Hiking Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

Last weekend I took a trip to the coast and ended up visiting the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach. If you follow my blog (hit the follow button on the right if you don’t), you know that I love hiking and exploring new places, so I was super excited to discover Bolsa Chica. I haven’t gotten to do as much exploring in California as I’ve wanted, so a trip to Bolsa Chica is just what I needed.

History

Bolsa Chica has a tumultuous history. The earliest known inhabitants lived here 8,000 years ago, but not much is known about them. Since then, other Native American groups have moved in, later to be culturally dominated and killed by diseases brought by Spanish colonists and missionaries.

It was one of these Spaniards, Joaquin Ruiz, who gave the land its name. His sister had inherited land from her father-in-law and given Joaquin 8,000 acres of her inheritance. She had named her land Rancho Las Bolsas, The Purses, so he called his small tract of land Rancho La Bolsa Chica, The Little Purse.

In the 1800s, when California became part of the United States, Spanish land grants were required to be registered. Many Spaniards had to take out loans to pay these registrations that they could not repay, and so lost their land. A portion of Bolsa Chica was lost in this way and sold to some Los Angeles businessmen for a duck hunting preserve. The tides made for poor hunting, so a dam was built across one of the channels. In a short while, this dam transformed the salt water marshes into fresh water ponds, devastating the local ecology.

In the 1900s, Bolsa Chica was the site of oil and natural gas drilling and later an artillery battery during World War II. In 2004, efforts began to restore Bolsa Chica to its original conditions. More than 500 acres have been restored thus far.

Environment & Wildlife

Bolsa Chica is a salt marsh wetland. It is also a seasonal estuary, where the ocean tide and the river current flow into each other. Salt water enters the wetlands throughout the year at several points. During the rainy season, freshwater flows into the wetlands through a flood control channel. The meeting of salt water and fresh water creates brackish conditions in several areas of the park.

One of the main draws to Bolsa Chica are the birds. Hundreds of bird species frequent the reserve, so you’ll be sure to spot something cool during your visit. I saw plenty of sandpipers and other water birds fishing, but my favorite birds were the hummingbirds. There were several flitting among the flowers along the path. I got as close as I could to get some pictures before the moved on to the next flower.

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There’s plenty of life in the water as well. Since Bolsa Chica is on the ocean, marine life abounds. Be sure to bring polarized sunglasses so things in the water are easier to spot. I saw a school of smelt, which looked really cool with the sun reflecting off their bodies as they swam. I also spotted a little stingray, which I was excited about because I’ve never seen one in the wild before. If you’re lucky, you may also see a shark or a guitarfish or even an octopus hiding behind the rocks.

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Of course, you’ll always see animals on land when you hike. I saw plenty of rabbits and ground squirrels running around. They do blend in with the brown dirt and grass really well, though, so you have to have a good eye to spot them. I don’t often see wild lizards, so I was very excited to spot a western fence lizard.

Hiking

There are 5 miles of trails at Bolsa Chica. I hiked along the Mesa Trail and part of the Pocket Loop Trail. The trails are very well maintained and mostly flat, so it isn’t a strenuous place to hike as long as you stay on the trails.

If you go off the trails, there are rattlesnakes, black widows and poison oak to contend with. Bolsa Chica is also home to some rare and endangered plants and animals, so staying on the trails can prevent damage to the plants and the animals’ environment.

A trail map of Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve can be found here.

George Kimmel is an Okay Comedian

On Sunday I went with some friends to the Irvine Improv to see Bobby Lee perform. One of those friends was George Kimmel, who is the producer of Bobby Lee’s podcast, Tigerbelly, and had managed to get recruited as the opener. George has only ever done open mics before. He is an okay comedian.

The thing about being a comedian is that being funny is not enough. You also have to be good at working a crowd. There are so many funny people who are terrible comedians. I’ve been to open mic nights that George has hosted and been the test audience for some of his jokes, so I knew he wasn’t going to be terrible. At least I hoped he wouldn’t be. There is a big difference between performing at an open mic and opening for Bobby Lee in front of 500 people.

