• Tag Archives minimalism
  • Minimalism and the Paradox of Choice

    Too many choices?We often think that the freedom to choose is the ultimate luxury and that the more choices we have, the better.

    The reality is that, beyond a certain level of freedom to choose, we actually are happier when we have some limits to our choices.

    I find this to be true with minimalism in general and both veganism and the black dress challenge in particular.

    By setting rules for myself, my life is greatly simplified. For instance, when I go grocery shopping, I don’t have to agonize over whether the free-range organic lean chicken or the organic low-fat cottage cheese is a better choice. Because the answer is: neither.

    By eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet, I automatically limit the majority of unhealthy food choices. This allows me to choose healthy fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts without having an internal dialogue about the pros and cons of each item I put into my shopping basket.

    Similarly, when I wore the same dress every day for a month, my mornings were streamlined and I could get on to other, more interesting, aspects of my day.

    These ideas are examined in a book I recently read, The Paradox of Choice: Why More is Less, by Barry Schwartz. Schwartz contends that we make a mistake when we equate liberty directly with choice. We do not increase freedom by increasing the number of options available. Rather,

    we make the most of our freedoms by learning to make good choices about the things that matter, while at the same time unburdening ourselves from too much concern about the things that don’t.

    In other words, we free our minds from the tyranny of small decisions and have time to consider the big things in greater depth.

    I think the mistake many people make is to assume that by giving things up, they will feel deprived. I believe the opposite to be true. For example, when I counsel people on making plant-based dietary choices, I emphasize that there may be some initial discomfort in giving up meat, poultry, fish, and dairy. But after a few days or weeks, the initial discomfort is replaced by a heightened feeling of health and well-being.

    In other words, limits are not the same as deprivations.

    How about you? Does setting limits in your life leave you more time to attend to things you really care about?

    image source: iStockphoto


  • The Black Dress Challenge Wrap-up

    Black Dress ChallengeRecap: I recently completed The Black Dress Challenge, in which I wore the same black dress every day for 31 days. While the dress remained constant, I rotated shoes and accessories throughout the month.

    Assessment: As I look back on the Challenge, I am struck by 3 things:

    • How easy it was.
    • How much I enjoyed it.
    • How sorry I was to see it end.

    I came to love my little uniform and the ease with which I could get dressed and get on with my day. The funny thing is, unless I mentioned it, not one single person commented on the fact that I was wearing the same dress every day. I’m not sure if this was because they did not notice, or because they did not want to hurt my feelings by pointing out an obvious sartorial faux pas. I really think it was the former.

    I also came to appreciate that limiting my clothing to one outfit is a luxury and a choice, while for for many people it is the only option. I developed a great sense of gratitude for being able to choose to participate in this self-created challenge and for being able to select from a variety of tops and accessories each day.

    And, finally, my shopping expenditures dropped significantly during this month. The old saying, “shop in your own closet first” really came home to roost, and I can say that my desire for new clothing has greatly diminished. Score another one for minimalism and sustainability!

    Goals: My main reason for attempting this challenge was to simplify my life. I also hoped to increase my creativity, become more comfortable on the other side of the camera, embrace vegan fashion, and donate to a worthy cause.

    Did I reach my goals? For the most part, yes. Below, I’ve rated my success on a scale of 1 (total dud) to 5 (total success).

