Categories
authenticity mental health sobriety

The 4C’s- and I’m Not Talking About Diamonds

The beautiful thing about life is we have the ability to choose how we want to live it. Whether you realize it or not, you are completely in charge of the decisions you make.

There are many aspects of my life which are unconventional, and perhaps even misunderstood by others. As I tossed and turned in bed last night, thinking about a brief conversation I had about going car-free, I pulled out my phone and started to take notes.

Reflecting on what is “expected” versus living a life that best suits my values has elevated an immense amount of stress and anxiety, not to mention has bonded me even tighter with others who feel the same. From living minimally to standing firm in my choices, my life has completely changed for the better since embracing a few principles.

I used to do a lot of work with diamond companies and jewelry designers, so the 4C’s are something I used to write about often. I may not be a woman who dreams of the day she will get an engagement ring (I gave back a 1.51 princess cut diamond in 2008 when I decided to move to San Francisco), but my own 4C’s of life quality- instead of diamond quality- are important details that shape my life today.

Car-Free

“Car-free has gone from something where it’s for people that can’t afford a car to people who can afford not to have a car,” Ryan Johnson, founder of Culdesac, told me. As the first car-free neighborhood in the United States, Ryan is starting with Tempe, an area of Arizona which relies heavily on driving. Created to encourage residents to walk, enjoy experiences in their community, and connect with one another, Culdesac is a concept I’ve been living for the past six years- even though there are cars all around me.

Making a conscious choice not to drive came easily after spending the past six years living in New York and Boston. I loved walking the city, taking pictures wherever I went, and embracing the sights all around me. Public transportation is something I began to enjoy- not dread. Whether it was looking out the window in a cab, reading on the train, or listening to music while I waited for the bus, I used my time well as I commuted, a drastic difference from sitting in traffic and feeling my blood boil.

I’m sure one day I will drive again, but for now, I can afford not to- and I’m a lot healthier, more eco-conscious, and financially responsible as a result. I wonder how much money I spent on gas in the past, driving aimlessly to alleviate my anxiety. Today, I opt to walk to cure stress- and it works a whole lot better.

Clutter-Free

I used to love “stuff.” My closets were filled to the max, I pushed things under the bed, and I forgot what I even owned. This of all changed when I left NYC in 2016, moved back to Michigan for the summer, and later took a one-way flight to Boston (when this blog began!) with three bags. Everything I needed was transportable via car (Uber, specifically), making my move a piece of cake.

I started over completely when I moved back to Michigan this past October, now living in a townhouse with my cat. With an empty apartment and a few bags full of clothes, my mom and I set out to decorate my place with a minimalist aesthetic with functional details.

Everything has a place and purpose- with the clean colors and pops of red, green, and gold sprinkled throughout the house, I can easily move something from one room to the other and it fits in anywhere. I don’t own anything for the sake of owning it, and my closet only consists of items I wear.

Cocktail-Free

I first got sober in 2011- but didn’t stay that way. Apparently, I hadn’t had enough “yets;” those destructive and life-shattering events which make people say “I need to stop.” You see, even though my mental health was deteriorating and my relationships, finances, and dignity suffered, I hadn’t been through enough.

It’s a pretty twisted way to think about it- who wants to keep drinking just so they can experience the hospital multiple times, months in detoxes, far-off rehabs, or living with 20 other sober people? Well, I’ve officially done it all. That’s the thing about addiction- you never think these things will happen to you. The voices in your head tell you you’re okay; that nothing bad could happen.

Well, it did- and it all made me so much more appreciative of everything I have today. Would I go have a drink to “fit in” or shut someone up as I did nine (or even three) years ago ago? Absolutely not. I don’t have to get into the nitty gritty with people I just meet, dates, or acquaintances, but if they want the truth, I’m happy to share what it was like to physically detox for weeks, not be able to eat or walk, and be stuck in a hospital.

I’m good on the cocktails, thanks, but feel free. My own sobriety isn’t something I would ever want to push on someone else- but it’s a choice that has given me the opportunity for a brand new and much better life.

Child-Free

I’m not here to offend anyone who is a parent- but making the decision not to have children is a big part of my life. At 35, it’s important for me to be transparent with others about my wishes.

Having a family is expected for people. Nevertheless, the idea of family gives me anxiety. I love my mother, aunts, uncles, and cousins, but I don’t know if I am fit to step outside of myself and care for another human. I’m a lot to take care of. I would never want to neglect or affect someone else because of my own preoccupation- which is also why I’ve been single for half a decade.

Call me selfish, but I call it self aware.

