My Minimalist Studio Apartment

Here is a peek inside my 511 square foot apartment that I refer to as “attempting” minimalist. Or rather, I refer to myself as an attempting minimalist. I’ve been very interested in minimalism for the past few years and try to only own items that add value to my life (or “spark joy” as Marie Kondo would say).

In my opinion, there’s no such thing as a “perfect” minimalist. We are all trying to live simply with purpose and intention, which looks different for everyone. I am definitely not immune to consumerism, but minimalism has caused me to think much more intently about each item I bring into my life. Conversely, it also helps me question when something isn’t providing value anymore and is time to let go.

I work in retail, which is both tempting and ironic. As The Minimalists say, everything you do is steeped in irony when you start calling yourself a minimalist. Buy a bag of lemons at the grocery store? That’s not a very minimal amount of lemons…

As for the apartment, I live in a studio in Minneapolis, which I really enjoy. It is the perfect amount of space for just me. It is very functional as well, which enables me to entertain friends and have guests sleep over.

That being said, everyone’s recipe for minimalism is different! I may own something that doesn’t provide value to someone else, and they may own something that doesn’t provide value to me. What makes you a minimalist is questioning why you own what you own.

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This is my living room. The coffee table (a hand-me-down from my aunt that’s actually a bench) holds a TV remote, the current book I am reading, coasters, a fake plant, and a few photo albums from my travels. The side table holds my live Christmas Cactus (who loves the sun), a candle, and coasters. The couch is fairly long so it seats four comfortably and pulls out into a bed for when I have guests sleep over. I opted for a flat-woven rug because they are easy to clean and don’t collect dirt like plush rugs do. The lamp (also a hand-me-down) acts as a nice focal point because I don’t have art on the wall and also provides a cozy alternative to overhead lighting – I’m all about that hygge. (Also, that door is not a closet – the HVAC is in there.)

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Bittersweet

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I don’t remember the last time I simply went for a run outside.

It’s not something I’ve enjoyed for quite a while. But, the second I got home from work today and opened the window, I smelled the fresh air and knew I needed to run. My body registered the transition from summer to fall and I immediately craved something I strongly associate with fall.

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Sziget Festival Video

Check out a video I made from my time at the Sziget music festival in Budapest, Hungary this summer! (I recommend watching in 1080p for the best quality.)

MUSIC: The Look – Metronomy, Don’t Matter Now – George Ezra, The One – The Chainsmokers

Adding Value: Rob Bell is So Good

Adding Value is a collection of posts where I recommend books, movies, podcasts, or anything that has been adding value to my life lately, and hopefully will add value to yours too. 

I first heard of Rob Bell from The Minimalists (whose documentary is featured in a previous Adding Value post). While at a local bookstore in Minneapolis this June, I saw a copy of his book How to Be Here. I recognized the title, as it had been given high accolades from The Minimalists. Rob Bell happened to have been at that bookstore recently while on a book tour, so the copy was signed.

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Sitting in Gratitude

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// December 2016, Malibu, California

When self-doubt, anxiety, stress, and confusion creep into our brains, it is easy to sit in sadness. Rather, we should sit in gratitude. To be grateful for what we have in this moment and what we can do in the next.

I’ve recently learned that it is easy to play the “my struggle is greater than your struggle” game. It’s easy to think that someone doesn’t deserve to feel sad because they are more fortunate in other areas of their lives; whether it’s money, education, family support, etc. But everyone has hard days. Everyone. Just because someone is fortunate doesn’t mean that they don’t deserve to feel negative emotions.

The last week was tough for me, and there were times that I felt I did not deserve to feel sad. I am acutely aware that I have been incredibly fortunate in my life; I have had no “great” struggle. In those moments, I felt that I was not allowed to have negative emotions.

But, I realized that I am allowed. Everyone is allowed.

However, it is what we do with our negative emotions that can shape us. We should first recognize our emotions (burying them helps no one), then instinctively turn to gratitude. We can be grateful for even the smallest of things. I am grateful for the two strong legs I stand on, the breeze and the fresh air outside, and a bed to sleep in at night. I am grateful for just being here.

After gratitude, what are our next steps? What constructive action can we take to alleviate our negative emotions? Sitting in sadness will not enact change. We must first recognize how we are feeling, find gratitude, and then move.

Our natural state is peace. Gratitude helps us get there.

What is Water?

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Change your perspective // September 2015, Capri, Italy

If there was ever only one reason to travel, this is it. But first, you have to ask yourself, what is water?

It’s okay if you’re confused right now. I’ll explain.

Today in my entrepreneurship class, we were discussing why a much higher percentage of entrepreneurs in any country are immigrants.

As my professor explained, if we live in a blue house in a blue world and everything around us is blue, what is the one color we can’t see? Answer: it’s blue.

Confused again?

