Friday, July 26, 2013

Living Simple: Will You Be Happier?

Recently, several articles from different sources have caught my attention and got me thinking. Living a simple life, or becoming a minimalist, seems to be picking up -- and more people are sharing their life experiences.

The reason why this suddenly becomes more relevant in my life is perhaps dropping out of the rat race and slowing down my lifestyle. I know, I am one of those lucky people who can drop out of work and stay at home with my daughter (thank you hubby!). However, the living simple mantra is not just for people like myself. Even people who are still in the working world or entrepreneurship can also follow that path, simplify their lives and be happier.

One article that really got me thinking is from the New York Times, ARTICLE HERE. It talks about a guy who was successful in his field, eventually acquiring so many material things, only to find out that it stressed him out more than it made him happy. Some of the lines that jumped out to me in the article:

"I like material things as much as anyone.... I'm into gadgets, clothing and all kinds of things. But my experiences show that after a certain point, material objects have a tendency to crowd out the emotional needs they are meant to support."

Another one liner that hit the spot: "My space is small. My life is big."

A separate magazine article I read also made a good point. With the help of technology, we are able to downsize some of the things in our life. In the old days, people collected cassette tapes and CD's of their favorite music. Now we have the iPod which can contain thousands of songs, much more beyond out physical collection. Others have a library of books, which now can be replaced by Kindle or iBooks. Hundreds of important files -- like banking, insurance and other documents in our old filing cabinets can now be saved on the hard drive or through cloud computing. And lastly, things that are dear to us: photos, music, documents, files and the likes are now stored in one place -- your laptop or tablet. With the advent of these advanced technology, we do not need to leave the modern life in order to live simply.

Becoming minimalist is taking centre stage as more and more things go back to simple designs. The popularity of Apple and Google are good examples. Simplicity has its appeal and the "cult of less" is starting to gain momentum. In the past, we were governed by messages like "consumption is good", as well as "buy this as it will make you happier". The end result of that? Many people look back at the time and money they spent and wonder if it was all worth it. Unfortunate people even end up in debt.

For women like me, who used to love shopping -- from designer bags that depreciate, high heels that are actually hard to wear, and clothes that go out of season, things are starting to get clearer. Maybe it's age. Or maybe it is going with the times. I am more aware of my purchases, thinking thoroughly, carefully. I am less impulsive. Bigger purchases take more time and discussion (with hubby). I also tried to get rid of some of my "heavy load". I sold some of my designer bags and it found its way to new homes and owners who appreciated the fact that they are so well-maintained. I also sold off my daughter's well-maintained clothes and shoes which were bought mostly from Europe and Manila. That led me to discover that there are many practical moms out there who would buy second hand items for their kids. Several moms bought my stuff and thanked me for the good price and superb quality. I felt happy that my daughter's stuff now has a second life -- and it will make some other little girl pretty & content! Now that I am having my second baby, I have embraced this new mantra. I don't mind hand-me-down's and second hand stuff -- I am more practical than when I started. I am enlightened!

What then are the new generation spending on, if not material things? Apart from technology, the Gen-Y friends I have seem to be living it up with travel, most especially with the era of cheap & low cost airlines. I can see their photos & travel logs from Facebook, going to places that were beyond reach years ago if you didn't have loads of cash. I myself have thanked the heavens for low-cost airlines. I personally think that holidays are forever cherished as opposed to material things, therefore the money spent behind those memories are a priceless.

Speaking about traveling, in the old days when I used to travel, I spent too much time on shopping. You do get the "shopping high" feeling especially as I was not shopping in my home country -- which made it all the more exciting. However, as I reflect back on my numerous travels -- those Singapore and U.S. shopping trips versus the Europe relax-and-enjoy-every-moment, I can honestly say from the bottom of my heart, that reminiscing those beautiful moments in Europe wins. The stuff I bought from those shopping trips eventually wore off its luster -- especially as I grew older and moved from Manila to Singapore to Kuala Lumpur. Those materials things were soon forgotten, given away or left behind. While the memories of the breath-taking sceneries, the scrumptious (as well as cheap) meals and cuddling moments with hubby, will forever remain in my mind & heart.

My own conclusion, as well as the numerous testaments, studies & proof that you can easily access from the internet, show simplicity can bring happiness. The next time you walk into a "SALE" and grab stuff that you don't actually need, stop & pause for a moment. Do you really need that new high heels or new shirt to make you happy, when you actually have enough stuff in your closet.

May you find minimalism in your life, too. All the best!
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