Make room for your dreams!

I paid a visit to my favourite YouTuber Melissa Alexnadira’s new webpage where she put on resources she created for personal development. Most of her work talks about setting goals and achieving them. I very much appreciate her passion and effort, but I think not everyone can benefit from her work because most people live in a mess.

Melissa asks people to picture their perfect life and write down their life goals. Then she tells people to break the big goals into small chunks. That’s a very classical tip offered by motivation gurus. But most people, people in reality, are too BUSY. Their schedules are too busy to allow themselves enough sleep, let alone fit in a daily task that pave the way towards reaching long term goals.

I am not making excuses for people who choose to lead a busy life. What I am suggesting is, motivation gurus can perhaps start their 101 with a lesson of decluttering and downsizing. The problem with those people is that they have too many physical stuff as well as the untangible like meetings, gatherings and shopping to do. If they simplify their world by limiting what they need to get by, their schedules will then have room for new projects.


Donating a Beloved Book

It was a picture of a blonde with blue headscarf, pearl earrings and pink lipstick — almost like a Vemeer’s. I was captivated at the first glance.

In the logic of “time first, money second”, I did not want to pay a visit to the book store every a few days just to patronise the art work and so I bought the book. I spent $131 just for a single page. It isn’t even on my bookshelf anymore for I have donated it to my secondary school art teacher. It’s now a minor asset of her art reference corner.

I didn’t regret buying or donating it as I read into the fate of the book. It can either sit on its bored owner’s dusty book shelf or once in a while be discovered by and inspire a group of art students.

I know how much I’d love to read an newly published illustration book rather than the older ones when I was a student. Of course I could see buying a book but not owning it until the end of my life as a waste of money, but it could also be a present from “the new me” to “the old me”.

💸My Old Spending Habit (2 of 2)💸The Turning Point

My first taste of how minimalism could bring clarity and focus in life was dated back to 2008. During my short immersion in Australia, I’ve experienced how little one actually needs in order to survive and be happy.

As an avid reader, I came across several books written by decluttering experts in Japan and they were great guides to decluttering but I wasn’t ready to fully implement minimalism yet.

Then quite unexpectedly, two months before my graduation, I suffered a setback in the love department. I was so heartbroken that I was forced to re-evaluate every single belief of mine because all along I was wired to think “he” was “the one”. Something must be wrong in my head and I needed to know what it was.

I was in desperately need to move on and start from a clean slate. So I pulled out all possessions and looked at them one by one. “Does it reflect my ideal self?” I asked. If it didn’t, I tossed it to the trolley which was filled with clothes, books and trinkets to be donated to the Salvatory Army.

It was one of the wisest decisions I made for myself because thanks to my determination to downsize my stuff, my two movings in 2011 and 2012 became much less of a burden. I didn’t have a crazy amount of boxes to pack and unpack.

💸My Old Spending Habit (1 of 2)💸

I am not being one of those self admitted shopaholics who take their syndrome proudly as a prize when I say this, but I used to be very, very lavish.

All my friends know my bad spending habit. When I went out, I would spend the last banknote in my purse. There had been times when there wasn’t enough bus fare left that I needed to borrow a few dollars from my friend.

It all started when I was twelve. I didn’t want to feel inferior with my affluent friend. Since we met at weekend for tutorial class, I bought a new T-shirt, vest or sweater every week just to keep up with her abundant closet!

Luckily this friendship didn’t last long, or else I would certainly be broke from the additional expenditure starting from the age of thirteen when I was introduced to k-pop by my friend.

Not many people listened to Korean music in Hong Kong in early 2000s and so Korean stars’ products weren’t that widely available. It was almost like an obligation as a fan to buy every spotted knickknack with a Korean star’s face printed on it. I could have paid the first instalment of a mortgage had I not spent all those money on H.O.T, Shinhwa and some other K-pop bands.

Things didn’t get any better when I was juggling the development of both the brain and the body throughout the four years in college. My thirst for cultural input got me hunting for books and video discs which might not be relevant to my profession. My poor understanding of my body shape and skin type, and most importantly the lies told by advertisers and my impressionability, fooled me into buying an abominable amount of products that didn’t serve me.

💰New Money Habit 2💰Decluttering

Decluttering has been a buzzword for the past few years now. Even if you don’t feel like joining the whole fad of Minimalism Movement, you should give decluttering a try because it does relate to money management.

First and foremost, decluttering reduces our desire to purchase. Anyone who read KonMari’s book and follow her teachings will agree that decluttering is an exhausting, at times excruciating task! By simply clearing out the clutter in a space as small as the bathroom is enough to be shown how much stuff (in other words, money spent) one actually owns.

Some of the stuff we own are stored in places that are bound to be forgotten. It is only through decluttering that they come to light. We may think we need the latest product shown on commercials but once we see with our very own eyes and touch with our very own hands the stuff we actually own, we will see how bountiful our possessions are all along.

Apart from curbing our desire to shop, confronting with our clutters can resolve our potential to be an achiever to earn more money. Once a space is decluttered and the resources are lay neatly in front of us, there are less distractions and we will have clearer goals and work more efficiently.

Ethical Shopping (My First Purchase After A Year-long Book Detox)

During my gap year/spiritual journey in 2011-2012, I found the dharma talks given by Ching Kung master (a Chinese Buddhist monk) so enriching that I didn’t feel like reading anything secular, except for teaching purpose (like the poems and short stories covered in the syllabus of HKDSE English Literature).

During that period of time, it was kind of a guilty pleasure for me to buy this book called Bonjour, Happiness. To be honest, I didn’t even need this book, as I considered myself quite qualified as a French in most aspects of my lifestyle. If it doesn’t cover anything that I don’t know already, why did I buy it?

Well, I spent half an afternoon reading in an air-conditioned, well-lit and spacious bookstore, so it would be morally wrong to walk out of it without leaving anything behind aside from a few strings of hair from the mindless brushing and twirling while reading… I am kidding!

The true reason was, I wanted to be an ethical buyer. As a minimalist, I believe I bear a certain degree of responsibility in supporting the ideas of finding happiness in a less materialistic approach as preached by the author Jamie Cat Callan.

Before that, I hadn’t really picked up a book and walked to the counter for nearly a year. There was only this one time when I wandered around a nearby district and discovered an underground used bookstore with over ten cats lying and jumping around.

I don’t want this place, the home of those cats, to close down but I know it probably will someday as people are less inclined to paperbacks. I want to help with the rent, even by just a few pennies. Besides the boss kindly directed me how to get to my destination. In return I bought a few used books there.

Another example of ethical shopping was I bought a packet of baking soda for $10 at a bakery supply store when I could get the exact same box for $9.5 at a chained supermarket. To which store my money goes to matters because each dollar speaks for what I support. I wanted to support a local store which specialised in baking so I opted to spend my money there.

Compared to this guy here in Hong Kong who started his one-man campaign of not buying things from corporation chain stores for a year, I am only doing so little.

I hope by sharing how little we can do to implement the notion of ethical shopping that more people will join the league and make this world a kinder place.