In Memory of Travel: Ireland and Scotland

One year ago today, my family and I embarked on a ten day journey of international proportions, the first of its kind for us to experience together. Our destinations: the west coast of Ireland and the Scottish Highlands. As I drink my coffee at my laptop this morning, I am flipping through the large scrapbook that my sister made for me and Mike, full of photos, ticket stubs, and brochure clippings from the trip, feeling grateful to have had that incredible adventure with my favorite people and for the thoughtful way that my sister documented it.

For the trip, to avoid any hassle imposed by the tight baggage restrictions for our flight between Cork and Glasgow that we’d take halfway through our journey, we had decided to limit our baggage allowance to one carry-on and one personal item each. We also kept in mind that all six of us plus our bags would need to fit comfortably in a seven-person minivan in both countries and that our trunk space in said vehicles would not be an equal match for advertised seating capacity.

To accommodate our self-imposed packing restriction, I opted to pack items that could be re-worn without washing and quick drying items that could easily be hand washed in a bathroom sink. Having over-planned our leisurely trip itinerary, we had a good idea of all of the activities we’d be doing at each destination and I was able to share the complete itinerary with the group ahead of time along with suggestions for my parents for essential items to pack.

A perfect travel capsule wardrobe, in my opinion, consists only of items that you are comfortable and confident wearing, that will allow you to get a good night’s sleep, that suit the activities of your trip, and that protect you from the local weather elements of your destination. It should enhance your trip by making the process of choosing an outfit and getting dressed each morning a quick and easy task that prepares you for all of the activities for the day.

Ireland and Scotland are great destinations for trying out a reduced capsule wardrobe as the temperatures are forgiving and unless you are hiking, running, or cycling, you likely won’t sweat much. Our trip plan did not involve exercise more strenuous than walking, so active wear did not make the packing list cut. If you are visiting multiple towns along your journey through a country, you can even wear entirely the same outfit on more than one day of your trip and no one except your travel companions will know, and certainly none of them will care if they have the priority of enjoying taking in the sights.

Looking back at the pictures in the scrapbook and seeing wide smiles, the joy of adventure evident on each face, we were a bunch well-equipped to enjoy our travels, uninhibited by excess stuff so we could move briskly on our journey and roll with the “punches” thrown at us without dragging along the stress of extra baggage, and “punches” were certainly thrown in both countries by way of rough roads and car trouble-eek.

If you prefer less structured travel, a capsule travel wardrobe can be tailored to the weather conditions of your destination(s). Bring pieces that work well together that can be mixed and matched, dressed up or down, and are versatile enough for adventures varying in levels of activity and endurance. Bring a comfortable pair of walking/active shoes and a pair of shoes versatile enough to accommodate local weather conditions and dinner at a restaurant. Remember that if you pack light, you will have spare room in your bag to pick up an item here or there that can serve a purpose on your trip and also serve as a souvenir that will jog memories each time you use it even after you are back home.

While travel seems like a distant prospect amidst our current worldwide Covid-19 pandemic, I have to think it will be possible again someday and look forward to planning future trips and packing lists. For now, we have the memories of past travels to satisfy our hunger to voyage and that has to be enough for the time being.

Thanks for reading today’s post! If you have a fond travel memory, story, or an example of a time where items you packed enhanced or inhibited your trip, I’d love to read them in the comments below.

A Quiet Spectator

Today, I’m craving cozy. Outside, the sky is a bright, pale gray spread evenly with cloud cover. The ocean is relatively still, no more than a slight ripple ruffling its marbled, liquid surface. Only a couple of sailboats are on display in our limited view and Sandy Hook appears to be enjoying a well deserved day off from its usual bumper to bumper beach traffic. All seems quiet on this hazy, summer day in our upper corner of the New Jersey shore.

