Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Can one be enough?

I struggle with owning only one of something. I have three phones, two speakers, three pillows, three sets of beddings, four pairs of work shoes, seven bottles of lotion/tub of body butter, five kimono dresses, two backpacks for everyday use... The list goes on and on.

About two months ago, I read this article about the joys of having just one of things. Of course, I don't mean for everything. Obviously, I'd still need multiples of underwear and clothes but I can see the point of having one of certain things. If I had one of something:
1. I'd take better care of it
2. I'd be able to use ALL of my possessions
3. I might be able to afford higher quality items
4. There would be an increase in intentionality in my purchases

However, I worry about replacing things. Where I live, I can't just walk up to a store and expect to get the things I want when I want them. Re-stocking items is not a thing and ordering online takes months and a lot of money. Someday, maybe I'll live somewhere where most things I think I need to have doubles of will be 20 minutes away and under $20. For the next six months? Definitely not.

I do know that I need to keep cutting down on duplicates and multiples though. I can't use the same excuse over and over again. All the same, I need to know which battles to fight and when the quest for minimalism can become too much or too impractical. I have allergies and replacing my beddings help. I don't want to keep running the wash when I don't have a full load. Also, part of my identity is - I have things for "just in case." I'm willing to share and give away, so, I do need things to share and give away. 

Moving forward, I'll just re-think my purchases and make sure I'm not buying something I already have and don't need a duplicate of. At the end of the year, culling items I don't need will be easy once I pack up. 

Monday, April 11, 2016

Mindful Spending and Possessions


Since March, I've been on a purging/de-cluttering rampage. When I first moved to Tanzania, I was only allowed 15kg as checked-in baggage. A little more than a year later, when I moved house, I had amassed double, perhaps triple that. For my age, if you think about it, I don't have a lot of possessions. Apart from my books back home, I don't have much else other than a chest of drawers containing a few odds and ends and hardly any clothes. I don't have anything in storage. Everything else by way of physical possessions, is in this house, in Tanzania. The question is, what do I really need to own?

My current book pile
  • Books. Living in Vietnam converted me to e-books. Traditionalists will argue about this again and again, but I'm happy to say that I'm now able to read a book and let it go. 
  • Clothing. Living in tropical countries, having enough change of clothes is important, both for hygiene and also for the environment. Since I use a washing machine, I need to have enough to last me between (sizeable) loads. I don't need 50 shirts of inferior quality just because they have funny sayings. I need comfortable and sturdy shoes more than pretty ones. 
  • Gadgets. I like gadgets and nifty tools far too much for my own good but I don't need them, not really. I have to think about what I use and what I currently have and make sure I don't buy random things just because I think they're cool or that someday I may need them.
  • Beddings. Three sets of bedding is enough - I can't always trust the weather to comply and dry my sheets immediately and I need to change them about once a week to make sure my allergies don't bother me any more than they usually do.
  • Important documents. 'Nuff said.
  • Stationeries and other paper products. My excuse is I'm a teacher. It's not enough to justify having triples of things I don't use often. Pens are another matter, because I'm fussy about using only ultra fine point and they're not available here as far as I know. I check my locker and my box at home every term to make sure I don't store things I don't need any more.
  • Extra toiletries. Here comes another excuse - toiletries, can be quite expensive here as a lot of products are imported. I tend to hoard when possible by buying when I'm abroad or asking friends to bring them for me. Since my  time in Tanzania is drawing to a close, I have to quite doing this and use up what I have before I leave.
  • Sentimental items. From now on, I'm only going to keep things that make me happy. 

I have always thought words with -ist and -ism mostly divide humankind. I'm not aspiring to be a pure minimalist. I like my wall of postcards, letters, pictures and memories. The laminates of collages I made to raise my spirits during a time of depression, I definitely want to keep. My tables are not always going to be devoid of tiny figures or whatnot. What I don't want, is to not know what I have and to be overwhelmed by choices of what to wear and what to use because I own too many things. I don't want to not have time for what I think are truly important. I want to spend my money more mindfully and for it to go towards my needs and my dreams.

