adopting a minimalist mentality. Over time, they haven't seemed that drastic. But looking back now to how I thought about shopping and living in general pre-minimalism, there's been a big shift. I used to buy things that were on clearance 'just because' they were cheap. I went through phases of home decor trying to create "themes" in different rooms, changing them periodically throughout the year. I once even bought a giant pink penguin stuffed animal (Edwin!) on my lunchbreak because I was bored. Needless to say, I have no more "Pink Penguin" moments. And it is such a great thing: I don't waste time cleaning, I don't wonder where all of my money goes, I don't lose things, and I don't throw away wasted food. So what am I doing (or not doing) differently?

There are certain things I just don't buy anymore.
- Coffee from coffee shops. Maybe if I'm meeting a friend for a few hours and we're spending some quality time together, I'll get a house blend coffee or an Americano. But a latte on my way to work? I'll stick to making coffee at home.
- Nail polish. There is literally no point in spending $6-8 on a small bottle you'll use maybe half of before it dries out, only to watch it slowly chip off your nails (which start to look like crap) after a week. If that. I used to paint my nails occasionally, but lately I just haven't felt the need.
- Fast fashion (think: Forever 21, H&M, some large retail store clothing, etc.). I would rather buy high-quality, slightly higher-priced clothing that will last me for years as opposed to throwing money away on clothing that loses its structural integrity after one washing. I love my Calvin Klein sweaters (from Marshall's) and Lucky Brand jeans (TJ Maxx), but they were bought at a way discounted price. I probably paid slightly more than some of these 'fast fashion' stores would sell rip-offs for, but they're great quality and have lasted for years. No more bad moods inspired by ruined laundry.
- Fast food/take-out. I was never a big fast food person, but I don't even stop at Subway anymore (my one go-to). I'd rather get a piece of fruit or something small to tide me over until I can make something to eat that's worth the money. And the calories. 
Movies. I actually got rid of 50-ish DVDs when I went through my 'decluttering' this summer, and I couldn't be happier. With streaming services like HBO and Netflix, DVDs are becoming a thing of the past. Sure, I have maybe 10 (Eat, Pray, Love, The Wizard of Oz, Dirty Dancing...the classics) and I will never get ride of my Gilmore Girls series. But the mounds of movie boxes are gone. And I'm not bringing more into my life.
- Magazines and reference books. I was never a huge magazine person, but I did buy the occasional Glamour or Cosmopolitan. First, I've realized its a complete waste of paper. Second, I've started noticing there are more ads than actual stories, so again...its just not worth it. I can read the legitimate content in the time it takes to go through the line at the grocery store! Why buy them and bring them home? As for reference books like dictionaries and thesauruses...well...the internet...(I used to have five dictionaries - five! - for different languages and time periods)
- Notebooks. I used to have a mild obsession with office supplies despite not having much  to write, staple, or mail. It's been a hard habit to break - buying cute push pins, mini staplers, and sticky notes in the shape of a coffee cup - but no, I don't need the notebook just because it has an aesthetically pleasing cover. This really does come down to self control.

