Minimalism for the Introvert

As a child, I never knew what introversion was. All I knew was that I was drawn to these things:

  • Cozy hideaways from humans
  • Reading for hours at cafes or the library
  • Super minimalist interiors which are perfect for a recluse
  • Tiny homes
  • Scented candles
  • Piles of reading material
  • Quiet time
  • Naps
  • Solo activities

I thought these activities were normal until I realized that most teenagers my age were out with friend for four or more days out of seven. A strange phenomenon to me, coming from a mixture of curfews and general dislike of going out to crowded places often.

When an introvert tries to extrovert

Fast forward to my young adult life, I was eternally enraptured by the extrovert’s ability to multitask, have long endless conversations about any topic in such a captivating and animated way and the confidence to face the unknown. I saw how their talents shone in University where their presentations were more animated and well graded than a boring one filled with facts and details.

I wanted to learn how extroverts function and that’s when life got a bit more complicated.

Public speaking, sales, networking were 3 deep pools I decided to fling myself into. I enjoyed it in university, where the weight of actually forming real business connections were not extremely crucial. However, taking up a job which involved sales showed me that I was clearly not suited for an extrovert’s arena.

Overstimulated and overwhelmed, I burnt out super easily. It took a consultancy teaching business to burn me out over the span of 7 years, but only 2 for a sales position. I knew something was not right.

Craft your career around your personality type

At this juncture, I knew that the old adage “if you fail, keep trying” would not apply here. I had a deep think about what I would be good at and add value to myself and I got back into teaching.

I’m glad I did my introspection and got to my current destination in life. I am now happy, living with purpose of having a simpler life with fewer but more meaningful goals, a family, a loving partner and my pets.

As an introvert, I realised that I was not someone who is super nurturing, outgoing and a carefree spirit.

As an introvert, I learnt to embrace that I was methodical and focused. I may not be able to juggle twenty balls at once and carry out a random yet entertaining conversation, but I can focus, streamline the unnecessary fluff and execute my plans.

In short, I prefer depth to scope.

Better commitments, less stress

This led to a natural inclination towards the minimalist lifestyle. If you’re also an introvert like me, having minimalism as a foundation to your lifestyle can lead to a calmer, less overwhelming, more effective and happier lifestyle that helps you to say no without the guilt.

When you are familiar with your vision, goals and priorities, you will know how to align your actions.

The first step is the clear your plate and that is where minimalism has helped me immensely. Clear your plate, and then clear it again.

Social Minimalism

I used to think that you need to add every single person who sends you a request on Facebook and LinkedIn. “Your network is your net worth”, right? Then comes the string of weird people hitting on you, randomly inviting you out for coffee to sell you a gimmick or another, or to spam”like” their millionth start up (just because everything else failed). Yes, extroverts are GREAT at networking, but their start ups lack focus and often need more attention than they can give.

Extroverts are excellent at broadcasting and bringing people to embrace an idea, but an introvert is great at giving life to the idea. That’s why we have long term friendships with very few friends.

When it comes to physical meet ups, choosing my circle became priority. Now, I just choose to be with the handful of close friends and have coffee from time to time.

I’ve even come to embrace online meetings and conferences as an effective platform to share ideas, meet new people and decrease travel fatigue.

Fashion Loyalty + Personal Style

Mood swings, fantasies and projections of the ideal self. Concepts that I used to build a haphazard wardrobe that never seemed to please me. We are constantly told about following the ever shifting trends and the idyllic well curated wardrobe that we are supposed to have at the same time. Can we achieve the pipe drivel we have been fed by the media press?

In reality, we cannot have our cake and eat it.

Since then, I have created my own cake. I use no more than a 5 complimentary colour template. These five colours match my skin tone, personality type and each other.

You can nibble on your personal classic wardrobe every day if you ensure that you kick the habit of fast fashion and following trends that are not right for you.

The result of not having fashion loyalty to shifting trends and staying true to your personal self is a more confident, less awkward you.

The Quiet Gym

I never enjoyed group activities. Firstly, I have a short fuse for patience. I prefer my alone time while I exercise without having to work with another to achieve my fitness goal. Secondly, I love zoning out while churning out reps in the gym or doing power walking cardio. I plug in a podcast and I hit two daily goals at once.

The best part? Once your earphones are in, no one speaks to you. No time is wasted, you get your alone time and you learn something. You give your body the full attention it needs.