    1. This black dress greatly simplified my life. It was comfortable, versatile, and adaptable enough to wear in sunny Los Angeles, temperate Oregon, and chilly Washington, D.C. It made packing for trips an absolute breeze. In fact, I was able to travel for a 4-day, cross-country trip with only a small carry-on bag and personal item. And, as I posted here, air travel while wearing leggings is a very comfortable, practical choice. Score: 5
    2. I was able to express some creativity in accessorizing. At times while staring in my closet, I drew a total blank. But knowing I would be taking a photo forced me to put together an ensemble that was both appealing and appropriate for the activities of the day. Wearing a different top every day of the month was slightly unrealistic, however, in that I typically wear the same selection of tops several times in any given month. In retrospect, it would have been more challenging to limit my shoes and tops as well. Next time… Score: 3
    3. I became slightly more comfortable on the other side of the camera. While I have done limited runway modeling, my photographic modeling experience is next to nothing. So, this was by far the most difficult part of the challenge for me. I would say I got used to the camera, but comfortable, well, only slightly more. Score: 3
    4. I am happy to say that I did not wear any animal products (wool, silk, leather) during the challenge.  I have found vegan fashion very easy to embrace. There are so many natural fiber and synthetic fiber options available today that it makes vegan dressing both simple and sustainable.  Score: 5
    5. I donated money to one of my favorite charitable causes: Global Vision 2020. This terrific organization brings self-adjustable eyeglasses to people in the developing world. I love the elegant simplicity of these eyeglasses and I am a huge fan. Score: 4

    Future: Where do I go from here? Well, much as my black dress was suitable in so many ways, it was a little long for my taste. Therefore, I am meeting with a fashion-whiz friend later this week to design a shorter version of the same dress. I will try it in black fabric first, and, if it works well, perhaps make it in a few other colors, too. Who knows, we may have a small fashion line in our future! But I’m getting way ahead of myself 🙂

    In closing, I want to thank Courtney at Be More with Less for creating the Project 333 and Meg at Minimalist Woman for bringing it to my attention. I look forward to hearing other people’s experiences with their minimalist fashion challenges. If you have any questions or comments about The Black Dress Challenge, I’d love to hear from you in the  comments below.

    Also, if you’d like to see photos of all 31 outfits for the month, you can visit The Black Dress Challenge.

    image: Day 31 of the Black Dress Challenge. © 2010. Christianna Pierce.


  • The Black Dress Challenge

    Black Dress Icon

    1 black dress, 31 days, go!

    I love a challenge and I love fashion. I also embrace minimalism.  And veganism. And philanthropy.  How, I thought, can I combine all these interests into one compelling project?

    Inspiration came from one of our dear readers, Meg, of Minimalist Woman. She happened to mention that she will be participating in Courtney Carver’s inspired Project 333: to wear 33 items for 3 months.

    Love it! But I wanted something even more focused, both in content and duration. After some contemplation, some assessment of my closet contents, and a flash of insight, Eureka!

    The Black Dress Challenge was born.

    What:

    I will wear the same little black (washable) dress every day for a month.

    I will be donning a dress I bought a couple of years ago. It is a comfy-yet-stylish and is made of an easy-care cotton/lycra blend. I’ll accessorize with things I already own and will not buy any clothing or fashion items for the entire month.

    When:

    October 1-31, 2010

    I’ve chosen the month of October because it is a fairly temperate month in my part of the world, making the wearing of a dress somewhat more feasible. It is also book-ended by World Vegetarian Day (October 1) and World Vegan Day (November 1), which provide a nice framework for the vegan aspect.

    Why:

    1. To simplify my life
    2. To express creativity
    3. To get over my camera-shyness (I’ll be posting daily pics on a designated, soon-to-be-announced blog)
    4. To embrace vegan fashion
    5. And to contribute to a good cause (by donating the money I would have spent on clothes for the month).

    Who:

    While I’m undertaking this as a personal challenge, I’d love to know if you would care to join me or participate in your own version of the Black Dress Challenge. Please let me know in the comments below.


  • What is an elegant simple life?

    clementines in silver bowl
    Clementines in Silver Bowl

    I’ve chosen to call this blog elegant simple life for several reasons:

    Elegant, because it focuses on the beauty and grace inherent in simplicity.

    Simple, because it does not have to be complicated.

    Life, because it encompasses the whole canvas of being, not just segments of existence.

    Elegant. Simple. Life. For me, this is both an affirmation and a goal. It is about living with less stuff and more joy in an atmosphere of tranquility and beauty.

    I’d like to focus on the concept of elegance for a moment because I have just finished reading  In Pursuit of Elegance: Why the Best Ideas Have Something Missing, by Matthew E. May.  I love May’s statement, “…not everything simple is elegant, but everything elegant is simple.”