Children give people a sense of purpose, and it’s wonderful to see friends of mine parent some amazing human beings. I look up to them, but instead of being a parent myself, I see myself as a mentor or teacher, not a mother. Writing alone gives me a sense of purpose. I share some of my most personal and intimate details of my life, so I would say that’s a little bit of a sacrifice, right?

Opening up to people about my mental health, life choices, sobriety, and self-acceptance helps me to better understand myself as well as benefiting others through my own experiences. If there is one life I can touch, my writing here has served its purpose.

Finding peace, purpose, and passion may not lie in what the world tells you is best for you- that’s something you need to find within yourself.

Categories
conscious living mental health mindfulness

Being Mindful of Your Social Media Consumption

I recently went through a major social media purge.

As I strolled through Copley Square checking my morning feed, I noticed how many irrelevant posts popped up on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Invitations to events across the country. Photo comments from people I hadn’t met. Accounts I followed that haven’t been used for years. From fashion brands to people I briefly knew in college, I wondered, “do I need to be seeing this?”

We underestimate how much the internet and media can flood our brains.

In my daily mindfulness practice, it’s also important for me to be mindful of what I consume online, too.

In one of my previous lives I was a fashion blogger, where I connected with brands, big and small, from all over the world. In one of my earlier pieces, “How a Fashion Blogger Became Minimalist,” I wrote about my shift in priorities, stressing the importance of quality over quantity, finding a signature style, but most importantly- finding happiness within.

Although I will never give up my love for style, it no longer makes me feel whole. I stopped looking at what everyone else “had,” and began finding happiness in my own world; not the world that someone portrays through a lens. This also goes for any social media use.

Whether it’s fashion, a lavish vacation, or a family photo, it’s been important for me to remember that looks can be deceiving. While I hope everyone feels content in their own skin, you can’t judge a book by its cover.

Instead of focusing on what everyone else is doing, get out there, enjoy the simple pleasures, and create your own mindful life that you love.

Categories
conscious living mindfulness minimalism

Simple Glam- Making the Most of a Small Space

Over the weekend I gave my bathroom a makeover.  Despite living minimally, I’ve made an effort to give my humble abode a few little luxuries.

It’s not always easy to make an old room look shiny and new!  Ever since moving into my first San Francisco apartment ten years ago, I’ve grown accustomed to outdated (and overpriced) spaces that need a creative touch.  Although my bathroom wasn’t that bad, it definitely needed a little face lift.

Knowing I had blue tiles and plastic light fixtures to work with, I wanted to go for a clean, simple look.  As I was browsing through Marshalls, I stumbled across a sea-stripe shower curtain by Kate Spade– and although it wasn’t what I had initially been looking for, it was perfect for a New England girl.

Decorating Tip #1~ Find a staple piece and work everything else around it.

Now that I had my theme, I was ready to accessorize.  I had been living bare-bones since moving in; mismatched towels, a broken towel hook, and an old shower curtain had been holding me over these past seven months.  Needless to say, it was time to show the room some love.

I picked up the necessities- matching towels, a towel hook, bathmat, and a couple accessories to warm up the space.  It took me three days and several stores to find the perfect shades of blue, but once I made it to Primark, my search was over.  For just $26, I got two new bath towels, two hand towels and a bath mat- all to perfectly match my shower curtain.

Organization is huge for me.  I no longer keep “extras” in my house, either- if it’s old, broken, or useless, I toss it.  Long are the days of hoarding old nail polish, extra eyeshadow shades, or almost-gone lipstick.

Decorating Tip #2~ When arranging things, be sure they’re in a logical area- separate items such as lotions, beauty tools, perfumes, etc.  Not only will your area be tidy, it will be much easier to find everything!

It’s amazing what a few tiny touches can do!  In addition to this weekend’s purchases, I refurbished and reorganized a few things I already had.  I moved a few pictures on the wall, painted the vanity trim gold, and re-purposed a jewelry stand to hold my lotions.  With rose-gold accents and Tiffany-blue trimming, my chic and simple bathroom was complete.

Decorating Tip #3~ You don’t need to buy new everything- just move things around!

So, when all was said and done, I completed my bathroom makeover for under $70.  How did I do it?  Here’s the breakdown:

Shower Curtain: Marshalls, $20

Hand Towels: Primark, 2 pack, $13

Towels: Primark, 2 pack, $7

Bath Mat: Primark, $6

Over-the-Door Hanger: TJ Maxx, $6

Decorative Tree: Target, $6

Jar: Marshalls, $2

Candle: Marshalls, $6

Total Bathroom Makeover: $66.00

Not bad for a small space, is it?

