The sweet spot between too little and too much

Happiness is a balance

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!


Life after Debt

Debt-free Living

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.”

Chuck Palahniuk

Ode to Oval

Mowll St

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.



Good things turn up when you’re not looking for it


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.


Going with the flow


The new year has come and gone and January has come to an end. I had the opportunity at the end of last year to take a few months away from home  to travel and take time out to relax, reflect and rejuvenate. Even before I left home, I had great plans for things to do, places to go, people to meet, experiences to have and projects to accomplish during my time away.

In the first few weeks, I managed to tick off many items on my ‘to do’ list; eating lots of good food, visiting many interesting places or simply just chilling out. For whatever reason, at the end of many days, I had a nagging thought at the back of my mind: have I lived the day to the fullest and did I manage to do all that I had wanted to do? I also started worrying about things I needed to sort out when I got home! Such thoughts cast a slight pall and a sense of emptiness on an otherwise good day and caused me unwanted stress. I told myself I’ll get my act together and ‘achieve something’ in January once I’ve relaxed and chilled out and the new year has kicked in. The past month has been good but the nagging sense of having not experienced and achieved much became more constant and stronger: ‘ I’m two-thirds into my time away and I’ve not thought of any new business ideas yet…I’ve not even written a blog post…what do I need to do about this when I got home.’ Such thoughts created  fear, worry and stress topped up with impatience; I wanted and needed things to get moving, to start happening and soon. Not surprisingly, very little happened.

I’ve since started to apply some counter-measures towards such unproductive thoughts and actions:

Be thankful

I’ve been focusing on things I’ve not done and the boxes left unticked. But by refocusing on what I’ve achieved and experienced so far in the last couple of months, I realized I’ve so much more to be grateful for: the lovely places, the beautiful weather, the vast spaces and the big skies, the delicious food, the relaxing massages, spending time with loved ones…I’ve been blessed with a lot more than I thought.

Be mindful

When I’m drinking my coffee and eating my meals, I make an effort to smell the aroma and taste and appreciate the flavours and textures. When I’m reading, I make an effort to read enjoyably and deeply. When I’m watching the sunset, I focus on the varied light and colours that splash across the sky. I just focus on what I’m doing and make an effort not to be side tracked by negative thoughts and things I needed to do and places I needed to be at. By living in the moment, I experienced a deeper sense of peace and fulfillment; of having lived and made the most of my day.

Going with the flow and taking inspired action

The greatest level of freedom is being at one with the Universe, of being part of its ‘flow.’ This is similar to the Taoist concept of ‘Wu Wei’ which literally means ‘Not Doing.’ It doesn’t mean we should do nothing but that we should put up no resistance to the natural energy of things- to just be. This might mean different things to different people. Using the example of water flowing over a rock in a stream- they are both acting in different ways but most importantly, they are acting naturally. The water is acting like water and the rock is acting like a rock and they both do not need to expend any energy in achieving this natural state. By forcing things along and trying to make things happen, we usually end up being worse off and no closer to our goal and destination. I have been trying to write a blog post in the last couple of weeks but hours spent sitting in front of my laptop have produced very little. I woke up today feeling inspired to write this post and I then took action and the post was written in  a short time and with little effort. So when I think about my lack of new business ideas and progress, I’ve learned to go with the flow and when the time is right, the ideas will come to me instead of me  scratching around and looking for it.

By keeping these three points in mind, I’ve learned to better live and enjoy each day as they come and in doing so, I’m certainly living life more fully and with fewer regrets.

If you are in tune with The Way things work

Then they work the way they need to

- Benjamin Hoff

To idle is good


When asked who I am and what I do, I usually respond with: ‘I’m an inspired idler.’ This usually elicits three types of reactions in general: mild disdain (here’s another loafer with little ambition), awkwardness (she’s not ‘normal’…most of us are too busy slaving away to earn a living….she’s probably inherited money or won the lottery) and curiosity with a tinges of envy and admiration (I’ll like to be one too..tell me more!). No prizes for guessing which response I prefer.

Society today extols the virtues of busyness, efficiency and frowns upon idleness. We are all expected to be busy: busy with life, busy with family and commitments, busy working on something, busy earning money. To not be busy is usually considered an abnormaly that reflects less than favourably on our sense of purpose, self-worth, usefulness and ambition. Many of us have become busy for busyness sake. And to serve what purpose? So we can look and feel important? To reassure ourselves that we are heading somewhere? That we are achieving something? Busyness for the sake of busyness is akin to running around like a headless chicken and believe me, a headless chicken serves little purpose and is going nowhere except in circles.

Making time to idle is essential for our individual, mental and cultural well-being. Idleness is an antidote to the work-obsessed culture that puts so many obstacles between ourselves and our dreams. As people get older or move into a different phase in life, many realize that time is more important than money. Hence, we should learn how to reclaim our lives – reclaim our right to sleep, have a time-out, allow a day to slip past in the best possible way and in doing so we regain control of our time and our lives.

I precede the word ‘idler’ with’ inspired’ in describing myself because idling without purpose and inspiration is simply loafing around and serves little purpose. However, when one idles with a purpose and with an open mind- we make space to wonder, explore consider and create. We facilitate access and clarity to our soul and inner self, our thoughts, our calling and is spurred to take inspired action in the right direction. Before we plan or act, we are idle; before we do, we dream and imagine. How many ideas were born out of reading a good book, listening to a piece of moving music,  wandering the streets, having a coffee in a cafe while watching the world go by, window shopping, rambling along the country paths?

