L E S S | Making Room for More of What Matters

A graveyard of cardboard boxes lay scattered across my bedroom floor, most slumping tiredly, as if they too wondered why it had taken me so long to rid them of their contents. It had been roughly two months since I’d moved to Newton from Providence. I’d lost track of what I’d put where and why a long time ago, but oddly, I hadn’t missed the two ball gowns I bought on a whim last December or all forty-three t-shirts I’d acquired since 2013.

I sunk down to the floor next to a box labeled dresses and sh*t. It was the third time I’d moved in two years- and this didn’t include the two months I’d spent moving in and out of various campsites and hotels in 2016, living out of the boxes piled high in my 2014 Ford Escape. I needed to downsize or risk drowning in all my clothing and knick-knacks.

As I continued shuffling the mess of clothing around my room, I couldn’t help but wonder why I’d decided to keep this cute (but uncomfortable) Banana Republic top I’d never worn. Rummaging around further, I found an ill-fitting, leather dress from college. I held it up into the light skeptically. Dust swirled around my room, light filtering in through my dirty window. Bought on a whim and now highly unrealistic to keep, I had no idea why I’d continued to drag this little number along with me as well. What, did I plan on wearing this to work? As if, hunney!

Letting the dress fall to the floor amidst the mounting chaos, I hopped across my room to retrieve a trash bag from the kitchen.

Four hours later, a light sheen of sweat glittered on my forehead (and down my butt-crack, let’s be real, here). I felt much lighter, my mind less cluttered. I’d stacked up my forty-plus t-shirts and picked ten of my favorites to keep. My old gameday dri-fits from college volleyball were placed in a plastic bin along with my half-retired horseback riding gear. The dri-fits were too threadbare to donate, but too special for me to toss quite yet.

By the end of my tirade, I’d decidedly kept four pairs of jeans (I’d only realistically worn two on a weekly basis), a few pairs of trousers, and no more than a half rack-full of nice shirts and tank tops. Though a stunning dress was clearly my vice, I donated or recycled anything impractical that I didn’t feel 99.9% beautiful and confident in. What was the point of keeping a pretty, but clingy dress that amplified my insecurities?

In that moment, I realized I’d rather have less clothing that was worn more if it meant I felt more comfortable in my own body. I wanted to become less uncomfortable, wear less unflattering clothing because that could mean more room for the pieces I genuinely loved myself in.

Sitting on my bed, I gazed across the room at my now airy closet. I’d eradicated any trendy pieces I’d acquired in college from places like Zara, H&M, and Forever 21. These items had served their purpose once upon a time (i.e. going out, an athletic banquet in 2012, etc.), but ceased to provide me additional pleasure beyond their initial use. The items that I’d kept were simple, made from quality material, could be worn several ways, and complimented my body. I laughed as I realized most of my favorite pieces were from REI, Columbia, and LL Bean (I would’ve been appalled five years ago). Though my dollar didn’t stretch as far at these places, I had no regrets because of the comfort and confidence they gave me (this isn’t to say that items from Zara etc. can’t bring you the same feeling, by the way).

As I sat on my bed, I squinted at the six (six!) trash bags around me. This was all well and great, but I also wanted to take the next step and implement a more minimalistic mindset in the future as a consumer. Without a doubt, I’d be moving again and didn’t want to continue the buy-wear-give away cycle I’d grown accustomed to. My goal was to purchase less items that I now knew were frivolous and impulse buys, and focus more on reusing, repurposing, and practicing restraint. I could not justify keeping over forty t-shirts.

***

Part of adopting a more minimalistic lifestyle began with disposing of or donating items that no longer encouraged positive self-image. The next part began by taking a more proactive approach to controlling the ads and marketing I was a recipient of on social media. For me, social media use had geared my mind to think a “buy now” and “buy more” attitude was sustainable for my lifestyle and salary. Bloggers and celebrities I followed on Instagram served to perpetuate my desire to buy, buy often, and buy based on fads and trends. In the past, I’ve been known to see a backpack on Pinterest and buy it one click later on Amazon Prime. I already had four useable backpacks at the time, so you tell me whether or not this was a wise decision on my part. This was not an isolated incident and led me to engage in more transactions than was ever necessary.

Furthermore, seeing the perfectly airbrushed bodies of various influencers and bloggers I followed did little to help my self-esteem. By surrounding myself with images of beautiful models and perfect looking women, I grew more insecure. Suddenly I felt the urge to buy whatever it took to make me tanner, more fit, and prettier. I knew I had to change something or I wouldn’t be able to get out of this never-ending, zero sum game of comparing myself to others.

