paring down to the essential

Over the past few years, I've had a pretty significant shift in thinking that embraces minimalism.

Paring down

I don't mean minimalism in the sense that some might think: stark, empty, colorless.

Although I love aesthetic minimalism--clean lines, monochromatic color schemes, fewer graphic elements--you could still embrace minimalism even if colorful and bold images are your preference.

More so, I mean paring down everything I own and do and think to the essentials: items and activities I truly love or that help me grow substantially in some way.

The shoebox

For me, the minimizing began in a very tangible sense.

I live in what I sometimes call a "shoebox" for an apartment.

It's generous to say we live in about 600 square feet, which actually isn't tiny by some people's standards, but with the funky layout and two humans, one large dog, and a very fat cat, it often feels that way. Our kitchen is--literally--smaller than my desk at work and cannot fit two people comfortably at once (not to mention the 75 pound dog always under foot).

The bathroom is even smaller (once again, also diminished in size because of the cat who sleeps next to the toilet and the dog who wants to come in to playfully harass the cat and lick your knees).

We also only have one small closet, in which we somehow manage to fit: all of my clothes, all of Peter's clothes, all of Peter's boots and shoes, multiple backpacks for varying lengths of adventures, telemark and AT ski gear, cross country ski gear, our laundry basket, and several of large bins that house every additional item we might need for traveling, crafting, and various other hobbies.

Because it's a small space, Peter and I try to be very intentional about the physical objects we bring into and keep in our apartment.

I think most people try to have at least a twice yearly purge, if not seasonal, but we probably declutter and donate once a month or so.

Do we really need two 2-quart saucepans? When was the last time I wore those boots?

For every object we let go, we make space for something new that has the potential to benefit us, whether that benefit is physical or mental.

Beautiful and useful

As we go through the process of downsizing, the following quote is always my metric for physical clutter:

"Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful."—William Morris

For me, I hope as many items as possible in my possession embody both usefulness and beauty.

Mental minimalism

I think the quote applies to our mental capacities as well, mostly in the sense that we should put our limited energy in worthwhile places that fuel us.

While I am constantly assessing the items in my apartment, right now, my focus on minimalism is mostly on a mental level.

What emotional baggage do I need to clear out so I can begin to quiet my mind in my Warrior 2 pose? What mental tricks can I add to stop being so hard on myself during a difficult run?

Certainly it's a process, but hopefully awareness will be a sufficient start, as it was for our physical space when we began minimizing.

What's one small thing you can do for yourself today that will add a little more usefulness or beauty to your day-to-day? What is truly essential?

If it's clearing out some physical and emotional space, do it. If it's adding something back in, do that too.

Iris Rankin

Soulful questioner, exuberant organizer, here to find the balance between discipline and delicious relaxation. Iris Rankin is the founder of Project Intention, a values-based community focused on living day-to-day with purpose, planning, and heart. Iris encourages women to adopt the self care practices that make them feel divine, the planning tools to hone in on their essential wants and needs, and the emotional resilience to express their most authentic selves.



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