What Minimalism Means to Me (and how I got started)

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As I commuted into work this morning I thought about how much my life has changed over the past year. My means of transportation (bus and train) may not have changed, but my overall lifestyle certainly has.

It all began with the great purge of 2016. I’m not sure what triggered this; maybe it was the perpetual hoarder I briefly dated, or maybe it was the anxiety of living without a bedroom closet. Whatever the case, I began selling handbags I never used, donated clothes I never wore and consigned anything I could find to earn a few extra dollars. This wasn’t limited to wearables, either; I went through old phones, cameras, gadgets, home goods, tech accessories and books. I became obsessed with organizing, streamlining my wardrobe and ditched quantity for quality.

At the end of May I moved apartments, thus purging even more. Although I only moved a few blocks away, it took three SUV trips and one more clean sweep to complete the move. Come July, I had to move yet again- but this time I was fed up with my overall life in New York. I was so exhausted with the clutter, the crowds and the constant “need for more” that I gave half of my possessions away, packed the rest, and spent the remainder of my summer disconnected at my family cottage. Those boxes I sent? They’re still sitting in storage… and 70 days into my new life in Boston, I am still living on the contents of three pieces of luggage.

I used to adore knick-knacks, spent money mindlessly and filled a deep void with “stuff.” I cared about the newest phone, the latest purse, expensive shoes and owning the best computer. I saw value in material things without treasuring the world around me- which set me up for constant disappointment.

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The typical American life that is “expected” didn’t quite fit my desires. I didn’t want to spend all of my money on a home, settle in one city or to live in the ‘burbs- I set out for New York to learn, to gain independence and to obtain finance security; not to fall into debt and live in a constant state of FOMO.

Leaving New York no longer looks like defeat to me; now it feels like strength. It wasn’t leaving the city that was so monumental, it was leaving my old way of thinking. After leaving, I made the decision to purge all that no longer served me or the life I wished to lead… but this didn’t happen overnight. It took me months leading up to my Boston move to finally accept that I wanted less to be able to live more.

There are a variety of ways I live a life of minimalism- while some are extreme, many are very doable for anyone. Keeping in mind that I am a single female who chooses to live in the city, many of these ways serve me in an urban area but may not be possible for others.

No Car

The last time I drove a car was in June of 2014, prior to moving to NYC. Although I was ecstatic to move to the city, it was terribly sad to leave my little Mini Cooper behind. Alas, I have not missed oil changes, flat tires, overheating, spending money on gas, driving in the snow, insurance premiums or car payments. I just got anxiety thinking about it all.

For some, the ultimate status symbol is a car. I giggle a bit at this. Take the car! I don’t want it! Yes, this is my most extreme case, but one I am passionate about. Not only does my lack of driving help (in a small way) the environment, but it helps to improve my own health. Never is there a day I walk less than three miles, even on a weekend- typically I walk at least five.

I enjoy public transportation, ride shares and biking (am I one of the few?); if I worked outside the city and didn’t have the luxury (haha!) of taking the train, I would definitely miss catching up on reading, music and people watching.

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The good old days along Grand Traverse Bay with Mini Girl

No TV

It’s been a few years since I have owned a television. Yes, I have lived places that had a television, but I don’t right now- and I haven’t since 2014. Not only is it yet another item I need to carry with me, but there’s nothing on TV that I can’t find on my laptop.

Sometimes I miss having the news on in the background or watching a show right when it airs… but there’s always an easy fix for that. Not owning a TV provides opportunities to be more social (TV nights with friends!), to get out of the house (ditch the couch and move!), to learn a new hobby or pick up a book. Television has actually become a pet peeve of mine; it’s hard for me to sit still for long, so TV definitely doesn’t serve my lifestyle.

No Duplicates

I used to love buying “extras;” you know, just in case. This old habit quickly became a huge pain in my ass. Duplicates actually had the reverse effect; instead of valuing everything I had, I grew annoyed and began misplacing things because I had “too much.” I’d stock up on sale makeup, buy two of the same shirt because I liked the style (which isn’t always a bad thing- if it fits into your signature style), and make impulse purchases without even blinking an eye.

Today I only own what I need- quite literally. I don’t have drawers of extra toiletries, multiple gadgets (you know that drawer of “sorta working” phones and cameras? Me too) or twenty purses- I only own what I immediately need and love. Want to save it for a rainy day? I suggest not. If you’re not using it, someone else could be!

MealPal

I recently signed up for MealPal, an awesome monthly service that gives you a variety of lunch options five days a week. Every day around 5PM I receive an email from MealPal with tomorrow’s lunch options in my area- and for about $100 a month, I have a delicious lunch from a local Boston eatery ready for pickup every day. You can also find MealPal in New York, Miami, San Francisco, Chicago and DC.

This has benefited my life of minimalism as I 1) don’t spend excessively at the grocery store, 2) don’t waste items I buy at the grocery store, 3) don’t have to worry about packing a lunch and 4) (and most obvious) I save a ton.

I ran the numbers, and on average I would spend $8-10 on lunch every day, granted I didn’t bring my lunch. Assuming I only spend $8 on lunch per day for 20 days, I’m already saving $60 a month!

Find a Signature Style

For as long as I can remember, my favorite pieces of clothing were black. There is something about the chic sophistication and the ease of wear that lies within a black outfit. Even on the very worst mornings, all I need to do to feel “put together” is throw on a little black dress, sunglasses and lipstick.

Not only does this simplify my mornings, but it has helped me prioritize my overall possessions, wardrobe and shopping habits. Shopping isn’t nearly as tempting when I can acknowledge that those things I thought I may “need” simply don’t fit into my life or style.

Focus on Experiences

Instead of relying on “things” to make me happy, I look to the outside world. This takes a shift in your thinking, so don’t be discouraged if this doesn’t come easily right away.

Some of my favorite days are spent in the park, taking pictures, writing at a cafe or laughing with friends- not racking up my credit card or showing off a new outfit. Yes, I will always adore living a stylish life, but less is more- and spending less will save you time, money and energy to live the life you love, explore, and experience each day to the fullest.

 

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The things I love the most can’t be bought! One of my favorite places, Central Park.

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