Let’s Talk Minimalism + How to Achieve It


Let’s talk minimalism.

Guys, I am SO excited about this minimalism blog post and how to achieve it because I’m stepping aside and introducing my dear friend / associate, Christina DeMaio. While I have always been inspired by those who live minimally, it wasn’t until I met Christina that I really started to focus on minimizing the excess in my life. Christina has been working alongside me at Modish Digital and here on Modish & Main since April. Truth be told, she has been the greatest asset to my brand.

Christina is an incredibly talented photographer and graphic designer, but she also has insane organizational skills + actively lives a minimalist life with her husband and dog, Sydney, in Washington D.C.  (sadly, they just moved from California). I cannot wait to hand over the reigns to Christina and have her share with us her journey to minimalism and how in the world she sustains it!

Hey Everyone! My name is Christina DeMaio and I’m a Photographer, Visual Designer, and Lifestyle Blogger who loves all things organization, home decor, and style. I recently moved from Southern California to Washington D.C. with my husband, Tim, and our fur-baby, Sydney. We actually just finished settling into our new place just a few weeks ago!

Being a military family, we’ve become accustomed to moving around a lot. And although we’re kind of pros at it by now, it’s never an easy feat packing up your entire life and moving to another state (or in our case, a completely different coast!). However, this particular move went more smoothly than any of the others that we’ve experienced. And it was all thanks to making one simple yet life-altering change just a few months prior:

We became minimalists.

My journey with Minimalism started about a year ago after my husband left for his deployment overseas. We had just received word that we would be moving from California to Washington D.C. in the fall shortly after he returned, and since I knew how difficult and time consuming orchestrating a cross-country move was from experience, I decided to get ahead of the game.

I started small by getting rid of a few trinkets here, and a few blouses there. But it wasn’t until I stumbled across a documentary on Netflix one night that my eyes were opened to something that would forever change my perspective on life: Minimalism.

To be totally honest, when I first heard the term ‘Minimalism’, I pictured someone living alone in a tiny house in the middle of nowhere with no electricity, no furniture and an outhouse to do their business. Contrary to what my mind had concocted, this documentary taught me that you don’t have to sacrifice WiFi or indoor plumbing in order to become a Minimalist.

In a nutshell, the essence of Minimalism is about simply making the commitment to be more intentional about the items you’re bringing into your life and ensuring that they are serving you and adding value. It’s about living with less, not out of obligation, but because you truly want to engage in a lifestyle that allows you to focus on the things that are most important to you.

As soon as the documentary ended, I whipped out my laptop and stayed up until 2 AM reading about the perspectives of different people around the world and their experience with Minimalism. I remember messaging my husband on Facebook with so much excitement because I truly believed that this lifestyle is what we were craving in our lives. And when he agreed, it was time to get to work.

I’d like to tell you that the next day I went room to room purging like a crazy lady until only the most essential of items were left in our home. But the truth is, the process of getting to where we are today on our Minimalism journey didn’t happen overnight (as much as my OCD-planning-self wished it could have). It was an on-going process that took months and months of gradual changes in our environment and really getting honest with ourselves about what we did and did not need in our lives.

So over the course of 5 months, we went from room to room in our apartment and started selling and donating all the things that were rarely used or no longer served us:

  • Little knick-knacks scattered throughout the space
  • Books that we had read but weren’t ever planning on reading again
  • Old Magazines that were just taking up room on the bookshelf
  • Wall Art and decor that we weren’t absolutely in love with
  • Clothes and shoes that no longer fit us or that we hadn’t worn in a while
  • All those mismatched socks with a mate that was never to be seen again
  • All that Tupperware that no longer had matching lids (seriously, where do those things go?!)
  • Countless kitchen gadgets that just sat in cabinets or drawers for months on end without being used
  • Textbooks + Notebooks from my college and grad school days
  • Old board games collecting dust in the closet

The list could go on and on!

