Tips for Working from Home in Quarantine

Many people are either not going back to work in-person or are preparing for a quick exit soon after in-person jobs resume. I have been working from home since March and struggled for quite a while before discovering some useful tips that helped me stay on track. 

  1. Keep a regular routine

Even though I work from home, I still keep the same alarms and morning routine as when I leave the house. This routine reminds our bodies and minds that we are getting ready to go somewhere where we will need to be focused. 

2. Wear work clothes even when not leaving the house

I find that when I wear my pajamas, yoga pants, or casual gear while working, my self-evaluation starts to change. I begin to feel like I’m not doing anything because I don’t act or dress like I am working. Not only does wearing work clothes when working from home help with conditioning our brains for work, like #1, but it helps us feel better about the work we do and what we accomplish.

3. Wear shoes while doing work and only take them off during breaks or after work

This hits again on conditioning our brains for work. We want to keep as many factors the same when working from home as when we would leave the house. We are conditioned to become more focused and put our “professional hats” on after we do a specific series of things each morning. Wearing shoes is one of those activities we do while we’re working, and we likely don’t do when we’re relaxing at home.

4. Only do work in specific areas of the home

Our brains are creatures of habit. To help make sense of a complex world, we use shortcuts to help us quickly figure out what we should be doing next. If we work in every area of the home, we are going to start making associations between our relaxation spaces (e.g., the living room, bedroom, kitchen, home office, etc.) and work emotions (e.g., stress, focus, etc.). We should pick the spaces in our homes that we want to be associated with work, and only do work there. This will also help our minds prepare to do work when we enter these spaces because of this new association.

5. Keep work and leisure spaces separate

Like point #4, we’ll want to be strict about keeping our work and leisure spaces separated. Even if we must redesign some areas (not buying new stuff, just moving things around), we’ll want the separation to be clear. For example, if we do yoga in our home office, we’ll want to move our yoga space to a different room chosen for leisure. If we work in our family room, where we watch tv and relax, we’ll want to move our workspace to a quiet location chosen for focus and not for relaxation.

6. Get outside at least once per day, even if we don’t leave the yard

It is easy to become vitamin D deficient when we aren’t leaving our homes regularly. However, getting outside and getting sun is incredibly essential for the functioning of our body and our bodily organs. We can look up some outdoor activities we might want to try and add them to our schedule each day, even if that’s just sitting in the backyard and watching the clouds.

7. Make time for things we enjoy that are not work-related

When we work from home, we can be tempted to not keep regular work hours. Without setting this strict expectation, we have opened ourselves up to become overworked and become a victim of burnout. Even when we’re tempted to say, “one more hour and I’ll finish this,” we’re entering a slippery slope of regularly extending that one hour to two, three, or four more hours. If we don’t set strict boundaries for ourselves and expectations in the workplace, we open ourselves up for exploitation (both self-inflicted and by those we work with).

8. Set break times with people from work that we usually spend time with

It is no secret our social interactions have decreased drastically over the past several months. However, as we start to gear up to go back to work, we can begin to expand our network with technology. Set a Zoom time with our co-workers for lunch, if we regularly ate together. Have drinks after work remotely, if that’s something we used to do. If we’ve been socializing with people from work, invite them over for a socially distanced happy hour (masks and 6-feet). Whatever we do, we shouldn’t isolate ourselves inside our homes just because socialization looks different now. Contact with others is essential when considering symptoms of depression and anxiety.

9. Be specific in task allocation and how we schedule our day

Mentioned in #1, keep a routine, but make it fashion! Just kidding…It is essential, though, for us to make sure we are scheduling our days more strictly. When we are at home, it is easy for us to get off task with an at-home project, or simply just the apple tv right next to us (a key factor when choosing a workspace). If we aren’t specific about how we distribute our time, and to what, we can quickly get off task. Even if we haven’t been a planner user or a list-maker, now would be a prime time to start! Fill our days with activities and set timers if needed. Make sure to add breaks, include activities we enjoy, and don’t skimp on personal time!

10. Get up throughout the day and take steps equivalent to how many we’d take to and from work, as well as during the workday (Stay Active!)

Getting exercise is important when considering lowering our anxiety and symptoms of depression. Being at home all day, sometimes completely isolated, can take a toll on even the healthiest of us; however, we define health. We barely notice how active we are in the day just getting ready, going to and from work, and moving around while at work. When designing our days, try our best to add in activities that will allow for more movement. If we can’t, that’s okay, just make sure to add in more time before or after work to get moving!