George was practicing some of his jokes on us on the way to Irvine. He was worried about some futon jokes that he hadn’t quite figured out yet. He assured us that he wasn’t going to tell the futon jokes because he was still working on them.

The host, Brenton Biddlecombe, was super funny. He introduced George as the producer of Tigerbelly. George is the producer of Tigerbelly, but he’s also a comedian. Sort of. Being introduced as a producer doesn’t exactly set the audience up to expect him to be funny.

George was super confident when he walked on stage. We were excited. He was going to be good. He started talking about futons.

Nobody else was laughing quite as much as we were, but the important thing is that there were people laughing. It was George’s first big performance and he wasn’t dying. He wasn’t killing, but he wasn’t dying.

The audience wasn’t quite on his side during his set, but they weren’t against him either. He was funny enough that people were okay with him being onstage for several minutes. And then the worst thing happened. He forgot his next bit.

And he won the audience over even more. George forgot what he was going to say on stage in front of 500 people and he managed not to freeze. Instead he just admitted that he’d forgotten his next bit and started ranting about how Bobby had told him this would happen. It was hilarious.

Brenton made fun of him for bombing. The next comedian, Craig Conant, spent the beginning of his set just making fun of how much George had bombed. George had bombed. But he had also been kind of funny.

I think the main reason George is an okay comedian is that he walked on stage confident and maintained that confidence throughout his set. He didn’t acknowledge that the majority of the audience wasn’t laughing at him, he just kept going knowing that some of the audience was laughing. After the show Brenton and Craig and Bobby were telling him how much he had bombed, but he just kept insisting that he had been great. He hadn’t been great, but he hadn’t been terrible either. George Kimmel is an okay comedian.

If you want to see George perform, he hosts open mic nights most Wednesdays at Tribal Cafe in Los Angeles.

New Year’s in Saline Valley

My boyfriend, Bryce, and his friends have a tradition of camping in Saline Valley for New Year’s. This was my first year going with them.

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It was getting dark as we headed into the desert, and the view of the joshua trees against the sunset and the mountains rising up in the distance was beautiful. Saline Valley is surrounded by mountains, both from the Sierra Nevada Range and the Inyo Mountains. As we drove in over washes that made the road almost impassable (completely impassable to 2-wheel drive vehicles), I was told that when it gets cold, the three passes into the valley can become snowed in and visitors can be trapped in Saline Valley for up to a week while they wait for the snow to melt. We lost phone service almost immediately after leaving Lone Pine, the last town before the valley, so a week trapped in Saline means a week with no way to contact the outside world.

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As we drove through the mountains via South Pass, Bryce and his cousin George talked about hearing about a car that had flipped on the way in, as well as a Jeep Cherokee that had caught fire and been abandoned. When we arrived at our campsite, Bryce’s cousin Doug and his wife Dana told us they had heard about a car flipping on North Pass as well. The car that had flipped on South Pass was gone by the time we drove in, but we passed the burnt out Cherokee. It was still there when we left four days later.

Saline Valley has historically been home to nomadic communities. The original inhabitants were the Timbisha Shoshone and their ancestors. Petroglyphs from these ancient peoples can still be found in parts of the Valley. Some of our group had hiked to find some of these petroglyphs before and Bryce’s cousin Doug was able to show us where they were. It was amazing standing in a place and knowing that thousands of years before, other people had stood in that place and made these markings on the rocks.

Salt mining began in the valley in the early 1900s. Bryce had pointed out some salt flats as we drove into the desert. Most of Saline Valley is a dry lake, part of which is still a salt marsh. A tram had been built to carry the salt from the valley over the Inyo Mountains to the Owens Valley on the other side of the mountains. The remains of this tram, the steepest ever constructed in the United States, is still in the valley along with other remnants of the salt mining operation.

Much of the salt flat is solid enough to walk on if you’re careful. If you step wrong, it’s easy to punch through the salt to fall into the water and mud beneath. Bryce and I had fun finding salt crystals in the footprints of people who had stepped through the salt. As the salt forms into crystals, other minerals are drawn out, giving the crystals layers of colors beneath the white salt.

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In more modern times, the hot springs in the valley drew hippies who built the tubs at the campground we were headed to. Water is piped from the sources of the springs to the four tubs for visitors to soak in.

