Trapped in a Disposable Culture

Trapped in a disposable culture.

Pretending to pass along my problems

in a tied-up trash bag.

Finished with food scraps still fresh enough

to feed families.

 

Videos circulate.

A sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck up his nose.

A sea turtle with a shell misshapen by plastic rings.

People rowing through oceans of trash.

Children wading through the sweet rot of a mountainous landfill.

 

Connected.

Staring at a screen seeing the unseen.

Disconnected.

Staring at a screen seeing the unseen.

Affected virtually,

Unaffected in reality.

 

It’s too often that I’m sitting at my computer reading about the waste generated in not only the United States, but across the planet.  I’m sickened by the videos I’ve seen.  I’m appalled by how disconnected I feel.  I’m troubled by the fact that I watch a video, feel horrible, then go about my life as an average American generating 4.5 pounds of trash a day.

I walk around preaching with an eco-friendly ego, but I am the problem.  The internet allows us access to endless information, but for most of us, it doesn’t encourage action.

The first time I saw Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers snuggle three years of trash into a 16oz mason jar, I was conflicted.  The idea inspired me, but I was almost amused at how impossible it seemed; impossible for my specific lifestyle.  When asked how she defines a Zero Waste lifestyle, Lauren says, “I do not produce any garbage. No sending anything to landfill, no throwing anything in a trash can, nothing. However, I do recycle and I do compost” (Trash is For Tossers).

Yes, there are many other types of waste affecting our planet.  For clarification, Zero Waste (in regards to the Zero Waste movement) pertains mainly to plastic waste, food scraps, and other disposables that would normally end up in a landfill.

I continued down the rabbit hole of Zero Waste YouTube only to discover that it’s basically the sister lifestyle to minimalism.  I could even argue that a Zero Waste lifestyle is another level to minimalism.

Trash doesn’t bring me joy or function.

So, if I could so easily pare down my belongings, why couldn’t I pare down my waste?

After several years of thinking a reduced-waste lifestyle wasn’t impossible, I’ve decided to challenge myself.  Like minimalism, this is not something that happens overnight.  Living Zero Waste requires constant conscious attention, education, and dedication.  I encourage everyone reading this to watch the links I’ve provided.  I hope you’re inspired to consider the impact of the trash you produce.  I challenge you to challenge yourself and live a bit differently in hopes of saving our beautiful planet.

Trash is for Tossers

TedX:Lauren Singer

CGTN: Bea Johnson 

Thanks for visiting!

-Amanda Maria

It’s been too long…

After a lengthy summer hiatus, it may appear as though I’ve deserted my blog.  This is, in part, true as I’ve been busy making an adult of myself.  However, I intend to resurrect my part-time hobby in hopes of finding the glimpse of inspiration for which I’ve recently been searching.  I feel slightly cliché in saying that I’ve changed over the summer, but it’s true.  I’d argue it’s been one of the most eye-opening summers I’ve yet to experience.  Dustin and I moved into our 500sqft loft apartment in late July.  My mom and dad helped us transport four car loads of shit to our new homestead.  Let me remind you this is after I minimized 85% of my belongings.  We still had stuff, as many of us do.

Behind closed doors we still carry useless items weighted with irrational meanings. 

IMGP2129Even after a year of consciously decluttering, consciously consuming, and consciously living, Dustin and I still wound up with an apartment full of stuff.  There was only one little difference.  It was now OUR stuff; a commingled mess of miscellany.  Two minimalists combining their belongings only doubles the amount of stuff and prolongs the downsizing process.  In a way, I hoped this would happen.  I was feeling stuck with my things.  I didn’t know how to move past things I labeled as “necessity”.  Of course, these things had no actual function.  Moving gave me a fresh start, a new environment, and a new lens to view my lifestyle through.

IMGP2131The significant downsizing in our environment was excellent motivation for sparking another round of “let’s get rid of shit we don’t’ need”.  As two people now living under one roof, we could identify which items were unnecessary for our day to day lives.  We donated things like un-used kitchen gadgets, clothes, and multiple sets of bed sheets.  We decided to grow up and get rid of our tapestries which cluttered our walls and prolonged the college hippie phase we’d much rather leave behind us.  Our artwork now consists of our own framed photography or simply a bare, white wall.  We donated bulky furniture items like living room chairs and ill-shaped coffee tables that only the cat used to sit on or hide beneath.  Finally, I got rid of meaningless trinkets and books I’d never read.  I’m not exaggerating when I say I got rid of 90% of my belongings AGAIN.  Yes, this is after I had decluttered everything in my last apartment, or so I thought.  Dustin and I joke that we’ve finally entered the realm of extreme minimalism (whatever that means) and I guarantee you, we still have progress to make.  We still have THINGS! We still have sentimental items, meaningful trinkets, and lots of plants.  However, we’ve achieved a new level of simplicity that has sparked immense happiness and creativity in both of us.

