Minimalism

Our 14G: a minimalist New York City studio apartment

I recently realized that I can no longer tell people I have been living in Los Angeles for "about 6 months." For some reason 6 months made me feel like I was still new here, fresh off the plane. But it has been 9 months, and pretty soon it will be a year! It's crazy to me how at home I feel here but also how new it all still seems. I still remember my commute to and from my lovely little apartment, the long waits for an elevator, and the casual conversations with our doormen like ti was yesterday. 

Probably needless to say (because if you've followed along for a while you know how neurotic I can be) but I panicked a little about our new home still having so many unfinished projects. This past weekend I decided to start honing in on them which led me down memory lane (aka my camera roll) looking for inspiration. Thats when I decided to put my numerous photos of our old place to use. 

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Our apartment was a ~525 square foot studio on the 14th floor of a high rise in Battery Park City. Despite having only one window in the entire apartment it was very light, and despite being a studio we had little issue with storage space. But that could have been a product of both my partner being pretty minimalist and strategic with our belongings.

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#Our14G on instagram

Bedroom

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I loved our bed "room" and never had an issue with not having a wall or door, even when we had guests for extended stays. I think I just appreciated how minimal it forced us to keep the space, and how open and airy it felt. We had a high bed frame (where suitcases could fit beneath) and a king sized mattress that probably wouldn't fit inside most 1 bedrooms in NYC. We each had matching side tables and side table lamps and a long dresser facing the bed. The dresser was actually 2 ikea pieces we each had before moving in together (thats why his is more yellow-ish than mine!), but we didn't really care and I kind of like the sentimentality of the two coming together in our first home together. Lastly, at some point we added a small armchair and runner to this area to warm it up and give us an extra seat to gave out onto the river from.

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Undoubtedly the best part of this apartment was the view onto the Hudson. It's what sold us on this space and it created our refuge from the business of the city.

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Our mostly white minimalist spot didn't need much more decoration than it's single large window. Just look at how much the view would change from day to day and day to night.

living space

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Our living space was where we worked, relaxed and entertained (yes we entertained!). Along on side of the room was out couch and oversized ottoman, separated from the bedroom by a low bookshelf and plants. On the opposite wall were our desks and desktop computers that also served as netflix players.

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A similar floorplan to ours

Above is a similar floor plan to ours, the kitchen and closets are slightly different, but you get the gist. Adjacent to our entry way and kitchen we kept a small cafe table that was rarely used for eating and more for serving and collecting mail. We mainly ate at the bar or (admittedly) on the couch. I also included a gratutious bathroom pic, I think I took this when we first toured the apartment which is why the sole decorative item which I was obsessed with is missing, a mudcloth print shower curtain from Target. 

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And with that this walk down memory lane comes to an end. So many sweet memories from this home, now off to continue nesting in our new one!

A Minimalist's Thoughts After a Trip to the Flea

This weekend I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market for the first time, and while it was meant to be just a day of good fun (which it absolutely was), I also had a lot of mixed feelings throughout the day. Some of my big takeaways, aside from the little one I bought, were:

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1. There is just so much stuff on this planet.

The vastness of the flea market is so much bigger than what you can comprehend from the map they give you as you walk in. Everywhere you look there are racks upon racks and table upon table and row upon row of things. So much stuff all in one place out in the open, not separated by buildings or walls, really makes an impression. And when you think this is just a portion of the selection of just a couple (thousand) vendors in this tiny part of the world, then to think of all the stuff that each one of us owns in our own home, and all the stuff that was previously made owned and thrown away! It is enough to make my head spin.

2. I love seeing so many people buying second hand.

Despite being a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, it was very exciting to see the prominent and enormous vintage and antique sections of the market. I am a strong believer in "Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle" (and whatever iterations of this phrase), so buying things that already exist instead of increasing demand for new items of the same is excellent whenever possible.

3. I am not my things.

This is what I want to elaborate the most on today...

Probably the biggest feeling I felt throughout the day was that of want. I am not a super minimalist (or spartnaist), I still like to have things around me that inspire me or make my life even just a tad more comfortable or beautiful. But I have gotten pretty good control on my consumerist impulses to buy anything that I like. I am usually very deliberate when I go shopping with precisely what I want or need in mind and will leave empty-handed if I don't find just what it is I came in for. I tell you all of this because yesterday at the flea all of this was thrown out of the window. The excitement of all of the interesting and unique things brought to me a lust I hadn't felt in a long time. I wanted to take home so many things! Fortunately, my rational brain knew I had no space in my life for another basket, rug, denim jacket, or bulb vase and that feeling subsided. But that feeling it again bothered me enough to make me think...

