Minimalist Morning Routine

In one of my first posts for this blog, I talked briefly about the lack of minimalism in my lifestyle. While that has still not changed, one major part of my overly busy life has changed – I have started to plan a morning routine. When a few weeks ago, I woke up and immediately had to start working, I realized I needed to rethink my priority list and plan out a simple schedule that allowed me to be more mindful. It is full of self-care hacks and simple slow down techniques that can be easily implemented into a busy day. One of the biggest parts of the schedule is flexibility – I try to allow myself to adjust to what my body needs, so that I can care for myself properly. Here’s the basic outline of my morning routine:

  • 5:30 a.m. – First alarm goes off. I almost never wake up to my first alarm (just ask my roommate, who does), but I have always needed the security of an early alarm.
  • 6 a.m. – Second alarm goes off. This alarm is the real alarm, and I typically wake up at this alarm. I let myself lay in bed and relax for a while after this alarm goes off – I’ve found it lets me feel more relaxed and rested through the day.
  • 6:30 a.mm – Reading, meditation, and morning coffee or tea – like most college students, I’ve developed a slight caffeine addiction since starting school. Starting early and trading every other cup out for water has helped me kick it a little, but I’ve accepted the fact that I’m not alive before my morning cup. I also have been working on my meditation and prayer routine that includes mindfulness and journaling, but I can’t admit to being super consistent yet.
  • 7 a.m. – Shower. I allow myself a full 20 minutes in the name of #selfcare. Especially with the cold mornings rolling in, I need the wake-up call.
  • 7:25 a.m. – Hair and makeup routine. I’ve been working to set out my outfits the night before so that I can easily get that time-wasting habit out of my morning, but my hair and makeup is unavoidable.  I find myself to be more productive when my hair is curled, my mascara is on, and my skin is taken care of.
  • 7:55 a.m. – Cleaning. I quickly clean my room from the morning mess – including making my bed and cleaning up my makeup bag – before I log on at work.
  • 8 a.m. – Morning note for work. I work as an intern at a health news organization in social media and I love every second of it. My mornings always include this step, which is a big part of my job! It’s a great way for me to read up on the news, and it’s my first “responsibility” of the day. Being ready for my day also allows me to do my best work, so I love getting everything else on the list done so I can fully focus on work.

Hygge

There are many forms of minimalist living that cover things – what you own, what you give away, what sparks and permeates joy. But there are fewer that cover the important idea of lifestyle minimalism, methods that help you stay centered and re-evaluate what is important. Hygge is one of those methods, and it is a popular one especially in the winter.

Hygge has two main tenants; one, the feeling of hygge and two, the physical lifestyle that facilitates the feeling. The emotional side focuses on events and memories. Creating memories and being fully aware is important to the movement, but those who live hygge don’t see it as a lifestyle change. Rather, it’s a switch of consciousness that brings things into perspective.

The physical side of hygge is where the coziness comes in – making it a popular winter trend. Hygge emphasizes the importance of sentimentality and comfort, especially, and eating. Forget the quinoa bowls and green juices of other forms of minimalism and break out the rich mocha coffees, pot pie dishes, and warm desserts. Surrounding yourself with warm pillows and blankets and wearing your comfiest outfits are a must. However, it’s not something you can do alone. Hygge is about sharing and community. So grab some friends, make a cozy pillow fort, and enjoy a nice mug of cocoa.

How I Planned My Fall Capsule Wardrobe – Part I

For the first time since becoming a minimalist, I have actually had to buy clothing to supplement my wardrobe. I knew it was bad when my mom casually mentioned that I pretty much only had black and grey shirts left in my cold weather clothing. Getting to plan a new capsule is fun and exciting, and it involves everyone’s favorite pastime: online shopping.

