Letting go

One art

Elizabeth Bishop

The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

—Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
the art of losing’s not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

No, not talking about someone (haha). I heard this on a podcast a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been on my mind ever since.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned the past few years… it’s the art of letting go, I think. I’ve always been the type of person who’s wanted to control where my life was going. I would get mad and upset whenever things didn’t turn out the way I wanted them to. I hated it when plans fell through… when friends drifted away… when relationships fell apart. I would stew and simmer about how could Friend X treat me this way after I was so nice to them or why Job Y didn’t eventuate even though I worked so hard.

I’m not going to lie and say that I’m now this amazing Zen person who has accepted that everything happens for a reason and never gets upset at anything ever. But I like to think I’m much better at accepting that things have their seasons. It’s true, when I compare to last year, there are people who I used to be super close to, who I’m not, anymore. It’s sad, but I’m much better at accepting that sometimes… stuff just happens. At the same time, though, there are people in my life now who I would never have imagined being in it! And instead of being sad about how what I have now may eventually fade away… I’m focused on making the most out of them, enjoying them while I have them, with the knowledge that they will not always be there.

I was at the dance studio the other day when, in the middle of class, I realised, “I will not always be like this,” I will not always be young and active with my strong legs and my coordination and my stamina. And at that moment, I was so grateful that in the here and now I am able to move and dance the way I do, because I know the time will come when I will no longer be able to.

There’s a painting in my living room… “Memento mori,” it says. Legend has it that in Roman times, when a victorious general would be paraded around town, a servant was tasked to follow behind him and whisper in his ear: “Look behind you! Remember that you are but a man! Remember that you will die!”

It sounds morbid… and I don’t know if it’s an effect of being born on the day of the dead, but for some reason the phrase really resonates with me. (Not the more cheerful “Carpe diem!” or “YOLO,” even.) It’s a reminder to make the most of life. To accept the things that come into it, make the most of the things I’ve been given, and gently let go when it is their time to pass.

Simplifying my kitchen… not

April’s a simple year theme is cooking. To be honest, this isn’t a big issue for me (yet). I only started having a proper kitchen a year and a half ago, when I finally moved into my own place. Before that, I had been flat-sharing with people who had cookware and cutlery for me to use.

(And when I first moved out in 2008… I survived for an entire year with a single fork, spoon, and bowl. I cringe now when I remember that period of my life. I clearly did not do any cooking outside of the microwave… My excuse: “hey, I was a grad student!” When I had friends stay over, I had to borrow stuff from my roommate.)

Honestly, I still have a lot of space. I estimate I have about 60% of my existing fridge and cupboard space free. And I pretty much use everything regularly, except for:

My cast-iron pan. I’d read up on how amazing these are… but didn’t realise the work that goes into them. The first time I used it, I apparently didn’t season it properly, so my food stuck to the pan. Oh, well. Then I didn’t store it properly and it rusted a bit… I cleaned it last weekend and re-seasoned it.

A pair of ramekins. I bought them after seeing my co-worker with them, thinking it would be an awesome way to prepare a quick meal. Sadly, did not happen for me. I haven’t used them yet!

A loaf pan. I wanted to try making my own bread… then got overwhelmed at the prospect of kneading it. I haven’t used this yet, either!! I’ve been chatting to a friend of mine about making my own bread, and I’ve been making my own pizza dough anyway, so hopefully making my own loaves will be an easy next step.

I’m not really at the “give my unused cookware away” phase yet. I’ve pretty much just been on “cooking for survival” mode the past 8 years, and it’s only now that I finally have my own kitchen that I’ve had the opportunity to experiment! So I’m going to see if I can get more use out of these babies. 😛

My decluttering Saturday!

So I spent half of my Saturday decluttering. Embarrassingly, this was something I’d built up in my head — I’d been feeling antsy the entire week about the amount of clothing I knew I could donate. Funnily enough, decluttering my clothes (which I imagined would take hours) took a measly 30 minutes. Haha. I think I’ve culled enough from my previous sessions that I didn’t really have much left. (I’ll probably have another sesh after Autumn/Winter to see if any of my seasonal clothes can be donated.)