Behind me, the kettle works up enough steam to whistle and summons me to my Café du Monde souvenir mug and chamomile tea. The boiling water sighs with relief as I pour it over the tea bag. I squeeze a couple drops of wildflower honey onto a teaspoon and stir it into the exhaling mug, the sugar and motion working together to cloud the brew. I cool the spoon and taste it, conjuring the image of a colorful meadow as warm sweetness blooms across my taste buds, mingling with the forged aftertaste of hot metal.

I think I’ll pay a visit to my DVD collection which has recently been minimized and organized to fit in the three drawers of our simple entertainment stand. Pulling out all three drawers, I can peruse my entire collection, nothing hiding from view. After glancing over the titles a couple of times, Jane Eyre (BBC 2006) keeps pulling me back. Having learned to listen to this sense of magnetism when it comes to selecting things, I pull out the box and pop disc one into the tray, anticipating my return visit to the mysterious Thornfield Hall and those who dwell there.

For some DVDs, I use the “scene selection” function to skip past the initial exposition of the story that I have grown familiar with and immediately go to the part of the story that initially captures my interest. For this particular DVD, I skip to the third scene selection option and settle in for some cozy viewing and tea sipping on the couch.

Movies are a great resource for creating atmosphere and escapism. They are portals into other times, places, cultures, and personal lives, and it is such a privilege to be an audience to stories that differ from my own setting and personal experience. As a minimalist, movies can also be a great way to quench the odd maximal craving, but I’ll save my thoughts on that for another time.

My desired atmosphere today, as mentioned above, is cozy (as it often is), and to me, cozy is evoked in images of chilly weather, dim lighting, warm firelight glow, hearty meals, rustic textures and prints, being safe inside, and friends gathering together to be embroiled in a mystery that they do not immediately realize is happening. I sit comfortably on my couch, a spectator enjoying my escape into Miss Eyre and Mr. Rochester’s story. I am happy to be at a safe distance so as not to experience the dangers that the mysterious plot has yet to unveil but that are clearly implied through the score’s delicate, minor piano notes and string bow strokes piercing the silence of the living room like the wandering gaze of an oil portrait in a haunted estate.

I’ll leave you with that image for now.

I cannot guarantee that the oil portrait’s gaze will leave you as easily…

On the Plane of a Summit

Confronting your clutter and minimizing your belongings does not just clear physical space in your home/office/car, etc. The space that your clutter demands from your time, attention, peace of mind, and health is also important to acknowledge. Allow me to provide an example from my personal experience of how my excess stuff created excess stress.

Back when I owned 27+ handbags/wallets, I sometimes used to switch which handbag I was using on a daily basis to feel less guilty that I had purchased all of them. I would take out “all” of the things from my previous “handbag of the day” and transfer it in a hurry to “today’s news” in the morning as part of my calming daily routine of chugging through our railroad style apartment like a runaway train on a destructive path, rolling through the stations of last minute costume changes, grab and go breakfast, and panicked hair brushing, bobby pins clutched in my teeth and jewelry in my hand as I fumbled my hair into a neatly pinned swirl to deceive the world into believing that I was super put-together.

On more than two occasions, one time during a snow storm, I came home from work and got to the front door of my apartment building only to dig around in the inside of my handbag in desperate search of my house keys which I begrudgingly realized were in yesterday’s handbag on the back of the chair in the kitchen upstairs, conveniently located behind two locked doors. I’d then have to travel forty minutes each way, fighting back tears of frustration and hindsight self-deprecation, on the NYC subway and packed, Midtown sidewalks to meet Mike at his office to borrow his keys so I could enter the apartment and wind down for the day… like I had been ready to do an hour and twenty minutes earlier.

When clutter gets in the way of your time and ability to relax, it creates unhealthy patterns that build stress. I should have learned from the first time that I forgot to pack my keys (or phone, or wallet- what a mess!), but bad habits often take many attempts to break. My excess had gotten in my way so many frustrating times and, still, it took me years to find Minimalism, to let go of the excess, and to simplify my life for good.

How about you? Does any of this sound familiar or resonate with you?

