Why I Failed at Minimalism

I’ve struggled in my relationship with possessions for the majority of my life. I think it all started when I was ten. My mother told us we were going on a vacation to America. I packed up some of my things, and we left. I’m still on “vacation” 19 years later. That was the first time I lost a lot of my belongings. Then during my senior year in college, my roommate lit me, and consequently our entire apartment, on fire. A firefighter brought me some of the items he salvaged in a large trash bag.

Last year, I struggled in a job I didn’t enjoy and a relationship that sucked the life out of me. I took on a quest towards minimalism to feel some control over my day-to-day. I read a couple of books about it and watched Marie Kondo. I love the idea of minimalism. The main principle is that objects take space; not just headspace but physical space too. They require attention, upkeep, room.

That is all excellent, but when you come from a scarcity mindset like I do, minimalism was a necessity for me during at least two points in my life. So I got rid of far too many things – things that gave me basic human comfort (like a space heater) and a reusable water bottle. I sunk into survival mode. When I was able to detach from the idea that I had to be a minimalist – part of this idea coming from contemporary consumerist shaming (I can write a whole other blog post on this topic alone) – I found myself grabbing for things I needed that were no longer there.

I failed at minimalism because of my relationship with objects.

Me and objects have had a hard past. They’ve come in and out of my life. I developed an unhealthy obsession with purging my belongings. I remember telling myself in high school that I needed to get rid of everything that had sentimental value, because those things made me weak. I ruthlessly tossed out photos, art I’d created, handmade clothing I’d sewn, and gifts. There’s a lot more to unpack there, of course, but let’s stick to objects for now. My belongings were things I felt guilty, weak, or heavy owning.

Objects and guilt have had a tremendous chokehold in my life. In a recent relationship, my ex-partner degraded me for having a college degree. I subsequently tossed out all of my degrees and awards. I convinced myself that it was because they were holding me back and I couldn’t be defined by them. Possessions have power depending on the meaning and value that we assign to them.

How I’m recovering from my scarcity mindset.

Currently, I’m on a mission to maximalize my life. This means that I am not sorting through my objects other than to organize and use them more properly and frequently. I don’t own much, but the things that I do own are taking on a new life. I appreciate my belongings because they have beauty and functionality. I am still working on my consistent consumer guilt – or thinking that I should do without basic necessities and even small luxuries.

We definitely live in a time wherein we can feel immense pressure to be hyper-aware of our impact on earth. And I already do a measurable amount to lessen my footprint here. But I simply cannot create a constant mode of suffering in my life because I feel the guilt of a life with waste, excess, and comfort. My existence comes with those things. And being fortunate enough as I am, my scarcity mindset fails to give me the tools I need to care for myself properly.

Some ideas for overcoming a scarcity mindset. 

Self-sooth

Whether you have an issue with food, objects, relationships, or anything else wherein you feel you don’t deserve something, it’s important to self-soothe. If someone gives you a present and you feel guilty, talk to yourself. You may say something like, “they wanted to do a nice thing for me, and that makes them feel good.” Or, “I am appreciative that they care to do this for me.” When it comes to food, self-sooth by saying, “it’s okay for me to have food now. I need to nourish my body and this is the way to do it.” This takes some work, but it’s necessary.

Organize rather than throw out

If you have a scarcity mindset, you may now believe that you don’t deserve to have objects. You may skip meals because you don’t believe you should eat when you are hungry. This mindset applies in many areas of our lives. Sometimes it’s induced by a traumatic event, or it can have grown from all the influx of minimalist bloggers, YouTubers, and other celebrities promoting the message.

If minimalism sounds discomforting to you, start with organization. We do not have to burden ourselves with continuous guilt because we receive messages about it on the media. You can look at your own spending habits and consumption, and generally have a good idea of what you can make improvements on. You don’t have to listen to influencers. Only you have the unique relationship you have with your objects.

Invest in basics, then in what you love

When we are afraid of losing everything or not having enough, we self-sabotage. We start to believe that maybe we’re not like everybody else, and we don’t need basic things like food and things that make our lives just a little bit easier or more bearable. In such, we deprive ourselves. Not just of the basics, but also of what comes after the basics. If we’re so focused on what we are lacking, we have hardly enough brain power left to focus on anything else.

You can make a list of things that will make you more comfortable. Then you can purchase those things. Having basic comfort will free you up to think about other things. Once you have your basics covered, you can blossom and begin investing in things you love.

I’m not a minimalist and that’s okay.

I’m thankful that I failed at minimalism because it forced me to look at the deep traumas I experienced in relation to owning objects. Had I not started to practice minimalism, I would not have come to my current state of mind. Minimalism is a great way for people to open themselves up to exploring their relationship with objects. For me, it opened wounds and left me feeling burdened with a sense of lack. That helped me immensely in my healing journey. And now I am comfortable with owning – and I’ll be able to spend more time doing the things I love without the burden of guilt that comes from having a scarcity mindset.


