EVEN THOUGH I first moved to Manhattan carrying only a few suitcases, I soon amassed more junk than I could reasonably carry as I moved from furnished sublet to furnished sublet. With each move, I would load up several trash bags filled with cheaply made items and toss them— only to purchase similar items again once I settled into my new abode.
During this time, I also started to escape the city by attending retreats at local monasteries and convents. In addition to offering gracious hospitality to all who crossed through their doors, the monks also taught me about the Benedictine practice of simplicity.
This practice asks: What does a monk really need in his cell?
During my retreats, I could answer this question with ease—toothpaste, shampoo/conditioner, body lotion, deodorant, notebook, pen, hand soap, and clothes to last for the duration. Electronics were either prohibited or discouraged. I was fed three meals a day, and I could peruse the library for any reading material. Like a monk, I didn’t need much in my room to keep me happy and content.
I never thought of applying this concept to my everyday life until I left Manhattan to attend divinity school. There I had a dorm room that closely resembled a monk’s cell. Grad school consumed my life and I lacked the time and financial resources to accumulate more junk. I had no difficulty keeping my space orderly.
But once I graduated, keeping my stuff in order again proved to be a challenge. By now I was a professional writer. I received a steady stream of review copies of magazines, books, CDs, and other media, not to mention seas of SWAG (stuff we all get). Each new hobby I pursued meant more equipment. I soon had far more stuff than my small Manhattan closet could reasonably accommodate.
When I left Manhattan to travel the country with only a rolling bag in hand, I did a deep purge of my possessions. This left me with a liberated feeling, although I needed to buy a few necessities along the way.
Continue reading your story on the app
Continue reading your story in the magazine
TOO MUCH STUFF? FLOW AND F.L.O.W.
Inspired by Benedictine simplicity, BECKY GARRISON looks for ways to keep her space less cluttered.
RIGHT NOW, WE'RE ALL DYSREGULATED
Yoga teacher and somatic counselor HALA KHOURI shares ideas for moving toward self-regulation.
The REST Story
Despite a high-pressure job producing films, Tracee Stanley had everything under control. Prioritizing her own wellbeing made her more effective and efficient at work—which gave her time and space to prioritize her own wellbeing.
PEERING INTO THE FUTURE OF RETREATS
Retreat centers are ready to invite guests back onto their properties, but what that means may be vastly different in 2021 and beyond, even after the pandemic is under control.
6 SECRETS FOR PLANNING A RETREAT FOR A GROUP OF FRIENDS
You’ve envisioned it for ages—escaping for a retreat with a group of dear friends. You’re laughing together in terry-cloth robes and mud masks. Or maybe your gang is at a wilderness retreat, journaling around a fire pit. Perhaps your group is together deepening a faith practice, experiencing a festival, or traveling in an exotic locale. But getting your squad off on a retreat can easily become a logistical challenge (ever heard the term herding cats?). Here are six secrets for turning a “maybe someday” dream into a concrete, and pleasurable, reality.
WOUNDS AND THE WOMB
JULIE PETERS explores how to heal a relationship with the sacred womb, a place of death, life, and possibilities.
Giant squirrels, giant lessons? Animal chaplain SARAH BOWEN explores what squirrels can show us about mindfulness.
5 PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF RETREATS
The rustic, historic property once offered hot mineral soaks in private rooms with big clawfoot tubs and one of the best and largest wood-burning saunas in the States. Days frolicking between the steaming hot mineral baths, a cold creek, and the sauna—and nights spent without phone or wifi in a simple cabin in the woods. Hot tea, a warm fire, and a cool stack of magazines: My kind of bliss.
Visioning a Re-new-able Year
FLASHBACK: It’s December 31, 1999. Flushed from dancing, I’m perched on the steps of the Hilton Addis Ababa in Ethiopia, filled with anxiety about Y2K and the chaotic world around me.
STAYING IN FOR A VIRTUAL RETREAT?
HERE’S WHAT TO DO BEFOREHAND
Science of Us: Katie Heaney
The Clock-Out Cure – For those who can afford it, quitting has become the ultimate form of self-care.
What Was The Office? – 4. The Relationships Were Deliciously Complex
In those pre-cell days, the smallest personal revelation felt like making noise in a bathroom or having sex within other people’s hearing
New York City Made the Office
And the office, in turn, made modern New York.
The Yesteryear Issue – While You Were Truly Out
What I want out of office gossip is what Herman Melville delivers in “Bartleby, the Scrivener,” Ur-text of Manhattan office life. Imagine hearing it over happyhour beers some Thursday night.
Temporarily changing a car’s appearance is becoming a lasting passion among collectors.
Private Schools Are Indefensible
The Gulf between how rich kids and poor kids are educated in America is obscene.
THE END OF THE LINE
COVID-19 has forced the restaurant industry to rethink everything. No brand has seen a more dramatic shift than The Halal Guys, a food cart turned franchise where long lines and busy stores were part of the appeal. So how do you transform a hot spot into a safe, reliable meal?
Enchanted New York
A tale of religion in Manhattan in the 19th and 20th centuries
The Gut Renovation of Ryan Serhant
He was a real-estate striver slinging cheap rentals until ‘Million Dollar Listing’—and a pandemic market—made him the plutocracy’s broker of choice.
The Nightmare Share
She posted an ad for a roommate. What’s the worst that could happen?