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Session 252: The Relationship Between Happiness & Minimalism

The Therapy for Black Girls Podcast is a weekly conversation with Dr. Joy Harden Bradford, a licensed Psychologist in Atlanta, Georgia, about all things mental health, personal development, and all the small decisions we can make to become the best possible versions of ourselves.

What is your version of happy? Sure, we don’t all have the same things in mind, but we do have something in mind when we think of personal happiness. Joining us this week to discuss how we work toward obtaining our vision of happiness is Rosetta Thurman, the Founder of Happy Black Woman. Rosetta and I chatted about how happiness is not about having stuff but instead about doing the stuff that you care the most about, how minimalism amplifies what we deem the most important, and how a minimalist approach to life can lead to us accomplishing dreams we’d never thought we’d see in this lifetime.

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Session 252: The Relationship Between Happiness & Minimalism

Dr. Joy: Hey, y'all! Thanks so much for joining me for Session 252 of the Therapy for Black Girls podcast. We'll get right into the episode after a word from our sponsors.

[SPONSORS’ MESSAGES]

Dr. Joy: What is your version of happy? Sure, we don't all have the same things in mind, but we do have something in mind when we think of personal happiness. Joining me today to discuss how we work towards obtaining our vision of happiness is Rosetta Thurman, the founder of Happy Black Woman, a personal coaching business she founded to teach black women how to manifest the life and business of their dreams.

Rosetta and I chatted about how happiness is not about having stuff but instead about doing the stuff that you care the most about. From her minimalist journey, she shares how minimalism amplifies what we deem the most important and how a minimalist approach to life can lead us to accomplishing dreams we never thought we'd see in this lifetime. If there's something that resonates with you while enjoying our conversation, please share it with us on social media using the hashtag #TBGinSession or join us over in the Sister Circle to talk more in depth about the episode. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlackGirls.com. Here's our conversation.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for joining me today, Rosetta.

Rosetta: Thank you for having me. I have been a fan for a long time because so many of my clients are fans of yours.

Dr. Joy: Oh, thank you. I'm very happy to hear that and I'm sure they will be excited to hear you chatting. Shout out to all of Rosetta’s clients! We're here today, Rosetta, to talk primarily about minimalism. Can you tell me like, at its core, what do we mean when we are talking about minimalism?

Rosetta: When we're talking about minimalism, we're essentially talking about the art of living with less.

Dr. Joy: How did you get into minimalism, and is there like a specific instance that happened that led you to minimalism?

Rosetta: Yes. In fact, I always say that I came to minimalism in a very practical way. I had a very practical reason for becoming a minimalist. I did not know it was a movement, I did not know it was a lifestyle that people took on and wrote books about. It was 2011, I had quit my job the year before and I needed to save some money. I needed to save some money and what I realized was that having an apartment near the Metro in Washington DC, when you don't have a job anymore, is a big expense. It was really to reduce living expenses, so my goal was to get rid of things so that I can actually downsize my living situation which would get me to a lower cost of living. My reason was very practical so I always tell people I became a minimalist in 2011 to save money. But over the years, what I got from it was a different mindset about living with less.

Dr. Joy: I would love to hear you say more about that. Like what kinds of life changes or things have opened up for you after adopting a minimalist lifestyle?

Rosetta: Oh my gosh, so many things. One of the biggest reasons why people say that they can't do things, especially as black women, we want to do a lot of things but a lot of reasons why we can't do them is, number one, because of money and because of other responsibilities. Money is by far the biggest thing that my clients come to me with at Happy Black Woman, it’s why they can't do what they want to do. They can't start the business, they can't travel, they can't take on a hobby they wanted to do or do something they've always wanted to do their entire life. Write a book, travel the world, become a dancer. I don't know, whatever it is, but it's like if only I had the money, if only I had the time, if only I had... What I'll say is that me being intentional about what my goals were, which was to build my business and travel, I knew I needed more money for that. Some people say, well, if I don't have the money, I can't do it. But what if you could save money so that you can do it? Travel costs money. I did not make more money. What I did was cut my living expenses in half, which allowed me to travel.

Dr. Joy: I think when we think about minimalism, at least I, and I'm sure I speak for lots of other people, I think about like just get rid of a bunch of stuff. Like a spring cleaning which feels very timely right now, we're kind of entering into spring. But you're also talking about cutting expenses in other ways. Maybe I don't need the highest cable package or maybe I don't need all of these streaming services. What are some of the other common misconceptions about minimalism?