IMGP2154To a visitor, our home appears compulsive but cozy; sparse but cohesive.  This level of simplicity is the only way I feel sane balancing the work load of six classes worth sixteen credits, a part time job, and practicum hours for my teaching intent.  Opening my home has opened my schedule and my relationships with both Dustin and myself.  I’m anxious to share my journey as I make big-girl decisions while continuously simplifying my life.  My hope is to freshen up my blog, stay up to date with postings, and share more photos and maybe even videos about the changes I’m making in my life to better myself, my personal environment, and our natural environment.  Stay tuned, thanks for reading!

-Amanda Maria

An Evening with “The Minimalists”

It’s a Friday night in Madison.  My dad and I are sitting at a Culver’s chatting over a veggie burger and chicken tenders.  Like usual, I’m barely eating because I can’t stop talking about life, liberty, and the pursuit of minimalism.  My dad has definitely endured an earful of my minimalist preachings, but only because I know he can benefit from the idea.  Two months ago, I sent my dad a link to The Minimalists “Less Is Now” tour when I saw that they were coming to Madison. Two months later, the night has finally arrived.

About a year ago, Dustin introduced me to the “The Minimalists.” If you’re familiar with the minimalist movement, odds are you’ve heard of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who are two of the sexiest men at the forefront of simple living.  If you’re unfamiliar with their message, read their books, follow them on social media, listen to their podcasts, buy a ticket to their show, and check out their site. Joshua and Ryan are not only inspirational and relatable, but they’re excellent showmen. (Make sure you minimize their books afterward).

Madison is a diverse and progressive city that provided the perfect audience and atmosphere for The Minimalists to spread their message.  In a quaint but eccentric venue like the Barrymore Theater, Josh and Ryan told their stories and recorded their live podcast for a laid back Madisonian crowd.  Josh, having injured himself hours before the show, sat with his leg elevated in a wheel chair, but the pain didn’t damage his confidence.

After sharing their individual spiels, a live recording of The Minimalists podcast took place. Brave audience members lined up before a microphone and asked both practical and personal questions about their own minimalist journeys.  I had lots of well thought out questions to ask them, but preferring the safety of my computer screen, I remained seated.

After the show, I stayed to meet my idols.  Understandably, Josh was unable to do the meet and greet due to his sustained injury.  I waited in line to meet an enthusiastic and humble Ryan Nicodemus.  I gave him a big hug and was very pleased when he commented on our matching all black attire.  I also was filmed by their tour staff for a testimonial where I briefly explained what the Less Is Now tour meant to me.

MeandRyanNic

 

I had asked my dad to think of one “take away” from the show.  What was one thing that resonated with you?  What was one thing that inspired you? What was your “a-ha” moment?  Although I’m no stranger to The Minimalists or minimalism, I also took on this task.  It’s important to not become closed-minded once you think you’ve “mastered” something.  I’m very familiar with Josh and Ryan’s message, but I challenged myself to stay engaged as well as find an answer for my biggest question about minimalism.

What the hell do I do now?

After impulsively quitting my job, deciding to go back to college, and purging my life of material possessions, I find myself wondering what’s next?  Is there a second level to minimalism?  How do I maintain the simplicity?  How do I stay motivated?

My take-away was to stop setting goals.  After an audience member shared that he set lots of goals but had difficulty achieving them, I instantly related.  I often find myself getting too excited about new things.  I want to do everything at once from making my own cosmetics and cleaning products to planning elaborate camping trips and growing herbs.  I wish and waste away time by starting things, but never finishing them.  Although I may not hoard material things, I hoard goals.

Josh answered the man by confidently saying “stop setting goals for yourself.”  Josh and Ryan approach their goals by having one concept per year that they’d like to focus on.  This year, it’s their Less Is Now tour.  I’ve never been more motivated to stop setting goals and to stop making lists of excessive tasks I deemed “necessary”.  It’s really a very simple idea.

Focus on one thing at a time. Be present.