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The upper springs at the north end of the campground has the Volcano Pool and the Wizard Pool. Wizard Pool is named after Wizard, who was camp host, a permanent resident and caretaker of the valley, until his death. I heard the pool was named after him because he once spent an entire day soaking in it and drinking beers without ever getting out.

The lower springs at the south end of the campground has the Sunrise Pool and the Crystal Pool, the spout of which is surrounded by crystals found nearby. There’s also a grassy area next to the lower springs, along with a koi pond and another small tub.

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I was the only first-time visitor from our group, so I was shown where the showers are to rinse off in and where the footbath to rinse your feet at each pool is. I had been told that most of the visitors to the springs were old timers who had been coming for years, but they clearly weren’t the secret oasis they once were. There were more young people than old timers and many seemed not to know the rules about showering and rinsing your feet to keep the hotpots clean for everyone.

The spirit of the original builders of the oasis prevails in the modern day and most people soak nude in the hotpots, though there are still many who choose to wear swimsuits.

Though secrecy of the hot springs’ location is encouraged to protect them from an influx of tourists and people who won’t respect the communal atmosphere, I heard plenty of rumors of famous visitors through the years. The most legendary of these was Charles Manson, who several people told me had visited with some of his followers.

Most of Saline Valley became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994, which brought new regulations to the springs. While before there had been many people who were permanent or semi-permanent residents, now there is a 30 day per year limit on how long visitors can stay. The exceptions are camp hosts, like Wizard. The current camp host is Lizard Lee, who oversees the care and cleanliness of the springs.

The annexation into Death Valley National Park created a controversy for the springs. The improvements of creating the hotpots with water piped from the sources and the green space and pond would not have been allowed had it happened as part of a national park. However, these improvements were created and became a beloved part of the valley before annexation. There have been suggestions of dismantling the hotpots and green spaces and returning the springs to their natural state, but for now it seems those plans are on hold.

I’m lucky that plans for dismantling the hotpots have not yet been put into action. Spending the new year surrounded by friends and strangers all brought together by a sense of community and a love for the desert and the springs was an amazing experience. I can’t wait to see what new adventures lie in store for me this year that will lead me back to Saline Valley.

Thanks to George and Bryce for contributing photos to this post.

Two Weeks in LA: Days 7-9

I’m visiting my boyfriend, Bryce, in Los Angeles for two weeks before I move here at the end of December.

I’ve been here for a few days already and we’ve been having a lot of fun. Check out my previous blogs to see what we did my first few days here.

 

On Monday Bryce took me to the Grand Central Market and we got breakfast at Eggslut, which is super good. There are so many places to eat at Grand Central, I feel like I could probably just live in the building and never get bored with all the food.

Books for days. #thelastbookstore #vsco

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After breakfast, we walked down to the Last Bookstore, which is the coolest bookstore ever. Bryce had a lot of fun taking pictures and posing me.

On Tuesday we drove out to Long Beach to see the ocean and drive up the coast.

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We stopped at the Wayfarer’s Chapel, a Swedenborgian church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. There was a wedding going on, so we couldn’t go inside the church, but we had fun looking at the views.

 

We stopped at a Trader Joe’s and got hummus, cheese, and crackers for lunch, then drove up to Manhattan Beach to walk out onto the pier. There were some people out surfing, but there weren’t really any waves, so it was about the same as watching the surfers in Milwaukee.

On Wednesday we went to the Arts District. We stopped at the Hauser & Wirth gallery, which had a few exhibitions.

Ellen Gallagher: Accidental Records is on view until January 28. Bryce and I really liked this exhibition. It draws inspiration from sea voyages and a lot of the pieces are really cool.

 

Mike Kelley: Kandors 1999-2011 was also on view and will be until January 21. It features illuminated representations of Kandor, the city Superman was born in. One gallery features Kelley’s early Kandor drawings and many of the illuminated cities and the other features Kelley’s take on a post-apocalyptic world. We didn’t realize they are part of the same exhibition and went into the post-apocalyptic one first. While we liked all of the work, I think we would have enjoyed the exhibition more if we had viewed the drawings and illuminated cities first and the post-apocalyptic view second.