If you haven’t heard of them, capsule wardrobes are a great way to start off the process of living tiny. It’s a process that cuts your wardrobe down to 25-60 items, not including undergarments, gym clothes, pajamas and in some cases, t-shirts, but including all tops, bottoms, sweaters, coats, and shoes. Some people have year-round wardrobes that work for all weather, while others, like myself, rotate their wardrobe seasonally.

Before I could get around to actually buying anything though, I needed to make a plan for what I needed and what items I was still going to wear from my old capsule. I set goals for myself and made sure I didn’t go over what I actually needed. Here’s the plan that I came up with:

My goal | To make a basic capsule that works for both fall and winter with only a few adjustments, and to enhance, and bring back, the personality in my wardrobe.

Budget | $250 (I would have gone lower, but I was in the market for sweaters!)

Item budget | 15-20 new, 30 old

Inspiration | As you can tell, I really only looked at sweaters for accent pieces. Everything else I grabbed were basics I needed.

Drop in next week for the finished capsule!

Swedish Death Cleaning

In many ways, most forms of minimalism allow you to keep all of the things you truly love. Sure, you get rid of the clutter and “chatch” that gathers over the years, but the things you hold most dear – be it your first grade yearbook, graduation cards, old letters or pictures of friends from years ago – get to stay and take up space in your life.

In Swedish death cleaning, this idea is challenged outright. It takes the basics of a starkly minimalist lifestyle and takes away all of the fluff of sentimentalism.

The basic principles of SDC are simple: if your items would be a burden on your family if you were to die, get rid of them or make it easy for them to get rid of, and make sure you are prepared and organized in case of your death. That means all of your paperwork, like your will, your banking information, any assorted legal documents – all of the very real, very adult things that are important to have in order – should be put somewhere safe and accessible. It’s more daunting than other types of minimalism, but it might be the most effective at truly de-stressing your life.

Step one of the process begins like most others – by cleaning out your closet. Pulling out all of your clothes, laying them out, and having a good look at them can reveal a lot about how you wish to dress and what things you may want to get rid of. Rinse and repeat with all of the other areas of your house, until you have decluttered each space. However, in this method, you think of your ideal life, and the life you wish you could be living, but you also factor in the people who will manage what you leave behind after you die.

Is there anything you wouldn’t want them to see? Any physical evidence of a deep, long-held secret? Are there things that make you happy that you know will not be loved by the people you left behind? Those things can go in one space under the category “get rid of this/burn this when I die”. Make sure to mark those things accordingly so that they aren’t confused with your other possessions.

Is there an item a friend has loved for years that you can bear to part with? Are you struggling to part with something enough to give it away to a stranger? One of the most fun parts of death cleaning is the stress put on giving items away as gifts. It makes the method more sustainable and makes it even easier to get rid of “sentimental” things we may be holding on to just for the memories.

The hardest part of the cleaning are the things that fall in between these two categories. Personal things can seem very important to us, and it can be difficult to imagine others not seeing their value. In death cleaning, there is some leeway for those personal items – but it is stressed that those items are to be kept to a minimum and are allowed to be added to the throwaway pile later.

In the end, Death Cleaning is a dramatic name for an important process that can help you grieve, learn to see death as a less negative idea, and help family members to move on.

Living Small: Tiny Home

This past summer, I had the opportunity to participate in a social media internship in Atlanta, Georgia. It was a dream job and continues to be one of the best experiences I’ve ever had — but the journey to finding housing in a city that was 10 hours away was long and tear-filled. I knew I wouldn’t have a car, so I knew I needed to be smart about how close to downtown (and a bus station) I was, which meant the prices for even a tiny apartment were too high even with a salaried internship.

Luckily, I had a dear friend who had connections and got me synced up with a young woman who had just started living in an alternative living situation — a tiny home inside of an old camper. I instantly fell in love with the place from the pictures; it was warm looking, full of plants and sunlight, and surrounded by a plot of beautiful land in the middle of East Atlanta. Within a few weeks of accepting the internship and signing my lease, I suddenly was living a dream I never thought I would achieve – I was living tiny! For 3 months, I learned the ins and outs of what sustainable and small living required, and I found what I loved — and what makes me never want to do it again.