Is the weight too heavy? Is your posture right? How many reps could you churn out well today? Are you overextending your shoulder? Are you compromising an old sports injury?

The minute details can make or break a workout.

However, if someone strikes up a conversation after my workout and cool down, I do not mind having a certain amount of small talk.

Food and Dining Choices

I still have Eatigo and other discount cards stored in my Perkd app. However, I do not actively use them unless I can get a good discount or just discovering a new place to dine at.

Another reason why I do not enjoy tapping on these dining apps is due to the same reasons why these dining options are on the apps. The dining options are usually not popular, serve sub par food, bad service or serve ridiculously expensive menu options.

I am also one who is pretty much a boring eater. I stick to the same few places I am familiar with or the same types of food. This places usually have my expectations of them set. Singapore has a whole barrage of food, new eateries popping up on a weekly basis, but restaurants that serve good and homely food are few and far between.

Yes, I am also one who will willingly splurge on a good cup of coffee that I can thoroughly enjoy for at least an hour.

At the end of the day,

Not everyone has the strength of the extrovert to interact and be with people all day. Not everyone has the ability to juggle twenty balls at the same time while recounting a charming death defying life experience.

Maybe introverts are not meant to do these things.

Maybe introverts were meant to juggle 3 or 4 balls at the same time and perfect the art of giving life to these few priorities on their plate. 

If the extrovert’s strength is to go wide and explore, then the introvert’s fortitude is to go deep and and nurture.

Special Thanks

I would like to give special thanks to Feedspot for featuring my blog in their list of top 100 minimalist blogs. Visit their list to check out more minimalist themed blogs worldwide. 

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5 reasons why I do not choose to be a zero-waster.

Trawling through the vast internet on zero waste living, the plethora of articles of how you need to lug around your own tumblers, sporks and handkerchiefs around in a huge grocery bag started to grate against my nerves. In fact, that image of bringing a whole bunch of stuff around with me was one of the reasons that held me back from experimenting with the zero waste lifestyle.

Funnily enough, the interview of Anita Vandyke on the Slow Your Home podcast was enough to spark this blog post. She mentions that being a naturalized Australian with Chinese parents who migrated from China, her community is very much an Asian bubble. The Asian culture is very much based on face value – that is, to appear successful for your family to be proud of your achievements, to support your family as they age, and to be the exemplar version for the next generation.

She then adds that her parents were pretty much “zero wasters” based on coming to Australia with almost nothing, they did not throw much away. They tried their best to own as few things as possible, reduce purchases by mending what they had and kept frugal.

By “sacrificing” splurges on themselves, they gave Anita the ability to pursue a degree in Engineering. Being the filial first born, she started to climb the corporate ladder in reverence of parental sacrifices. However, it was during the climb that she started to have multiple existential crises. This led to her going down the path of the zero waste lifestyle.

I can resonate very much with the values she grew up with – both pushing one to be the typical overachiever, filial daughter as well as frugality.

Yet, why was this podcast not strong enough to push me into the direction of going zero waste?

I do not like binding rules

When I discovered minimalism, I also stumbled upon veganism. However, being vegan for 2 years started to become a restriction to my lifestyle instead of something that was kind. The food was rather awful, I fell ill more often and I did not feel good at the end of 3 years. However, a plant based lifestyle was what I stuck to and I feel so much better that I do not have that many food restrictions.

If I were to follow a zero-waste lifestyle, I can foresee that I will be in a bind again. Living consciously should not add stress to my life because that is not the goal for such a lifestyle.

I do not like carrying a whole bunch of items with me

Being a teacher and carrying glass items around is a no-no. I shudder at the idea of a child smashing my glass tumbler. However, due to the nature of my work, I do have a super light Tupperware tumbler as well as a free vacuum flask( which is giving way to wear and tear) which I carry around. I really recommend the Tupperware brand as they have a lifetime guarantee.

As my work pantry does not have a microwave, I usually prep my meals and heat them up when I get home. Instead of meals, I bring along a healthy trail mix, fruit or muesli bars. Thankfully, the pantry keeps a stock of coffee, chocolate malt drinks and snacks for teachers in case I forget to pack a snack.

Recently, I have grown more conscious of the waste of packaged snacks and the amount of un-recycle-able plastics they come with. This is why I am slowly integrating chunky cereal, fruit and nuts for my snacks. 