Rosetta: It's kind of what you just said, was that minimalism, there's different stages and I'll talk about the different stages. There are three different stages that I can categorize it in, now that I've talked to so many women about this concept. Especially when I was starting to do it, people were like, oh my gosh, is she really going to get rid of her stuff? Well, yes, but that's not just what minimalism is about–getting rid of everything. For me, I went all the way to the third stage.

The three stages of minimalism... and each one is more involved than the last one. The first one is deep cleaning. Minimalism is not just getting rid of everything. It could be really deep cleaning and spring cleaning essentially to take stock of what do you have and what still needs to be there? From a goal-oriented perspective, for me, if you have a goal that you want to reach this year, does everything in your space still fit that? Are there some things that are easy for you to get rid of? That's like the lowest level. The deep cleaning, the spring cleaning is just throwing out clothes. That's like the deep cleaning level. Throwing out things that don't fit anymore. Selling them so there is a way that you can make money from it. I did make some money from throwing out some things also.

When I became a minimalist, I got rid of my apartment and I started being a roommate. And some people are like, oh, I would never do that. You would never do it just to do it, I wasn't doing it just to do it. But you would do it if you had a strong desire to see the world like I did, to cut half of your living expenses. That would be what I would look at. Why are you doing that? I sold some of my furniture which gave me some money. What was I gonna use the money for? To travel. “Well, I can't get rid of my stuff.” If you had a big enough why, you could. That was my why.

That's the first level. The second level is the declutter. Actually, some people when they do spring cleaning, you'll see them put out one or two or three bags of stuff. The declutter level is going through your whole home, your entire house, and looking at what needs to go from a big perspective. For instance, I had a couch I never sat on. You know, back in the day, we had the couch that could nobody sit on it, that grandma kept the plastic on. I want everybody to think about this, listening to the podcast. How much do you think that couch was worth? But nobody ever sat on it. It could have been sold, it never could have been bought in the first place and that money could have been saved. What was the purpose of the couch with the plastic?

Dr. Joy: It was just a showpiece.

Rosetta: Yeah. But how many of us, in our lives, we perpetuate that in our homes? I've had clients put out entire furniture, things that they bought for their kids back in the day. I had a client who had furniture filling up an entire second bedroom, from her kids, stuff that she kept from them. Sentimental things. When she went past just putting out old clothes and actually went to decluttering, she was like I don't need anything in this room. Which leads to, do I really need a two bedroom? It's just me. Kids are out of the house. Do I really need a two bedroom or can I have a one bedroom and save a lot of money? She downsized, which is the third stage. And that's what a lot of people think minimalism is but there's different stages. You don't have to go to the downsize stage, but a lot of my clients do because they see the light. It's like, well, if I got rid of everything in the second bedroom and that is junk or things that I don't need any more based on the goals that I have right now, my mortgage could go from 3,000 to 1,500 or from 2,000 to 1,000. Downsizing is actually changing your living environment based on the goals that you have.

Dr. Joy: What are some of the things... and you've already kind of led on to some of this. What are some of the things that can turn people away from minimalism? What makes it feel so unattainable for some?

Rosetta: Feelings of loss. I know as a therapist you can explain this better than me of how big that is for people, feeling like you're losing something. Believe it or not, the hardest thing for me to get rid of when I downsized and I got rid of my apartment in DC and I started rooming with people. I didn't cry about my couch, I didn't cry about my pet, I didn't cry about all my clothes that I got rid of or my shoes. I actually downsized to the point where all my clothes could fit into a suitcase and all of the stuff I needed to work could fit in my backpack. I had my laptop in there and my notebook, everything that I owned fit into a suitcase and a backpack. But what hurt my heart was getting rid of my books.

I had over 200 books, curated. It was like the essence of my education and my favorite authors and everything. It wasn't hard for me to get rid of my clothes, but my books? I was like I've got to get rid of these. I chose to donate them to a local library, which made me feel very good. If I ever want to come look at my books, I come back to the library and look at my books. But the feeling of loss is something that people think that they can't handle. The way that my clients have gotten over that, and myself as well, is to think about what's on the other side of that. If you're strong enough to handle the feeling of loss, what you gain.

Dr. Joy: Yeah. You know, something you said earlier that I think we may want to go back to thinking about, like your grandmother's couches and like these rooms of furniture that I think historically lots of our families have had, I think a lot of that was about status. Like a lot of it was about not being able to have and now being able to have and I would imagine that this probably comes up with your clients. Some of this, I think, is rooted in some cultural trauma because we are often approaching things from a scarcity mindset. Can you talk a little bit about some of those themes that come up with your clients?

