Sunday, March 29, 2020

Week Four of My No-Spend Month

It's my goal as a minimalist to make all aspects of minimalism feel more accessible. It's certainly not a lifestyle for everyone and that's perfectly fine. However, I love the benefit minimalist living has on my finances, and I wanted to keep sharing how my No-Spend month is going, week-by-week. Here's week four.

Week of March 22-28

Reading over last week's recap, I noticed how depressed I've started to feel since social distancing measures started. I decided to commit to making week four better as much as I could. I did okay some days, but others I definitely failed. Not spending a lot of money this month has been fairly easy, but there are some things I've missed out on and a couple of things I couldn't pass up this week.

Day 22: I had a good start to the day with homemade peanut butter cookies and fruit for breakfast, then watching TV over coffee with the husband. After lunch, I decided to put a sweatshirt on and take a walk around the lake. I strolled for an hour and fifteen minutes, playing Pokemon Go and talking to my best friend via a voice call, then texts as the wind got too strong. Unfortunately my evening did not end on a high note; I got an email saying my Imperfect Foods delivery was cancelled, so I had to go into town to get groceries. Shopping amidst the whole coronavirus panic was not an enjoyable experience, and the quantity of food I got to match what I'd be missing from Imperfect cost about 30% more than Imperfect. But, I secured food and was able to work on a meal plan for the week.

Day 23: This was the start of my second week working from home, and it definitely started to feel like the weekdays and weekends were blurring together. I tried to make the most of the dull moments of the day by baking lots of bread and buns. My Imperfect Foods customization window opened again so I picked out what I could, hoping that this order wouldn't get cancelled like the last. I finished up this week's meal plan using only what we had on hand, to err on the side of caution. Dinner was fun to make, as I'd made chicken fajitas. Unlike Day 22, my night ended on a higher note.

Day 24: I used what would have been my normal breaks at work to make a batch of whole wheat sandwich buns; I made the dough in the bread machine then divided it and baked it in the oven. After work, I played some Stardew Valley then heated up some leftovers for dinner. With TV on in the background after dinner, I worked on a little art project in one of my sketchbooks. The creativity was a welcome relief from the overwhelming ennui and depression of the past week's circumstances.

Day 25: Stardew Valley continued to bring me some after-work joy. Once I finished a couple days in the game, I made an experimental and delicious dinner. The husband and I ate together while we watched some TV. I got a notification that one of my favorite musicians added merch to his shop. I still had a lot left from my concert budget, so I picked up two limited edition items. With so many tours cancelled, I hoped I could still support my favorites by getting things from their shops. I did go over the budget I'd initially set, but given the circumstances I think it was fine. My night ended with excitement and anticipation of the band merch I ordered. Knowing that I could do something to support a favorite artist made me feel good.

Day 26: After yet more Stardew Valley after work, this was a day for getting some necessary shopping done online. We ran out of dishwasher detergent, and a homemade alternative didn't get us the results we'd hoped for. Apparently people panic-bought a lot of dishwasher detergent, because it took me several hours searching a few sites to find something suitable. On top of that, I spent much more than I had hoped because the minimum order quantity was 6 bottles. Ouch. I also needed to bump up the shipment date on my pets' food because the kitten started to run low on her crunchies and the dog was running out of treats. But I felt good knowing that I got some necessary items on the way.

Day 27: Yes, I played more Stardew Valley after work. However, I also had an accountability walk-date with my best friend who's trying to lose weight with me. We spent some time talking on the phone as we walked through our respective towns, pausing every so often to spin PokeStops in Pokemon Go. I walked for just over an hour. Once home, I took a warm shower (it was pretty cold outside on the walk) then got dinner going. I ended the night watching some TV with the husband, then talking for a while about our various stresses and the virus situation. Talking helped me feel better about everything going on, and I called it an early night for a Friday.

Day 28: After a good, long sleep, I spent a lot of the day watching TV and playing Stardew Valley. I got a few chores done, primarily in the kitchen by getting some dishes washed and cleaning up the butcher block table for another round of oiling soon. I ended the night happy from baking a double batch of peanut butter cookies while watching some TV.

