No Hurries, No Worries

Fully breakfasted and armed with a steaming mug of chamomile and honey, I sit on our turquoise couch, which is turning more green than blue from soaking up the frequent eastern sunshine that streams through our living room windows. Outside those windows waits a perfectly clear fall day. The “Big Blue” suits its nickname this morning, sparkling dreamily up at me. Sailboats drift calmly in a gentle, southward wind and speed boats bounce excitedly on the surface of the water, trailing long, fluffy, white tails.

With only wisps of clouds on the distant horizon, sweeping glows of sunshine, and a cool, lazy breeze, today is simply beautiful and I feel lucky to be an audience to it, comp-ticketed for no reason other than that this is where we live.

We have only one errand to run today and the rest of the time is open and changeable as the Big Blue. Sometimes, having nothing much to do is exactly the right medicine for an overworked mind.

As an over-planner, these sorts of days can be confusing, sometimes even frustrating, to me. Sometimes, I’ll think, I should have planned something to do with all this time; what a waste. Sometimes, I chance upon these sorts of days after cancelled plans or changes in weather patterns and am bored, longing for an activity that I do not have to brainstorm and choose. This is not the case today and I’m excited to make the plan as we go, lagging behind the heels of the day as they race on ahead of us toward midnight. We are in no rush to catch up.

My usual wandering mind is calm and quiet this morning, patient and relaxed, just waiting to go with the flow of where the cool breeze takes us. I am grateful that my brain is not buzzing, as usual, with the need to tidy or plan, to start and complete work tasks, or to make decisions. This morning, it is just living in the moment and that is exactly what the rest of me needs.

I feel calm and rested for the first time in over a week, the anxiety drained out of me and replaced with pleasant, positive thoughts and soothing warm tea and honey to balm the wounds. Looking out at the ocean, twinkling reassuringly, I am reminded that I am in exactly the right place and that I want to go dip my toes in the Atlantic’s crisp, chilly shallows later on, just for a moment, before I chicken out and hide my feet in a blanket of cool sand.

The Gathering Place

I sit on the porch of our family shore house listening to the morning symphony of foam flip flops shuffling along slate sidewalks to the boardwalk, the gentle rumbling of car engines in slow pursuit of good parking spaces, and the sweet-tuned gossip amongst the birds singing the breaking news of summer from the trees lining the street.

The breeze is cool and a cocktail of salty humidity clings to the furniture as the sun spotlights the modernized facelifts of our street’s once Victorian-style dollhouse homes.

I can usually see the ocean from this spot on the cozy wicker sofa, but the hedges around the porch have grown a little too accustomed to a casually untidy appearance which we can all pretty much relate to from living through a worldwide pandemic. I could use a trim as well but that can wait a while longer. These are those lazy, hazy, crazy days of… well you know, after all.

(The birds’ news reel plays on a loop).

I was too lazy to prepare the coffee this morning and didn’t want to wake anyone sleeping on the first floor with the bubbling gasps of the coffee pot. So instead, I gathered my laptop and headed out to the porch to sit in the breeze and be inspired by summer. Not too long after, I am joined by my cousin and her young son and demands for bubble time take priority. Wobbly iridescence floats heavily on the air and splash lands on the floorboards while the writing takes a rest.

Welcome distractions abound in this family-filled old house. These walls tell stories of use and love – of our own contained family history in this little shore town. The rooms are filled with laughter and conflicting TV volume preferences – with movie decision fatigue and lazy mornings sipping coffee. The scent memory of freshly baked Italian rolls and cinnamon sugar crumb cake permeate the dining room and waft up the stairs like a buttery apparition encouraging everyone to wake up in slow procession.

The memories of past experiences and loved ones long gone remain alive in this magical place, preserved like old time postcards in a frame. This house tells us stories and helps us write new ones. It makes us laugh till our bellies and our cheeks ache or even sometimes, till we pee “our” pants (IYKYK). It is where we have gathered for my whole life- where I got to know my family as a whole and I am so grateful for all that it gives us. We try our best to do right by it and keep the experiences going, even when it gets hard or we don’t have a clue what we are doing.

But now it is time to put away the laptop and enjoy the first day of summer – to bask in the salty breeze of the shore, with the only current task at hand of pondering when to head to the beach.

