Simple in the City: Where to Live

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: cities aren’t all just cement and buildings, and rural areas aren’t all just cornfields or desert. There’s so much variation throughout every landscape that you can make just about anything out of just about anywhere.

So once you decide where to live (there aso many great cities to choose from), you have to decide exactly where to live within that space. And if you’re looking to keep things simple, the cheapest area is not always the most ideal.

So what should you look for in a city dwelling?

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Location

This is honestly my top priority, especially in a city like Los Angeles. I know so many people with 45+ minute commutes each way – and it’s not a peaceful one, either.

It may take some fancy financial footwork, but living as close as you can to your work and everyday needs will save you more than it costs in the long run. We managed to find an apartment that is surrounded by grocery stores, cafes and farmer’s markets – and it’s only four miles from my husband’s office.

We searched Craigslist and Zillow for available spaces within a specific zipcode, but you can search by neighborhood, street, or using the lasso tool on Zillow.

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Style & livability

Good style and livability are essentials for me, although it may not be for you. I have to have a lot of windows (this apartment has five huge windows) and the layout needs to make sense to me. An outdoor area is preferred, but not required, as I like to grow plants on balconies and doorsteps.

The best part of city life is that you don’t need vast amounts of square footage, since there’s always something going on outside of your home. Plus, living in a smaller space means you have to curate your possessions – less space means more intentional living.

We are still finding things to donate or trash, and we’re a year and a half into living in Los Angeles.

Don’t be afraid to sacrifice room for entertaining guests. Turns out, our friends don’t care too much about a formal dinner or extra seating. Gathering around our coffee table on mismatched chairs and pillows on the floor and playing games is one of my favorite memories so far.

Affordability

This obviously has its limits based on your specific budget, but it’s more nuanced than you might think.

For example, the cost of two hours commuting could be transferred to paying for a more expensive apartment fifteen minutes from the office.

The right layout can help with your budget too: if your kitchen is conveniently designed, you’ll feel more inclined to make food from scratch in your home. Paying for a better kitchen might be worth it if the alternative is frozen or fast-food dinners.

And finally, know that you’re paying for the experience you’re going to have as a city dweller. If you can afford to pay a little extra for a space you love, it’s going to be easier to thrive in the city environment. If you’re too focused on the bottom line, you may find yourself sacrificing your own well-being.

Signing a lease is like choosing the lens through which you’ll see the next year of your life. What will yours look like?

Simple in the City: A Series

Simple living doesn’t always mean going off the grid and self sustaining – you can live a simple, slow life anywhere.

My husband and I have learned a few lessons about city life from living in Los Angeles, and I wanted to share those with you in a series I’m calling “Simple in the City.”

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To some people, slowing down and living an urban lifestyle can go hand in hand, and still others can make a “rural” lifestyle fit into the city they live in:

It it possible to be simple in the city?

Yes! We have a more simple daily life in the middle of Los Angeles (just south of Hollywood) than when we lived on the outskirts of Indianapolis. There, we had to drive everywhere (except Target and Starbucks, and even then there were no sidewalks).

Here in LA, we’re able to get to grocery stores, farmer’s markets, coffee shops and more just within a mile’s walk. Bonus: there are sidewalks and there is no winter (sorry NYC).

We also have more free activities, local restaurants and rich sources of entertainment than we did in Indianapolis (I will say, though, that we never lived downtown in Indy, which would have been a lot more interesting).

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The living spaces in the heart of the city are tailor-made for people who want to live small, and typically are designed with efficiency in mind. And since there’s more to choose from, it’s easier to find a place in the exact location you want to live. Hello, short commute.

The extra cost is palpable, but that’s where you have to ask yourself: is this experience worth the expense?

City life isn’t for everyone, but don’t let your ideas of “simple” prevent you from pursuing the life you desire.

What this series will cover

There’s a lot to say about living with less in the city. You can go as extreme or as mainstream as you want.

Obviously, there are no rules for simple living (only what you decide for yourself), but I can provide some guidelines and lessons I’ve learned about urban life. You can look forward to city-specific posts about:

  • Finances
  • Transportation
  • Housing
  • Entertainment
  • Shopping (specifically food)

There’s such a misconception about city life being hectic (especially Los Angeles), so I want to provide an alternative insider’s perspective. There are many pains (like traffic, expenses, lack of nature) that can be mitigated by just living in the right area of town.

Simple city living is about working with the flow and rhythm of the city instead of against it.

Stay tuned for these posts over the next few weeks! What city have you dreamed of living in?

One Year in California

Today marks one year since our first day as residents of Los Angeles!

Last year, we had just gotten rid of over half our stuff, packed our Honda Civic with what was left and drove across the country.

And now, I want to reflect on a few of the highlights of our first year in LA, a few of the less-glamorous things, and a few tidbits of what you can expect popping up on the blog this next year.