Some of the things I loved:

  • Forced minimalism – My subleaser was living in Africa for the duration of my stay in her home, so all of her things stayed in the house. She lived pretty minimally, and it was comfortable, but I still had to adjust even more to my newfound minimalist lifestyle. I could only pack the essentials across the board, and it forced me to see what I could and couldn’t live without
  • Sustainable living – everything from the amount of trash I created to the amount of water I used in my morning showers became more in focus. I became much smarter about how I used resources. I was responsible for clearing out my water tanks, disposing of my trash, recycling, and compost, and keeping my electric bill low (made extra difficult by the midsummer Georgia heat). I learned to eat better and buy local and fresh, worked to take shorter showers, and spent a lot of time in the pool!
  • Peace – there’s nothing more peaceful than having an oasis. I’m a city person at heart, but being raised in Ohio, spending my summers camping and in the parks around my house, I need nature to keep me anxiety free. It’s not true of every tiny place obviously, but many campers and tiny home hookups are in parks. Especially living in a place like Atlanta, and working in the downtown area, I appreciated the peacefulness of my tiny home.

And some of the things I hated:

  • Composting toilets – I cannot stress enough how much I longed for flush toilets while I lived in the camper. It’s an incredibly sustainable option – and easier to clean and travel with – but the cleaning, especially since I lived alone and am generally not a super physically strong person, quickly became a difficult and unpleasant task.
  • Water tanks – It’s not always the case, but for my tiny house, I had to unload all of the “grey water” I used in the house so that there would be no standing water under the house. Like with the toilet, I’m generally a weak person, and especially after a 40 hour work week, I was not into having to haul water across the yard for an hour. If I were just in school, I may have been better about it, but the fact that I was commuting 45 minutes to work, working all day and then commuting home during rush hour made me resent the task.

Rules of KonMari

“Only keep what brings you joy.” That’s the basis of the KonMari method, a popular school of thought in minimalism. Inspired by Marie Kondo, the Japanese author of the book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up ,  which explains her methods for cleaning up her space and the magic of choosing items to buy and to keep based not just on their innate value, but on the joy they bring to the possessor, KonMari goes beyond cleaning. Her method is more than just bringing down the number of things you have cluttered into your space, it’s about learning about what you really need in life. It’s a modern form of minimalism that has taken the place of more stark, plain methods of the early movement.

There are 6 “rules” to the method. Most of them are “soft” rules with room for interpretation and growth; KonMari allows for degrees of simplicity as long as you keep in mind what you actually need.

1. Commit to tidying up

There’s no way to halfway do KonMari — for it to actually work for you, you have to set aside real time and real energy to make things happen. Even if you can’t dedicate a whole weekend to tidying, block off at least an hour at a time to dig deep into cleaning.

2. Imagine yourself in your ideal lifestyle

Knowing what you want and where you want your life to lead you can help you decide what things actually bring you joy, and what things you are holding onto out of sentimentality, a sense of obligation or an unneeded sense of possession.

3. Finish discarding first

Before re-organizing, actually declutter and toss things that are unneeded or not joy-making. It may seem obvious, but it is easy to clean rather than clean-out.

4. Tidy by category, not by location

This method recommends setting out everything you own, then sorting through each thing by where it works within your life. Rather than starting somewhere and having stacks of misplaced items that might just be shoved back into their old place, your new organization can start from a blank canvas.

5. Follow the right order

Kondo’s order is clothes, books, papers, miscellaneous items, and finally, sentimental items. There are many categories in between, so your order may be different.

6. Ask yourself: “Does this spark joy?”

The joy in KonMari is not the joy in having things, but the joy that comes from each individual item. It’s not always practical; sometimes, you might find yourself holding on to old t-shirts and favorite pens just because they make you happy. Remember, you’re deciding what to keep, not what to get rid of; be discerning in what joy means for you.

