Alyssa J Freitas

May 24, 2017

How To Be A REAL Minimalist

For maximum enjoyment, read this tongue in cheek. *Note: you can generally identify a minimalist based on their large felt hat that they will wear with every outfit. They are a minimalist, after all, and so only have one hat* 
Click to check this out now or pin to save for later! Ever wonder what it takes to be a real minimalist? This satire piece will tell you all about it
Minimalism. Simplicity. Living more life with less stuff.

White walls. White sheets. White phones. White space.

Cohesive. Coordinated.

Mindful. Meditative.

So you want to learn about minimalism? Let's start where it matters most: your Instagram. Here are some screenshots of what you should be aiming for:

What do we see? Artfully arranged possessions on white backgrounds. Clear spaces with one, far away subject. Whitewash everything. Lighten all photos. When you post to Instagram, make sure you write a simple caption then use a ton of ..d....o.....t.......s.... followed by MANY hidden hashtags. People need to be able to find your photos, after all. You're a minimalist, but you want the maximum amount of likes.

What else is important for a minimalist? Your closet. Your closet is key. Arrange it by color. This won't be too difficult because you will also clean out. Does that top "spark joy?" If not, toss it (after thanking it for its service, of course). All that is left is a pile of black sweaters and oversized blouses. Welcome to your monochromatic capsule wardrobe. You will no longer have to think about what to wear because you only have one option. Your life has been dramatically improved.

Now how about your home? That's easy. If an item doesn't serve a purpose, get rid of it. If it does serve a purpose, see if you can eliminate the need. For example, how about tossing all of your drinking glasses? You can always bend your head down to the faucet. This will allow you to display everything in your kitchen on open shelves because now all you own is a bowl and a spork (so much better than having a spoon AND a fork). Your life has been simplified and even problems that you didn't think related to your kitchen have been magically solved.

*Have an empty Instagram like the photo* Let's talk about your digital life. I bet it's cluttered. I bet you have too many apps. Too many notifications popping up. It's time for a digital detox. Turn off your notifications. Only look at your phone 3.7 times throughout the day for 11.29 minutes. That's how the real minimalists do it. Spend your time on important things.

Oh, and speaking of spending, you can ONLY spend on experiences, not things. Unless those things are plants, marble covered notebooks, and string lights. Then you absolutely must buy them, preferably from overpriced Etsy shops. This will make you feel calm and good about supporting small artists (if you're a minimalist, there will undoubtedly also be hipster tendencies in your behavior).

Another important aspect of being a minimalist is to create time for yourself and to keep your calendar clear for the things that really add value to your life. Say no to nearly everything.

Is it actually necessary for you to work on that project for your job?
Let's go with "no."

And how about spending time on your taxes?
That isn't really a reflection of the values of your life.

Clear your calendar for self care and wellness. Actually, keep a minimalist bullet journal instead. That's such a better, less time consuming way to track your schedule than a calendar.

Before I forget, when it does come to your workspace, all you need is a computer (and it must be a Mac) and a glass with a leaf in it. That is one glass you're allowed to keep.

That is all you need to know to be a minimalist. But of course, as you learn more about this lifestyle from podcasts and YouTube videos and blog posts like this, you should be sure to like and subscribe and check back next week for even MORE tips.

-AJF
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My inspiration for this post came from a combination of my own constant searching for more information about minimalism and the realization that there isn't just one way to be a "minimalist" (and that the most popular advice and images don't actually get at the heart of the reason for owning less). Plus, I just had a really good time making fun of myself and others so-called minimalists out there on the web. Hopefully this gave you a good laugh!   

May 17, 2017

The Case For Vulnerability

At the final staff meeting of the year (for my job as a CA, which is a Community Advisor, often referred to as an RA at other schools) my boss had us write down what we were proud of personally accomplishing, what we were proud of our staff members for achieving, and then what we had overcome during the course of the year.
Check it out now, or pin to save for later! As scary and tough as it is, being vulnerable is the way to deepen your relationships with others and yourselves. Here's the case for embracing vulnerability and how to do it
She set up three large sheets of paper on the wall and with great enthusiasm we ran over to write why we were proud of ourselves and others. In large letters we recorded our happiness with what had been accomplished and praised one another. However, when it came to writing what we had overcome this year, a completely different image emerged. Instead of proud declarations of the fears we had left in the dust, we instead wrote in small letters what we kinda, sorta thought we had overcome. The sense of embarrassment and uncertainty was evident as we questioned if we had in fact really conquered these fears:

Fear of failure.