It was halfway through that process that we realized that we didn’t need as big of a space that we had been renting for the last few years. So when it was time to apartment hunt for the big move, we made the decision that we were ready to downsize from our 1,065 sq. ft. 2-bedroom apartment. Soon after, I found myself signing our names on the dotted line for a 523 sq. ft. studio. in Washington D.C.

*Gulp* There was officially no turning back now.

We knew that if we were going to live in such a small space that we needed to take our minimalism journey to the next level. So we sat down and made a list of the changes that we would need to make in order to support this decision and came up with the following action items in hopes that they would help us accomplish our goal:

Sell our current furniture in order to buy smaller pieces that fit well and are functional in our new space: We had quite a bit of furniture in our last apartment that we knew would never fit in the new place. So we decided to sell all of it (with the exception of my desk and a small side table) so that we could purchase furniture that made more sense for our space.

Since we were buying minimal furniture, we wanted to choose pieces that could double as hidden storage so that we could make the most out of the space. So we purchased a storage ottoman and a bed frame that has two large drawers in it to make up for the fact that we no longer had a dresser in our bedroom and were down to just one small closet for the two of us. Plus, since we couldn’t fit a dining table into the new space (which we didn’t find out until the day our furniture was delivered) the ottoman also makes a fantastic make-shift table when it’s time for dinner.

Adopt the habits of Project 333: My husband and I absolutely LOVE clothes and shoes (I especially love accessories) and find great joy in putting together a killer outfit for an event or a date night out. In our last apartment, we each had our own full-size walk-in closets, plus a large storage closet in the foyer—all of which were filled to their max not too long ago. But while watching that documentary on Minimalism, I was introduced to an initiative called Project 333  that completely changed everything for us.

Project 333 is a fashion challenge driven by minimalism where you’re encouraged to dress with 33 items or less for 3 months. Essentially, that includes clothing, accessories, jewelry, outerwear, and shoes. But items like underwear, wedding rings, sentimental jewelry, in-home lounge/sleepwear and workout clothes don’t count towards the 33 items. So anything that doesn’t make the cut gets sealed up in a box to be stored away while you only use the 33 items that you’ve chosen until it’s time to do a refresh in 3 months.

Doing this helped us realize that we both had so many pieces in our closets that we didn’t use. And quite frankly, we didn’t even miss most of them! Getting ready was no longer a hassle or a struggle because everything in our closet was intentionally curated. So when it came time for us to move, we decided that we were ready to take Project 333 to the next level.

And that’s when we made the decision to ONLY have 33 items each (give or take a few pieces) in our closet 24/7.

I’m not going to lie to you, this was HARD for us. Especially with sharing such a small space. But I can honestly say now that we’ve gotten into a rhythm with it, it feels so good to open our closet and only see things that we absolutely adore staring back at us organized in a way that makes it easy to get dressed every day. I now find that getting ready is more exciting and less time-consuming than ever before.

Plus, we have A LOT less laundry to deal with. Go figure!

One thing that was especially hard for me in this process was getting rid of accessories. I am 100% a sucker for cute, dainty little necklaces and dangling earrings. I used to not be able to walk into a store like Francesca’s without coming home with a bag filled with goodies. And it didn’t even phase me because the top of our dresser opened up to reveal and huge storage area just for displaying jewelry. But when we got rid of our dresser (and started implementing Project 333) I knew that I needed to curate my collection and find a way to properly store it without bringing another piece of furniture into our new space.

So that’s when I decided to use the inside of our closet door to create this little jewelry display with the few items that I truly adored. And I have to say, it’s now one of my favorite features in our home!

To create this, I picked up these gold adhesive Command hooks at Target and staggered them to make the display a little more eye-catching.

Purchase household items and make decisions to support our normal day-to-day lifestyle: I can’t tell you how many things we’ve purchased over the years because we “might” need to use them one day. Hell, we even rented that two-bedroom apartment at a $400/mo increase over the one-bedroom “just in case” anyone came to visit. Spoiler Alert: Visitors were scarce. And only a few months after we moved in, I found out that the company I was working with could no longer afford to keep me on the payroll.

