Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Living with 50 Things

Good morning from Berlin!  I am just over halfway through my 2.5 months travel excursion through Europe.  Two posts ago I talked about how I was getting rid of all of my stuff to live a lighter, freer existence.  I got this idea from my two favorite blogs by Everett Bogue and Leo Babuta.  In the month before leaving, I ended up getting rid of an entire VAN full of stuff: I made $200 in garage sales/used clothes shop, donated 7 boxes, and gave a lot of my favorite things from my childhood to my adorable neighbors.  I still have a lot more to clear out upon my return (took longer than I thought!  no surprise here, really) but my mind is already decluttered.

These things that I no longer use or don't consider an absolutely necessary (and favorite) item are not taking up space in my home or mind any longer, and have found new loving homes.  It was really satisfying to see the little girls across the way so excited to have my old rollerblades, favorite hello kitty stuffed animal, board games, etc.  I'm not giving away a memory, just a physical possession.  If I felt really sad to let go of an item, I simply took a photo and put it in the to-go pile.

Its been a pretty f#$%ing awesome feeling letting go of all these things that I thought I needed.  Giving myself the PHYSICAL space has in fact given me MENTAL space to think.  Clarity. 

In the earlier post I also mentioned that my trip was going to be a trial period to see how I liked living with under 100 things.  The outcome of the experiment would help me decide if I wanted to carry on the experiment onto a larger scale and make it a full time commitment. 

Here's my list of belongings:
Blue jeans
Black jeans
Black leggings
Grey vest
Flower dress
Pajamas (now lost! i've managed quite easily)
Tan shorts
Black shorts
Stripey sleeping shirt
Grey tee
White tee
Stripey red shirt
Tan striped vest
Grey striped vest
Black vest
Black 'wife beater' shirt
Black skirt
Spotty skirt
Brown belt (works around the waist AND hips!)
Bag of toiletries
Green longsleeve
Blue longsleeve
Orange vest
Purple vest
Blue cardigan
Winter coat (newly acquired at flea market, its COLD in berlin!)
Black blazer
Cell Phone
DSLR camera
Point and shoot camera
Rainbow flip flops
Shower shoes
Walking shoes
Brown Boots
Black Flats
Reusable water bottle
Two books
Hipster hat
Socks (5 pairs, counting as one item)
Undies (8, counting as one)

So that's 47.  (Or 60 if you'd like to count my socks and undies.)  I am living with 47 items and I can hardly begin to describe how good I feel without getting all choked up.  I wanna get up and dance.  In fact I did already today and its only 11 am.  I'm sure part of my joy is attributed to the awesome things I'm seeing and the people I'm meeting on my travels, but if my mind wasn't clear, I wouldn't be so open to these experiences.  I feel light, like I can go anywhere and do anything.  My bag is light (well, maybe not after an hour wandering the streets of barcelona looking for my couchsurfing host's house, guess that's another story) and my state of being is light.

Forty seven things might be an average or excessive amount to bring on a trip for some, but for me its been the perfect amount for my purpose.  After a month and half on the go, I've found:

- I am prepared for (almost) every situation and climate: but not because I brought EVERYTHING I wanted.  I didn't bring 3 extra tubes of toothpaste, a working phone, or even a coat, because I trusted that if I needed something, it would be available.  When I needed these things, I got them.  And it was fine.  I didn't have extra weight on my back the whole trip, and when I don't need them any more, I will give them away.

- Organisation is easy.  No, scratch that, its non-existent.  Everything fits in my bag easily.  I didn't stuff it to the brim, so its not overflowing and messy and falling out everywhere.  I fold things (usually... no one's perfect and i'm no except to be sure) and that's all the maintenance I need to do.  Simple. 

- Going in with the mindset that I don't need to (or better yet, don't even WANT to) buy anything has been probably the most freeing element of my minimalist adventure.  If I like something, I take a picture.  The memory is there, the weight isn't.  Not only is this wonderful for my wallet, but for my bag and mental well-being.  I fucking love it.  I'm not buying souvenirs either, I'm photographing things that remind me of people and writing to my friends and family--maybe this comes off as frugal to some, but that's not the reasoning at all.  Sure, I could buy everyone a stupid magnet or keychain, but its only going to clutter their life, and that's the last thing I want to do to my friends and family.