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Last year I read Fumio Sasaki's Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. There are so many wonderful ideas that Sasaki shares from his own personal experience, but the one I was reminded of yesterday was when he asked himself the question, "Why do we own so many things when we don't need them?" He believes it is our way of conveying our own worth to others, using objects to tell the world who we are. He later shares an example of this in his bookshelves.

"I used to have books piled onto bookcases that took up all of the space in my narrow hallway. Yet I could barely remember reading any of them... It's clear to me now why I kept these books laying around... even though I knew I was never going to read them. I was desperate to convey my worth through these books. They were there to communicate the message: I've read a lot of books to date. As anyone who looks at my bookshelves can see, my interests are diverse, and I'm very inquisitive. I know all about these different topics if only in name... Perhaps I can be described with an intellectual with depth."

When I first read this passage I laughed at loud because I could think of many areas in my life where this must be the subconscious message on repeat. And yesterday I realized that similar dialogue sparked up. "I must have all these beautiful things to show the world how stylish and eclectic my taste is." Again, I am not saying having things to express one's personality is bad. I am just reflecting on my own uncomfortable impulses of yesterday. Then this morning, in my 5 Minute Journal, I found the quote of the day to be a perfect reminder:

"We don't really want things. We want the feelings we thing those things will give us." -Gary Tan

And the beautiful thing about that quote was that I reflect again on the day what stands out most it how much inspiration I got looking at all of the things made by people over the years, how much fun it was exploring with my partner, and how many times we told each other what a great day it had been, and those were the feelings I can hold on to.

Minimalist Packing: Summer in Europe

I have wanted to do a minimalist wardrobe packing post of ages! And I am finally organized (with enough photos) to do one. This post is essentially a what I made, what I wore, and how to pack light (one of my travel resolutions!) all in one. Although, it doesn't include the few electronics or toiletries I brought along with me, and for the sake of not droning on forever those will have to wait for another time.

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Clothing

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For my 2 weeks in Europe this September, easy day dresses (that are easy to wash if needed) were my go to. I prefer simple silhouettes that can be worn with any shoe like the ones pictured above and below. The black one on the top left is a tencel number from Zara's Join Life collection, and the one on the right is a just a striped t-shirt dress.

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Again with the easy dresses, and these two I made! If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know I love to get my sew on (this girl over here is really getting to her slow fashion). And this summer I challenged myself to make as many garments as I needed to take along with me to Europe instead of buying new stuff. In total, I made 2 dresses, a skirt, 2 tops, a necklace and a bag for this trip! On the left, you'll see I am wearing a me-made grey and white striped linen shift dress with a v-neck, and on the right a boxy cotton number that ended up being perfect for the beach.

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When packing for longer trips I stick to what I love to wear, that generally means denim, stripes, linen, and tees. Some of my most worn tops were a self-made navy striped breton top tee, a self-made black linen top, my Everlane white linen tank and navy boxy tee. I also packed 2 more striped items, one a shirt dress and the other a t-shirt dress, because I can never have enough stripes. On the bottom, I kept it super minimal with a pair of black high waisted jeans, denim cut-off shorts, and a black linen wrap skirt that I drafted and made myself!

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outerwear

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Outerwear can take up a lot of precious real-estate in your carry on so I bring items that are layerable on the plane and can work with every outfit I pack. This year my denim trucker jacket was the savior of cooler mornings and evenings. And an item I never leave at home is my 4-year-old Uniqlo Ultra Light puffer jacket. This thing is light enough to fit under any jacket for added warmth but thin and light enough to get tucked away in the smallest of handbags. When all else fails and I just couldn't bear to wear either of those layers, I would just steal my boyfriends grey cardi, because after all sharing is caring.