Rosetta: I actually told my grandmother of my plan when I first became a minimalist, of getting rid of all my stuff and traveling the world. And she said, “So you're gonna go from having your own apartment to being a gypsy?” My generation, I was like what's wrong with that? But I looked it up and the word has a very negative connotation from her generation. It's almost like being homeless. Being a gypsy is not a good thing. And this sounds exciting to me with my millennial self, I'm like yeah, I'm gonna live cheaply and spend my money on experiences versus stuff.

The whole thing behind Happy Black Woman is creating your ideal life and so I don't believe that just because you don't have the money now, doesn't mean you can't create it. If you have assets, that furniture is assets. In her mind, I was going down in status to becoming a gypsy because I was giving up my stuff. Still the same person with the same value, but now because I don't have any furniture, I'm a vagabond on the streets. You know?

Dr. Joy: Right. You bring up another good point. How do you explain this or have conversations with family and other loved ones, especially around things like holidays? Just from my own example. I have two boys and even if we tell grandparents and aunties “please don't send them a bunch of gifts for Christmas, we're fine,” people still want to send stuff. How do you navigate these conversations with family and loved ones about choosing to move into a more minimalist lifestyle?

Rosetta: I will say that it does take time for people to get how you are with this new way of thinking and adjust to it. Just like with a lot of decisions that we make in our lives to change our lives for the better. It's better for us and we know what's better for us and our finances and our peace of mind and everything. But for other people, they don't see it that way and it may just take some time for them to adjust. I think in the beginning, it was like what is Rosetta doing? She's living with roommates, she had her own place. From the outside looking in, it could look like maybe it's not the right decision for you and why are you doing this, and people want to support you but this is weird. But you've got to know for yourself that this is the right thing. And with that, you just manage everyone based on their relationship in your life.

With gifts, it's very hard to tell someone to not give a gift. The thing is, I still get a lot of gifts, I don't tell them what happens after they give the gift. I receive the gift, that doesn't mean that I keep all the gifts. Sometimes I would donate them, repurpose them. Especially when I was traveling, I had no choice. I can give the gift to a staff member at a hotel I was staying or to my roommate. You don't need to make people come over to your side of your truth–it's impossible to do that–but you can manage each person in your life based on what your relationship is.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, I like that. You said that a lot of your work involves helping people kind of make peace with the loss of what they're giving up but if you help them to look at what they're gaining that can help them to kind of move further into it. Can you say a little bit more about what we can gain from moving to a minimalist lifestyle and like how staying attached to stuff can sometimes weigh us down?

Rosetta: I love what you said earlier about it being like this generational thing. Because so many things have changed over the generations about what our self-worth looks like and what it consists of, what our jobs are, and we can actually follow our passion and our purpose now. Trying to explain that to a grandparent or a great grandparent or even your parents, it's still a foreign concept. And so making the choice to live with less can still be a foreign concept to wrap your mind around. Even though you know that now today, 2022 we have choices, it's still a foreign concept to kind of realize and understand and act from that place. Versus before, it was like a badge of honor to collect things because that means I've made it. If I didn't make it, then why would I have this expensive couch that I only sit on when company comes? And even then, how much used to get out of it?

I think it's interesting the calculations people go through like before they buy a car. How much am I going to use it? I'm not gonna buy this expensive car if I'm only gonna use it once in a while or I can take the subway cheaper. Like we do that but then when it comes to like “when people come to see my house, it needs to look a certain way so they'll think of me a certain way.” It's fleeting, it's temporary and it's really a lot of times for other people. When you have something that you want more than the approval of other people or the feeling that you've made it and you really focus on what is it that's going to make you happy, then it becomes easier to do that. Just like any other thing that we've done in our lives. Somebody said that's dumb or that’s stupid, it's like but I want it so it matters to me. And that's all that needs to happen.

Most people, they don't have a strong enough why to do it so it sounds crazy or it sounds like maybe they can't do it. But let's say you want to buy a house next year. I don’t have money for that. Well, what if you were to cut your living expenses in half? You don't really like where you live right now anyway. You want to go to that new house, so what's on the other side of you saving money and cutting your expenses for a while is that new house. In the place that you want, with the bedrooms that you want, and you can put all of new furniture in there if you want to. If you were to implement the strategy for a while. You can sell things. You know, there is a survey that came out a couple of years ago that said that the average American has at least $10,000 worth of stuff that they can sell. Ten thousand dollars! Depending on where you live at, you're halfway to down payment right there. Or investing in your business or a trip or whatever it is that you want to do to make your life happier. But a lot of times what we're conditioned to do is when we're unhappy and we're not reaching our goals or moving forward, is to go buy more stuff.