There are certain things I don't do anymore:
- Eat out more than once per week. Even that's quite generous, given that the only eating out I've done in the past month was at Panera, and it was only because I had gift cards. Believe it or not, its actually not because I'm vegan. There are plenty of places that have started carrying vegan food in metro Detroit! My hesitation is that I could make the exact same thing - if not, better - at home. I can watch a movie or Youtube videos or something while I enjoy it. I can be cozy and have a cup of tea or glass of wine with it. Eating out is a great occasional experience with others, of course, but it's not very often that I'll choose to go out on my own. 
- Keep clutter on my desk. When I worked in the office prior to my year in the UP, my cube was packed. I had organizers, file folders full of documents (which were also saved on my computer), photos, knick-knacks, coffee mugs, push pins in the shape of a heart, and a lot of other completely unnecessary, rather distracting things. It was so easy to get side-tracked during the day dealing with so much physical and mental clutter! I keep my desk completely clean now, except for my computer (obviously), one folder for current papers/resumes, one notebook, two pens, and a coffee mug. That's it. It helps me stay focused on the job and mentally 'collected' throughout the day.
- Spend a lot of money on fitness. I once paid $69/month for a gym membership, which is roughly the cost of my monthly cell phone bill or two full tanks of gas. It didn't seem like that big of a deal at the time, given I was 'grandfathered in' at that rate while the gym was raising rates to $79/month. My current apartment has a small (albeit dark) gym with everything I need: free weights, cardio machines, a few weight machines. If I was still planning to go into the military I might seek out a gym elsewhere that had things like barbells, a squat rack, and better quality treadmills. But this works just fine, no membership required.
- Spend a lot of money on yoga. What? Isn't yoga expensive? Yes. Many studios charge upwards from $150/month for unlimited yoga (which is more than double the price of my overpriced gym membership!) But many studios give a free first class. I recently did two 5-class series that was only $25 for new students. That's 10 yoga classes for $50. And both of these studios have a few "donation classes" per week, as well as a few free community classes. If you do your research, you won't be paying top dollar for yoga. And then check out Youtube! I do Yoga with Adriene every morning before work, and its one of my favorite parts of the day. Sarah Beth Yoga is great, too. You can pretty much find a yoga video for any mood, any time frame, and any level on Youtube.
- Drink a lot of wine. This has been a pretty big change for me, given that I used to have a glass (or two) a few times per week. There was a joke in my old town that it was a "Small drinking town with a big fishing problem". Completely the other way around! Because there wasn't much to do in town, having friends over for drinks and games or movies was sort of a regular 'thing'. I would buy 4-5 bottles of wine from Trader Joe's every time I came home, and usually kept my apartment stocked. Or we'd all just get together and go out, regardless of whether it was Monday or Friday. Sure, I'll occasionally meet friends or family at Michigan by the Bottle but that's not wine at home. Right now I have one bottle of wine on my counter. That's it, and no I don't need to go grocery shopping. Did I mention it was a gift?
- Decorate for holidays. Gasp! I love holidays, I truly do. But if someone came to my apartment in the midst of a major holiday, they'd think I was a Scrooge. I used to have all of the decorations: holiday-themed table runners, different knick knacks for each season, a Christmas tree, etc. Well...I don't anymore. My aunt bought me two Halloween kitchen towels, but that's the extent of my fall decorations. I don't plan on decorating for Christmas. For me, home is home, and the holidays are more about the people and the places and the overall atmosphere. I love that my parents decorate for Christmas, and I'll enjoy every minute with family at their house. I love being outside and seeing the lights and the snow and the colorful stores. But at the end of the day, I don't want to store things all year just to bring those exact things into my apartment when I could just go out in public and enjoy them there. Maybe I'll get a gingerbread scented candle or something. Say what you will, I just like to keep things simple.

And then there are things I've started doing more:
- Taking the stairs. This might not seem like a "minimalist" thing, but it helps me keep my self-control in check when I do go sto the store. I take my burlap bags from Trader Joe's with me whenever I go shopping, and let me tell you - they are not pleasant to haul up five flights of stairs when they're packed! I used to buy a lot of melon, those bottles of wine (and the occasional 6-pack), and other heavy things. Do I really want to lug those up to my apartment? No. So I just don't buy them, and then I don't have to. Pretty simple.
- Leaving things in my digital cart. This is something I learned from the Financial Diet, a Youtube channel on smart spending. If I'm tempted to buy something online, I stick it in the cart and come back to it a few days later. And then another few days later. And if after two weeks, its still available, its still in there, and it still seems necessary, I'll buy it. Obviously sales and discounts are often time-sensitive, in which case I'll weigh the decision of "am I just saving 30% on something I don't need? or am I still willing to spend that 70%?" It has been a huge help!
- Only buying things I love. When I moved apartments, I knew I wasn't bringing much of my old, decrepit furniture with me. Most of it was handed down from others when I first moved into my first apartment, and having ugly furniture I had no mental/emotional connection to meant I tried to spend more on things to make it seem more "homey". If you saw my recent apartment tour, you'd see that I've only kept and purchased things for my apartment I truly love. These are pieces of furniture, decorations, etc. that I plan on having very long-term, and am likely to waste less replacing or dressing them up over time.
- Exercising creativity. I could spend my evenings out on the town (now that I live in a normal city). I could go to the movies once a week (there's literally a theater half a mile from my apartment). I could decide its more convenient to just buy lunch on my lunch hour since preparing and packing one takes work. But I don't. I've been having so much fun creating new recipes to take in my lunch. I've been watching more videos on Youtube, movies or series on Netflix or HBO, and even reading. And I've been looking for new ideas on Pinterest, writing/blogging, and doing more yoga at home instead of going out on the town.

Living a minimalist lifestyle goes beyond owning fewer things. Its about making the most of what you have instead of constantly looking for happiness in things. It's about prioritizing rather than just buying what's convenient. Some people are minimalists to the point where they don't even have homes, because travel and move around. Its their priority. I love to travel too, and would rather save my money and energy for my next trip than eat out for lunch twice a week or buy new clothing every time I go shopping. There is no "wrong" way to be a minimalist! It's all about doing whats best for you, and these are just some of the things I've changed in the past few months. They fit my lifestyle, allow me to prioritize, and keep everything in my life running fairly smoothly. I'm definitely excited to go shopping today, but I'm keeping it simple: replace a ripped shirt and possibly a worn-out bag and find a birthday present. Does it take self control? Yes. But the more you practice, the easier it gets.

If you've ever dabbled in minimalism, I'd love to hear some of the things you've stopped or started doing. Do you have non-negotiables? Do you have go-to's? Let me know in the comments below, and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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