Baking has been my therapy lately, keeping me happy and occupied and staving off depression from social distancing. I've also taken advantage of having games to play like Stardew Valley and Pokemon Go. Although I did go over my "support bands" budget from the money I had set aside from the end of February, it's an expense I am not willing to beat myself up about. More of my "fun money" in April will go to supporting bands I love since most of their upcoming tours were cancelled. I have just a few more days of the no-spend month to get through and I think they'll go well. The month so far hasn't been without its ups and downs, but the no-spend challenge has definitely been worthwhile.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Week Three of My No-Spend Month

It's my goal as a minimalist to make all aspects of minimalism feel more accessible. It's certainly not a lifestyle for everyone and that's perfectly fine. However, I love the benefit minimalist living has on my finances, and I wanted to keep sharing how my No-Spend month is going, week-by-week. Here's week three!

Week of March 15-21

Last week was difficult but I realized a few things that I could apply to this week, the rest of the no-spend month, and to life in general. I realized that when I get to be creative, I feel good. I realized that when I make myself slow down and concentrate on everything from putting away clean laundry to chopping veggies for dinner, that I enjoy the time spent being focused and intentional. I'll be applying creativity and intentionality into as much of this week as I can.

Day 15: A third lazy Sunday eased me into the third week of the no-spend month. I watched TV and enjoyed fresh pots of tea through most of the morning and early afternoon and just enjoyed having no pressing matters to attend to. Over coffee mid-morning, I worked on a meal plan for the week aimed at using up any foods we have on-hand. I've tried to do very minimal grocery shopping this month to make use of the excess foods in the pantry, fridge, and freezer. After a lunchtime snack, I got dinner going in the crock pot. Once that was sorted I watched a bit more TV and then finished up the blog post about Week Two of the no-spend month.

Day 16: I took the day off work for a much-needed mental health day. I brewed a few pots of tea throughout the day to help relieve stress. My customization window on my Imperfect Foods box opened, so I spent a good chunk of the afternoon picking produce and meat and thinking about what kinds of meals I could make for next week. The highlight of the night was a healthy dinner followed up by a cup of maple syrup-flavored tea.

Day 17: Back at work I was kept busy until just after 5pm. Having things to do at work definitely makes a no-spend month easier. Once home, I did a couple of quick chores and got another healthy dinner going. I've gained a real appreciation for taking time to prepare and cook healthy meals which really helps to improve my mood as I wind down after work. Over a gin & tonic at the end of the night, I totaled up my grocery spend for the month so far, which I plan to report in the final post for the month.

Day 18: I worked half the day at work, and then started two weeks of work-from-home for social distancing given the coronavirus outbreak. I took the time today after work to call my best friend, which instantly relaxed me after a full work day. After the call, I cooked up another healthy dinner and watched TV with the husband while we ate. The night was still young by the time we finished with dinner and I realized I hadn't done a good job of updating this post with a summary of what I did each day. Oops! Once I caught up, I started making a meal plan for next week using the various meats and produce I picked out on Day 16. I ended the night with a big mug of tea and chatting with friends on Discord.

Day 19: I spent the day after work cooking a healthy dinner, watching some TV while we ate, then treated myself to some self-care. After a face mask and a shower, I started winding down for the night with a book and a Discord chat with a friend. It was a pretty uneventful day save for being busy with work.

Day 20: Working from home I decided to get an extra hour of sleep in the morning. Work was very busy all day. A while after I clocked out, I made a healthy dinner of rice and shakshuka to make use of some pantry and fridge items. I spent some time decompressing by listening to music and chatting with friends. My night ended with playing with the dog then reading a book. Social distancing started to wear me down so I didn't have energy for much all evening.