We do not live in a circular economy

No matter what we say and do, Singapore is only a blip in the equation of waste generation on a macro scale. Singapore is also a buy based economy and we thrive on trade and services due to a huge land scarcity. In essence, we need to put money back into the economy to keep the economy healthy. No homesteading for most of us, unfortunately.

However, while browsing some zero waste shops in Singapore, we can invest our hard earned money in items which will:

  1. Last us for a long time – and they usually come with a lifetime guarantee
  2. Be good for us and the environment

These are some brands which offer a lifetime guarantee and practice pretty sustainable practices for their own products:

Additionally, before you purchase a more expensive item, check out their guarantee or how can they help you extend the lifespan of your possession.

These are some items that you can pick up for a better environmental footprint and saves money in the long run:

  • Bamboo toothbrushes
  • Refillable tooth powder
  • Refillable mouth rinses
  • Make up remover cloth
  • Menstrual cup

After using the menstrual cup, I only spend money on a pack of regular pads (20 pieces) every 3-4 months. This saves me so much money as I used to buy 1 pack of overnight pads and 1 pack of regular pads every 2-3 months. 

The average price of a menstrual cup is SGD$30. Only 8-10 months worth of regular pads! The cup is easy to wash and travel with. No more worries about rushing to the washroom regularly during your heaviest days.

We need bendy straws.

Did you know that plastic straws were first invented as adaptive technology in hospitals?

To Szymkowiak’s point, bendy plastic straws were originally used as adaptive technology in hospitals. In the late 1940s, inventor Joseph B. Friedman sold the disposable “Flex-Straw” (or “personalized drinking tube”) as a tool to help reclined patients drink from a cup. As the Flex-Straw advertisement shows, they were sanitary, cheap, sturdy, temperature-resistant and suited for children and epilepsy patients.

The bendy plastic straw was originally used in hospitals and vital for people with disabilities, qz.com, July 2018

I am also not a fan of reusable straws. Maybe I am a clean freak, but vivid images of mold, fungi and saliva traces lining the inner surface of the metal or bamboo straws after months of use is a nightmare I do not wish to experience. The reason why we use straws in our cups is to prevent saliva sharing when sharing drinks in public spaces or to avoid uncomfortable situations in public dining settings.

However, I am conscious that straws break down really slowly. Compost-able straws have been invented as an alternative, however, they do not do much for “saving the environment” unless they are disposed of appropriately. There is a difference between home compostables and industrial compostables. Most generic plastic compost-able/bio-degradable plastics are industrial compostables. This is due to the optimal bacteria and environment that is harboured in these facilities, such as Green Back.

Yes, I do concur with the current excessive usage of straws. However, there is a time and place for straws. Cold drinks filled to the brim, or drinking from dubiously washed plastic cups in a hawker center definitely calls for straws to be used. However, we can always get ourselves a hot cup of tea, not take more than one straw per mouth or bring our own tumblers when it comes to cold drinks. 

There is a time and place for fast fashion

I love comfy and cheap lounge clothes. The kind of clothes you wear with your closest friends, loved ones and and alone. Easy to break in, kinda cute but super comfy. Yes, one might say that H&M super cheap 8-dollar tank tops are supportive of child labour. However, I do use these tank tops for at least 5 years.

The second item I usually turn to in fast fashion is undergarments. We need to change them up so often that I find it necessary to keep to a reasonable budget.

I will keep certain purchases in the fast lane to keep within my personal budgeting.

Conclusion

The zero waste movement does trigger elements of stress for me. Perhaps it is the pressure to always put the environment before my personal needs and the twinges of guilt when I do not is something I do not enjoy. This is further exacerbated when you break a rule and the zero waste police comes after you.

Life is like a conundrum of esoterica, so I do not believe that you can be “zero waste” for all situations. However, being brought up in a home where we encourage recycling, mending, repairing, saying yes to second hand items and frugality – I believe that we can go the extra mile to reduce our own carbon footprint. A footprint may not mean much, but it is an effort to teach values to the next generation – especially my own.


If you enjoyed this piece, you may read more here.

The Choice of Missing Out

Ever splurged on a dress you saw a colleague wore at work? Or spoiled the market at a meet up by upping the game of having a “brunch meet” that was oh-so Instagram-able?

Nope, we neither. Just kidding. We all have our moments of weaknesses and overextend our budgets or even salaries to not miss out on something. According to the Association for Consumer Research, the fear of missing out or FOMO is a symptom of social anxiety.

