An Easier Life in 3 Steps

3 steps. Not three easy steps, but I promise they lead to an easier life.

Life is not an easy road. “Follow your heart” is an adage that seems to be outdated in context – particularly when there is high ambiguity, misunderstanding and one-sidedness, extrapolated in a fast paced, digital world. Instead, I prefer to follow my vision.

Visions are abstract, peppered with ill-disciplined habits, they usually remain a daydream for many of us. The “Hustle Hard” culture romanticises stress, anxiety and piling on more than you can handle.

Ultimately, when you hustle without an extremely clear vision – there is no straight path to follow. There is nothing to build your home upon but sand.S

So, as radical as it may sound – what if we could Align instead of Hustle?

How can we “align hard” instead?

  1. Develop a clear focus. Choose only one vision to achieve. Ensure that the vision is not too micro that it gets boring and mundane quickly. Simultaneously create a selfish and an altruistic reason why you wish to embark on this vision.
  2. Set deadlines. Visions are dreams unless accompanied by actions. What do you want to achieve and by when. Set up an excel spreadsheet and check off ✓ the completed tasks. Ideally, progression should be on a weekly basis.
  3. Create a support group. If you are more socially inclined, you may need some social support. Don’t be afraid to get like-minded friends to keep you on track. The idea is to make sure you don’t overload your plate.

Benefits of being Aligned

  1. More energy. Technically, it is less work. You know what you are working for and more importantly, why.
  2. More relevant opportunities come to you. People take note of what you are doing and where you wish to go. Those who feel they can work with you will arrive at the right time.
  3. You learn to say No tactfully. I used and still do think that saying no to others is a bad thing. However, I have learnt to add on why I can’t take on a certain responsibility which will appease both parties. Always put quality over quantity.

“If a man knows not which port he sails, no wind is favorable.” – Seneca

Since my endeavour to become more aligned with my clear, albeit, sparse goals in life, I’ve never felt more liberated. In fact, I’m getting used to saying no and feeling a surge of happiness course through me.

Align and you will have time to create, chill out and just live in the moment whilst having a peace of mind that your life is on the right path and on auto-pilot.

A wise friend once told me that life is like a ship – if the captain does not know how and where to sail, the ship will eventually wreck itself. To me, the “hustle hard” culture sounds exactly like a captain with no vision, only purpose. So, stop the Hustle Hard culture, because there’s no one to impress but yourself.

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Relinquishing Financial Control

In the spirit of minimalism, most of us seek financial independence. But, what is financial independence?

Financial independence is the ability to garner enough income that you do not have to rely on external sources (i.e. friends, family, personal loans etc) to make ends meet.

In Singapore, the “no debt is the only good debt” ideal is mainly impossible – thanks to how high our cost of living is. We all need to live with a mortgage and a car payment if those two items are necessities.

However, achieving financial control is a different game. So, if you are living from pay cheque to pay cheque, it’s probably not a good idea to do these things. It’s so easy to get caught up in the wants from advertising and social influence that you forget what you truly need.

In the era of constant upgrades, upgrading a phone is as easy as swiping a card on credit. Easy money, cash backs and instalment plans makes everything seem within reach. Why separate needs and wants when you can have your cake and eat it?

But, can you really? How long will this cake party last before the fat lady sings?

Below are some helpful musings I have come up with to hopefully veer you on the road less traveled.

Instead of buying a new upgrade, ask yourself:

  1. Do I have credit card bills to pay?
  2. Do I have debt?
  3. Have I adequately funded my retirement?
  4. Will this new upgrade truly pay it’s rent in my life?
  5. Is my current device holding up?
  6. Will I be better off if I replaced a few features in my current ___________?

Unfortunately, for the last pointer, most items nowadays are not built to last, no matter how hard companies try to convince you otherwise.

You can purchase new flashy items to impress the wrong crowd, or assume that these new items will invariable make a huge impact on your career and dating life – however, in the long run, these things should not matter if you come home to a bank account that is lacking and a mountain of stress.

Before you swipe that credit card for another upgrade, run through the 6 defining questions. You have better things to upgrade in life, and most of them are not material.

