Becoming a minimalist

I was listening to the minimalists podcast earlier today and one of the points brought up that really stood out to me was about minimalism not being a destination, or even a path to follow, but rather a tool to clear the path so that you can get where you want to go. In case you’re reading and you have no idea what this whole minimalism thing is, the best way I would describe it is the same line I use to describe what my blog is about: intentional living.

You can still be a minimalist and own more than 100 things. It’s not about obsessively counting what you own, wearing the same thing every day, decorating your house in solely black and white with sparse furnishings, or otherwise conforming to a certain stereotype. It’s not really even an ascetic lifestyle of denial, it’s just about focusing on/buying/owning/consuming only what brings true value to your life, and letting go of anything superfluous that might get in the way. And again, it’s not a journey or a destination, but a consistent mindset that helps you to live with purpose and not get bogged down by clutter, mental or physical. So, today I want to talk about my personal experience with minimalism and how it has affected my life (spoiler alert: only good things).

Let me start by saying that I was the furthest thing from a minimalist: I am extremely sentimental by nature, and as an only child I also had a tendency to give a lot of personality and weight to objects because playing often revolved around things instead of other people/siblings. So naturally, I held onto every little thing that came into my life because I wanted to and I had no reason not to, and I loved collecting pretty knickknacks. Being an only child and living in the same house from age 5 to present meant that I didn’t have to compete with any siblings for space, nor did I ever have to confront the full scope of my possessions…until I began preparing for college. I realized that not only would I have to pack up a condensed version of my life to move into a small shared dorm room, but there was a real possibility that I might not live at home with my parents for more than another summer or two if I followed the seemingly common college student pattern of getting an apartment, then an internship, and eventually a job.

So, sometime in late 2013 or early 2014 during my senior year of high school, I discovered the concept of minimalism. At the moment I can’t remember how or where, but something led me to the minimalists blog and from there my mindset began to change from sentimental hoarder to (still-sentimental but no-longer-hoarder) self-proclaimed minimalist. It definitely started slow, but looking back, it’s amazing how far I’ve come. Initially, I only had time to declutter while sorting out the necessities to pack for college. After living in a 12’x12′ shared dorm room for the 2014-2015 school year with only the necessities and for the most part feeling like I still had more than enough, I returned home with renewed resolve to pare down my belongings so that if I needed to pack up and move in the near future, it would be simple instead of overwhelming.

I ended up not following that “typical” college pattern of dorm to apartment, and have been living at home ever since for various reasons, which admittedly was helpful in the process of minimizing my life. Two years later, after packing away too many bags and boxes of donations to count, plus a few neatly organized containers of sentimental items that are truly worth saving, I am finally almost done utilizing the tool of minimalism to clear my path. Of course, I will continue using this tool again and again as more clutter inevitably makes its way into my life, but the large pile of debris has been cleared. My parents even removed a significant amount of their own clutter in this time as well.

I would estimate I now own about 25% of what I did when I started, and I feel physically lighter and much happier. The new things I bring into my life are carefully considered, and though I now own mostly things I love and use regularly, I do also feel less attached to “things.” As a Christian, my personal values are rooted in my faith, and minimalism fits right into those values. As I strive to live intentionally with my values as the core motivation of my actions, I knew that before anything else, I needed to clear the clutter. I wanted to share this story of how I became a minimalist in case you’re feeling stuck, or like your things own you instead of the other way around, to show you that even if you’re a sappy sentimental weirdo like me, you can still learn how to disengage your emotions from your “stuff” if you’re willing to put in a little effort to change.

Minimalism in a world of consumerism and indulgence can be quite countercultural, sort of like Christianity or veganism, but I challenge you to challenge this culture. Life is freer when you don’t have your path blocked by stuff you’ll never use, and it’s so much easier to be grateful for what you do have when it’s all stuff that actually adds value to your life. Maybe you’re like me and you need this challenge, or maybe you’ve been a minimalist since before minimalism was cool. Either way, remember to challenge yourself once in a while. What could you change in your life to better align with your own values?