The fear of missing out stems from our fear of appearing:

  • Less competent
  • Less qualified
  • Less of a better person
  • Inability to be the “all rounder”
  • Less wealthy
  • Less happy
  • Less successful
  • Less friendly
  • Having less (due to childhood denial)

Before you start pointing the finger at mom and dad and booking hours of therapy to fix childhood traumas for your FOMO, continue reading this blog post.

In our obsession to fill in the gaps of the proverbial things that we might be missing out or that we have missed out at some stage of our lives, we intentionally push ourselves to hustle hard. By the way, how is the hustle paying off for you? Do you appear:

  • More competent?
  • More qualified?
  • A much better version of old self?
  • An all rounder?
  • A lot wealthier financially?
  • A lot happier?
  • A lot more successful?
  • More sociable?
  • Better work life balance?

If the answer is no to more than two of these in the inexhaustible check list, it’s time we revisit on why the hustle was worth the effort and time.

How did our insatiable thirst to do things accelerate into the “hustle hard” culture of today? Some may point to social media to be the root of the FOMO wave, but is it really? According to an article by The Cut, social media is simply the ever present messenger that reminds you to examine the interior lives of others – something which cannot be done if left without a window into someone else’s life. You can choose to shoot the messenger or treat the root of this issue.

Can we actually make better use of social media?

The choice is yours to make. You may simply use social media as:

  • A marketing tool for your business
  • A marketing soap box for your profile
  • A platform to catch up with friends and relatives
  • A tool for you to follow people who inspire you

You can choose to miss out on scrolling mindlessly through social media for the sake of your eye health. Instead, download podcasts, read on your kindle or blog.

A simple exercise to wean yourself off the social media scroll pacifier is to try to remember what you enjoyed doing when you were 10 – 18 years old. Chances are that what used to entertain you as a kid would still be as appealing – just find an adult version of it. Alternatively, try using this Values worksheet and rekindle what the ideal version of yourself would look like.

My own social media wean

I’m miles from being perfect, but I’ve stopped scrolling through Facebook, Instagram and deleted Twitter off my phone. I’ve switched off notifications for my Facebook feed and disabled cellular data for Instagram. This practice did not happen overnight, but this happened overnight.

I started to realize an aching strain on my eyes and my shoulders were starting to hurt again from bad posture and prolonged sitting in front of my laptop. This was due to work and learning online. I force myself off my work chair and slump into the sofa nearby.

My pacifier was usually the television or my phone as a break from work or study. Insert eye roll. I know, but we all fall prey to the siren call of “little internet world”. Somehow, we have managed to con ourselves that the internet world on our phones is vastly different from the internet world on our computers. I thought I was a healthy screen time social media user until I downloaded a screen tracker.

After using the Moment app as recommended by The Minimalists, I’ve noticed a huge shift in the way I use social media and screen time. I no longer instinctively click on Facebook in a moment of boredom or scroll through Instagram. Instead, I usually catch up on my Whatsapp texts to clients and colleagues, look through emails and brainstorm ideas on what to write next.

To reiterate, social media is not a bad thing. However, how you use it with a resource you can never redeem again can make social media a bad thing, especially if the after effects are detrimental consequences.

After thought

Maybe going off social media may help ease the FOMO demon in you, but it is also about who you follow on social media. If you showed me the top 10 people and pages you follow on social media, I can (and you too) tell you why you have a certain FOMO, and it has nothing to do with mum and dad denying you toys in your past. Mum and dad had to miss out on things to have you, and you know it.

The bare truth is that we will always be missing out on something. Chasing something into the ephemeral future leads us to miss out on what we have at present. By missing out on our present plate, we cannot check back and create a better future – a future that is better than your present.

Maybe, it is time for a step back before you can take two steps forward. Miss out on your next hustle, and immerse yourself in the fruits of your current labour.

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Have Yourself A Minimalist Winter

Living in Singapore means it is warm all year round. Travelling to a country during their winter season is a treat more than a dread. However, because it is a treat, it means that experiencing winter would be a once in a lifetime experience for most of us. Being in the minimalist lifestyle community, the decision to purchase winter apparel and it’s tag-along accessories is one that hangs heavily over our heads.

Aspiring minimalists or not, we do not want to pile on more clothes into our wardrobes without the intention to wear them again. So, what are the best cost efficient ways to save on Winter clothing in Singapore?