Fear of imperfection.

Fear of vulnerability.

(That last one was mine) It's scary to be vulnerable. It's scary to let others see that you are anything less than happy and upbeat and perfect. It's scary to admit out loud that you are unsure of your abilities and your body and your future. Although we logically recognize that we are all dealing with insecurities and challenges, actually opening up and letting our walls come down is a whole different game.

Why is vulnerability so scary?

I just used the word "scary" a lot in that previous paragraph so it's pretty clear that I view voicing concerns to be difficult. From some self reflection and non-scientific searching on the internet, I've determined 2 key reasons for this:
  1. The response of the other person (including their perception of us) is uncertain
  2. Verbalizing a feeling from inside our head to the world removes our sense of control
Those are some heavy reasons, huh? Let's deal with the first one first.

When you reveal yourself to another person you never know what the response will be. You could be met with support and encouraging words, they might have no idea how to respond, or the potential exists that instead of validation your feelings will be dismissed.

When it comes to giving voice to your thoughts, it generally feels like they are safer in your mind than out in the world. Once you express them you open yourself up to the responses of others, like mentioned before, but you also get to experience the relief of letting out what has been on your mind. *I'm thinking that I can address the idea of letting go of control later because that's easily an entire blog post by itself. In the meantime, just know you can't control everything no matter how much you want to and releasing that control can often draw you closer to others.*

It's scary, I don't like it, why are you telling me to do this?

Ok, now that it's evident that vulnerability is straight up terrifying for most of us, why in the world am I writing this post, no doubt encouraging you to do what is uncomfortable and providing you with some practical tips at the end (I do so love my action steps)? Because, like anything else, to be courageous and grow you have to push yourself outside of your comfort zone.

There are a couple of key benefits that come from vulnerability:
  1. You understand yourself better, give voice to your concerns, and can therefore acknowledge them and start to take steps to address it
  2. The strengthening of relationships that come through revealing yourself is remarkable. You can find common ground with others that you didn't even know you had, experience support while encouraging others to express themselves in return, and then grow together
Now, I am not suggesting that we need to go around bearing our soul to anyone and everyone. Quite the opposite, in fact! There are varying degrees of vulnerability and each conversation with someone either helps you both to grow in trust or shows you that delving deeper may not be the best idea.

While never wrecking, as The Lumineers said, "It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all." Instead of hanging on to the image of infallible strength we like to project, and avoiding any situation that may cause us pain, it is far better to risk hurt to give validity to our feelings than to push them down and pretend they don't exist. Check out this music video of my favorite song from their first album.


Ok, ok, let's hear about those action steps now

Well, I am so glad you asked ;) Here's the deal: this is not easy. For you, for me. At all. In fact, I have been known to run away (both figuratively and literally...although when it comes to literally it was more like an "ah, um, I need to go to the bathroom now," removing myself from the situation sort of a deal) when I feel weak or exposed. But vulnerability does not need to be some great soul revealing, highly emotional situation. There are countless opportunities to inject truth and feelings into your interactions in order to be more real, rather than maintaining a facade.
  • When a friend asks how are you, actually tell them
  • When someone hurts you, express to them the real reason why
  • When you are feeling insecure, share it with those who love you
Taking small steps like this to be more mindful in your day to day interactions will teach you to be more open and to find strength in your insecurities and relationships. Despite listing this as something I have "overcome" this year, it is a constant work in progress. Learning when and where it is appropriate to discuss certain things is essential, but once you do, experiencing the validity and relief of sharing your thoughts will encourage you to continue to explore vulnerability and gently draw it out of others.

Of course, I would be remiss not to mention Dr. Brene Brown in a post on vulnerability. If you don't want to/have the time to read her more extensive work (no worries, I didn't either), you can watch her TED Talk on the subject.




Do you embrace vulnerability? What do you think about its role in our lives? 


-AJF
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May 16, 2017

Graduation Etiquette

Ok, I know that on Thursday I told you I would henceforth only be posting on Wednesdays and today is clearly a Tuesday. However, I did a guest post for Lucy-Claire's blog, Sunny Days and Lovely Ways (you can check out an interview I did with Lucy-Claire back in 2015 here), all about graduation etiquette. Since I'm graduating in two days (!!!) I decided not to wait to share this.