Have you ever experienced a time (or many) where your excess (or the habits that bore it) got in the way of doing something you wanted to do? The activity can be anything, for example:

  • Wanting to watch a DVD that you frequently search for and can’t find
  • Wanting to play a board game that is buried at the bottom of a Jenga stack of boxes
  • Wanting to pack for vacation with the suitcase that you swore you saw in the garage the other day but that has since been camouflaged by the surrounding clutter
  • Wanting to look through photographs that are in a box somewhere in the… attic?
  • Wanting to pinpoint your house/car/office keys
  • Wanting/needing to wear your glasses (check the top of your head first)

Now, imagine a home where all of your DVDs are in one easily accessible place near the DVD player (and TV), where your board games fit on easy-to-reach shelves in the hall closet, where your suitcase fits in your bedroom closet and you know exactly what you have so packing can go smoothly, where your photos are stored on a digital picture frame or in albums stored on a bookcase in the living room, where your keys have a home on hooks or a tray by the front door, and where even if you leave your glasses goodness knows where, you won’t hurt yourself stumbling around to find them.

Finding things does not have to be a struggle. Why do so many of us make it one? If you have to dig through a mountain of clutter to access the things you want to do, you will be discouraged from actually doing those things because of the monumental effort required. Those activities get exiled to the realm of “someday”. Well, someday could be sooner than you think with a little determination, courage, and elbow grease.

Block off some time, whether it be 30 minutes in the evening or an entire weekend afternoon. Get the donation bags, trash bags, snacks, water, and tissues ready and start with something easy. The rest of the process will follow and the mountain will get smaller. You may not realize it yet, but you are already standing on the summit.

“Today is Pizza Day…”

Our power came back early yesterday morning and our lives have been returned to a state of illuminated, plugged-in normalcy. Over the past couple of days, I had a chance to thoroughly go through the things that I brought home from my room at my parents’ house on Wednesday.

It was very helpful to refresh those items by bringing them to a different location so I could shed some clarity on my level of attachment to each of them with a logical, focused approach. While I did not grow up in the house that my parents currently live in, it is still a place of sacred sentimentality and therefore, provides added difficulty in approaching the minimizing process with a critical eye.

I have sentimental memories of packing my things up from the apartment that I did grow up in prior to the move, and of staying at the house during holiday breaks from college in my senior year and spending many a pleasant weekend and holiday there ever since I moved in with Mike. It is a cozy place, abundant with conversation, music, movies, laughter, haunted only by the savory ghost of holiday meals past, the scent of pine needles, pot roast, and pie easy to recall with a quick thought and a smile. It is a place where you notice happy memories in the making and drink in the sentimentality like sips of hot coffee and spiced, pumpkin beer on a crisp, fall day.

Prior to this round of minimizing, the items that I stored in my room at my parents’ house were kept out of sight and very out of mind. While it was pleasantly surprising to come across some of the items again during this recent clean-out, I knew that if I were to leave them in that room, I’d forget about them once again… and again and again and again, over and over.

As I got reacquainted with my old belongings, I reunited with memories from my elementary, middle, and high school days as well as those from college. For a few hours across two days, I sifted through old photo books, stuffed animals, costume jewelry, writing, and every old school assignment including each written page of all of the composition notebooks I’d brought home with me. Some people might view that as a bit excessive, but being a self-identified “writer” since childhood, these notebooks were very sentimental items and the girl who wrote the content really deserved my time and attention, above all people.

The seven and eight year old girl who I once was would have been furious if the older version of herself did not read the entirety of her 3rd grade class journal which, among other topics, noted every single “pizza day” that occurred in the 1999/2000 school year lunch schedule. The thirteen year old girl who wrote the poetry in the maroon composition notebook probably would have rather shoved the entire book through a shredder before the older version of herself read it, but the versions of me in between kept it for some reason and so I read her writing with a wary eye, some of the words or rhymes playing like an audio book track in my head from memory as I read along.

