I have been officially outed…as a Minimalist. Courtesy of Completely London magazine.
You can read about it here.
With the start of the year, I have continued with my practice of not having specific goals in mind. Instead, I will advance in the direction of where I would like to be and in the process, arrive at situations where I can derive happiness, fulfilment and inspiration. I can say as of now, I am quite happy and contented to be where I am. Quite.
Simplifying and decluttering and living a minimalist life is not guaranteed to deliver happiness. We can throw all our stuff away and still feel no happier; instead we might end up even more miserable. You see, happiness is not about having too little or too much; it is not about deprivation or stuffocation- it is finding that sweet spot in between that is both personal and unmeasurable through the exercise of moderation.
Though I am headed in my desired direction, there were inevitably times along the journey when I have intentionally or unintentionally, lost or gained in excess both physical stuff and non-tangible assets. It was during these occasions and times of realization that my joy got coloured with discontent and my abundance came with a tinges of lack.
It has been nearly six months since I sold my home and during this period of living in a rented property and looking for my next home, I realised, even more than before, how important having my own home and property was to my happiness and contentment. Home ownership doesn’t just add greatly to my happiness and contentment; in my case it is also a wise financial decision in a place like London.
The sense of loss hit home hardest during the festive season. It has been our tradition to buy a duck from Borough Market and roast it for our Christmas dinner. I just wasn’t in a mood for festive celebrations and feasting in the Christmas that’s just past. I was missing ‘home'; a place where I feel nice and comfortable and where I enjoy pottering around and cooking meals in my cosy kitchen. I gained much from selling my property but have also lost a place I can call ‘home’. So hopefully this year, I would be able to find a place that can be Home.
I revel in being an Inspired Idler. I love that sense of freedom in having no one to report to except myself; not having to do anything except whatever takes my interest and fancy. Most of all, I love having time, quite a bit of it, to do as I pleased. Recently however, I began to get up later in the mornings as there was not much to get me out of bed for, I found that some days can drag on and on, there were times when I didn’t feel like staying home and there was nowhere I particularly wanted to go to. I could sense emptiness and drudgery beginning to make furtive inroads into my life. I realised I have too much ‘free’ time- time with no particular purpose or intention. That’s not inspired idling- that’s just idling and wasting time. I was having too much of a good thing and not channeling it in the most optimal and useful way.
Happiness is only one part of being successful; the other parts are growth and contribution. I can be growing more and contributing better. In other words, I need a renewed purpose to make my days more intentional and meaningful. Apart from my dream home, that’s what I’ll be searching for in the year ahead. Exciting!
Since I embraced simple living and minimalism and started this blog two years ago, a post on ‘I am debt-free’ has been at the top of my list. I still can’t believe that I am finally in a position to write such a post: I am debt-free and I have money in the bank. It feels rather surreal and after two months, it has yet to fully sink in.
For the first time since I left university, I am totally free of debt. Debt-free: two words that seem so innocuous yet whose attainment can bestow so much freedom, lightness. and control. The freedom to explore options, make choices and pursue dreams. The lightness that comes with not owing a single penny and of owning every single pound, beholden to no one but myself. The control that I have regained over finances and my time and how I want to spend it. The realisation that I fully own every one of my possessions and assets. That feeling is rather indescribable.
Many of us have debts in one form or another and in varying amounts once we reached adulthood. University debts, credit card debts, car loans and mortgages are all part of being grown up and getting ahead. We are mortgaging our future for a better present which we can’t presently afford; in the hope that our future would be able to cough up the payments. Then that opportunity arises for that nicer suit, that newer car model and that bigger house- and we fall deeper into the debt hole. One would hope that job promotions and pay rises would make our lives a little easier, our debt pile a little smaller. Easier said than done. With more money, we yearn for that even nicer car and bigger house to keep up with our newly elevated status. Oh dear, we just have to stay in that crappy job for a little while longer to keep up with the payments. Having money can make us poorer and more indebted – sad but true. It is like buying bigger size pants to accommodate our bigger waistline but ending up eating more because we now have more room to fill!
We all consume in one way or another and I am not saying consumption is bad. We all need shelter, food, clothing and a few other things to make our lives civilised, comfortable, enjoyable and efficient. But mindless consumerism where we consume impulsively and with the vain hope that in some way or other it will give us the happiness and purpose that we crave for is self-defeating. It is likely to make us more reliant on the jobs we loathe and leave us further from our true happiness and purpose.