The Grad School Broke Code

Going to grad school is a doozy. You have to do a lot of work for very little pay, and most programs are a minimum of a year long. I know my program is looking more like 5 or 6 years, so what does someone like me do in a situation like this? After all, if you know me or you’ve read any of my blog posts, then you probably know I do like to enjoy the finer things in life – I mean, really, who doesn’t, but as a grad student it can get really tough! So, what I’ve done for my new grad student peeps is list off my Top 10 ways for you to stay on budget and in style during your graduate school career!

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  1. PRIORITIZE!!!

This may be the most important thing you do for your budget during your grad school career. Figure out what you like to do and the things you are willing to spend money on. For example, I know I like to live in nicer places and I like to have nice clothes. Anything that is not rent or clothing, in my head, counts as unnecessary spending. Now, also keep in mind you’ll need to budget for necessities like your groceries or that time you get a flat tire that’s not actually a flat tire, but now you have to pay the mechanic for checking anyway (true story), but we’ll talk more about that next.

 

  1. BUDGET

Staying on budget has never in my life been my strong suit, so what I did was get an app to help me – because, naturally, technology is the answer right? I got an app called Mint. I used it to clock my spending and in which places I spent what for three months. I then went through all of my purchases and charted where I was spending the most unnecessary money. THEN I finally built my budget. The app allows you to both build a budget and track your purchases (it does this for you!) This will help make sure you are staying on budget. When you are getting close to overdoing it, it will let you know, and when you have overdone it, it will let you know that as well! So, figure out your priorities, track your spending, and build your budget.

 

  1. EAT IN BULK Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.07 PM.png

So, what exactly does that mean – no, I am not condoning binge eating, I am simply informing you that cooking a large amount of food at one time is a GREAT way to save money.

1) As a vegan I have to go to the grocery store more frequently because most of my food needs to be fresh, but the plus side is that my items are less expensive – an orange for 49 cents, a tomato for 35 cents, so on and so forth. No, again, I am not advocating for veganism [although it does help the planet, your health, and your wallet 😉 ] what I am saying is that you should try and buy fresh, and ONLY what you need.

2) We all know only buying what you need at the grocery store can be like eating only Cheese It (no, I have not been vegan my whole life – I have had a Cheese It – or 86). What I did to help make sure I only bought what I needed was, first, invest in a cookbook and look up some great cooking blogs. Each week I sit down and go through my cookbook, Thug Kitchen, and see if there is anything in there I feel like eating the next week. If not, I simply hit the blogs. Then I compare the ingredients I already have to the ingredients I need to buy and make a list. Then I make sure the items I need will fit my budget.

*Vegan and vegetarian meals typically have very few items per meal anyway, so that always helps!*

I know this seems like a lot of work, but it’s really not! Once a week take 30 minutes to build your meal for the next week. The rest is just cooking and storage!

 

  1. DIY

So, the “old Alexis,” as I like to call her, would rather pay someone to do something really well than even attempt to do it herself. “New grad school Alexis” just does it herself until it turns out really well! DO THIS.! You would not believe how much money you spend buying things that you could make on your own.

Buying the ingredients for bread is cheaper than buying the actual bread (that is if you’re buying bread that is healthy for you in the first place and not incredibly processed. Processed foods are often very cheap but will have a dramatic negative impact on your health, so be warned!). You can do the same things with yogurt, parfaits, soups, dried fruits, juices, smoothies, sparkling water, and the list can go on for days! For example, I bought a juicer and I now get my juice for the same price as I buy the oranges, or apples, or berries. With websites like Amazon, which can help you find the cheapest options for the best value (discounts on prime for students), you’re juicing in no time! So, learn to do things and put in the effort!

 

  1. PATIENCE Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.28.55 PM.png

When you like really nice things they typically cost a lot. I wouldn’t say I search for nice things, I would say I go in a store and the things I happen to like just also happens to be the most expensive thing in the store. A talent really – not useful – but a talent nonetheless. The way I cope with this in grad school is patience. If I see something that I like I will save a little money at a time until I can afford to buy it. For some, taking the cash out of your account every two weeks may be the ticket, so you don’t spend it. For others, transferring money to your savings account may be the best way not to spend it. It’s dealer’s choice, but what is FOR SURE, is that buying it flat out is the quickest and easiest way for you to GO BROKE.! All good things come to those who wait, so get your waiting pants on and TAKE. A. SEAT.