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Raise your standards. Lower your expectations.

Being on the trail of reducing possessions, stuff, wants and materialism in hopes of becoming more productive, happier and most importantly, more discerning for more than 4 years – has carved out a vastly different character as compared to who I was in my teenage years. However, what it brought about was the biggest mirror for me.

Have you ever found yourself making decisions based on your social circle? My teenage years were peppered with internet influences and a handful of friends from school. Never was one to conform, my first foray into raising standards was to challenge the thought of dogma in religion. However, that rebellion did not seep into the other sections of my life – academia, career and relationships.

The past few years of exploring my options with career choices, academic interests and partners have unveiled a revelation of where I want to go, what to pursue for the next 5- 10 years and what traits do I want in a life partner.

  • Do you regret your career path?
  • Are you able to manipulate it into something more enjoyable?
  • Are you pursuing your interests?
  • Have you forgotten what your dreams were?
  • Why are you choosing your life?
  • Why are you choosing your partner?

These are questions that I mull over at least once a week. They give me a quick 10 minute meditation practice to help me stay in the present and focused.

Although the awareness of what is best for the self came a little later in life – one question still lingers.

Do we really know what we want in life?

The choice of free will weighs upon each of us with contempt. Contempt in how you balance the scale of contentment and choice. Minimalism, when taken into a non-material context, makes you face your choices on a daily basis.

  • What can we eliminate?
  • What brings contentment into my life?
  • Am I working on what I want in life?
  • Do my actions and words align?

These daily conscious choices places a huge mirror in front of you because you need to reflect the exact same values you wish to attract. With this practice, I have learnt to raise my standards for myself, but to lower expectations in others.

So, are you working on creating a life you will eventually be contented with? Minimalism can only bring one so far, but the biggest minimalism game is within yourself. Decluttering physical items can only bring you so far, it’s the internal garbage that it the toughest to eliminate.

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Konmari isn’t Minimalism, especially in Singapore

Marie Kondo’s Tidying Up reality series is taking the world by storm and Singaporeans were not spared. From aunties to blogshop fashionistas, the name “Marie Kondo” spilled from their crimson painted lips every time they find out about my minimalist lifestyle.

“Oh! Then you must be a fan of Marie Kondo! Did you watch it?”

Yes, I watched it, but no, I am not a fan. I struggled to get through both books, and managed to complete the manga in an hour. After a month of edginess and aching curiosity, I caved in and watched two episodes of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.

Basically, she teaches her clients to sort and discard their items according to categories and not rooms. The thought process behind it is to keep an item if it sparks joy. The ritual, imbued with calmness and serenity, starts with Marie, her personal assistant and the family of choice taking a short breather to thank the home for being a kind abode for the family all these years. Then, the savagery begins.

The petite ex-shinto maiden then makes her way through each room and gives the family a run down on the various categories items should fall into, if they spark joy and to thank them if they need to be discarded.

Her categories of organisation includes:

  • Clothing
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Komono (miscellaneous items)
  • Mementos

Before parents can object how juggling children and keeping the home neat as pie is an astronomical feat, she mills down these mental obstacles by featuring clips of her and her young daughters complementing each other. Who does not want kids who love tidying up?

Is the Konmari method sustainable? She tells us to remove to items that do not spark joy, but where are we sending them? Will they ever spark joy again? Singapore is a densely populated city with literal access to malls and shops of all kinds. Is it realistic that your donated crap will be used again? Do you really think the third world countries really want your stained and dirty rags?

In Singapore, the juggernaut of the “konmari” trend has led to tons of unwanted items, sitting in trash bags, unevenly sorted and mindlessly wheeled off to charity stops. Yes, I did create a directory in the MIS Group of where to discard items you do not wish to have. The innate purpose of this directory was to show how much trouble we need to go through to bring an item into the house. Buying it gives you a dopamine hit, but clearing it out does simply the opposite.

The weight of discarding is in the end process. You can declutter your house and spend hours making clothing tacos that stand up in a row. However, if you continue bringing in items, then the essence of minimalism is lost.

