Living in a 16 square meters studio

When moving out to a new town after i got my work contract at the beginning of 2018, the first thing i did was looking for an apartment. I knew it was not going to be easy to find a studio as they are in high demand and quite expensive even if you don’t live in the capital. I found some alternatives but i wasn’t fast enough and by the time i contacted the persons, they were already rented.

Moving after a workplace is not easy at all and the best and logical way is to rent. Buying a place right now is out of the question. As i wrote before, my work situation requires me to move a lot and that’s one of the biggest reason for my minimalism. In the end, i got lucky and managed to rent a studio from a private person. I think this is one of the smallest places i have ever lived in and before i moved, i also wondered myself how will i manage with so little space. I have lived in the same place for over a year now and i can say it went much better than expected. We are taught that the bigger, the better but in my situation this solution was the best. I say in my situation because i know that not everybody can live in a 16 square meters studio. This was the best solution for me given my present situation and circumstances. I also wanted to start my work as soon as possible so i wasn’t picky at all when it came to a place to stay.

I wrote in a previous post that i got rid of around five bags of stuff before moving to my new place and i also had to sell my four persons kitchen table because it didn’t fit into the studio. The studio was already equipped with a wardrobe, fridge and a stove with oven. I took all the furniture i had with me: a one person bed plus a travelling bed for guests, an armchair, a nightstand, working table and chair, a small table which i converted into multi functional kitchen table and a small stool, bookshelf, a shoe rack and a small ladder to reach the upper shelves. The studio has just one room with the kitchen in a corner, a small hallway and the toilet. Shower is downstairs in the basement together with the sauna and the washing machine. Many raised their eyebrows as i don’t have a shower in my apartment but i managed perfectly without as i used the sauna’s shower. As i understood from the plan of the building some apartments are equipped with their own showers and there are only six apartments in the building. Besides, nobody seemed to use the sauna and i wasn’t so crazy about it either.

I managed to get all my things into the apartment and actually have free space which was needed as i practice fitness also at home. Moreover, not owning lots of stuff, the apartment looks clean and simple, distractions are kept to a minimum and the best thing is that cleaning is easy and takes very little time. This way i can use my time and energy to do something else. The studio doesn’t seem claustrophobic as i spend a significant amount of time at work and also outside in the nature when weather permits. My intention with this small place is to transform it into a stress-free place as a home is supposed to be. A stress-free place means a clean, organized and clutter-free environment.

The positives about my place are that it is quite central and i can bike or walk to work and it is just few minutes walk from the grocery store. For me that is important as i don’t own a car and i’m not that much into driving. The studio is placed into a quiet area and nature is very close. It has also its own yard so i don’t miss a balcony that much as i can sit in the front yard and drink a cup of tea in peace. During the winter is very warm but if the summer gets a bit hotter, it tends to be quite hot inside. I also liked a lot that the building has a washing machine because i wasn’t eager to buy one for myself. I think more places should offer these kinds of services because people are moving nowadays more than ever and it is difficult to take big and heavy household machines with you.

The only negative aspect i could come up with is that being so small, i can’t have too many guests and i can only accommodate only one person for the night. I usually invite guests over to the place i share with my partner as we have a bit more space and they can also be comfortable and have privacy. When i chose this studio my first thought was my job and starting it as soon as possible so i did not take into consideration having guests overnight. One good option there is also accommodation offered by several facilities in the town.

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Things i got rid of in two and a half years

My decluttering journey started about two and a half years ago when i moved from my student apartment to another place. Since then i moved again to another city and discovered minimalism through The Minimalists’ documentary.

In the beginning, i didn’t have a systematical mehod of getting rid of stuff, i just gave away and sold everything i considered useless or didn’t like anymore. Then i read about KonMari method and my decluttering process became more organized. I didn’t have lots of stuff to get rid of but i do consider the amount i gave away an ease for myself and for my own peace of mind. So what did i let go of?

