Minimalist Challenge Part 5: How I Live

July 10, 2014

minimalism (n): 1. a style or technique (as in music, literature, or design) that is characterized by extreme spareness and simplicity

This is the first definition of my new way of living and thinking per Merriam-Webster, the English language experts. When I went to look up the proper definition of the word after some time abiding by its abstract principles, I was presently surprised to discover its denotation was a specifically aesthetic one. “Minimalism” proper is not so much a general idea but one that categorizes artistic creation. To think of shaping one’s life as one would a work of art is rather lovely, and it’s given a new level of meaning to the outcome of my recent challenges.

Minimalist Challenge Part 5: How I Live

Rothko Chapel, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston TX


When I set out on the Minimalist Challenge, a little part of me hoped it would eventually lead to sloughing off all my worldly possessions Thoreau-style. I’d only have the bare essentials, and living in the space and city that I do, that lifestyle is at once necessary and contrary to expectation. New York is all about more, bigger, better, and yet we still have to find a way to fit all that more onto our tiny island. The problem is ideological and practical: how can you come to the city where dreams come true if there’s no space to keep your dreams, and all the stuff they require? It seems nearly impossible to maintain the balance other than sacrificing the tangibles for the intangibles (or vice versa). And as a dreamer by nature (I am a Pisces, after all), I was not ready to force my dreams into the square-footage and budget I have.

At the same time, though, I didn’t want to abandon the material world to live entirely in my head. No matter how simply we aim to live, we can’t eliminate the fact that we have basic needs to live and function on a daily basis, and those needs can’t be met with 100% self-sufficiency. So instead of focusing on how to need less with less, I aimed to do more with what I have already. When each thing in my life can have a purpose immediate or long-term, they become tools for, not obstacles to, all my mental constructs. They’re the supplies I need to make real the castles in the sky of my imagination.

Going “minimal” has left me feeling more content with satisfying my needs of all kinds in the best way possible. After taking the time to figure out how to do so, the everyday tasks that used to cause me stress and anxiety can be more automatic and natural. From my first step out the door to the closing of my eyes at night, I know that I can live deliberately and satisfyingly in my urbanized Walden retreat.

Walden_minimalist slogan

Thoreau was the ultimate minimalist, but there are ways to abide by his life philosophies without moving to a cabin in the woods.

Also in Minimalist Challenge: Part 4 – How I Eat

Part 3 – What I Wear

Part 2 – Where I Work

Part 1 – What I Carry


Photos: Cody Austin via Flickr; jcsullivan24 via Flickr

Features Editor Jennifer Kurdyla is a New York City girl with Jersey roots and a propensity for getting lost in the urban jungle. An experienced publishing professional, yoga instructor, home chef, sometimes-runner, and writer, she adopted a vegetarian lifestyle in 2008 and became vegan in 2013. She has written for The Harvard Review Online, The Rumpus, and Music & Literature and maintains a wellness-based website, Be Nourished, which features original writing and recipes. Follow her on Facebook, Instagram @jenniferkurdyla, Twitter @jenniferkurdyla, and Pinterest.


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