A Minimalist's Thoughts After a Trip to the Flea

This weekend I went to the Rose Bowl Flea Market for the first time, and while it was meant to be just a day of good fun (which it absolutely was), I also had a lot of mixed feelings throughout the day. Some of my big takeaways, aside from the little one I bought, were:

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1. There is just so much stuff on this planet.

The vastness of the flea market is so much bigger than what you can comprehend from the map they give you as you walk in. Everywhere you look there are racks upon racks and table upon table and row upon row of things. So much stuff all in one place out in the open, not separated by buildings or walls, really makes an impression. And when you think this is just a portion of the selection of just a couple (thousand) vendors in this tiny part of the world, then to think of all the stuff that each one of us owns in our own home, and all the stuff that was previously made owned and thrown away! It is enough to make my head spin.

2. I love seeing so many people buying second hand.

Despite being a little overwhelmed by the amount of stuff, it was very exciting to see the prominent and enormous vintage and antique sections of the market. I am a strong believer in "Reduce, Reuse, Repair, Recycle" (and whatever iterations of this phrase), so buying things that already exist instead of increasing demand for new items of the same is excellent whenever possible.

3. I am not my things.

This is what I want to elaborate the most on today...

Probably the biggest feeling I felt throughout the day was that of want. I am not a super minimalist (or spartnaist), I still like to have things around me that inspire me or make my life even just a tad more comfortable or beautiful. But I have gotten pretty good control on my consumerist impulses to buy anything that I like. I am usually very deliberate when I go shopping with precisely what I want or need in mind and will leave empty-handed if I don't find just what it is I came in for. I tell you all of this because yesterday at the flea all of this was thrown out of the window. The excitement of all of the interesting and unique things brought to me a lust I hadn't felt in a long time. I wanted to take home so many things! Fortunately, my rational brain knew I had no space in my life for another basket, rug, denim jacket, or bulb vase and that feeling subsided. But that feeling it again bothered me enough to make me think...

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Last year I read Fumio Sasaki's Goodbye Things: The New Japanese Minimalism. There are so many wonderful ideas that Sasaki shares from his own personal experience, but the one I was reminded of yesterday was when he asked himself the question, "Why do we own so many things when we don't need them?" He believes it is our way of conveying our own worth to others, using objects to tell the world who we are. He later shares an example of this in his bookshelves.

"I used to have books piled onto bookcases that took up all of the space in my narrow hallway. Yet I could barely remember reading any of them... It's clear to me now why I kept these books laying around... even though I knew I was never going to read them. I was desperate to convey my worth through these books. They were there to communicate the message: I've read a lot of books to date. As anyone who looks at my bookshelves can see, my interests are diverse, and I'm very inquisitive. I know all about these different topics if only in name... Perhaps I can be described with an intellectual with depth."

When I first read this passage I laughed at loud because I could think of many areas in my life where this must be the subconscious message on repeat. And yesterday I realized that similar dialogue sparked up. "I must have all these beautiful things to show the world how stylish and eclectic my taste is." Again, I am not saying having things to express one's personality is bad. I am just reflecting on my own uncomfortable impulses of yesterday. Then this morning, in my 5 Minute Journal, I found the quote of the day to be a perfect reminder:

"We don't really want things. We want the feelings we thing those things will give us." -Gary Tan

And the beautiful thing about that quote was that I reflect again on the day what stands out most it how much inspiration I got looking at all of the things made by people over the years, how much fun it was exploring with my partner, and how many times we told each other what a great day it had been, and those were the feelings I can hold on to.

 
Weekend Getaway: Palm Springs

This past weekend was my partner’s birthday and to celebrate I wanted to take our first weekend getaway to Palm Springs. As we have only been in LA for less than 2 months (and most of those months were packed with the apartment hunting, furnishing, buying a car, job starting, and end of year holidays shenanigans), my guy was a bit resistant to planning a trip for his special day. But after my insistence and incredible sale of a place I'd never been he gave in 😉.

