Extreme Minimalism

This Cartoon Does Not Know The Meaning of Its Existence


A Minimalist Apartment

Holly Golightly's Apartment
Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard
Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)


A Quick Exercise or Experiment

Do you reorganize things? Ever since I was a kid I constantly found myself rearranging everything I owned. I would move my bed to different spots in my bedroom, shift my toys/books/furniture into other ways, and I would spend HOURS in one spot, arranging small items into a visually comprehensible schematic.

I'll be the first to admit that I am not only a perfectionist as well as a slob. I get lazy because cleaning takes SO long and I don't want to waste the time to do something that I know will get dirty again. But! Whenever I reorganize my things I find that I am MUCH more willing to put things back into place for longer periods of time. Maybe this has kept my sanity?

Anyways, When was the last time you reorganized yourself?

I'm still tackling the kitchen one piece at a time. Today I decided it would be the dishes.

Tim and I do not have a dishwasher. In fact, I haven't used a dishwasher in about 3-4 years. Tim thinks this is the worst thing that could ever happen, but I'm less inclined to agree. Tim's mother bought an entire full course set of dishes for Tim when he moved out of his house but when there are only two people who LIVE in said house, there is no reason to have tons and tons of dishes. We barely entertain and if we do, well, most often it doesn't include food.

So, with all these dishes it is easy to grab one clean plate to eat on rather than clean a dirty one. With this, we let the plates stack up until we are out of dishes! We have such little counterspace that the dishes pile up EVERYWHERE so suddenly we stop cooking and opt to eat out, or get into arguments about who gets to "clean the dishes this time." At this point, it becomes a 30-40 minute chore and who really wants to do that?

My Solution: Get Rid of My Dishes

I discussed with Tim about just getting rid of them but he was not comfortable with the idea. So, instead, I am going to "hid" the dishes as a little experiment. If we find that we actually spend MORE time ignoring the dishes because we have less, then we'll go back to a more "functional" way of living.

So I cut my number of plates/dishes/bowls in half. 8 plates when to 4, 6 "useless" bowls became three, and the tiny plates no one uses cut into 3.

Then, I reorganized my dishes! I critically thought of efficient organization as I removed plates. I wanted to create a system where I wouldn't have to move ANYTHING in order to access a specific dish I want/glass. I didn't accomplish this precisely, mostly because half one shelf of the cupboard is full of "drink" glasses, but I tried my best.



I'll let you know how this experiment went!!



I've been MIA the last few weeks for various reasons and although I was away from the internet I was doing my best to Minimalize the house. However, sometimes, well to be honest - most times, I was just making it more messy.

To get myself back on track I decided to tackle an area that I personally have no taste for: The kitchen. I hate cooking and I hate shopping for food but the kitchen (and bathroom) are my favorite places to clean. Why? Because you can physically clean almost everything with only a few items! You can wipe down the cabinets, the stove, the fridge, the plates, the dishes, the floor with either one or two products (grease cleaner, dawn, and a wet rag) - in short, everything has the potential to be cleaned. Unlike the living room - where you have to take out the carpet cleaner to do the sofa, or you have to use a duster AND a broom, and sometimes a vacuum - where it's just not that efficient. Therefore, I'd much prefer doing the kitchen/bathroom than anywhere else.


This is my kitchen, and as you can tell - it is TINY. If there are two of us in there for more than 5 secs mean words start to spell out of our mouths. Actually, this is a picture pre-Minimalism. I've done a lot since then, but that isn't this entry for now. Today I'm only pointing out my refrigerator.

I would like you to take note of the outside. Cards, magnets, photos, etc. there's crap. A lot of people use their fridge as placeholders for certain things - including memories - but in minimalism what's the point? I have a picture of my mother and I, one of me as a baby, a funny note from Tim's aunt, a birthday card from my grandmother, and even an envelope addressed to my dad that I use to remember his address. I should only focus on the things that matter and DECLUTTER my lifestyle.

Some of you may not have a problem with things on the fridge but I do. Do you see the cabinet above on the right side that is ajar? That's the cabinet that holds the microwave. I'm 5'2 and there is no way I can reach that. So, next to the fridge (you can't see it in this picture but you can see it in the others) is my step ladder to get to the microwave. However, every time I set it up I always knock things off the fridge.