Embroidered in the Social Fabric

For the past few weeks, I have been considering deleting my Instagram account and last night, with a wave of decisiveness brought on by two glasses of smooth red wine and a discussion about the social media presence of embroidery, I achieved the gumption to clip the threads connecting me to the photo & video social media platform. The decision was easy to put into action after weeks of reflection and consideration, and logging on to Instagram in my web browser and going through the steps of a permanent account delete was pleasantly freeing. While Instagram allows me approximately one month to change my mind before my account is permanently deleted, this is a decision that I do not envision reversing.

For the sake of context, I should tell you that I have only been using Instagram for nine months, so I do not have a strong attachment to the platform and deleting it is not going to bring about monumental change to my daily routine. I created an account in May of 2020 after seeing a friend post on Facebook about an event for a Disney World fireworks show that was going to be aired live on Instagram. Stuck inside for a couple of months at that point due to the pandemic, and remembering how magical I found the Disney fireworks show at Magic Kingdom when I was 16, I thought it would be fun to watch the fireworks again, so I created an account.

After creating my account, I followed a few family members, friends, and topics I found interesting and occasionally posted photos, aiming to be mindful in my content. I mostly posted pictures of views from our home, scenes of local parks, and wildlife sightings- subjects that were pleasing to me, without much regard for what other people might enjoy while scrolling their Instagram feeds. While my Instagram was primarily for my own entertainment, I still could not resist the frequent urge to open the app after posting to check if anyone had liked or commented on a post. This desire for acknowledgement and hunger for attention are the primary reasons that prompted my decision to detach.

Social media can be an outlet for vanity and sometimes influences us to view our own world through the filter of what other people will “like”. I found this to be blatantly evident on Instagram where filters sugarcoat experiences and selfies rule the day. Looking at my feed on Instagram, it was clear how much the available outlets for constant self-publicity have influenced the way people portray themselves to their social circles. They plan trips and activities and pack outfits based on what will look impressive in photos. They show only their best angles, presenting staged snapshots into how they style themselves, their pets, their homes, their experiences, and ever their food- living their best life for the gram.

I am not opposed to social media and I know many people who get enjoyment out of Instagram. I hope they will continue using it as long as it continues to bring them joy. Social media has a lot of positives that I embrace. It can foster community, put you in touch with old friends, serve as an outlet for catharsis and a hub for events and gatherings. It is a great tool for keeping in touch, promoting business ventures, and sharing important news. There are truly great aspects of social media that I find valuable and enjoyable, however, Instagram was a platform that I found added little joy to my life and was more of a crutch for me to fill in moments of boredom more so than anything else. I found it fulfilled the same need for connection to the outside world that Facebook already offers me, and felt I gravitated toward Facebook more so than Instagram. While I am not going to delete Facebook, I did delete the app from my phone to discourage mindless scrolling.

It is so easy to open social media apps and just scroll and scroll and scroll (our thumbs never got so much “exercise”). Minimalism has taught me how to put intention and mindfulness into practice. Mindlessly scrolling through Instagram offered distraction from those principals while also playing to another weakness of mine – the urge to shop. This was my next driving reason for deleting my account.

After a few months on Instagram, the ads tailored to my feed became smarter and seemingly more frequent and I’d often find myself going to the online stores for some of my favorite retailers to go “window shopping”. While I do not buy on impulse anymore, I do shop on impulse – if that makes any sense. I rarely buy clothing now and when I do, it is after deliberating on whether I want to add a particular piece or to replace something I own that is too worn to wear but that I get joy or necessity out of. That being said, I’ll still “hunt” for perfect outfits for hypothetical experiences and add to cart, spending valuable time on the activity rather than spending money. Purchase-free shopping is not always guilt-free in my book and I wonder why I chose to spend so much time looking for items that I wouldn’t otherwise have known existed if I hadn’t seen an ad for the store in the first place rather than doing something more nourishing like reading a book, going for a walk, playing a game or doing a puzzle with Mike, or planning a blog post. I do enjoy the act of shopping, but find it is more fulfilling when I am looking for something specific rather than being prompted by a bot on social media that eerily knows my favorite stores.

Ads and recommendations for pages that Instagram thought I would like started to ignore my feedback. When I requested to hide ads from particular stores or identified certain topics as irrelevant, nothing changed. I began to notice the ads and odd topic recommendations more than I noticed the posts from family and friends and found scrolling through the content of my feed to be distracting. When Instagram decided I would be interested in embroidery (thank you Bridgerton? I guess?), and I fervently assured it that I had no interest, my clicks to diminish the topic in my feed were not reflected. The constant bombardment of advertising and Instagram’s projecting were enough to say enough.

