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?

 

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Simple Dorm Living (What I Wish I Knew)

This week marks seven years since I moved out of my parents home and into a lovely little dorm room in Bloomington, Indiana.

We packed a giant SUV to the brim with all my “necessities” and before I knew it, they were driving away without all the stuff and without me. Dorm life had officially begun.

I was so excited. But I was way, way overprepared.

To the point that I didn’t even know what to do with half the stuff I bought because Target told me it was a dorm essential! I ended up carrying a lot of that junk around with me, unused, for the next 5 years.

Since a lot of students are moving in this next week, I thought I’d share what I would do differently if I had the chance.

essentials

Pare down before and after

Packing up a childhood bedroom to move away for college is a perfect time to ditch some of the stuff you don’t need.

Here’s what mine looked like when packing up:

Room Before Dorm Move Out

Actually, this is what my bedroom looked like most of the time anyways.

Keep a trash and donate bag handy when you’re sorting through everything. Don’t just put things back into storage because it’s your parents house and you think you don’t have to deal with it. Trust me, you’ll have to deal with it eventually.

Then, when you’re unpacking at your new space, don’t be afraid to toss things into a donate or trash pile. Especially when you start to realize that you’ve just brought way too much.

Don’t shop beforehand

I know this sounds crazy. But when I got to my dorm room, I realized it had more than I anticipated – it came furnished with a chair already, so why did I need the butterfly chair?

Dorm Desk in Read

I ended up with “dorm essentials” that really didn’t even fit with my dorm room.

So do only the bare minimum of shopping beforehand – I’m talking notebooks and pens at most. If you can swing it, shop a few days or a week after you move in so that you can make more conscious decisions about what you really need.

Don’t have a car? Dorms should accept packages for you, so online shopping is a great option (and you get to avoid all of the tempting ads for “dorm essentials” at your local Target).

This is especially important for storage. Don’t shop early for the “just in case” items. Instead, get a good feeling for what you’ll need storage for and where it will fit.

Finally, this gives you a chance to find out more about the building you live in – do you need a full set of dishes and a mini fridge, or do you have access to good dining halls?

Basically, don’t just buy stuff because a store says you’ll need it.

Dorm decor

I was kind of a mess when it came to decorating my dorm room. I just brought a bunch of stuff and taped it to the wall like a maniac.

It stressed me out and it didn’t look very good. Did I ever tell you guys that I wanted to study Fashion Design? Yea, that was a weird time.

So, I encourage anyone moving into a dorm room to keep it simple.

Start small. Bring only decorations that you find beautiful or meaningful. Let yourself get a feel for your dorm room before you just throw stuff on the walls for the sake of having stuff on the walls.

Avoid the campus bookstore

As a former campus bookstore employee, I can tell you this: it’s all overpriced. Look online for used versions of your book and don’t be afraid to ask your professor if you can use a slightly older version. You will literally save hundreds and hundreds of dollars.

If you’re not sure about whether or not you’ll stay in the class, wait on buying the book until after the first week.

Do not buy school supplies at the bookstore unless you’re really in a bind. They’re marked up way past what’s even remotely reasonable.

And finally – I know I’m going to sound like such a Debbie Downer – avoid school-branded swag. Shirts, tumblers, bags…slap a school logo on it and it’s 3x more expensive.

I accumulated so much IU stuff through clubs and free giveaways anyway that I still looked like I had school spirit.

Hoo – hoo – hoo – HOOSIERS!

If you’re moving: how are you handling it? If you’ve done it before: what do you wish you would have done differently?

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.

allyourheart

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.

Friend requests – 0

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?

Furnishing the Apartment

Make your home as comfortable and attractive as possible and then get on with living. There’s more to life than decorating.

– Albert Hadley

Before we moved in, I had been scouring IKEA’s website, getting ideas of what furniture I liked. Since we moved in with no furniture whatsoever, knowing what we wanted beforehand made the trip faster and cheaper.