Some assignments really held no attachment for me at all and were easy to part with, but I did end up keeping a full, multi-compartment, accordion folder of old schoolwork , birthday cards and letters, and writing as well as composition notebooks from my 11th grade Creative Writing class, my 3rd Grade school year, and my personal poetry journal from ages 12-13 each of which sparked either happy or important memories.

After sorting through all of the other items, we brought three bags full of old clothes, costume jewelry, stuffed animals, art supplies, and miscellaneous items to our local Goodwill donation drop off and shed the excess, feeling lighter as we got in the car and drove home.

While the process of letting go is difficult in the beginning of the minimizing process, it becomes a regular, familiar part of a Minimalist’s routine. The letting go allows you to really cherish the items that you choose to keep and makes those items more accessible and easy to find and look through when you need to revisit those memories. With the time that you do not have to spend searching for those memories, you gain so many more opportunities to enjoy them without the burden of feeling like you’d be able to do so more easily if only you cleared out the clutter.

A Toast to the Big, Red Moon

Last night, after eating dinner by candlelight, we sat out on the balcony to catch the cool breeze that rolled westward off the ocean. The familiar, dusky darkness wrapped us in its dependable embrace while we sipped warm, red wine from stemless glasses watching bats as they zoomed above the parking lot in erratic flight.

Deprived of some of the conveniences that we usually take for granted, the dark opened our eyes to its hidden beauty which we often overlook. The bats, for one were a confusing entertainment, one we had not yet observed as we are often inside at that time, perpetually half-distracted by the digital world that we allow to bombard us daily. The big, red moon was another, more familiar one.

I did not realize until moving to the shore that when the moon rises each night over the ocean, it appears very large in size and reflects a deep red complexion. It is not a blood moon or a honey moon, but rather, just the regular old moon that many people have seen as orange, pale gold, or white in color as it rises higher in the sky. The big, red moon has become one of my favorite aspects of having an ocean view and last night, sitting out in the breezy darkness, we had excellent seats to watch it rise above the glassy, black horizon.

Without the light pollution from the parking lot and patio lights of our complex or from the streetlights on the bridge linking the mainland to the barrier island, our view had little disruption. It appeared above the water, slightly south east, and we marveled at its reassuring sight.

Meanwhile, in the far distance on Long Island, a tiny fireworks show of red and gold dazzled like a Lilliput carnival and further west in the distance, the planes taking off from and landing at JFK floated slowly in the sky like glowing, paper lanterns. We sipped our warm, red wine, chatted, and smiled, feeling lucky to live where we live. All the while, our home was filled with the deep navy of night and nothing but the breeze from the open windows to cool it, but we had each other and welcomed our present, pleasant company of the big red moon.

After the Storm: Tidying the Scattered Pieces

During yesterday’s Tropical Storm, Isaias, our condo lost power three times and only regained it twice.

Our power has been out since around 12:30pm eastern time yesterday. Throughout the day, we darted many a subconscious glance at where the stove and microwave clocks usually passed the time, but found the digital displays dark.  We slept unsoundly in sweltering stickiness and have since resigned ourselves to the reality that our perishables have long since perished after many hours of being uncool.

Having no power, internet, or cell service makes it very difficult to work and stay in the loop about what’s going on so today we drove about an hour and thirty minutes to mooch off of my parents’ still functioning electricity and internet supply for the day. (Thank you, Mom and Dad!)

Coming to my parents’ house, I had a personal goal in mind to minimize some of my belongings that I have been storing here for many years. I didn’t know exactly what I’d find, but knew that whatever was in my room lacked my TLC and the ruthless practicality of my tidying eye. I also decided to bring home any hidden treasures that could be stored with better preservation measures.

The key spaces that require attention are the underbed storage drawers (two twin beds-four drawers), closet, bookcase, and dresser top and drawers.

I began with the dresser drawers and packed up my old childhood and college sheets for recycling. They were pilled and had gotten many years of use. I started a clothing donation bag and a keep bag for clothing items to bring home.

