It was AMAZON PRIME DAY this week! Which extended into not one day, but two days (they should probably rename it), and a CONCERT (which I watched, because Taylor Swift). All aimed at getting you to CONSUME, CONSUME, CONSUME. They even have PRE-SALE events! Come on! Buy something you didn’t even think about as something you WANTED (never mind NEED) until you saw it on your super convenient app that you open several times a day. As if Black Friday wasn’t bad enough.
Well, I deleted my Amazon Prime app for prime day and haven’t downloaded it again since. I’m a big Amazon shopper for household items. Toilet paper, paper towels, laundry detergent. The stuff I don’t want to get at the store a haul up three slights of stairs. I figure I can get on a desktop compute from now on to buy those things though. I buy too much stuff on Amazon as it is just for the convenience of having the app at my fingertips and all my payment information saved on there.
When I talk about a simple life in regards to a minimalist mindset I think people tend to think about their physical space. Cleaning closets, downsizing kitchen utensils, donating items etc. I want to share about the last eight months or so where I started minimizing my phone apps and let me tell you – it feels great! I think digital minimalism is super underrated and not talked about as much as our physical spaces.
How many shopping apps do you have on your phone? If you had asked me a year ago I would have had over five, at least. Amazon, Target, Modcloth, Vinted, you name it! And how many apps do you have in general? Don’t count the ones you can’t delete. Go ahead, count. I have 43.
Social and entertainment apps take up the most of my space and those include Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, Unfold, Podcast Preview and Messenger. Then I’ve got an entertainment section and a music section.
And that’s kind of it. The second page over has some financial apps – my bank, credit card and venmo – but I look at those more as necessities than wants.
Cutting down apps isn’t just about the look and feel of your phone though. Yes, it’s true that my phone is now simpler and easier to navigate, but overall it does one really important thing for me that I hope can give you an alternative to your current situation. Not only does having an excess of shopping and game apps on your phone make you waste more money, but it also wastes our most valuable resource: time. At the end of the day time is our ONLY commodity. Can’t shop, play games, or browse cat pics if you’re dead. And (morbid moment) that could happen at any moment. Do we want to spend hours of our day scrolling our feeds, or engaging in conversation with friends? Do we want to half watch a movie while online shopping at our fingertips, or do we want to be fully engaged?
I used to wake up in the mornings and just sit on my phone for two hours before work. Now that my apps are hidden away I tend to just spend about 15-20 minutes looking at my social and entertainment apps when I get home. There’s a glorious time when I get home from work where I’m alone for about 30 minutes. I take that time to do my phone thing. I’ll do a bit of Duolingo, check my Insta, say hi to the family on Facebook and look up recipes on Pintrest. It’s my phone time. That’s not to say I’m not looking at my phone a few times a day at work, in the morning or after dinner. I’m just being more conscious about phone time. I’m not perfect and I’m still learning. But I think the first step of that is to be CONCISION of our phone time.
I even deleted *deep breath* Wizards Unite this week. I was so looking forward to this game. I wanted it to be good. I wanted it to have the same connotations that Pokemon Go had a first. Kids and adults in the parks, running after a freshly spawned Snorlax. The truth is it’s kind of boring, doesn’t make much sense and has started to feel like a chore rather than something I wanted to spend my time on. I deleted it and I have zero regrets about it. In fact it feels like a huge weight off my shoulders.
This is just a small post about the benefits I’ve seen from minimizing my phone apps. I would like to go more in depth into this in the future, but for now here is just a few ideas for your own mental health. I’ve got a whole post in mind for no phone zones: bedroom, bathroom, dinners out, etc. I think I just want to put the idea in your brain for now about considering the minimization of phone apps. Really analyzing what the apps are doing for you and if they’re bringing value to your life or if you just find yourself opening them at random and hoping for some distraction.
June has been hard. There I typed it. I feel that I’ve been in a daze since it started. There’s a reason I did A Photo A Day twice. I honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do. That’s a bit unlike me. I feel like sometimes I have so many ideas in my head that the only issue is not having enough time to see them through. For some reason the last month or so those ideas have stopped.
I wasn’t really sure what was wrong with me until I spent some time with myself out in nature this weekend. There was no cell service. Minimal husband distraction. I got to really spend some time with myself. The main chunk of this was climbing a vertical incline for two solid hours. During this hike to hell I started to think more about this ‘June Gloom’ and I started piecing through what was at the heart of it. So bare with me and I’ll take you through that journey of self realization.
I posted a lot of great photos of this hike on my Instagram of the views and the trees, but I never posted this one of me half way through a hike wanting to just end it all and jump off the nearest cliff (there were many to choose from and was sorely tempted).