I am looking forward to being more intentional with social media and to revisiting digital clutter that can use some intentional care. I am happy to minimize my exposure to constant advertising and my next project will be to tackle my email inbox – pray for me. Until my next post, I challenge you to reflect on your own relationship with social media. Does it bring you joy? Are there platforms you have accounts for that you never use? Maybe consider decluttering apps that you find excessive or that you use mostly when you are bored. Distance yourself from unnecessary platforms that bring you stress and frustration. You don’t have to permanently delete your account, but removing an app from your phone will help you to be more aware of how many times you go in search of that mindless distraction each day.

Six Months of Cozy!

Today is the six-month anniversary of cozy does it! Hooray!

This is my twenty-second post in six months and I feel incredibly proud of that. If you are reading this as a blogger who is just getting started, I wish you luck and encouragement and urge you not to feel pressured by the blank page. You can do this and you can do this at whatever pace is right for you.

I started this blog as a healthier writing outlet to social media and it turned into something much more nourishing and sustaining for me. I realize now that the title that came to me as I was sipping coffee at our kitchen table early in the morning on August first and the themes of coziness and minimalism have provided me with positive, focused fuel for my writing. I don’t know exactly what it was that ignited the spark in me, a perpetual procrastinator, to sit down and figure out how to start a blog that morning- to purchase a domain name, choose a layout design, and tailor the font to best suit my topic, but I am so thankful. Having a subject matter that continuously feeds my creative energy and urges my flow of ideas each time I am met with a blank page is something I have not experienced in over a decade and it is something that I do not take for granted.

I have self-identified as a writer since I was a little kiddo and this is the first time in a long time that I feel honest in that claim. Writer’s block is a very real struggle that attacks a writer’s confidence, pushes aspirations out of reach, and induces personal anxiety. I am personally familiar with feeling lost on the snowy expanse of a blank Word document and the unsteady falling sensation of slipping around on buttery journal pages. The most useful tools for me, oddly enough, have been to remove the pressure of goal-setting when it comes to my own creativity, and to strip away any expectation of success and go into creative endeavors knowing that I may be my only audience member.

Back on that August morning, I realized that I just wanted to write for the sake of writing. I just wanted to reclaim that part of me for myself and no one else.

Over the past few years, I have occasionally taken part in creative retreats and artist salons organized by other artist friends of mine. I would go to these events, hoping that being an audience member to the mismatched collection of creative contributions would inspire me or instill in me a drive to exercise my creativity. Unfortunately and surprisingly, the events had the opposite effect on me. While they seemed to work wonders for other artist friends of mine who are more deadline-driven and fueled by ambitions of making it professionally, I found that when my turn to present would come, the acid would rise from my stomach to my esophagus and set off cacophonous alarms ringing in my head, pumping a rush of blood to the tips of my ears, unveiling me as an imposter.

In my recent post, Beth’s Picture Show, I wrote a little about the dangers of comparison. When I used to find myself included in public gatherings of artists presenting their work, a quiet ball of jealousy would begin to tumble and grow as I compared my own creations to those of the more talented song writers, painters, illustrators, playwrights, poets, and musicians present. I thought with an unattractive bitterness, why should I even bother?

Other artists reading this may be thinking, well if you want to succeed as an artist, you need to be able to take criticism. Sound familiar to anyone? Anyone? Bueller? They are right, of course, if success as a professional is indeed your goal. But there are other types of success too – smaller, less obvious ones. I acknowledge that editors are necessary to tailor a piece to its best possible version, but for me – at least for right now- it is more important to just be writing. I am talented enough for myself and my talent has different, not worse, actualizations than it does for other artists. The pure and simple exercise of somewhat consistent writing is simultaneously enough and more than I could ever have hoped for these past six months.

I hope no artist reading this has shared my sense of inadequacy while being an audience member to other artists’ work, but the realist in me says that’s probably not the case. Let me be one tiny voice telling you that you don’t need to practice your craft all the time to be an artist. You don’t need to constantly cater to a practice that leaves you feeling drained and insufficient if it’s not coming naturally one day. It is ok to be patient with yourself if you are feeling particularly uncreative for one day, week, year, or decade of your life. Your reunion will be waiting for you somewhere down the line and will hit you smack in the middle of the face with a densely packed snowball or maybe introduce itself more subtly in a sip of coffee on a warm, summer morning.