Dr. Joy: Hmm. Now listen, Rosetta, you might have said a word here because we definitely talk about like retail therapy. If something is not going well in our lives, something that gives us an almost instantaneous dopamine hit is to go buy a new shiny something. And so how much do we do that instead of looking at what is actually bothering us?

Rosetta: Yeah.

Dr. Joy: I'm wondering if you have seen some changes in your work. I'm sure you have because we all have in the pandemic. Is it easier now to kind of talk with clients about becoming more minimalist? Is it harder? Like what changes have you seen during the pandemic?

Rosetta: I would say both. It's both easier and harder. With changes that are outside of our control, that's where I think more innovative thinking happens. A lot of times, change happens when we're forced to make it and that's not always the best kind of situation you have to make change in. But people who have not been forced to make a change yet are so much more open to the possibilities of what they could do. Based on what's going on in the world today, a lot of people are wanting to move faster. If they want to move down south, they're speeding up those plans. The feeling that life is so uncertain. It's like life, job, business, so many things are uncertain that we've seen if one little thing changes...

And not even just the pandemic, but all the other world events happening. I think people just becoming more aware that maybe you don't have five years to take baby steps to get to where you want to go. If you're wanting to move your family to a better place, a better neighborhood, buy a house, invest, start your business and all of that, how much longer are you going to be saying that you don't have the money? Let's do something different. And so in that respect, the conversation is better of people being more open to doing things a little differently. Being willing to make those sacrifices (people perceive them as sacrifices) in order to reach their goals. And so I will say that the pandemic has made a lot of women, especially black women, more aware of their goals and how far they are. Meaning that they're more open to thinking about, how can I get there faster? Because I don't have all the time in the world and things could change like that, so let me get a move on what I want to do.

Dr. Joy: More for my conversation with Rosetta after the break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: Tell me more about the work that you do with Happy Black Woman and how does minimalism fit into that work?

Rosetta: Happy Black Woman, I started it as a blog in 2010 when I quit my job and so the whole minimalism and traveling and everything was documented on the blog, when people read blogs. Now those are podcasts. But it was always about helping black women transform our mindset so we can manifest the life and business of our dreams. What I learned was that most of the things that we want in life cost money. I don't say that sound shallow or anything, but if I ask any black woman right now to make a vision board, there's gonna be at least one thing on there that costs a lot of money. Period.

I learned that, okay, I've got to teach my clients not just to see the vision and write the vision and put it on the board, but to actually be able to manifest the vision. To actually get that thing they put on their vision board. I heard early on, “That's great, Rosetta, but I ain't got money like that.” But you do, though. But you do, it’s just not in your bank account yet. That's when I started teaching women how to use their skills and make money and all that. At the same time, I learned how to help women brainstorm from what they had. The minimalism came up when my clients were saying I want this, I want that, but, but, but, but, but. Minimalism became something that I could say, hey, I did this and it worked for me. I blogged about it, I blogged about all the things I got rid of, and a lot of my blog readers got really intrigued and they started asking me questions and I’d get on the phone with a client.

I had a client who she wanted to build a business but at the end of the day, her ultimate goal was to move. She’d lived in Maryland, she wanted to move to California, by the water, and that was where she wanted to retire. She was so stuck in this rat race of working all these hours at her job to pay for her house in Maryland that she didn't want to be in. That's where a lot of the stuff started coming up and I was like this is a viable solution to a lot of my clients getting what they want faster. Like she went all the way also from deep clean, declutter to downsizing and so she was able to reduce her living expenses enough to be able to make that move. Because moving costs money.

I had a client who sold her home and got an apartment. Because when she had a home, she had a family and everything. Sometimes in life, circumstances change and vice versa. If you have a family, I've seen some of my clients make choices based on the fact that they want to be with their family more. Somebody described it as having the chip on their shoulder or a boulder on their back with this mortgage. If you can get your family on board with minimalism, you all can contribute to a different life–three, five years from now. I have a client right now who's looking to relocate to the Caribbean and buy property there that she would not be able to buy in New York.

Dr. Joy: Indeed. It sounds like there's a common theme in a lot of the clients that you work with, like a desire to move. What kinds of issues or goals do clients approach you with? Like how does somebody say I want to work with Rosetta at Happy Black Woman?