Here is a preview of the post and you can visit Lucy-Claire's blog to read the rest here:
Click to check it out now or pin to save for later! Today we're talking all about graduation etiquette. Whether you are graduating or attending someone else's celebration, here's what you need to know
Congratulations on your (or one of your friend’s, sister’s, brother’s, boyfriend’s, girlfriend’s, cousin’s) graduation! Can you believe it’s finally here? Graduation season comes with relevant etiquette to ensure your celebrations are fun, welcoming, and enjoyable for all. Today we’re going to discuss some common graduation situations and how to properly handle it all.

I was invited to two parties at the same time…how do I navigate this? 

How very popular you are! While it is great to have so many friends you can sometimes end up having to decide where to spend your time. There are a couple of options here:
  • You can choose to go to one party based on any criteria you like (what’s closer, more convenient, who are you better friends with) 
  • You can start at one party and then make your way to the other, being gracious to both hosts and letting them know that you promised to make a stop elsewhere 
  • You can freak out and not go to either party 
  • OR (my favorite option) you can go to one party and treat the other host to a special meal or fun activity to celebrate another time What’s most important is that you are honest and transparent so feelings do not get hurt.

To read the rest of the graduation etiquette I discussed, go on over to Sunny Days and Lovely Ways!

-AJF
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May 11, 2017

Some Changes Around Here

Hey there! How's it going? I can't believe that it's my last full week of college. I'm in the midst of finals and getting ready to graduate and am wondering how I am going to measure my life once I don't have semesters to use as a benchmark (do you use months? quarters? seasons? Further investigation is needed).

If you haven't noticed, my posts have been getting a lot longer and I've been going more in depth on the topics I'm choosing to discuss. Since posting about clickbait, and more importantly the idea behind posts made of more fluff than substance, I've made a concentrated effort to provide increased value with my writing. That's not to say that the shorter work isn't good (and has the benefit of being a lot quicker to read hahaha), but I've found more enjoyment and fulfillment in what I've recently been creating.
Check it out now or pin to save for later! As I'm going through life transitions (hello graduation!) there is an emerging realization that my work has been changing to. Here's how I plan to address it on the blog
Around this time in 2015 (May 1 to be exact), I made the transition from posting three times a week to two. I described how I wanted to focus on quality over quantity and I am proud of what I have done over the past two years. Another point I made was that I would not be more wordy for the sake of it, but rather would add more detail where helpful. This is a standard that I will continue to hold myself to.

Now, I'm making another schedule transition to posting one time instead of two times per week. You can be on the lookout for a new post every Wednesday morning!

Also, I've made a small navigation adjustment. The topics at the top of the page are more in line with the content I'm producing and you can hover over "Career," "Lifestyle," and "Musings" for some subtopics as well. This will allow you to browse the archives easier and provides a clear direction for where this lovely blog is going.

You'll continue to see a mix of lighthearted (in fact, I am working on a satire piece right now that I am excited to share!) and more serious posts, but all of them will be packed with thoughtfulness and details. After all, "the goal of this blog is to provide you with ideas and resources to enhance your lifestyle and relationship with others" so it only makes sense that we have some fun and serious conversations in equal parts.

Thank you to everyone who continues to stop by and read. I'll see you next Wednesday!

-AJF
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May 9, 2017

The Case For Life Outside Of Your Comfort Zone

Last week I mentioned that I had been thinking about comfort zones and how I am about to leave mine in a big way - graduating college. Today we're going to discuss why your comfort zone is compelling, what happens when we leave the zone, why (despite that) we need to leave it, and, most importantly, how to do it. Note: if you want a pretty cool desktop background to remind you to leave your comfort zone, designed by yours truly, take a look at this post.
Check it out now or pin it to save for later! Life inside your comfort zone is alright, but literally nothing interesting ever happens there. Time to figure out how to push yourself out

Why do we like comfort zones so dang much?

Since the beginning of time humans have been working to improve our situation and seeking out comfort. From discovering fire (hello, cooked food and warmth!), to designing plumbing, to creating superstores with products for every possible physiological need, we have been on a constant quest of comfort and ease. Over the centuries that has extended from the mere basics of survival to pleasure activities and making mundane acts far more convenient (do you ever find yourself thinking about how much of a pain it must have been before laundry machines...no?...just me?...I mean, look at that poor girl!...anyway). 
Something that has been consistent, however, is the desire to be in comfortable relationships, occupations, and living a life of ease and little conflict. We seek out situations where we feel safe and know that we can meet expectations. We refrain from speaking up in class because it is more comfortable to sit and listen. We don't try to run an organized race because we prefer to be on our own and not push ourselves when we may not perform as we wish to. We don't tell our friend that we have romantic feelings for them because it is less scary to keep that to ourselves and continue on with the status quo of our relationship. 