Let’s try another analogy. My professor’s “blue” story immediately made me think of the following parable from David Foster Wallace:

There are these two young fish swimming along, and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says, “Morning, boys, how’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes,

“What the hell is water?”

Wallace gave an entire commencement speech about this story, but I never really understood its message until today. The fish don’t know what water is because it’s the only thing they’re used to. The reason so many immigrants start businesses is that they go to a new country and they can see blue. They know what water is.

When we have lived in the same country our entire lives and have never traveled, we are viewing everything from the same perspective. We are conditioned to see everything around us as “normal” (whatever normal is). When we go to a new country, we not only bring a fresh perspective to the country we are visiting, but we also bring back home a new way of thinking. We start to question why things are the way they are. It’s why immigrants start such successful ventures. They can see problems and think of ways to fix them.

We should incessantly ask questions, just as children do. The first question we need to ask ourselves is, “what is water?”  Then, let’s go find out.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

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On my afternoon flight to Amsterdam, I had some white wine and the best cheese sandwich of my life (as chronicled in a previous post). Thus began my cheese-filled weekend in the Netherlands.

My friend Margaret and I stayed at the Van Gogh hostel conveniently located near many of the museums in the city while the rest of our group stayed in an Airbnb on the outskirts of the city center. After dropping off our bags, Margaret and I took a scenic walk along one of Amsterdam’s many canals to meet the rest of the gang at their Airbnb. Google Maps got us within a few blocks of the apartment but failed to fully execute. Once again, living that #NoData life left us stranded and lost. The neighborhood was eerily empty and gray. However, I yet again had Lady Luck to bail me out. After about fifteen minutes of aimlessly wandering, we coincidentally ran into everyone else returning from buying groceries. That night we ate too much pasta and watched Monster’s Inc (I couldn’t tell you why that was our choice in a movie). Because of our late afternoon arrival, we took the evening easy and waited until the next morning to begin exploring.

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Intention for a New Year

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My favorite time to reflect is with a view // March 2016, El Yunque National Forest, Puerto Rico

2016 was… well, not as good as 2015. But there was good in it.

I will always be biased towards 2015 because it was the year I studied abroad in Budapest, my home away from home. However, I think it is better to appreciate 2015 for all that it gave me, rather than compare it to 2016.

In 2016 I found myself in new places as well: Puerto Rico, New York City, Los Angeles, and even Arkansas and Wisconsin. Though in my ideal world I would have traveled even more, I cherish each new location I visit.

As I see everyone say “good riddance” to 2016, I can’t help but dwell on my own downturns this past year. However, each down also had a corresponding up. I moved apartments in Chicago three times; despite the exhausting process and moving fees, I made friends with new roommates and experienced Chicago from a slightly different perspective with each move. I landed a coveted internship… and then learned it was not for me; but without that experience, I would not have learned what I am looking for in the future. In 2016 I turned 21; while being 21 has been fun, it has also caused me to neglect my health. I have fallen into ruts and neglected to cultivate my hobbies into passions (namely, not writing enough); but I have also simplified my life. I’ve faced rejection and learned to pick myself back up.

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Berlin, Germany

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Berlin was off to a crazy start before I even got there. The night before my flight to Berlin, I lost my wallet in a bar. My wallet had almost $100 worth of Hungarian cash in it, and all of my credit and debit cards. So, not only did I not have any cash, I also had no way of obtaining any cash or buying anything for that matter. Luckily, I hadn’t lost my key card to my dorm room in Budapest, my public transit pass, or my drivers license, so I went to bed and decided to face my problems in the morning. Thankfully, my flight wasn’t until the afternoon, so I spent the morning ordering new credit cards and asking my parents to wire me money to a Western Union until the cards came in the mail. Still stressed out, with 200 euros in my pocket borrowed from my generous roommate, I set off to the airport to meet my friend Mallory in Berlin.

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Adding Value: Minimalism Film

Adding Value is a collection of posts where I recommend books, movies, podcasts, or anything that has been adding value to my life lately, and hopefully will add value to yours too. 

I want to take a moment to recommend a phenomenal documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. It was produced by two great guys who call themselves The Minimalists. I’ve learned a lot this year from their essays and podcasts, and I bought tickets to see their documentary in theaters this May. I immediately pre-ordered the film on Vimeo after seeing it in theaters because I think that the film has a message for everyone. (Update 12/23/16: the film is now on Netflix!)

Here is one of my favorite excerpts from the film:

When you recognize that this life is yours, and that it is your one and only, and when that ceases to be esoteric bullshit, when that’s not hippie poetry anymore, when the pragmatism of that statement seeps directly in your bones and you recognize that this is it, everything changes. – AJ Leon

And here is the trailer for the film:

I can’t recommend this film enough. It has takeaways for men and women of all ages, demographics, and cultural backgrounds. Also, if you are interested in learning more about minimalism, definitely check out The Minimalists!