 

  1. IT’S THE LITTLE THINGS

When you do your budget breakdown you’ll realize that you spend the most money on the smallest things. You probably don’t even think about gas, or that pen you lost last week, or that snack you got because you left yours at home *rolls eyes* (another true story), but those things add up. You have to remember that you may need to buy a book, go to a conference, go to a training, or buy a new blazer when you spill make-up on yours *rolls eyes to the back of her head* (yet ANOTHER true story). You have to have extra money in your account for unforeseen circumstances, but you won’t have any money left if you’re not careful about the miscellaneous things that you buy. Five dollars, ten dollars, twelve dollars, hell one dollar, adds up over time, so budget for miscellaneous and PAY ATTENTION when that warning comes that you’re spending too much.

 

  1. PUT YOUR GRANNY PANTS ON AND SIT DOWN 

You no longer have the luxury of going out every weekend with your friends. This is a fact. Just sit down and stare at the wall for a minute while it sinks in. YOU’RE POOR. That one drink at the bar that turns into five drinks can no longer happen. The twerk team is on sabbatical, so sit down and put your granny panties on.

Start looking for activities that you enjoy that don’t cost money, or are a minimum cost. I know I like to drink Grey Goose, so for me, going out can get quite pricey if I haven’t budgeted to do so. What I do now instead is have movie nights with friends, I go to coffee shops, which are less expensive than drinking alcohol because when you drink coffee your decision making isn’t impaired and (for most) you’re not at risk of buying way too many coffees lol. I go for walks at the nature trails we have here in Lawrence, or take my dog to the dog park. I may venture into the city for a day and window shop (I HATE WINDOW SHOPPING, so I’m probably just walking around the city being in the city atmosphere – I won’t lie).

The bottom line is you can’t go out as much unless going out is one of the things you prioritized in your budget – THEN GO WILD. For those of us who did not prioritize it, it doesn’t mean you can never go out, but it definitely means you have to plan it more than you used to, and that’s ok, because when the time comes it will be JUST. AS. FUN.!

 

  1. BUY A DAY PLANNER Screen Shot 2018-04-17 at 6.42.44 PM.png

Hell, buy a life planner. Just start planning. I’ve always lived a heavily planned life. I think it has the most to do with being in competitive sports when I was younger and having several different practices at several different places, as well as trying to keep up with school work. If you’ve lived that life with any activity or hobby, then you know!

Trip down memory lane – off track – but the point is that your life is more structured now. You can’t just do what you want when you want. Well you can, but you’ll likely flunk out, or get kicked out, whichever comes first.

I love traveling, so traveling is a high priority of mine, but I also know that I need to plan a minimum of 6 months in advance in order to be able to go anywhere in the manner of which I want to go there. This means, I like going nice places and being able to afford to do nice things while I’m there. If I plan my trips in advance, then I can save slowly over time without it being a huge hit to my budget. So far I have Miami, Vegas, and New York coming up and two trips to California already under my belt – without missing a beat!

 

  1. I LIED

You will miss a few beats, at times. There will be times when everyone is going out, but you understand that you have a budget you need to keep so you don’t go. No one loves to be left out or feel like you’re missing something, but it’s a feeling you’ll need to get used to. And get used to saying no.

I am a yes person. I will typically say yes unless I am ill, and even then, I will probably make a way to do whatever it is. This journey, however, has taught me that I HAVE to start saying no, it’s no longer an option. At first, I felt crappy – really really crappy! Not putting in on something that everyone else can afford to do, just because even $5 out of place may throw off your budget is incredibly difficult. You feel just like a stupid Steve – just a greedy/selfish person and it sucks. Over time though you begin to realize that if you make an exception here then you’ll find a reason to make an exception there and there and over there and way down there, and then before you know it your budget is TOAST – crispy and charred. All I can really say to help is that the sooner you start saying no the easier it will get over time.

