I’m not a kid anymore, but I am also not old enough to think I have learned all of the lessons I’m going to in life. Your late twenties are weird like that. You’re simultaneously wise enough to realize how unwise your were for a majority of your life, and young enough to understand that there are still a lot of unwise years ahead. But, if I am being honest, I am not sure if there is some magical age where we stop learning and come to fully understand all of life’s secrets. A girl can hope, but I am fairly certain I am wise enough to be right on that one.
So here I am, armed with the understanding that life is a series of lessons learned and humbling processes. And yet there are still some moments I am surprised when it hands me one of those defining life choices. To be fair, there are plenty of decisions I could easily spot as having shaped my life in a major way, to name a few:
Choosing to date my fiancé, CJ, 6 years ago even though I had just gotten out of a difficult relationship and should have taken a lot of “me time.” It turns out the sayings were true for me: love does work in mysterious ways and timing isn’t always right.
Deciding to pursue a career in design despite the advice to pick something practical. Is the grind harder? You bet. Is it better to do something you love? Definitively, yes.
And lastly, deciding to uproot and move to a new city with CJ. Taking the chance on a new career, hometown, and really leaning into building a life with my partner has proven to me that we make it through anything.
But not all of life’s decisions reveal themselves as the true turning points that they are, and that is where my story really starts. If you asked me two years ago about the concept of minimalism, I would have laughed and said that I was the exact opposite of that notion. I was convinced that I would be a messy artist that was “inspired” by her clutter for her entire life. It’s the way I always was, and I didn’t suspect I was about to step into a major turning point. Ladies and gentlemen, I introduce you to the niavity of your mid 20s.
And before we get into just how I became a minimalist, let’s quickly talk about how much of a minimalist I wasn’t. Until my recent lifestyle shift, I could never remember a day when my bedroom wasn’t blanketed with a not-so-fresh clothing carpet; when my closet wasn’t brimming with unworn clothes; when the cabinet under my sink didn’t have loads of unused skin care products; or when my space wasn’t filled with general clutter, nicknacks, and tucked away treasures left to be forgetten in bottomless “junk drawers” and storage bins.
On top of those habits, I meant what I said about the attachment my creative spirit had to my clutter. In fact, all throughout my childhood and young adulthood, a great majority of my excess revolved around my artistic hobbies and career. From a lifetime of creativity, I easily filled an entire room. To be clear, having a dedicated studio or art room is never an inherently bad thing. But to put my point simply:
The issue wasn’t that I had a dedicated space to my passion— it was the fact that I had a dedicated space to unrealized goals and unrealistic expectations of myself hidden behind that passion.
Breaking out of that cycle of holding onto the “someday” version of myself is just one of the many things choosing minimalism has changed for me, but that is a story for another time. Now that we’ve gone through just how far I was from where I am now, it’s time to fast forward to the tipping point. The moment I realized I needed to make big changes happened when CJ and I found ourselves signing the lease for an exceptionally tiny apartment (you can see a tour of that lovely little home here, but don’t forget to come back!). This apartment was beautiful, but our reasoning for moving into our new home was less out of desire and more out of need.
The reality was plain and simple: we were living beyond our means. When my fiancé and I left our hometown, we ended up moving into a two story town house that was nearly two times too expensive. Unfortunately, new opportunities don’t always work out perfectly. When that hefty rent price combined with out credit card debt, college loans, and living on one income for half a year— we became the definition of living pay check to paycheck. We got by, but just barely. Something needed to change fast. When the opportunity to slash our rent in half came, we didn’t hesitate to sign on the dotted line.
It was a strange feeling to be simultaneously elated and terrified as we signed the lease to our new little place. We were finally moving into an apartment that was beautiful and affordable; but the realization of how much stuff I needed to get rid of immediately was crushing my left hand as my right hand agreed to the terms of our future compact living space. And that was it. That was where everything changed.
We went back to our current place and I was in full on minimalist mode. We walked through the door, and I marched up to our bedroom. I threw on an audio book I purchased months ago but didn’t listen to called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, opened our bedroom closet, and I didn’t look back.
And even though I was on fire with my new love for simplifying— I started small. I focused on the easy things like clothes I hadn’t worn in years, worn out items I held onto for way too long, and long forgotten gadgets. For two weeks, it felt like all I did was pack up giant trash bags of stuff to donate and throw out what didn’t actually matter to me. This was the extra stuff I lived with complacently for years; the stuff that dragged me down without realizing it; the stuff that made me think I was a messy person that couldn’t be helped; and the stuff I kept to maybe become the person I wished I could be. And that takes us back to that room I talked about earlier. The room that I lovingly (and naively) called “my office.”
As you can guess, that was the space I waited to declutter last. It was filled with things that were wrapped up in my memories and day dreams. I remember opening the door, and looking around wondering where I could start. There was a good amount I could see parting with, and a lot that I was unsure of. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the luxury of being sentimental. We only had a week or so left until we got into our new place, and I couldn’t physically take all— or even most of the things I was looking at.
In that moment, I chose that everything had to go. I kept my filming equipment and nothing else. Not the desk. Not the office chair. Not my senior gallery show prints. None of it was spared. And I will tell you something incredible: there was virtually nothing I ended up missing.
And just like that, we moved into our new tiny little apartment. Within a few months, I decided it was time to turn on the camera for the first time in a long time and share my story with the world. I’m not sure if I would have had the courage to part with all of the things I did if I hadn’t been pulled there by life’s twists and turns. But I am so grateful I was. I have been living lighter, truer, and happier ever since.