As I scrolled through my feed, I began unfollowing accounts that encouraged diet-culture, praised skinniness over healthiness, and placed importance of outwardly appearance over inner character (which can be harder than you’d think to determine). I noticed the accounts that I enjoyed following the most were down-to-earth bloggers or photography accounts that encouraged my creativity and overall desire to live a healthy life. Instagram didn’t have to be a negative place for me if I surrounded myself with more body-positive accounts and beautiful imagery of landscapes. Less of a focus on airbrushed, unrealistic content meant more time for what I cared about most on the platform: finding real people whose passion for their content was contagious and inspired me to accept me for being me (see the list I’ve compiled below).

In the past few months, I noticed my self image became healthier when I wasn’t comparing myself to a small, unrepresentative community of people who are essentially paid to look good. Though I am well aware I can never limit my ability to block out anyone I think has a great body, beautiful skin, or “perfect” on a day-to-day basis in real life, I’ve become very much aware of the idea that just because someone else is beautiful, it doesn’t mean that I can’t be. I wanted to spend less time obsessing over my looks, and more time appreciating the body I’ve been given and what it can do for me.

***

Placing an emphasis on less to make room for more of what is truly important to me has altered the way I think, dress, and serves to continue encouraging me to become a happier, less insecure and worrisome person. As a girl who spent a large amount of time thinking I’d never be happy without losing twenty pounds, getting a nose job, and having the best clothes, I could not have disproved myself more. Instead of spending hours (yes, hours!) stressing out about acne, how awful my hair looks in unflattering light, and how a pair of jeans presses into my love handles,  I’m trying to remember my friends and family love me for me, not because I’m an image of perfection. I know this because I feel the same way about them.

Truth is it took much more than six garbage bags and an exodus of unfollowing on social media sites to reach the conclusion that I could be happier with less of the right things. I’m very prone to latching on to an idea and practicing it for some time before resorting back to my old ways, but I’ve been able to practice restraint while shopping and focus less on my appearance for some time now because celebrating small victories has been sustainable for me. On the same token, I don’t beat myself up too badly if I slip up.

Instead of committing one hundred percent to buying nothing or instantly loving how I look at all times, I take pride in small victories in my shift in behavior. Sort of like intuitive eating, I ask myself how I would feel after a purchase and if I could truly put the item to good use for a large extent of time. Impulse buys feel good in the moment (especially if you’re trying to treat ‘yo self in a moment of sadness/celebration), but how often do they lead to good long term buys? I also ask myself, “what will this item replace if I purchase it?” in an effort to reduce my impulse buying. There’s no “one size fits all” answer. This is up to you and your given circumstances.

So in the quest to find happiness and learn to love myself, I’ve found that less can be more. This isn’t my final answer to this ever evolving challenge. I’m sure my attitude will change many times over in the future, but for now, it is viable solution in my day-to-day life. One thing I am sure about, however, is that happiness and confidence look more beautiful on everyone than any piece of clothing money can buy.

***

My friends and I are into “vibes”. In particular, we love to encourage good vibes. Any time any one of us get tired on a night out, one friend in particular is known to snap her fingers in said tired person’s face while yelling, “VIBES”. It’s become a habit while we’re together- since we don’t see one another often, we like to maximize on the good vibes we have while we’re together.

Like the average human, I like to optimize the good vibes I receive on a daily basis. This not only includes the clothing I wear that makes me feel good or the reduced mess I have in my closet now that I’ve downsized, but also includes what I consume on social media. For some good vibes that are easily accessible by a flick of the thumb on your screen, I highly recommend following the following on Instagram:

Quin – @everchanginghorizon

Quin’s photos are simply amazing. If you love nature and have an appreciation for photo editing, he is a must-follow.

Robyn Nohling – @thereallife_rd

Robyn is a nurse practitioner and non-diet dietician encouraging women to practice intuitive eating and finding peace with food and their bodies.

Stay & Wander – @stayandwander

Again, amazing photos taken from a community of photographers. All nature, all good vibes.

Aspen the Mountain Pup – @aspenthemountainpup

Do you like dogs? Do you like the outdoors? Well, this is both and Aspen is a golden retriever. It doesn’t get much better than this.

Tasty – @buzzfeedtasty

Food, quick video demonstrations, and great content.

Folk Souls – @folksouls

This account inspires me each day to push myself to make my photo editing skills better. I can’t say I always have an “amazing” location to shoot every day, but it challenges me to find beauty in what I now consider the ordinary- Massachusetts.

Accidentally Wes Anderson – @accidentallywesanderson

For anyone who loves this quirky film maker, you’ll love the aesthetics of this account.

Lola Tash and Nicole Argiris – @mytherapistsays

Two words: fire memes.

Happy Not Perfect – @happynotperfect

Mind over matter. This account is great for words of encouragement with a focus on mindfulness.

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