I love hiking and being in nature so much, but I’ve been so out of shape since last fall that every single hike is a struggle now. That’s something I’d never admit, until now. So anyway, I’m telling husband to go up ahead because he’s barely breaking a sweat with a ‘isn’t this fun!’ grin and I am red in the face, sweating profusely and pretty sure I’m gonna vom.
I’m like the big bad wolf just huffing and puffing my way up this incline with no one else in sight and I start thinking about how a few hours ago in the air conditioning of my car I was really excited to get into nature and start to reflect on what has been wrong in my head lately. Why have all my ideas stopped? I’ve been so busy at work lately I come home, make dinner and by the time I’m done eating at 7:30 I am ready for a shower and the hope that I’m awake enough to read in bed until 9. Lately I’ve been falling asleep with a book in my hand around 8:30.
As I’m dragging my fat ass up what feels like a goddamn mountain I’m wondering how I’d feel if I had a heart attack. A heart attack that suddenly feels very imminent as I can feel my heart trying to escape my body. I mean obviously I’d feel pain and panic, but how would I feel about my life? I started out this site hoping to have a place to be creative, but I remember my first challenge, the Minimalist Wardrobe. I had been thinking about minimalism for years. It felt so good to finally give my wardrobe a shot at downsizing and it felt so good to knock that out. Then I went into Honest Pictures. I had the most fun with this challenge. It was so refreshing to be open about my online presence and help people see that all the content we digest is curated to fit a certain idea. It’s so rare we get the full story from one photo or video clip.
When I started to think of my other challenges. I thought they were fun and taught me things, but nothing felt as good and right as my challenges helping to simplify my life and be honest.
Back to me dying on a butte. Honesty and Simplicity. I’m repeating this over and over to myself as I wipe sweat from my burning hot face, trying to ignore the stench I’m starting to take on. Left step is honesty, right step is simplicity. Honesty, Simplicity. Goddamn how am I not at the top yet? How come I can’t think of a new monthly challenge? Why have I stopped writing? How come June has left me feeling like I’m drowning? How do I escape my Monday-Friday rut that I can’t seem to see a way out of? How come the only time I’ve felt content lately is when I’m sleeping? WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME?
Pause for a moment more to let a family pass on their way back down. Their little kid is wearing a Spiderman shirt and I’m trying to not hyperventilate in his face, but I think he sees the struggle in my dead eyes. I might die on this hill.
“You’re almost there!” He beams at me as he passes.
“Cool.” I manage to gasp out.
A woman passes with her two dogs.
“It’s beautiful up there. You’re gonna love the view. There’s only about five more switch backs.”
She must see the panic in my eyes.
“They’re easy. You’ll be fine.”
This woman looks like she climbs mountains for a living. She might be fine, but I am definitely going to die. The group passes and I snag some water out of my bag. I’m thinking of the view at the top and how if it really is a great view as the woman says it’ll make for a great picture to post on Instagram. I’m half way through my drink and I stop.
Am I doing this hike and killing myself to take a picture so I can share it with people? No, that’s not completely true. I really do love hiking and nature. How would I feel if I had left my phone at the campsite though? Nothing to document. That would suck. I realize that I want that picture of the view at the time. I want to post it and have people think what I already know about myself: Holly is someone that likes to hike. Well, that’s true I do. People wont know how hard hiking has been for me lately though if I just post a picture of the view with a #pnw caption. Maybe my picture will say to people: Holly is an adventurer. I wish I could be in nature like Holly.
Now my mind is running through my honest pictures challenge. Didn’t I do a whole fucking month of breaking down this toxic thinking and trying to burn it to the ground? Didn’t I set out to try to be more honest myself? With other people? To help people digest their social content in a healthier way? To show my love for minimalism and how it can help others? How much of that passion, that message have I actually lived lately?
I think guiltily of the bag of thrift shop clothes I have in my closet. The clothes I bought but can’t fit on hangers because I threw all my hangers out with my new ‘light’ lifestyle. I think of the social posts I’ve made lately. Have they been to share an honest experience or to show I’m having a good time? What is the value in my life to just show people I’m having a good time?
I put my water back in my pack and pull out my phone. I snap a pic of my red sweaty face and let my exasperation and exhaustion show through. It’s not the prettiest picture of me I’ve ever taken (not by a long shot), but it’s real.
Honestly, Simplicity. That’s where I’ve strayed off the path. That’s what I really set out to do with this site. That’s what I’ve been lacking online and in my personal life.
I’d like to say that with this realization I suddenly made my body lighter and more free. I was able to bound up the next thousand feet and the Butte that I cursed earlier, I suddenly had a fondness for. These would be lies. After all there were five more switch backs to get to. Fuck this butte.
