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’ĂȘtre 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).

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.