So, on the outside I removed the things (with a lot of cheerleading from Tim) that were "clutterfull."
  • The pictures came off - I don't need to see a pic of me as a baby all the time or my mom.
  • I put my dad's address in an email to myself so I can easily search for it
  • I took off the extra magnets - unnecessary since I'm not going to put anything under them
I did however:
  • Leave the salt and pepper shakers
  • Left the timer (though it is the thing that falls the most!)
  • The inspirational card is there because I love it and it really does give me hope
  • And an extra magnet in case something DOES have to be put on the fridge. I chose the one from the Safari because it was a great experience. I had others like "Vote for Pedro" and one from a Chinese restaurant but those don't really mean as much to me and I have the Chinese restaurant on my phone (speed dial too, isn't that sad?)

Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of what my fridge looked like before I threw a bunch of stuff out. Unlike people who have a family of four (or more!) we keep relatively few items in our fridge. Most of it is chicken, things for tacos, jelly, condiments, etc. I actually only threw out things that met the following criteria:

  • Old/expired
  • Accidentally left open or was sealed improperly and became super bad (and smelly!)

The result: I left the bare essentials in my fridge. These are mostly condiments and drinks or things to make drinks (of the alcoholic nature). The beer and soda are often not there but are in this case because we had people over last night who drink soda and beer.

Also, another thing I did was bring everything forward. I'm really short so reaching things in the back is no problem, but Tim is really tall so sometimes it is a hassle. I also think that buying things to leave in the fridge lead to snacking habits and bad health (like, individual cans of soda). In order to prevent this "snacking" habit, we will walk to the store to buy food for dinner and hand make lunch and breakfast.

The Freezer

Like with the fridge, I've been trying to stop eating "frozen" foods and opt for healthier more homemade foods. I kept the frozen chicken because it's still good though I much prefer non-frozen chicken (we usually stick it into the fridge after we buy it to eat a few days later). We have very few foods that can be heated quickly to eat. The pizza bites were for the company yesterday, the steak for the philly's because they ARE the easiest option, the chicken as an immediate snack/lunch for Tim and the lone tv dinner for me (in case we are in a rush)The freezepops are for Tim's younger siblings or friends who come over and want a snack.

I think refrigerators are one of the places where things get cluttered most in homes. It's so easy to store things there for later times (especially condiments). We've been trying to eat healthier this year, so learning how to STOP buying junky foods has become a type of experiment. This is made easier by the fact that we only live 3 blocks from a grocery store, so a trip only takes 10 minutes to walk one way (2 minutes to bike and drive).

And I know some go "Well, we have more than two people in our house!" Trust me, I know how crazy it can be! Tim used to live with four other roommates and even though the house had two fridges they were CONSTANTLY filled up! Oftentimes roommates let food rot in there, or that your stuff will be pushed to the far back so it wasn't accessible. This type of lifestyle was very expensive to maintain (because one often forgot what food they had!).

An option IS to limit your reliance on frozen items. Instead of getting the bag of sodium-filled frozen pre-made chicken (like we have), maybe you should get real chicken and prepare to make a bunch and have some for left-overs. Or, instead of buying groceries for a whole week (or two weeks for some people, like we used to), go to a grocery store at a less busy time and buy for only a few days. Some people adhere to lists, or like to go to the grocery store only when they are hungry and completely out of food, or that they buy products they have coupons for - neither of these work for us so I won't sit here and suggest that you do that. So, our best thing is to eat what we like, buy foods we like in moderate amounts, and spend less time and money tossing things out. :)


Music is simple and happy

Not exactly not minimalist.

Dub FX is a street performer who travels around the world and makes his "beats" from his own body and a machine. I found this song very fitting to some discussions about "being successful" as well as his lifestyle is an alternative to home-based minimalists.

Upon the Burning of our House, July 18th, 1666

In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I waken'd was with thundring nois
And Piteous shreiks of dreadfull voice.
That fearfull sound of fire and fire,
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spye,
And to my God my heart did cry
To strengthen me in my Distresse
And not to leave me succourlesse.
Then coming out beheld a space,
The flame consume my dwelling place.

And, when I could no longer look,
I blest his Name that gave and took,
That layd my goods now in the dust:
Yea so it was, and so 'twas just.
It was his own: it was not mine;
Far be it that I should repine.

He might of All justly bereft,
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the Ruines oft I past,
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast,
And here and there the places spye
Where oft I sate, and long did lye.

Here stood that Trunk, and there that chest;
There lay that store I counted best:
My pleasant things in ashes lye,
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sitt,
Nor at thy Table eat a bitt.

No pleasant tale shall 'ere be told,
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle 'ere shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom's voice ere heard shall bee.
In silence ever shalt thou lye;
Adieu, Adeiu; All's vanity.

Then streight I gin my heart to chide,
And didst thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mouldring dust,
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the skye
That dunghill mists away may flie.

Thou hast an house on high erect
Fram'd by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent tho' this bee fled.
It's purchased, and paid for too
By him who hath enough to doe.

