How does minimalism work?

How does minimalism work?

Growing up, I had a walk-in closet, 2 dressers, 2 night stands, and a desk in my bedroom. In high school, my step dad built me a bed frame with built in shelves. I had every storage item in my room, packed to the max. I had too much stuff, and as an indecisive person, that’s a problem. I would get rid of enough stuff so I could close my drawers. That would only last for so long. It was never a good solution for my problem. But it ‘worked’ while I was in high school.

When I went to school my freshman year, I packed about half of my closet. I had decent storage in my dorm. Then I bought a plastic storage container from Walmart, for more storage. Once again, I had all my drawers packed, no matter how I folded my clothing. This continued throughout undergrad. I continued to move back and forth half of my closet. The biggest issue with this is that I either didn’t wear ⅓ of it, or I wore ⅓ once or twice a school year. I didn’t actually realize that until my senior semester.

Halfway through my senior semester, I had to sit down and figure out my clothing situation. I was preparing to move in with my boyfriend. He lived in a townhouse, with about one good sized closet. There was no way I could take all the clothing that I had been carting back and forth for the last 3.5 years. It was at this point when I started looking into minimalism. Trying to find a better solution for my clothing and to keep what I actually wear.

Minimalism has been described as a lifestyle relating to living with less. I watched countless hours of videos, podcasts, and even read Marie Kondo’s book. Below I will link some good resources. After countless days of researching, I was ready to dive in. I asked my boyfriend to come over and assist me in decluttering. I did not want to get rid of some clothing and put a bandaid on the problem. I wanted his opinion for 1) do I actually wear it enough and 2) does it look good on my body. This was the first time in my life that I was brutal to my clothing. It took hours to go through all my clothing and I had moments of frustration. This was not an easy task for me.

But once I was done and put away all my clothing I was keeping, I felt really good. Finding clothing in the morning was so much easier. I felt good with my closet situation. I donated about 2-3 garbage bags. I threw out about one garbage bag of trash from broken or over used clothing. I had never gone this in depth with my declutter. This was the first purge. This allowed me to finish out school with a better number of clothing articles. 

After I moved in, I still had an issue of a little too much clothing. We went out to IKEA and bought a clothing rack and small dresser. I decided that my seasonal clothing would go on the clothing rack. My everyday wear of t-shirts, leggings, and undergarments would go in the dresser. The out of season clothing went into the little closet space I had. I folded my clothing in the Marie Kondo style. But I removed about 2 more bags of clothing at this point in time. I removed even more shoes. Getting rid of shoes is my kryptonite.

Once again, I felt amazing when I removed all the clothing I still wasn’t wearing after the initial purge. For work, I wear the same things; a top, jeans, and running shoes. That’s it. My workwear is casual considering I am in residential care. I need to be able to move easy and play with the kids. Things were going good but every so often when I opened my drawers, I would see the shirts I don’t wear. But for some reason I couldn’t get rid of them. I was a bit stuck. 

I am currently moving into our first home. We do have more space there than our current townhouse. But I’m not buying tons of clothing. Between the two of us, we removed another 4 garbage bags for donation. The shirts that were sitting in my drawers I wasn’t touching, have finally gone. I have about 2 shirts that I’m not crazy about but they were from my fraternity so I feel weird donating those shirts. But from 7 shirts to 2, is progress. 

I am in the midst of buying staple pieces. I am getting 3 plain neutral t-shirts. This will allow me to get rid of my graphic tees. This will simplify my outfits even more. This will allow me to be more intentional and practical with my wardrobe. A big section of my closet is crop tops, I have about 5 but I alternate between them on my days off. I feel good in every shirt in my closet. I don’t have uncomfortable shirts, and no shirts that I wear every blue moon. I own about 6 pairs of jeans in different styles and colors. I have light wash, medium, dark, and black jeans. 2 pairs are ripped so I alternate those on my days off. I own 3 running shorts, 4 shorts, 4 leggings, 2 skirts, 3 dress pants, and 2 joggers. The only thing that is not getting much wear at the moment are my dress pants. Due to the fact that it is summer and I’m about to start grad school, they can stay. If I don’t wear these in grad school I will get rid of them. I do still have 7 dresses, I may go through my dresses once the summer season ends. Any dress I don’t wear or don’t feel good in, is being donated. 

The biggest portion of my closet is my hoodie section. I used to have about 20 hoodies. At this point, I own about 8 but these aren’t getting decluttered anytime soon. Hoodies have always been a hygge-like thing for me. (Hygge is related to daily coziness. More on this at a later date.) I wear a hoodie every day, whether I am at home or at work. These have always sparked joy and are practical in my closet. 

Minimalism has helped me throughout the last 10 months. I don’t spend forever deciding what to wear. I don’t struggle with clothing that doesn’t fit me right. For this article, I focused mostly on clothing, but I decluttered my office supplies and kitchen gear. I have a refillable notebook, 1 pencil, 2 pens, and 4 highlighters instead of 15 unused notebooks, 30 colored pens, 10 highlighters, and 15 pencils. The benefits I have received from minimalism doesn’t just extend to just clothing. 

My home is easier to clean, everything has a home, and by having less things they are used more often. I have shifted to buying quality items because I am using them more. I have less items but they are being loved. I don’t have a shirt that’s been hiding in my closet for 5 years and only been used once with a certain bra. I don’t have special mugs or a million travel mugs. I grab one, fill it, and wash it for the next day. This prevents a million dishes piling up. I can clean my space easily and quickly. I used to have to sit down and figure out where I put a specific item but now I don’t have to think anymore. I know where my medicine is, where the glass cleaner is, where extra paper towels are etc. There is no time spent thinking and hunting. 

My minimalism stems from practical use. I need to be able to use the item and love it frequently. I no longer desire to have those one time use items. I don’t desire going on huge shopping sprees. If I do go shopping, I follow a one in one out rule. If I buy a new shirt, I get rid of an old one. When I buy new quality sweaters for the fall, I’m getting rid of some that have been loved a little too much over the fall and winter months. But once I get all my staple pieces situated, I doubt I will be doing much shopping. Unless it is something that screams 100% yes, and has a purpose, I won’t be buying. I don’t have a capsule wardrobe or 2 bowls but this works for me and my lifestyle. If you struggle with decisions, I strongly suggest trying minimalism even for a month. You can just pack things up for a month and just use the things you love. But you may not go back to having 20 shirts, 17 dresses, 20 untouched books, and 10 mugs. 

Resources:

There are so many more resources that I have used but these are a good start.

The Minimalist podcast (theminimalists.com/podcast/).

Marie Kondo- The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (https://www.amazon.com/Life-Changing-Magic-Tidying-Decluttering-Organizing-ebook/dp/B00KK0PICK/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=)

Ashlynne Eaton- What’s your minimalist personality type (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9npY6VvwU4

Matt D’Avella- A day in the life of a minimalist (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG2GJZcBKOE)

What a Break Taught me.

What a Break Taught me.

By my sophomore year of undergrad, I knew I wanted to finish early. At the start of sophomore year, it was more so due to financial concerns with my university. By the end of my junior year I was tired and burnt out. I didn’t realize that I would be so burnt out by the end of my junior year. During my 3.5 years, for the most part of my undergrad career I took at least 18 credit hours. I started out as a music major so that was the norm. When I switched majors to Psychology my sophomore year, I kept that norm. There were about 2 or 3 semesters where I only took 16 credit hours. When I told my boyfriend that I was going down to 16, he still thought I was doing a lot. While I had 6-8 classes, that wasn’t what burnt me out. If I  was just going to class then home, I think I would’ve been fine and not burnt out. Yet, I was in about 2-3 clubs my Freshman and sophomore year. I was also in my professional fraternity since the end of my freshman year. 

Balancing all of that, was exhausting. I have heard from so many friends and professors who said that junior year is typically the hardest year. Going into junior year, I was still on track to graduate early but was still balancing many clubs. I thought if I let one go, my stress and workload would go away. Alas, that wasn’t the case. Before my first semester of junior year ended, I had countless breakdowns. A turning point was when I dropped all the clubs other than my fraternity. When I say that lighted the load, I’m not even kidding. But the effects of doing all that, still left me burnt out. 

During my last semester of school, I had 5 classes and the bare minimum was needed from me for my fraternity. That was entirely different to what I was used to. So I had time to go work out and work on a research project. At this time, I was applying for Ph.D. programs (spoiler alert, I didn’t get into any. I’ll get more into that in a later blog post). The most stressful thing on my plate was applying to Ph.D. programs and finding out my plan for the inbetween. The start of this semester was a breeze. But when applications started opening up, I was stressing out all over again. When graduation rolled around, I was tired but happy with finishing undergrad. This was a huge accomplishment for a first generation college student.

When I was still in my last semester, I received an email from the Psych department about an internship opportunity. This internship was for a residential facility in the area. I thought I would send in my information, then go in and ask for a job rather than an internship. I didn’t want to take away the internship opportunity from a current student. Right before going to the facility, I printed out my resume and brought it in my purse. They had a group q&a for 3 internship applicants. I met with the lead therapist and program director. While we waited for the director, I was talking with the therapist about my experience at my last job. I worked in another residential facility with a different population. For confidentiality of my work, I will not specify the populations or age group. At the end of the q&a, they asked if we had any questions. I pulled every ounce of courage and explained; I am about to graduate and wanted a job. I gave them my resume and thanked them for everything.

A couple of weeks later, I sent them an email asking about any updates regarding my job request. I was told I wouldn’t need an interview and that I could come in and talk specifics. Mind you, I am normally very anxious when it comes to meeting new people and speaking up. They originally offered me a Residential Case Manager job/residential specialist. Meaning I would balance a case load and running groups every other weekend. If there was not enough case management, then I would be on the unit with the clients. They allowed me to take the rest of December off to celebrate graduation. This allowed me to spend time with my parents before moving in with my boyfriend who lives in the area of my undergrad and now work. 

The first month was me just training to be a case manager. By the end of my second month there, I met productivity which allowed me to shift to full time Residential Case Manager. Starting off, I loved working full time. I loved working with my clients and even though running weekend groups can get rough, it still is nice. This was different than going to 6-8 classes, a couple of clubs, and balancing relationships. Things were going smooth for a few months, even though I got rejected from Ph.D. programs. 

Then we ran into the issue of the pandemic and I kept hitting walls with my clients. I didn’t know how to best help them. So I would be going in circles with my supervisor aka the lead therapist. I would ask how to best help a certain problem and how to work with certain clients. My supervisor has taught me a lot of information in the 6 months that I have been at my work. I learned about using a token system for my younger client and ways to communicate with older clients. I took a free course about motivational interviewing that my supervisor found for me. That course was very insightful and definitely shifted how I interact with some clients. Some of the information that I’ve learned while working, I never learned in my undergrad experience.

But there are still times when I get stuck and by the time I talk to my supervisor, it feels like it’s too late. The client has moved onto what their current issue is that week. So I’m in this weird limbo of what to do. My boyfriend has been lending ear to all of my concerns and supported me when I was rejected. My boyfriend asked about what I thought regarding a master’s program. I had a friend who suggested applying to a Ph.D. and master’s program at the same time but I couldn’t afford that at the time. I spent a few days thinking and researching. Yet, many applications were closed because most students apply by February. I originally shifted to full online programs. Thankfully, I went back to my supervisor for her advice. She knew the director of a MSW program that was a hybrid program. She emailed her, and I was allowed to apply by the end of May. 

This is the program that I am currently enrolled in. And my job offers tuition reimbursement which is a blessing. This will keep me from going even further in student debt. I am grateful for the break from school that I have been given so far. This break has taught me so much about myself and about my clients. At the same time, it left me yearning for more school. I want to learn different ways of helping my current clients and my future clients. By keeping my current job this allows me to keep learning my clients and learning things outside of class. But by going to school, this will give me more knowledge to pull from. This will allow me to be more creative with working with clients. This break has refreshed my love of learning and I never thought that would happen.