Minimalist Monday: Failing Forward

I’ve fallen off the wagon. In the past 13 months I have been so strung out and exhausted from graduate school that I have lost touch with my minimalist side.

Our budget is out of control. Real talk: somehow 2 people have managed to spend around $4000 a month for a year. That’s way more than we have brought in, considering it’s been 13 months since I’ve gotten a paycheck. Our savings are in shambles. And my self esteem is in the toilet. How did I let this happen? Why did we just spend $120 at Target. Did I really need that moped? HOW DID WE SPEND OVER $1000 ON FOOD THIS MONTH!?

The clutter is piling up. I look at the mess in the kitchen and try to pretend it isn’t there. The “junk cabinet” is at a horrifying level. The fiance made a joke the other day that my “Chinese element is cardboard” as the Amazon purchases roll in. Stupid stress shopping.

As I beat myself up over how far I’ve drifted from my ideals, I remember the ideals that my new principal (I finished my master’s and got a teaching job by the way!) ingrained in us: “fail early and fail often.” My minimalist journey is still fairly young. Mistakes are a necessary part of the learning process. Fail forward. I can’t let the mistakes I’ve made paralyze me. Instead I will keep them in mind as I get myself back on track. Keep moving forward.

Minimalist Monday: Wabi-Sabi

Last week I was catsitting for my friend and visiting her apartment for the first time I fell in love. There was something beautiful and comforting about the space with its aged wood floors, candles, ancient stove, and consignment store furniture. I had been contemplating redecorating for a while (since I perpetually crave change) and her space just spoke to me.

As I sat on the couch petting the cat I spotted this book on the bookshelf:

The dust jacket read, “Simply put, wabi-sabi is the marriage of the Japanese wabi, meaning humble, and sabi, which connotes beauty in the natural progression of time. Together, the phrase invites us to set aside our pursuit of perfection and learn to appreciate the simple, unaffected beauty of things as they are.”

Intrigued, I began paging through the book. I read about the origin of wabi-sabi in Japanese tea ceremonies. I skimmed the chapter on creating space. I read passages about forgoing complexity for simplicity, celebrating damaged goods, and opting for the handmade over the mass-produced.

I’m hooked. This idea of wabi-sabi is a merger of minimalism and sustainability. In a nutshell, it encourages letting go of things that are not beautiful, functional, and meaningful (minimalism), repairing rather than replacing (sustainability), and making (or if you aren’t crafty purchasing) good quality handcrafted items from available resources. It also embraces celebration of aging and imperfection rather than pursuing eternal youth and imperfection. Simply put, age and imperfection gives character.

Minimalist Monday: Minimalist Rats

Postings have been sparse lately, there’s been a lot going on this summer. But I have been meaning to write this post for a while. It’s about my darling little fluffkins that started me on this simplifying journey. Well they’ve helped in a different way too. For anyone who knows they want to let go of things but are having trouble with it, I suggest getting a pair of rats (at least two, they are social animals) and releasing them in your house. They are pretty indiscriminate in their capacity to destroy anything and everything. For example, here is a comforter they got their little hands on:


And here is little Fluffer herself eating a pencil as I type this:


So hey, if your having a hard time deciding what to eliminate, or just letting go in general… let the rats do the thinking for you. They will also help you foster a sense of detachment from your material possessions since it will all end up with holes eventually. And those little balls of fluff are so darn cute it’s not like you’ll want to get rid of them 😉

Minimalist Monday: Clutter and Your Brain

Today I read a Lifehacker post which touched on the psychological effects of clutter. There’s some interesting stuff in there from your brain registering giving up an item as physical pain to how just touching something causes a bond to form to the spike in stress hormones from dealing with excess stuff. There’s also some simple tips on managing clutter. Enjoy!

Minimalist Monday: Minimize Distractions

Today I wanted to share an article from Becoming Minimalist called 10 Unconventional Habits to Live Distraction-LessI have implemented 70% of these in my own life and love it (you’ll have to guess the ones I’m still working on )! It frees up a lot of time and mental energy and I strongly suggest giving these strategies a shot 🙂


Minimalist Monday: May JotL Wrap Up

Remember my May Jump of the Ladder Challenge? Well here is my before and after:

IMG_0565      IMG_0603[1]


I started with 10 boxes and an assortment of things. I finished with 3 boxes, two sleeping bags, and a little basket.

How I did it:

  • Crafts: Consolidated my craft supplies (recycled bottles, downsized yarn) into one box and moved to a new home inside the apartment.
  • Old School Notes: Went through 2 boxes of school notes. Recycled everything that was irrelevant to my field. Put all relevant notes together with relevant textbooks in bookshelf.
  • Camping gear: Consolidated 2 boxes into one large box. Threw out unusable things.
  • Gardening supplies: Used pots to re-pot plants. Got rid of large tote and put small gardening supplies and seeds in a tiny basket.
  • Keepsakes: 1 tote, no change.
  • Christmas/Halloween: Got rid of pointless decorations (pine cones, a flameless candle with no batteries…) and consolidated all of the holidays into one box.
  • Miscellaneous: Found new homes for things (with friends, Goodwill, etc.)