The dresser clean-out actually went pretty quickly. It was mostly full of mementos which I plan to keep and store at home and the top held my old jewelry box, mostly full of costume jewelry from Claire’s and Icing (oh yeah- all the preteen sparkles!). I will keep some of the handmade items and items gifted for important life milestones, but plan to donate the stuff I have outgrown, am allergic to, or do not wear.

I emptied four out of five of the dresser drawers, but ended up using the dresser to store some other sentimental items that I rediscovered throughout the rest of today’s tidying process. I will deal with my sentimental items another time and may even keep a lot of them, but need to think of a better way to store them or document them to be able to enjoy those memories in a more accessible way.

Next, I tackled items I was storing in the closet. My parents store some clothes in my closet, but unless an item belongs to me, I do not touch it, so the closet was only partially mine to tackle. I collected my rolled-up acrylic canvases from college, my middle school clarinet, miscellaneous art supplies, old video camera and carry bag, and my old Casio piano keyboard and stand (not a full set of keys). I am bringing these items home as some of them I’ll keep and some I will try to sell or donate.

Having made some room in the closet, I turned my attention to the bookcase, which I partially cleared off just about a week ago, taking most of the books home, some of which I kept and many of which I have since donated. Earlier today, the bookshelf still held my elementary, middle, and high school yearbooks. I have now moved these items to the shelf in the closet since today’s tidying spree created ample storage there. Earlier today, the bookcase also held my old TV from college, which we never use and which, since Mike is working from home for the foreseeable future, we figure he can use at home as an additional monitor for work.

I feel a wave of accomplishment looking at the now empty bookshelf. Little wins!

Okay what’s next?

Oh right, the underbed storage drawers-eek!

I emptied two clear plastic storage drawers under one of the beds which mostly held CDs and electronics to be recycled properly. One of the plastic drawers held my pared down collection of Beanie Babies. I am considering these as sentimental items for now and stored them in the dresser to allow myself more time to figure out how to store, sell, or donate them in the future.

The two wooden drawers under my other bed were FULL of artwork, art paper, and my old schoolwork from through the years. Welcome to sentimental city!

I sat on the floor for a while, smiling, laughing, and demanding Mike’s attention as I thumbed through writing assignments from the first and second grade. We shared a hearty laugh when I showed him a “self-portrait” I made in the second grade that depicted me as a very stern-looking flower with stubby braids glued to the sides of my very two-dimensional face. I told him he married a delicate flower.

I made it through one of the two drawers-victory! I kept all of the schoolwork for now which I plan to photograph at home so it lasts and tossed some empty notebooks and sketch pads that were in poor shape or that have fulfilled their purpose and value to me.

I stumbled upon my old collection of Broadway Playbills (which is probably better classified as a hoard since I do not preserve them well.) They were strewn all around inside the drawer and were incredibly dusty. Maybe I’ll save those for another post, so back in the drawer they are going for now.

I did not go through the artwork drawer today as it is difficult to open since the nightstand is currently blocking it. Next time, I’ll rearrange some furniture to really dig in and “unpack” that drawer.

I feel a sense of calm and success having gone through these belongings and taken the time to really sort through them today.  The room feels a little larger and brighter. There is still more to do to complete the tidying process in here, as well as for the belongings I am removing from the house today, but I will save that for another day.

Portrait of a Blustery Day

Rain drops speckle the murky gray floor of the balcony outside as a chiffon haze blurs the horizon of ocean and sky. The wind tousles the magenta petals of the blooming Rose of Sharon outside our living room’s picture window as I sit on the over-stuffed, upholstered ottoman with my laptop, an eager spectator, documenting the prelude to the storm.

The salty tang of ham, dry singe of toast, and delicate breath of sweet cream butter and scrambled eggs linger in the room mingling with the pungent chocolate nuttiness of coffee. The dishwasher gargles and swishes obtrusively, emulating the churned song of the Atlantic ocean’s white-capped waves crashing with increasing frequency in the shallows.

