Black Minimalists: Carl Nickles and Tracie Chavonne
Carl Nickles is a pilot for a major airline and lives just outside of San Francisco in a 650 square foot apartment where he practices minimalism with his partner Tracie Chavonne, who works as a flight attendant for a major airline as well. When not at their day jobs, they spend their time working on their business, Crescent Sol, a self-publishing company.
How did you find minimalism or did it find you?
I actually stumbled onto the term minimalism by accident. My journey started around 2010. I was living in a relatively large home with my wife at the time (now divorced). We had acquired a lot of things that we rarely used over the years and as time had passed, I noticed the house was difficult to keep clean (we also had dogs) and much of our belongings didn’t have a designated space. After reading just a little about minimalism and attachment online, I began to look at some of the things I was holding on to and what I could do to change my “need” to have things.
What are your goals in living simply?
My partner Tracie and I currently live in a 650 sq. ft. apartment. So anything that we bring into the apartment is going to take up space somewhere. This means it has to have a purpose. Keeping this mindset is a goal because we won’t always live in a small apartment. We may move to a home with twice the square footage or more. Being in the habit of examining everything that comes into our home gives us the freedom to create spaces that are free from clutter so that our home becomes a sanctuary from the world, not a microcosm of it.
What does your minimalism look like? Has it impacted other areas of your life?
Two areas of our lives that have been significantly impacted by minimalism are Money & Sustainability! The less we try to keep up with the neighbors or friends or old ideas of what we think we should have, the less we spend. Instead of buying for quantity, we buy fewer, high quality items to complement our home and lifestyle. Additionally, minimalism encourages us to be conscious of the type of products we use to maintain a clean, green, and safe home. We make our own products when we can to reduce how much waste is created in the environment outside of our home and are avid recyclers.
What, if any, surprises or challenges have you encountered?
The challenge I face most often is learning to “breathe” through the process of discerning what is really needed. I love convenience! So any gadget or service that makes things easier for me always gets my attention. Typically, however, convenience almost always comes at a cost and increases the “things I now own” list. The temptation to buy without thinking never completely goes away.
What lessons have you learned since going minimalist?
The biggest lessons have been that I don’t need stuff to feel successful and that having more things doesn’t make life more convenient. In fact, the opposite is true. Asking “why do I need this?” and “do I need this now?” have completely re-ordered my life and lifestyle.
What advice do you have for someone interested in simplifying their life?
Go slowly and go at your own pace. Drastic changes can be difficult to manage and maintain. Also, just as we constantly consume to keep up with someone else’s idea of success, we can also minimize to someone else’s standard. Minimalism is an individual and personal journey. Keep it that way and find what minimalism has for you.
What does liberation look like to you?
Liberation is having the means to acquire something, but not being under pressure to do so. Liberation means not having to participate in a system that can rob you of wealth, experiences, and relationships. The holiday season is a prime example. We all have heard of someone who camped out on the morning of Black Friday to be the first in the store to buy stuff that the receiver will probably no longer be using a year later. Liberation is being free of mindless consumerism and expectations.
What does being a black minimalist mean to you?
Being a black minimalist has definitely opened my eyes to the trap of consumerism particularly within the black community and in black culture. Living as a minimalist means I can serve as an example of a different way of life. and consequently, others can realize that living minimally is something that black people do. Equally important is that being a minimalist means that my life and my surroundings are in sync with my desire to live with less and derive my happiness from within instead of from collecting more things.