I followed a similar trajectory after university. I had good jobs earning good pay with good companies in exchange for long hours, stress and diminishing personal time and self-fulfilment. Weekends were sacred as I sought to spend those precious hours in doing things I like and spending money on things I wanted in order to assuage the misery that piled up during the work week and dull the dread of heading back into the grind on Monday. Sunday night blues is not just a myth; it was very real and tangible in my case. Each new job and promotion delivered more money into my bank account but there never seemed to be enough for me to feel ‘rich’. I was buying stuff; of not only things I needed but also of things I thought I needed and that I wanted. I used to think that if I were to leave the house, I needed to bring something back, anything, even a copy of the day’s papers to make it worthwhile, even though I know I didn’t have the desire nor time to read it. I was buying stuff on my holidays, on my work trips, and each overseas posting added more to my possessions. Anyone walking into my flat would find it nice and tidy and nowhere near cluttered. But clutter can be a rather subjective term. I had a lot more stuff than I actually needed or wanted and they were draining my finances and robbing me of my time and clogging up my living space. I was buying stuff with my hard-earned money and credit cards, hoping to numb the misery of my cubicle existence and make myself happier, staying in the job so that I can fund my purchases and pay off my bills, getting the next bigger job with a bigger pay cheque, consuming more to numb the bigger dose of misery and dullness that came with it. The cycle repeats. But the happiness remained ephemeral and I spent more money and had less time and control over my life.
I was staying in jobs that paid me good money, paid my bills and indulged me with the little luxuries in life but left me empty. With time, the misery grew deeper and the emptiness reverberated stronger. I finally took the plunge and left the corporate world to spend my time working on projects that I am passionate about and that give me happiness, purpose and delivers value. I felt a lot happier, freer and more fulfilled. But I still carried the burden of having to pay the bills and think about ‘making a living’. Then I chanced upon this article and I was blown away. It was as if the scales dropped from my eyes and a stone was lifted off my back. I was filled with hope, excitement and lightness- clichéd but true. This is the carefree state I want to be in: debt free. Saying is much easier than doing and it has been quite a long-drawn out process with tough decisions and uncertainty aplenty. But I finally made it and I am truly embracing the freedom and lightness that came with the disentanglement.
I am writing this post in one of my favourite local cafes. A light-filled space staffed by friendly baristas and serves great coffee and Eccles cakes by St. John (the best ever!). I paid for my coffee and cake with cash as I do with the bulk of my purchases- I seldom use my debit card nowadays; my two credit cards have not left my wallet in the past two months and have become seemingly redundant. Cold hard cash gives me better control over my spending and prompts me to buy and consume more mindfully. I also tend to ask myself if a purchase is going to add value to my life and worth that amount of money to my freedom and time. I glance through the list of properties that are up for sale. The London property boom has thrown up a a slew of properties that are way over overpriced; waiting for desperate buyers rushed by the limited supply to take the bait. I believe that I will find my dream home; one that is right for me, when the time is right. I guess one can’t rush such things; magic happens when you are least expecting it.When that dream abode turns up, I will be paying for it in cash- no more mortgages, no more debt.
I turn my attention to Helen, the barista. Watching her make coffee is quite addictive: grind the beans, fill the porter holder and slot it into the machine, press the button and watch as the coffee gets extracted into the cups, sending wafts of coffee aroma my way. I have always had a keen interest in coffee and have recently taken it a level up by attending coffee courses. The thought of opening my own bookshop and cafe has always been lurking at the back of my mind; waiting for the right moment to manifest itself into reality. I can afford to buy my own shop now- that is if I wanted to. I can also work as a barista and make beautiful coffee all day long if I wanted to. Being a barista has never been a option for me in the past because I needed to ‘make a good living’ in order to pay my bills and maintain my standard of living. But now being debt free has opened me up to choices and options and I am free to choose and pick the road I want to travel on. There is nothing to hold me back except myself.
“It’s only after you’ve lost everything that you’re free to do anything.”
Finally, I did it…a month ago today. This poem is a gift to my beloved home in south London; thank you and goodbye.