As for my father’s take-away,  I asked him to type up his response.

“Simplify, follow your path, and pursue what ultimately makes you feel happy and content.  Ignore society’s preconceived views of value and financial worth.  Take a direction that brings YOU bliss in your limited time on earth.  You can’t contribute to the world in a positive way unless you are truly happy yourself.”

No less than 24 hours after the show, my phone blew up with photos of my dad purging the cluttered depths of his basement storage room.  Three days later, I’m still receiving photos of miscellany that he’s removing from his life.  I’m so lucky to have shared this experience with my papa!  I hope you all can get something out of this too!  Josh and Ryan have just released the second round of their Less Is Now tour so get tickets for a show near you.  I promise you, it’s an experience worth your time.

#LessIsNow

Thanks for listening,

-Amanda Maria

 

 

An Interview with Another Minimalist

Today I’d like you to see where my motivation for becoming a minimalist came from.  If you’ve read through my other posts, Minimalism: How I came to be a Minimalist, you know that my own experience with minimalism sprouted when I fell in love with Dustin, my boyfriend and best friend.  He’s a handsome, intelligent and encouraging individual with an abundance of knowledge and advice about minimalism and other worldly things.   I decided to ask him a few questions about himself and his minimalist journey so I could share them with all of you!  Please enjoy this casual interview, (conducted over face-time) and some recent and some not-so-recent photos.  Without further ado, I give you an interview with another minimalist.

IMGP1748

What is your name?

Dustin.

Describe yourself in three words:

Curious, passionate, and self-driven.

Describe me (Amanda) in three words:

Neurotic, lovable, and empathetic.

What do you do in your spare time?

I read religious philosophy.  I listen to the Philosophize This podcasts, and I play The Witcher 3.

What are you studying?

Soil and waste management.

IMGP2292

How did you discover minimalism?

I discovered minimalism through Zen Buddhism and Zen Habits.

How long have you considered yourself a minimalist?

3 years.

How has minimalism changed your life?

I’m actually (genuinely) happy.  I started to achieve my goals and became the person I wanted to be.  I’ve become more connected with who I am as an individual.  My anxiety has been eliminated.  Minimalism helped me with finding a meaningful relationship with someone who shares my values.

What was the hardest thing for you to get rid of?

Sentimental items, book collection.

What’s something you no longer purchase?

I no longer purchase books, well, physical books.  I don’t keep up with buying the newest electronics.

What are your goals with minimalism?

I would like to have a more uniform wardrobe.  Financially I’d like to pay off my college loans.  I’d also like to continue reconnecting with my spirituality.

One piece of advice?

Start with your shopping habit, you’ve got to get rid of your shopping habit.  Create a budget/plan and stick to it!  For me, telling myself I can’t afford something helped, but in order for that to be effective, you have to define what “affording” means to you.  Will it be beneficial to you in the long run?  When downsizing, save the things that you like for last.  Those things are habits and habits take a long time to change.

 Anything you want to add?

I love you and I’m happy to start our new minimalist life together in a 500 sqft apartment with your cat who doesn’t love me back.

Thanks for listening!

-Amanda and Dustin

Minimalism: Unavoidable Boredom .

If someone asked the old me what I liked to do in my spare time, I probably wouldn’t have had an exciting answer.  I always thought of myself as someone who loved to go hiking, someone who liked to read and write, and someone who liked to make music.

But let’s face it.  I never actually went out and did those things; I just wanted to think that I did.  I wanted to think I was an individual with individual interests and hobbies.  My “interests” however, were spoon-fed to me through social media and my attempt to appear “unique” cost me my sense of self.  I was a cog in the consumerist machine.

So what was I actually doing in my free time?

  • Spending hours on social media
  • Shopping for unecessary things
  • Lounging/Netflix/napping

After I purged 85% of my belongings, this strange thing happened to me.  I got REALLY bored.

Gone were the days of aimlessly browsing social media to fill every second of downtime.

Gone were the days where my instant cure for boredom was spending copious amounts of money on material things.

Gone were the days where I binge watched tv shows and fell asleep for hours at a time on my living room sofa only to wake disoriented and scroll through my newsfeed. I still watch Netflix but I try to limit myself and only watch things that I know will keep my attention.

After I purged 85% of my belongings, I was scared shitless.

What do I do with all this space?

What do I do with all this time?

I was faced with the scary realization of my own independence.

I had gifted myself wasted time.