Now, we need to consider that:

  1. We are not used to waking up to intense temperature changes in the morning.
  2. We have absolutely no idea how to effectively work around winter days that are considerably shorter.
  3. We usually take it for granted that the weather forecasts are more or less accurate.
  4. We are cellphone addicts and wearing gloves means no phone use unless you want to freeze your extremities.
  5. It takes at least 2 weeks for the human body to get acclimatize to a new temperature. It is by then that we dread the humidity and heat in Singapore whilst on our way home.

Now, rental of clothes may seem like a good idea but is it really? According to reviews, it is not as it seems. So, what other ways can we get around Winter Wonderland as a minimalist? I’ve added in responses from our little community in Singapore as well.

Borrow or Swap

Winter 4

Yes, you can collect points with any of these swap stores if you register with them. The Fashion Pulpit is one place which is conveniently located and permanently up for swaps. Simply swap it back for a cute dress or something more humidity friendly after you’re done if your trip and do not wish to keep your winter items.

Purchase second hand for items that can be swapped, sold or donated.

winter 1

Winter 3

Purchase what you need, but look for second hand loot instead. My autumn trench is 2nd hand and it served me well for 5 weeks in Australia during my Winter business training trip. Try out our local thrift shops and pay it forward to those who need it more as well. If you are going skiing, make sure to check if the ski resorts rent appropriate gear.

Places to scour:

MINDS HQ

Salvation Army

St Mary’s Church (Bt Batok)

St Vincent’s Church (Yio Chu Kang)

Purchase only the essentials that should and cannot be swapped easily.

Start by mindfully creating a list of what to purchase and the number of wears per trip or trips.

Winter 2

Winter is cold. I mean, “I do not wish to wake up to endure the pain of icy water” cold. I loathe even the slightest tinge of cold. You will be wanting to stay cosy in thermals, jeans, long sleeves and a coat all day. Therefore, there will be things that will be intimate to you. These things need to be purchased brand new and they are usually easily replaceable in temperate countries.

Things to purchase brand new:

Thermals x2

Boots that fit your feet well

3 pairs of good winter socks

Good pair of well fitted gloves

Every other winter apparel can be bought second hand.

Additional things to pack:

Baby oil/ super moisturizing cream

Good day cream with SPF

Good night cream

Good chapstick

A pretty hair accessory that keeps your hair in place.

Conclusion

Winter may put a dent in your wallet and your curated capsule wardrobe. However, with clever ways to get around Winter, you can easily pare it back down to the essentials once you are done with your trip by swapping it back for points or putting it up for donating or sale on Facebook, Carousell and other online platforms. If you have more nifty tips and tricks to navigate through winter as a Singaporean, drop me a comment!

 

Teaching Special Needs Children Led Me To Be A Better Minimalist.

She stared blankly at the math question that was explained, broken down, torn apart and simplified to it’s bare essentials. The silence was deafening and both our anxiety swelled within the four white walls of the room.

I took a deep breath and smiled at her.”Don’t worry, let’s do this again. You’re really good at the other questions. This is just a slightly challenging one.”, I assured her, and myself. Tiny bubbles of self doubt start to rise, but I silently burst them one by one.

I have been teaching students from all walks of life for 11 years – but I have a soft spot for special needs students in mainstream schools. ADHD, OCD, selective mutism, developmental delays, dyslexia and among others – been there, done that. Tutoring special needs children is not difficult if you are comparing academic and critical thinking skills, however, soft skills are to be honed to an extent of monk like stoicism.

Based off the theories taught in the multiple developmental psychology modules in University paired with vocational tutoring, nothing can truly test how skilled you are in handling any special needs child until you get to know them.

Parents with special needs children, you are a breed of parents whom I highly respect. The tantrums, shut downs, reluctance to sit still, reluctance to listen, lack of self control and many other ways just to wiggle out of academic learning are overwhelming to many. Often, parents come to me exasperated – the stress of their special one and the academic expectations of school stretches a parent very, very thinly.

I must admit, I am a sinner when it comes to throwing in the towel as well. Just 4 years ago, I was on the verge of a mental breakdown of handling a wide range of students, lack of time and self management, and experience. That was also when I decided to google “minimalism”. Embarking on minimalism shook my life up – for the worse, and then, for the better.