I was able to get the closet looking good within a week, however finding homes for things took a bit longer. I procrastinated a lot and had stuff rolling around in my car for about two weeks. Gotta work on not losing steam after the initial excitement! So yeah, not nearly as dramatic as my April challenge but still a success!


Minimalist Monday: JotL and My Storage Closet


So yesterday marked the beginning of round two of the Jump off the Ladder Challenge. For round one, I gave up eating at restaurants for 20 days and had some amazing benefits. This time I’m tackling our balcony storage closet. This is where the things that I haven’t purged from my storage unit ended up, sitting, collecting dust for months. There are 10 boxes, stacked 5-6 ft. high containing the following:

  • College lecture notes
  • Paintings
  • Camping gear
  • Gardening supplies
  • Craft supplies
  • Christmas decorations
  • Graduation caps, gowns, cords, and various other memorabilia related to school
  • Odds and ends

My goal is to reduce the clutter by 50% or more. Most of the stuff in this closet hasn’t been touched since January, and since it has been in neatly stacked boxes I’ve never bothered to go through them. But I’m tired of clutter and our apartment management is looking to eventually put a washer/dryer unit in that closet, so this stuff has got to go. I plan to eliminate and consolidate so when that day comes whatever is left can find a home inside the apartment without any trouble.


Minimalist Monday: Starving College Students

Box Girl

College students often live in boxes. Or out of boxes. Whatever.

Okay today is going to be a fun one because I got to go through Facebook and find lots of college pictures of me being homeless.

Last week I read an intriguing post on Raptitude entitled “How much of your life are you selling off?” It really appealed to me because 1) I think money is a big government conspiracy and 2) I can’t seem to figure out how I spend so much of it. If you didn’t read the post, it basically talks about how we are quite literally selling our souls. We work and save around 10% of our paychecks so that someday we can retire,  by which time we have spend the majority of our good health and time working. The post introduces a novel concept in our “American Dream” society where, rather than working our whole lives so we can have the $1 million or so dollars we need to retire, spending less, saving more, and retiring before our lives have passed us by.

The key here is to live on less. I got to thinking about college when I read this. In college, well, I was essentially homeless for about the first 3 years. I technically “lived” with my parents, however I spent so much time studying, researching, and working 3 jobs that I ended up sleeping in my $300 minivan, camping out at the beach with my textbooks,  or just not sleeping and staying up all night in the chemistry student lounge and hiding from security when they tried to kick me out.

Van GirlBlanket GirlWhiteboard

At this point in my life I was very capable of living on little. Even while living in an apartment with $800 rent and


A professor actually stopped and gave me change as I was sitting on the ground of the science building.

spending $500 a week on gas, I kept all of my expenses from exceeding $1500 a month. I had to. Internships and tutoring only pay so well. I borrowed my textbooks from the library, barely ate out, never spent more than $10 on clothes, and only spent $20 a week on groceries. And I wasn’t living off a diet of Ramen (although I didn’t have a whole lot of variety). I discovered that you could get a lot of really decent food for less at Trader Joe’s.

Somehow, upon graduating college and securing decent employment, my expenses ballooned. Yes, I was paying student loans so that added about $400, but I reduced my rent to $550 and a smaller car and fewer places to be reduced my gas expenses from $500 to $120. Technically I should have been spending way less than I was in college. But since I could afford it my tastes got more expensive. Growlers full of craft beer, sushi dinners, massages, a cushy gym membership,  clothes. My expenses started to top $2600 a month, over $1000 more than I was paying as a college student. Had my expenses stayed at their college levels, I would have around $25,000 saved by now, nearly enough to be free of my student loan debt.
Now that I am (not so patiently) awaiting my return to school in 2 months and 6 days, I’ve re-assessed my spending. I’m going to have zero income, living only off the money I have saved. Starting this month I am flipping the switch back to college-student-broke mentality and perhaps this time I will keep it that way.

Simplicity to be… Prepared???

To the average person, simplifying your possessions seems like it would be counterproductive in being prepared. If you’re getting rid of those items intended for some obscure purpose, how could you possibly be prepared for everything? Well first, I think that minimalists and frugal people can be much more resourceful than most. They are able to find a single item to fulfill multiple uses. Second, they are more prepared to cope when life throws them something unexpected.

Let me explain.

Tristan’s parents live in your stereotypical two story suburban house with a cluttered garage, filled to the brim with stuff. His mother is a firecracker, I love her to death. Although she is approaching retirement age, she has just earned another credential in special education and shows no signs of retiring. Ever. She loves her job, and she loves to take on projects (of late they have revolved around redecorating the house). Recently, she fractured her back in a horseback riding accident. His father is not in great health. He is not able to help around the house much, and his health requires constant care. Around the same time as his mom hurt her back, his dad tripped on a garden hose and broke his rib.

With the double onset of these injuries, the house became less of a sanctuary and more of a source of stress. Neither of them could clean, sort, organize, or take care of the garden. They are embracing the idea of simplifying and decluttering, and all of the benefits of  owning fewer possessions. After witnessing the burden that possessions can place on people, we are now more determined than ever to live simply so that if something unexpected happens, we have less stuff to worry about!