Instead of waking up and scrolling through social media for thirty minutes with tired eyes, I give my cat a good pet, feed the fish, make myself coffee, and meditate.  Instead of sitting at a doctors office glued to my phone, I knit, bring a book, or talk to other people in the waiting room.  I revisited a DIY board on my Pinterest and actually started creating the ideas I’d dreamt of.

I literally feel as though my perception has shifted.  My life has put the phone down, removed the clutter, and become consciously aware of what’s right in front of me.  I’m in the drivers seat and oh boy, it’s liberating!

Minimize the excess and maximize your success.  You may not know what the hell to do with yourself when all your shit is gone and your house rarely gets dirty.  FIND A HOBBY!

  • Clear your mind
  • Finish the projects you’ve started
  • Master a skill
  • Learn something new
  • Study something you’re interested in
  • Be active, go outside
  • Talk to new people
  • Be present with the present

Minimalism isn’t about the downsizing; it’s about the time (life) that comes after.  Utilize your time for something that will make you happy.

I’m still working on this as it will be a life-long process of discovering new hobbies.

Currently I love writing, knitting, walking around antique stores, hiking, expanding my spirituality, and making music.

Over the years I’ve written a few songs and only recently have I had the time and the drive to bring them to life.  I taught myself the basics of garage band and with a nice vocal microphone, I began recording my own songs.  My dad, being an extremely talented musician, created an acoustic instrumental to the raw vocal track that I sent him.  As finals are approaching, my head is elsewhere but I’m hoping to jump back into song writing during the summer.

I’d like to share with you what my papa and I created!  Take a listen to our demo of my song “Just Two Tickets.”  Let me know what you think!

 

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Me and my papa

-Amanda Maria

 

Minimalism: “Please excuse the state of my home!”

When you start telling people that you’re a minimalist, you get a variety of reactions.  Some people are familiar with the idea and knowing a minimalist personally inspires them to jump on the wagon.  Some people feel ashamed of their own lives and try to hide their things from you.  Some people ask you not to judge the state of their homes because “you’re a minimalist now”.    Some people criticize you.  Some people make minimalist jokes.  Some people are uncomfortable.  Some people think you’re a crazy hippie-dippy liberal.  I’ve experienced each of these reactions but I’m fortunate to say most people are supportive and willing to listen.

Just because I’m a minimalist does not mean I’m going to judge the way you live.

I’m not walking into your house analyzing your belongings and thinking about what you could do without.

I’m not crippled with anxiety looking at your cluttered hall closet.

I’m not terrified by your proudly displayed sports memorabilia collection.

I’m not secretly thinking about how you’re a crazy pack rat.

Living a modern/alternative lifestyle does not make me a “hippie”.

Minimalism is not only for people on the left.

I don’t think you’re dirty because you own things.

Don’t be ashamed of your belongings because you own more than I do.  Don’t feel like you need to justify your things to me.

If you’re interested in decluttering or downsizing, I’m here to help!

If you’re inspired by my lifestyle, I’ll offer my advice.

If I see that you could benefit from a decluttered space, I’ll mention how much it’s helped me.

If you think I’m crazy, I kind of am.

If you think minimalism is a crazy fad worthy of sarcastic criticism, I’ll joke about it with you.

 

Minimalism is an individual journey.  I’m not here to force change into people’s lives.  I’m sharing my story and if you’re intrigued, give it a try.

Thanks for listening!

-Amanda Maria

An Opinion: Why I Minimized my Social Media Usage

The concept of social media is one that baffles me.  We are living in the turning point of an era.  New technological developments and increased social media outlets give way to a new plethora of mental health disorders and communication issues.  People are becoming obsessed with themselves through their online profiles.  People have an over abundance of information at their finger tips and many use it for vanity, self-indulgence, and instant gratification.

We’re breeding narcissists.  We’re breeding a contradictory mind that knows so much but perceives so little in actual reality.  

People are distant yet over-socialized.  The hallways of my college are filled with sore necks and big thumbs as students are constantly communicating, but not face to face.  I consider the internet as our doorway to an alternate dimension.  Be who you want to be.  Create a new self.  Some choose to reside there more than reality.  It’s frightening how much control the promise of perfection has over us.