Ode to Oval
Located in the Oval is my beloved 2 bedroom flat, near Kennington, Brixton, Clapham and Vauxhall is where it is at
It was the year 2005 when I moved in in the month of May, to my lovely home near Kennington Bookshop, Happy Shopper General Store and Malinka Polish Cafe
Though my dear flat was shabby when I first moved in, I refurbished every room and was excited for my journey there to begin
New doors, white walls, and cherry wood on the floor, a new kitchen and bathroom filled with wonderful decor
Lots of natural light, plenty of space, and the ceilings were high, as I sat in the reception room watching people, seasons, and the years go by
Conveniently located close to The National Gallery, Chinatown, and the bus route 159, my favourite bus route that took me to all my favourite hangouts and eateries to dine
The Lucky Fish Bar for Chinese and The Coriander for Indian food, and the Oval’s Farmers’ Market or the Cable Cafe Bar’s Tuesday night ‘live’ jazz, if you’re in the mood
Only minutes away from Charing Cross where I loved to visit Foyles Books and Cafe, such a great place to unwind and relax on any given day
Blissetts Hardware Store and Di Lieto Italian Cafe and Bakery, these are just a couple of local spots where almost everyone knew me
Such a lovely area to live in with great local attractions and nice people to meet, thanks to my flat, I was able to have a front row seat
But my dear flat is now sold after nine years of precious memories, I have packed up, said goodbye, and the new owner has the keys
I gave a thorough final cleaning to this home where I used to dwell, said goodbye to each and every room, closed the blue door and bid it farewell
It was so sad to have to let such a great place go but I knew our journey wouldn’t be forever when it started years ago
I will never forget you, my beloved flat and I am thankful for all my time there, but I am ready to move on and embark on my new journey elsewhere
Though I have gained a fortune, I lost my home of almost a decade, the first place I owned, the place in which I stayed
You were truly my first love and I will always carry that load, so this is for you Oval, this is my ode.
I have always loved the word ‘Serendipity’- a joyful confluence of unexpected but desirable outcomes and good luck. In my previous post, I shared how I was on a long holiday and how I was (desperately) seeking inspiration for new ideas and ventures. That was till I learned how to go with the flow of the Universe, to just be and the things you were seeking (and maybe more) will come along when the time is right. I think when you are in tune with how things work, you allow things to work the way they need to. That’s when serendipity occurs and the good and/or right things turn up when you are not looking for it.
I was on the final days of my trip and met up with some old friends for dinner. One of them is now a distributor for a leading brand of 100% pure therapeutic grade essential oils. She was led to it serendipitously herself; her son was a rather sickly child and these essential oils helped him regain his health. I was never much into essential oils apart from the odd bottle here and there to perfume the space and make the massage oil smell nice. Anyway, our conversation turned to the topic of abundance, luck and money ( they all happen to be on my list of favourite words) and she said, ‘Do you know there’s an oil for abundance?’ To cut a long story short, I bought a bottle of Abundance and my dear friend also gave me a bag of free oil samples for my partner who suffers from a chronic illness. No harm trying!
I was expecting to suffer terribly from post-holiday blues and wallow in abject misery. Well, I was not too happy about being home but overall I was feeling better than I should be. I believed that inhaling and diffusing my bottle of Abundance supported me emotionally through the first two weeks. I also become preoccupied with learning more about essential oils, leaving me less time to bemoan the absence of sunshine and ocean views in London. I bought a few more oils and tried them out. I sprained my foot while away and numerous foot massages did little to help it; but the oils mended it in a few days. I suffered from a premature case of long-sightedness and a week ago, while reading, I realized I was holding the book at a normal distance and not a mile away. I was cured and I became a convert; bolstered by the positive benefits and experiences of the essential oils for myself and my partner.
I feel inspired by the benefits of these oils and to my own surprise, I really do enjoy learning about them and using them. There are three key things about these essentlal oils that resonated with me and aligned with my values. Essential oils are a natural way to remedy the physical, mental and emotional imbalances and illnesses we suffer from in the course of our lives. They help promote wellness, which is harmony between the body, mind and spirit. It was through knowing and interacting with people who suffer from various ailments that I truly realize how important good health is and that things that I take for granted, like a good night’s sleep, can be so elusive to many insomniacs, with debilitating effect on their overall quality of life. As I have been helped, I would like others to be helped too and by wanting to share these oils, I was given a sense of purpose. Through sharing these oils, I also get the opportunity of gaining an income stream and generating abundance. All the boxes for an inspired venture were ticked and Providence Oils was born.
That was how I found my latest inspired venture; it came later than I had hoped and it wasn’t what I had expected. It wasn’t even on my list of ‘potentials’. But such is life, if you allow serendipity to work its magic, you might be pleasantly surprised!
You’re my serendipity.
I wasn’t looking for you.
I wasn’t expecting you.
But I’m very lucky I met you.