  1. Clothes, shoes, jewellery, bags or everything you put on – i had lots of those and mainly purchased from thrift-shops or for free through our student village. The criteria of getting rid of them was quite easy. I let go of everything that didn’t fit me, it was too small or it fit me very bad, it was broken, it didn’t suit my style or i simply didn’t like it anymore. Also unpractical items got to go,
  2. Books – many people would cringe at this one but i did have plenty of books i didn’t read anymore and it was a burden to just carry them with me while moving. I kept few reference books and of course the digital ones. Most of the books i gathered were from trift-shops or library giveaways. I read them all so i considered that maybe other people could benefit from them.
  3. Papers – notes and courses from college and other miscellaneous papers i gathered within years. All of them went to paper recycling or i used them for my parrots’ cage.
  4. Kitchen items – all the broken and ill-functioning ones along with useless ones. Some of them i had to replace because they were too worn-out. Cooking is not one of my hobbies so i manage with less.
  5. Decorative items – some of them i purchased from thrift-shops and others i received as gifts. I considered i had too many and some of them were kept in boxes and weren’t used anymore. Nowadays i keep few candle supports, few figurines and a string of led lights. I kept Christmas and Halloween decorations to a minimum as i also don’t use Christmas trees because of my pets. I also don’t renew season decorations, i just use the same ones every year.
  6. Electronics – i had only two things that are still for sale, an iPod and a pace counter, and that’s because i listen to music on my phone and have a fitness tracker watch, so i do no need these items anymore. I also gave away a pair of headphones.
  7. Expired stuff – mostly cosmetics were discarded or recycled. I don’t use that much make-up nowadays so a small bag with few necessary items of good quality is enough.

I didn’t keep a list of all the items i got rid off so i can’t say exactly a certain number. The whole process was gradual and it still continues nowadays. The only difference is that i am more thoughtful when purchasing something and i also apply the ”one in one out” rule. For the moment though, there are more things going out than coming in which is very liberating.

The pain of getting rid of stuff – messy thrift shops

 

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One way i decided to adopt when getting rid of some of my stuff was through thrift-shops. In Finland we have two types of thrift-shops: charity and self-service thrift-shops. I donated a significant amount of useless stuff to charity thrift shops because i knew i couldn’t sell it but some other stuff i decided to sell through self-service thrift shops. First, i tried my luck with an online service Tori.fi but unfortunately big items did not have much success due to shipping costs which are very high in Finland. For example, one item i sold for 3 euros had shipping costs of 11 euros, so i gave up.

My partner and his sister rented a table at a local thrift-shop and started selling things so i also joined in with few of my stuff: a series of books, DVDs, some toys, different small items, jewelry and some clothes. I think that self-service thrift-shops are a great idea and you might get some very good money for your stuff but there are some minuses which i am not really excited about.

The first thing is that you have to pay a fee for renting a table in the thrift-shop. This is why you need to think twice if you want to sell your stuff that way because the sale might not be great and the rent might cost more than what you get out of your things. To put it simple – it is not worth the effort. And now i will mention some of the effort you will invest into the whole action.

  1. First you need to book a table at the thrift-shop and pay it.
  2. You need to select your stuff and put a label on each item with the name (small description), price and the number of the table. In case you have valuable items, it is advisable to rent an alarm tag for your product which means additional costs.
  3. You need to take your stuff to the thrift shop and arrange them on the table.
  4. You need to check at least once a week to see that your stuff is neatly ordered and at the same time ask the thrift-shop’s manager for a balance. You can bring in more stuff at anytime without additional costs. You have to be careful when is the due date for renting the space.

I will insist a bit more on point three where you need to check that everything is neatly ordered. This is one thing i absolutely dislike about self-service thrift-shops. Namely, that people are careless and messy. They look at the clothes, drop them or just crumble them into a pile, open or even rip up boxes, take your stuff and leave it on other tables so you might lose your items for good if nobody notices or the price tags gets ripped. Or even worse, some of your items might get stolen.