Thank you for reading today’s post! I realize it strayed from the theme of cozy minimalism, but I am glad you gave it a read all the same. I want to extend a quick thank you to my cozy community. I am so grateful for the handful of family and friends who have taken time to read posts over the past six months as well as to the members of the blogging community who have been so encouraging by choosing to follow the blog or “like” a cozy does it post here and there. I only expected an outlet for my writing in starting this blog, but I am so grateful that some readers have chosen to join me on this adventure. Thank you all and happy reading!

Beth’s Picture Show

One unexpected aspect of minimalism is maximalism in mental clarity. Whether you want it or not, you have more capacity for self-reflection, for internal debate, creative thought, and circumstantial realization- for confrontation, and coming to terms with things you’ve been ignoring, procrastinating, or denying. Minimalism clears both your physical space and surroundings as well as your mental space. It presents possibilities and dilemmas and gives you a power so valuable and defining – that of choice, and of diving into the unknown.

When I was little, my dad used to read to my sister and me nightly. I remember one book called Katie’s Picture Show by, James Mayhew. My sister, having the same name as the protagonist, is the owner of this childhood treasure now. Katie (the character), would visit the art museum with her grandmother and would dive into famed artworks during unsupervised moments and find herself part of the paintings that she visited, experiencing the depicted moments first hand and, sometimes, finding it hard to get back to reality. As a child who escaped into my own imagination frequently, I used to identify with the character, though over the years, I discovered that I lost that ravenous drive to wander uncharted territory.

Imagination is a wonderful and daring noun, a muscle that weakens if you do not exercise it, a gem so precious and in need of polishing that its shine dulls with lack of display to the point of fading into the background of miscellany present in the section of your mind containing repressed memories and rusty tactical skills. It gets pushed deeper into the shadowy corners of your mental attic each time you opt to expend your energy on something else you deem more important.

I have learned that I am a person who finds it difficult to focus on too many things at once. I put all that I am and all that I have into nourishing what I would miss most if it were gone.

As a child, I threw myself into art, writing, and friendships- as a late teenager to now, I have devoted myself completely to an enduring love, family, and companionship. I ask myself often why I do not devote much time to exercise the skills that were once my greatest strengths, the hobbies that were my raison d’être as a child, and I am frequently met with frustration and disappointment in myself for not giving them the energy and time they should deserve.

I pull the chain to the overhead lightbulb over the box with my imagination every once in a big red moon, searching in half-hearted attempts to find that missing part of me. It usually happens in times when I notice that other friends or acquaintances are more talented, creative, driven, and successful in hobbies that I used to be good at. I realize now that that is the wrong fuel for the search.

You need to seek your imagination for its own sake and nothing else. Stop giving a flying fork how good someone else is at “your” hobbies. They deserve to be good at their hobbies and their success should be a separate entity from you and your life. If they are your friends or family, you can even go ahead and be proud of them. Comparison can be mentally unhealthy; I know it has been for me.

Minimalism has taught me to recognize the things that are most important to me in my personal now, the things that I get joy out of as well as those things that I feel are lacking. It has taught me to realize the once defining aspects of myself that I unintentionally minimized somewhere along the way but also that I have the potential to recognize when I need to nurture those skills again even if I need to pick up some extra elbow grease at Shop-Rite in order to succeed at them (by my own personal standards and no one else’s).

Spotlights – The Stuff of Memories

I have a polygamist set of champagne flutes in a glass-paned cabinet in our kitchen.

One groom was gifted to me on my wedding day as part of a set. “He” was widowed before the nuptials took place, his bride- the victim of a tragic, glassware-slaughter incident at the scene of the bridal “getting-ready” brunch. “She” lay in glimmering shards in a pooling stain of mimosa on the carpet, having been caught up in the avalanche that followed the sudden collapse of the coffee table during the photography session. Her demise was deemed “good luck” by our officiant later that evening.

The groom was joined by a replacement set over a year later and his bachelorhood came to a plural end(s).