Rosetta: They want more. They want more from life. We see it so much with the great resignation. With so many women, especially black women. And I love this for us, that we’re worth more and the whole time we could have been demanding better hours, less stressful commutes, working from home and everything. Why shouldn't we be able to thrive in our own spaces at home and still provide the work that employers are asking us for? Clients come to me when they want more and they don't know how, like the steps to take to get there. Most women, they can make a vision board. They get excited in giving it some life, bring out the magazines and everything. Some of my early events were like doing kind of vision board parties and doing retreats and helping women get clear on what they wanted. And once you get clear that you want more, most of us, we're no stranger to hard work. We're no stranger to like, okay, let's get it. Well, what's the plan? Alright, so boom! First of all, we're going to reduce your expenses. Second of all, we're going to increase your income and that's going to be part of your plan to get the more that you want.

Dr. Joy: You were ahead of the curve, Rosetta, because you started working remotely years ago. This is something some of us are catching up to, you started doing this quite a while. How does it feel now seeing more professionals being able to take the leap of working remotely? And what kinds of things do they need to keep in mind?

Rosetta: Like I said, I love this for us. And I think that because more and more people are doing it, it's more accepted now. It's kind of like people are more willing to talk about more creative options for getting what they want. And now it's like working from home is more accepted and it’s something that you can actually request now with any employer. You don't even have to start your own business to work remotely, you can do that in a corporate setting now. It can be part of your package, part of your requirements, that you work remotely.

There's a lot of things I think about when I think about working remotely. Some of us, when we get the opportunity to do that, sometimes we can let our goals fall by the wayside. Like we can lose sight of them. A lot of us, we say every year–2021, I'm going to start saving money for my house. 2022, I'm going to start doing this and that. And then sometimes we get caught up in whatever it is that we're doing, we forget about that. Working remotely can be a blessing if you make sure that it is a blessing. Remember all that money that we saved from not commuting, not having to buy gas? Where is that going?

I know this is not a financial podcast but if you don't keep your end goal at the forefront of everything, it can be easy to still not save money for the house or still not put the money into the business or still not just save for retirement or whatever it is. Early retirement or for whatever you want for your kids or for your family. It can be easy to still not make progress if you are not intentional about what am I doing based on this opportunity that I got to work remotely? A lot of people they say that their food costs went down because they're not eating out but then they ordering *[inaudible 0:27:16] at home.

Dr. Joy: Yeah, you know, it has been so interesting, I think Rosetta. Like there's a duality for so many pieces of the pandemic. There's been this anxiety and like, oh my gosh, what's happening? How do I keep myself safe? But I also feel like the opportunities that many of us have gotten from working from home have really just unlocked a lot for us. I think for a lot of people, this has been the first time they have thought about work not necessarily being the center of their lives. Like you've talked about before, like I'm doing all this work to provide for this house that I don't even love living in. I think the pandemic has really allowed people to go back and live with family and still keep their jobs and so now I think there is a focus on how do I restructure my life to actually live my life and not about just focusing on work? That I think has been really interesting, like you said. And especially exciting, I think, for a lot of black women.

Rosetta: Oh yeah, the idea that we can literally create our own reality. It wasn't possible for previous generations to do things like we can do them now and I think that's where therapy comes in and coaching comes in. And being in communities of women who are doing those things, it helps us to find our belief to make those steps forward. To believe that it's possible and all of that. And at the end of the day, like I said, I started this journey because I wanted to save money so I could travel. That was my big goal. But then going through it, I realized that I didn't even need all the stuff that I got rid of. It was never I need all this stuff. It was that that's just how you live life. But when you start to put your goals, I think at the forefront, it really is an opportunity for you to ask some really powerful questions to yourself. Like does this match up with the goals that I have? Is this aligned with where I'm going? I often use the metaphor of if you look around your house and really at anything, any people and situations in your life. If you look around your home and if you look around your life, ask yourself, “Do all these things, do all these people still align with where I'm going and where I want to be a year, two years, three years, 10 years from now? And if the answer is no, then why am I holding on to it?

Dr. Joy: It's a powerful question. I feel like I want y’all to take that to your journals and really think about that. It feels like that deserves some exploration and thinking there. The name of your business is Happy Black Woman and I wonder if you can talk about what areas of happiness often feel overlooked for clients who you start working with, who may be struggling or wanting to adopt a more minimalist lifestyle?

Rosetta: It comes up at the intersection of other things. Someone starts talking about one thing that they want to do or something that is blocking them and then it comes up as a part of that conversation. What we typically start out with in any of my coaching programs or courses or anything is the wheel of life that I'm sure most of your listeners are familiar with. You look at, for us, eight areas of life. What a lot of my clients tend to focus on is the business and career side and I know because that was my focus for so long. It's just the business or the job because it has that tangible gratification. If you did a good job, you got more clients. Or you did a great job on that project, yay, you know, awesome. But what's overlooked is, honestly, the other seven areas.

