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.