Categories
conscious living minimalism

Traveling Light- Collecting Sentiments, Not Stuff

It just occurred to me that this is one of my first “minimalist” trips.  In the past I used to always check a bag or two, pack enough shoes for three weeks, and prepare for any occasion.

Not anymore.

As I packed for a week in Colorado, I was realistic- I knew I’d be lounging around during the day, working away on my laptop, and bundling up to go out and explore.  This has been a bit of a “working vacation;” while my friend is at his office during the day, I’ve been drinking endless amounts of coffee in his luxury apartment lobby, working away, and catching up on TV shows (since, you know, I normally watch shows from my laptop).

I brought one carry-on- my packable Henri Bendel overnight bag (which comes in Bendel stripe or black), making it easy to store after getting back from a getaway.  Since Henri is my favorite for all the things, I had my plaid purse and monogram cross-body bag along for the trip.  I was glad airport security didn’t have anything to say about me having three personal items, not two- but my cross-body is small enough to get away with.

So, far, so good.  Packing was a success.

Yesterday we took a road trip to Boulder and checked out the lovely Pearl Street shopping area after exploring Flagstaff Mountain.  Shopping used to be one of my favorite activities of all time.  My friend Brett just so happens to be the best shopping partner, too.  Over the years he’s accompanied me on many excursions- from shoe shopping in San Francisco to Macy’s with my mom and me in NYC, he’s a really great sport.  Not this time, though- he didn’t have any bags to help carry and didn’t spend hours waiting for me outside a fitting room.  Since the beginning of our friendship (when my fashion blog was in full-force) my priorities have taken a major shift- what used to be one of my favorite pastimes now gives me a ping of anxiety, with a “where will I put this?” running in the back of my mind.

My colorful wardrobe of items I never wore has since been replaced by classic blacks, staple pieces, and favorites- no duplicates, no “because it was on sale” excuses, no space fillers.  Just things I actually wear and love.

Sure, I’m on a budget and don’t have space in my carry-on- I packed as much as I possibly could into that Bendel bag- but I also realized I don’t need anything new.  Just a couple of weeks ago I did a major deep-cleaning in my apartment, doing two huge loads of laundry and gutting my entire closet to re-organize.  Even though I didn’t think I had much, it was entirely overwhelming.  Step by step, I organized socks, shirts, skirts, leggings, loungewear, etc.  After all was said and done, I felt AMAZING.  I knew where everything was, ditched the things I no longer use or wear, and created a method to the madness.  “Stuff” can get overwhelming even when you’re a minimalist- there’s just less of it!

This trip has inspired me to consign and donate even more of the clothes I have.  It’s made me take a closer look at the things I really need- and things I haven’t missed in my six days in Denver.  So, what did I bring, you ask?

Seven days in Denver: Packing List

  • Hairdryer
  • Straightener
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Face lotion
  • Nail polish (Essie “Merino Cool”)
  • 2 black tanks (H&M, 2 for $10)
  • 3 black leggings
  • 3 sweatshirts (two black, one grey)
  • 1 black dress (in case it got nice- it hasn’t)
  • 1 pair of tights
  • 1 black cardigan sweater
  • 1 SF Giants t-shirt
  • 1 SF Giants hat
  • Workout clothes- yoga pants, sports bra, running shoes
  • 1 quilted black coat
  • Bras, underwear, socks
  • Suede ankle boots
  • Black ballet flats
  • Laptop

This is all I brought.

My plane wardrobe consisted of a black tank, black wrap sweater, leggings, booties (that were easy to slide on and off at security), black scarf, and my long(er) quilted black coat.  The beauty of each and every item I packed is that everything goes with everything.  That’s the key to packing- having an interchangeable capsule wardrobe.

Although my love for clothes will never die, I’ve learned to prioritize and focus on quality over quantity.  Even though I didn’t do any damage on Pearl Street, I experienced something even better- mindful moments with a good friend, enjoying the beauty of nature, and some relaxing time away from home.  I did get a sticker from Trident Books, an iconic Boulder bookstore.  Coincidentally, the sticker (which came from a machine) is of a woman meditating in the forest with a baby deer on her lap.  We had just seen deer running through the mountain, too!  I put the sticker on my laptop as a reminder of this fabulous trip, and to stay mindful in every moment.

I leave Denver tomorrow afternoon and am so grateful for this re-set.  I start a new job on Thursday and I’m thrilled about the opportunity- and to be able to recharge before I begin a new chapter.

If this trip has taught me anything, it has confirmed the importance of collecting sentiments, not stuff.  There truly is a freedom to living more with less- so get outside, take a deep breath, and remember what really matters- this moment.