Day 21: I started off the morning baking a batch of peanut butter cookies. After a while I got a big batch of homemade pulled pork going for dinner. Feeling isolated because of social distancing I wanted to fight off depression by writing a positive letter to myself about my goals and my supportive friend group. Baking and cooking took my mind off of some of the social distancing. Beyond that I watched a whole lot of TV and chatted with friends on Discord as they were available. I ended the night watching a movie with the husband, then read a few chapters of a book.

This week was emotionally difficult because of starting the effort of social distancing during the coronavirus outbreak. I did my best to cook and bake with intention but it was hard to only be able to talk to friends online. However, I didn't spend any money so it was another successful week to count for the no-spend month.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Less Mess, Less Stress: Minimalism for the Stressed Millennial

I was delighted to find that one of my favorite and most accessible minimalists, Marie Kondo, is a Millennial like me. Millennial women, like our Gen X or Baby Boomer mothers, have had to face the stress of balancing family life with wanting to maintain a career. But the Millennial generation in general, regardless of gender, is overall stressed out with an economy of stagnant wages, high student debt, and difficulty achieving a work-life balance that gets more complicated as we "settle down" in our late 20s to mid-30s. We might ask...
  • How can we make time for starting a family if we don't have the finances or the space to support one?
  • How can we make time for our social and personal priorities when life starts to feel like it's all work and chores? 
  • How can we live our best lives if the world around us seems indifferent or unsupportive?
Minimalism (and the practice of mindfulness that comes with it) can help answer those questions. Becoming a minimalist is not something that will happen overnight, but the changes one makes daily on the path to minimalism can have immediate benefits. With fewer material items, we can make space for starting a family. With less obsession over acquiring new items, we can start to fix our financial situations. With better focus, we can ignore or cut out the unsupportive and negative forces in our lives. If you're willing to start on the path to minimalism, I'd like to offer a few tasks to complete for yourself:
  • Identify your top priorities. Are you a family person, or do you prefer to be solo? Do you prefer staying home with books and games, or going out to socialize over coffee and other drinks? 
  • Think about your hobbies. Is your space set up to promote staying active in your hobbies? Or do you feel drained when you look around?
  • Connect with the spaces you have. Sit in the middle of each room, close your eyes, and breathe in deep. Is your breath shaky because the space or mess stresses you out? Do you feel anxious about being in the room?
  • Share with your partner, roommate, or a close friend. It usually helps to involve someone you're close to with the above tasks and questions. Even if they don't "get" minimalism, having a human sounding-board can help you clarify your own wants and needs. Who knows, you may even end up with someone who wants to explore minimalism with you!
There are no wrong answers when you answer these questions honestly. With your priorities and hobbies in mind, imagine what your space should look like to support those ideals. The hardest part about becoming a minimalist is the part where you get started. I won't lie and say that the decluttering and discarding process is fun 100% of the time. The first few days, weeks, maybe months, of decluttering might feel rough. However once the excess is gone and the resultant messes are tidied, you'll probably start feeling like you can breathe easier in your space.

There are a few best practices of getting started with minimalism that I have come up with for Millennials (and, well, anyone really):
  • Create a mood board or sketch out how you want your space to look. It's important to start with a vision of how you want your space to look when the discarding is done and the clutter is gone. Your vision doesn't need to be perfect, but it should be something you can happily use as motivation to get started on your journey toward minimalism.
  • Never be hard on yourself. If you're having a hard time discarding something, it's okay. Tough items can always be saved for later. Maybe some days you just won't feel into decluttering. Know that it's okay--everyone has "off" days. If you feel like you're in a funk for too long, talk to someone you know will make you feel better and help you get back on track.
  • Celebrate the little victories. Treasure and remember the moment when you discard your first difficult item. Congratulate yourself, because action speaks louder than words. Make a list of accomplishments as you go along. For example, my personal biggest accomplishment was discarding over 90 books in one month and donating them all.
  • Tailor the decluttering process to your own needs. Maybe decluttering and discarding by category doesn't work especially well for you. Don't be afraid to go room-by-room instead if that's the easiest method for you.
  • Find supportive friends/family. There are some individuals who treat minimalism like a fad that isn't worthwhile, and there will always be people who try to step into your space and say, "You can't get rid of that!" While you're decluttering and discarding, don't be afraid to cut out the people who you feel would hinder your progress. Keep lines of communication open with people who are supportive of you, and let them know when you need to be cheered on a bit to keep going.
Minimalism has a lot of benefits. A space without clutter requires less time spent doing chores to maintain. Shifting focus off of buying material items can help fix finances. Minimalism can also help us reclaim our own good and healthy head space as much as it helps us reclaim living space. If you're a stressed Millennial like I am, I encourage you to explore minimalism as a way to remove stressful forces from your life. Put yourself first, and you can make more room in your life for what's really important.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Week Two of My No-Spend Month