Two Weeks in LA: Days 4-6

I’m visiting my boyfriend, Bryce, in Los Angeles for two weeks before I move here at the end of December.

I’ve been here for a few days already and we’ve been having a lot of fun. Check out my previous blog to see what we did my first few days here.

On Friday we stayed home most of the day and worked on our resumes. Getting all of my work experience onto one page is super difficult.

Friday night we went to Red Lion, the German restaurant Bryce had wanted to go to on Wednesday, with Bryce’s cousin Doug and his wife Dana. It turned out Red Lion was having a Krampusnacht, so it was really crowded and hard to get a table. We managed to snag one right before St. Nicholas walked in. He just walked around talking to people. However the Krampuses came in after him. We think there were five of them. They wore furry costumes with horns on their masks and bells on their butts and carried brooms that they spanked people with.

On Saturday we went to a gallery opening for Ron English at the Corey Helford Gallery. Miro Hirano also had work featured as part of the exhibition.

After the art show, we went to the Arts District Brewing Co. where we played skeeball. Bryce is very convinced I should like beer, so he got me a nut brown ale, which is not awful. I also did pretty well at skeeball.

On Sunday, Bryce’s cousin George wanted to go see the new Blade Runner movie. I haven’t seen the first one, so Bryce and I watched it in the afternoon before we went to see the new one at the theatre that evening.

Afterward we went to a taco truck called Taco Zone, where George told me to get mulitas de suadero. He didn’t know what kind of meat suadero is, so we looked it up. It is a delicious cut of beef.

Two Weeks in LA: Days 1-3

I’m visiting my boyfriend, Bryce, in LA for the next two weeks before I move here in December.

On Tuesday morning, my mom and I packed her car with my two carry-on bags that I had filled as full as possible. I have a little lock to make sure my suitcase doesn’t come unzipped accidentally, so I wasn’t worried about shoving as much as possible in it.

I was flying out of Minneapolis, so we left early to drive there. We had time to visit a brewing store to get my mom a cheese making kit and some Christmas presents for my brothers. We also stopped at Blick’s art store where my mom got herself a drafting table. Our final stop before the airport was the aquarium at the Mall of America. We had gotten season passes at the beginning of the summer, but this was only our second visit since we got the passes.

My flight left at 3:15, so we got to the airport around 2. The road we took to the airport didn’t have the airlines listed for each terminal, so I had to look up on my phone which terminal my mom should drop me off at for Sun Country (Terminal 2). MSP does not have a recombobulation area after security, so it was super annoying trying to get my shoes back on and my computer and liquids back in my bag. Every airport should have a recombobulation area after security.

Since I got to the airport an hour before my flight, I didn’t have long to wait before boarding. Overhead baggage space filled up really quickly, so I had to check my little suitcase. It was free to check, since it should have been a carry-on. When I boarded, however, I noticed that there were several overhead compartments that were almost empty or completely empty, so I should have been able to keep my suitcase with me.

My flight was four hours next to some teenage boy who had giant elbows and no concept of personal space. I texted Bryce when I landed at 5:15 (I lost two hours due to the time difference) and he was 20 minutes away still, but he ended up having to circle the airport once when he got there because I had to wait for my suitcase I’d been forced to check.

Traffic was backed up on the roads Bryce said are normally quicker because there had been an accident, so it took us about 20 minutes to get home. Bryce promised me nachos when I arrived, so after we dropped my bags off at the house, we walked down to The Holloway, which was a much longer walk than I was expecting. Bryce was disappointed with the nachos and said they weren’t as good as they used to be, but I thought they were fine.

Wednesday morning, we went to Echo Park Lake and got breakfast burritos and coffee at a cute little cafe before walking around the lake. There is an island in the lake, but Bryce said the gate on the bridge is always locked, so you can’t get to it.

After our walk, we went home and unpacked all my stuff. I have way more stuff than Bryce wanted me to bring, but he’ll get over it.

Bryce decided I need new clothes, so we went to a thrift store, but couldn’t find anything that fit me. We then went to a big outdoor mall and found some cute things at Cotton On. Bryce made me promise to get rid of one thing for each item he bought me.