You will probably notice that, when you ask for the final balance and you might not know if your stuff was stolen or just simply lost to other tables inside the thrift-shop. Some thrift-shops offer services for keeping the tables neat and returning lost items to their tables but that increases the price and not everyone is willing to pay for it.

The process of decluttering will reinforce the minimalism decision, namely that now and in the future i will think very well before purchasing any item, how small that item might be and even if it comes from a thrift-shop. Do i really need it and like it, will i keep it after few years, is it worth the time and energy when disposing of it.

The amount of time and energy put into selling the aforementioned items was not worth it compared to the value of the items. Some of them were also purchased through thrift shops at a very low price. The clothes and the books sold very bad although i had some clothing items which were new and the books were in very good condition. The main issue is that they do not have value anymore. Any item sold second-hand, even if it is new loses its value with the first purchase.

I did work on my buying habits before this and i am glad to see that my habits have been improved to the point that i no longer buy stuff every time i visit a thrift store or if i buy something, i think very well before putting it on the counter. This was also a very good lesson which enforced the fuss one has to go through when disposing of stuff and an eye-opener when it comes to the value of the things acquired.

Minimalism does not equal poverty

A while ago a person asked me if i could accommodate them for a weekend as they had some business in the area i was living. I didn’t refuse and i welcomed them to stay at my place. I had an extra travelling bed so everything should be fine. I lived in the student village in a very small apartment and i told them it’s not top comfort. I was assured that it’s fine. Well, the respective person upon seeing where i live, started criticizing my apartment that it’s not cosy and wondered how could anybody live like that. This person was also a student but his parents paid for almost everything while they were using the student support money in the bars every weekend. I had no student support and my parents couldn’t afford to give me any money.

On the contrary to what this person said, my apartment looked very well, it had all the necessary things for one person and i lived there very well for several years. The title also describe most of the attitudes i met in Finland towards minimalism namely that minimalism is just a nice word for poverty. First, you don’t need to be poor to be a minimalist and secondly, this implies that being poor and not affording to buy a tone of useless crap is something to be ashamed of.

In this case, minimalism is trying to get rid of this assumption that only buying and consuming endlessly, you can show the others that you are worth. You have stuff so others can respect you. Latest gadgets, latest fashion, latest accessories, latest trends, the more, the better. People who respect you just because of this, are not worth hanging around with. Like that person who judged my modest apartment (and whom i cut contacts afterwards) these people are reinforcing society’s standards that only possessions and consumption matter. That you don’t have value without that stuff.

In reality you don’t need that stuff to bring value in other people’s eyes. You should be enough to be valued. If you are not valued without the stuff, remember that it is nothing wrong with you but with the people around you. Instead of complaining about my apartment, that person should have been happy that we could see each other, watch a movie and have a cup of cappuccino.

Minimalism is not synonym to poverty but it can surely improve the lives of people who cannot afford that much. The society we live imposes this image of keeping up with the neighbors and if we fail to do that we are automatically worthless. Minimalism offers you the alternative to not give a shit about this false image of keeping up, be happy with what you have and don’t stress about the fact that you haven’t decorated your apartment with the latest trendy furniture.

I know very well that when you are poor, trendy furniture is last on the priority list but this mentality that you are not appropriate because you don’t reach a certain level of consumption that society sees fit, has to go. Things that we own don’t give us value, our value as human beings comes from within.

Don’t hide your happiness just because others hate it

One of the categories of people i had issues with and still have are the judgemental types. And even worse the ones who judge and want to impose restrictions on your life based on appearances. Not even bothering to understand you as a whole. And that is made worse if you dare to make choices that are not popular or socially accepted by the majority and dare to be happy with them. You don’t even have to make unpopular choices. There can be something as banal as dedicating your time to a certain hobby and the judgy types are ripping you apart.