How I Built My Developer Portfolio

In this article, I’ll go over how I built my developer portfolio. You can use this information to gather ideas on how to construct your own. I work as a technical writer, and I think it’s very important for me to demonstrate both my writing and coding skills. So I actually opted to have two different sites, this one to show my writing skills and have fun blogging, and my developer portfolio at falondarville.io. I didn’t want to crowd one website with too many “hats”, and I also wanted my developer website to be very simple.

What Content I Included

Let’s go over the content of my developer portfolio. I split my developer portfolio into the following sections:

  1. Jumbotron, containing a customized “logo” of my full name. If you have multiple websites like I do, make sure that there is some tie-in so that potential employers easily recognize your cohesive brand online. Luckily, I have a very uncommon name, so it’s easy for employers to locate my work. If you have a more common name, you may have to rely more heavily on design elements to set your portfolio apart. In this jumbotron area, I also included links to my writing website (what you’re reading now) and my LinkedIn.
  2. Simple summary, in which I include brief bullet points describing who I am. I separated this section out into two: “at work” and “outside work” to introduce a bit of my personality.
  3. Project description cards that highlight my work. I included the projects I am most proud of first and made sure to link to the published work (hosted on Heroku) as well as the code itself (on GitHub).
  4. Technologies That I Work With, a simple list of technologies I have learned and used.
  5. What I Do at Work, a detailed overview of my job.
  6. Select Articles From My Blog links to my blog articles. This was important for my development portfolio since I am a technical writer.
  7. Education and Academic Achievements, a list of some of my degrees, credentials, and certificates.
  8. YouTube Channel, an embedded video from my YouTube channel about my journey in coding bootcamp.

As I always say, do more than is required of you when you are learning web development. Put some work out on the internet for employers and future colleagues to see (regardless of what you specialize in). You may feel nervous about it at first, think you are just a beginner, or think you’re too far behind others who’ve had a website for years. But over time, you will have a body of work that indicates to people viewing your portfolio that you are interested in continuous learning and self-improvement.

How I Built It

I built my developer portfolio using Bootstrap. I wanted it to look clean and simple. The code is stored on GitHub. It’s imperative for developers to know git, and practicing commands in your terminal to save your code to GitHub repositories is an excellent way to get comfortable.

Okay, here’s the cool part. My portfolio hosting is free! GitHub has a feature called GitHub Pages. This feature allows you to host a simple front-end site on their platform. If you follow their instructions, any code that you push to a configured repository will appear on username.github.io. But if you noticed, my development portfolio lives on falondarville.io. That’s because GitHub allows you to host a custom domain. Just purchase your domain name; I used namecheap.

 


What Does a Technical Writer Do?

In this article, I’ll talk about what I do as a technical writer (for software products). I’m also going to let you know what I think a technical writer should be able to do. First off, let’s talk about my background and credentials. Basically, what qualifies me to be a technical writer? I have a Bachelors degree in English. I entered the job market immediately after graduation and was a private investigator for fraud and liability cases for several years. I briefly hopped over to project management (8 months) before returning to investigations. After a while, I didn’t see myself growing at the investigations companies and I wanted to write more, so I started freelance writing. But it was a lot of marketing-type writing, which I don’t particularly enjoy. I decided that I would join a coding bootcamp. I’d been interested in web development ever since I was a project manager and worked with engineers often. I completed the coding bootcamp being comfortable with technologies including  JavaScript, MySQL, and I also independently taught myself Python.

When it comes down to it, I’m a writer who likes to code. It’s more important than ever for technical writers to know how to code. That might sound like a bold statement, and make some writers unsettled. I know, you already have a specialization and that’s writing. But if you want to be a technical writer, what’s going to set you apart is learning why software operates the way it does. Writing is not just about teaching and conveying. It’s also about experiencing and experimenting. If writers stay in their writing bubble, there’s always going to be a buffer between them and engineers.

At my past two positions as a technical writer, my goal has been to move documentation to code. And to actually do that. Not to push that responsibility onto developers.

What a Technical Writer Does.

Traditionally, a technical writer interacts with people who are knowledgeable about a product. They collect information and use that to construct manuals, guides, and robust documentation. They may do this in a word processor. And sometimes a more tech-savvy individual will review the work for technical accuracy. I think a technical writer should do more. In our technology-driven society, let’s not let writers get left behind. We are important to companies. We make closeted information available; we increase understand and by extension, we encourage strong communication. The role of a technical writer has to be more than delivering word docs. It must involve practices that blend the role of writer and developer.

What a Technical Writer Should Do.

A technical writer should drive a company towards a version-control, code-driven documentation system. In my mind, a technical writer needs to future-proof documentation and make it align with the work method of engineers. We can start to imagine a technical writer as an appendage of the engineering department. Their methodology should be similar, meaning that during the technical writer’s day-to-day, they should be working in an IDE, using git religiously, and thinking about scalability and content design.  In order to do this, a technical writer needs to acquire a skill-set that is similar to that of a junior level engineer.