Bryce wanted to get German food for dinner Wednesday night, but his cousin George was hosting an open mic, so we went to that instead. I liked most of the comics and performers. Bryce told me afterward that he loves things like that where you can see the raw performance before it’s been refined into a great act and I’ll never see anything like it in Wisconsin. I have been to plenty of open mics in Wisconsin and they are pretty similar. Bryce is just pretentious.

Thursday morning Bryce decided we needed to go to the Huntington Library. It’s full of gardens and art collections, exactly the type of thing my mom would love. Bryce is trying to help me refine my Instagram, so he was taking lots of pictures of me and telling me how to pose. There were so many gardens to walk through, we got exhausted and only made it through the European art collection.

For lunch we went to In-N-Out, my first time there. Bryce had me take a picture to commemorate the occasion.

Bryce got me a subscription to VSCO as an early Christmas present, so when he and George went to work in the evening, I played around with all the filters and editing options I can use for my photos. Bryce sent me a bunch we had taken at the gardens, so I chose my favorites to mess around with.

 

November 2017 Stitch Fix Review

Stitch Fix is a fashion subscription box that costs $20 per box for a shipping and styling fee. They send 5 items a month and the $20 fee is applied to anything you choose to keep.

When you sign up, you fill out a style profile.

When you’re finished, you choose when you want to receive your next fix. The $20 fee is charged to your credit card when the stylist chooses your items.

You have three days to decide what you want to keep and what to return. If you choose to keep all five items, you receive a 25% discount.

For more information on signing up for Stitch Fix, click here.

This month I noticed that my items were picked by a new stylist. Last month they were picked by Danielle, this month they were picked by Anne. I thought Danielle did a pretty good job last month. I only kept the coat she picked for me, but I strongly considered keeping the sweater and the bag. I didn’t quite love them enough to spend so much money on them. I liked the style of the dress, but it was an awful fit on me. The shirt was cute, but kind of boring and 100% rayon, which I have had issues with falling apart in the past. I put my comments on why I was sending each item back in the comments when I was checking out, but it seems like my comments were not passed on to Anne.

Here’s what I got this month:

Bellucci One Pocket Top – $58.00Stitchfix_Buttonup_Top
Brand: Napean Sea Rd

Like the Covington One Pocket Top last month, I like this shirt, but there’s nothing interesting about it. This one is a pullover that only buttons halfway up, but it’s still pretty much the same button-up shirt I can get anywhere and most similar shirts would be much cheaper. It’s also 100% rayon, just like the shirt last month. I don’t want to spend $58.00 for a basic shirt that will fall apart because I don’t know how to care for it properly.

Verdict: Sending it back.

Anuka Cotton Blend Pullover – $78.00
Brand: Harper Lane

This sweater is so cute. I love the color. It has a split back, which I love. Unfortunately, from the front it looks super boxy on me. I really wish this looked amazing on me so I could keep it, but it does not.

Verdict: Sending it back.

Liza Distressed Skinny Jean – $98.00
Brand: Lila Ryan

I don’t like the distressed trend. Rascal doesn’t look thrilled either. I’m not going to pay almost $100.00 for an item that already looks damaged, even though that’s how it’s supposed to look.

Verdict: Sending it back

Quin Keyhole Crochet Top – $64.00
Brand: Daniel Rainn

This shirt is super cute from the front. I don’t like the split in the back, and it’s also 100% rayon. If I knew how to take care of rayon, I would probably consider keeping it, but I will send it back because I’m not confident I won’t destroy it.

Verdict: Sending it back.

Calven Cable Knit Cardigan – $68.00
Brand: RD Style

I have a super similar cardigan to this one from Charlotte Russe, but this is much higher quality. However, it is also 78% acrylic. I have been trying to fill my closet with mostly natural fibers, and while this cardigan is also 22% cotton, there is so much acrylic I can’t justify spending over $50.00 on it.

Verdict: Sending it back.

I’m pretty disappointed by the items I was sent this month. Some of the things are cute, but made with fabrics I don’t like or don’t know how to care for, I hate that the (otherwise great) pants are distressed, and the only thing I was super excited about doesn’t look good on me.