- Refocusing my money from spending from cute clothes I 'had' to have or five pairs of sunglasses or a snowglobe from a kitcsh shop in Rome to an artisan sandwich or a trip to a museum or a ticket to another country has been ultimately refreshing.  I am not wasting my money (and time) on junk, I am spending it thoughtfully on quality food, lasting quality items, and experiences.

- I am enjoying not being attached.  To things, people, or places.  I am with me all the time, and that is the only constant thing in my life.  I have never felt happier (read "content") for such a consistently long time, yet I have nothing and I am totally and completely alone.  Even when I am at a huge party talking to people, or in a relationship, or on a trip with my best friend: I'm solo.  I am appreciating all these special experiences, but letting them go as easily as they came.  Before, I would be easily upset if I lost my favorite necklace or if I had to wait in line or people were late.  Now I'm not focused on what's going on outside or annoyances, I'm still living, and I have myself.  The only thing I have is my mind (even my body is not under my total control--if I lost a limb I'd have to cope; if i get a cold, its a physical annoyance but im still in control of my thoughts and emotions) and so I am the only one who can let myself down.  I am also the only one who can make me feel good about myself or my surroundings.  No thing or person or place can do this but me.  Awesome!

So, the current outcome of this experiment is: success.  Can't wait to get rid of the remaining excess at home.

Having (almost) nothing is rad.  Try it.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How to be as happy as the Double Rainbow Man

Recently this video of a man crying tears of joy over the sight of this double rainbow sent millions of viewers around the world into stitches of laughter.  It's just unquestionably hilarious, and at least part of our mirth is that we are laughing at him.  Sure, the rainbow is stunning, but his reaction seems over-the-top.  Everyone jumps to the conclusion that this man is on drugs and is tripping out.  I'm not ruling this possibility out, but he has tons of other videos of the same kind of thing--he sees a pack of wild turkeys and exclaims wild excitement and awe. 

After the initial laughter, we feel inspired by his honest joy, perhaps even jealous of his blissful state.  Now, we're not laughing at him, we're laughing with him.  The latest comment on his youtube channel is "You make me want to try to be happy too." 

I'm going to tell you the secret to being as happy as this man: it's simply appreciating what you have.  When you appreciate what you have, you don't want anything else--you are content.  It can literally be anything--a sweet berry, a warm bed, a friendly cat, your family... there's no limit to how happy you can be if you are grateful for whats in your life right now.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Less is More

Hello blog!  A lot sure has happened since the last update.  I graduated!  I had a couple weeks to enjoy my little city of Santa Cruz that I'm so enamored with--I got to lay in the sun, pick wild blackberries in my backyard, have potlucks with my friends (four days in a row!), play murder mysteries, and photograph surfers and seabirds on Westcliff (see photos).  Now I'm home in LA-ish for a month before I get to go to Europe on a big adventure with one of my very best friends.  It's time to unpack, reflect, and figure out a few things.

Graduation apparently means that I'm all growed up, and one of the things that comes with being an adult is having a proper career job.  Right?  Well, the more I mull it over, the more I think its a real possibility that I can avoid getting a 9-5er.  Don't get me wrong, if the National Geographic called tomorrow and offered me a salaried staff photographer position, I'd take it in a heartbeat.  But what I really want to do is earn a living being creative and enjoying the simple pleasures that this planet has to offer.  Job pickins are slim anyways according to numerous graduated friends, and I'm not sure I could physically withstand the demands of an all-day computer job (as much as I love love love designing) with my already carpal-tunneled wrists.

So, I'm gonna do the best I can at being my own boss.  My dream goes like this: I'm gonna continue to sell my cards, prints, photos, books, gummi bear art, and miscellaneous rad items in my etsy shop.  I'm also going to start selling clothes, knick-knacks and other buried treasures that I find at thrift stores, because thrifting and yard-sailing are one of my all time favorite activities.  I already have more than enough goodies, so if I can't shop for me any more, I can certainly shop for you.  I'm gonna take on freelance illustration, photography, web design, and graphic design gigs like the project I just finished for the fabulous Jack of Hearts.  I would also like to do more freelance photography for print or online publications like I did for the Good Times this year.  Within a year, I'd like to start doing craft fairs and shows.  I want time spent working to be time spent enjoying life. And I want to be able to do this anywhere.

A lot of work?  Sure.  Am I crazy?  I don't think so.