Mike just let me know that there were reported sightings of a tornado in Ocean County, the next county south of ours. Time to relocate to a new writing spot downstairs.

I part the checkered white and gray curtains in the guest bedroom to let in the coastal gray light and switch on the nightstand lamp, a bronze candlestick base with a fabric shade printed with pink roses, for a cozy glow. The guest room is furnished practically with a bed, area rug, two nightstands, and a dresser in white and cool coastal colors. The closet is mostly empty save spare bed pillows, a welcome basket for the guests we will someday have, and our additional sleeping arrangements – a twin-sized, tri-fold floor mattress and camp cot, each accessibly tucked away in their compact carry cases. The only excess in here are two of my paintings from college all set in their new frames, ready to be hung up on the walls.

Outside, dark wispy clouds drift northeast over the ocean. My cozy glow flickers.

I usually love a good coastal storm, but when a storm is classified as a Tropical Storm or Hurricane, the love flickers, freckled with apprehension. We knew rough weather was a risk when we made the decision to move to the shore, but the reality of a storm hitting close to home, well… hits close to home. Still, I am glad to be safe inside on a day like this without the immediate need to run out for supplies. If the power goes out, there is nothing we can do, so why fret about it now?

The wind is picking up. Gusts are estimated to reach up to 45-55 mph. We brought the balcony furniture into the living room last night in preparation for the storm, but it appears that not all of our neighbors in the condo complex did the same.

The breath of the storm whistles and heaves. My cozy glow flickers again.

Rain tap dances on the pavement outside as a gust of wind shrieks like a poorly rosined bow stroke on a cello’s strings, the overture to the show about to begin. The time has come to turn off electronic devices, sit back, and absorb nature’s entertainment for the duration of its performance… or maybe close the curtains and retreat from the windows.

My cozy glow extinguishes. The show is starting.

Hard Learned Lessons: Clothing & Accessories

When I took the first step to removing my clutter in order to make room for the important things in my life, the most overwhelming question confronted me right from the get go as I looked around my seemingly never-ending, hopeless collection of things. Where do I start? As I have since learned that many new to the process of decluttering do, I began with my clothes and accessories.

I’ll try to draw up an image of my clothing and accessory collection prior to starting this journey. This is going to be a bit cringe-worthy for me, but it is important to lay it all out for this post, so here we go!

In our Williamsburg apartment, my husband and I shared a closet. The closet had a small organization system of racks and shelves built into it, though organized was far from how I would describe it. Mike had one neatly organized bar for his work clothes and I had two… and the shelves… for my closet collection. The weight capacity of each of my hangers was tested, some to the breaking point, almost each one holding two items (or more-yikes!).

My Hemnes dresser from Ikea (not a plug- just want to convey how large of a dresser it is) was packed, each drawer brimming over the top such that I had to squish down the contents to close the drawers. Countless shirts, sweaters, skirts, pants, jeans, leggings, scarves, hats, gloves, swimsuits, sweatshirts- some items folded, but most haplessly crumpled due to my having tried on multiple outfits in the morning to find something acceptable to put on my body.

Draped on the chair by my sewing table were usually the clean parts of my outfits from the previous few days along with other pieces from “tired frenzy – the morning collection” that didn’t make the cut.

In the corner of the room lurked my large storage bin filled with seasonal items and clothes that didn’t fit or that I did not enjoy wearing but had paid good money for and so needed to be kept (but kept hidden and unused), right? On top of the bin, as mentioned in my first post https://cozydoesit.com/2020/08/01/finding-minimalism/, lived my extensive collection of handbags, totes, backpacks, and soft-sided luggage, an addiction born from working in the NYC Midtown sales world of handbags for nearly two years. Just now I tried to think of all the bags I used to own and came up with the list below and I know this is likely not even all of them…

5 totes: 1x leather, 3x faux leather, 1xcanvas/leather

6 backpacks: 2x nylon, 2x canvas, 1x faux leather, 1x cotton twill

8 crossbodies: 2x leather, 2x nylon, 3x faux leather, 1x suede

3 evening bags: blue, black, gray

5 wallets: 4x faux leather, 1x leather

That’s 27 handbags / wallets. Twenty-seven. Ugh. I did not even include grocery totes and canvas tote bags or the main bags that I use today which I purchased in my early days of minimalism, a black canvas and leather crossbody, and my black “ebags” travel backpack.