I also decluttered my shoes, bags, accessories, makeup, fridge, electronics, and toiletries. It was a pretty productive day. 😛

I still feel a pang when I mark stuff for donation, mostly because I hate wasting money. I can still remember making those purchases and I HATE WASTING MONEY! 🙁 (Hopefully, this feeling will remind me to make smarter purchases in the future.) Some of the stuff were gifts, too — they were great items, but they just didn’t suit me. In particular, my mom loves buying clothes for me. Unfortunately, our styles don’t always match. Or, she gets my size wrong… like two sizes too big. (Damn you vanity sizing!) Or the clothes just don’t sit on me properly. Oh, well.

I ended up with several bags ready for the donation bin, and a few for the garbage bin, too. There was stuff like my Kindle (which died a few years ago) and wheat bags which I haven’t used in years because they were too bulky and cumbersome to use, and which I’m a bit scared to use again. There was a bunch of expired food, too… I’ve sadly given myself food poisoning before (haha) so I decided to toss them.

For stuff I’ve been on the fence about, I’ve employed a try before I toss mindset. See, I’m a creature of habit. I’ve worn clothes til they fell apart, then went out to buy the exact same style. So the past couple of weeks, I’ve been wearing clothes that I don’t usually wear, but kept because “they’re super cute and I really should wear them someday!” I decided that “someday” would be that day.

There were a few hits, where I realised that I’d been missing out, so those clothes have graduated to my regular rotation. 😀

Obviously, there were several misses. I wore a skirt, whose print I loved, but it fit me like a sack and I hated wearing it. (As soon as I wash it, it’s going into the donate pile.) There was a pair of nude pumps that I kept around for the longest time. I kept telling myself to save them because — they’re nude pumps! They’re versatile! I might need them for a business meeting! I got as far as the next street when I realised they were painful on my feet and I could barely walk in them. I went back home to change. Maybe someone will have better luck with them…

Minimalism is not the end goal

I finished reading the Stuffocation book last week and there were a few things that stuck out to me.

The most important is that minimalism isn’t the end goal. Rather, it’s an enabler for the life I want to live. Admittedly, when I first started this journey, my goal was to have the least amount of things possible. I would worry about the clothes that I should/could throw out or donate. I would obsess about the number of shoes I had in my closet.

A lot of the books I’d read focused on the throwing-away part. But this book really stressed the importance of striking a balance. It’s not a contest about having the least amount of stuff — it’s about finding that state where I have enough, but not excess. It shouldn’t be a fixation on decreasing the number of things that I own — which I’ve been guilty of — but the focus should be on spending my time wisely (of which throwing away stuff can be a contributor since it frees up a lot of time… but it shouldn’t be the end goal, see?). After all, what’s the point of having all this free time to myself, only to squander it on mindless online surfing?

The book talked about breaking the hold that stuff has on me. Whether it’s an obsession to accumulate stuff or an obsession to live with the least amount of stuff — it’s still an obsession. I think this is where my new and renewed routines come in — meditating, reading, writing, connecting with people, cooking, exercising…

Another point I liked was that things should be made to last. I’ve used things til they fell apart. I’ve thrown out a lot of clothes and shoes because I’d torn holes in them. (I had one particular pair of jeans… I tore a hole in one knee. I still kept wearing it — I convinced myself it looked fashionable. Haha. Then, I tore the other knee as well. I threw it out soon after that because I noticed the butt area was getting reallllyyy thin and I was probably going to tear a hole in that area next…)

I’ve also gone through phases where I was especially attracted to cute, cheap things, but fortunately that isn’t the case now. None of those items are in my closet now… they’ve fallen apart ages ago.

I keep thinking back to how people used to live decades ago, where people had things that lasted years and years, and didn’t replace them til they fell apart. That’s something I now aspire to.