I Minimized My Apartment and It Was the Best Thing I’ve Done This Year

I don’t want to buy for fashion. I’m not talking just clothes − water bottles, dishes, kitchen appliances, office supplies, notebooks. When a new sleek double-walled water bottle that keeps water cool down to 20o comes out, I don’t need it. My plastic YMCA water bottle still does what I need it to do. It holds water. I also happen to prefer my water lukewarm.

Things don’t make life better or make us happier. Getting a newer version of what I already own doesn’t increase my happiness or ease any perceived burden by enough degrees to warrant the expense. They are just tools. We make life better and we make our own happiness.

I had so many things, some days I thought about throwing them all away. They crowded my physical and mental space. Every time I looked at them, I thought about how they are not serving me. How they were drowning me. How I couldn’t think about writing a poem because I had a pile of dishes in my sink or piles of laundry (half of which I didn’t wear often).

In June, I had a garage sale and eliminated 40-50% of the items I own. What wasn’t sold was donated to the Boys and Girls Club. That was really the gamechanger. I had officially minimized my things and now I could focus on how I wanted to live in this new space. I rearranged some furniture to increase the spaciousness. I reorganized the items I still have to make them easier to use, clean, and store. It was like moving into a new apartment. Some of the best moments that have come out of this are:

It takes less than half the time to find an outfit and get dressed.

You know all of those clothes that you have that you haven’t worn because you don’t have anything to pair it with, that you are telling yourself you’ll wear when you lose 10 pounds, that you haven’t worn in years but its in great condition, that looked good on the rack but when you tried it on at home it made you feel bad….I got rid of them. When I look in my closet, I don’t feel unhappiness, shame, guilt, or not good enough. I have all of my favorites and I look forward to wearing them all. I just pick an outfit, lay it on the bed, and get dressed after my shower.

Less time and money spent on doing laundry.

With less clothes, there are less resources spent on maintaining them. I can do smaller loads more often and wear my favorites more. I spend less money on electricity running my washer for multiple large loads. I don’t end up running a load multiple times because I hated hanging laundry and forgot about it in the washer for hours.

Cleaning is relaxing.

With less things, I have less things on the floor because they all have a home now and can fit into my existing furniture. Putting things away takes a fraction of the time and vacuuming and sweeping is a breeze.

I don’t have significantly less dishes than before. I kept most of them. What happened is that the rest of my house became easier to clean and the tasks that used to take the most time and the most energy, I now have time and energy for and seem small compared to before.

I no longer dread cleaning and maintenance and actually do a little bit everyday like, putting away clothes that I’ve worn, wiping down counters, making my bed, washing dishes, sweeping, filling the water filter.

For me, there have been no negatives. I love my new space. I love how I have more options. I love the light feeling I get whenever I am there. Rather than bring happiness, this process has removed stress and burden.

Now that my possessions are under control, I have put more effort and time into continuing the journey to minimize my use of technology to increase time and space for more important things in my life; and to minimize the way I do things to increase productivity and decrease double-work. I look forward to sharing that once I’m done.

Fiction: Mask

A sedan pulls off the road into the parking lot of a motel near the airport. The headlights flick off and a door shuts and the trunk pops open.

A figure in a black hoodie steps into the light, takes a duffel bag out of the trunk and sets it on the pavement. The figure reaches into the trunk and pulls out another duffel bag and shuts the trunk. Grabbing both, walking north to the stairwell, they fade in and out of light.

A man with a gut in a white ribbed tank and sunglasses yells “Hey Vickie! What you get for me tonight sweetheart?” with a muffled chuckle at the end.

Shit. She skips up the metal steps and set one bag down outside the door to room 17 and unlocks the door. Yards away, she can hear approaching footsteps on the metal platform. “You’re one of a kind…” he coos.

She grabs the other bag, slips inside, kicks shut the door, drops the bags, and turns the locks.

She sits on the bed and peels black sweaty gloves off her shaking hands. She looks at her brown hands and then pulls her black hoodie over her head. She shimmies out of the black leggings and tosses them into the mound of clothes at the foot of the bed.

She touches her cheek by accident and shirks away from herself. She draws her hand away from her face and a piece flaky skin falls off her fingers. She grimaces and wipes her hands on the bed.