It's my goal as a minimalist to make all aspects of minimalism feel more accessible. It's certainly not a lifestyle for everyone and that's perfectly fine. However, I love the benefit minimalist living has on my finances, and I wanted to keep sharing how my No-Spend month is going, week-by-week. Here's week two!

Week of March 8-14

So far so good. Bills have been paid and lingering credit card balances I had were paid off. This week, the urge to shop hit me early on... but I got through it.

Day 8: It was another lazy Sunday. I didn't sleep in as late as I had hoped, but I had a good day overall. Over coffee, I watched cartoons with the husband. Afterwards, I lounged around and read a book for a while and decided midway through that I could enjoy the last few chapters in the bath. I treated myself to some self-care in the form of a bubble bath and a bubbling face mask while I read and recharged. The highlight of the day was cooking a simple but tasty and healthy dinner before winding down for the night with another book.

Day 9: I had a very bad day at work and spent most of the time from 8:30am to well after 5pm feeling angry about the developments in a series of meetings I'd had. I decided to channel my displeasure into something constructive by touching up my resume and applying for a new job elsewhere. Afterward, I wanted pretty badly to shop for books, but I decided to look at my credit card rewards instead. I didn't order any reward gift cards or even touch any online bookstores. Honestly, it was a hellish day and it was hard to avoid shopping to take my mind off the day... but I made it through in the end.

Day 10: It was at least a better day than Day 9. Work kept me occupied most of the day as usual. Other than that, I talked to some friends about art projects, doodled and wrote poetry in a sketchbook, and thought of names for a minizine idea I'd like to pitch to the Creative Healing Space once I got to talk again to the friend who founded it. After unwinding from work, I put together a healthy dinner with meat and vegetables from my Imperfect Foods box and enjoyed some TV and chatted with the husband. I also made some time to play a video game (Stardew Valley) which was really relaxing.

Day 11: I had a slow day and ended up comparison shopping for a color laser printer to purchase once the no-spend month is over. I wound down from work by taking a walk through the neighborhood. Dinner was red beans and rice in the crock pot, which I put together over my lunch break so it was ready for the usual dinner time. Like day 10, I spent time chatting with my husband about things that were on our minds. We ate slowly and enjoyed an episode of a show we've been watching, and by the time the episode was over it was almost bedtime. I'm noticing more in this no spend month that slowing down makes time so much more enjoyable.

Day 12: My plans to see a concert later this month dissolved in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. I found some new shows and movies to watch. I spent a chunk of the night doing chores, which was fine. I do like to have the house in order so chores tend not to be very boring to me. The day overall was kind of a non-day, and the disappointment of the concert being cancelled weighed pretty heavily on me. However, one of the bands I was going to see announced that a merch shop would be online soon so I had that to look forward to. After all, I still had some money I'd been saving since February to spend at the concert.

Day 13: I spent most of the day looking forward to relaxing on the weekend. After work, I cooked a healthy dinner, and came up with a to-do list for Saturday and Sunday. With the concert cancelled, I decided to use the money I had set aside from February to buy merch to support the bands like I would have in person. To end the night on a happy note, the husband and I stayed up late and watched another movie together.