The idle mind is awake but free and untethered, to roam from idea to idea, evaluating facts,  potential truths and options. Idleness is best manifested in the physical form of the Flâneur- a term first popularized by the French poet Charles Baudelaire in the 1850s and expanded upon in essays by Walter Benjamin and the book “The Flâneur” by Edmund White.

The flaneur 3

A flâneur is a stroller, a loiterer, someone who ambles without apparent purpose but is secretly attuned to the history of the streets he walks and the perceptions of people and objects he comes across- and is in covert search of adventure and new experiences. Flâneurs don’t have any potential goals in mind; they are not walking to get something or go somewhere. They seem to be doing nothing but in reality, they are looking; opening their eyes and ears to the scenes, people and objects around them. They wonder about the lives of those who pass them, creating narratives about the homes and buildings around them, people- watching, eavesdropping on conversations and observing street life in general. The aim is to learn and to discover.

Idling enables us to reclaim our lives and opens us up to new learnings, experiences, inspiration and rejuvenation. It doesn’t matter if you idle for five minutes or a day- just make time to idle.

Make time to idle.

What I’m happy to give up for freedom

goldfish jumping out of the water

This goldfish picture has always resonated with me since I first came across it many years ago. The simple yet powerful imagery embraces themes like ‘being free'; ‘breaking away to find one’s own path'; ‘pursuing one’s dreams'; ‘seeking a new world'; ‘in pursuit of solitude'; ‘being brave…or being stupid?’…and the list goes on . You get the drift.

It has been a year since I flew out of the corporate cage and left cubicle nation behind. A year filled happiness, hope, inspiration and fulfillment; tempered by periods of doubt, uncertainty and restlessness. It was during this year that I embraced simplicity and minimalism and started this blog to document and share my journey; that I started a new business; that I idled with purpose and inspiration and spent loads of time enjoying my time at home and also exploring London (during the week when most people are at work). Not surprisingly, I don’t seem to look forward to  Fridays and the weekends that much anymore.

It was also in this year that I deepened my understanding of myself and what is truly important in my life. Yes, it includes the joy of spending more time with myself and loved ones, enjoying my nice and de-cluttered home, doing stuff and being in places that inspire me, living more freely and authentically, working on projects that inspire and fulfill me. It definitely excludes things like early mornings and commuting, energy-sucking work and people, pointless meetings, a life revolving around meeting expectations that has no personal meaning and keeping ‘people high up the chain’ happy and looking good. At the most basic and fundamental level, when everything else has been stripped down, the one thing that I truly value above almost anything else crystallises: it is my freedom.

In the process of this self-discovery journey, I came to the conclusion that I don’t want to work till my fifties/sixties or retirement (which in this day and age might never come round) so that I can live and enjoy life and own my home after paying off  the mortgage. Life is too short and precious for all that waiting and living for tomorrow. I want to live and enjoy my life now; I want to be free of financial commitments now. Which brought me to the question of what I needed to do or give up in order to attain a life of freedom. The answer that came to mind wasn’t desirable nor pleasant; it would involve giving up something which I love dearly and it would mean changes across areas in my life.

I love my home in central London- it was the first home I owned and I have spent eight happy years in it. But I love my freedom even more. It is a lovely flat and a great investment especially when I bought it relatively cheaply and am selling it in a property boom. The capital generated will allow me to buy another home (likely to be further away from the city centre or even outside London or even outside the UK) and live mortgage-free for the rest of my life. Unlike most people my age, I will not be upgrading and keeping up with the Joneses. But then, I have stopped being like ‘most people’ since I embarked on this ‘simple and minimal’ journey.

As expected, my house sold in no time at a price above what I asked for. On the flip side, we have yet to find another place that we would be happy to call home. In a nutshell, I’m in limbo. That would have driven the old me crazy and fluttering around in all directions. The old me would not have sold the house in the first place!  I find that sometimes we are pushed out of our comfort zones, stripped of our security blanket so that we are forced to explore new and positive situations and opportunities and which we would never have contemplated otherwise. Sometimes, the Universe has to give us a little shove for better things to come into our lives.

But you know what, I’ve been rather calm and laid back throughout this whole process (I’m waiting for the shock to hit me when I hand over the keys!) to the surprise of myself and those who know me well. Thanks to my simplifying and de-cluttering efforts, I don’t own much anymore so will not be taking much with me. Being a reformed Homebody these past few years (a result of an overdose of living in different countries and travelling frequently and widely previously), I am quite surprised that I am quite comfortable with living out of a suitcase for a while and even undertaking a prolonged period of travel again. I guess it is one of the outcomes of a simplified life. I know by now the Universe can work in miraculous ways so I am not chasing and hurrying the sales process nor am I desperately seeking a new home. The new place has to be one we’re happy with and it will turn up somehow- what is meant to be mine will be mine.

Till then, I’m living a day at a time and just letting things take their time and course. That in itself to me is freedom.

Doing what you like is Freedom.

Liking what you do is Happiness.