On busyness

Oh man, there are just so many things I related to with this month’s theme — busyness. It’s probably the single biggest reason why I decided to sign up for the course.

To be honest, I’ve always been pretty busy… I’ve always had a lot of hobbies that I genuinely enjoyed spending time on. But I do acknowledge that there have been times I’ve been caught up in a tornado of frenetic activity and have had to step back for sanity purposes.

I’ve gone through “yes” phases and “no” phases in my life. There are times when (usually when I’ve moved somewhere new, or feel like I’m in a rut) that I say “yes” to everything. Relationships are important to me, and I know that meeting new people and building those connections can take effort. So I’d say yes to pretty much every invitation to birthday drinks or events or activities.

Then sometimes I get tired of it, and realise that I want to only spend time with my good friends and not shoot the sh** with random acquaintances, so I become more selective about the things I want to do and the people I do it with.

There’s definitely a balance between the two, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with oscillating from one end to the next depending on my circumstances. I guess the challenge is making sure that the “yes” phase doesn’t turn into a frantic bid to cram as many things into my schedule and overwhelm my life.

“When you are busy and your day is planned with back to back activities and obligations, you have the illusion of control. There is no room for the unexpected.”
-Courtney Carver

That quote really struck me… I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past. I used to schedule something for each day of the week so I wouldn’t “waste” my time on not doing anything at home and ending up bored. But I realised I wasn’t letting life surprise me. Some really awesome moments of my life have come from a friend suddenly messaging me if I was free that night. I would’ve missed that if I was just rushing around from one thing to the next.

The endless loop of always getting ready

Sometimes I spend so much time (and money on things) getting ready, I never end up doing the thing I’m getting ready for.

I was at the supermarket with someone (who shall not be named, to protect their identity) two months ago who had recently gotten into mindfulness colouring. They spent so much time in the stationery aisle, and bought all kinds of pens and books. Since then, they have coloured the grand total of one time, and didn’t end up finishing it either.

I’m the same way about a lot of things… I love getting ready for the life I imagine myself living. I can spend hours online perusing things for my ideal lifestyle. I’ve bought pretty stationery to organise my months and a bespoke notebook to help me keep track of the top three things I’m grateful for each day. I’ve purchased apps to help me become healthier for the time I turn into a wellness machine. I’ve bought furniture and kitchenware for moments of quiet reflection on the balcony, which never seemed to arrive.

After the colouring book incident, though, I’ve realised… enough.

So I stopped getting ready for the life I wanted, and dived in headlong. No more spending time looking for inspiration on beautiful living spaces; or what stationery was out there to help make sense of my life; or what the latest app is to help motivate me. I’ve already got all the tools I need.

I’m typing this on the balcony. I’ve always wanted to spend time relaxing here, and now I actually do it. I eat meals here when I can… I enjoy being able to look out and catch the final rays of light in the evenings. I savour having more time to think about things. I take my laptop out here sometimes and “work” in the open. (I think being out in the open-ish air makes me not want to mindlessly surf the Internet as much I usually do, haha! So that’s a plus.)

So here’s to stop getting ready, and actually being ready!

My changing spending habits

Marie Kondo was right. In one of her chapters, she talks about how sometimes the purpose of something is to teach us that it’s not meant for us. I definitely learned that when I was getting rid of stuff. I also felt this pang at having wasted money, and the strengthening resolve not to buy things willy-nilly.

This is how I’ve changing my spending habits:
I no longer buy clothes online (and cut down on online spending in general), unless I’m familiar with the brand and know exactly what I’m getting. Yes, shopping in Australia is expensive. Yes, items are much cheaper online. But I’ve bought so many things online that ended up not fitting well or falling apart after a few uses. And they may have been relatively cheap (e.g. a $20 dress) but all those little things do add up. I now go to stores to fit clothing, to make sure that what I’m buying looks good on me. (Unless it’s things like tights or socks. I’m not fussy with tights or socks.)

I no longer go for the cheapest price. I mean, yes, if I know the exact model of an item, I will canvass several stores to see where it’s being sold for cheaper. But when it comes to things where I don’t have a specific model in mind yet, I’ve learned to spend a little bit more. For example, I had to replace my clothes airer recently — I could get cheap and flimsy ones at Big W or something, but instead I went for a sturdier one at around three times the price.

I no longer go for quantity. I had to buy a pair of jeans recently… and there was a promo: two pairs of jeans for $109, or one really good pair of jeans for $80? I went for the $80 pair, because it was exactly what I had been looking for. I’m proud to say that during Boxing Day sales last year, I wasn’t as affected by the sales promos as I used to be.

I buy things that make me happy. Sometimes, in the quest to buy something that is functional, I will go for the cheapest functional thing. But (also as a result of reading Marie Kondo’s book) I’ve learned to seek things that will make me happy, too.

I purchased a teapot recently. I know that I could have gotten a random teapot for cheaper, but the beautiful yellow teapot I ended up buying makes me feel happy, and has helped me with my new “enjoy tea by the balcony” routine I’ve started for myself.

Clearing clutter

January’s theme is clutter, the physical kind. This is definitely the easiest I can relate to, because it’s something I can see.

I first noticed how easy it was to accumulate stuff when I moved to California for grad school, way back in 2008. I arrived with one or two pieces of luggage (I forget now). Technically I only had one small room to fill with stuff, because I didn’t buy anything for the shared living spaces. When I left, though, my friend and I ended up filling her van to the brim with all the things I’d accumulated. My stuff didn’t fit in one, or two, pieces of luggage. I had to ship several boxes back.

My second “oh no” moment was probably… I dunno, late last year? See, in October of 2014, I finally moved from a flatshare to a one bedroom apartment. When I first arrived, I didn’t have much. I had to buy a lot of furniture and homewares. I think I was just chilling on the couch one afternoon when I realised that I now had a lot of stuff.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think I have a problem (yet). I’ve actually been donating my clothes to donation bins for the past few years, because I do get iffy if I see my closet overflowing with things I don’t want to wear. And I still have a lot of storage space. But I noticed that I could easily get to that hoarder stage, if left unchecked, especially with additional said storage space.

Anyway, one of my tangible clutter goals this year (by tangible, I mean not just like… “have less stuff”) is to make all my clothes and other knick-knacks fit in the built-in wardrobe. I’ve decided that this year is New Bigger Bed Year, and that means the standing wardrobe and desk in the bedroom will have to go. (I actually think I don’t have long to go — I just need to rearrange my things better.)

What I’ve done:
Picked up a copy of Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. (This was last year.) I didn’t do the one-big-purge thing that she recommends, but I’ve become a lot more brutal when it comes to deciding what items stay, and what goes. I’ve done a few rounds of purges since then, and I think that style works best for me.

Reorganised my cupboards. I realised that the “I have nothing to wear” dilemma while standing in front of a closet full of clothes doesn’t only apply to clothes, it also applies to food. While clearing out my kitchen cupboards I found a lot of food that I could still use. I’ve now resolved that with the exception of vegetables and other perishables (e.g. eggs, milk) I actually have enough food to last me a while.

Tried to sell my books. I signed up for StudentVIP, an Australian student website, to try to sell some of my books. I’ve come to the conclusion that no, I will not be taking up Python or ASP.NET again. So far I’ve sold one textbook for $50! Yay! Here’s hoping I get to offload more of them when the new semester starts. (If I don’t sell them by the middle of this year, I’m just going to donate them.)