I’m stuck in a limbo.  I grew up in a time where technology boomed, but unlike today, not everyone had access to it.  Smart phones popped up during my high school career.  I did not partake until college when it became necessary in order to keep up with school.  I participate in social media; I have a blog and a Facebook.  It’s strange but I often get the question “why don’t you have an Instagram?”  Truth is, I used too.  I had an Instagram tailor made to fit an image I wished I had.  I endlessly edited selfies to achieve an artistic glow.  I scrolled mindlessly through photo after photo of the fake butts, boobs, and lips of Instagram models.  My self-esteem was shot.  It began to affect my daily life, my mood, and my wallet.  My typical day began with waking up, turning off my alarm, and gluing my phone screen to my face. How many likes did I get on the picture I posted last night?  Are there comments?  Who saw my snap story?  Which Instagram model should I admire today?  What’s so and so been up too?

After this quick social media binge, I would go to the kitchen and make myself some detox tea that some celebrity “swore by” and begin to think myself to skinny.  Time to get ready, I’m putting on an entire face of makeup.  Foundation, concealer, contour, highlight, eyeshadow, fill in the brows, brow gel, eye liner, mascara, bronzer, blush, and occasionally false eyelashes.  I’d then curl my hair in hopes of achieving that “messy” “beachy” look.  I spent money on clothes that were never worn.  I bought into the “Boho” style thinking that was “me”, but only the hangers in my closet followed that fashion trend.  My nights were often sleepless as I stared into the bright light of my newsfeed in a dark room.  I was numb to the poor vision, headaches and body aches, depression and anxiety, and negative body image.  I had found my release in my own fake world at the palm of my hand.

It’s a sad thing when you realize you’ve spent hours staring at a screen wishing you could be anyone but you, especially when the girls you admire aren’t even what they appear to be.

Just writing this makes me cringe because it’s true.  I was a consumerist zombie.  Remembering what I thought was important during that time makes me feel like a shallow bitch.  I was lost.  I thought I had found myself, who I truly wanted to be.  But it took a good smack from reality to realize it was the opposite.  I was having an identity crisis trying to keep up with social media’s ideas of beautiful.  I was desperate for attention, depressed, and settling for something I couldn’t explain.  This pressure from social media presents what I consider a “new puberty”.  It’s an awkward phase that’s growing as the gap between teenager and adult widens.  Social media provides an illusion so you can ignore your conflicting identities and try to smack a popular label on your “look”.

Ultimately, my relationship brought me out of my social media addiction.  I was taught to love myself, define my own values, and use free time for myself instead of staring at a device.  I deleted my Instagram and even deleted my old Facebook to start over and try to portray my online profile as realistically as possible.  My photos are unedited; I’m only friends with actual friends and family.

At 21 years of age, I can finally say I am happy with myself. No, I didn’t diet and lose a lot of weight from detox tea. No, I didn’t start a fitness plan and hashtag my progress until I got super fit.  I deleted my Instagram.  I stopped following unrealistic women marketing bullshit products.  I started focusing on myself.  It took some time to kick the urge to whip out my phone and scroll through my feed, but that urge subsided.  Instead of spending hours depressed on my phone, I now utilize time for experience.  I feel as though I woke up.  It’s invigorating.  Its like I’ve become conscious of my own life again.

I’m not saying Instagram or social media is all bad.  It’s a wonderful creation to promote business and stay connected, but it can be addictive when you begin to confide in it as a release from the real world.  Believe me when I say I’m so much happier loving my real self instead of the one I concocted for internet profiles.

Strange things happen when you quit social media and they happen almost immediately.  Pulling myself out of social media brought my attention to how fast the world is moving around me and without me.  I’m not up to date with current fashion trends.  The slang I hear my classmates use makes me feel old-fashioned.  Limiting my social media has removed me from mainstream pop culture and trends.  I don’t know popular music.  I don’t understand strange references to viral videos.  I’ve had people perceive me as an “old soul”, a “renaissance woman”, “weird”, and “smart” because of my limited social media usage.  In a time where using social media is the status quo, some are inspired by my action, others horrified.  Another thing this life change has taught me, is to not give a shit about what other people think of me.  It’s oddly satisfying to be confident without these things.  Minimizing my social media changed how I look at myself and my future.

Challenge yourself to ignore social media.  Some may be terrified by what I’m going to suggest, but if you can do it, don’t use social media for a week.  I understand that at this day in age this can be impossible for business owners, students, bloggers etc. Allow yourself time without social media, put down the phone and go outside, read a book, cook food with a friend, just sit there and observe the world around you through your eyes and not through the eyes of your phone.

Thanks for listening!

-Amanda Maria