minimalism

Moving And Minimalism - Part II


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After 3 days of moving ourselves into a new apartment unit within the same apartment building, it’s done.  It’s exciting to move into a new space, but everything leading up to that can be a challenge.  But it can also be a learning experience.  If you have ever moved yourself (not hired movers), one question, almost without fail will come up: 

HOW. DID. WE. GET. SO. MUCH. STUFF?!?!?

And how did it all fit in our apartment?!?  We didn’t have a TON of stuff,  but if I’m being honest, in just our kitchen alone I didn’t realize how many cooking utensils, spices and dry food storage containers we had.  I think we’ve been consistent with bringing stuff in and taking stuff out.  Still, it was a little daunting to still find things hidden away in the corners of closets and cabinets.  The move provided a good opportunity to evaluate what we really use and what we consistently wear.  We  purged clothing, containers, pictures, utensils, and even food that was no longer a part of our eating lifestyle.  We either donated our extra stuff to charity or gave it away.    

On a side note, I’ve mentioned before how small our apartment is.  I want to assure my readers that I mention it not to showcase how noble we are for living in a small space or to boast about how easy or difficult minimalism can be when you don’t have a lot of  space.  Size is relative and minimalism is an individual practice.  There are people who live in the space of my bedroom and patio combined who are content and live abundantly.

 Here are some of the things we learned and some of the things we gained:

In the process of purging while packing for our move, I was a little surprised by what we still had, but ultimately pleased in how much we were able to remove.  One conclusion was glaringly obvious - with minimalism there is always room for improvement.  It is a constant work-in-progress.  A lesson I re-learned is that something that is useful or meaningful to me now may not be in the future, and that’s ok.  I don’t want to be in the habit of acquiring and discarding to keep in step with the current trends.  I do want to continue to practice capturing and considering each thought about consuming (or discarding) before that thought becomes an action.  We should be ok with letting things go when it is truly their time to go - sentimentality or nostalgia be damned.

Our previous apartment and our current apartment are roughly the same size.  Our last apartment was wedge-shaped so we had to be creative with the arrangement of furniture.  The new place is more traditional/rectangular shaped so furniture arrangement was easier.  It was comforting to see that all of our furniture still had a place and a purpose.

Light!  our previous place was on the second floor, the narrower end of the wedge contained all of the windows which faced an enclosed courtyard.  Very little natural light made it into our apartment.  There is more light coming into our new apartment on a cloudy day than there ever was on a sunny day in the previous one.  This is also true for cell phone reception.  It’s still not spectacular, but it is better than before which is important when you’re on call for work.


 Overall, I think we have done well.  We’ve never needed an extra storage unit.  Our furniture has always found a place in the multiple moves that we’ve done so far.  What have been your experiences with moving in the past?  Did you keep everything?  Did you find things that you no longer needed?  Let us know in the comments.

Moving And Minimalism - Part I

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Moving is a stressful time.  Even with everything planned to the last detail, it rarely goes as planned.  Sometimes, decisions have to be made in the moment.   Practicing minimalism doesn’t ensure a stress-free or quick moving experience.  However, moving is a great time to examine what you have  and what you need.

The previous move for Tracie and I was from a 1000 sq. ft. Apartment down to 650-ish square feet.  We purged a lot of excess and we’ve been consistent with the number of things coming into the apartment matching the number of things going out as well as the quality, value and usefulness of those things.  650 square feet can get cramped real quick if you aren’t mindful about what you bring into your space.  Moving is a great revealer.  It shows what we’ve been making use of and what we’ve hidden away until later.  It shows what we don’t want to deal with.

Moving is also revealing to us that as much as minimalism is a part of our daily lives, there is always room for improvement.  The space we’re moving into is not much bigger - literally a difference of a few square feet so we don’t gain any significant amount of room.  What we do gain is more natural light for ourselves and our plants, a more traditional floor plan and layout and better cell phone reception (we hope, we’re moving up a few floors).   We have another day or so before we’re done.  In that time we hope to also gain more insight into ourselves and our practice.  Check back in a few days as I’ll be posting about what we learned about the process and about ourselves.  Have you ever moved to a smaller space before?  What was your experience?  Let us know in the comments.

Minimalism And Relevance

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Some of us have never known a world without a computer, a smart phone or instant access to information.  As technology has advanced and access has become more prevalent, people are scripting their lives to prove how important they are and why you should care about them.  People are seeking validation and relevance from their titles, their possessions, and from strangers.  They are showcasing what they value - what they think makes them relevant.   