    Elegance is not a matter of money or upbringing or education. Instead, it is a matter of attitude, a lens through which one views the world. Ultimately, elegance is a state of mind.

    This concept gets to the core of simple living and minimalism. Living a simple life is not about hardship and asceticism. It does not require doing without all the joys and simple pleasures that make life just a little bit sweeter.

    Rather, elegant simple living means identifying what is essential and releasing the rest. And that will look different for everyone.

    And that is what makes it feasible. There are no rules of right or wrong. What is elegant simplicity to one person may be the height of consumerism to another. Conversely, an elegantly simple choice for one individual may look like borderline poverty to somebody else.

    Thankfully, the world of simple living and minimalism is large enough to contain a wide range of attitudes. This keeps it interesting and fresh and available to everybody. The underlying premise is that we are consciously seeking to live fulfilling lives with less stuff and more room for the things that matter.  The rest is open to interpretation. And that, to me, is simply elegant.


  • Dumpster Fun! How We Kick-Started our Minimalism

    The heavy “krr-chunnk!” sound of the dumpster being delivered to our driveway stirred me from doing the morning crossword puzzle.  I ran outside to greet the driver and waved as he pulled out of sight, leaving behind a 3-cubic yard drop box.  It was ours for five days.  Five precious days! To fill with all the unsaleable, non-charitable junk we had accumulated in the prior ten years of living our typical suburban lives.

    In preparation for the arrival of the dumpster, I had spent the prior week going through my office closet, spare room closet, guest bathroom, art studio, and several other nooks and crannies of our home.  So when the great bin arrived, I was ready to spring into action.

    Toss…fling…hurl!

    It was almost like a game, a race against time, to make the most of the five days.  And the clock was ticking…

    My husband and I spent the entire weekend cleaning the yard and clearing out the double car garage that had seldom had room for more than one (small) car. Old, soggy doormats; broken garden pots; unsalvageable debris from a recent remodel; and remnants of ancient, half-finished craft projects were heaved into the abyss of the dumpster.  Gardening supplies, power tools, and sleeping bags all found their way into neat, organized shelves.

    But as we got deeper into the project, it became clear that the dumpster was only part of the solution.  So much of our stuff was recyclable or reusable and not something we could simply throw away. The collection of old paint and toxic cleaning chemicals and fertilizer and motor oil filled the entire cargo capacity of our car.  Dropping it all off at the (free!) hazardous waste center was such a relief! Likewise, it was wonderful to donate a box full of outdated computer cables, cell phone cords, and miscellaneous computer hardware to Free Geek for refurbishing and reuse.

    As the five days flew by, we did manage to fill the dumpster with unusable junk.  I was delighted when the driver came by on the appointed morning and carted the giant drop box away.

    While we were nowhere near completing our task, this whirlwind dumpster-cleanse served as a great kick-start to our purifying purge and shift towards minimalism.  And, yes, two cars could now conceivably fit into the garage.  If only there were not a ping-pong table in the way!


  • elegant simple life: a new blog about living with less stuff & more joy

    Bright Tulips, photo by Christianna Pierce

    The Vernal Equinox marks the transition between the cold, dark days of winter and the bright, new life of spring. It seems like a fitting time to launch “elegant simple life,” a blog which will focus on living a life of lightness and elegant simplicity.

    I have been moving towards a more minimalist life-style due to a number of factors, which you can read about here. Instrumental in this decision has been the inspiration I have received from reading the wonderful blogs on minimalism and simple living prevalent in the blogosphere. Yes, I’m talking about you, Miss Minimalist, Rowdy Kittens, Becoming Minimalist, mnmlist, Far Beyond the Stars, Simple Minimalism, … and many more that I’ve listed here.

    Is there a need for another blog on minimalism? Truly, who wants to read yet another blog by a suburban wife/mother of teens/plant-based dietitian/minimalist/amateur photographer/meditator/Arrested Development aficionada? I mean, really, isn’t that niche already taken? But in the off chance that there is room for one more, I hereby throw my non-wool, non-leather, eco-friendly fiber hat into the minimalist blogging ring.

    I hope you’ll join me!