Minimalist or not, my special needs kiddos were the ones who reminded me of these lessons to be a more mindful person:

  1.  Lower My Expectations. Special needs students tend to be visual spatial learners most of the time. They do well with art, building things and imagining vivid stories. However, when it comes to one dimensional learning, they shut down. As compared to my neurotypical students, I have to remind myself and parents to stop hammering a triangle peg into a circular hole.
  2. Increase standards I hold myself to. Tutoring is pretty much a career where you can find yourself stagnating and cruising along for years or a career where you constantly find ways to teach better, for personal gratification. Without a recognized teaching certificate, my expertise and experience are my only ways to stay up to par and relevant. Thus, I constantly seek ways to help my students to learn in their own special way. Sometimes, an English lesson can become a cute play or even a science class as well!
  3. Staying in the present. It’s easy to get frustrated when you are vying for the child’s attention from a million stimuli in the periphery such as the faded photo on the wall, the loose pencil led that “must be fixed”, noises from the ceiling. However, shouting at the child of special needs and losing your temper does not benefit anyone. In fact, it just makes the lesson worse. I learnt to breathe, not fiddle with my phone, and re-adjust the lesson so that it stimulates the child appropriately.
  4. Quality over quantity. Say goodbye to rote questions, a pile of homework and completing worksheets at the speed of light. Yes, my neurotypical students are usually pushed to complete one exam paper and additional work in a typical lesson. However, with a student of special needs, a math question needs to feel like art, concepts need to be taught with mild role play. A single question may take up to 15 minutes to complete.
  5. I stopped comparing. I stopped comparing myself to other tutors in the same line. I also stopped comparing students. Healthy comparisons do motivate neurotypicals, but I avoid any form of comparisons when it comes to special needs. They are very aware of their condition and bringing it to the spotlight will in turn backfire on all efforts made.
  6. Watching Emotions. Many a time, effort to help a special needs child progress is a sisyphean task. You can get upset with yourself, disappointed and angry. There will be times you want to thrown in the towel. These days, I’ve significantly reduced by anxiety and self defeating thoughts by managing expectations of parents, and work on motivating the child than give in to societal expectations of private tuition with a special needs child.
  7. Keep it simple. Simplicity is best for teaching, any parent and teacher can attest. From how you teach a concept to the removal of distracting environmental stimuli. To diffuse anxiety, clear spaces, clear instructions and clear word – to – action matching is paramount. Constant, but not repetitive revision of notes, concepts and formulas are crucial for jogging the child’s short term memory and long term memory imprinting.

Being a teacher for special needs has made me a student in many other ways. I have learnt so much from my students, such as embracing life, instead of academia, or to look at things creatively. They have also taught me to simplify my life by ceasing comparisons, accepting myself and to work on one skill – teaching.

 

 

Raising Children To Have A Minimalist Mindset

Nurturing anything is a gamble, be it your career ladder, retirement plans or a child. We can all do our best to raise children mindfully, but it does not guarantee that the individual child would follow in your footsteps. They will have their own experiences in life, from childhood to adulthood, that will shape them.

All we can do is to show them how mindfulness and minimalism can lead to a calmer lifestyle. However, as with our possessions, we also need to let go of our expectations for the next generation. Keep a calm attitude when they bring home things that may “clutter the home” nor force them to part with something that you deem un-useful.

Hopefully, this will also shed some light (and ease) to parents who do not wish to be the typical “kiasu parent”, but instead, teach other aspects of life that can complement their other intelligences.

Early Intervention is key

After conducting a poll in the MIS Facebook Group, we got shocking statistic of more than 50% of members (1000 members then) wished they started their minimalism journey as young as 18! Most of us are busy trying to discover our identities then and fit in socially rather than simplify our lives. This shows that if in retrospect, many of us would prefer a simpler lifestyle.

Open Communication

The Asian culture is one that struggles to openly communicate about feelings, thoughts and plans with the family. We skirt around difficult issues and discuss practical daily small talk such as how is work or school getting along. It’s easy to have small banter with children about their new best friend or their favourite activity of the day. But it is tough to say “On Saturday, we will be decluttering your toy box.” However terrifying it may be, a simple discussion preempts the huge tantrums on the day itself. It is also important that both parent and child acknowledge good and bad feelings and how to work through them appropriately.

Small “important” talks will lead to more rational “difficult talks” later on in life.