 

  1. THE CLICHÉ

I’ll end with a plug for minimalism, which I bet no one is surprised at – As it gets easier to say no over time, it also gets easier to get used to having fewer entities in your life (clutter, if you will). I used to have a bunch of stuff and when I say the cliché is right – it. Is. Right. – Less is truly more. We live in a society where the more you have the more status you have, and seemingly the better you are as a person, but that’s not at all true! We all buy into this idea of self-worth based on how much we have, when really, it’s all about the quality of what we have. This goes for relationships as well as material items. Having something of quality will end up staying with you for life, whereas having a lot of things and continuing to add, will only end with you being broke and lonely – and no one wants that!

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*I have no affiliation with Amazon or Mint, and everything here is based only on my personal experience*

No. I’m Not An “Oreo” I’m Black

August 21st, 2017

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  -Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s been a while guys, I know, but please bare with me as I go through this transition. I’ve moved to the mid-west – been a city girl all my life – and I just started my PhD coursework and research. To say I’ve been a little overwhelmed trying to get everything in order and organized would be an understatement. I will say though that the minimalist work I did in the months prior to this move made everything go A LOT smoother. I never managed to get any more clothes, because I’m still having trouble 1) shopping in my new price point and 2) figuring out what exactly it is that I want to wear. But as far as other materialistic objects, I’ve paired down quite a bit to the bare minimum. I have a new dedicated yoga, meditation, and study area, and a kitchen big enough to make all sorts of new yummy vegan treats, so I’m excited to show you all everything that unfolds in the future!


On another note, a more serious note, I want to talk about the recent and ever present state of this nation. For those of you outside of the United States, I’m sure even you are familiar with the state of civil unrest we have been thrown into in the recent months. On one hand I find pain in this revelation and the uprising of these groups, but on the other hand I am thankful that people’s eyes have been opened to just how terrible minority groups of all kinds are still treated.

In my life I’ve been called “basically white,” or an Oreo (white on the inside, but black on the outside), as if being educated and carrying yourself well was something only white people could do. I’ve been followed in stores. I’ve been made fun of for my hair, body, and clothing choices. I’ve been used as a “badge of achievement” from guys and friends that thought having a token black friend or experience was something to brag about; using me to validate their lack of racism or even their dominance over my race. I’ve been called names. I’ve been assumed to be stupid. All of this simply because my skin is brown. Although the above examples are my personal experiences, experiences like these happen to many minority groups every day. This struggle is a daily one, for ALL of us, not just the African American population. Many people either don’t even know their being offensive, or truly believe discrimination is a thing of the past. Don’t fault these people, because it was hidden well for a while from everyone that wasn’t a minority but wasn’t necessarily a racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, etc.

I think what many people fail to realize is that this country only works if we all work together. We failed the Native American people when we came over here and stole their land, and are still failing them today. We failed the African Americans when we stole them from their countries, families, and lives to become slaves, and still enslave them today with certain laws and legislation. We’ve failed the Hispanic population by exploiting them for labor, and looking at them only for the perpetuation of modern day slavery. We’ve failed the lower income community by providing them with fewer education opportunities. We’ve failed inmates by treating them like lab rats and not human beings, and providing them with very few skills to get out and live successful and productive lives. We’ve failed the transgender community by allowing them to be kicked to the curb by the military. We’ve failed women by refusing to pay them the same amount as a man for the same level and quality of work. We’ve failed the Jewish community by continuing to segregate and berate them even decades after one of the most horrible ordeals in world history. We’ve failed future generations by putting profit over the environment and health, and setting them up to be unhealthy in a world where they can’t even breath or eat natural grown vegetables. I could go on and on and on like this…the point is, that WE. Are. Failing.

This country can’t function without everyone that’s here, and the different expertise and knowledge we ALL have to offer. This has become way more than politics. This has become about the way we treat people and value them. This is about making sure everyone is valued equally. This has become about the character of the nation, not the president. As the late, great, Martin Luther King Jr. once alluded, all we want is to live in a nation where minority groups can be “judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

I think many hide behind politics to justify their intolerance, and for those people all we can do is pray. However, for those who really value people of all shade, shapes, and sizes, one thing we cannot continue to do is stay silent. Silence has only served to prolong the problem under the cape of ignorance, but has never truly worked to abolition it. Fight for your peers. Fight for your friends. Fight for your family. But most importantly, fight for YOU. Fight because you have had enough. Fight because you care for others and value them. Fight because you know there’s a problem and it’s solution has been a long time coming. Fight because the content of your character allows you to see past the mirror and into a future of true peace and joy. Fight with words and peaceful protest. Do not fight with anger, resentment, and violence, but fight.