Takeaway: we like our comfort zone because we abhor the negative potentials of the unknown 

What happens when we leave the zone?

We know that we can get through life well enough without exiting our precious comfort zone. No doubt, we've seen other people in our lives do it. But what about those people who bravely (or brashly, depending on where you are in your comfort zone mindset and journey hahaha) step outside and do something without knowing what the result will be, and not really liking some of the potentials?

Well, for our friend who doesn't speak up in class, but one day decides to give it a try, they could end up saying the right answer or feeling humiliated when they get it wrong. And how about our pal who has interest in running a race, but is afraid of how they will perform? On race day they may end up exceeding their own expectations or they may embarrassingly be in the bottom times. Oh, and what of our love-struck friend who decides enough is enough and finally reveals their feelings to the object of their affection? We may find ourselves celebrating the reciprocation or need to run to the grocery store for some pints of Ben and Jerry's.    

*Can we please take a moment real quick to appreciate the throwback to Aquamarine? I loved that movie in middle school (ok, and I may have watched it once or twice in high school too)*

With all of these scary outcomes it is no wonder that we want to desperately stay where we are comfortable. When we do leave we experience anxiousness, uncertainty, and thoughts that we may be worse off than when we started. 

Takeaway: when we leave our comfort zone, our brains freak out 

Why do we need to get the heck out anyway?

Alright, now we know that as humans we've always been in pursuit of comfort and that staying in our comfort zones makes everything feel much easier. So why leave? I have an inkling that what I am about to share with you is something you've heard before, or you've at least seen a quote or two on Pinterest about it: great things never came from comfort zones.

Can you call to mind any time when you felt incredibly accomplished and there wasn't some discomfort leading up to it?

When you won that competition, did you enter it completely at ease and unworried? Nope, didn't think so.

And how about when you asked that person out and they said yes and you were on top of the world? Yeah, I'm guessing your palms were sweating and you were just about ready to sink into the ground before hearing their answer.

And maybe it worked out better than you imagined, or maybe it didn't. But doubtless you learned something from the experience, developed more, and are now even better equipped to move forward. If you don't take chances or put yourself in situations where you are challenged you can never hope to progress.


As you can see via this scientific graphic I have created for you, stars are not born in your comfort zone. Instead, you must venture out of the circle to go to the challenging, magical growth area. This is where the grand failures and successes happen. This is where the excitement is. This is where you find out that you are a lot tougher than you thought and that you want more out of life than you had even know was possible.

Takeaway: growth will NEVER happen in our comfort zones

How do I get to the challenging, magical growth area? Please take me there.

Are you thoroughly convinced now that your comfort zone is no place to live (I bet it was the graphic, right?)? Once you realize this, your next thought will most likely be something along the lines of "No more comfort zone for me! I'm going to get out there! I'm going to the magic area...once I figure out how." There is no one way to make it out of your comfort zone, and it certainly won't happen overnight or for every facet of your life. Yet, there are some ways that you can begin your journey out of your comfort zone and pursue opportunities that will challenge you.

  • Say yes to things that you want to say no to. Ok, this is the type of advice that requires a lot of discretion and should not be taken 100% literally. Don't say yes to dangerous situations or bad people. Don't say yes to pressure or expectations that don't align with your values. DO say yes to trying a new food and participating in a new activity. DO say yes to taking on a challenge that scares you or a class that is outside of your area of expertise.
  • Focus on one area at a time. It's nerve wrecking to get out there, never mind trying to push yourself 24/7. Instead of looking at every part of your life and thinking that you need to be trying something different, pick a few key areas. If you have become complacent and content in your friendships, suggest going to a new activity or bringing up topics of conversation that require vulnerability. If you want to push yourself more in your career, commit to seeking out a project that challenges you at least once a month. As you become more bold in a certain respect, you will be able to translate that to other elements of your life. 
  • Realize that it will be uncomfortable, and you will face setbacks, but that it is essential for your development. Leaving your comfort zone will be uncomfortable. You may be embarrassed, thrown off, and want to run away again. However, if you keep the perspective that hurdles are inevitable, you'll be prepared and ready to give it another try. 
Takeaway: it's going to be hard, but it's worth it

What is required is a shift of mindset. To go from fear to acceptance of the work that is required for the magical things to happen. The vulnerability and difficulties and effort are all worth it no matter the end result because you will have grown and learned about yourself in the process. You will also be even more ready to tackle the next challenge once you have taken the first step.

How do you feel about comfort zones? Are you stuck in yours? How do you move boldly forward in the face of fear?


-AJF