Dr. Joy: Can you name those areas for us, Rosetta?

Rosetta: Yeah. The first one is lifestyle and fun. I can't tell you how many clients say I can't remember last time I did something just for fun, not because it was doing it for someone else or because I thought it was going to advance me professionally. It's lifestyle and fun, business and career, money and finances (and that's where we get into how are you saving for your goals, where's your money going). And then we have health and wellness. It's not just about weight loss; the main thing we talk about actually with that is mental health. Mental health support and making sure that you're fully supported to move forward with everything that you want to do in your life.

Family and friends–your relationships with your family and friends. A lot of black women, they say that it's hard to make friends when you're older if you don't already have that group of friends. Or they outgrow their friends when they want to do something different or set bigger goals. And then there's love and romance. How's the love life going? It can be a big energy drainer when it's not the right person or maybe there should be no person. Maybe it should just be you.

And then the last area is personal growth and spiritual development. A lot of times, when we focus too much on one area, we neglect all the other parts of ourselves and then we just run on autopilot. Go to work, come home, watch Netflix, repeat all over again. Versus taking stock of, okay, how could downsizing help in three areas? Like downsizing for my clients typically helps with the money and finances area, the business and career area. Because a lot of my clients, they can work less because they don't have to pay to maintain all the stuff. The stuff that we buy needs to be maintained. Places we live need to be maintained. And then the lifestyle and fun because where you live fits into the lifestyle piece.

Dr. Joy: Got it. Is the work that you do with your clients kind of primarily walking them through these eight areas and then looking at where are we in this area? How can we bolster up this one? How can we take away so much from the career and job one and put that energy towards somewhere else?

Rosetta: Yeah. It's creating that ideal life, that vision for each client, based on where they want to go. Most of my clients, they are entrepreneurial or they're heading out of the workforce altogether–retiring. I have a lot of clients in forties and fifties and they're wanting to leave out but not having that foundation of personal money and finances. And what's my next stage going to look like? If I want to be on the beach in California, what do I need to do now to really set myself up for that? But yes, it starts with what is your vision? What is your version of happy? Because everyone's is not the same. Some people, they want a very luxurious lifestyle, they want all these things, and that's fine.

I always say that minimalism is not about having nothing. It's about having the things that matter most to you. For some people, maybe it is that fancy couch. Hopefully they sit on it and actually enjoy it. For a lot of my clients, it's about experiences. They don't care about the stuff so much but they want to have more experiences. For some of my clients it’s just time. Time is a luxury these days. Being able to just sit with your family and enjoy them and not spend most of your time trying to figure out how you're going to financially provide for them when you don't need as much. And you teach them and help them to see that they don't need as much. So many things can happen, not just for you, but for the people around you.

Dr. Joy: What's your personal definition of happiness, Rosetta?

Rosetta: I often say that all I want in life is to be happy, successful and free. Happiness is emotion so it changes from day to day. I have a list. One of the assignments that I give my clients is to make a list of 100 things that make you happy. And so my goal is if I'm doing at least one of those things every day, that and what being a minimalist taught me so much is that spirit of gratitude. Some people, they think that you have to get to a certain point in life before you can be happy. For me, it's like if I can feel the sunshine on my face today, I'm happy. I don't need 50 outfits in my closet and for me, personally, I don't care about that. If you do, that's great. But by living with less, I actually learned. Once I did start making money, I did not rush to fill up the closet and buy all the things I couldn't buy before. I'm just in a space of I have more gratitude because I know that happiness is not about stuff. It's about the stuff that I care about, not about stuff in general.

Dr. Joy: You've already given us a beautiful intention in terms of looking around our house and our life and seeing if the things or the people there are going where we're headed in the next year, three years, five years. Are there other intentions or goals that we should have when we are setting minimalism? And can you give us any examples of other things that might help?

Rosetta: Yeah. It's like, what is your why? What is the ultimate thing that would make you feel like you achieve your vision board? I always go back to the vision board because everyone has one. And if you were to look at the thing on there that you want to do or want to have or want to be so much, but, but, but, but, but... One of the questions that I ask my clients to ask themselves is why do you want that? What will it give you? What feeling will you have? What will you be able to do because of that? And for me it was travel because I wanted to see the world. I wanted to see the places in the magazines that I thought I would never get to see, something that nobody in my family had done. It was something that I wanted for me. When I understood how important that was for me, there was actually no barrier or no hesitation for me to look at this as a way to get there because I tapped into it.