Day 14: I slept in late and spent a chunk of the morning baking and cleaning the kitchen while chatting on and off with my best friend. The husband and I watched cartoons over coffee and generally lounged around all day. In the evening, we cooked another healthy dinner with foods from the Imperfect Foods box we got back on Day 6. The night ended with some quick chores, playing with the dog, and watching another movie. Lazy days are definitely necessary, and they're good for no-spend challenges. For me, it was important to balance the tougher days with an easier one.

I won't lie and say this whole week was easy. Throughout the week, I was faced with a day that made me angry, and another that left me sad. I did have the temptation to shop but I think I did a good job resisting it. I had a lot of opportunities to think creatively, and came to the realization that slowing down and making an event of anything I do (like cooking dinner) makes the days more fun. Because some plans have gotten cancelled because of the coronavirus outbreak, I've had to find more things that I can do at home. The no-spend month did feel like a real challenge this past week, and I do have a small shopping list to take care of once April hits... but this week at least showed that I do have willpower even on bad days. There are only two weeks and a few days left to go, and I'm going to make them as fun as I can.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Week One of My No-Spend Month

It's my goal as a minimalist to make all aspects of minimalism feel more accessible. It's certainly not a lifestyle for everyone and that's perfectly fine. However, I love the benefit minimalist living has on my finances, and I'll be detailing how my No-Spend month goes, week-by-week.

Week of March 1-7

The day before our no-spend month started, we made a small grocery trip to restock fresh meat and a few convenience foods we knew we'd need throughout the next month. Beyond that, we have started to rethink our grocery strategy which is normally a $300+ big haul at the start of the month plus a couple other smaller trips for convenience items. This month we'll be putting an imperfect foods delivery service to the test to see if it can meaningfully save us money on the essentials.

Day 1: It was a lazy Sunday which was the best start to a no-spend month I could have asked for. I had a late night with friends over until 1:30 AM, drinking loose leaf tea and decaf coffee with me and the husband. Saturday I sold a piece of furniture for $60, which will pay for my "cheat" day to see a concert that I've been planning on going to since January. Day one proper, however, was spent sleeping in late, sipping loose leaf all day, and enjoying some self-care in the form of a face mask and stripping off yesterday's already-chipping manicure. I did have a friend share a picture of a goodie bag he got with a tea order which, I won't lie, made it tempting to order more tea. But I snapped myself away from that temptation when I realized just how much tea I already have, and how long it will take to get through. Despite having a "lazy" day, I worked on getting a lot of laundry done to start the month off on the right foot. All it cost to have a couple weeks of outfits ready was my time and some soap and water.

Day 2: This was the first work day of the no-spend month, so I had the benefit of zero shopping opportunities between 8am and 5pm. Throughout the day, I got messages from friends asking me to attend a creative writing workshop at the very new local Creative Healing Space. The timing was good enough--the event ran from 5:30 to 7, and I stayed until about 7:30. That was two hours spent networking, getting some decent writing done, and not spending any money to have fun. It was a very refreshing event and I met so many cool people that I had never before seen in town. Even in a small town where "everybody knows everybody", there's always someone new to meet. As a bonus, the friend who runs it sent me home with a box of cookies to share with my husband; it was an unexpected treat, and a very pleasant one that made a no-spend month feel like it wouldn't be a chore.

Day 3: I won tickets from a drawing at work to see a concert in town. The tickets on their own for the show would have been $20 per person, and even if I had paid that much the show would have been well worth it. However, with the point of a no-spend month being to not spend money, the concert was a great way to have fun for free as a perk from work. I also signed up for Imperfect Foods delivery; non-convenience groceries like produce and meat are still free game in the no-spend month. This was a $60 grocery spend for several pounds of meat and fish, and lots of produce we frequently use in our cooking. Day 6 will be the first hint of whether or not imperfect grocery delivery can save us money long-term.