I’ve also learned not to let my dad take pictures for me.
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Outfit of the Day: November 2, 2017

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I went blue for my outfit today.

Abercrombie & Fitch Blue Buttonup

I got this St. John’s Bay sweater from JCPenney a year ago. I really like the style, so I have it in a bunch of different colors.

This button-up is from Abercrombie. They don’t have this exact one anymore, but they have some similar ones. The one I have is 99% cotton, but the similar ones I found are only 46% lyocell (a wood fiber similar to rayon), 35% polyester and 19% viscose, so I probably wouldn’t buy one of the new ones.

Dark Blue Jeggings from Hollister

My jeggings are from Hollister. They’re super comfortable and I have them in a few different colors. I figured out my size so I can order online if I need new ones, since I hate going into Hollister and Abercrombie. I definitely recommend ordering online if you like Hollister and Abercrombie clothes, but you do have to either pay a $7 fee or go into a store if you need to do a return.

Black Converse Hightops from Famous FootwearThese Converse high-tops are my favorite shoes. These have elastic laces and velcro at the ankle. They slip on really easily, so they’re so easy to wear. I get them in the children’s section at Famous Footwear. If you’re a women’s size 8 or smaller, you can probably fit into certain children’s styles and they’re usually about $20 cheaper than adult shoes, so it may be worth trying some things on if they don’t look too childish.

Outfit of the Day: November 1, 2017

It’s getting colder out, so layers are super important today.

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JC Penney St. John's Bay Cream Sweater

I’m wearing this red t-shirt from Forever 21. I usually don’t like a lot of the fashion pieces at Forever 21 and since they are fast fashion designed to only be worn a few times, most of the stuff there is pretty low quality. However, basics like this are usually pretty decent there. A lot of the t-shirts and camis I’ve gotten at Forever 21 are mostly cotton, and most of it is under $10.

This cream cardigan from JCPenney. I couldn’t find my exact one on the website, but this one is similar.

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This crystal necklace is one I made for my Etsy store, Fox&Phlox.
Dark Blue Jeggings from Hollister

These jeggings from Hollister are so comfortable and fit me perfectly. The front pockets are fake, which is understandable with the fit. Luckily, the back pockets are real, so I have somewhere to keep my phone when I don’t have my purse with me.

Brown Bamboo Combat Boots from Charlotte Russe

I got these Bamboo combat boots from Charlotte Russe a while ago. Charlotte Russe always has super cute shoes, but they’re not always the best quality. I’ve been impressed with these boots because they’ve lasted a year or two now with only some minor scuffing.

Working Toward Minimalism

My boyfriend, Bryce, and I have been discussing where we are going to live in the future. His first choice is California, where he currently lives. I have never been to California, but in a month I will be flying to LA to visit for the first time. Unless I absolutely hate it, I will probably be moving there within the next year.

Bryce’s main concern for me moving is that I have a lot of stuff, and in California I will have a small apartment with nowhere to put my stuff. Where to put things is something I’ve never had to worry about before, because my parents have a very big house. If I didn’t have a place for something at my apartment, I could leave it at their house until I found a place for it. Or forever, if I forgot about it.

Another reason I have a lot of things is that my parents have a lot of things. It seems natural to me to have stuff. My dad doesn’t wish he had something; if he wants something, he’ll go out and buy it. My mom takes having things a step further. To her, nearly everything can be recycled. She always has a project, whether it’s in her garden or a craft she wants to make, and most things can be used in her projects. If she can’t use a thing in her current project, she will save it for the next project.

The result of this is that they have so many things they are overwhelmed by it. My mom will take boxes of stuff to donation centers, but it never seems like they have less. I am starting to see that it is better to have less. There will not be enough room for all my stuff at an apartment in LA and I don’t think there enough room for it in my life at all.

My goal is to get rid of one thing a day until I feel like I have enough and not too much. I will sell things or donate them or throw them out until I only have what I want and nothing extra. I don’t think I will ever have a true minimalist lifestyle, but getting closer to it will simplify my life and make more room for the things I really like.