I ended up taking so long to get to the top that the clear amazing view of Mt. Hood that people on the way down were telling me about was now covered in clouds.
Normally this would have left me frustrated, but I was just glad to be alive. There were a zillion mosquitoes up there too so as much as I’d like to say I spread my arms wide and breathed in the fresh mountain air and took in the millions of trees and breathtaking views, I just ended up snapping this photo and then grumpily asking my husband if we could go now because I was being eaten alive.
I bounded down the way I came up in much less time, with a spring in my step. Despite the view turning out shit, despite globs of sweat under my boobs and the bites on my arms, my creative block seemed clear. Even though I’m a bit more out of shape than I’m used to at the moment I was marveling at how my body manged to take me up that hill. Despite the heavy breathing and straining muscles it was able to do its job and take me where my mind willed it to go. My body is kind of amazing. I’m going to spend less time hating it and more time celebrating it. I’m going to be more honest about it. I’m going to keep simplifying my life. I’m going to Kondo out my closet (again), because it’s okay if it takes a few tries to get it right. I’m not going to solve all my problems in one monthly challenge. I’m going to buy less, save more. I’m going to tell you all about it. I’m going to tell you when I mess up and buy too much. I’m going to share the truth about my trips, the good and the bad. I’m going to share my struggles with simplifying and my triumphs. I want you to share all yours with me too.
So that’s what this new tab on the site will be. A Honest, Simple Life. I think you readers will like it better when I’m honest with you and I realize now that my subconscious likes it too. It punishes me (as experienced by June Gloom) when I fall behind on my passion. Because that’s what it is: a passion. I am passionate about sharing my life with you all. I’m passionate about hearing about your lives and your struggles. Your Photo A Day posts with the #PictureTheLittleThings hashtag inspired me. Your desire to minimize your own closets and kitchens put a smile on my face. You truths about your own travels and vacations made me feel less alone when I struggle away from home.
I do have a new monthly challenge for July that I’m really excited about, but I will be making posts here too to share with you all and have you share with me your simple and honest lives.
I can’t believe I surpassed by goal of 30 items so early in this challenge. I think once you start really looking at possessions and things you own that you hardly ever use, it becomes easier to let go.
I want to share some good tidbits from a book called Stuffocation I read this month. I think they might help with perspective if you’re looking to downsize as well. I’m going to summarize some of my favorite tidbits below.
In 1922 Henry Ford said that he wanted a family to buy one of his cars and never have to buy another ever again. Things were built to LAST back then. You didn’t get new clothes every week, month or even ever year. A new item of clothing would come to you, if you were lucky, once a year. It was almost always bought or made to replace something as well, not to add to a collection of items. Now things are ubiquitous and cheap. In 1991 the average american bought 24 items of clothing a year, by 2007 we were buying 67 items every year. A new piece of clothing every 4-5 days. It was also in the 1920s that for the first time manufacturing and agricultural industries were producing more than they could sell. So we had a decision to make: Do we produce less? Or do we buy more? We could have gone an entirely different route. Let people work less, have more time off. A decade after making his famous statement, Ford started pushing out a new style of car every year – insisting to the public that THIS version was the one they wanted. Never mind that you just bought a car a few years ago and it still runs fine. I think we went with ‘buy more’.
In the end it’s all about experiences and we should try to come back to that in our everyday lives. Go back to 2011. I don’t know why, I just picked a year. Tell me one thing you remember about 2011. Was it what you bought that year? Maybe it was if it was a house. But if you didn’t make a large life changing purchase I bet the one thing you remember is a trip you had that year, or time spent during a long weekend with friends. I doubt you remember a pair of shoes you just had to have at the time, a pair you bought, a pair you wore until halfway through 2012 when they fell apart or you got bored and you donated them. But maybe they were $200 shoes. Would you have rather spent that $200 taking your wife away for the weekend? Or surprising your husband with tickets to a show? I bet you’d remember that a lot better than a pair of shoes. If I look back at 2011 I remember seeing a band I really liked with a friend, graduating from my graduate program, going to Denver on a business trip with friends, working at a job I hated (but looking back I really loved it), going camping with friends, winning a contest to meet Katy Perry and going to VidCon. All experiences. I bought a lot of clothes that year too. I remember constantly online shopping. I don’t remember a single thing I bought. I don’t own any of it anymore anyway.
The big takeaway from all this minimalism stuff I’ve bee working toward the last few months is this: Experiences > Things. So when I see a pair of shoes advertised to me online that I feel like i just HAVE to have, but they’re $90 look around and see what that money could be used for that’s more important. A show? A night out? A night away on the coast? A flight to Seattle for the weekend? Your savings account? I have eight pairs of shoes at the moment and they’re all in good enough condition and they all serve a purpose ad get worn. I don’t really need another pair right now and in ten years I won’t remember what clothes I bought this year anyway, I’ll remember what I did and that’s more important.