In the bathroom, a face the color of coffee creamer looks back at her. Red patches on her puffy cheeks started forming yesterday. The crust collecting on top of them wasn’t there this morning. The pale dry skin on her neck fades to a deep warm chocolate on her collarbone. There’s a 2×3 picture of a young girl with a big toothy grin. She rubs the shiny surface until the photo pops, pressing her tingling lips to it. There’s a half empty bottle of vodka on top of the toilet tank and she drinks it like ice water. She goes back to the bed and falls asleep.

It’s 7:00 am. Valerie shakes awake and runs her hands frantically over her face. Shes scrambles out of bed and into the bathroom and looks in the mirror, hands gripping the sink.

Melanin covers her face. Once again. She sighs. Valerie pours the vodka into the toilet and tosses the bottle in the trash. She grabs the portrait and places it in her bra.

Valerie grabs the 2 bags at the door, sets them on the bed, and unzips them both. She buries her hands into the bags of banded money, caressing them. Grabbing a stack, Valerie flicks the bills under her brown eyes, imagining all the clothes and food she can buy her, all the hugs and love she can buy her, all the time and pain she can’t buy back.

Managing Emotion-Triggered Impulses

A few days ago, I was upset about some coworkers on my team getting back late from lunch which meant I couldn’t go to lunch on time. I had to go to lunch nearly 30 minutes later than usual. I don’t eat breakfast. That’s my thing. Lunch is very important to me. After I left for lunch and ate, I was still frustrated. Not just at my team but with work in general. I’d also had some other mild anxieties roaming round in my head I just needed a break from all of it, but I couldn’t leave work. I took out my journal and wrote during lunch that day. Here’s an excerpt:

“I want comfort. I’m glad I’m here at the page instead of down at the food truck or at the vending. I don’t want to eat for comfort but it feels like my brain is starving for it right now. The frustration I feel wont go away after I eat, it will just be dulled while I’m eating. I’ll be distracted. I’ll regret it. I’ll be mad at myself for being weak then try and tell myself not to be too hard on myself.

This is an opportunity to serve my body, not just my mind. My body has a voice and so often I don’t listen. I let the brain’s voice take over because the body doesn’t “think” right?

The body knows itself better than the brain. The body had no sub-conscious. It does not hide things from us. It screams and sings when we listen and when we don’t. With the body, there’s a tangible breaking point.

The brain is a Matryoshka doll. Each doll holds a part of you. As a child, we can see all of our dolls/selves and they are complete and visible. As we age, we are taught to hide certain selves. Our brain learns to do this on its own, requiring no conscious thought, hiding parts of us we didn’t know were there.

Prying them open is hard, painful, and releases trauma. Most people need a professional for this. I did. The brain is so good at smoothing out the seams. The body can burst them open. Sometimes it takes trauma to the body to recognize trauma in the mind. It doesn’t have to get to that point, if we listen to our bodies. We’ll recognize the brain and body may not be in sync and there we start to work on why.

Listen to you body as you would your brain.”

I did not pacify my emotions with food. That was a win for that moment. I continued to write about what was really bothering me and worked to come to terms with those feelings.

In the moment, its hard to stop your id in its ravenous tracks, reflect, and make a conscious choice. That’s best way to grow. It’s a lot hard after the fact, when your belly is full and your mind is drunk.

Raising Money for Poetry!!

Raising Money for Poetry!!

Here in Tucson, AZ, there is a great non-profit, Casa Libre, that supports a literary community of poets in this city. They hold donation-based readings and workshops (not donation-based) hosted by poets from Arizona and all over the United States. As a woman of color, I really appreciate that they go out of their way to welcome and include diverse poets and readers in their community so that everyone’s voice can be heard.

There are having an event called “500 Sonnets” on June 9th to raise money for their organization so we can keep having readings and paying poets.

I will be writing and reading sonnets for this event on June 9th and need sponsors to help me reach my goal of raising $100. 

You can sponsor me here. You will need to key in my name after you click “shop” and my name is “Andrea Ivy.” You can sponsor me before the event or on the day of online.

Thank you for reading and donating if you are able.

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