All Posts in Lifestyle

July 12, 2018

Simple Sustainability

Incorporating sustainable practices in a throw-away culture.

When I began my minimalist journey, I found it hard to hold myself back from diving head-first into the wide variety of lifestyles that minimalism presents. There are so many to choose from—a nomadic lifestyle, zero-waste living, living with only essentials—just to name a few. Though there are many paths to explore in the world of living with less, the freshly curated trail of sustainability caught my eye and I began to tread softly into the benefits it had to offer.

In my eyes, living sustainability meant that I could easily reduce the amount of effort, time, and money I put into purchasing items, completing tasks, and generally living life. There were immediate benefits to incorporating sustainable living into my everyday life, such as knowing that I was doing the earth/environment a favor while swapping things out for more sustainable items, increasing the longevity of the items I was using, and saving myself so many resources by only purchasing things I truly loved and fit within my values.

I soon began to look for companies that fit within my values and allowed me to spend my money wisely, knowing that the item would be long-lasting. While there are few companies that are dedicated to sustainability, Modern Essentials is one of the few that allows their personal values and minimalist journey shine through their products.

Modern Essentials is a New York-based clothing brand that is dedicated to sharing their passion for minimalism through their products. While living in a throw-away culture, they bring together minimalism and sustainability in order to create the ideal closet for people aspiring to live with less. As minimalism transitions from being a trend to a lifestyle, CEO Michael Frattaroli and his team are dedicated to bringing a simple, minimal, and modern touch to clothing in a world of fast-fashion.

Modern Essentials combines what we need to strive for in our fashion industry today—minimal style, simple, and modern designs, and sustainability at an affordable price. Unlike the fast-fashion industry, Modern Essentials carefully curates each item of clothing and ensures that it passes an intense quality control line before it ever reaches the boutique doors. 

Times are always changing, which means that the fashion industry is constantly releasing new ideas and clothing. Modern Essentials has created their product to be timeless in a society of ephemeral joy. These essential pieces can be worn from season to season, and through every change in the fashion industry. Without being weighed down by the industry, these products allow you to be more free in thought and action as you enjoy the more important things in life: realizing the true color of the sky, hearing your partner laugh, and being in touch with reality—the life that is happening right before your eyes. 

As you continue to make room in your life for the important things, remember that less is always more. Appreciate the quality of things, not the quantity of things. If we buy fewer products but better ones, we tend to have more joy using what you already have.

July 4, 2018

Lessons in Branding at Twelve

How a spoiled twelve-year-old learned a lesson in popularity and branding.

I grew up lower-middle class. I always had more than I needed but not as much as my peers. Going through middle school with the cutting-edge technology of Myspace and MSN Messenger was tough. For the first time, what others had was not only on display during school hours, but whenever one got home and logged on.

I remember the trends when I went through school: Hollister shirts, Abercrombie jeans, Sperry shoes, and Coach purses. Imagine a twelve-year-old carrying a $300 handbag. There was a trend with these popular items—a name. No, it did not matter how beautiful the piece of clothing was, its quality, or where it came from.

I have always been a bit of an outcast—known to dance to the beat of my own drum—but while wearing the same as everyone else. I remember one day in particular, I asked for a pair of Sperry shoes and a Coach handbag for Christmas. What I received was a pair of Aloha Island’s that looked identical to Sperry’s but cost $20 at the Shoe Show and a Coach bag that was clearly not authentic.

For about a week, I was furious with my mom. How was I going to go to school wearing knock-offs when everyone else had the real deal? At the time, I wasn’t concerned with the fact that my mother couldn’t afford the real items or the thought and the time that it took her to find the best she could afford. 

However, before school went back into session, I found a philosophy that I carry with me to this day. Do my peers like the product or the name? If they truly liked what they were wearing, the price tag would not matter. Now that I have grown in my beliefs, I no longer look for names. In fact, I spend time finding items without branding on the piece. Instead, I look for quality and ethically made pieces that will last me through every trend and every season. Before indulging in the name brand piece, I ask myself: “would I buy this if it were an unknown brand?”