A Prise so vast as is unknown,
Yet, by his Gift, is made thine own.
Ther's wealth enough, I need no more;
Farewell my Pelf, farewell my Store.
The world no longer let me Love,
My hope and Treasure lyes Above.

By Anne Bradstreet, a wondrous Puritan poet.

Even in the 17th century some recognized that the temporal "home" was composed of alot of material things. How would you react to your house afire when everyone is safe?


Junk and Mail

Last semester my school transferred email providers and adopted gmail. I love it. My primary email address is also on gmail, but I find that I have been using my school mail more and more. For one, it's a more professional address, and two, I get way more traffic on it then I do in regular mail (I'm a pretty popular student!).

However, heavy traffic means big messes and as you can see - I tend to not do much with it. In the above image I have 132 emails - this is from the last 2 weeks alone. I religiously believe in gmail's labeling power, but often I do not use it because I am one of those people who has to wait until everything is finished before filing away something. Bad habit, I know.

Well, 132 is just too much. So, I went about organizing it today. I have to say that I did the "works" and that this project took me about 45 minutes - however, I also have a much much much cleaner inbox.

1. I started in the back and worked my way forward (which adds to the time, but I prefer to do things chronologically). I starred any old email that I have yet to respond to, need to respond to, or contains a note that I need to remember for a future date (My German emails pertain to this week's worth of homework).

2. Any email I thought I might forward or needed to respond to but hesitated, I did. This made labeling a lot easier and I didn't have to second guess a reaction. If someone did not want something forwarded to them, they'll definitely let me know.

3. Double label but move into one folder. This is the beauty of google, and especially gmail. Sometimes I will have an email that not only deals with one person but also an institution and an event that is taking place there. Often, I only mention the event in an informal email to the one person, so I'll label the three places (I already have individual labels for the event (symposium), institution (vmfa), and person) but since it was an informal email I'll label it under the person. Yet, when I click "Show all labels for 'event'" it will automatically include the private email!

4. Reviewed my labels. I went through each file and made sure that something that should go into my Word of the Day, didn't get stuck in "Frick." (I accidentally hit the wrong label sometimes). I have 21 labels. I found some labels had no posts in them (like 'priority') and deleted them.

5. Make each label a different color. I'm a visual person and although I can't tell you what blue background with red text exactly refers to, it lets me know it's different than a green background with orange text.

6. Hide the labels you don't need or often check. For instance, many of my labels refer to classes. The classes I had last semester I hid, although I won't get rid of the actual emails because I may need them at a future date. I also hid anything personal, or emails from my family, that I never check after reading them.

7. Don't condense. I'm a very specific person. I have a few emails from the Met, the Frick, the NGA, and the VMFA. Instead of just listing them all under "museum" I MUST have individual label makers. Even if I were to add a "musuem" one, it would just contain all the emails from all of my previously added labels. Now that is clutter.

After which, I had a much neater inbox. I know that it won't stay this way forever, but I feel a bit cleaner after doing so!


Clouded Reasoning

One of the main reasons I started this blog (especially when there are six/seven links to your left of really inspirational authors) is to describe my journey of dealing with minimalism. I started with areas that weren't really personal - like my bathroom - which only contained items bought because of the smell or something like that but with no inherent value.

Tim and I have been doing well with this little adventure over the past four or five days (yes, we minimalized our bathroom, kitchen, walk-in and entrance in this time period. I should note, I've been a bit better about this than him.) but now it's time for me to hit the living room or the bedroom (especially my desk) and I'm hitting a block .

I'm a bit overwhelmed. I think "let me go through just the dresser - not even touch the clothes on the floor," or "I'll just do one drawer of the desk" and I can't muster up the energy. I'm a bit upset at the thought of throwing away things of mine that I have had since I was a kid but I have never touched or used. One such item is my Sailor Moon pencil case I've had since I was 14 but never used because I thought it would get banged up in a bookbag. I still have no use for it, but it is hard to think I'll never see it again and that the comfort I get from seeing it and acknowledging my past will be gone for good.

It's a bit heartbreaking really, and I think I need just a few more days to deal with this notion before I really come to terms with giving it up. And not just the pencil case - but things that I pretend have meaning.

A Reason, or: Clear Reasoning

Our apartment becomes its messiest in the winter. We live on the third floor, so after walking into a pretty warm building and treading up two flights of stairs, we are really hot by the time we step into a toasty apartment. Therefore, everything gets dumped onto the floor.

