Crafting My Capsule Wardrobe

I find clothing to be one of the most popular and approachable areas for simplification. When folks first hear about minimalism–the idea of removing the extraneous to accentuate the essential–they tend to decree their closet as ground zero. And it certainly makes sense. Physical decluttering is by its very nature, tangible. And this makes it all the more inviting and simpler to downsize. Furthermore, it seems as if everyone has fallen victim to owning far too many clothes. Mix its very affordable cost with frequent use, and you have consumer products ripe for over-consumption.

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Don’t Forget Your Strengths

Wrapped up in the daily grind, we can forget what value we bring to our relationships, workplace, and even ourselves. Life becomes routine. We closely tie our identity to “what we do” for a living. It becomes challenging to make changes: switch careers, move cities, or leave a relationship. Yet despite that predictability, we are dynamic beings–constantly learning new skills and forgetting others. One unfortunate side effect of this lifestyle is simply forgetting what we’re good at. To say it another way, sometimes we need others to remind us of our strengths. Continue reading “Don’t Forget Your Strengths”

Essentialism

I recently explored the differences between simplicity and minimalism, but I want to take the conversation a step further. I argued they are indeed mutually exclusive and both existing in their own domain–the physical and the emotional. I think your life can feel simple without necessarily pursuing minimal possessions. On the other hand, you can be a minimalist but maintain a complex mentality. One is a mindset, while the other is an extension of your physical space. Moreover, depending on the person, they can both hold their own unique definition. Continue reading “Essentialism”

Surprising Results From My One Week Time Study

After a few months of downsizing, streamlining, and organizing my physical possessions, I shifted my focus. I had lived in Seattle for a little over a year and my typical routine had me in a bit of a funk. In an effort to resolve this, I decided to look at another one of my limited resources: time. I hoped a quantitative study of how I was spending would provide some much needed insight into my otherwise automatic grind. I conducted a week-long time study documenting everything I did, rounded to the nearest half hour.

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Minimalism vs Simplicity

I was recently taken aback when a friend asked me to provide a distinction between simplicity and minimalism. While I tend to use them interchangeably, I have yet to sit down and craft my own definitions of these lifestyle elements. And while there are deep similarities, I do view minimalism and simplicity as mutually exclusive ideas.

Born from a sense of the aesthetic, I see minimalism as an approach to my physical world, namely possessions. I desire minimizing what’s in my space, whether tangible or digital, to my favorite essentials. Simplicity on the other hand serves a different function in my life. It is when I develop a more intentional approach with my belongings that I then experience a simpler lifestyle. I feel as if simplicity is rooted in my emotional state and outlook. Hence, I want my life to look minimal and feel simple. Continue reading “Minimalism vs Simplicity”

Goals & 3-1-4 Planning

One of my favorite paradoxes about envisioning goals relates to their time-dependent nature. I’ve read many times (and experienced myself) our human tendency to overestimate our short-term capabilities and underestimate our long-term potential. Let’s take an example we can all relate to in some capacity: writing papers.

Despite my frequent blogging now, this was not one of my favorite collegiate activities–after all, I was an engineer. And to my great disappointment, the department didn’t have a lot of sympathy. And because of that I compiled tens of pages of technical writing every so often for labs and other organizations. I often envisioned finishing the paper in a dedicated 10-hour work block with reasonably frequent breaks. Yet as the hours ticked by, I found myself ebbing between spurts of inspirations and impassible frustration.  Continue reading “Goals & 3-1-4 Planning”

My Emergency Fund Paves a Way to Freedom

When The Atlantic’s May 2016 issue released The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans, it made rounds in the world of personal finance. Over the past few years, the US Federal Reserve Board released an annual study on the economic well-being of US households to take a pulse on Americans’ financial health and aptitude. A portion of the 2015 report documents the response to a hypothetical emergency expense of $400. Imagine a failed alternator, freak medical procedure, or laptop going up in smoke. When faced with this unexpected liability, 47% of respondents said they could not pay the expense with cash (or a functional equivalent) or would borrow/sell something to do so. Even more shockingly, 19% of respondents with a household income of $100,000+ fell into this category–too strapped to cover this expense with cash or any form of savings. Continue reading “My Emergency Fund Paves a Way to Freedom”

Dan & Social Responsibility

I recently strolled to my local pharmacy for a quick errand. Like most short walks around my Seattle neighborhood, I passed a homeless gentleman and his folded cardboard sign. Written in black permanent marker, the characters read something about about hunger and blessings; I didn’t glance long enough to comprehend the rest. His appeal to everyone’s good nature was signed “Love, Dan”. If my life were a movie, this would be a fairly standard backdrop to my otherwise uneventful walk through town.

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Looking to Make Friends? Make Community Instead.

Moving across the country comes with its fair share of difficulties. When I left Michigan over two years ago, I arrived in Seattle without roots to call my own. Until then all social circles were more or less a byproduct of proximity and circumstance–high school classes, freshmen dormitories, academic departments, etc. Now I was on my own. Everyone around me seemed to have it all figured out: their routine, their friend group, and their favorite establishments around town. For the first time in my life, I felt like an outsider. How was I supposed to break through? Where to start? Continue reading “Looking to Make Friends? Make Community Instead.”

Sentimental Items

As I continue downsizing my material possessions to those items providing me a mix of high functionality, frequent use, and deep satisfaction, I discovered one category of great difficulty. While minor in volume, my sentimental items proved difficult to relinquish. A flurry of emotions and memories were deeply tied to these objects occupying the shoe box under my bed, bin in my closet, and folder in my drawer. You may know what I’m talking about–that box of old love letters, ticket stubs, award certificates, or machine stamped medallions with a red, white, and blue lanyard. I’ll go as far to admit finding a molar tucked away in a small envelope labeled “for braces”. The CSI-like nature of my bin prompted an immediate review.  Continue reading “Sentimental Items”