June 27, 2018

How I Became a Peripatetic Minimalist

Why I merged travel and minimalism to find balance in my life.

Travel and minimalism are perfect companions. The less you own, the fewer things can weigh you down, which in turn allows you to roam freely.

How I came onto the path of minimalism was out of my control. Turning nineteen years of age, my family decided to make a move to Peru. As soon as I left secondary school, my father sold our house. The number of things we found that once may have bared significance to us, was staggering. I think it may go without saying that moving home is stressful.  What makes the situation even worse is the obligation to move and package a million little things, many of which you can’t remember how they even came into your life.

The task of having to sell, throw out, and donate possessions made me think. How much money did we throw away with all these little trinkets? How many hours have we worked to buy something that held value for maybe a week? More importantly, imagine all the cool places we could have travelled to instead.

Now that I take travelling the world more seriously, I do not want to be tied down by possessions, contracts, and excess money. I want to travel, inspire, and help others—not flex and impress everyone.

Possessions used to mark our status as humans. But does owning more materialist things—the latest smartphone—make us happy? Not me. I find much more value exploring nature, spending time with other cultures, and inspiring people to see what they are missing out. Spending doesn’t have to involve a transaction.

Two years on, my love of travel is growing deeper by the day. I aim to live with only the essentials, and the small number of things that I do have, bring a smile to my face. Living this way, I avoid the pitfalls of mass accumulation, allowing me to hop on a plane with my backpack and go wherever I desire.  The world is my home. That is why I aim to own little but see much.

June 20, 2018

A Minimalist Journey to Life

Create a life that is written and illustrated by you and only you.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and realized you don’t recognize the person standing there? Have you watched your reflection move and feel as if it is a different entity than you? That’s where I was just a month ago.

I picture it as a foggy mirror. You can make out a figure, but none of the little pieces and features that make it a person. It is an individual hidden or stifled by societal norms, expectations, and more. When I discovered minimalism, I found a tool that helped me find the figure through the fog. 

The how-to is the easy part. You separate items, create space for donation and trash, and continue moving around until all your stuff is labelled. Then you visit the dumpster and Goodwill. Suddenly, your space is clear and there is a bit of weight lifted off your shoulders. You look in the mirror and see the condensation has gone, but the image is still distorted.

Some would question their actions: “Did I get rid of enough stuff? The right stuff? How much more stuff until I reach my goal?” 

The real question lies not in quantifiable items, but rather this: Why? 

Finding your reflection requires self-reflection. My answer was quite easy: to create. I wanted the space and energy to work toward my values. I wanted to create myself in the life I wanted to live. That person was buried under physical and mental “stuff”. Minimalism was the first step to finding my life.

So, I started making decisions in my surroundings to support the life I was creating. I eliminated more stuff. I decluttered or reduced my social media presence. I cultivated more meaningful relationships with the people around me, and I walked away from the unsustainable ones. I created the time and space to do things I wanted to do. I surrounded myself with things that gave me life, value, and purpose. 

This morning when I looked in the mirror, I saw a face that looked back. There was still fog around the edges, but a clearer picture had been formed. I knew the face, but the expression was new. I moved with the reflection as it moved with me and I finally realized what I was looking at—Life.

June 6, 2018

Simple Isn’t Easy: Mastering the Basics

Timeless style can be more than just an aesthetic ideal. It can be a manufactured reality.

I love coffee. I also love cafés, but I often struggle to find exactly what I am looking for. In my eyes, a perfect café would meet a small but essential set of criteria: great service, a relaxing atmosphere, well-made drinks and reasonably fast internet. However, these things are rarely found in one place. Some cafés have bland coffee or slow internet. Many go out of business before they have time to build a base or identity. These establishments aren’t paying homage to the basics and consequentially, they are unsustainable.