On being uncomfortable (in a good way)

I want to try out a pattern for this blog where for one post, I use a photo, then for the next, an illustration. I take lots of photos, so this will be a way to put some of the random, pretty ones to use (I have a bit of an obsessive DIY attitude that makes me resistant to actually using a stock photo or anything I didn’t personally create) while also giving me a break in between illustrations, which are more of a challenge and a way for me to practice and refine that skill. So to begin my first illustration, I grabbed my sketchbook, which I conveniently keep in a basket behind the couch. Because, let’s face it…

I love spending time on the couch.

Don’t we all? I mean, if I ranked the activities I truly love doing, sitting on the couch would be pretty low on the list. It doesn’t give me any reward or sense of fulfillment compared to going to yoga class or visiting family or working on a creative project of some sort (although there are many creative projects that can be done from the couch). But sitting on the couch is comfortable.

How much of our time do we spend being comfortable?

The answer to that question varies for each one of us. Your comfort zone might not be as literally comfortable as a couch. Maybe you’ve had the same job for years, or you visit the same place for vacation every summer, or you hang out with the same friends and go to the same workout class every Tuesday night. When is the last time you tried something new?

I’m not trying to get existential here, but it’s often true that we stay in our comfort zones far more than we leave them. The word “uncomfortable” is typically only seen in a negative light, but in many situations it can be a very positive feeling. Think of the last time you experienced something really fun, new, different, unexpected. Riding a roller coaster, having a conversation with a friendly stranger, accomplishing something that you were really convinced you couldn’t do. The initial emotion you experienced in all of these situations was probably discomfort, then exhilaration.

So when 6:15pm rolled around yesterday and I had the choice to head to yoga class when I hadn’t gone in a month, or stay at home on the couch, I thought about this post I wanted to write. And I chose yoga class. And when the instructor cheerily told us to drag our mats to the wall for six rounds of handstands, I was happy to oblige. And when my whole body felt like a wet noodle as I held that sixth handstand, I was really glad that I wasn’t sitting at home on the couch. So I urge you: be uncomfortable (in a good way) more often. It beats living your life on the couch.

When is the last time you did something that took you out of your comfort zone?

Emerging from the cocoon

Hello there, nice to see you. I’m Chloe, here to add my voice to the vast and ever-expanding world of blogging. Before you laugh at me for my foolishness, allow me to clarify. I am RE-joining the vast and ever-expanding world of blogging.

Yes, way back in 2008 I started my first blog. At the time I was twelve years old and the notion of “blogging” was simply fun and social network-like, a way to share thoughts, interests, and daily goings-on. In 2009 I started my first “real” blog. At least, one I planned on updating regularly with content that could be interesting to someone other than just me. I kept up with that blog in varying degrees of consistency until 2012, so it was very much a part of my life for years, and I even had a whole few readers–all family members, but it gave me a semblance of purpose and accountability.

Shortly after I abandoned that blog mid-high school, I realized I still felt a need for an outlet and continued writing on a completely private blog (my thoughts always feel too fast for a paper-and-pencil journal) through those angsty late-teen years and into college. I still enjoy my virtual journal, but over a year ago I started feeling a pull toward blogging publicly once again. So here we are.

It took me a while to start, but I wanted to do it right. And it took a lot of digging through the 1,001 tutorials that now urge starting a blog as a business, as self-promotion, as a way to market yourself, and realize that I didn’t want to restart my blogging career for money or fame or even with my name plastered all over it. I wanted to do it because I love connecting with other humans. I love reading about other people’s lives and experiences, I love sharing my own, and I love cultivating a creative and intentional life. So here I am.

As with anything, you have to start somewhere. I look forward to developing my written voice further, experimenting with graphics and design, and just chatting into the black hole of the internet about topics I find interesting or worthy of exploring and sharing. I’d love it if you would join me 🙂 What are you itching to share with the world?