Day 4: The first three days of the no-spend month flew by. I had a job interview today which took a lot of my focus until it concluded. Work in general kept me occupied, and I used my breaks to write and read instead of shop. I got a craving for Chinese food, but opted to stay home and cook a stir fry from scratch instead. I came to the realization that not every day in the no-spend month was going to be easy, but I accepted that boring or slow days are just fine. After cooking and taking care of some quick chores, I spent the night baking my own hamburger buns to test a recipe.

Day 5: It was the first pay period of the month, and instead of putting 10% of my take-home pay aside for discretionary spending like usual, I put it toward my remaining credit card balance. I mailed off the utility bills, giving me two fewer things to worry about for the rest of the month. After work, I watched some free movies, made an experimental dinner with some foods we had on hand, then wound down with some sci-fi.

Day 6: The Imperfect Foods delivery arrived. I looked forward to it most of the week. Not all of the produce was a cost savings versus shopping in a store, but the sheer amount and quality of food I got for $60 felt well-worth it. It's several weeks worth of fresh produce, and I decided to roast up some of the veggies for dinner. For fun, I came up with a meal plan for the next week that would use more of the meats and produce we got in the box. I made a small grocery trip in for canned goods and milk, then spent the night baking hamburger buns from scratch and watching a movie with the husband.

Day 7: A lazy Saturday at home with no obligations to anyone or anything is always soothing. I slept in--a real rarity for me--and then decided to spend the late morning and early afternoon baking. Later in the evening, we played with the dog outside for a while, then made dinner and watched another movie together. It was a slow but very relaxing day.

Week one was easy with no real urge to shop. Of course it entailed spending a lot of time at home, but I had a couple of free things to do out in town and at home I took advantage of some free movies. Cooking and baking are a lot of fun for me, so I tried to fill more evenings with making healthy dinners and baking breads. If you try a no-spend month, or even just a week, look at what you have on hand for cooking/baking (or any other hobby) and see what you can make with it! Look for free events in your city or town and attend them--like me, you might end up meeting some cool people who share an interest or two with you. Overall, I think week one was a great success!

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Minimalism and Mental Detox

Minimalism affects more than just the amount of clutter in living spaces. It has great mental benefits as well. I have been making an effort the past couple of years to get out of my comfort zone--to sort of declutter my stock of anxieties. As an introvert, that means I've pushed myself to go to networking events, work lunches, and more friends' parties. The other night, I went to a creative writing workshop at the new local Creative Healing Space. While there I failed to talk about how I was a blogger, or what creative projects I was working on. I was a bit nervous because I was in a much larger group of people than usual when I go to networking events or hang out with friends. I knew the event would be worth it at least if for no other reason than to support my other friends in attendance. I was not expecting getting as much out of it for myself as I did.

After the event concluded, one of my friends sent me a few messages about the event and things we talked about there. I finally mentioned that I was blogging about minimalism, and she offered a very insightful reply that reminded me of one of the reasons I started a journey toward minimalism in the first place.

"I feel like minimalism can open up a world of satisfaction. I know too many people who spend their money as a dopamine release, then feel terrible when they finally have what they ordered."

Before minimalism...
Reading my friend's reaction to minimalism reminded me that I used to be the kind of person who reveled in retail therapy, but once the reality of having more items set in I would feel empty again. I felt buyer's remorse pretty soon after a shopping spree, and I knew that returning everything would make me feel worse because it meant I would have to acknowledge my mistake and take the time to correct it. I also felt the same about going out to bars as the only way to socialize, always spending and drinking too much, and feeling worse for wear the next day. Buying drinks was the same as shopping for me in terms of getting that dopamine release--I felt great in the moment, but terrible after the fact. In my journey toward finding my own comfortable version of minimalism, I have gradually gotten over the concept of buyer's remorse, and now I no longer use "retail therapy" (or buying drinks just to socialize) to cope with unpleasant moments.

