4/29/13

Directions (how I woke up and found myself a minimalist)

Have you ever been drifting along in life, and then realized your life had taken a turn, you were heading in a new direction? That's happened to me. Probably not a surprise with the entrance of a baby. But, this is not about the baby, at least not directly.

It's about how I looked up and found myself becoming increasingly drawn to minimalism, which led to an intrigue with zero waste, then a less toxic lifestyle, then green beauty, green smoothies and a bunch of floaty hippy dippy lady bloggers. Yeah, that's a mouthful, isn't it?

So I'm going to do several posts to catch you up on the odds and ends I've been intrigued by lately. 

Let's start with minimalism... (As I write I'm going to shower you with some photos that are my minimalist inspiration).


Six months ago as I felt an increasing need for simplicity and minimalism in my life. I've always had a minimalist streak, but it seems to be growing and overtaking my magpie tendencies now.

As my life has become so busy and full of child-induced clutter, I've wanted to cut back to the bare minimum. Will's occupation seems to be taking things apart and out and scattering them around the house - everything from items in pantries, cabinets and drawers to the contents of the recycling bin and trashcan and the miscellany in my purse. I let him scatter to his heart's content, but quickly try to re-order again (after all, he needs something to scatter - if it's all scattered about, there is no fun mess to be made). He's also reaching more and more, and there are few places in the house high enough to hide things from his reach. 

So do I want knick-knacks and vases and decorative items and pretty books all over the place? Uh, no. I also want less to clean, less to vacuum around, less to break, less to get stained or peed on. Just less.

I've become drawn to spare interiors, to broad, sunshiney, nearly empty expanses of room that, like a quiet calm person, or a cozy cat, are content to let things be, without feeling the need to fill every bit of floor space with furniture and every bit of wall space with ornamentation.


So, the last six months I've been quietly minimalizing away, taking a trip to donate something to charity at least once a week. It takes time to be ready to get rid of things, even if they are things you bought inexpensively at a thrift store. It takes time to let go. I've felt like an archaeologist, excavating, peeling back layers of myself, layer after layer, trying to finally reach the core. I still have layers to go.

I hardly considered myself a hoarder, but I've been amazed at how much I've had that is so inessential. How did it get this way?


Well for one thing, I shopped incessantly at thrift stores. Things were cheap and I liked the idea of fashion and self-expression, so I bought whatever I wanted. I've had that "cheap" mentality - that "I can't spend any money" mentality, so I would buy lots of little things or junky things for little money, instead of saving up for a few nice things. Plus it was a hobby. It was fun to find things that were so cool that I could brag that I found at a thrift store. 


I have a history of loving vintage and Shabby Chic! And oh my goodness, well that can lend itself to quite a collection (ahem, hoard) if you're not careful. Even though my tastes have evolved, I still had quite a few things lingering - vintage globes and postcards and bits of lace and whatnot - because it was still hard to let go of something I once treasured, even if I've moved on.

I still get the itch to shop at thrift stores from time to time, and I'm not saying I never will again. I believe in secondhand shopping and the things you can find are amazing. But I don't want to get caught up in that mentality of always needing a hit, a buzz, of finding something new, a new score. I don't want to shop for entertainment (well, not too often).

I don't feel done getting rid of things. I'm still peeling back the layers. And please, don't even go look in my garage. I've made progress, but much work remains.



I've been looking for other ways to simplify also. I've also been digitizing. Our music is all digital now. My recipes are slowly going into an app (Whoohoo, Recipe Box!) And I'm trying to push the envelope (heh heh) to see how far I can go with being paperless. I'm even getting rid of my filing cabinet!

(originally from Domino mag)

I've redefined the interior and exterior design aesthetic I enjoy. I like space. I like emptiness. Room to breathe. Everything doesn't need decoration. Put down the wallpaper and spray paint and take a breath. It's hard though, because I still love style and stylists like Emily Henderson and Rachel Zoe. I still love creativity and color combinations and patterns and fresh ways of putting things together. But when it comes down to my life and my living space, I want tranquility, simplicity and ease.



Even the way I look at my clothing and my style is different. I'm wanting more classics, more neutrals, and just a few statement making accessories that really show my POV (which still includes quite a bit of bohemian flair, of course).



I'm continuing to reconsider what I need. Do I need an arsenal of cleaning products? More than one pair of summer sandals? Physical copies of my favorite childhood books when I could get them from the library at anytime or download them on my Kindle?

I'm even rethinking minimalism in the kitchen, how I cook. Do I need 10 artisanal vinegars or kind of salts? Do I want to make complicated recipes or ones with hard to find ingredients I probably won't use again? 



Why reconsider? Why cut back? Because less is more. Less is clear. Less is sharp. Less is clean. Less is iconic.

Less is luxury.

To me it is true luxury to open a closet and find it not to be stuffed to the gills with clothes I don't like anymore, to find just a few pieces that are ALL my favorites. It is luxury to open my refrigerator and find it neat and clean and to be able to see everything that's in it (guess what? I'm not there yet!). To me it is luxury to just have a lamp, a clock and a glass of water on my bedside table. To me it is luxury to have a clean desktop (still working on this too). 


When I started going deeper in this, I felt conflicted about blogging because so many blogs are focused around consumption and things - wanting things, creating things, making things, crafting things, buying things, curating things. So much is about being trendy and cute and having the latest things. So much is about defining yourself, presenting yourself, through things.

Part of me wanted to rail against the internet centered around the latest trendy things that leads so many of us to feel continuously vaguely dissatisfied but unable to pinpoint why. But I didn't want to be raining on other people's parade - that wasn't my heart. So I stayed silent until I felt ready to talk about it, aka, until I felt ready to be honest, and become the most unpopular woman on the internet (haha). 

For everyone who loves to go crazy pinning all the stuff they like and want and need on Pinterest, that's okay, Okay? (umm, yeah, cuz I'm on Pinterest now too) But it's good to have a little healthy self-awareness and make sure the internet isn't a treadmill of eternally new "I wants" that will never get you anywhere. That's my soapbox, and I will now step down.


So, in my next post, how my interest in minimalism took a detour in the Zero Waste Home.

p.s. Although I use the term minimalist, I don't use it as a label, exactly. Minimalism looks so many different ways. I'm hardly the backpack carrying, stuff-counting, living in an airstream, giving my kid zero toys for Christmas brand of minimalist. I actually prefer the term simplicity, as it feels more like what my heart yearns for.

p.p.s  Although I have my own personal taste, I don't think minimalism is limited to a certain aesthetic - it can be classic, traditional, modern, boho, feminine, colorful, ethnic, whatever you like. It's more about a mindset and way of living.

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