Just one person can change the world, but the message gets a lot louder with more voices. And together we can accomplish anything!

Nothing Worth Having Comes Easily

June 19th, 2017

Moving has to be one of the most stressful things to do in an adult’s life. You have to pack up everything you own, organize how to get it from one place to the next, find a new place to live, organize leaving your previous location and transferring all of your services; I could keep going on for a very VERY long time – but I won’t! What I mean to say is that it’s exhausting, and if you’re familiar with Be You. then you’re familiar with my journey to minimalism, so this has brought a whole new shade of shitty to the situation.

Even once you’ve given away most of your material items, or you think you have, you can’t really be sure until you have to move them. Once I started packing it hit me like a dump truck that I either had an obscene amount of stuff or, well, I guess I just had an obscene amount of stuff *sigh*. As a very organized and meticulous person I like to start the move-out process a full month, to month and a half, before I actually have to be anywhere. So this whole month I’ve just been basically throwing things away. It turns out that although I had given away a lot of my clothing I still have a ridiculous number of shoes and other miscellaneous items. It also turns out that I have literally kept every piece of paper I’ve ever been given or printed since 1912, so who really has room for all of that or a place to keep it properly organized?

I feel like most of this moving process isn’t just taking things from one location to another, but deciding what really matters to me. Again, I am faced with not what on the outside matters to me, but this time, what on the inside matters to me. It has turned out to be a completely different experience than when I was deciding which shirts said “Alexis” versus the ones that didn’t. I have to decide which parts of my life are important to me. Which things hold the most emotional and practical value? The question isn’t who do I want people to see me as on the outside, but who do I want to be on the inside? And some days I just don’t know, and I sit on the floor looking at everything out of its place and wish I could just go back and never begin the process. But if there’s one thing I have learned in what seems like the longest 23 years ever – with a sample size of 1 opinion – is that there is nothing in this life that’s worth having or achieving that isn’t, at least at the beginning, and most of the time even at the end, a monumental pain in the butt…And remembering this I continue on my journey. Until next time, my friends – Be You.

Unmasked

April 10th, 2017

This week has been a weird week for me. It seems like the past few weeks I’ve started to realize I’ve been wearing masks. Not literal masks, but through my clothing. I’ve been wearing what everyone else wanted to see me in. I was wearing things I was expected to wear, styles I was expected to like, but now since I’ve started selling all of my clothes I’m stuck. I’m left with things I truly love, but those things aren’t enough to make a full wardrobe. Many of them are basics: basic long-sleeves, basic crop tops, basic one pieces, basic flannels. Just basics. Everyone needs basics and everyone loves their basics, but no one, or very few, have a whole wardrobe of just basics, right?

So now I’m left with essentially rebuilding from the bottom. I’m faced with the task of deciding what I want people so see me as, and building a wardrobe that reflects that. I tried, previously, to use the Nordstrom money for work clothes, for my new graduate school position, but I’m still lost. I look at everything I used to throw into my shopping carts and no longer find myself in any of them. I’ve realized I don’t like frilly shirts. I don’t like things with crazy patterns. I don’t like floral designs. I’m not a huge fan of the off-the-shoulder. I don’t like short shorts. I don’t like boob revealing shirts. I don’t want those 3-quarter length pants everyone is wearing now. I don’t like peplums. I don’t want anything with a huge graphic on it. I don’t like most things, now that I’m making this list, and this isn’t even the whole list!

But I do like basics. I guess it’s weird. I went through a preppy stage. I had a punk stage. I was a hipster for a while. But now I’m starting from the beginning and all I want are basics. I just want white shirts in innovative shapes. I just want long blazers in neutral colors. I don’t want shorts that cling, but shorts that flow. I don’t want pants with designs, but neutral colors in a pioneering style.

I started this piece to talk about how I feel like I don’t know myself anymore, but I guess I do know myself. I do know what I want and what I want to see myself in. I am an understated person. I’m chill, but I have a bit of flare. I’m calm, but can be very sharp. As I write this I realize that’s the exact style I’ve described. I’m not lost. I just need to become comfortable again with doing what I want, and wearing what I want. I need to feel comfortable not doing what people expect, but doing what I love. I guess that’s all I’ve got to do – Until Next Time My Friends – Be You.