Mental detox à la Minimalism...
Intention matters. When I need to buy something now, I buy with intention instead of buying on impulse. I don't feel the rush of dopamine followed by an emotional crash into feeling empty when I make intentional and necessary purchases.
Look to the past. When I want to buy something, I think of the similar items I have discarded in the past. I realize that generally, I can make do perfectly with an item I decided to keep.
Slow down and think critically. Shopping is no longer my therapy. It's a research opportunity and a chance to make sure that I am bringing the right new thing into my home. I look up reviews, compare the item I want or need to similar items, and make an informed purchase decision.
Shift your focus. I still find joy and excitement in shopping, but shopping is no longer a tool to escape daily stressors. Now, shopping is a means to bring home items that will actually improve my quality of life.
Make your own fun. With social drinking reduced in my life, I've been pushed to make my own fun when I want to socialize. Instead of expensive nights out at the bar, I've asked friends to come over for inexpensive nights in with tea and coffee while we chat and share music. The quality of socializing this way is higher, with a much lower monetary cost.
Declutter your space, then declutter your mind. Decluttering and discarding items means you have fewer physical barriers in your way. There's less to trip over, less to have to move out of the way when cleaning, less stuff to worry about. When you have fewer material things to worry about, you make space in your mind that you can use to rearrange habits and emotions and anxieties. With the different parts of your mind in clearer view, you can start to confront and discard the negative feelings and thoughts.

Because of minimalism...
I'm tethered to and grounded by the things that are important to me, but I'm not bound tightly to them. Minimalism has served as a powerful tool for mental detox, helping to change less-than-ideal behaviors and find new ways to enjoy myself. I can only hope that minimalism will help others in the same ways.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

Never a Dull Space: Collections and Decor in Minimalist Design

I think a common misconception with minimalist interior design is that walls are to remain bare, shelves are to have as few things as possible on them, and everything should be clean and white. None of these ideas make a space really feel like home--I certainly do not want to dwell in a sterile-white house that's been stripped of personality due to the conflation of minimalism with austerity.

A search for "minimalist interior design" yielded rooms that fit the same pattern: white walls and ceiling, light grey or white furniture, no art or photos on the walls... just blank, fairly empty rooms. It's minimalism taken to the extreme where every room is clean and pretty, but incredibly dull. That, to me, is when collections and decor are necessary in minimalist design.

Some might think that minimalism means you can no longer collect a kind of item that you appreciate aesthetically. I disagree. Collections of objects can bring us joy, and when put on display those items can breathe life and personality into a room. If we live somewhere that doesn't have some aspect of our personality on display, then we're just existing there, not truly living there. Personally, I collect gold-framed mirrors and decorative handmade papers. I use these items as decor to break up large walls that threaten to make spaces feel small and devoid of energy. The handmade papers are put in simple frames and displayed like posters. Having something on the walls has always just made a place feel like home to me--whether that something is just a framed sheet of decorative paper, a movie or game poster, or just a mirror.

At the start of this post, I stated that I don't like the conflation of minimalism with austerity. No one should be shamed by some upper-middle-class minimalists into getting rid of a collection of objects that makes one feel at home, all for the sake of having less. Although having less is the general goal of modern minimalism, it's pointless if having less of a particular thing makes you feel like less than yourself. I love having books. They've been a defining element in the designs of my spaces for my entire life. Although I no longer buy books just for the sake of having them, I like to keep those that I've actually read and genuinely enjoyed so that I can enjoy them again in the future. I will always have my books prominently displayed because they show new friends that constantly learning and constantly delving into new worlds are important activities for me. Many of my friends collect figurines of their favorite characters from video games and shows. My advice even if they want to become minimalists is to keep their collections and put them on display.

Our homes should be just that: homes. They should not be treated as blank canvases forever. Bookshelves, shelves on the walls, the walls themselves are some of the greatest and most accessible spaces for us to use to turn apartments and houses into homes. You can be a minimalist and still have collections. Minimalism today is all about lessening the things you don't want or need in your life to make time and space for the things that matter. I encourage every minimalist, especially those who confuse minimalism for self-inflicted austerity, to have and display a collection as part of their decor. You're uniquely you--let where you dwell reflect that beautiful fact.