It turns out that simple isn’t necessarily easy. Leonardo da Vinci once said ‘simplicity is the ultimate sophistication’ and nowhere is this truer than within the fashion industry. Creating refined clothing is often a gradual process that is at odds with the commercial production of immense volumes. Decisions are based on profit margins, rather than individual suitability and long-term sustainability. This can lead to items of low material quality, produced via dubious working conditions. Shortcuts are so common that brands with real integrity and clarity of purpose are worth celebrating.

One such company that refuses to cut corners is the Scandinavian clothing brand ASKET. Swedish founders Jakob Dworsky and August Bard Bringéus initially set out to produce the ultimate white T-Shirt which, like my café, is something so simple and unassuming that it is frequently neglected. ASKET’s T-Shirt comes in 15 sizes, making sure that you can find the perfect fit for your body. They choose to avoid extravagant marketing campaigns and glamorous stores and this has allowed them to challenge ‘premium’ price-tags, creating real value, without compromise. ASKET aim to create permanent collections that cultivate traceability and transparency so that consumers can see the often invisible side of production. All details are carefully considered.

Brands like ASKET couldn’t come at a better time. We have more clothes than ever, yet we use only 10% of our wardrobes. We wear items 7 times on average before they contribute to the ever-growing clutter of our lives. These numbers reflect the growing lack of connection with what we have and a modern obsession with the ‘new’ that is leaving many of us paralyzed by choice.

But there is a transition underway. We, as consumers are increasingly calling for brands to produce simple, elegant and long-lasting clothing that we want to wear 100% of the time.

Timeless style can be more than an aesthetic ideal. It can be a manufactured reality, made possible by slowing down and mastering the basics.

May 30, 2018

The Case for Minimalism

My Journey as a Student from Researching Minimalism to Living with Purpose

Before we begin, I’d like to simply say this: I come before you today, presenting my minimalist journey as one who is still very new to the lifestyle, and decided to find a way to present minimalism to those who aren’t as persuaded by stories and philosophies as I am. This is the story of my study entitled Less: A Study on the Minimalist Lifestyle and Its Impact on Individual Happiness & Stress.

Last summer, I began a journey of self-discovery and stumbled upon minimalism. This revolutionary idea that less is more; life could be purposeful; life could be simple after all. Immediately I was intrigued, falling deeper in love with what minimalism had to offer.

My journey in minimalism began in August of 2017, when I committed to purging all my belongings to the bare minimum, resulting in more than three large moving boxes filled with items to be donated. From then on, I knew I had to share minimalism with the world. I needed encouragement to not buy so many items back, and I wanted to help other people see the way their lives, too, could be changed for the better.

The following month, an opportunity presented itself, and this was the perfect time to share my newfound love. I was taking a class known as AP Research, with a simple objective: fill the gap in research. I knew from my own personal research that there was very little scholarly evidence to the testimony that I had found countless times. So, I took this opportunity to combine the testimony of myself and The Minimalists with the newfound research of a self-conducted study on how minimalism impacted happiness and stress. In total, I spent seven months reading and researching minimalism in all its forms to create the case for minimalism.

From November to February, twelve weeks were spent journeying with eight people through minimalism, tracking their happiness and their life journey along with it. At the end, I found what I knew to be true: that minimalism made people happy. Really happy. Their stress went down as their possessions went down. I knew then that what I had found was going to be my leg to stand on when raving about this lifestyle.

Since I finished this study almost two months ago, I’ve had three of the eight people that I journeyed with continue being minimalist and inspired a newfound curiosity in three more. That may only be six people, but if they too come to love minimalism, that six will grow, and more people will learn for themselves that less is more. 

Minimalism will change people. Minimalism will change the world.

May 23, 2018

Applied Minimalism: What Athletes Know About Focus

To be great at sports we must focus on the essentials. But we must not miss the bigger picture.