I keep a tiny, rubber elephant inside my handbag almost all the time. This companion is known as “tiny elephant” (all lowercase) and accompanies me on journeys near and far. tiny elephant is a security blanket smaller than a dime that I adopted from a toy store off of Pioneer Square in Seattle while buying some jigsaw puzzles as trip souvenirs in 2016. My tiny “world’s largest land mammal” makes me smile whenever I see it, providing me with the comfort of accessible joy when I feel anxious, all for the cost of 75 cents and a faint bruise to my self-respect by making the cashier wait for me to retrieve it from the display and gently place it on top of the puzzles with a matter of fact, “… and this too,” before she could complete the purchase.

One of these things is not like the others. My desk is topped with a second hand lamp, coaster, trinket box, and a mason jar containing two DIYed wizard wands. The wands, crafted out of wood dowels, drizzled hot glue, and brown paint by my cousin and her husband, came into my possession at my birthday celebration a few years back (maybe even more than a few; time flies faster than a Firebolt, I swear… ok I’ll stop…).

The celebration was one of multiple gatherings at my cousin Mo’s old apartment in Brooklyn, a place rich in my memory with family gatherings. The wands take me back to a time of home cooked feasts, gourmet Brooklyn pizza, plentiful drinks, game nights, movie nights, and walks past the home fronts along Washington Avenue, the luster of their time-full grandeur sheepish in shadow against the glittering backdrop of downtown Brooklyn.

These belongings are among the stuff of memories in our home – some of the un-minimize-able prizes- awards of time well spent- of milestone days and past adventures, of good company and smiles that make my cheeks hurt just thinking about them. Some things, while extraneous and meaningless to others, may be integral to the accessibility, reflection, and retention of your memories. The magnitude of their value may not have been recognized at the time they entered your life, but their presence sparks appreciation and joy now and reminds me that not everything must go.

“… Begin Again”

I just finished watching “Begin Again” again and have the film’s kick-ass soundtrack playing on my brain, the notes dancing on the goopy, textured surface in rainboot tap shoes, splashing in puddles of imaginary sound, raising drops of neon rainbow slime-matter in the dark space of my mind. Right now, this is how I envision the way I hear the music that is not actually playing. How do you “not hear” music?

To quote my mom, “Anyway…”

The movie took me on a tour of my home city of seven years, inviting me to revisit a bench I used to eat lunch on almost every day in Soho as an escape from a job I really didn’t enjoy, the stage-for-activism-and-art steps leading up to Union Sq. Park, the Washington Square Park Arch and fountain where I tried and failed to write my final Playwriting assignment in my senior year of college while visiting New York and waiting for Mike to get out of class. I was distracted by a sunny day and the ultimate people watching opportunity, my desire to write evaporating off the warm pavers, floating away from me like an escaped balloon.

I often forget how much I miss it… but I recognize how defining my NYC residency is to me that going back and revisiting old haunts evokes a nostalgia that gives me a (good – kind of?) heartburn. It also, at times, reminds me that I am missing out on unique experiences of New York City-living during these historic times, jabbing me in the ribs each time a once-in-a-lifetime experience passes me by because I wanted to and influenced us leaving.

We visited our erstwhile neighborhood on Friday and stopped “in” to enjoy outdoor experiences at some of our, once-local, establishments. We even brought some Brooklyn home with us. To-go growlers are a wonderful thing as I am – currently – pleasantly quenched with my favorite Brooklyn brew, Green Eyes IPA from Keg & Lantern Brewing Company in Greenpoint. Set in a washed up musician/producer headspace a la Mark Ruffalo in the beginning of Begin Again, I drank a couple of juice glasses of this emerald eyed elixir because I was too lazy to wash a real glass.

I am continuing a celebratory mood sparked by current events and outcomes from Saturday, November 7th, ones that washed a sense of calm and relief over most of those in my personal community. The tension and uncertainty of last week caused a lot of stress for me and for many people whom I love and since midday Saturday, that tension melted into relief, tears, smiles, cheers, and a spreading warmth of hope.

For those of you who are disappointed, I hope you will see the positive in this change and see unity, justice, and representation as possible, necessary, and important. People are born in many different forms. Some experience evolution of self during their lifetime. Some just want to have the right to love and to live without judgement, threat, or fear, and to not only feel safe but to be safe in those identities. Those differences are a wonderful thing and life would be un-recognizable without them.