Thus, the picture below. Everything on the floor is behind the breadth of the open door way and you can't see the line of pathway we've created in order to reach the living room and kitchen. There are things situated in this area that is meant for easy reach in order to get out of the house and go somewhere (one of three bookbags, art supplies for class, and the jackets) while the other things are meant to be visual reminders of chores we must do while we are out (the bags of donation items).

In this picture the keys are on the keyring, but most often they don't make it there nor are the cell phones even near the loading dock. This is because we can't reach it. I stopped using the closet to hang things, like my expensive red jacket, because I just can't reach it.

There are other things that are "off" about this picture.

  • Ipod - broken and has been since generation 2
  • Stereo - since we moved here 6 months ago, it has been used once
  • Empty shoerack - a "gift" from Tim's mother. Has been standing there for a month
  • Filing cabinet - with Files on top
  • Gloves - on top the filing cabinet
  • Shoes - the ones without shoelaces I've owned since I was 18 and probably never wore more than 6 times unless I go running
  • X-mas bag with trash - has been sitting there since Xmas (I've felt too guilty to toss it out) because it was only used once
  • 6 concert badges - Which is actually just 3 doubles for the same concerts
  • Brownie Mix - it's been there since we shopped last week. A jacket fell on it and I didn't realize it was there until I took this picture.
Gross. The worst thing is that we had honestly cleaned the entire living room/entrance way just before the brownies were dropped there. The area clutters up so quickly because there is no room to hang anything since the closet is full of stored items.

So this is what we did.

  • FINALLY went to donation and dropped off the three bags (and more)
  • Donated 3 of the six glasses
  • Donated one duffle bag
  • Cleaned out the closet and donated any article not worn so far this winter
  • Hung up the jackets in our new-found closet space
  • Put the shoes I need right now (winter shoes) in the shoerack
  • Combined 3 concert badges onto one necklace instead of each individual
  • Tossed ALL the trash and did not look back
  • Tossed out the metal shoerack and extra set of keys (we don't even know what they open)
  • Tossed out the ipod and donated the stereo
  • Put the brownie mix away
It looks a lot better now.

However, I haven't had a chance to sit down with my filing cabinet (it only has two files in it) nor did I do the upper levels of closet because it is too time consuming to do EVERYTHING at once. I've adopted the philosophy of achieving little victories to encourage more, and since then the bathroom, walk-in closet, and the kitchen has been done. More pictures to follow.


Other People's Junk

I stumbled upon DropSpots.org which has this theory that you go to a place and put a possession in hopes of someone finding it. To even the odds, you go online and then mark the place where you stuffed it onto google maps and then wait untill someone grabs it.

Of course, in theory - this is a great idea! Just go around the corner and drop off a possession, but it must be more mysterious than that. I don't think people are as interested in dropping things off as much as they are interested in picking things up.

Anthropologically it's very interesting: why is someone so concerned about finding a note/cd/book/message/toy from someone they have never meet before? And, better yet, why should this object hold such a special meaning?

It's a bit like Postsecret but... not. I think the worst part is that instead of sending the secrets to one guy located in Maryland, you actually end up keeping the memento because of this inherent special value.

I am willing just to drop something off, mostly because I have to drive to the thrift store, but I doubt I'll pick up anyone's old, rained-on book or "bread pig."


Let me show you what I'm working with

This is the layout of my apartment sans furniture.

And here is the chaotic mess with

It's a nice little one bedroom/one bath filled set for two people. Two closets, two desks, two dressers, two bookcases. I doubt that I will get rid of the uncomfortable amount of furniture (especially since if we split then we don't have to rebuy things), but when I upload pictures I think you will see how it doesn't look too awful.


Day One

My original quest to become a minimalist was when I moved out of my mother's apartment and into my (first) dorm room at the age of 18. At that point I had a mantra that continuously repeated itself in my head "I will NEVER go back home!" A deep desire for independence combined with the actual means of achieving it, I decided that I would now be on my own.

Since moving out of my mother's I have moved 7 times. Let me contextualize that: 7 times in 4 years. I know some have had it worse, but I am a bit sick of it. Sometimes moving made me toss things out; sometimes I gained way more than necessary. In a bigger apartment I acquired more things, in a smaller apartment... sometimes I just wouldn't get rid of "more things"...

Now 22 - soon to be 23 - and leaving college, I anticipate that I will be moving yet again and (hopefully) making a paycheck. With this in mind, I think it is imperative that I begin my journey to learn how to cope with minimalism for a variety of reasons.

I want less stuff.
I want to save money.
I want to conserve my money.
I want to not have to clean all the time.
I want to stop accidentally buying doubles.
I do not want to have to pack up everything again to move.

I'm sure more desires will come from learning how to desire less. In the meanwhile, I hope to become clutter free both figuratively, literally, and metaphorically.