Suddenly, we were struggling. Big time.

So this time around, we decided that it was time for us to start crafting our lives in a way that made sense for US and the lifestyle WE wanted to live. Hence our decision to downsize so drastically. So when it came time to buy the usual household and kitchen items for the new place, we decided to be super intentional about it.

Our kitchen cabinets now consist of:

  • 2 large plates
  • 2 small plates
  • 2 bowls
  • 4 mason jar glasses
  • 4 milk jars for smoothie meal prep
  • 4 coffee mugs
  • 2 wine glasses
  • 4 champagne flutes
  • 4 forks
  • 4 knives
  • 4 spoons
  • 1 Butcher Knife
  • 1 Regular Knife
  • 1 cookie sheet
  • 1 pizza pan
  • 1 large mixing bowl
  • 1 pizza cutter
  • 1 can opener
  • 1 corkscrew
  • 1 pasta spoon
  • 1 spatula
  • 1 set of pots
  • 1 non-stick skillet
  • 1 small cutting board
  • 1 blender
  • 1 Keurig coffee maker
  • 1 french press
  • 1 set of Tupperware WITH matching lids

Annnnnd that’s pretty much it!

We realized that with living in such a small space, we definitely weren’t going to be entertaining dinner guests all that often. So we decided to buy only what we felt we truly needed for our day-to-day living and nothing else. And the best part? We never have to use the dishwasher and the dishes don’t pile up like they used to. Which, for anyone who has ever spent hours at the sink, is honestly life-changing.

Plus, we saved so much money by only purchasing the things we truly needed and felt aligned with. Which was huge for us because man, moving across the country is expensive!

For my husband and I, adopting Minimalism into our lives was one of the best decisions we could have ever made. By making this lifestyle change, we’ve been so much happier and more optimistic. We no longer spend hours trying to keep our space neat and clean. We no longer spend hundreds of dollars a year on large storage units (although we have a teeny tiny one for all of Tim’s military gear and our Christmas Tree. Can’t forget the Christmas tree!) and we’re saving a ton on rent and utilities. By selling a huge portion of our belongings, we’ve been able to get back on our feet financially. And we’re now in a place where we can start the process of saving for all of the things we’ve always wanted to do. We’re now able to focus on bringing items into our lives with the mindset of quality over quantity. And every item in our space has been intentionally curated to make our environment feel amazing.

But I think the best part of all of this is not having to spend so much time maintaining our space and everything in it. For example, on a Saturday, we can now spend a quick 45 minutes (if that) doing a deep clean and have the rest of the weekend to explore and do whatever it is that we feel called to do that day without giving it a second thought.

And through this whole process, we now feel that our ultimate goal has been accomplished: To live with less, so that we could experience more.

I hope that this was a helpful behind the scenes look into the process of transitioning into a minimalist lifestyle and I hope that there were a few nuggets that resonated with you that you feel could add value to your lifestyle too!

But If there’s anything that I want you to take away from this post, it’s this: There is no right or wrong way to adopt Minimalism into your life. There’s no governing body that says in order to consider yourself a Minimalist that you have to live in a certain amount of square footage or only have  “x” amount of belongings in your possession. It’s YOUR journey, and although its great to gain inspiration from outside sources, only you can ultimately decide what does and doesn’t serve you. Only YOU have the power to craft a life and environment that feels good down to your core. And that unique journey is what it’s all about.

Isn’t Christina amazing!! Her studio apartment in DC is so darn cute and designed with incredible intention. You can see how she’s inspired me lately around here with my posts about feeling the urge to purgeredesigning my home office shelves, and designing with intention as seen here & here. While I’m a far cry from being even close to a minimalist, I have eliminated a TON of excess clutter in the past 60 days. I even donated over 100 pieces from my closet to a local women’s shelter. As Christina stated above, there aren’t governing rules to minimalism, just making small changes week by week can do wonders for you personally, in your home and in your relationships.

I’d love to know if you’ve tried any bit of minimalism or are now intrigued to make the first step!! Share in the comments below.

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