Give Them Space

Singapore is scarce with space. Your child may be sharing their room with their siblings, or a relative. However, there are some items which are solely theirs and that needs to be respected. Don’t simply toss their items when they are at school, because they seem like junk to you. If you get rid of their items while they are gone, they will start to hide their items out of fear. Most children fear authority as they are unable to override an adult’s instructions. It is worse when we are in a country where it is okay for parents to dole out painful punishments.

Hiding their items from you out of fear breeds hoarding tendencies.

“What if mummy throws away my things and I will never have it again?”

Instead, pre-empt them about decluttering and get them onboard the sorting phase. A simple exercise would be that they can help you sort out your pile while you help sort out theirs.

If you happen to be hurt if they wish to discard something you or a close relative have given to them, it is your emotional baggage to deal with and not theirs. Respect their decision and move forward, bravely.

Teach Them About Where Things Go

We have our own Mins Game where items of working use can be donated to specific places in Singapore rather than be thrown into a chute or dumped at your closest Salvation Army. Bringing your child to see the faces of children who will be getting their toys and exposing them to different situations in life allows them to broaden their horizons.

Allow them to also assist you in selling away items that are in working condition. Add these into their “toy allowance” and soon enough, they’ll have better money management skills.

Have fun organizing

Make a home for each item. Use bins, shelves and hooks for items and explain the how things should flow and cultivate a habit.

Some examples would be:

  1. Backpacks should be placed on a shelf near the door
  2. Shoes should be on the shoe rack
  3. Legos should go into the lego bin

Can Singaporeans live without maids? You may find yourself only needing a part time helper if habits are cultivated well.

Follow the Leader

Your actions speak a lot louder than words. Remember the times when your role models did the opposite of what they preached? You can’t expect your child to follow your rules and expectations if you do not follow them as well. Play at their level and validate all effort by them.

Show them a better way of simplifying life and why it makes life worth more.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, parents turn to minimalism to focus more time and energy to their beloved children. Do not let rules and expectations cloud the emotional reasons on why children should have a minimalist mindset. It is about being there for your children and not missing out on their childhood. Embracing minimalism is about prioritizing the important things in life. Put them as priority and they will flourish.

The Life of Less Convenience

  • In 2015, I found myself highly addicted to a cacophony of obsession inducing app games and social media.
  • In 2016, UBER was installed on my phone. I also installed Telegram.
  • In 2017, I was slowly transiting from UBER to Grab. I also started ordering food on UBEReats whenever there was a long event. I was toggling between Telegram and Whatsapp as my most frequently used point of communication.
  • In 2018, my boss who is from the UK, asked why is everyone in Singapore seems be be on their phones all the time and why food is delivered every where. I ordered pet food from an app. I also had to reinstall UBER just for my Australian business trip. I’m now using Telegram, Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger for work and social communication.

In 2018, I downloaded the Moment app. As ironic as it may seem, I am using technology to combat my technological addiction. My initial usage count on Day 1 was 3h 29 mins of screen time. 

I was on my phone for 209 minutes on average, a day, and have reduced it significantly to 135 minutes.

I realised that 209 minutes is a lot of time missing out on the more important aspects of life, including just taking the time out to chill, write and read. According to a study by Nielsen in 2016, adults are the greatest culprits of overused screen time, using an average of 10 hours and 39 minutes of screen time per day. We don’t even sleep that much! When life hands you technological conveniences, they often come with hefty and invisible price tags.

2018 is the life of technological convenience, but also the life of “having to work more”. 

  1. Employers realize that meal breaks are no longer needed if almost any type of food can be delivered. Food claims can be confined to only delivery food.
  2. We increase our expectations of having things delivered to our doorstep at an instant. All we did was to download an app, so there’s no reason why the promised delivery should take ages.
  3. We reduce our standards of ourselves to produce better results. We rather have someone else produce the results for us. It’s easy when we have websites such as Fiverr and bots to handle the minor details while we strategize and give orders.
  4. We compare more and self-reflect less on our personal accomplishments, abilities and paths. Social media allows us to have micro-celebrities. All you need to do is select the item of choice on your social media platform and it will be sent to your doorstep in a matter of days. Voila, you can start pretending that you’re a micro-celebrity as well.

With an easier lifestyle boosted by technology, it is not difficult to see why most of us are feeling more depressed by the day, myself included.