For the remainder of this year, I will only spend my money on the following:
  • Groceries and toiletries as needed
  • E-books (I haven't set my budget, but I also haven't bought anything new since January)
  • Cleaning and shared housing expenses
  • Gifts for others (I need to plan more carefully and make sure I'm not buying random things for gifting's sake)
  • A haircut (maybe)
  • Contact lenses and solution 
  • Trips
  • Experiences (theatre, museums, wildlife safaris, etc.)
  • Any other shopping has to be planned and thought about for at least a month, otherwise, I probably don't really need them

I sort of have an addictive personality (understatement) and I've inundated my sister's and Lily's inbox with links to some articles regarding simplifying, decluttering and minimalism. If you want to read some of them, you can find the best I've found at the following sites:

A Letter to My Parents


It took me ages to write everything out although the content has been in my thoughts for a while now. I'm sending a paper copy but I'd like this to be kept online as well.

Dear Mom and Dad,

I’m sorry we don’t talk as often as we used to. Dad, can you turn on your wifi more often? Let’s coordinate so I can call you on Viber or FaceTime. I’m writing you a letter because what I have to say is quite lengthy and a bit maudlin as well. We don’t want Dad to be bawling like a baby by the time I finish.

I think it’s pretty awesome that I had my eighth leap birthday this year. Leapers all over the world still aren’t very common. I’ve only met or heard of a handful and even online, there aren’t that very many of us. It’s a very cool birthday to have, though.  Anyway, thinking about my birthday and where I was celebrating it got me to start thinking about how lucky I was. I had quite a wild imagination as a little kid but never had I imagined my life to be what it is now. I wouldn’t have imagined me to be who I am now.

There are so many things that I like about my life, many things I’m grateful for. I don’t think I’d have most of them if you weren’t the people you are and if you’d raised me differently. I know it hasn’t been all that easy, I do hope it has mostly been fun for you both.

I have lots of memories from childhood. I remember learning how to read and write with Dad, taking lots of walks and talking about everything under the sun. I used to ride on Dad’s shoulders, eating (contraband) street food when I went with him to work and listening to him chat with anyone who had a tongue.  Mom, you used to wrap me up like a baby in my favorite blanket and tickle me while we watched your soaps and action-packed TV shows. I recall going to work with you and watching you teach your classes. I mostly remember your naughty students and how I ended up collecting Marvel cards because of them. Walking up and down that “mountain” to get to your school was fun because you told me lots of stories to distract me. It was always hard work getting you to tell me about your childhood because you said your memory wasn’t like Tita Gelie’s.

When Dad left for Saudi Arabia, I had a fantastic time writing and recording letters for him. By the way, Dad, thank you for letting me make all those (grammar and spelling) mistakes and not making me feel bad about them. I can’t remember whose idea it was to let me start performing in school, it was great though. I never stopped being scared of being in front of people but at the same time I loved it. I learned how to express myself and got the confidence I needed to accomplish a lot of things. I am lucky to have a prodigious memory but learning to train it wasn’t an accident. To this day, I remember the words to most of the poems, declamations and orations I had to recite, by heart. Dad fostered my love of reading and Mom inadvertently made it the most enticing thing to do by forbidding me to read books other than textbooks or assigned reading during the school year.

They say every mom is a kid’s number one fan and may at times be unrealistic about one’s gifts or talents. You, Mom, were certainly never the latter. I love how forthright you are about your children’s (and your husband’s) flaws. You taught me to be honest but not to be cruel and to compliment people when they deserve them. Watching you work on our finances and your openness about how you manage them taught me how to manage my own. You trusted me to watch movies on my own and let me wander around the mall while you worked. I wasn’t always deserving of your trust and that’s how I ended up losing the school bus privileges. Nevertheless, I think I can attribute becoming independent and street smart, to all that.

Dad, I know I sometimes may have disappointed you by not being as religious as you are. I appreciate you being patient with all my questions and letting me talk about what I read or hear about so I can understand and create my own core beliefs. I always looked forward to the time you spent with me singing worship songs and old songs. You talked about your faith and always treated my opinions and queries as valid and deserving of your attention.

We had our rough patches, but I mostly remember your love. I thank you for my virtues, my strengths, my flaws and my weaknesses. Without all those, I wouldn’t be me.

There are a lot more stories to tell and reminisce about, more recollections to attest to how wonderful you both are. On that note, I end this letter with hugs and kisses sent to both of you.

With love as always,
Angela