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Highlights of the year

This year has been way more positive than negative, so I’m counting my blessings there for sure. Here’s what went well:

  • Finding and furnishing the apartment. Getting started so quickly really helped us feel right at home in our new city. This is officially my favorite living space in my whole life.
  • Adding Bonnie to the family. She’s just great. We’ve got some big vet bills for her this month, though, but she’s such an important part of our family now that it’s worth every penny.
  • Family and friends visiting. We were fortunate to see most of our family and quite a few of our friends this first year. Again, it’s been integral to adapting to this new life.
  • Job changes for both of us. My husband was able to get into a post-production job within the first month of living in LA, and I was able to transition out of two part time jobs and into a full time one! We’re both happier with our new situations.

The rough spots

I don’t have anything specific for this section, but a few themes did emerge.

  • Working from home. This sounds like it should be a highlight, but when making the transition to a city where you don’t know anyone, the lack of coworkers is a little rough. Thank goodness for video and phone calls and especially this blog – it’s helped keep me grounded on some shaky days.
  • Inability to set a routine. I can get into a good rhythm sometimes, but with all the visits and schedule disruptions, it’s been a little difficult to nail down. That means exercise, writing and working can get tough. That’s why balance is one of my words for 2016!
  • The rapid de-simplifying of the holidays. The past few months have been a little bit like a runaway train, and our bank account and my stress levels reflect that. I’m looking forward to February when things will actually calm down a bit.

What to look forward to

So here’s what both you and I can look forward to this year on the blog and otherwise. Want to hear more about a certain topic? Let me know in the comments.

  • Our monthly challenges. My husband and I are going to try a few different monthly challenges: bodyweight exercising, a vegan diet, and possibly a TV-free month among others.
  • Decreasing our student loan debt. Our goal is to pay off at least 25% of our loans this year – not a small feat, but I think we can do it. More on student loans and debt in a later post.
  • More volunteering. We volunteered on Christmas Eve this past year, and met a lot of wonderful people. It was so fun in fact, we’re going to try to do it every month. We may explore further options as well, and I’ll share some best practices for that once I’ve discovered them.
  • A better blog. This month, I’m taking some time out to develop a proper content calendar. My goal is to actually have a few posts scheduled out in advance at any given time so I’m not scraping around for post ideas. New design, new photos and new collaborations may be in the future to take this blog to the next level.
  • More colorful minimalism. I’ve been really craving more color in my life, especially in my wardrobe, so I’ll be intentionally adding and removing things to increase my joy. Of course, I’ll share how and why later on the blog.

A thank you

And finally, I want to thank all my readers for a great first year in California – we did it! The kind words and support have meant a great deal, and I can only hope to repay you by continuing forward as the Minimal Millennial.

And now your turn – where were you last year at this time, and how far have you come?

 

6 Months After Starting Over

Here we are, a little over six months from when we officially said goodbye to our friends and families and most of our stuff.

If you’re new to the blog, my husband and I moved from Indianapolis to Los Angeles to seek better work and more sunshine. We got rid of most of our things and packed the rest into a little Honda Civic.

It feels like we’ve been here forever, but recently we got the chance to go back to Indiana and it was strange how much it felt like we never left.

Before I get into the personal updates, I want to give a little general advice.

If you want to move, move.

This phrase can be adjusted for anything you’re aspiring to do. If you want to X, X.

You don’t have to move. It’s not for everyone. But it was for us!

The most rewarding thing that has come out of this whole journey is the confidence. We wanted to do something, so we did it. We are giving ourselves the opportunity to decide what we want from life, rather than waiting for life to decide for us.

The initiative we took for this crazy move will help us in the future. The way we’ve learned to deal with naysayers and critics (although I’m still working through it) will also help us.

Be confident. Go for it.

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Our first six months

We’ve been through some big changes, but there hasn’t been a challenge we were unable to overcome. Yet. So, here’s what’s up.

Home sweet home

We were able to dive into apartment searching immediately, and we were able to spend our fourth night in LA in our own new IKEA bed.

Since then, we’ve furnished the apartment very intentionally. I think we’ve done well getting furnishings that are really useful and beautiful – this is the loveliest apartment I’ve ever lived in.

My husband and I agree that we don’t really miss what we got rid of. In fact, it’s funny how little of it we actually remember. There’s not a single sweater or book that I want back.

We started fresh and uncluttered, and we’re still (mostly) fresh and uncluttered.

The daily grind 

This has been a good move career-wise for both of us. I’ve had more opportunities pop up with my work from home jobs, and my husband was able to quickly jump back into more meaningful employment.

When we arrived, he was able to transfer to a Trader Joe’s not far from our new home while he waited on a call from a company more relevant to his interest. He got the call earlier than expected and now he’s working closer to the heart of the television and film industry.

Going back to what I said earlier, we made this change to help get us both working more on what we love. We’re not 100% there yet, but we’re taking steps in the right direction.

States of mind

While I personally have some tough days (working from home can drive you crazy), I realize that I’d rather have tough days in California than in Indiana.

The difference between the two is that by moving, we actually seized an opportunity that was in front of us. We took the 2,000 mile risk instead of letting it pass us by.

Having a tough day is bad, but having a tough day and dwelling on missed opportunities is worse.