Shoes

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Shoes, much like outerwear, is bulky and if you are like me you probably have a very hard time keeping this category to a minimum. But now I have a pretty tried and true method of packing footwear when I am planning a variety of activities. I forget about heels, I may wear them once for a few hours but the nuisance of packing isn't worth it. Instead, I opt for a simple, versatile and comfortable sandal that can be dressed up like my broken in Madewell leather sandals on the left. I also always pack my rubber Havaianas that double as a house slipper and beach sandal. And finally I have a walking/travel sneaker like my Supergas on the right, this is the shoe that will bail you our when your dogs are barking after days on days of exploring.

accessories & bags

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Last but not least the accessories! This is the key to variety in my outfits when I pack light. I usually have a pair of earrings or two, a bracelet and a couple of necklaces tucked away. A scarf, and belt that can be work at the hip or natural waits is always useful. And then a pair (or two) of sunglasses.

As for bags, I am not much of a minimalist, but fortunately, the bags I take can fit within one another and take up very little space. I use a Fjallraven backpack as my hand luggage while traveling. I find that the wrap around zipper just makes accessing all the stuff in my bag so much easier when on the go, and it fits a lot without being heavy or bulky. I also always have simple tote bag squirreled away for those moments when I need to stash a layer or pack up a beach blanket. But for nicer dinners or slightly dressier outfits, I take a small black leather cross body bag. It is simple enough to wear during the day but looks nice enough for a night out. And finally, this year I took a special beach bag I made from a clothesline. Normally I would probably skip this item but since I made it and love it I brought it with me and did get a bit of use out of it on our beach days.

And that is everything! All of this (plus my toiletries) fit comfortably into my lovely Away carry on. I will be writing a review on this suitcase soon, I wanted to use a few times first before posting, and now I finally have seen both the good and the bad and can give a comprehensive review.

I hope this packing summary helps anyone who is trying to pack a bit lighter. Let me know if you have any packing hacks or holy grail items!

5 Ways I Lived More Intentionally in 2016

So in 2016 I got really into what the interwebs are calling intentional living. Essentially intentional living is living based on your values by making conscious decisions that design a lifestyle around what you believe. Originally, living the kind of life I truly believed in seemed unattainable for me. For me my ideal life would entail consuming less and working toward being zero-waste, eating healthier and higher quailty food, buying from exclusively from sustainable/ethical/local businesses, living slower and being more present in every moment of everyday, committing to and developing my hobbies, and the list goes on and on... For years I was under the impression I couldn't attain all that I just listed either because of finances, time, or a combination of both. Because let's be honest being "green" or buying organic is expensive, and as a twenty-something who largest expense is paying off an education she completed years ago, there isn't a lot of space in the budget for this dream lifestyle. To quote Donald Trump (the only time I ever will btw): WRONG.

There is a way to start easing toward your dream life and living more intentionally. You don't have to buy what society is selling you. Yes, it takes a lot of time self-educating to find alternatives to what is out in the mainstream. And again, yikes!, the money. But if you are like me and are looking for a different way of living, maybe a simpler, slower more conscious one? Then here are 5 ways I have begun building that intentional lifestyle I am truly proud of.

Minimalism

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In 2016 I started calling myself a minimalist out loud for the world to hear. Minimalism was the beginning of a major perspective shift for me a few years ago, but I always kept it quiet for fear of being judged as not "minimal enough". But this year I learned being a minimalist isn't about the absence of things or being able to keep a tally of every item. It is about having only what brings me value and joy and being content with just that. It means trading in things that weigh me down, for experiences that brighten my life and encourage me to grow. Minimalism is about gratitude for what I have earned, not yearning for what I must indebt myself to own.

A lot of people say this but I truly believe it, minimalism looks different for everyone because it is about your values and your choices. No one can ever tell me I am doing it wrong because, although I still have a lot of things compared to some people, I am happy and my "stuff" works for my life. 2016 was the year that I became finally became completely content with being my kind of minimalist. One with more plants that can be counted on two hands and a disorganized collection of craft supplies. And once I accepted that my way of living with less should look different from anyone else's I become more comfortable in my home and with my finances. In the past I have had times where I got the urge to impulse buy and then feel guilty later, but now even my "impulse" purchases are in line with my lifestyle leaving me regret free (if that makes sense?). Honestly I could write a whole post (or many) about my minimalist journey, but I have to say last year was a turning point that has solidified this way of life for me!