 

 

Becoming a Minimalist

Minimalism. It’s a buzzword used in blogs, in social media, in modern design, and in art, but there’s no clear definition of what it is. There are practices in cultures across the globe — from Japan to Finland — that are encompassed under the umbrella. There are dozens of blogs written by people across the globe, from poor college students to single businessmen to families looking to move away from the clutter of modern capitalism. It’s a difficult lifestyle to adopt in the world of fast fashion and constant upgrades, and it’s not popular by any means. So why does anyone choose to live like that?

From my senior year of high school to the fall semester of my sophomore year of college, I struggled with the decision to become a minimalist. I started researching the topic in high school after picking up a copy of Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” the veritable Bible of minimalism. I was in love with the beautiful, spotless spaces she described, but I pushed it aside as I began to prep for my freshman year of college, following all of the packing lists I could find to fill my tiny dorm room.

It’s a difficult thing to try to get rid of anything that doesn’t bring joy, regardless of your lifestyle, but as a woman who has terrified two roommates with the sheer amount of junk I can bring into one tiny room, it was an almost laughable goal that I made for myself after one year of school. My sophomore year room in my sorority house was the peak of my messiness. My closet overflowed with clothing that didn’t fit, or that I never wore, my desk stacked up with old papers and stored up school supplies, and my makeup collection took over an entire drawer of my dresser.

Then, about halfway through the fall semester, I realized I needed to make a commitment change in my lifestyle. I realized how little of the “stuff” I had shoved into my room I actually used on a regular basis. I began to feel crowded and overwhelmed. I was so busy all the time and the clutter itself and the stress of keeping my room clean for my roommate did nothing to help my mental health.

I started my journey by removing all of my clothing from my closet and drawers at school to bring home for winter break. I sorted through all of it, picked out the basics I needed and chose a few of my favorite pieces to add color and texture. I brought my closet down to 35 items, not including my pajamas, workout clothing, and undergarments. I donated the rest to Goodwill and in the end, managed to pack to go back to school in one large duffel bag. When I got back to school from break, I sorted my whole room and cleaned out every drawer, finding that I had too much of almost anything. For example, I had two makeup bags, one with the products I actually use and another with the products I never used. I love buying and trying new makeup, but after throwing away one too many strange lipstick colors I decided it was time to limit my spending and to give away or throw out certain products that weren’t for me. I decided to only buy products I needed and to try to go cruelty-free to limit myself and help the planet a little at the same time!

I noticed very quickly how differently I valued what I owned when I knew everything I owned. Rather than worrying about gathering more objects to fill the void my decluttering had left, I appreciated the things I owned and could more realistically decide what was a want and what was a need. There were some things, however, that I struggled to part with.

I’m a sentimental romantic with a penchant for saving mementos for every event, big or small, and I loved collecting little mementos. The process of going through my photos, ticket stubs, old notes and doodles, and inherited items was tearful, and my heart ached as I rid myself of the memories I had clung to for most of my life. But, as I reduced my dozens of boxes of memories down to two shoeboxes of the most precious things, I realized what is most important for me and what memories I really wanted to hold on to by getting rid of some of the more “minor” items.

I still have a long way to go to achieve my goals for a minimalist life, but the more I explore minimalism, the more I love it. It’s not as much about the getting rid of your things, but more about reevaluating what matters to you — what brings you joy.

Dorm Food: Finals Week Roundup

Finals week is upon us, bringing with it all the built-up stress from the year, piles of final projects and studying to be done, and lines out the door at the lib and the coffee shops. It’s hard to stay on track and remember to eat (and eat healthily!) in the midst of all that is the end of the semester; I know that for me my freshman year I lived off the thought of my mom’s cooking and double-shot espresso.