The minimalist lifestyle was birth from the frustration of mass consumerism and eco-consciousness. We practise minimalism to bring self awareness of how we bring in material items into our lives. Within the minimalism community, most come in wide eyed. “How can I live in a simple and beautiful homes with so little stuff?”

The answer is in the curation.

Before we embark on why do we want to clear these things out, we should take time to recall why did we bring these items in. What kind of life do we want to create – this hold more objectivity than if the items spark joy. Sorry, Marie, but joy is a subjective emotion. Bringing in those items sparked joy in all of us, but it does not mean that we should keep doing it. To reach goals, I believe in more objective measurables.

We cannot ignore that with whichever motivator we use to remove items from our home, we are the problem. Being an affluent country and a bustling business hub, amongst our neighbouring countries, Singapore is a haven for cheap shopping. Fake Calvin Kleins for $10 a pop and $15 bras that do not fit exacerbates the issue of having more unwanted clothing piling up in landfills and donation bins. The overwhelming amount exceeds the purchasing rate of buyers. In an ideal world, we need to start keeping unwanted items out of landfills and donation centers. We also need to start questioning our consumerism methods with each purchase.

So, keep this in mind when the next phase of Chinese New Year spring cleaning comes along. You can konmari, but what happens next?

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Whittle Down Your Wedding

You’ve heard all about the bride-zillas, grand weddings and a million outfit changes in a contemporary Asian wedding. In cosmopolitan Singapore, we integrate both traditional Asian wedding practices and with the grand highlight of a 8-10 course lunch or dinner banquet.

The cost of living is not cheap in Singapore, and the economics of dating and settling down steers younger Singaporeans away from the Singaporean dream.

“No money to get married, where got money to BTO!”

The lament rings close to the heart of the average Singaporean millennial in the last decade of so. Yet, it is not that Singaporeans are uptight wads who do not wish to settle down – it is the increasing pressure to get married early and be financially settled that diverts the millennial generation to date casually in hopes to avoid hefty bills and difficult financial commitments. This has lead to the recent evolution of cosy weddings. Cosy weddings are intimate, fun and very instagram-able.

This brings us to the question – How does one organise a cosy wedding? This weekend, one of our members asked just that.

“Hi all. I’m doing research for my wedding and was wondering if you guys have any ideas for cheaper alternatives to banquets? I originally did not want banquets.. but just felt nice to gather friends and families together for one night nonetheless. Do share any ideas you have on how to keep the banquet simple? Thank u”

-MIS Member, S. Lim

Below is a list of ideas for creating your own cosy wedding without breaking the bank.

  • St Regis Brasserie Les Saveur (Lunch service was quoted to be approx $55/pax) inclusive of wedding decor.
  • Book a decent chalet or bungalow and organize a small potluck or barbecue.
  • Park Royal Alexandra offer decent per pax rates for wedding dinners. Reduce your outfit changes and marches to just 1 dress and forgo the expensive rental of the wedding car.
  • Support local cafes and other small businesses by hosting a casual gathering for friends and relatives on your wedding day. Prices are usually not steep if you do not book it specifically for a wedding (hint). Member, Ms Chai Lean Teoh, did just that and spent only $2,500 on 45 guests – wine included!
  • For the super relaxed couples, you can rent a tentage, book a buffet spread and forgo the stuffy wedding clothes. Instead, ditch traditional garb and opt for smart casual instead!
  • All weddings hold precious memories, do not forget to hire a reliable photographer to capture these moments to look back on when times get tough.
  • Instead of going for expensive wedding rings, go for something customized instead. You won’t break the bank when rings are less than $100. Check out local shops such as: Studio Emoi or The Mindful Company
  • As for bouquets and other accessories, some online shopping and word of mouth recommendations won’t hurt. Personally, unless you are born with an artistic flair and semi-trained in floristry, trying to put a bouquet together is a waste of time and money.
  • Cakes are definitely something everyone looks forward to at a wedding. Cakes are not a necessary part of the celebration, but if you’re thinking of ordering a minimalistic cake – check out Naked Cakes by MIS member, Jane Tan.