I am a very private person when it comes to personal choices and i rarely talk about most of them. But i do love to write about my hobbies and issues that i am passionate about, like my work. I did write on my blog the criticism i got because i practice fitness and go to the gym, which for me it is very amusing, as i do that in my own free time and i don’t hurt anybody by doing that. But some people feel the need to get offended by this. I’ve met people who got offended that i take vitamins, i don’t dye my hair, don’t use make-up or more feminine clothing, that i don’t own a TV, that i don’t drink coffee and i could make an endless list with these.

A solution to this problem is simple as it sounds but in practice quite difficult, namely, privacy. Be private about your life, don’t start revealing lots of personal stuff about you to strangers and this concerns online as well as offline world. The more people know about you, the more they can use, abuse and hurt you. Personal life should remain between you and the ones you really care about and trust.

A different life path or lifestyle than that of the majority will always piss people off and they will even be more pissed if you actually enjoy your life. But you have to remember that this is not your problem but theirs. A person, who feels threatened by how somebody else lives their life, has personal unsolved issues. And i noticed that first hand when i actually dared to confront these people and ask them straight what have i done to them to deserve their judgement and/or hate.

When i got a step deeper i noticed their insecurities, fears and jealousy. And when happiness was involved it was usually that i am getting away with something and life is supposed to be hard. They are not happy so why should i get a free pass? The thing is that i don’t get a free pass. The life i have chosen, the decisions i have made, the work that i do, they all have sweat and tears behind. But it is hard to rationalize with these people because they are unable to see the big picture and they sure do not know the rest of the iceberg, my struggles. They just see the top of the iceberg and make judgements on that.

Happiness shouldn’t be hidden in my opinion or at least not because of the fear you might offend somebody. It’s not necessarily showing it a spiteful manner but letting good vibes around people. The ones who care about you will be happy for you, the ones who don’t, can be put on the avoidance list. Minimalism works with people also not only with objects.

Why i never feel guilty

Easy answer: because i have nothing to feel guilty for. Which is the truth but i want to go a bit beyond that because, speaking the truth now, my experiences and life in general made me feel the way i do now.

Just think of everyday life: people around you, maybe close to you, strangers, society, media – if you have noticed they guilt trip you for almost everything you think or do. You didn’t play with little Mary at your grandma’s birthday party, you ate all that piece of cake although you shouldn’t have, you skipped the gym on Monday, you bought a pair of shoes on the whim,  and the list could go on endlessly. These are just few innocent examples. Everything that you do is wrong and you are a piece of shit that is to blame for everything? Yes, i know the feeling very well because that’s how i used to feel a very long time ago. Until i realized that i’m not the problem but people blaming me are actually the problem.

As i said, the examples mentioned above are weak. One thing i got blamed for recently was that the chronic disease i have is my fault. And it didn’t come only from a person but society in general. It is very common, as a person with endometriosis to hear that you got sick because you postponed having kids or you don’t have kids. Which medically speaking is bullshit but still the myth is still alive and well in our society and unfortunately among doctors.

When you get blamed for a disease that has basically changed your life (and not for the best), you will start seeing things in another light. That if you really want to. You realize that people are not worth your time, your attention or anything of yours for that matter. A disease is such a crucial thing in ones life and blame should not even be considered in the equation. A sick person needs your support not your blame. And if all you have to give is blame then i’m really not sorry but you are a piece of human trash.

Feeling blamed is a feeling that impacts your health and well-being in a very negative way and i’m talking about both physical and mental health as they are interrelated. When you already have an illness, you don’t need any more stress. And that’s when i decided not to care anymore. Because it was not healthy and these people obviously did not care about my well-being so why should i care about their opinions or them in general?