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As part of the deal I promised him a super chilled out and easy weekend, and that’s where I delivered. We left our house around 9am with a short 2 hour drive a head of us. Given that in LA it takes 2 hours to get from our apartment to downtown during rush hour, I knew this would be a piece of cake. The drive was more scenic than expected, much of it you are nestled within mountains and vast empty landscapes as you approach the desert. We both absolutely adored it and cruised along in the carpool lane the whole way.  

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Our very first sight was a wind farm just outside of Palm Springs. For an easy vantage point you can stop by the Amtrack station (PSP) to take in all the spinning turbines. Beware, it is very windy when they are all on! After a bit of train spotting, windmill watching, and photo taking we headed to our hotel.  

 

 STAY

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I booked a night for us at V Palm Springs Hotel. It was a toss up between the famous Sagauro, Ace and V hotels when deciding, but in the end I took a chance on the V hoping it would be the quieter of the three on this particular weekend. And it was just quiet enough without feeling desolate. Our room was super efficient, clean, and comfortable, equipped with cozy bath robes and a swinging chair on the balcony overlooking the pool and out onto the mountains beyond. Honestly, I could have skipped all activities and spent the entire weekend right here.

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Hands down the best part of the stay was lounging by the pool and relaxing in the hot tub. After checking in early we lounged here for hours, riding bar snacks and turning over every so often to get an even amount of sun!

 

EAT 

There are quite a few restuarants I wanted to try out in Palm Springs, but there are but so many meals in one weekend! Fortunately I know I have many more weekends ahead here. These are a the few I will certainly return to... 

  • Elmer’s Reastuarant; a classic diner well worth the wait. The German pancake may look wierd but it is not to be missed.

  • Evzin; a Mediterranean spot that feels more like a chic gallery than a restaurant. And save room for their only dessert, it was better than expected. 
  • Lappart’s Ice Cream Shop; try the date and caramel ice cream and thank me later...
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DO 

Aside from lying pool side and eating, we were able to squeeze in a few other activities. On the way into town we checked out the wind farm. After checking out of the hotel on Sunday we made our way downtown to see the Palm Springs Art Museum. First stop the architecture and design center which was in between exhibits, but the docent was kind enough to give us a history of the building. We walked 15 minutes to the main museum which has two lovely sculpture gardens. And then we popped in and out of shops along the main drag until we decided to check out some mid century home in the residential area. On our next visit I'd like to do more of this beacuse the houses are just so inspiring. Never have I wanted to own property more than after seeing these super efficient and minimalist homes. Ginally, just as we were leave town we stopped off to check out the great Cabazon Dinosaurs. They are such a quirky attraction (the world's biggest dinosaurs!) but a must see for us nonetheless.

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Before we knew it we were home just after sundown getting ready for the workweek ahead and with just enough time to unpack and Netflix and chill on the couch. All in all a perfect first getaway and lovely weekend! 

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What is a Gratitude Walk and How to Do One

I shared last week that I am trying out gratitude or gratefulness walks, and I thought it maybe useful to share here exactly why.

Gratitude walks are an activity said to be thought up by Tony Robbins to promote a positive mindset and also help manifest goals you are reaching for. If you have heard of the law of attraction, you may know that it claims you can attract positive or negative experiences simply with your thoughts. Now I don't know if I completely believe that, but I do believe in the science of positive  psychology that says more positive emotions lead to more happiness, health and success in life. And not only that, but you can train your mind to focus on the positive and have an overall better perception of life. And if you are happier and more content with life I feel like you would also be more up to the challenge of chasing after those goals and dreams you set, ready to take action toward them. All of that said, gratitude walks appear to be another simple way of going about that mind training ( as is meditation).

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How to do it

It is pretty simple. Go outside and take a walk. Walk slowly, at a comfortable pace, it isn't about the destination for this, it truly is simply about the walking. I have to admit, the first time I did this I was uncomfortable, even before the gratitude bit kicked in. For me it isn't very often I start walking with no destination in mind! But the walk is important because walking is known to promote problem solving, relax you, and get you into a new environment (and new frame of mind).

The next step is to start talking to yourself. I know, very weird and incredibly uncomfortable. You are going to start listing off things you are grateful for, and it doesn't have to be anything poetic or profound. Start simple and keep the list going. I usually start with gratitude for the time to do this walk. Gratitude for my health, for my family, for my home, for the weather, for things I can see and appreciate, I just let the gratitude roll over me. And you keep reciting these things out loud you will start to feel that warm, soft feeling inside. Gratitude.

As you get into a rhythm with you list you want to start adding on things that you want that you are grateful for. "I am grateful for my successful business." I am grateful for my beautiful children." I am grateful for my home on the beach." What ever it may be, feel the gratefulness for the things you have not yet manifested. And use this as an opportunity to visualize all of the things you desire. Get specific. And enjoy the feeling of gratitude for what you will one day have. I find this the most interesting because it shows me that achieving my goals (while important) doe not bestow the great feelings I expect to get when I have it, but it is actually the gratitude that I feel for it which can be felt now. It is funny that something only becomes truly valuable once you are grateful for it.

 

"When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude."

-Gilbert K. Chesterton

 

Gratitude is such a profound feeling. Not only does it feel good in the moment, but it can propel you to want to do things. Maybe repay your debt of gratitude, take action towards more things to be grateful for, or just live healthier and happier day to day.

Do you think you'll be up to trying a gratitude walk? You can do them with a friend, or like me alone pretending you're on the phone! haha! Let me know, or have you done something similar before? I'd love to know.

8 Habits I am Committing to In 2018
 

 “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”

-Aristotle

 

Habits have the power to completely transform your life. I have found that little tweaks here and there in my habits makes it easier for me to reach my goals. For instance, last year I wanted to get more sleep and realized I wasn't getting to bed before 11pm (even though I would start winding down for the day at least 2 hours earlier). After having dinner, tidying up, and prepping lunch for the next day, I still had to wash myself up before I could hop into bed. So I decided I would take my shower in the evenings as soon as I got home, before dinner, and then I had less to squeeze in after. That tiny act completely transformed my evenings, and the time where I would then take showers was no longer filled with idling time online "winding down" from the workday.

I have similar ripple effects with adding a morning coffee routine, I get a slower start to the day and feel better prepared for it. So, as I mentioned a couple of days ago, I figure 2018 would be a great year to intentionally ramp up my habit formation efforts!

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Water in the Morning

I have heard a number of times that you should drink water as soon as you wake-up. But it didn't click for me until someone bluntly told me when you wake up you've been without water for 8 hours, your body is desperately thirsty! So one of my new habits is to keep my water bottle full of water at my bedside and drink the entire thing as soon as I rise. I have already noticed that when I do this, I also tend to drink more water through out the day, too. Win, win!

Daily Yoga

This habit is actually from last year (oops!). In 2017 I started the year off strong with Lesley Fightmaster's 30 days of Yoga for beginners. And I sporadically I went back to it. The days when I got on the mat I felt lighter, my body obviously loved me for it, and my mind felt clearer for that day. I have also been incredibly inspired by the lovely ladies at Makeshift, Cordelia and Maddie. They have a series called "Off the Mat" where they share lessons from their yoga practice that translate into their lives. I definitely could use a few of these lessons. So here we go again, aiming high at a daily yoga practice but ready to be gentle with myself if I don't quite live up to that.

Coffee & Breakfast at Home

This is a habit muscle that I have already built. Almost every single morning I make coffee and a light breakfast. And on the very rare occasion that I don't I feel the difference. Those mornings are rushed and incomplete. I don't get the joy of catching up with my partner, enjoying my little home, or gathering my thoughts as I ease into the day. That's why this one is on the list. Habits are not one and done, easy to check off a list. They must be maintained, you have to be intentional. So I hope you don't mind many more coffee posts on my Instagram feed!

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Mindful Meditation

Last year's "100 days of Mindfulness" challenge proved to me how much value there is in the practice for mindfulness and meditation (read more here about a few of the things I learned). But after my 100 days I was irregular with the meditation portion of the challenge. That is something I want to improve on this year. Meditation has taught me so much about myself and made more more aware of my body and who I want to be in this world, so in 2018 I know these realizations will only open my life up wider!

Gratitude Walks

Gratitude walks are a new thing I am trying out after years of hearing about them and dismissing them as not for me. Since moving to Los Angeles last month I have been envisioning in what direction I want my life to grow and I have found going to walks are excellent in helping me think through that. Gratitude walks are a step beyond that where I get to promote positivity and get familiar my new neighborhood at the same time!

Gratitude Journaling

My freshman year of college, 17 years old and living in NYC all alone, I began my first gratitude journal. I was incredibly homesick and after sharing sadness with my doctor he recommended and anti-depressant. After realizing that medication was not for me I began researching other ways to deal with my mindset and stay focused on my studies. Gratitude journaling was a huge part of the solution for me. To be clear, I am not saying this would work for everyone, everyone's mental heath journey is different. I was just fortunate in that instance that I was able to manage my depression without medication. Just want to make that clear. That journal was very simple, just me writing down 3 or more things I was grateful for every day. It forced me to focus on the positive and whenever I felt homesick, lost, or just inexplicably sad I would return to it for a read. It ended up being an incredible treasure and I truly believe it was a turning point in my personality. I chose to be grateful and appreciative instead of cynical and bitter. This year I want to keep developing that mindset. I am not sure if it is age, the political times we live in, or living so many years in NYC, but I have definitely become slightly more cynical. I was so inspired by President Obama's New Year's tweets about all of the positive stores if 2017, and I was reminded of this practice of looking for the good in life as my teenage gratitude journal helped me do. That's why I am trying it again. This time with the 5 Minute Journal.

 
 

Skincare Routine

Last year I really focused on self-care, and one thing I created because of this was a skincare regimen. This regimine was not only to have more beautiful skin (obviously, who doesn't want that), but also to create time in the evening just for me to be with myself and love myself. No rushing allowed, no skipping steps. Just 10 minutes to pamper and enjoy. Amazingly I had never done this before and I honestly still have a hard time not rushing through it or skipping it altogether. So this year it will be a nightly habit, no excuses, I owe it to myself.

Read before bed

How many times have you heard "I want to read more books this year," in the past week. A lot, right? Well I have (kind of) avoided saying that by instead telling you how I am going to do it. Every night I want to get into the habit of reading a bit before falling asleep. This not only dedicates reading time each day, but it also eliminates that screens just before I go to shut my eyes. On nights when I drift off mid paragraph I sleep much better than those when I reluctantly have to stop scrolling through Instagram. Even if i just read a single page a day, one page is more than no pages and eventually I will get through that book!

 

So those are the 8 habits and routines I am working on. In order to stay on top of them I am also reading/listening to The Power of Habit, which I have mixed feelings about and will likely be dropping a book review about in the coming months.

 

What habits or routines do you have and how have they benefited you? Or are there any negative ones you are trying to break (like my anxious nail biting!)? And if you have any tips for habit creation let me know in the comments below!

2018 Life Resolutions

Happy New Year! And welcome to 2018! I just finished my first breakfast of the year (belgian waffles and fried eggs), and now I am sitting with my cup of coffee on the couch thinking about all of the goals I have been formulating over the past couple of weeks. I have said this so many times on the blog before, but I'll say it again. I love goal setting, and I am all for new years resolutions. I think they are a great way to keep moving forward and growing. I also think any day is a great day to set one, and the ringing in of the new year is the perfect inspiration to refresh any goals that may be on the back burner. So I will stop blabbering on and get down to what you're here for, my 2018 resolutions!

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If you have been following my blog for a while you know it started out as purely a place for me to share my travel content and tips. But very quickly realized that there was so much more behind my urge to travel (read Why Experiences Are Better Than Things to know what I mean). The TLDR is that I want to create value in my life everyday, and travel is one way I do that. But last year I delved more into how being a minimalist, and mindful do too. So this year, instead of just sharing my travel resolutions I want to share my life resolutions that I am working on for 2018!