I did not get to dance (you’re welcome) or swig champagne in the streets of NYC, but I sure wanted to. I am so grateful to even have had the experience to see videos, posts, and photos of individual and neighborhood-wide celebrations, of friends crying tears of joy, of my Philadelphia family cheering on their city with such deserved pride. Thank you to the wave of humanity, empathy, love, inclusion that showed up and turned out; we wouldn’t be here without you. I am ready for this rebirth. I am ready to…

Grim Grinning Ghosts in Turtlenecks

Happy Halloween cozy does it community! After over a week of constant cloud cover, intermittent torrential downpours, and wind gusts, the sun is peeking through the clouds on this chilly Halloween morning. We missed the vibrant colors of fall while they were still pinned to the tree branches and now the ground is covered with unsatisfying, soggy crunchiness like stale potato chips from a bag you forgot you’d opened and chip-clipped, then revisited a few days later.

As my first fall here was not all I dreamed in would be, I find myself turning to attempts to simulate that crisp coziness I am eager to fulfill. Wooden and fabric pumpkins garnish our white and tan television stand – a little twinkle of autumn hygge added to our regular minimal décor. A mug of chai with steamed milk is never far from reach and a hearty pot roast dinner is curating magically in the Crock Pot as I type by the window in one of our outdoor chairs which has moved inside for the off-season.

Earlier, I announced to Mike that I was going to get dressed after which I changed from my “yoga” pants to different “yoga” pants (I don’t yoga) and a layered turtleneck/sweatshirt combo, a la 1990s trend.

I actually think of Halloween whenever I don an article of clothing over a turtleneck, as I know many other American 90s girls do. As a 90s lady child, the turtleneck was a versatile, core fashion staple in my wardrobe along with “stirrup pants”.

Stirrup pants: leggings that pull themselves down as you move around due to the convenient elastic band wrapped around the arch of each of your feet.

In case you were not aware, the turtleneck and stirrup pants were classic additions to any costume that didn’t appropriately suit an American 90s girl’s age or the Halloween forecast. Princess Jasmine? She 100% wore a white turtleneck under her turquoise bikini top in the movie, right? The Little Mermaid? Even under the sea, the look was all the rage. Ballerina or Sky Dancer? Time to break out the full set: a pink or white turtleneck and pink stirrup pants. Any Disney princess for that matter – I’m sure detailed in their original fairytale version as wearing a white, cotton turtleneck – was fair game with the right staple accessories paired.

In my adult life, Halloween has become synonymous with (family-friendly) spooky movie classics, a la Tim Burton, Harry Potter, or the Disney Channel Original variety. Sometimes I switch it up with a Halloween Parks and Rec or Psych tv episode. I cannot watch movies that are actually scary (here’s looking at you “I Am the Pretty Thing that Lives in the House”). Even the trailers freak me out for days…

No, I’d much rather bake something pumpkin-y or nutmeg-y (or both) and sit back with a nice crisp Sam October. I may take part of this cold Halloween day to read something spooky or magical. I might opt to flip through the crispy pages of a Harry Potter book, jumping straight into my favorite chapters which usually involve time spent at Ron’s family home, The Burrow, or one of the grand and mystical Great Hall feasts, or a getaway to The Three Broomsticks in Hogsmeade.

It is still fall and while not as colorful, crispy, and crunchy as I hoped it would be, I am determined to bring some coziness to our home and to our activities this season. We have a lineup of jigsaw puzzles in our seasonal dugout and a bright, sunny day to lift our spirits. If you are braving going out for any All Hallows Eve activities tonight, watch out for other spirits lifting as they may not be as cozily intentioned.

Boo!

Nature and Neighborly Nurture

Some of our new neighbors gifted us a real, live plant last week to welcome us to our condo community. They are much more thoughtful and kind than any neighbors we had while living in Brooklyn.

When one of our neighbors handed this plant to Mike (since I subconsciously backed away at the sight of real, green leaves in need of care and nurturing), they told us it would be difficult to kill. I’ll take their word for it, though it is evident that they have not yet come to understand that I have very un-green thumbs despite the warning signs of the very, very dead mountain daisies and English lavender in the teal, planter pots outside our front door.

Though I have proven somewhat incapable of keeping plants alive, I appreciate our neighbors’ kind gesture and am eager to welcome the warmth of that gesture as well as the added greenery into our home. We have placed the new plant on the entertainment stand opposite the faux succulent arrangement that I purchased from my favorite gardening supply store, TJMaxx. The cool, green leaves and warm, terracotta pot tied with a straw ribbon bring me calming joy each time I glance over at the arrangement.