Mindfulness

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2016 was also a year where I began to recognize the importance of mindfulness and self care. I have always been the type of person who prides herself on productivity over almost all things. And fortunately up until this year I could work myself non-stop without any repercussions. But this year the stress of working too much began to manifest in physical ailments (nothing too serious) but enough to force me to slow down. I have been Buddhist for 12 years, but I took up meditation to learn about mindfulness in a different way. I wanted to learn how to listen to my mind and body (and hopefully see the warning signs of burnout before it happens!). This mindful meditation has opened my eyes to so many other things that are important to me, like being present with the people I surround myself with and taking out time in the day for myself.  And an added bonus, once I became more mindful of each days moments I took little steps to make the day more enjoyable like walking the longer but more peaceful route to work (talk about intentional changes!)!

Purposful Purchases

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A big change for me, and one I thought most unattainable, was how I spend my money. I have always wanted to be able to buy sustainable, support great brands that are doing things right but I have always though that would be out of my reach because of my budget. But with the help of minimalism and needing less I found my budget started to loosen up and I could focus on buying a good quality coat made in the US versus having several from my former favorite fast fashion chains. Same goes for household and beauty products. I began carving out time to research natural alternatives in my beauty routine and around the house. And now when shopping for groceries we cut back on meats and focus on great quality produce. To stay on budget I prepare a lot more from scratch (which again takes time), but somehow I have found the time as this became a greater priority for me. By focusing on the power of my dollar and buying things I truly love, from clothes to food, I have gained an even greater respect for what money can do. Everyday better products are becoming more accessible and that is the inertia I want to support.

Hygge Moments

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Hygge (aka hooga). I totally hitched my cart to this bandwagon and have fully committed to the lifestyle. If you have yet to hear, hygge is the Danish philosophy of coziness. Discovering hygge and prioritizing comfort has validated my inner introvert in the most beautiful ways. Last year I made it a point to embrace my moments at home to make them restorative and peaceful. And when hosting I was constantly on the look out for what would make for the most hyygelig experience! 

Hometown Exploration

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The last way that I found I lived more intentionally in 2016 was by not taking my city for granted! As a New Yorker I tend to overlook the fact that I have access to so many amazing things: culture, public spaces, food, other people! But I took notice last year and took conscious efforts to see new places and get out of my usual routine. In part I was motivated to scratch my chronic travel itch, which I realized from my meditations I shouldn't push aside. It's like they say, YOLO - you only live once so you really have to prioritize the living part! My heart has grown even wider for my city and I have so many new favorite places because of it! So to sum up this post of how I live more intentionally, I will leave you with three of my favorite places I intentionally visited in NYC during 2016!

I look forward to what 2017 brings. Tell me, what do you think of living intentionally? Are you into this concept or do you practice it in your life? I would really like to know!

Why I Don't Do Souvenirs

Plastic magnets and metal key chains are a nice momento, but I prefer great stories, lessons learned and fond memories any day.

Before I moved back to NYC for graduate school I planned a month long trip of seeing new cities and sleeping friends couches. The plan was to pack up my apartment, move all of my belongings into my much smaller place in the city and then live out of a suitcase until the first day of orientation when I would make it back New York. This was all fine in theory, but as I executed the plan I realized how much stuff I owned and the emotional weight of it all. I was responsible for so many things that it seemed to tie me down and complicate my life. I managed to move and enjoy my vacation, but that month of living out of one bag (despite even that being way over packed!) was a huge revelation to me... I don't need stuff to live the life that I want! And actually, stuff is hampering me from living the life that I want.

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It was in 2013 that I got into minimalism. I stopped accumulating things and began appreciating what I had more. I believe minimalism is on a spectrum and is different for each person. For me it was about living lighter and viewing money differently. I now see money as tool for freedom (freedom to travel amongst other things) and not just for more things. I began measuring the cost of things as a fraction of a plane ticket or how many gelatos in Italy that would be (one pair shoes began looking much more delicious when converted to gelato!). This was exciting because it's what matters to me, being a traveler and having the mental and physical space in my life to explore.

So in essence I decided to say yes to travel and no to all the things that cluttered my life or didn't fit into my values.

Now how does all of that relate to souvenirs!? Well I am so glad you asked! It goes back to minimalism and acting in line with my values. Prior to this mindset I would feel obligated to buy everyone I loved, worked with or even mentioned my trips to a token from where I went. Not only was this expensive but it was totally unnecessary. Typically I would bring home tons of tote bags, notebooks and other random objects that my gift recipients didn't need and although they appreciated it, probably didn't really want. Often times the souvenirs I would buy would be low quality knick knacks and I realized I was just cluttering their lives with things, exactly what I had decided to stop doing in my own life! When I thought about what I would prefer over "some thing" it was a time and conversation about life and lessons and the new cultures explored. And once I decided I would no longer feel obliged to get gifts for everyone I began to get time back on my travels and found myself getting a gift only when it truly reminded me of someone and I knew they would cherish it.