I know IKEA isn’t always top-of-the line stuff, but man. If you’re looking for a simple, sleek look that’s budget friendly and easy to move from one place to another? IKEA’s the place to be. After a couple hours of wandering and selecting our items, we were able to have it all delivered to us the next day for $59.

We were able to furnish the place for under $1500 at IKEA. We splurged on some curtains and a rug at Target, which changed the entire look of the apartment without adding cheap decorative items.

If I had time, patience and a truck, I could have done it cheaper by making curtains, picking up furniture at thrift stores and waiting on sales. But, I allowed myself to go big to make us all as comfortable as possible in this brand new city. We also wanted to set it all up and move forward with our lives!

Here’s what we got

So, without further ado, I’ll take you through what we got for our 650 square foot apartment. We were careful to distinguish between “necessary” and “unnecessary” pieces as we walked through IKEA. If we were stuck on an item, we’d think about how much it would increase our quality of life.

Living Room

For our “living room” area, we got a large couch and a stackable coffee/side table (from the VITTSJÖ series, one of my favorites). We added an on-sale rug from Target to make it more cozy. We have the couch facing a wall that will eventually have a TV mounted on it, but for now we’re doing just fine without.

My desk is ultra-simple. I tend to clutter my space, so I chose one of the smallest desks I could find. Even though it’s small, there’s still at least three different glasses/mugs on it by the end of the day, as well as random papers and receipts. Why do I do these things? At least I don’t have a huge space to fill up with my nonsense.

In another section of the room, we have our simple bookshelf ($25? Yes please) and painted a little nook with the teal paint from Target. I’ve never painted anything in an apartment before, so this was a big deal in making it feel more permanent.

In the pictures, you’ll also see Rorschach’s humongous cage. It’s gold, making it less of an eyesore than other cages he’s had before. We are going to be adopting another rabbit within the next month or so, and this cage is a perfect size for two to share.

Dining Area

This one was easy: table, two chairs and a cheap rug. I had some spare fabric that looks enough like a table runner to spice it up. Note our curtains – I never knew how much curtains could do for a place until I put these babies up. Everything is so bright and cheerful now!

Bedroom

First, I must tell you a secret. The photo of our bedroom above is carefully cropped. Someday I’ll get a small set of drawers for the random tidbits on the floor (like rabbit food, paperwork and our wireless router). But for now, the only furniture in this room is our bed and a small hamper. There is nothing stored under our bed, which feels nice. It’s so zen!

I may also get a tiny bedside table, but for now I’m using a box we moved our stuff in. Kind of reminds me of Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda – one of my favorite scenes and illustrations.

Miss Honey’s cottage in Matilda, illustrated by Quentin Blake. Image source

Finishing touches

That’s what we have so far, and I’m happy to say there’s not much more that we need to add. We’re planning on taking our time with wall hangings, getting them secondhand from thrift stores or shopgoodwill.com (an awesome site, by the way).

We’re also on the hunt for a large rug that will fill up the empty space in between our kitchen, living area and dining area. It’s a priority at this point since our little rabbit is getting older and the wood floors are slippery for him.

So, what do you think? Anything that would be a must for you if you started over?

 

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?

On the Eve of the Move

We’ve completed nearly two whole weeks of living out of suitcases and bags and boxes in our hometown. We’ve had a wonderful time staying with family and friends, and now we can measure our time left in Indiana in hours instead of days, weeks or months.

This is crazy.

Later, I’ll do a more in-depth post about our move (what we ditched and what we’re taking) but for now, our car is packed. We have 7 boxes to take, several bags of clothing, bedding and travel sundries, and a very grumpy rabbit. We will ship only 3 more boxes.

Moving Boxes

Have you ever had everything that’s dear to you in a single car? It’s unsettling and exciting at the same time. We’re truly starting fresh in California, and we’re both so excited to carefully curate everything that comes in and out of our soon-to-be home.