I’m a monster.

Okay, moving on.

In front of the bin were at least two white kitchen trash bags stretching at the seams with clothes I was silly enough to think I could sell at Buffalo Exchange, a trendy consignment store in my neighborhood. After my first humiliating attempt to sell my items at Buffalo Exchange, I learned that they only take really nice or really unique stuff and you stand there as the in-store buyer sorts through your prized junk that you paid good money for. It was lucky if they took one thing for a pittance of a price but usually they just pushed most of the hoard back across the counter for me to awkwardly stuff back into the trash bags in front of the line of hopeful fashionistas waiting behind me to sell their last-season designer items.

After lugging my un-sellable stuff to and from Buffalo Exchange and Beacon’s Closet (another consignment shop in Williamsburg) countless times, I always felt drained and a little embarrassed. After donating to Salvation Army and Goodwill or dropping off my textile recyclables in H&M’s recycling bins, I always felt lighter- a weight off my shoulders- the cycle complete.

This lesson was one that, oddly enough, took a couple of years for me to learn and one that led to me donating many of my clothes and recycling the worse for wear ones instead of trying to sell them because it made me feel happier to do it that way. My clothes no longer had the same value to me as the price I paid for them, but I wanted to send them off in a way that was positive for my own mental health.

The hard lesson was learning that getting rid of my clothing items did not mean that those items never provided me value. The value of those items was in the distraction from stress or impulsive joy of the shopping experience, even if those items hung in my closet for years with the tags on. Their value lay in teaching me what does not work with my body shape or the type of fabrics and cuts that make me self-conscious, itchy, or feel just generally uncomfortable in. You don’t need those uncomfortable reminders in your closet staring you in the face everyday as you go to choose an outfit. You are enough whether that skirt makes you look a little chubsy or whether that dress caused someone to offer you their seat on the subway (cough- just chubby-not pregnant- oh the shame).

I wish I had written down how I initially approached deciding what to part with from my clothing hoard as I am having trouble remembering. I definitely did not know at that time about the KonMari method of putting all of your clothing items on the bed and holding each item one by one to see if it sparked joy (though experimented with this sometime later). I know that however I did it, it was little by little, two plastic grocery bags at a time, and I know that if you want to and put your brave face on, you can do it too.

Daughter of the Wilderness

Recently, I have been reading about camping and outdoorsy vacations fueled by a desire to feel closer to nature. Camping in the sense of carrying everything on your back as you trek through the woods, mountains, or along pilgrimage trails that cross borders of towns, states, or countries is probably one of the most minimalist activities a person can do. To carry strictly the bare essentials and sleep under the stars lulled to sleep by the repetitious buzzing and singing lullaby of cicadas and crickets evokes images of simplicity, ultimate self-sufficiency, and calm. I should be clear, this is not the kind of camping for which I have sought out information.

I confess I am guilty of typing, “Outdoorsy vacations for people who don’t like camping,” into my search engine. Perhaps I am more in search of “glamping” or maybe even just being a spectator into the activity. I crave the coziness of camping, which may, perhaps for me, live entirely in “the idea” of camping.

I imagine the warmth of the campfire cradling my cheeks, the air perfumed with the sweet, dry scent of wood ash and fresh coffee as embers glow like ruby fireflies floating towards the ground. Looking around my imaginary campfire, I see friendly faces of those I love most and those whose company I value, also enjoying the dream camping experience. They sip on hot coffee out of thermos cups, balancing plates heaped with camp stove sausages and potatoes. They are wrapped in sweaters, fleece, and jackets of all different colors and textures, their hands bundled in colorful, knit mittens and gloves to combat the crisp yet dewy chill of the morning air.