Underbudget

March 17th, 2017

Through one of my returns I managed to acquire about $400 in store credit. Usually I could blow through $400 like someone had just given me a quarter for a candy machine, but I used this moment to challenge myself. Usually I pick out everything I’ve ever wanted on the site and then dwindle it down to the few things I feel I really really enjoy. However, the things I end up wearing and the things I find pleasing to my eye are two completely different things a lot of the time. I now have a total of about 10 shirts, in my closet and about 200 ready to be sold. I know, I have a problem; I have completely and totally accepted it!

So through this exercise I began to try and separate the things I will really wear from the things I just think are fun. My goal was to become better acquainted with the things I love, versus the things I simply like. I was left with less than $200 in my basket and a face full of shock and confusion. This had never happened to me before – under budget. If there’s anyone you know in life that would not be under budget that person would be ME! This minimalist movement has really begun to change me, and this is the first time I’m really seeing it. I went from wanting and desiring everything to realizing it takes only a few things to really truly feel happy and satisfied. Surrounding myself with a bunch of things I like, be it people, clothing, objects, etc. just serves to fill a void. But to be surrounded by things I love gives me a chance to heal; feel real love and be loved by others!

It’s crazy how the most simple tasks, when seen under the light of minimalism, can teach you some of the most profound lessons.

Becoming Me

March 6th, 2017

The last time we talked I was confessing how greedy I felt, and how uncomfortable it was to be faced, so blatantly, with your imperfections. As my closet became more empty and my drawers more bare I started to feel it too, inside. I love fashion and my clothes are a huge part of what I felt made me who I was. I love putting together outfits; trying weird and outlandish styles; and doing crazy things with my shoes, accessories, and hair. I live for it! So to see my drawers and closets so bare made me feel like I’d lost a part of myself.

The more I sat with the idea, however, the more I realized that if anything I’d become even more me. I was even more Alexis than the day before. If anything, I was the most Alexis I had ever been. I was left with the bare bones of what it is to be me. With what I do have now I am undoubtedly and unapologetically exact who I want to be and nobody else. There is no second guessing me. There is no wondering what I’m like. I am just simply who I am. When I began to let go of my things as defining points I began to hold more tightly to myself.

I had valued myself as someone who could be whoever I wanted to be. One day I could be goth, preppy, hipster, hippie, etc., but the more I sat with this idea the more I realized this was just a physical way for me to say, “I have no idea who I am.” In a sense I had defined myself by having no real definition. I had given myself an explanation for what I thought was strength. “Be whoever you want – You can do anything.” Right? But now I know the hardest part is deciding to be something.

You can do anything and you can be whoever you want to be, but one of the hardest parts about life deciding to be it. It’s easy to be a free spirit, because you never really have to commit to anything. You never really have to make any real decisions that could influence your life one way or another. All you have to do is decide, that day, who you want to be. There’s no fear in it. There’s no expectation. But to take the time to decide who you are, who you want to be, and what morals and values you want to be defined by, that’s huge. That’s a responsibility. It requires accountability and commitment. It’s serious. But in the same way it’s beautiful. It’s confidence, the true and unabridged version of it.

I have entered this realm where I am exactly who I am, defined by my love for the environment, my activism for equal rights, my desire for a healthier life for the next generation, my sexual abstinence, and determination to succeed. I am a Christian and unashamed. I am artistic, creative, and I love my family more than anything in this world. I want love and a family and I’m not embarrassed to try things and get hurt by them. I don’t believe in many social norms, because I feel they perpetuate the unhealthy cycle of insecurity and perfectionism. I love and believe in the healing power of meditation, yoga, and evidence-based psychotherapy. I’m imperfectly perfect. I am Alexis and I have made a decision to be her. It is the most important decision of my life, and I wouldn’t trade with a single person. Not even for a day.

Minimalism is beautiful like that. By simply stripping away the unnecessary you are left with only what matters. You never realize how the physical impacts the mental and emotional. Stay Tuned My Friends – Because I’m Just Getting Started!

Minimalism – Day 1

February 20th, 2017

I was looking at the pile on my couch in the living room of all the things I plan to sell and it hit me. This is really happening. I’m really doing this. My closets are becoming emptier by the day as I challenge myself with what I do and do not need. For a minute I felt like a little kid whose favorite toy had just been taken away. It’s hard to explain the real feeling, but it felt something like the true essence of greed. I had the urge to take everything and put them back on the hangers, restore everything to its original place. When I noticed that 4 of my items had already been bid on and were going to sell, I felt the same twinge. I didn’t want to let it go.