However not eating, or not eating well can have a massive negative effect on the body and mind, especially during such a stressful and high focus period of time. When a person doesn’t eat when they need to for any period of time the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that controls the balance of the body sends out signs to tell you that you need to eat. Ignoring these signs can actually affect your ability to focus on tasks and decreases your level of comprehension and memory. Low blood sugar, often a symptom of not eating, can increase your chances of becoming fatigued and having low or no energy, which clearly is not great for high-intensity studying.

So while it may seem like just skipping a meal or snagging something to-go may be the best option for time management, it’ll come back to bite you when you crash later on. Skipping the temptation of greasy dining hall food and saving time by skipping the long lines at dining halls are two things you can do by meal prepping and eating in your dorm room, and by doing so you can prevent the finals week slouch.

Breakfasts:

  • 5 Ingredient Peanut Butter BitesThese power bites are a perfect way to start your day off with the nutrients you need, without the taste of typical energy foods. Make a batch for the whole week, and freeze the ones you don’t eat for a simple and filling dessert.

 

  • Blueberry Muffin Mug CakeThere’s nothing better than warm pastries in the morning. Mix up a big batch of the dry ingredients and mix as needed, or just make as you go along; either way, enjoy the sweet start to your day!

 

  •  Overnight OatsWhile they may take longer than microwave oats, the wait is well worth it. This link has seven different ideas for mix-ins, including Almond Joy and German chocolate cake.

 

Lunches and Dinners:

 

  • Omelette in a MugI know, I know, eggs are breakfast foods, but as a breakfast lover, I think eggs should be an all-day food. Besides, eggs are a good source of high-quality protein, making this meal filling and perfect for mid-day, or the second wind before a long night of studying.
  • Couscous Greek SaladThis recipe is a little complicated, but all of the ingredients can be found in the market. It would also be great cold, so it can be made in bulk and saved for a while. It’s full of great high-quality fats and mixed vegetables.
  • Elevated Mac-n-Cheese: This recipe again calls for a lot of ingredients, but considering it’s the end of the year, you may have room to splurge with your swipes. Or instead, you could substitute many of the “fancy” ingredients for more simple, college budget-friendly options. No matter what, it’s a good base dish that can help tide you over on comfort food until you’re back to home-cooked heaven.

 

Snacks:

 

  • Packaged granola bars: Brands like KIND, Lärabar, and Luna have some great tasting and nutritious options to help stretch time between meals when your schedule doesn’t permit a break.

 

  • Hummus and veggies/pretzels: Cut up your own veggies and pair them with your choice of hummus rather than buying them pre-packaged. Try to stick more with the carrots and the greens, but you can always bring along pretzels to shake things up.

 

  • Green tea: Another issue at this time of year is overeating out of stress. Never skip a meal, and listen to your body when it does feel hungry, but if you’ve just eaten and you’re already ready for the next meal, try drinking a cup of hot green tea instead. Green tea is full of antioxidants and has been said to help with focus; The warmth fills you up fast, and the caffeine is perfect for that extra kick when you need it.

 

This finals season, don’t fall into the trap of the stress and strain. Keep your eating habits healthy and conscious; your body will thank you later!

Cover Image via Jakob Owens @ Unsplash.com

Going Vegan in College

According to recent reports, 3.5% of Americans are living a vegan lifestyle. That’s about 7 million people, 1 million of which are college students. With numbers like that, more and more colleges are looking to increase and better their vegetarian and vegan options, and many are making real strides towards that goal.

However, is it too little too late for those who were ahead of the trend? Vegetarian and vegan college students have always had a notoriously hard time finding things to eat and knowing the ingredients in dining hall dishes.

To learn more about what it’s like to go vegan or veggie in college, I talked to my friend Amanda, a long time vegetarian who went vegan this past year.

 

Q: When did you go vegetarian? What made you want to go meat-free?

A: Well, I went vegetarian the summer going into my sophomore year. For me, it started out as a health thing and the rest, the values and the animal liberation, followed.