Every year I pick and overarching theme. 2017 was all about self care, and I really leaned into that. I listened to my body and my heart and put what I felt I needed in each moment above what any expectations of me were. And let me tell you, it felt AMAZING. I have never felt more loved and taken care of. The beauty of self care (which I also consider self love), is that when you value yourself others do to (even though you don't need them to!). And on top of that, you have so much more of yourself to give. Compassion towards yourself leads to more compassion for others. It is truly mystical how that works out.

This year I have decided my theme is courage, although I consider myself a pretty courageous person already. I am willing to take risks and make hard choices (like moving from NYC to LA!) if it gets me closer to the life I envision. And I love to push myself toward my goals. But this year I want to expand the definition of who I am in ways this time last year were unthinkable to me. I want to try new projects and do things that people who have known me for years probably wouldn't ever expect. And for some reason the though of redefining or changing the image of what people know me as is scary to me. Maybe I have gotten comfortable, or maybe it is something else, but this is where I need to summon up my courage. I need the Courage to be my truest self in this moment and in front of the rest of the world. The courage to start. The courage to keep going in the face of total uncertainty. The courage to make mistakes and adjust. And the courage to ask for help when I need it.

 
You cannot discover and realize your purpose in life with halfhearted efforts. To follow the dream in your heart and fulfill your mission requires true courage.
-Daisaku Ikeda
 

I know this is a little vague, but I hope it will make more sense as the year goes on and I get down to actually achieving my goals! And speaking of, here they are...

creative expression

As you may know, I am a scientist. I studied geology and earth sciences and work on climate change related issues, specifically related to data, policy, and communication. I have always been very inquisitive and creative (two traits I think are essential for a good scientist). In my career I have very little outlet for my creativity, and that's where my hobbies come in. I sew, write, cook, and love photography. This year I want to try even more crafts out. I want to develop the skills I already have an learn more. I am most excited to try a ceramics class and learn new languages. I have decided that making this a resolution will make me prioritize the time and money towards pursuing my hobbies. I also think it is so important to create mental and physical space to express yourself creatively. Unfortunately for me (and most people) I can't just turn on inspiration at any moment. I once read that inspiration and creativity have to be prepared for. For instance, if you have a list of chores in the back of your head, you can't be totally free. Or making time to seek out inspiration in books or museums or even nature... it all requires leisure time for your mind to explore and wander. I am rambling, but I hope you get my drift. I want to set aside time to see new things to inspire me as well as the time to create.

habits and routines

Last year I realized that I better practice self care when I have a routine that incorporates it. For instance, on Sundays nights I knew I would be home early getting ready for the next work week, so that would be the night I put on a face mask and enjoy a cup of tea. But of course it consistency is a struggle for anyone who is pulled many directions at all times. So this year I want to work on creating little routines through my day and week that help me ritualize all of the self care practices I came to love in 2017. Building in more routines will also help me with my goal above because I will be able to plan out vast sections of time to nurture my creative side. Since this post is already way long than I anticipated, I think I will share those habits in another post very soon!

sustainability

This last goal is a very broad one that will tough on every aspect of my life, I want to be more intentional with sustainability on a personal level. I am an environmentalist, minimalist, and climate advocate. From most peoples perspective I live pretty light (light on the planet) already. But there is always more I can do. I want to prove to myself that you don't need to sacrifice lifestyle or have tons of money to live greener. The cost is really just your time and effort to research. Some of the aspects I am heavily targeting this year is my closet, household and diet. And I think that being more intentional with my time in the form of routines, will help me analyze my footprint and what I consume more easily.

 

So that was a lot. And my coffee is definitely cold now, ha! When I started writing this I thought it would be a brief post, but apparently I had a lot more to reflect on than I thought. I hope this was interesting to some of you. Please let me know what goals you have this year or if you have any tips or comment for me as I tackle mine. I am very excited about all the possibilities 2018 holds, even the challenges, because if I learned anything last year it was that no matter how hard times get, it is worth fighting though them! Onwards!

Happy New Year!