Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Mini-maximalist

It has been about six months since I started this idea of minimalism.

My mom is a total packrat and I have picked up her packrat-ism. I buy a lot. I keep a lot. I never throw anything out.

I got into this idea of minimalism when I woke up one morning and felt like I had nothing in control in my life anymore. There were a lot of things that were very uncertain for me, personally and professionally. That, and I also couldn't do my makeup at my dressing table every morning without knocking at least 5 bottles over.

I felt like my life was a mess. I needed a change.

I chanced upon my now all-time-favourite blog, The Minimalists. I like everything about that blog, from the layout, the font, the content, the pictures, the way it is written, the slightly dreamy feel to it, in short, everything. The only thing I don't like about them is they're doing a 100 city tour and Singapore is not on the list, damn it.

But I digress.
I've discovered it's more important to know why you're doing something than to just blindly do it. I was a very messy person - ask anyone at work, my cubicle was an absolute mess. I'd tidy it up, but a week later it would look like a tornado hit it again.

The idea of minimalism - or, my idea of it anyway, is that it allows you to focus on what's important in life. You take away the clutter (clutter can be physical objects, can be too many projects, or too many people) and you start focusing on what makes you happy.

So I started clearing my things. I spent about 4 weekends decluttering. I gave away clothes, shoes, makeup. It actually took such a long time, because I had so much stuff! I never realized how much stuff I had, and how much stuff I had bought where there were still price tags attached to it. Every weekend, i would have at least four big garbage bags full of stuff to donate.

Then, I found out I was relocating to Singapore. This forced me to declutter even more, because I had to fit all my stuff into my new apartment in Singapore. I wasn't sure yet where I was living, so I wanted to bring only bare essentials. My bedroom in Malaysia was about 45 square metres. The apartment (whole apartment!) that I'm living in now is 45 square metres!

So even after I moved into Singapore, I decluttered more. I had to give away 30kgs of clothes, because my cupboard here was too small.

Here's what I discovered, though.

1. I don't miss any of the things I decluttered. I was hardly using them anyway, and they were just plain taking up space.
2. I know where everything is. I used to be always stressed and rushed because I was constantly looking for things.
3. I feel lighter. And I think that every minimalist feels this, and why it can be pretty addictive.

I am far from a minimalist. I still have too much makeup (i gave away 50 lipsticks a few months ago, but I still have a lot) but I think I'm getting there.

The biggest change, for me, was my trip to Europe. I went to Germany in January 2013, and I spent about 2.5k euro in total, buying a lot of things. In fact, I bought so many things I had to buy a new suitcase to carry all my stuff.

I then went again to Germany in December 2013 (for the same time period) and I am really happy to announce that my spending has gone down by more than half (I only spent 1k Euro this time), and I actually could fit all my things comfortably into one big travel bag and one hand carry bag (which held mostly things like my travel pillow and jackets). My boyfriend was a little impressed with me for buying so much less than I had last year! It was also a bit strange, because I'm earning more now than I was in January, (I switched countries and the Singaporean currency is 2.5 times the Malaysian one) but I spent so much less.

I now know what makes me happy and what doesn't. Money doesn't make you happy, as cliched as that sounds. Of course, if you are poor and really struggling to make ends meet, then money is extremely important. I do find it slightly patronizing when people say money doesn't make people happy. I think only people who don't worry about money anymore say this.

My point here is that, instead of a new Prada handbag (which I bought in January), experiences have become so much important to me. The thrill of buying something new lasts a very short while - you hand over your cash or credit card, your fingers close upon the handles of your shiny new purchase, and you feel a rush of elation.

Then, that's it. Sure, you might feel some form of 'prestige' that you now can afford a Prada bag. But, so what? Do I need a Prada bag if it's going to cost me a bomb?

You know what I bought this time in Europe? Maybe it's a sign I'm growing older, but I was very much more interested in foreign foods! I bought bratwurst! Stroopwafels! Chocolates! Stuff I can consume. I didn't even feel the urge to walk into a Prada store.


This is me standing outside the Prada store in Milan. I didn't actually go in!


After my trip in January, I also came back to a huge credit card bill. My trip in December - debt free!

I was looking at some old pictures and saw how messy my table used to be.




What a nightmare, isn't it? Looking at this I wonder how I ever lived like this.

Now, I am honestly living with a quarter of the stuff I used to have, and i feel so much happier. I've become a little less selfish. I get a lot of beauty products since I work in a beauty company. I used to hoard and keep all of them, because I'm a bit like the dog in the manger. I've learnt that this is stupid - either I never use them because I'm 'saving' them, or they expire. Isn't it better to give it to people who would like it a lot more? 

This is just the beginning of my foray into minimalism. I honestly think everyone should just give it a shot, to see how much lighter you feel - and also you will learn you don't actually need most things. 

People say its harder to live a minimalist life when you're a girl, since we females have more shoes, more handbags, more makeup. Well, yes. I love my makeup. I love color. But minimalism isn't about depriving one's self. It's not about me living on 2 outfits and no makeup. It's about me keeping the makeup I love and use all the time. It's about maximizing my consumption. 

I now always have a bag open in my apartment. Every day, when I decide I no longer have a use for something, or no longer like something, I put it in there. It's my 'donation' bag. When you do this sort of slow, little by little decluttering, it really does add up. 

I also buy less. There is no point in decluttering and throwing things out if you're going to replace everything. This also means I can focus on quality, and not quantity. 

I'm very happy with the improvement I've made with myself. I also feel I have more time, more energy, and I use my money more wisely. 

So, give it a go. I promise you won't regret it :)


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