Categories
conscious living minimalism self discovery style

How A Fashion Blogger Went Minimalist

I used to be one of those people who saw something on sale and bought it in every color. When I found a dress, pair of pants or top I loved, I would do the same- the more, the better!  I would mindlessly shop on a Saturday and search the sale racks for things I didn’t need, but were “too good to pass up.”

My closet was full, my dresser drawers were breaking, and I couldn’t even account for most of my shoes.  I forgot about things I owned, left the tags on multiple items and constantly took things to consignment stores- only to buy more.

It was insanity.

I vividly remember packing up my childhood house prior to my mother putting it on the market.  I was on my way to start a new life in New York City, blindly moving into an Upper West Side apartment with one closet.  Obviously, I thought it was necessary to pack everything I owned and send it on over.  Endless boxes and several luggages later, I had an overflowing closet full of everything I could possibly need- yet only stuck to a few pieces.

I had purses in every color, shape and size. I had shoes I never wore.  Don’t even get me started on the “seasonal” items that barely saw the light of day.

During my time in New York, I moved twice and got rid of a lot.  Some of the pieces I sold broke my heart, but I needed the money more than I needed the fashion statement.  I started by selling the old pieces I didn’t feel great in and the navy items that clashed with my everyday blacks.  I started to realize that over the years my style has remained the same: classic, minimal, and grey scale.

Yes, there are many ways to dress up a basic ensemble.  I also learned that the costume jewelry, uncomfortable heels and impractical handbags only took up space and weren’t necessary for me to complete “the look.”

It was time to embrace minimalism.

Now, I’m not one of those people who counts the number of pieces I own or commits to getting rid of two items when I bring in one- no.  I believe life is all about balance.  However, I stick to a look yet have only a few items that are outliers (a green dress, a bright bag, or a chunky necklace).

Thinking about decluttering and discovering your signature look?  Here’s a few questions to ask yourself to get started.

What do I feel best in?

I have a lot of black tank tops and leggings.  They’re versatile and practical, whether dressing up or down.  I believe in quality over quantity, so I find a brand I like and toss them when they start getting old.

Whether going out with friends or running errands, I love a basic black dress.  I have many.  Sundresses, work dresses, everyday dresses.  People often ask me why I get dressed up, and my response is simple: “I’m only throwing on one thing.  It’s easy.”  No effort, yet I feel chic and polished.  It doesn’t get much better than that (oh yes- and my favorite black dress was $8 and from H&M.  No one would ever guess).

What do I really wear?

Going back to leggings, this brings me to jeans.  I can’t stand them.  I stand at a petite 5’3, so it’s a challenge finding jeans that both fit and feel comfortable.  I would much rather wear an oversized shirt or throw a long tank over my leggings instead of feeling restricted in jeans.  I only own two pairs as of today.

Jewelry was a big thing for me, too. Most of my jewelry is simple or sentimental, and all of the other boxes and bags of statement pieces gathered dust.  I stopped buying cheap, and started thinking practical.

What colors do I gravitate toward?

It’s clear I prefer blacks, whites and greys, but I also like pops of color.  My favorites are red and green.  I don’t restrict myself to these colors, but the majority of my wardrobe can be worn interchangeably with all of my pieces.  It’s like a game of mix and match.

I remember how proud of myself I was when I packed for a trip home for the holidays.  Everything I wore worked together.  Boots, flats, leggings, skirts, tops, dresses.  This was when I had my “a-ha” moment- I realized I didn’t really need as much as I owned.

What brands suit my style and budget?

I got on a Henri Bendel handbag and jewelry kick while living in New York.  They always have amazing sales, so I enjoy getting a new handbag or monogrammed tote every season or two.  I also have stayed true to budget brands such as H&M, Old Navy and ASOS, who year after year come out with little black dresses and basic pieces that fit me.  Gap is one of the only brands that consistently has “short” jeans that fit me- I just pick up the number, hit the register and go- I don’t have to waste any time, and I know that they’ll fit.

It’s great to discover new brands, but also important to know your body and your style- whatever your budget may be.

I don’t like to spend a lot of money on clothing items (I’d rather splurge and buy nice shoes or a bag), as I have a tendency to spill coffee or sit on something that may stain- yet another reason I wear a lot of black.  City life can also do a number on your clothing, so I try to avoid getting myself into a situation where I ruin a $200 top that I couldn’t afford in the first place.

As I reflect on my path from excessive spending and hoarding to getting a rush from cleaning out my closet, I am grateful to lose fashion FOMO.  I used to constantly compare myself to fashion magazines, women around me and the latest trends, but now I wouldn’t trade my signature style for any other.

Being happy within yourself, and your outfit, is one of the greatest gifts of all- minimalist or not. ❤️