The reason why I have an appreciation for plants, whether replica or real, is independent of my inability to maintain their living status. My mood is sensitive to my environment, and the color that plants paint in pockets of our space evoke calm. Creating a soothing, yet vibrant color palette for our interior decor is important to me in being able to foster coziness in an environment with pared down possessions. To me, green represents freshness and vitality. It also just makes me smile.

Our condo has many of these little pockets of color by way of artwork, fabric, and furniture (and don’t pockets just make everything better?). I believe in employing color and patterns to create coziness and as a person who sews and holds fabric on the same pedestal as artwork, I take extra care to choose fabrics that encourage a coastal, whimsical, cottage feel in our home. From our folksy, Provencal table cloth printed with rows of blue and periwinkle paisley flowers to the buffalo check curtains and marled, braided area rugs, to the squishy, tufted chair cushions tied in bows at the back of warm, wood slats, I try to invoke coziness, character, and simplicity as foundational decor rules in our home to disguise the standard, modern interior that shelters us.

Our new, cozy home is neighbored by welcoming individuals, something that I did not previously value coming from a residential environment where it is rare to know your neighbors. Here, I feel a comfort in being able to reach out to a neighbor to borrow something if I need something specific and don’t already own it vs. buying new. Having kind neighbors is very conducive to a minimalist lifestyle and while it is not a community style that is available to every individual, it puts in mind the idea of creating a borrowing community among friends or family to minimize items that you need to keep on hand in your living space all the time.

I hope to reflect our neighbors’ kindness in future and to offer continued signs of welcome and gratitude for this new community, even if that welcome is only communicated by way of a smile or a quiet “hello” in passing for the time being.

To-Do Dos in a Clutter-Prone Profession

Since going back to work, I am getting reacquainted with the concept of relying on a to-do list to stay organized. Unfortunately, minimalism in the workplace is nearly impossible for an administrative professional. My work day seems to go by in light speed, filled with tasks to complete, paperwork to file, data to enter into databases, voicemails to check, phone calls to answer and make, fax machine busy tones to check my blood pressure, and so very many questions to ask that come with the territory of being new and having to learn so many unfamiliar processes very quickly. I aim for a clear desk by the end of each day though rarely get to experience the serene joy of the sight of bare, faux-wood screen printed on laminate.

When I come home, I find it hard to leave the workday behind me and sometimes find myself jotting down to-do tasks with invisible sharpies on vanishing, fuchsia post-it notes in my head. I have to remind myself to slow down and tell myself that the work will get done when it gets done and that it’s okay if it’s not going to be done today. Having worked in a profession so conducive to clutter on and off for seven years, I know all too well that it is important to take a step back from the nitty-gritty details of my admin workday in order to fully rest and refresh my mind and body.

For me, being able to relax at the end of the day is reliant on my staying organized during the work day. It is extremely noticeable when I get lazy with updating my to do list. My shoulders ache from the tension of worry, my thoughts buzz around in my mind – flapping restless wings of disquietude, and my heart hammers flutters of remembrance into my esophagus every once in a while when I remember not to forget a task. Luckily, there are tools that I utilize to help keep myself organized.

In the wonderful world of technology that we get to live in, there are so many options for task and project management. I rely on my to-do list as a backup memory to minimize the times that I experience the annoying, worry inducing feeling that I can’t quite place my finger on something I needed to do. I choose to use good, old-fashioned Google Sheets to stay organized, though there are other tools available such as apps like Asana and Trello that I have heard work well too.

In my To-Do List, there are five headers: Date Logged, Status, Date Completed, Task, and Notes

Writing down what a task is along with the date that I learned of its existence helps to ensure it doesn’t get lost or forgotten. My “statuses” are In Progress, Complete, and On Hold. Once a task is complete, I add the date completed to the sheet which lets me know I can go about the very quick business of forgetting it ever existed. I could go a step further and add formatting to move completed items to another tab in a sheet, but that is a minimalism task for another day.

While it may never be possible to eliminate physical clutter in a profession like mine, it is still possible to reduce clutter in your mind by staying organized. Reducing thought clutter and silencing the buzz of frantic self-reminders helps in achieving a state of peace each day and allows for more restful sleep, leaving you more refreshed at the start of the next day.