Q: What have been the struggles of going vegetarian and vegan?

A: Honestly, it comes down a lot of times to being forgotten. People would mistake me for being vegan when I was vegetarian and order me something separate, like Avalanche Pizza without cheese. Even going to cultural events, people would forget to think about if I could eat the food there.

I’ve also caught a lot of sass from people, like in my sorority and even my sophomore roommate. I know one time I chose to try a bite of chicken n’ waffle from Union Street Grille when I was walking some friends home from the bars. My roommate heard about it and never let me live it down. When I go to brunch at the sorority house, people will go out of their way to ask me if what I’m eating is vegan. To me, if I’m choosing to eat it that’s my prerogative, vegan or not, but I’m good at keeping myself accountable.

I’m totally open to having a real conversation about veganism, but I don’t like being called out by people who don’t have a full grasp of the vegan lifestyle.

Q: What tips and resources do you have for others who want to go veggie?

Ohio University has been making strides to be more veggie friendly. There are labels on the menus in most dining places on campus marking the vegan options. But otherwise, there just aren’t that many all-vegan communities.

In Athens, there is a really great group mentality from places like The Farmacy, which carries plenty of vegan products and has people who are knowledgeable about the lifestyle. There are lots of hurdles involved, but going vegan is worth all of them.

Local Spotlight: Ginger Asian Kitchen

I’ve been holding myself back from writing about Ginger for a while now. It’s probably my favorite restaurant in Athens, but I also know it’s a mainstay for a lot of people. Or so I thought until I started meeting sophomores who had never had a bowl or tried sushi from the Court Street staple. If you are one of those people, this is the article for you!

According to their website “Ginger Asian Kitchen is a cornerstone in the Athens community and has been recognized for its outstanding Chinese cuisine, excellent service, and friendly staff.” All of that is true, and their dedication to making the food and the experience great is the reason it’s become one of my favorites.

 

Their menu is fairly extensive, including items from sushi to hotpot soups. They even have a downstairs market that has a crazy variety of snack foods and bulk products. But by far the most popular item they carry are their bowls. Customizable, filling and a great value, their bowls are very clearly the best deal on the menu. For my spotlight, I wanted to review their bowls in particular.

My bowl order is not super creative or “healthy”; it usually consists of lo mein noodles, grilled chicken, a double scoop of potatoes, with bibimbap sauce. So, in order to get a wider range of bowl ideas, I polled my friends to see what they usually get in their bowls and asked them why they get what they get or why they choose ginger.

 

 

“I get low mein, grilled chicken, and an assortment of veggies. I like Ginger cause it’s customizable. Sometimes I don’t like all the ingredients of Chinese dishes, so getting to choose exactly what I want is perfect.” – Paige

 

“I get white rice cheese carrots yum sauce & salmon! I get it because I’m picky but there’s enough flavor & stuff I like that it’s not boring or plain.” – Michaela

 

“Brown rice, broccoli, extra beans, tomato, carrots, spinach, yum yum sauce, no meat. Also, it’s my go-to b/c I just love everything in it. I sometimes get onions in exchange for the carrots. I just enjoy every flavor and ginger is my favorite place on court.” – Madison

 

“Low mien, hibachi chicken, General Tso’s, lettuce, and carrots! I love ginger because not only can you pick exactly what you want but at least for me one bowl is two meals.” –Brittany

 

“I get fried rice, chicken with either teriyaki or general tsos, broccoli, green beans, and cheese! I sometimes will get the lo-mien instead of rice, but usually rice. It’s my go to because it’s just good and that’s basically all I like of the options.” –Stephanie

 

“Half rice, Half lo mein, green beans, broccoli, kung pao chicken, yum yum sauce, carrot, spinach, and lettuce. It’s my go to because I can get exactly what I prefer, it’s affordable, I always have leftovers, and I can’t get anything like it in my hometown.” -Megan