Thus, this month I'm going to take some time to organize my life in preparation for... my life.  I've been reading Far Beyond the Stars, a blog about minimalism.  The idea that "less is more" is something I think about a lot, but have never seen laid out so succinctly.  I'm inspired to carry on the way I've been going, and pursue this goal to be my own boss (or at least try it out for a while and keep an open mind), and first on my list is clearing out unnecessary items from my life.  I'm not going to buy anything that I don't need, because it only ties me to a location, adds weight to my proverbial rucksack.  One of my reasons for wanting to be my own boss is so that I can travel whenever I please, and live all over.  Less stuff means more traveling.  My goal is to reach 200 items before I leave for Spain on August 2nd.  So, world, I'm about to donate, recycle, sell, and toss a lot of stuff: one small thing at a time.
I was completely honored to be selected as one of two Senior Speakers at the graduation ceremony a couple weeks ago.  I'm gonna end this post with my speech because it relates to this post and a few of you asked to see it:

I’m only 22 years old, so I don’t claim to know much.  But, I suppose you could say I learned a few things during my time here at UCSC.  Like most students at Santa Cruz, I learned about writing, psychology, how to get around independently, and so on. As an art major, I gained the skills to create meaningful photographs, drawings, etc. As a Stevenson student, I learned about classic works in religion and sociology.  The theme of our core course was “Self and Society.”  As a freshman, I’m not sure I realized the significance of the topic.  Sure, I knew it was important to understand the writings that shaped our histories and morals, but the magnitude of the idea of “self and society” didn’t sink in until one day last year on the tail-end of my study abroad experience in Leeds, England.  I had one of those “a-ha” moments.  I realized that I was very, very small.  And that tiny awareness of my tiny self changed... everything.  I am only a speck amidst many, but I am a speck that counts.  Together, me, you, and every other speck—people, animals, plants, chairs, buttons, dust, cells—we are each a tiny component of this amazing planet, life, universe. Even the littlest of things is immense: a droplet of water alone may be small, but surrounded by others, by repetition, by abundance, they form a larger entity.  Every small thing matters and is related: every person on the planet forms a part of the whole community.  We, like droplets of water or a flock of birds or specks of sand, are the same: we have many of the same thoughts, feelings, emotions, functions, parts, features, etc and while that can be affirming, it can also be overwhelming.  But to know that every part is essential for the whole to exist, I think, validates individual actions.  We also each have tiny variations, and are not quite homogeneous.  Every action we take shapes our existence and so each should be considered: each should be a positive addition to our life.  Each thought counts, so think of something worthwhile.  I know that when I consider my entire future as a whole, and think about the end result, I get frustrated and feel overwhelmed.  It is easier and more productive to break things into smaller pieces, to know that big goals take time (usually more time than expected) and each day is an opportunity to get a just few small things done.  To focus on the small things is tangible.  The world is a vast place, but there are small things to appreciate all over.  Enjoy each small thing.  I think there is beauty in repetition and abundance and in the tiny variations of each individual component.
So, like I said—I don’t claim to know a whole lot, and I’m not trying to preach, because I certainly don’t have the wisdom or experience for that.  But if there’s one thing I know now and I’m glad to have learned—its this idea of abundance and smallness, because I can apply it to every circumstance, event, and decision.  It allows me to function on a daily basis, and if many days makes up a year, many years make up a decade, and many decades make up a lifetime, then I’ve got my whole life taken care of, and I don’t need to worry about the future.  I think Dr. Seuss probably sums it up best in one of my favorite movies “Horton Hears a Who”—he says “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”­­

Sunday, May 16, 2010


A few weeks ago I submitted some photos to my favorite blog and I found out today that I'm going to be part of the Small Victories exhibit headed by Jeff Hamada in Hong Kong this month!  SO EXCITED!  My picture is even in the flyer! 

Senior Showdown

My show is all done!  I had a blast--cheap wine, sweet tunes, and lots of laughs.  Thanks to those of you who came and/or helped make it possible!  If you missed out, see photos here or watch a short video walk-through of the installation.  It's my janky youtube debut! 


Monday, May 3, 2010


I'm graduatin'!  And that means I'm having my senior show.  I'm fairly certain that approximately 0.00001 people read this, but if you do, be there!

James Castle @ Berkeley Art Museum

Born deaf, never learned how to read, write, speak, sign, or lip-read and spent the entirety of his days making art on his family farm.  Favorite medium?  Soot and spit.  Apparently, he hadn't a clue of the goings-on of the "art world." 

I was fascinated.  And/or majorly sleep deprived.

He copied ads and played with letters as forms which is technically and scientifically speaking, HELLA DOPE.  You go, James.