Being in the ever elusive “minimalism” community, we do seem like “super relaxed” individuals who have our lives in order. Unfortunately, we are still mortal and susceptible to the ills of mankind. We still unconsciously overfill our time plate, placing pressures on ourselves to compete over trivial app games and have nervous breakdowns from daily over-stimulation. The convenience of apps and screens in our hands have led us to hide our emotional and mental issues behind a hand held device instead of fixing them.

Minimalism has instilled one discipline in me – re-calibration. If I feel anxious and overwhelmed, I am able to catch myself in this state over a period of a week. This led me down the lane of reclaiming time for myself, for my mental state and my poor eyes. The screen time, both needed and un-needed, were causing overwhelming strain on my eyes. To make things worse, I am juggling work, interviews, a mentorship programme and 3 sick pets (inclusive of partner). Oddly enough, just as I started on my screen time mindfulness fast, everything lifted within days. Work is panning out great, interviews are getting good responses, my eyes do not hurt as much and everyone is healing.

Thus, reclaiming lost time is definitely something that will change your life dramatically.

How can we reclaim our lost time on mindless scrolling?

  1. We need to accept that cannot reclaim “lost” time. It’s non-renewable and we cannot “earn back our minutes”. I recall throwing a slight internal tantrum at how I’m unable to take back just a few minutes from the app to reduce my shame. I head a minimalism movement in Singapore, yet, I am also victim to my own unconscious and vices. I did not magically “lose” time, I lost it because of a bad habit.
  2. Acknowledge that these apps enable both an easier lifestyle and social media addiction. Choose to use them wisely. Impose self discipline to use these apps to make your life easier, without the addiction. Need to catch up with a friend? Use Facebook to catch up with said friend. Need to get food delivered to your office? Use your delivery app of choice. Working 12 hour shifts? Use Honestbee to get your groceries done. However, keep to strict rules and ensure that you do not veer out of budget – time and money wise.
  3. Instead of scrolling through social media, do something creative with your “waiting” time. Message a friend you have not said “hello” to in a long time, build up better friendships with acquaintances, observe your surroundings, write, read, take a walk, breathe mindfully.
  4. Delete an app you know that wastes a lot of your time. Pinterest, Twitter, Tumblr, Snapchat – a few apps that come into mind when it comes to wasting time and not going anywhere.
  5. Download a screen time tracker app. As ironic as it might sound, my phone is now NOT on silent mode, but tucked away in my purse. My only indulgence is to play an app game for 5 minutes a day.
  6. Make your life less convenient by only responding via your laptop or desktop most of the time. Do not bring your phone with you to the pantry, kitchen, washroom. Most messages can wait, and so can you.
  7. Craft out better dates for your loved ones. Place their interests in mind and research on these places.
  8. Go for a brisk walk. It could be around your home or within the office compound. 10 minutes with no scrolling is 10 minutes of exercise.
  9. Work on something you have been putting off. Such as paperwork, organizing your desk, clearing out your wardrobe, selling things online.
  10. Go to bed earlier. Without the wasted, mindless scrolling and answering silly messages at night, we can actually sleep better. Reduce your sleep debt and anxiety by disallowing yourself to scroll through your phone at night. This step took a lot of discipline, but it is starting to feel easier.

 

Conclusion

These are some screen time statistics based off the American household, for the average screen time spent per person per age group. We are already unconsciously training children to need screen time from as young as a few months old to pacify our idle time.

Parents, who do not want their children to be isolated teenagers, are the greatest culprit of screen time as well. They spend close to 3 hours more on screen time as compared to teens. This can be due to ordering of food, calling in a baby sitter, hiring a Grab/UBER/Lyft car to the doorstep. Many reasons, and many excuses of the conveniences of today.

MIS Screen Time

Perhaps it is time for the present day adults to first set motion of reducing the conveniences of life, in order to reclaim life. Delaying gratification to achieve a personal goal presents a multitude of benefits, including increasing pleasure in the journey of partaking in a task.

  • Why order food from an app? Cook it yourself.
  • Why be addicted to yucky instant coffee? Make good coffee a weekend treat.
  • Why waste time playing app games? Treat yourself to a daily app game for only 5 minutes, if you must. Spend the rest of the time with loved ones.
  • Why waste time comparing yourself to others? Compare yourself to yesteryear and set better goals and even better standards for your future self.

Do you agree with my sentiments? Do leave a comment if you’ve benefited from this article or not! Would love to know what you guys think.

If you’re keen on reading more, you may start here.