What a dream, huh?

While the idea of setting up and sleeping in a tent in the velvet dark of some forest campground is something I find somewhat terrifying (I’m a firm believer and active user of a night light and am not ashamed to say so), it is something I really enjoy reading about or emulating in experience by way of long walks in the woods. The peace that is born from the cacophonous quiet of the woods helps to clear my mind and put the worries away for a moment to make room for clarity and creativity. I really ought to bring a notebook with me on walks to document all the ideas that come to me, though perhaps that would detract from the immersive nature experience.

I can smell the damp green if I concentrate hard enough, can breathe in the minty pine and clean watery essence of ferns. I can feel the springy cushion of well-traveled dirt trails beneath my feet and can imagine the momentum of carrying myself through the trees, ears alert for the echo of owls, anxious tocking of woodpeckers, and tissue box-guitar strums of flirtatious frogs.

So maybe I’m not the “daughter of the wilderness” that I hold up on a self-sufficient, nature-goddess pedestal. That’s okay. I’m very happy being the daughter of my parents and to take in the joys of the camping experience via abbreviated treks through the wilderness or from the comfort and shelter of the roof over my head and the walls around me, which I feel so lucky to have.

Finding Minimalism

Before delving into posts on cozy minimalism, I thought it might be good to start with an introduction to how I began my own cozy minimalist journey. For the past three years, I have been captivated and influenced by the concept and practice of Minimalism. Originally introduced to the movement via the film “Minimalism: a documentary about the important things”, I have slowly been paring down my belongings and simplifying ever since.

I used to be a frequent shopper who had anxiety over parting with things I had paid “good money” for (or gotten for free or super cheap at estate sales or flea markets). I was also a “serial returner”, happy to spend loads of under-valued time waiting in winding cashier lines at TJMaxx and Marshalls or walking to the UPS store with my arms full of Amazon boxes to get my “good money” back from impulse purchases I had made as a stress coping or celebratory mechanism.

I remember a time when a corner of the bedroom in my and my husband’s 700 square foot Williamsburg, Brooklyn apartment was cluttered with storage bins piled with hand bags packed full of other handbags and barricaded with trash bags full of clothes to donate or sell “someday”. That “someday” never seemed to come and the visual clutter that surrounded me daily seeped into my peace of mind, wearing me down slowly. My clutter would give me nightmares about unannounced visits and creepy crawlies and leave me waking up feeling tired and grimy with the unrelenting task looming overhead to vigorously clean, a chore that always left me exhausted and irritable at the end of the day because it involved rearranging so much stuff throughout the process and also piling all the stuff back where it started before the vigorous cleaning.

Minimalism presented a lifestyle without clutter, one of reduced stress, more clarity, and more space. It presented room for possibility, self-growth, and creativity. I was so attracted to the idea of a living space free of so much stuff and of distractions that continuously drained me of energy. I was tired of moving piles of stuff around whenever I needed to get to something. I was fed up with frequently misplacing my belongings that seemed to somehow get swallowed and digested by all of the existing clutter. I was done with wasting my time, my life, and my money with my shopping addiction. It had to go. I needed to change to find the things that are truly important. And change I did – slowly.

My journey into the world of Minimalism helped me to reconnect with former versions of myself, ones that cared less about how people perceive me on the outside, and helped drive me to reflect more introspectively. I learned that the things I enjoy most are not for sale at TJMaxx, Marshalls, H&M, Target, Zara, or any store for that matter. The things I enjoy most do not email me advertisements for “our biggest sale of the season!” and they certainly do not enter my life with just a few clicks of the mouse and entering my credit card info.

No, the things I enjoy most are not consumer things at all, but rather are people, practices, and activities that make me a more mindful, loving, thankful, and present human being.

With that, I thank you for joining me on this new adventure on which I am embarking. It is exciting, thrilling, and a little bit scary and will prove to be a little (or a lot) soul bearing, but I am glad to have company along for the ride.