This city requires an active lifestyle and we find ourselves wandering new streets, beaches and mountains each week. We’re busy and tired like most Millennials, but it’s nice to have a little tan while doing it all.

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To make sure I don’t paint too rosy of a picture for you, I’ll let you in on a bit of a downside to the move. Since I work from home, I don’t know too many people out here.

The new friends I have made are all through my husband’s coworkers, so I don’t always get to see them. But when I do, I cherish that social time.

I tend to prioritize work over play, so meeting new people has been difficult (not that I’ve tried that hard).

The next step is to take some sort of class to get me interacting with other humans on a regular basis. Have you moved to a new city without a lot of avenues for meeting people? I’d love to hear what you did.

Because it can make a person crazy.

Moving forward

Since we’re already halfway through our lease, we’re starting to look into re-signing or moving somewhere nearby.

Some people doubted that we would make it past a year out here, so I’m excited to start into year two and show them what we’re made of.

We’ve been tossing around some big ideas for 3-5 years down the road that will impact this blog and I’m excited to share those plans when they become more concrete.

In the meantime, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, so expect more posts soon.

How was the first half of your 2015?

Our Journey West

Exactly three weeks ago today, my husband and I were crossing into California and making our way through insane mountains before pulling into Los Angeles. It took us three days (36 hours or so), but we finally made it.

We had a car full of our most precious belongings and a few hopeful apartment tours lined up for the next day. If you’ve never lived completely out of your car like this, I recommend it. It’s terrifying in all the best (and a few of the worst) ways.

Out of our element

Neither of us had ever driven west of the Mississippi River before. Ironically, I was too caught up in the St. Louis skyline to even take a moment to look at the great river. Missouri was like Indiana in many ways, but then we moved into Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and then California. Each state looked less and less like home, but we became more excited with each “Welcome to…” sign we passed.

We really did it.

The original plan and what really happened

The original plan was to stop by a grocery store each morning for some fresh veggies and healthy snacks so that we could avoid too much fast food and share our veggies with the very disgruntled rabbit travelling with us.

We ended up at more fast food restaurants than intended, but I’m happy to say we didn’t drink any energy drinks. Just kidding, we drank quite a few of those.

We ended up scrapping the health-consciousness (we basically gave all the carrots to the rabbit) and just fueled up on what we could, when we could. We’ve since been focusing on eating fresh, real food to make it all up to our bodies.

As far as packing up everything and only shipping a few things? It went totally according to plan.

We shipped three boxes, and thanks to my lovely parents’ shipping expertise, it cost $80. I’ll take that over a whole uHaul any day.

Apartment hunting adventures

Since we didn’t have an apartment ready for us, we hit the ground running immediately, trying to find a suitable place to live. The third apartment we visited on the first day of our search was it! We signed that day and moved in the next morning. What mattered to us?

  • Price (although this became less important when we saw the location)
  • Location (walking distance to necessities was a must)
  • Safety (too many odd people lingering and broken down windowless vans in my last apartment’s parking lot)
  • Size (we preferred small to spacious, since we didn’t want to furnish a giant place)
  • Condition (no run-down, potentially haunted places for me anymore)
  • Immediate availability (yeah, I didn’t want to live out of a suitcase anymore)

We’ve since dealt with roaches and multiple necessary adjustments to the apartment (including a phone jack installation so that we could get internet…two weeks in). But I can really, truly say that we’re here and finally settling in!

I’ll do a rundown of what all we bought as necessities to make the empty apartment into our home and maybe give you a brief tour with my next post.

Thanks for your patience after my long absence! What’s new with you?

We’re moving to….

….a place that is so unlike any city I’ve ever lived in (which isn’t hard, since I’ve always lived in Indiana).

We’re packing everything we own into a single vehicle and heading across the country in January 2015 to Los Angeles in sunny California.

Moving to Los Angeles

A minimalist meets a city known for its excess – and for its tiny, expensive living spaces. We’re not talking about tiptoeing outside of my comfort zone here, we’re talking about taking a flying leap and absolutely crushing the walls I’ve put up to keep myself comfortable.

We are so pumped.

And of course for more than one reason. A few things:

  1. It’s brand new. My husband lived in Los Angeles for some time a few years ago, but I’ve only ever been there on our honeymoon. When I moved from Bloomington to Indianapolis, I felt it was a chance to start everything over again – and now this is on an even larger scale.
  2. My husband will now be doing something he has a real passion for. This means really building up his film and television career in Hollywood and surrounding areas. I feel famous.
  3. What I mentioned before – we’re going to upgrade my little Honda Civic to a mid-sized SUV and whatever fits, goes. Whatever doesn’t fit will be sold, donated or given to family as “loaner” furniture until we someday come back to the Midwest.

I’ve been on a cleaning/minimizing kick for the past week now that things are finally out in the open and we’re really moving forward and I’ve been surprised at how much I still have.

We took a quick inventory of what kitchen stuff we have, and what we’ll actually want to bring. The list filled an entire page, and I thought of even more stuff after we finished the exercise.

Not going to lie, this is going to be a whole new challenge.

I’d love to hear your big move experiences! Anything we need to know as we start planning?