So I suppose all of that to say it’s not that I don’t get souvenirs at all… I just don’t make it a mandatory part of my trips anymore. No more last minute shopping on the way to the airport. And even for myself I rarely bring items home unless it is a particularly beautiful rock from a pebbled beach, a beautifully designed postcard, or a delicious bar of chocolate I couldn't find back home! 

If you are like me and feel that the ritual of souvenirs can be overrated but like to bring home tokens to share with family I have found bringing home edibles to share, sending a postcard from your destination or taking perfectly posed photos with fun stories to tell on your return is a more than adequate substitute! 

I'd love to know what you think! Do you enjoy buying and/or receiving souvenirs? Do you think I am totally missing the point of them? Or do you agree and think souvenirs is something you'd prefer to skip? I would truly love to know!

Why You Can Afford to Travel

I used to think I could never budget in travel (especially out of the country) into my life. But I have come to realize even the tightest budget usually has some wiggle room. This of course doesn't apply to everyone's circumstance, but I assume if you are reading this you are like me and have an income and financial responsibilities that seem to leave you with little space for much else, but chances are you do. Here is how I found that extra space and why you can probably afford to travel after all.

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Those new shoes in your cart are probably not essential.

My favorite trick when saving up for a trip is the "those boots are 3 nice dinners in Rome" trick. Imagining myself in Rome eating fresh pasta wins out over another pair of black ankle boots every time. Once I got serious about my travel goals my impulse to buy a new coat every season or own four slightly different black blazers felt frivolous. And it expanded past my closet, my late night Amazon orders became more methodical and I felt more in control of my wallet. I didn't feel like I was sacrificing either (my biggest fear in budgeting) I felt like I was investing in something much bigger. And in the end could see that cutting back on shopping made space in my life for experiences and true value.

There is cash in your closet.

There is probably cash in your closet, or garage or under you bed. When I am saving for a trip I take the opportunity to purge the excess in my life. As I am spending less on the miscellaneous I am also auditing anything "extra" that I don't use or need anymore. I try to sell these "extras" online (usually clothing), and what I don't sell I donate because after all I just recognized that I don't need it. I would never recommend booking a trip and then selling all of your material belongings, not for a casual vacation anyway, but I have always been refreshed to come home after an amazing trip to a decluttered home. It has served me as a blank slate on which to implement all of my new post-vacation inspiration.

Your Seamless app is overused.

I have found the only truly maleable part of my budget is what I spend on food. In part, because of where I live (New York City) and my lifestyle (fairly busy and on the go) my food budget has tended to go uncalculated and as a result be very inflated. Once I started tracking my food purchases I realized that I eat out a lot more than I thought, I eat way more candy and desserts than I knew, and my groceries often go unused and wasted (totally unacceptable). It took a lot of planning, but I have been able to slash my take-out/order-in habit by more than half and barely throw away anything in my fridge anymore. Do the math yourself, that $5 coffee everyday if cut down to just a few days a week is almost a $1000 plane ticket each year. Or your $12 work-day lunch is $240 for the month, pack a lunch every other day and you have a night in a nice hotel or a few days in an airbnb. Makes a home brew and bagged lunch seem more appealing right?

Travel isn't as expensive as you think.

You may not believe me, but it really is not. All things are relative. I used to think in order to go abroad I would need loads of cash, I mean just having hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars upfront for a ticket is pretty intimidating. But getting there is often the most expensive part of travel, I assure you. Of course it all depends on the type of trip you are looking for. I tend to travel like a local for shorter periods of time. I don't like to leave the country if I don't have at least a week to spare, but never travel for more than a month (by week three I am usually missing my routine at home). By "traveling like a local" I mean that I eat out but not at expensive touristy places every night. I visit attractions but avoid touristy package deals and opt for curating my own experience. And I don't shop for souvenirs or the like while away. When keeping to these rules I tend to stay at or under my daily budget at home so that lodging and my flight are my only additional expenses.