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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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.

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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Good Weather

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Life has been busy and these next two weeks are going to get even busier, so I apologize to you (and to myself) for the lack of recent posts, and therefore I’m going to keep this short and sweet.

I started a new internship two weeks ago, finals are next week, and The Walking Dead is back on TV, but today’s remarkably warm weather and a few lines from I book I read inspired me to fit in a short blog post today.

For my Effective Business Communication class, we are required to read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. So yeah, I usually try to hide the title while I’m reading it in public. Despite the fact that I’m reading it for a class requirement and the funny looks you may get while reading it on the train, I  would definitely recommend this book. It was published during the Great Depression and the lessons it offers still hold today.

The quote that stood out to me today isn’t actually from Dale Carnegie himself, but rather Elbert Hubbard, whom Carnegie provides an excerpt from.

Whenever you go out-of-doors, draw the chin in, carry the crown of the head high, and fill the lungs to the utmost; drink in the sunshine; greet your friends with a smile, and put soul into every handclasp.

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Lessons Learned Abroad

This post is what I’m going to call my “final installment” of reflective posts from studying abroad. Saying Goodbye captured my feelings right after leaving Europe, Cultural Differences in Hungary provided a more lighthearted look back on the experience (which I think I really needed more than anyone), and now that I’ve had some time to sit back and reflect, I’ve come up with a few lessons I learned while abroad.

The semester came and went faster than I could have ever possibly imagined. It seems like not long ago I was arriving in Budapest, nervous and excited. But four months quickly passed and as cliché and corny as it sounds, I wouldn’t trade those months for anything. Whenever I saw Facebook posts from my friends returning from study abroad spouting how life-changing the experience was and how they will never forget it, I just passed them off as humble-brags and didn’t think much of it. But they were right. It opens your mind and pushes you out of comfort zones. It provides new firsts, new friends, and some life lessons along the way too.

One lesson I learned is that material things are completely unimportant. When your life can fit into a single suitcase and carry-on bag for four months, you re-wear the same clothes, wear through the same few pairs of shoes, and make-do with what you have. And did I ever feel deprived? Not once. It was almost nice to not have as many options to choose from when getting dressed in the morning!

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The Balance Between Health, Happiness, and Hustle

Today was one of those days where I had no social plans and spent the day doing stuff on my own. While I like that for about half the day, my extroverted side gets bored quickly. However, when I’m not talking much to others during the day, I end up talking to myself. The question I found myself asking today was, where do we find the balance between health, happiness, and hustle?

Let me elaborate. Not having any plans for the day got me thinking about the balance between health and having a social life. When I think of being healthy, I think of having a consistent sleep schedule with at least eight hours a night, cooking healthy meals at home, and drinking in moderation. In contrast, when I think of the typical “college” social life, I think of staying out late and sleeping in late the next day, eating out with friends at not-so-healthy restaurants, and drinking maybe more than one would consider “in moderation”.

Being healthy makes me happy and so does having a social life. But in terms of the typical “college” social life I just mentioned, those rarely overlap. Yes, of course there are ways to be social without drinking and staying out late. I love working out and cooking with friends, as well as hanging out during normal daytime hours. But if you’re like me and you enjoy the occasional party, it’s not likely that you’ll stay home from a party you want to attend for the sake of your health (unless you’re a pro-athlete that relies on your body for your job, but most of us aren’t).

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2016 Resolutions: New Year, Better Me

Each New Year I often hear the saying: “New Year, New Me”, but that implies that you aren’t currently good enough. Which is why I prefer the phrase “New Year, Better Me”. I like who I am right now, so I don’t feel the need to be a new person, but I think we can always work on bettering ourselves. Because when we better ourselves, we better those around us. New Year’s is a great opportunity to reflect on the previous year and make goals for the coming year; I also believe it is important to put your reflection and goals down in writing so that you can go back and check in on your goal progress throughout the year.

With that said, 2015 may have been my best year yet, so 2016 has a lot of work to do if it wants to top it. I spent 2015 pretty equally divided living in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Budapest. I visited nine new countries, met countless new friends, and didn’t work at any fast-food chains, which I spent far too much time doing in 2014. I hope 2016 brings just as much fun and adventure.

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My favorite time to reflect usually involves a good view

And with each New Year brings the inevitable resolutions that I tend to forget after two or three months. However this year I am determined not to forget them, so I am putting them out here to keep me accountable. I would say that my unofficial first resolution of 2016 is to not forget my resolutions. So without further ado, here are my New Year’s resolutions:

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Saying Goodbye

On my last day in Budapest, I woke up and walked to my favorite bakery to get a pastry and coffee for breakfast. I said hello to my favorite bakery worker who I usually make a little small talk with whenever I go in. It was a busy Saturday morning, so when I tried to say goodbye as he handed me my coffee, the noise of the espresso machine and the other customers drowned me out. He busied making the next customer’s coffee and I walked out the door. At first, I was a little sad that I didn’t get to say a proper goodbye. But maybe it was better that I didn’t get to say goodbye, because goodbyes are too final. And because I know I’ll be back to Budapest very soon. I don’t know when, but it was a city that felt like home to me after only a month of living there, and there’s no place like home.

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