Cheap technology, disposable products, social-media-famous people, celebrity worship and gadget envy are quickly becoming the new normal.  I’m certainly no luddite (I am writing this on a MacBook after all), and lets face it, most of us have smartphones and laptops and are distracted by Instagram and Facebook probably more than we should allow.   I’m also just as guilty as the anyone for wanting  to justify buying a new gadget or wanting to throw money at a situation that planning, contentment or attention to detail could have solved.  However, technology does have it’s place.  It can provide access to information and events, or expose injustices that would have been hidden otherwise.  People from half a world away can inspire and guide us to become better versions of ourselves - people who we wouldn’t have had access to if it weren’t for our gadgets.  

Sadly, our society has become increasingly addicted to consumerism and superficiality and are using these as a benchmark for their own and other people’s level of relevance.   It’s tragic because despite having more money, more gadgets, bigger houses, more likes, more friends or more status, their level of unhappiness and lack of contentment has either stayed the same or worsened. So they buy more stuff or get more likes  or try to gain more popularity hoping that more makes them more relevant and hopefully, happier - like a dog trying to catch it’s own tail - you’ve caught it, now what?!?

What is relevance from a minimalist point of view?  The answer is as varied as the people who practice minimalism.  Obviously, a basic axiom of minimalism is the elimination of the need to have more for the purpose of having more.  Practicing minimalism opens you to contentment, to a happiness that originates from within,  and to the knowledge that you have everything you need and you value everything you have.  In turn, you can share this with the people you love, your community and the world around you.  Our relevance originates in who we value and how we value ourselves, not from our things or from social media.  When we’ve taken care or ourselves and have treated ourselves kindly and with love, when we strip away what’s superficial and what’s unimportant, we find relevance, we are practicing minimalism.  You make you relevant, not your things.

Minimalism

From The Yellow Sofa

By Carl Nickles

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When I first heard about minimalism, what immediately resonated with me was the idea of not having so much crap!  I grew up in a middle-class suburb in a 3 bedroom home with a full basement.   The house was never dirty or visibly cluttered (due to weekday and weekend chores for my younger sister and me), but there were drawers and closets that were stuffed with things were never or rarely used.  For example, there was (and still is) a large utensil drawer in my parents house with multiple spatulas, carving knives, icing spreaders, and mixing spoons acquired over the years.  Only a handful were used regularly.  Fast forward to my own home after moving out.  Different surroundings, similar situations.  After living on my own for a time I  attempted to implement minimalism’s most tangible tenet - getting rid of clutter. Over time, I began to discover how minimalism could benefit me in other ways besides just having less stuff.

I’ve discovered that minimalism is not about not owning furniture and displaying bare walls.  Reducing the physical excess clutter is the beginning of minimalism in my opinion.  The journey continues with detaching from the idea of having things just because I can or thinking that I have to have them.  Minimalism can be about finding freedom from not only the physical but the economical (rat race), mental and emotional clutter.  Minimalism can inform how I think, how I view my surroundings, my life, other people, finances, even what I eat.  It sounds overwhelming but it’s not. 

With all of the forms minimalism can take and how it can positively influence my life, it makes it more than just something to be into because it’s trendy.  It can be a lifestyle that can grow as I grow, mature and change.  I can see myself as being enough and my decisions and emotions can  benefit me and people close to me.  I can be mindful of the future and be free of anxiety while living in the present.  That’s not to say that I’m free from the pressure to conform and consume.  American society in general and the black community in particular can exert a great deal of pressure to consume and “keep up”.

While it’s important to find your own path and to discover what minimalism means to you,  it’s helpful to know that there are others out there like you, who look like you and who are learning and experimenting as well.  Here are some people who have made it their mission to share the benefits of minimal living:

“The Afro Minimalist” (@afrominimalist), curated by Christine Platt. Christine shares her experiences living in and decorating a 630 square foot apartment and even provides a tour (follow the link in her bio on Instagram).  Christine Platt is also a published author and the Managing Director of American University’s Antiracist Research and Policy Center (@AntiracismCtr). 

@blkminimalists (blackminimalists.net) is the creation of Yolanda Acree, Kenya Cummings, Farai Harreld and Anekia Nicole. The current members are Yolanda, Kenya and Farai.  On their site you’ll find interviews, personal essays from the founders, a space to share your own personal journey and they even host a pod cast. They also provide an e-course which provides an introduction to simple living with the help of videos, worksheets and links to other resources. 

Also, check out E and Roe of “Brown Kids” (@brownkids) on Instagram and take a look at their posts about minimalism and intentional living, enroll in The Jar Method Visual Workshop which will show you how to save money and reduce/eliminate food waste and their stories featuring their Debt Diary chronicling how Roe had paid down her debt.

Minimalism is about so much more and there is so much more for me to discover.  Feel free to share your own journey with minimalism or ask questions by clicking the title of this blog.  Also feel free to leave any other comments.  Live free.