I think one of the hardest things about this processes is that I am essentially redefining myself by the most bare and real definitions. Neither the things that I own nor the clothes that I wear define me, but only the real person inside. It feels as though I’m naked, almost. What I wear tells you nothing now about who I am. What I own tells you very little about what I like. For the first time in my life I have to let my personality, my real personality speak for itself. I have to put myself out there and allow others to really get to know me. It’s actually a bit terrifying, if I’m being completely honest with you.

I’ve worked so hard to become the person I am today, but I never really had to show it. I could hide behind my clothing, or my preference of solitude, and be myself by myself. I could let other things speak for me, but now I’m forced to speak for myself. And not only an I completely exposed to others, but I’m 100% exposed to myself. I’m forced to see those greedy moments where I want to turn back. Those selfish moments where I want to keep just for the sake of keeping. I’m not faced with just the beautiful parts of me, but the ugly. I didn’t realize this practice would be so profound, but I’m ready and I’m staying the course!

The “Only What Brings Me Joy” Challenge

As you guys know, about a year ago, February 28th, I became a vegan. I gave up meats, dairy, and any products that were not plant-based. As I’ve embarked on this path it’s made me realize society has influenced our desire and subsequent need for material things. I successfully transitioned in one week from eating everything to eating only things produced by plants. Society tells us it’s unhealthy. Society tells us it shouldn’t be done and we need meat, dairy, and everything else mass-produced to live a healthy and successful life. But it’s just not true.

I have had my blood tested and gone to the doctor several times to make sure I am healthy, and have passed every test with flying colors. I, among countless others, have successfully debunked this myth that being vegan is not something humans were meant to do. Literature says that not being lactose intolerant is a genetic mutation that developed because human beings insisted on drinking cows milk. Cows milk is meant for baby cows, just like breast milk is meant for baby humans. We don’t drink breast milk once we grow-up, and cows don’t drink milk from other cows once they grow-up. It’s statistics like these that have engaged many in re-evaluating our ways of life and general consumption.

Big business has fooled us into thinking the only ways to get what we need are from foods and beverages that they provide. But now, with the world’s environment going to hell in a hand basket, to save the next generation we must do something different. This is no longer the time where you can say, “Well by the time this happens I’ll be dead,” because that is no longer true. Change needs to happen and it needs to happen now, and by us. We must take responsibility for our lives and the lives of our children and grandchildren. We can change this world. We just have to realize it’s OURS, and no other generation’s responsibility to get the ball rolling.

Through becoming a vegan, and learning to cut out certain foods and supply myself with exactly what my body needs to be happy and healthy, I’ve also begun exploring this idea in other parts of my life. Minimalism is the idea that you only have what you need. You only buy what you absolutely love, and you only keep things that bring you true joy. I have, for a long time, had a love-hate relationship with clothing and fashion. Each year I find myself staring at my closet and wondering when is it going to be time for me to give this stuff away? A positive quality of mine is that I do keep things until I absolutely have to throw them away: they rip, or break, or are just plain unwearable. So, it’s not that I buy a lot, but I keep a lot. Over the last ten years I haven’t changed shoe size or height and have barely grown anywhere else. I still have jeans from freshman year of high school, because they still fit and I still love them. The problem is that 10 years worth of clothing, shoes, and accessories tends to add up. I have way more than I need or can even wear.

The Challenge

What I am challenging myself to do this year is to go through my closet once a month for the next 12 months and pick out at least 5 items that I no longer wear, and “no longer bring me joy” – As Gilmore Girls would say. Over the next year I should have given away at least 60 items in my closet.

I challenge you, ladies and gentleman, to declutter your lives as well. Provide both your body and your mind with only what makes you happy. Stop living by the societal norms that we are worth more the more we possess, and start living for you and what you enjoy. Find love and happiness within, and stop looking for it amongst other people and things. This year and every year to come are going to be the years where we change the world! They are going to be the years where we challenge both ourselves and others to just Be You. in both the happiest, healthiest, and most sustainable ways possible, so who’s with me!?

Why I Lost Faith In Gifts on Christmas

“Love people, use things. The opposite never works.”

– Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

Growing up the holidays were about getting presents. They were about asking for everything you’ve ever wanted, and waiting for the moment where you could rip off that wrapping paper and get at all of those gifts. I would create these monstrous lists filled with literally everything I could have ever wanted in life – and I do mean literally everything. It was fun looking through magazines, going on websites, and just filling the list with anything. However, as the years went by I went through this weird transformation, from asking for everything and expecting everything to asking for everything and being fulfilled by nothing.

For several years I asked for things just to fill my list, but on Christmas day when I had gotten everything I’d asked for I was excited about nothing. My parents thought I was ungrateful and spoiled, but I really wasn’t. I’ve always been thankful for everything I’ve ever gotten, and thank God every day for everything I’ve been allowed in my life. I am beyond fortunate, and that’s the real truth. But over time I began to realize that commercials were advertising this happiness they couldn’t guarantee. Society was telling me to get more, get more, get more and you’ll be happy, but it just wasn’t true. Every week was a new promise from some new company of how their product was going to put a smile on my face and joy in my heart. However, when it came time to unwrap my gifts and get the joy and happiness I was promised – big business fell short.

It took a couple of years of unhappy holidays where I just couldn’t understand why I wasn’t content. While waiting for the rest of my family to get to my house for the festivities, I would just cry. I was just so unhappy, and I just knew, based on everything the world had taught me thus far that I was supposed to be happy. This rut finally hit rock bottom when one holiday season I decided to follow my fashion designer dreams. Yes, you laugh, and so do I – don’t worry! I taught myself to sew and even sewed a dress by hand, zipper and all. For Christmas I asked for a sewing machine and a dress form. I couldn’t think of anything I wanted, but I knew I was supposed to ask for something, so there they were. It wasn’t even two full weeks after I had received them that I realized I’d made a big mistake. I’d wasted so much money, and nothing I’d received had made me any happier. I love sewing and making clothing, but I also don’t have the time. I would love to fit my handmade clothing properly on a form, but I also know my particular petite size does not come in a standard dress form. Yet another waste of money. I had just asked for things because that’s what society told me to do. At this point, I’d even go as far as to say that’s what I thought the holiday season was about – Jesus and gifts.

It wasn’t until afterwards – sitting in my room with a whole bunch of material and string and needles and this useless dress form that I saw it. What made me happy on Christmas was being with my family. What gave me real joy was giving and not receiving. I don’t find true joy in materialistic things, but I do love to see the happiness on people’s faces when I give them gifts. My mother, the sweetheart that she is, continuously asks me what I want for Christmas every year, and every year I tell her “Nothing really,” because to me I already have it all. I no longer see a need to ask for something unless I don’t think I can live without it, or it is something that I really truly love. There are no more long lists full of everything I could have ever imagined. I now create short lists of things I really love or absolutely need, if I create a list at all.

I don’t think it’s something you’re just born knowing though, because everything around us tells us differently. Everything around us tells us the happiest people have everything and the saddest people have nothing. Commercials tell us we’ll be happy if we buy their products, and the kids at school smile in our faces when they tell us they received it. We want to fit in, so we believe what society tells us, make our lists, ask for things we don’t need, and go through the motions. I don’t think it’s until we come to truly love ourselves and are confident in ourselves that we realize none of this other stuff is going to help. If we’re sad, a new Givenchy will not make our pain go away. If I’m angry, new Jimmy Choo’s will not calm me down. It’s when we realize that we hold the key to our happiness, and that it lays nowhere but within that we truly begun to understand.

To me, this is what the holiday season is about, not only loving others, but truly learning to love ourselves. This Christmas I challenge you to ask for things you really need or one or two things you absolutely love, and nothing else. Be present during this day. Pay attention to every joke told and hug given. Listen when your family tells their stories, and help when the kitchen maestro’s need a hand. Take a moment and look around. Notice everything beautiful about that day; from the way your mom seems to jump into warp speed, to the way your grandma seems to notice every time you attempt to go outside without a coat. Take mental pictures in your mind of the emotions on people’s faces as they laugh, the way the tree lights up the room, or how your cousin’s face becomes an excited emoji when she gets exactly what she asked for. These moments are the real gifts of Christmas, and they’re all free.

 

Happy Holidays! – Love Be You.

Photo by Neokentin on Creative Spotting