A lot of people, they write their goals down and they put it on a vision board and they forget about it. But like reconnecting every day, journaling about it. Like you said, it is a great way to connect to it and to really hone in on your why. Why do you want to own a home? Why do you want to put your kid in this awesome school? Why do you want to save for early retirement? Can you imagine what your life would be like if you didn't have to work until you were 92? If you had less living expenses, what can that allow you to do? But also, how much time would it save you? When you have... I’m not saying anyone needs to do this. Not having a lot of dishes, how much time does that save the average woman? Not having a lot of clothes, how much time does that save you getting ready so you can enjoy your day? It goes back to what we were talking about earlier. What do you gain? When you’re not tapped into that, it's kind of like a dream, it's like a fairy tale. But my thing is, let's tap more into that, journal about it, connect to it. And that's your why that's gonna help you to make these moves.

Dr. Joy: As I'm listening to you talk, we also talk a lot here about like decision fatigue and how, because of where we find ourselves in the world, three years into a pandemic, the amount of time and energy it takes to decide. What are you cooking for dinner? What am I wearing on the Zoom call today? But minimalism also can help with that because there are just fewer choices. If every day I'm wearing a black turtleneck, then I don't have to waste my bandwidth thinking about what I'm going to wear today.

Rosetta: Exactly. And then what do you gain from that? How much deeper did you listen to your conversations today because you weren't thinking about that or worrying about it. It was the same thing kind of when I went natural and it was like I’ll just let my hair to do what it does. It wasn't a tangible thing that you can point to and say my life is better now because of that. It was more of just a weight feeling lifted off, like your mind is clear. It's just less things to worry about. It just feels like you can experience everything else in your life at a deeper level. I feel like I sound really woo-woo, but it's just one of the things that that process gave me. And a lot of people worry about what if something happens to my stuff? What I like personally is knowing that if that were to happen, I could start over, I wouldn't be devastated, I don't need anything in this home for me to be happy, for me to feel grateful. Everything could just disappear. If I go outside and I feel the sun shining on my face today, I'm grateful.

Dr. Joy: I want to ask you, Rosetta, for a couple of scenarios. Because I think a lot of this feels great to talk about in theory, but it feels probably much harder in practice. How could somebody who is somebody who loves like clothes and trends and collecting stuff like bags and purses–what might minimalism look like for them?

Rosetta: I will say that if someone's really interested in this topic, don't be afraid to go down the rabbit hole because what I learned later is that there is a whole community and conversation and movement around this. What I will say is that even with someone who really loves clothes and fashion and all that, loving clothes and fashion does not mean that you have to have everything. You can love the three purses in your closet. And if you love brands, awesome. Like three of the most expensive exquisite purses, if this is important to you. I'm not saying everyone needs to do this, but what you care about gets amplified when you incorporate minimalism into your life. And some people, again, are forced into it. It's like if you have to downsize because you lost a job or something, it's a totally different experience and I'm not gonna kind of sugarcoat that. But if you think about I want to reduce my expenses or I want to have less things to worry about or maintain, what could that look like?

For some people who might be thinking about if I love fashion and all of that, what if I could put all the things that I love the most into one closet? What if I didn't need a whole room to hold my stuff? What could that open up for me? That's a question that's more about what you gain than what you lose. What could that open up for me? And also, there's guilt. When you buy something and you never wear it, you feel guilty, you feel like you made a bad decision. You may feel like you wasted money. That's in the back of your mind affecting your mental health as well. You beat yourself up for being an impulse shopper. But I loved it, I had to have it! A year later, tag’s still on it. And every time you open that closet, how do you feel about yourself?

Dr. Joy: More from my conversation with Rosetta after the break.

[BREAK]

Dr. Joy: What about like a mom of four kids? Again, speaking for myself with two children, I think about something that I have trouble getting rid of is like kids’ art projects. Like all these weird shaped creatures that they bring home from school and it's like, oh my gosh, I want them to be able to have this like 20 years from now. Which again is like being connected to stuff but it really is more about the memory. What kinds of tips or how might they start to practice minimalism?

Rosetta: Whether it's something that your kids did or pictures from different family or people passed away and the pictures are all you have, I look at it as prioritizing what matters most to you and what you want to see. What do you want to see? What do you want in your space every day? Because to be honest, even though we have an emotional attachment, truth be told, a lot of stuff is still in the box in the basement. It’s not being seen! So prioritizing. What are those things that represent that for you? And so you could have on the wall like a collage or a collection of the photos from your great grandmother and all the things that it represents.