What to expect in the next couple of weeks

While I don’t even know what to expect out of even the next few days, I thought I’d share a glimpse of what I’ll be writing about once I get up and running out in California. I have several backlog posts that have needed polishing and publishing for a while now, but were victims of the whirlwind of moving. Here’s what you’ll read from me soon:

  • My thoughts on the joy of simple work now that I’ve been self-employed for several months
  • Our final days in our apartment in Indianapolis and move-out
  • Packing our car and making the final decisions of keep vs. store vs. trash or donate
  • Our adventures of finding an apartment in a new city (did I mention that we don’t have an apartment lined up yet?)
  • Our adventures of first-time furniture shopping in a new city

And finally, once this all settles down, I’ll be turning my focus towards how my minimalist journey has been changing the way I eat and the way I think about food. But we’re not going to talk about that now, because the past two weeks of holiday eating have not been exemplary of our diet (although I’ve loved everything I’ve eaten).

Next time you hear from me, it will be from the other side of the country! I hope your holidays were filled with more love, less stress and lots of time with the ones you care for most.

Sending you all my warmest wishes for a peaceful and productive new year.

The Bathroom Cabinet, Round 2

Last year, I wrote about how I went about decluttering my bathroom cabinet. I did a pretty solid job of organizing (and yes, getting rid of things), but I didn’t truly streamline or minimize my toiletries and bathroom sundries. Probably because I was working on getting married instead of moving across the country.

But this time, it’s for real. And not only is it real, it’s real bad. For someone who claims to be a minimalist, toting this amount of toiletries anywhere should be, quite frankly, embarrassing.

But for anyone aspiring to simplify or minimize, the most important thing is to remember that it’s a journey! I shouldn’t be ashamed of where I’m at, because I’ve come so far already. Frame every part of this journey with positivity, and your momentum will be far greater.

Anyways.

The starting point

Here is what has been lying in the cabinet, waiting in the shadows to torment me a week before a move.

The Bathroom CabinetLooks like it could have come straight from an I Spy, right?

I spy homemade toothpaste, a hook and Listerine 

A ton of tampons, a mug, and some old blue jeans

Yes. So I’m going to go through and toss/donate/rehome things again! This time with the mindset that I will only be taking a small bag of toiletries in the car with me. I’ll repurchase anything that is absolutely necessary, but next time around I’ll be able to be a lot more conscious about what comes in to and goes out of my home.

If you’re not moving but have a bathroom filled to the brim, it might even be a good idea to start completely over, too, so that you only ever have what you absolutely need and use regularly. Just my two cents.

Noting what I need

I started making a list of things I really need to have with me at all times, and it’s helping me narrow everything down so well. This list could look very different for you, but here’s what I have come up with so far:

  • 1 Lotion
  • 1 Perfume
  • 1 Facewash (which I’ve been actually loving Witch Hazel and Rosewater as an alternative to storebought stuff)
  • 1 Body spray (optional, really)
  • 1 Deodorant (preferably homemade, but I’m not there yet)
  • 1 Hairbrush
  • 1 Comb
  • 2 Toothbrushes (a backup is handy for traveling)
  • 2 Contact solution bottles (nothing worse than realizing you’re out of solution and it’s 11PM)
  • My minimal makeup collection – this time it has to all fit into one small container
  • Travel sized versions of many of these things (in fact, any consumables I’ll have travel sized version while we’re making the move, so the bigger versions will be out too)

Note the general rule of thumb: if it’s super necessary, I keep two for myself in case I need backup, but for the most part one of each thing is preferable.

I’m nixing the hair straightener and blow dryer, because I don’t use them often enough to keep them around. Especially now that I’ve cut my hair into a short pixie cut (in a future post, I’ll talk about how I cut my own hair). That means I need very few products and hair accessories, which is awesome.

The result

It’s so different, and I love it. I still have to use up a few products, and some of the larger things that we don’t use up will be handed off to family and friends (who wants the mouthwash?!)

Here’s what it looks like now:

Under the bathroom sink

Yikes, now that it’s nearly empty this cabinet is actually pretty gross looking.

The bathroom cabinet

And for comparison, here’s what it looked like a year ago:

Before - Cluttered Bathroom

What a day. What are your bathroom must-haves?