Know any more ways to have a minimalistic and cozy wedding in Singapore? Drop your comments below!

Additionally, if you’re keen on knowing our little community, you can join here. For all other blog posts, read through the archives here.

Rate of Regret

Blame the silent generation for wars, or the boomer generation for the ________________ dream invisible yard stick. But enough of the consumerism blame game. Honestly, we are in 2019, and we have been in the age of excess for close to 60 years and counting. We no longer have to step out of our homes to gain access to a MacDonald’s meal.

However, with accessibility comes regret. It is only human nature to love the hunt. Recall the last time you cooked a lavish meal for yourself or a loved one. That process and dedication definitely made the meal more special than some random takeaway. That is why advertisements still use the clique lines of having home cooked meals delivered to your doorstep.

Recently on Reddit, I came across this post on regret rate of purchases. I found it inherently useful when it comes down to evaluating my own purchases.

My regret rate for 2018:

  1. Shoes – 20% (Functional but not the best)
  2. Clothes – 60% (Functional but would not purchase 60% of the items again)
  3. Cosmetics – 10% (Lipgloss colour too dark, but the rest were fine. Would buy again)
  4. Dining out – 50% (I’m so bad at choosing where to dine out and making decisions on what to eat so it gets disappointing)
  5. Electronics – 10% (I bought a Macbook Pro for mainly work purposes – However I have not decked it out with the rest of the accessories. I just do not like that it isn’t as universal as a regular lap top.)
  6. Medication – 30% (TCM medication can be a hit or miss, as well as OTC medication. You win and you lose, especially when you’re desperate and down for a month.)

Item purchase count (excluding food): 31

Clothes is a pretty tough one because it’s an object that is very emotional and provocative when it comes to social situations. I’d say a “regret scale” exercise can help you quickly put something back on the rack rather than regret it later.

However, through this quick exercise of evaluating purchases, you start to get a bit more objective on how you would be allocating your money. The essence of minimalism also makes you question. Question the meaning of the purchase, the contribution it will make towards your life and your discoveries of yourself and your relationship with purchases.

Challenge: Try out the regret scale exercise for 2019!

2018

Funny how life falls into place, calmly, almost in a boring way, when everything you aimed for starts to materialise in front of you. One of my favourite ways of balancing life and work is via the the concept of ikigai.

Introduced to the concept of ikigai a long time ago, I never knew the power of this gem until recently when I had the chance to meet 2 inspiring young entrepreneurs. Dusting off the years of neglect on this concept, I immediately immersed myself in intense self reflection.

“How can I remain in the state of contentment when everyone else is in a different boat, climbing different pay grades and hierarchies?”

” Why do I want to leave my current career and will stepping into the next make me exponentially happier?”

” What benefits do I get from switching careers?”

“What changes do I want to see in myself as a teacher once I go back into teaching full time?”

I took a break from teaching 3 years ago due to various circumstances. The break has given me a pair of fresh eyes and new found strength in my skill sets. After a few weeks of scribbling and rationalising, this was born:

  • Minimalism (Passion)
  • Meaningful work (Paid for + Good at)
  • Growth with a 5 and 10 year plan (Needs)

2017 was a year where I wanted to be the perfect partner. 2018 was about personal finance. Through these imaginary goals that I set, I learnt that perfection is just a mere illusion. What you want in a partner may not be what your partner wants in a partner. The control over your personal wealth may not spill over as wealth in other aspects.

Since I was 15, there has been a tug of existential frustration. The yearn to do something meaningful and passionate, often seem conflicted with the grand scheme of capitalism. I recall asking an adult on what is the main goal in life, their advice was “to accumulate as much money as possible”. It was on that day that I strove to be more than that.

Maybe teaching is my ikigai, or just owning a small business with a familiar business model in future. I shrug off these feelings of inadequacies as I leave purposeful footprints towards my ambition of being a small business owner. On a higher plane, I believe in helping the next generation better their thinking skills. Question the system, question what they read, question what they were taught, and find the answers.

How was your 2018? Did you take time out to reflect on how your actions paved your year? What did you put out in 2017 that led to the actions in 2018?

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