I have the best time at airports…

Last weekend I went to Gatlinburg, TN for a mini-vacation with my family. As my luck would have it, all of my family members were “randomly” selected for TSA Pre-Check for both flights. Everyone except for me…

When we arrived at the airport for our return flight the security officer waved my family through the pre-check line before turning to me, in the plebes’ line.

“I see your family left you,” he stated after noticing my last name matched the three people he just checked through. “You can sue them for that, ya know.”

Then he noticed my super cool, newly purchased shirt: a tank top covered in cats riding pizza slices. He sighed and handed back my ID. “Just take your cats and go.”

Thanks, man.

My cats don’t believe in minimalism.

My soon-to-be new apartment is Tiny with a capital “T” that rhymes with “P” and that stands for POOL! Any Music Man fans? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?  Although small it is 300 square feet of fabulous quirk, so of course, I love it and cannot wait to move in next week. But packing has been a challenge.

Ask anyone: parents, friends, current housemates, and they will tell you that I cannot possibly find more things to get rid of. Nearly every weekend I’m rummaging through my closet looking for items that, according to the wise words of Mari Kondo, no longer bring me “joy”. Last weekend I proved everyone wrong taking yet another carload (a literal carload) of clothes, lamps, kitchen utensils, etc. to Goodwill. Sure, I probably could have sold some of it but consignment shops make me anxious and I’ve watched too many Criminal Minds episodes to ever agree to meet someone from Craigslist. So to Goodwill, it goes.

The entire downsizing process has been surprising stress-free. Thanks to my anxious mind and a dash of undiagnosed OCD I’ve crafted lists outlining each step of the process, what needs to happen and when, down to the order the furniture should be moved in. At the moment my living room is staged with boxes, all organized and ready to go.

However, my cats, Sven and Olaf, have not been helpful.

I’m constantly tracking down their toys, placing them in their designated bin, only to find them strewn about the house mere minutes later. They are basically toddlers. I’m guessing, of course, I haven’t lived with a toddler… A few days ago a placed one of their cat trees (yes, they have two…) by the back door to take on my next donation run. I chose this particular “tree” because they seldom used it. But alas, now that it has been staged for removal they will not stop climbing on it. Sorry dudes, cuts have to be made.

While thoroughly organized, I’m not holding my breath about my move. You can only plan for so much when two, rambunctious, toddler-cats are involved…

I’m moving!

I called my mom from the car.

“I just looked at an apartment. It’s exactly the type of quirky place I was looking for, but…”

When I got home my housemates asked what I thought of the place.

“It’s adorable, I love it! But…”

I began to notice a pattern. The joy I was feeling in my gut, that sense of “home” I had felt when I walked through the door wasn’t translating into words. I could see myself being happy in the “efficiency” apartment, but I couldn’t picture my friends feeling the same way. I turned defensive, babbling about why I was over the moon about the tiny space, then quickly negating each claim with a “but…”.

My anxiety had unleashed the levy of negative thoughts. They think you’re an idiot for signing a lease on such a small space! You’ll never be able to have anyone over. You’re going to become a crazy cat lady. You will die alone.

Despite my brain’s best efforts to send me into an anxious tailspin, my gut held true. I’m prone to nightmares, especially when I’m on the cusp of a big change. Whatever I’m stressed about manifests into distorted, dream versions of reality until I can’t remember which is real.

A quick example: In one of my brain’s go-to moving-themed nightmares, I find myself inside my new house. It’s dark and no matter how many switches I try the lights won’t turn on. There’s always a sense of being chased as I run from room to room frantically flipping switches. Then I wake up in a pool of sweat and ask myself how I could be so dumb as to move into a house with no electricity.

I had versions of this nightmare while I was house hunting but the night after I applied to my new, micro flat I slept like a baby. I woke up the next morning awash in relief that I found my perfect bungalow. That is until my brain caught up and reminded me I need to worry because *GASP* what will your friends think?

Whenever I describe my new place I immediately bring up the square footage. Again, a defense mechanism to protect myself against what others may think. Yes, I’m aware that 300ft2 is very small, I’m not signing this lease sight-unseen. And the question I’ve been hearing most frequently: How will you fit all of your stuff?

Answer: I won’t.

I’ve been dabbling with minimalism ever since I returned from Cambodia. Something about lugging two bags stuffed with stuff only to realize my room at home was filled with even more stuff, didn’t sit well with me. Everything that had been in my closet during the two years I lived abroad was immediately sent to Goodwill. If I didn’t miss it while I was away, I won’t miss it ever.

My current home, a roughly 2,000ft2 townhouse, feels like a sprawling estate. I do share the space with two other girls but I barely scratch the “usage” surface. My housemates each have walk-in closets packed with clothing while I’ve made an effort to pare down my belongings so that my standard-sized closet feels like more than enough space. My dresser, while containing some clothing, also doubles as linen storage. Sorting through my things has become an almost weekly ritual in which I ask myself, what am I willing to let go of? And of the things I am not: why?

Don’t get me wrong, I still have A LOT of stuff. Every surface in my room displays knick knacks and trinkets I’ve collected from my travels. This is where I branch from stereotypical minimalism. My bookshelves are stuffed with novels I’ve already read AND have digital versions of. I’ve purchased physical books even though I’d already read it on my Kindle because flipping actual pages makes me happy.

The trick, though? I am ok with letting go of it all. When possible I will rework sentimental items into something useful, like turning T-shirts I will never wear into quilts, shells I collected into jewelry, fabric and scarves from foreign markets into pillows, etc. But I’m not afraid to say, “You know what, I don’t really need to hold onto the “tribe totem” (a.k.a. a skull shaped eraser) from my university’s anthropology department.”

During the week and a half leading up to my big move, I’ll be taking a serious look at the things I own and whether they jive my values. I’m also going to stop giving a damn about what other people may or may not think because if you’re going to let go of anything, it should be that measuring stick you use to see if you’re living up to society’s standards.

I am thrilled AF about my teeny home and excited about the new challenges I’m going to experience during the next year.