I think sometimes if we don't give our feelings a task, we can tend to just do the default of what we know. If you have a feeling that you don't want to lose that sentimental picture or a box of things, you just hold on to it. But when you give that feeling something productive to latch on to, it's like, well, let me spend this weekend actually organizing my photos into a photo album that lives on the coffee table. And then that eliminates four boxes because some of those pictures are faded and everything and you can't even see them anymore. What are your favorite ones? Or maybe they'll all fit into a little album and it could be displayed where it can bring you joy and it can bring you happiness and it becomes a meaningful thing instead of this reaction to a feeling. You can actually do something productive with it.

Dr. Joy: That is so helpful, Rosetta, and I think even just the language that you're using. It feels like you keep reframing the conversations. Like what do you gain? Even in this conversation, I'm focusing on like, okay, what do we have to give up? I gotta give up my crabs. But it really is about like, okay, what do I love? Who do I want to be surrounded with? And really focusing on that.

Rosetta: That's what minimalism is about at its end. It's like the art of living less so you can have more, essentially. So you can have more of a connection. Is it better to have your kids’ pictures scattered around or display them? Most of us have a ton of wall space that’s not being used. Display them, have them live somewhere. And then every time you pass by the wall, you get that spark of joy and pride from your kids’ artwork instead of just having it sit in this place. Living with less clutter and stuff so that you can have more and that's where those creative ideas come in.

Dr. Joy: Love it. Thank you for that, Rosetta. I wonder if you can leave us with three ways that we might start to try to practice minimalism in our everyday lives.

Rosetta: Cool. I'm gonna give an exercise that incorporates the three stages in what I call the Three Ds of Minimalism. This is the perfect time of year–well, any time is a perfect time since podcasts are forever. Whenever you're listening to this, I want you to get out a piece of paper. If anything that we've said sparked something for you, get out a piece of paper. I want you to write down. It's a brainstorming exercise. What could you do to address each of these stages?

The first stage, deep clean. What can I do over the next 30 days to deep clean? What can you get rid of? Some of my clients have old stuff from old relationships and it's not just physical clutter but it's mental clutter. I'm like, look, if you don't want that man to ever come back in your life, you need to get rid of that energy. What are some of the deep cleaning things? What belongs in those trash bags that need to go out or need to be donated or whatever it is? Second thing is how can you declutter over the next 30 days? What can you let go of that's just creating clutter that's not useful to the goals that you are working towards? This is the next level.

And then the third level is downsize. Over the next 30 days, how could you downsize? It's not like you need to move into a different place but even looking at your current living situation. What is a way that you can reduce the expenses of living there, wherever there is? Even little things like we don't think about them but they add up. If the electric bill for a home with a certain number of rooms versus less number of rooms, or not having stuff in those rooms–your energy costs go down because you're focused on your stuff being in these two rooms instead of scattered around these four rooms. Like how could you downsize? That would be the brainstorming exercise. Is you don't have to do any of it but just brainstorm. What could be possible? How could you deep clean? How could you declutter? And how could you downsize over the next 30 days? And maybe one of those ideas, you might want to get started on now.

Dr. Joy: Right, no pressure, just think about it and see what happens.

Rosetta: Yeah.

Dr. Joy: I love that, thank you. Where can we stay connected with your, Rosetta? What is your website as well as any social media handles you'd like to share?

Rosetta: Many of us do, we love the gram so you can find me. I respond directly on my Rosetta Thurman Instagram. If you would like to chat with me, connect with me, learn more about what I do, message me on Instagram, I answer all my DMs personally. If you want to just learn more about my business and what we do, you can go to HappyBlackWoman.com and see whatever is the next event, program, course, coaching that we have available.

Dr. Joy: Thank you so much for sharing with us, Rosetta. I really appreciate it.

Rosetta: This has been an amazing conversation. You are the best interviewer. I’m so happy having got to being on the show.

Dr. Joy: Thank you, thank you so much, I enjoyed it as well. I'm gonna do this exercise myself.

Rosetta: Awesome!

Dr. Joy: I'm so glad Rosetta was able to share her expertise with us today. To learn more about her and her work, be sure to visit the show notes at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/session252. And be sure to text two of your girls and ask them to check out the episode right now.

If you're looking for a therapist in your area, be sure to check out our therapist directory at TherapyForBlackGirls.com/directory.

And if you want to continue digging into this topic or just be in community with other sisters, come on over and join us in the Sister Circle. It's our cozy corner of the internet designed just for black women. You can join us at Community.TherapyForBlacGirls.com. This episode was produced by Fredia Lucas and Ellice Ellis, and editing was done by Dennison Bradford. Thank y’all so much for joining me again this week. I look forward to continuing this conversation with you all real soon. Take good care.