Here are a few more things I gave away this week:
I’ll be back early next week to intro you into April’s challenge. It’s a little different and I’m pretty excited about it!
Once upon a time I was in college and lived in a single dorm room. I had a shitty little TV in my room and it only picked up a few channels because reception was so bad. One of the only channels it picked up was the Food Network and I watched it. All. The. Time. I was obsessed with Iron Chef’s secret ingredient, Alton Brown’s science of cooking, who would be eliminated on Chopped, Giada’s giant head, and what Barefoot Contessa going to make for Jeffrey this week. Mostly though I became obsessed with the idea of cooking in a perfect well stocked kitchen.
I was never much of a cook growing up. I could make grilled cheese, chicken Top Ramen, Bisquick pancakes and scrambled eggs. That was about it. Oh and cereal. I was very good at making cereal. But in college, having Food Network and no friends really changed my cooking life. People always joke about a college kid’s skills in the kitchen being poor, but I came back from it ready to do some master chef cooking. I was gonna Iron Chef the shit out of my kitchen. I really began to experience the joy of cooking during this time. I still love to cook and I make dinner at the house almost every night. I really truly enjoy meal prep and baking and trying new recipes. What I’ve learned to do now though, is enjoy all of this with a lot less THINGS than I used to.
For instance, the moment I got back from college I bought everything I thought I’d need to become a master chef. A mandolin slicer, Kitchen Aid mixer, several different sized bowls, all the utensils, a crème brûlée torch, a pastry crimper, a hand pressed juicer in different sizes for limes, lemons and oranges, muffin tins in three sizes, SEVEN cake pans, four different kinds of graters, a spiraler, etc. etc. etc. Essentially, Williams Sonoma was my bitch.
The point is I bought a lot of stuff, mostly on a credit card because I was making $10/hr working part time (I really need to do a post on my consumer debt btw, which was just all paid off last week!). And I wasn’t even majoring in culinary arts or anything. I just HAD TO HAVE IT ALL. So I was surrounded by a ton of kitchen appliances and stuff I hardly ever used. I stayed surrounded by my horded items in my kitchen as I moved from place to place over the years. I never could find anything. I hardly ever used what I had. I slowly started donating the items that took up space a few years back. I knew if I didn’t use it at least once every six months then I didn’t need it in my life.
I donated a lot of kitchen items over the past year or two, but I knew during this recent move that I needed to do better. This became clear when I thought I had packed the entire kitchen and then found out there was an entire kitchen cupboard full of stuff I had NO IDEA WAS EVEN THERE. So began the kitchen purge, definitely the most extensive yet.
13 items total above, plus I got rid of about 15 cups and mugs we don’t ever use. I’m going to count all of those as one though so 14 items total for the kitchen purge. I posted these in my local Buy Nothing group and two families came and picked the items up. Both were thrilled for the items and I was able to avoid giving a donation shop a surplus of my junk.
We only have six water glasses now, we had about 25 for two people who never have anyone over for dinner or anything. Coffee and tea mugs have always been my weakness so we went from about 30 to 14. We could do with less, but I love my nerdy mugs and they all spark joy and they all get used. I’d like to get down to seven, but I parted with a lot this week so I’m feeling good about it. And I’m not buying ANY MORE.
Then I had to tackle the spice cupboard. I realized I had multiples of the same spices so I consolidated and threw out the empty ones. I looked at my spices and asked myself when I last used a certain spice. I tossed any that hadn’t been used in six months. My favorite tip for spices is to go to your favorite store when you have a specific recipe in mind that requires a unique spice and USE THE BULK BINS. A prepacked spice can cost anywhere from $3-$15! Take the tablespoon of curry powder you need and use the bulk bins for a total of $0.27. You’ll save time, space and money.
I still have some work to do on my kitchen. I know I have large items that take up too much space that I never use. For instance, I have a pie crust cover that is large and round and fits absolutely nowhere. It’s great to keep your crust from burning in the oven…the one day a year I make pie. Foil also works just as good though. I just can’t part with it though. Foil falls off and isn’t as user friendly. So my challenge to myself is to make more pie. If I have something I know is useful and I like to use it but I hardly ever do, then I need to use it more or lose it.
That’s my takeaway from this kitchen purge. I hope it inspires someone to take a look at what they have and size down a bit. Do you have twenty wine glasses, but have never had a dinner party in your life and aren’t planning to? Maybe you just need four.
Remember cooking can be fun, and a kitchen can be a really zen place to relax and nourish your body and soul. Don’t make it a hectic place filled with a bunch of stuff that only serves to stress you out.