I’ve always been a person whose opinions and lifestyle differ from the masses and you can only imagine how “popular” i am. I used to care but now i don’t and my life has become better and the people around me have become better because my unwillingness to please people is zero. If you accept the way i am fine, if you don’t fine. I really don’t care. You could also call this type of behavior some kind of minimalism which applies to people not things. Being upfront and not tolerating anything that makes you feel less, keeps away certain types of people. And that is for the best. Think of your well-being.

One thing you will always have to remember about blaming is that people are doing it out of two reasons: they have their own frustrations and they have to get it out somehow so they’re getting it on you and the other category are elites or politicians who want your money and the best way to do that is inflicting blame on the masses.

Never feel guilty for your choices or your life. You have just one.

As for me? I have nothing to feel guilty for.

 

How a year from hell changed my life

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Source: Google Photos

Last year was one of the most difficult and the most eye-opening i had. It had nothing to do with anything financial or material but something much more important: losing people dear to me and facing my own mortality. I know very well we won’t live forever but last year i was taken so near to death i felt its breath on my face. And when you go to such extreme, you realize that you will never be the same old you again. Such experience changes you in so many ways that every little thing that matter before, every situation that bothered you, every person who ruined your day with some childish remark – they become so trivial, they won’t matter to you anymore. Because you know they are only useless disruptions taking away from your precious time that you have left around here with your loved ones. Once you realize that, your priorities will shift dramatically and you will actually see what is really important.

For me it all started when i discovered i had a tumor on one of my ovaries and my test for ovarian cancer came back positive. It was not something definitive but if you never went through such experience, you can’t possibly understand the struggle. From a person that visited the hospital quite rarely, i became the person that was there on a regular basis for tests and screenings. The scariest one was perhaps my MRI which became a bit more difficult after some complications.

I was supposed to undergo surgery but contrary to three doctors’ advice i decided to follow a medication based treatment. After six months of treatment, unfortunately, i saw no results and the second test for cancer came back positive with even higher values. At this point, i wanted to rush the surgery but the waiting time was about six months. I was blaming myself for my decision not to listen to the doctors and i did actually prepare for the worst.

Just few months after i got my first results, one of my family members died unexpectedly. I remember just talking to him about his next trip to Canary Islands and some bread i liked at the grocery store. He collapsed the same evening after a massive heart attack and he never woke up again. It was such a big shock, i still haven’t recovered from it even today. I still think i hear him sometimes yelling after the family’s dog and i dream that he is still alive. The trip we had to Canary Islands few years ago is one of the thing that makes me really happy we never postponed.

The other family member, grandpa, died after being four months in the hospital and struggling with a medical system that let him down. I went to see him all these four months and i still wonder to this very day how i managed to resist without a therapist or medication. Watching a dear person withering away and dying is one of the most painful experiences one can endure. The last time we saw him, he didn’t recognize us anymore.

I struggled for about a year in an uncertain situation not knowing exactly what was wrong with me. But in my case, things arranged themselves quite well even if i was finally diagnosed with a chronic disease.  I managed to get it under control even if the treatment is just a temporary solution and some days i need to just slow down and take it at a low pace so i can manage through the day. I’m also aware that i have to face the ugly truth: i’m more predisposed to ovarian cancer than other people and my treatment has side-effects like heart attack, blood clots, cancer and liver failure. But for the moment i’m a highly functional human being and i enjoy every minute of it.

The last year, taught me how fragile we are and how fast we can lose our dear ones. I did decide not to postpone things anymore and if i really want something in life to just do it. Spend more time with the ones you love, travel more and do the job that you love. Enjoy every moment of it because tomorrow it might be too late. Live trivial situations and people behind because they are a waste of time. Cherish what matters and what makes you happy because in end, the only things we take with us will be the happy moments.

The only thing i regret now is that it took me so long and i had to go through such experiences to realize what is important in life: people who matter and seeing and experiencing as much of the world as possible. The rest has really no importance.

*For more lecture and help on how to focus on what is important read these two books:

Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Sarah Knight – The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck