Woe is me you guys, we're moving in approximately a month - and it's stressing me out. Let me tell you, the apartment hunt in NYC is rather painful, the basic truth of which was recently highlighted by our friend moving from San Fran to Boulder, Colorado, where apartments are big, aplenty, energy-efficient and about a third of the price of renting here or in SF. We're actually moving OUT of Manhattan and into Brooklyn, but it doesn't really make a difference when it comes to what most apartments available for rent in our price range look like.
'Cause they're generally SMALL. I know it sounds kinda quirky and 'sooo New York' when a character in a movie is forced to sleep in what is basically a glorified walk-in closet, but no, it's not fun in real life when you're trying to find a comfortable place to live. Obviously, one of the solutions is to move farther away from Manhattan where you can get a bigger space in your budget, but Mr doesn't want to commute for over an hour and a half every day of the working week, and I don't blame him - he's already working so much that a longer commute would probably have to mean cutting out things like the gym or some relaxation time late in the evening.
However you look at it, if you live in or close to Manhattan, you better get used to having very limited space for your stuff. When we first moved here a year and a half ago, we already had to let go of a number of things: some furniture and lots of sports equipment like a crash pad (a mattress for climbing and bouldering), Mr's older snowboard, his mountain bikes had to go into storage in a remote location. Now that we're preparing to move again, I've begun the long process of culling our stuff again, trying to decide what's indispensable and what I can do without.
It's a bit of a different decluttering process - I'd say that generally, I'm quite organized and don't hoard completely useless stuff, so the decisions I've been faced with have proven quite difficult. Here are some examples: our bookshelf started to overflow thanks to some Christmas gifts and Mr's growing collection of programming books, so I had to donate some of my novels to the local libary (the knowledge that they're not going in the trash was what made it possible for me to say goodbye). I went through our kitchen cabinets and put aside pots and pans as well as foodstuffs that I wasn't reaching for regularly anymore. I have a separate bag of clothing, shoes and accessories in the closet that I keep adding to before finally donating the whole lot. The remnants of rarely used sports equipment lingering in the closet are regularly given the side eye, although I don't know if I can convince my husband to let go.
Some may say that this forced minimalism in Manhattan is a good thing because it teaches you how little you actually need for day to day functioning. I'm in two minds about this: on one hand, I dislike holding on to things I don't need or enjoy using, so yeah, that's great - no room for clutter anyway. But on the other, I also feel that these living space limitations are holding me back from things I may benefit from, or are making me feel wasteful for having to let go off things I'm still using but won't have enough space to keep.
To give you two tangible examples of what I'm talking about: I've wanted a Cuisinart mixer for years, but truth is, the kitchens in the apartments we've seen so far have so little counter space that it's just not doable right now, and at any rate, having so little space for someone who cooks from scratch every single day is pretty tough. To illustrate the latter problem, I feel pretty sad that I probably won't be able to keep my vanity table; it already had to be put out of our small bedroom and into a dark hallway in our current apartment, so I've gotten used to doing my make-up elsewhere, but I wish I could have that small space all for myself and my beloved make-up stash.
Let's try to stay positive: maybe I could embrace the tiny apartments, and attempt to live a minimalist lifestyle. In that vein, I've been mulling over the practicalities of capsule wardrobes that I've seen many fashion bloggers experiment with in the past couple of years. I have very little fashion sense so I sincerely doubt if I'd be able to put together satisfactory outfits from just a handful of things, and I guess my questions are pretty dumb: 'But what if you live in a climate that experiences both extremely hot and cold weather, and everything in between (like New York)?', 'What if you're into sports and need specialized gear for that?'. 'Do you have to throw away something you own every time you buy something new?', 'Do you just not buy any new clothes until something older falls apart?', and 'How do you not get bored out of your mind?'.
So I don't know if true minimalism is the way to go for me - right now it just feels like a panicky getting rid of a whole bunch of stuff. I can't help but feel wasteful for my past purchases that I have no use for anymore, even though when I first got them, my living conditions and needs were a lot different. I also realize that what I'm doing is not the fun 'I'm clearing out my closet for Spring, and now I can go shopping to fill all that extra space!', it's the 'I have no space for new stuff - from now on it's a strict "one in - one out" only'.
But even disregarding the whole limited space issue, I've been thinking about how much stuff we accrue over the years, where it's coming from and where it's ultimately going. I'm questioning whether in this day and age (in the first world), anyone wears out their things anymore - and so with the constant influx of the new and trendy, the old must end up being thrown or given away (and then I suppose it's mostly recycled into home insulation or something of the sort). The image of myself as a greedy monster continously devouring and spitting out goods doesn't sit well with me; but at the same time, I want to enjoy both thoughtful acquisition of new and possession of the old. I don't want to bar myself from the joy I feel from shopping for a small treat, and I don't want to force myself to use something I hate just to avoid the feelings of being wasteful. Where exactly do I strike the balance? I believe this is something I'll keep experimenting with, and doing what feels right in this moment is probably my best strategy, realizing that things will change as I grow.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this post anymore, so I guess that means it's time to wrap it up. I don't want you to come away from this post thinking that I'm complaining or feeling sorry for myself - I think what I'm trying to say is that I need to change a lot of lifelong habits and it's making me feel a bit apprehensive. I realize it's going to be a challenge, and I need you guys to hold my hand for a bit - but deep down, I know it's a good thing, and I'm going to enjoy it.
Have you attempted or are you currently living a more minimalist lifestyle? If so, please let me know your experiences in the comments - I'd love to know how it's been working out for you! I'm aware that a lot of you are working on decreasing the size of your make-up collections this year by purging unloved bits and/or Project Pan/ Project Make A Dent, but I'd love to know if that mindframe also spilled over to other areas of your life. Inquiring minds want to know!