Benson’s Law of Specificity is a classic lesson in minimalism. Benson understood that to achieve specific goals, we must practice the thing we want to improve in. To get better at sprinting; we must sprint. To deadlift more; we must deadlift more. A successful athlete must, therefore, say no to the 50,000 plausibly beneficial movements and focus on the truly essential few. Attention must be honed to a sharp edge and distractions filtered out. This requires discipline, order, and the mother of all progress—repetitions. Anything not directly helping to contribute to the overarching goal must be placed on hold. After all, saying no is the only way to fully say yes. 

Tunnel vision will take you places.

However, the athlete must eventually enter the off-season, either by conscious decision or from an inevitable injury or burnout. It’s now time to reject dogmas, reverse the rules and build a solid base, consisting of diverse activities (known as GPP or General Physical Preparedness). Learn how to hold a handstand, run a marathon, practice yoga, belly dance, skip—all perfectly valid options for growth. This is about widening the athlete’s perspective beyond the narrow window of their usual training conditions. It’s about leaving the tunnel. By becoming more of a generalist, the athlete can indulge in their ‘what if’s?’ 

What else can I do?
Is the grass really greener? 

However, with this approach, you cannot progress in anything to a high degree. You will be scattered, fragmented, and spread too thin. I mean, how many high performing sumo-gymnasts do you know?

Like in life, it’s a question of balance and compromise. Specialism comes with a price which must be paid. Choosing is always simultaneously an exercise in not choosing. But if you strike an intelligent balance, you can enjoy the harmony of being a well-developed athlete and human being.

May 16, 2018

Natural Disaster: Accidental Minimalist

A Minimalist’s journey amidst burnout and natural disaster.

Professionally smashed and suffering from burnout, in 2017, I resigned from a successful career in finance. I altered the trajectory of my entire life, moving to a remote Caribbean island in my mid-thirties.

My goal was to live a simple life; I needed to breathe.

Everyone (including myself) was blindsided by my seemingly sudden about-face. At 36 I was the first female and youngest executive at my firm. I had recently won a coveted international award in my field. From the outside looking in, albeit a few trials and tribulations over the years, I seemed to really have it all.

But something was missing. Maybe nothing was missing. Maybe there was too much.

In a slightly off base effort to simplify, I packed up my life into a 20ft container and shipped my belongings to the island of Anguilla. Note to self: 30 pairs of designer heels are not needed nor will ever be worn on a Caribbean island! My minimalist ideals were focused on my professional life and not my belongings, but that would change.

Out of Anyone’s Hands... A Natural Disaster

In 2017, the Caribbean suffered a historically devastating hurricane season which still affects Puerto Rico today. In the fateful early hours of September 6th, Anguilla was directly hit by Hurricane Irma—a category five storm with up to 208mph winds that we steadily endured for 12 hours. We lived directly on the coast, the roof was ripped from our home and our businesses sustained significant damage. An entire island was left to repair the emotional and physical damage that remained in the wake of Irma’s travels.

After a natural disaster, one must adapt to a simple existence, living with less than the basics. Without electricity until the day after Thanksgiving, with a generator providing six hours of power for every 24 hours, water being pulled from a cistern to bathe, limited food (beans are a main staple), and long gas lines—everyone is in survival mode. The entire island was living every aspect of life as a minimalist.

In the end, the island’s economy had suffered immensely, so after eight months post-Irma I returned to the United States feeling defeated. However, this time I packed two suitcases containing only the necessities and moved into a sparsely furnished flat—continuing my minimalist lifestyle, optimistic of my next adventure.

We as a society put so much meaning into “things.” As for my minimalist story, I survived a traumatic event with my life intact surrounded by those I love. One must realize things can be destroyed, but things are not alive. Things do not love nor feel pain.

Never put too much love into something that can’t love you back (including something that helps you carry buckets of water from the cisterns in order to bathe).

