Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hi!  I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving holiday and are reveling in the glow of spending time with loved ones.

I wanted to give you all a little taste of what my apartment used to look like.  While unfortunately I was too embarrassed ever to take any photos of my apartment when it was in its full-mess mode, here is an accidental shot taken of my bookshelf in the background.  This is only one of the two floor-to-ceiling bookshelves I had that was crammed with books, papers and tons of other stuff.  Notice that each shelf has two layers of books, one behind the other!  I used to try to make it look neater by constantly taking things out and moving them around - it's a little sad to think about now. 
Scary shelves in my old studio

Here's another one that shows more of the cluttered surfaces in my apartment.  There was also a lot of furniture for such a small space;  other than the two bookshelves I also had a table and chairs and a 6'L x 3'D desk.  Crazy, huh? And yep, that's me in the very bright red jacket.  Probably trying to figure out where I can put more stuff ;-)
Hmm, now where did I put that?

For perspective, here are my bookshelves now.   One is in the living room and also houses our computer, printer and some bins which I will talk about in a later post, and the others are in the bedroom. To be fair, I now live with someone so at least half are not mine.   Though it's definitely a work in progress for both of us as we continue to pare things down.
Living Room

Even better that there is still more than enough space to display a few decorative items that are meaningful to us.   Happy shelves!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

My Introduction to Minimalism

I've never had a blog before.  I thought about it many times but it just felt silly and narcissistic to consider.  Recently I've realized that people are actually interested in my journey, just as I was supported and inspired by blogs like The Minimalists and Leo Babauta's ZenHabits.

Eight years ago I moved to New York City.  This started one of the most depressing yet enlightening periods in my life.  It has been eight years of a love-hate relationship with one of the craziest, busiest and most amazing places I have ever seen.  I had become this proper, perfectly manicured and dressed person who cared about material things.  The image in my head was of a creative, funky person who expressed who she was in her clothing, yet all I could see in the mirror was office clothing and proper hairstyles.  After a while I realized that I had lost who I was, and didn't recognize myself at all any more.

A few years later I started finding things I was truly passionate about;  meditation, yoga, nutrition, and finally, minimalism.  I come from a family of packrats with a mother who is a hoarder, so I had always saved everything.  Everything had sentimental value.  I never thought twice about the quantity of items I had amassed until I moved to NYC.  Suddenly every space was so much smaller and my quantity of stuff was so much bigger.  Still, I was lucky and was able to find a studio with a decent size attic space in the ceiling.  Very rare.

I lived in that apartment longer than any other I had ever been in - about 6 years or so.  My neighbor used to tease me because I would move my furniture around and change things up so frequently.  It is now that I realize I was making a desperate attempt to make myself happy, but all I was doing was moving the same items around, occasionally adding or subtracting one or two items.  Finally (and probably accidentally) I came across some minimalist/decluttering blogs and did my own blog-bingeing for quite a while.

Not my place, but it frequently looked a lot like this

A major moment of realization was my books.  Everyone in my family has huge quantities of printed volumes of all types.  It was almost sacrilegious in my family to throw out any books.  My mother always backed this up with a "someday" that she would have a big library that would fit all of these books.  Meanwhile we lived for years in small 2 bedroom apartments that felt incredibly cramped with all of the stuff.  Reading these articles about minimizing, at first I thought there was no way I could ever get rid of any of my books.  I had boxes upon boxes of them - 2 huge floor-to-ceiling bookshelves worth, plus another couple of boxes of current, and another 3-4 boxes of books I had when I was a child.  I  still had pretty much every book I had ever read.  It is appalling to think of now. 

Suddenly, it was as though a light went on in my brain.  I realized that I was keeping these books because I imagined that I, too, would have a library some day in which I could peruse all of this wonderful literature I had amassed over the years.  And then I realized that it wasn't my dream - it was my mother's.  Settling down in some big house to live in the same location indefinitely did not sound like my idea of a successful life.  And in the meantime, I was incredibly cramped, unhappy, and found myself continually reading the same 10 books over and over while others sat on the shelf waiting to be read.  And then...slowly...I was able to finally let these books go.  This was the breakthrough I needed, and once the crack appeared, the whole thing crumbled around me.

Since then I have moved twice and with each move have gotten rid of more and more items.  I have been able to start being ruthless with the things I am letting go.  Most recently I moved in with my significant other and found myself tempted to hold on to things out of fear - it might not last, and then I would need all of those things.  But reminding myself they were just things, I let them go and never regretted it for an instant.

The freedom I found with letting objects go has allowed me to pursue other passions;  yoga, nutrition, fitness, meditation/buddhism.   It has been such an amazing process, and a true adventure to see how all of these things interact with my 'identity' as a queer woman recovering from PTSD and an eating disorder.  I've already transformed quite a lot but by no means am I finished.  I am so excited to begin sharing this journey with all of you, and I really look forward to engaging with so many people who are finding meaning beyond material items.