Random May thoughts

1) I finally got around to bringing my donations to Vinnie’s! I’d sorted my clothes, bags, and shoes into a donation pile weeks ago… but it was only today that I finally got to bring it over. Even though my stuff had already been earmarked for donation, the fact that it was finally no longer physically sitting in my closet or hallway was a huge relief. It was two IKEA bags full… hopefully that’ll teach me not to throw my money around next time. 😐

2) I still like stuff, though. In fact, I’ve just created a Pinterest board called “Beautiful Things.” It’s a place for me to keep track of things I might buy in the future. The old me would’ve probably bought them already, since none of them are particularly expensive… but now I’m going to see how long I can hold off on buying them until I realise that I really do need them!

3) Speaking of stuff I still like… I still prefer tangible objects. A lot of the minimalism/decluttering articles and books I’ve read talk about how we can do away with physical objects like letters or photos… I don’t think I agree with that. There’s still something different about physical objects, for me. They may fade and take up space, but I find that’s part of their charm and authenticity, a reminder of things that are fleeting. There’s something impersonal about scanned copies of everything.

And the problem with having everything digital is that you’ll always need some sort of technology to view it. You can’t just take it down whenever you want and flip through it. And seriously, I’m not the kind of person who likes to reminisce by logging on the Internet and looking through my online albums. I’d rather take a few meaningful, printed photos.

4) Also… I’ve gone back to paper. I know there’s an app for everything, but I honestly don’t want to use my phone for everyday. So I put my to-do lists on my tiny notebooks and read physical books. (Hurray for libraries!)

5) Experientialism is starting to grow on me. When I was reading Stuffocation last month, I didn’t really agree that the answer to having too much stuff is experiences. But after looking back at my past few weeks… maybe the writer did know what he was talking about. I’ve previously equated someone who was really into experiences as someone extreme (and admittedly, the examples listed in the book were a bit extreme, but then again he may have been trying to drive home a point)… y’know, the type of person who was always out and about, crossing things of their bucket lists, always chasing the next adventure.

To be honest, that’s not me. I knew someone like that and I found her exhausting… she chased “adventures” at the expense of deeper friendships or financial stability, and it seemed like a frenzied attempt to ensure she wasn’t alone with herself. But then, to a certain extent, I realised I am an experientalist… For example, I’m pretty careful with money; I bring my lunch everyday even though I could afford to buy lunch instead… but if eating out (or spending money on a concert or event) means quality time with a friend, then I’m all for it! Experiences don’t always have to be unique or exciting or (ugh) social media post-able, they can be the quiet and simple moments, too. 🙂

Digital cleanup

May’s theme for a simple year is: digital! I’d already been making steps to reclaim my digital life the past few months, and I think it’s working, so this month’s readings was a great nudge for me to keep going.

What I’ve done

I’ve been spending less time online. (Still a work in progress!) I don’t mindlessly surf as much as I do, thanks to apps like AppBlock and Block Site. I’ve taken to reading physical books on my commute — I’ve noticed that if I read on my mobile or tablet, I have a tendency to check the Internet or my e-mail.

I’ve been checking my e-mail less. On most days I only check it once a day. (This refers to personal e-mail, of course.) I don’t really get urgent mail in my personal account, so it’s not a huge deal if I just reply to e-mails once a day.

Unsubscribe. I’ve always been pretty good at unsubscribing from e-mails. I’m a fan of Inbox Zero (or rather, Nearly Inbox Zero), so don’t really have a problem with e-mail. But. I realised that I’d subscribed to a ton of sites on my feedly account and signed up for a gazillion podcasts and e-learning courses that I never had time to do, so I finally got around to cleaning the lists.

Things I have left to do

Close more accounts. Hah! For writing, I’ve got this blog, my old Livejournal account, and a secret Tumblr account. And I think I have a few photo accounts scattered throughout the web. I don’t think I need them anymore… I should probably close them now.

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. 😛