May 1, 2018

Consumerism Is the Original Virtue Signaling

Our real values can be signaled only by our actions, not our things.

There’s a lot of talk about so-called “virtue signaling” these days. However, public expressions to demonstrate good character aren’t new: we’ve been virtue signaling with our sparkly new objects for decades.

Or perhaps value signaling is more accurate.

By showing off our fancy new toys, we think we’re communicating our values to the world, but we’re confusing our valuables with our values.

Our real values can be signaled only by our actions, not our things. And yet we continue to amass new bits and pieces, adorning an empty facade with regalia, hoping to impress anyone who sees it.

Emblem-laden handbags.
Nineteen-inch chrome rims.
Stainless-steel timepieces.

Consumerism encourages us to commodify our own identities. If we really want to dazzle others, though, we won’t do so via our possessions. Not in a meaningful way, at least.

So instead of trying to impress everyone with our valuables, let’s focus on impressing upon the world our values. And the best way to do that—make something meaningful.

Start a business.
Create a blog.
Write a book.
Record a song.
Build something tangible.

Creating is a better way to convey who we are. Flaunting our personal property signals that we care only about ourselves. But when our identities are shaped by creativity, our creations can be an honest way to signal to the world that we care about others, too.

“Here, I made this meal for you,” will always be more powerful than, “Watch me eat this in front of you.”

April 25, 2018

Letting It All Go to Regain Control

Life can be a wonderful adventure when you focus on the important things and let go of the meaningless.

I've always been the kind of person who collects all types of knick-knacks and trinkets. I was afraid to forget all the memories connected to the collection of objects. I wanted to remember all those pleasant moments and having something visible to hold on to helped me with that. At one point those baubles started to define me. In 2013, I moved to another country and started living on my own for the first time. At the beginning of this new adventure, it was a challenge as I couldn't take all the little moments with me. I felt like I was falling apart. I didn't know who I was without the sentimental things I had on the bookshelves in my hometown.

So I started making new memories, buying new things, more clothes, more shoes, and more jewelry—more of everything. Coming home meant coming back to them, remembering every second of the memory as it faded slowly away even though I had the object to remind me of it.

Finally it got me to a point in my life when I realized all these things had lost any kind of meaning, emphasized by my room, which was filled with so much stuff (much like my mind at the time). It was so messy that I couldn't just sit on my sofa without having to face a colorful shelf, my wardrobe overfilled with clothes that I resented, postcards and photographs on all of the walls, burned candles of passed romantic nights along with dried out roses from previous relationships. Although I didn't have a mirror in my room, I could see my reflection in everything. Home was not the tranquil, peaceful piece of paradise I could look forward to after an exhausting day at university. At that time of my life I was left hurt by boyfriends and close friends. I felt on the edge of taking my life, with severe depression and no desire to live whatsoever.

It all came down to one particular night when I came home from shopping again thinking I was happy. As I stepped inside my room I felt disgusted for one second. Then a quote from Kendrick Lamar’s single “Humble” popped into my mind: “You do not amaze me.” Yes, exactly! I didn't just dislike my life because I was emotionally unstable, but because I was also drowning in everything I owned.

At that time I've heard from some of my friends about the 90/90 Minimalism Rule and decided to give it a try. I ended up donating more than 50% of my things which at the beginning was such a struggle. I guess letting go wasn't so easy after all. After a couple of days and a 12-hour shift at work I came home, sat down on the sofa and saw only the empty desk, my favorite clothes organized by color, my black king-sized bed, and the black IKEA shelf with books.

I can't say that my head cleared instantly as I emptied my room of all the things that had a meaning a long time ago. It was a gradual process. I started to look after myself better, I stopped buying shoes whenever I felt under pressure, and I stopped buying jewelry whenever a guy disappointed me. I started traveling more, expecting less, and in a year my life got me to where I am now: in good health, depression-free, with a great partner, and sitting on my sofa in a minimalist and well-organized room with things that don't define me and my feelings.