Goodbye, Things: 7 Lessons I Learned By Going Minimalist

When I stumbled upon the concept of minimalism through a niche blog in 2013, Marie Kondo’s Life-Changing Magic had yet to capture the closets of middle America.

At the time I was actually searching for ways to do more as a struggling artist juggling multiple jobs.

Surprisingly, most of the answers I found buried on the internet centered around the power of less.

“Clear your head! Let go of your possessions! Live off the grid!

I liked those answers.

Why? Because they were simple.

I was sick of maintaining a circus of stuff that at best upheld a false perception I wanted to portray to others, and at worst completely drained my mental (and financial) energy.

So I began aggressively giving things away. Reduced my clothing down to mostly blacks, grays, and tans. I even got rid of my car (and thrived without one in L.A.) as a 3-year-long experiment.

Looking back on it now, I thought I’d share a few lessons I learned when I first went minimalist and still incorporate today:

  1. It’s not just about things. Minimalism is a mindset that constantly asks “What’s really important to you right now?” in every facet of life - from relationships to career, all the way down to your core values.

  2. It’s not just about aesthetic. Gram-able capsule wardrobes, tiny homes, and neutral colors completely miss the point if they’re simply for show. Tiny things are still things, after all. And you are not your things, no matter how efficient and clean and beautiful they are.

  3. It’s not just about downsizing. It has to work for you in the long-run if you want to sustain. I found out the hard way when I tried to produce my album on a Mac mini (Does Apple even make these anymore?). The specs couldn’t handle all the work I needed to do at once and I ended up swapping for a much larger iMac a few months later.

  4. It’s not just about decluttering. Especially if you’re still shopping compulsively to fill the void.

  5. It’s not just about organizing, which may be just another word for “hiding the things I don’t want to deal with but I don’t want to let go of either.”

  6. It’s not just a moment. It’s a series of moments…tiny steps, happening in stages, a string of ever more awakened decisions…a memoir.

  7. The Container Store is problematic.

I think there’s at least a Part Two for me to add to this but I’ve saved it for later #minimal.

In the meantime, I recommend the book Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism by Fumio Sasaki for more life-simplifying tips.

Sober Thoughts 3: How Going Alcohol-Free Changed The Way I Drink

Since so many people resonated with my sober update last April, I thought it only fitting to talk about what it’s like to return to life post-sober.

I never intended to give up drinking forever - and even surprised myself when my non-drinking spree continued months after the end of ‘Sober January.’

Still, I knew the benefits to my health and wealth were far reaching.

My relationship to alcohol was changing.

I knew the day would come eventually for me to see how my new mindset played out in real life.

So in late Spring I decided to take my first sip in nearly 4 months - that’s 120 days. One-third of the year.

A glass of red wine at a friends’ wedding reception.

The heavens didn’t open up. Neither did the gates of hell.

It was pretty anti-climactic, to be honest.

But after that night and a few more nights out - on the town and out of town - I gathered some important notes on how my relationship with drinking has changed:

  1. I don’t need more. Those first couple sips at the wedding were enough to get me all the way through dinner and to the dance floor.

  2. A glass I would’ve previously downed in 20 minutes will now wait an hour or two for me to finish it. And I actually like it that way.

  3. I can be conscious of my consumption without judging it.

  4. I can enjoy the moment without sacrificing the morning after.

  5. I can limit myself without limiting others.

  6. Drinking tonight is not a reason to drink the next night and the next night.

  7. Wine pairings are just a suggestion.

  8. Just cause it’s free don’t mean it’s for me.

  9. When in doubt, I can always lean back on my sober thoughts from the past.

  10. Awareness is the key.

I’m thinking of taking another break from booze this Fall to see what other lessons are out there.

Beyond the obvious benefits, taking time off is a great way to gain perspective - and now I know there’s no wrong way to do it.

What Success Looks Like

I’ve always known that the definition of success is different for everyone.

What I didn’t know was that my own definition of success would change over time - depending on the life stage, the circumstances, and the priorities that follow.

Now I work on reminding myself that every minute of every day I get to choose what success looks like for me.

Today? It looks like being sprawled across the bed, cheek buried into arm, silently tapping out a draft on my phone.

Why? Because I know the demons I dealt with to get to this point - the procrastination, the fear, and the faux-busyness that threatened to take me out the game of creating altogether.

Starting a draft is small, but the feat of slaying those existential dragons is not. Calling this a “success” is part of a larger narrative I’m learning to live by:

Success looks like progress,

Success is sustained effort,

Success looks like slowing down, but never stopping.

These self-sustaining definitions of success keep me focused on the process instead of the result. Admittedly they’re not the sexiest, but certainly healthier than the alternative.

There’s a daily deluge of messaging out there scamming us all into thinking we’re a little less worthy for not being on some 30 under 30 list, winning a high-profile prize, or writing a bestseller. And that’s not cool.

If we put blood, sweat, and tears into a thing only to discover that the fruits of our labor don’t exactly taste how we imagined, we need to know that it’s okay.

What’s that? You didn’t blow up overnight? 10,000 hours weren’t enough? Mo’ money, mo’ problems?

The started-from-the-bottom success stories which we were so convinced could be ours may be possible, but none of them are guaranteed. Some of them aren’t even true. 99.9% of them are just not our stories.

For my own peace-of-mind, I’m working on unhooking myself from oppressive definitions of success that are no longer realistic or relevant.

I still dream and I still work. I still miss my old ways and mourn the feeling of a very certain fulfillment that was just beyond reach.

The difference now is that I’m making room for the next iteration, the next episode, my next definition of success.