Stuff Shapes your Living Space, Sanity, and Life: Part Two

Part one can be found here.

In May of 2014 I was no longer married and moving out, on my own. This was an exciting and terrifying time. Ben and I had lived together for a long time, the sorting through the stuff required a lot of emotional energy, and deciding what my future home would look like took a lot of creative energy.

I hadn’t lived by myself for a long time, so getting back in the living alone mindset was rough for me. I was leaving a familiar space with familiar people (Ben), animals (two pups), and nice stuff. I was moving into a tiny studio apartment and had to accept the reality that I was a divorced 32 year old.

But I was also excited. I got to pick things for my apartment that only I liked! Often times in relationships you have to negotiate the purchasing of stuff – making sure that a big purchase such as a couch or rug fits both people’s style.  But now I only had to think about myself and what I wanted in my new (tiny) apartment.

I also had a lot of time to find my new stuff and I was very deliberate in what I decided to surround myself with. I took time and care finding a new sofa, a beautiful vintage (made in the 1970’s) gold velvet piece that I paid too much for, but I love it so much. A mid-century modern coffee table that has beautiful lines. A restored  vintage dresser. New bedding and a new rug that suits me just right. I also splurged and bought a Tempurpedic bed – those things are life changing. Some furniture stayed the same and I took with me, a simple well-made desk my parents bought me in undergrad, some stools, a little green table that used to be our entry way table that I re-purposed as a TV stand, and some nesting tables that I used as night stands.

I was fortunate to be able to create such a beautiful space for myself. I was also lucky that Ben was staying in the house we had bought the summer before – it allowed me to leave a lot of stuff behind, stuff I deemed unnecessary – such as that stack of old CDs I never got around to donating, all the kitchen stuff I didn’t want, and those DVDs (I mean, who still watches DVDs?!).

I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back on it I realize that is when I first began thinking about a more minimal life. Granted a lot of it had to do with space, I simply didn’t have the space. I only had a tiny studio apartment and I needed to think about what went in to it.

I had to be purposeful about what I surrounded myself with.

I lived in that apartment for a year. I grew a lot that year. I grew as a researcher and scholar – working away on my dissertation. I grew more confident in myself – coming to understand that being a divorced 32 year old was just one part of who I was and it did not define me. I grew to be  even more in love with a wonderful new partner – who keeps me laughing, is super supportive, and oh so loving.

After that year Bryan and I moved in together to a pretty large house. We negotiated the combining of stuff, the arranging of rooms, the compromising. I try hard to not acquire too much stuff – even beginning to create capsule wardrobes and thus eliminating a lot of clothes.

Now I am thinking ahead to June, when I move to Pittsburgh for a post-doctoral research fellowship. I will once again be moving into a studio apartment, even smaller than the last one. It will also be the first time that I will move across the country and that is expensive, so I am trying to take as little as possible.

Once again my lack of space is shaping my life. I only want to surround myself with beautiful things, things that spark joy, and things that I find useful.