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Things

September 2022: Financial Snapshot

Hi! Wow, we’re already at the end of September, and I did remember last minute that I had to update you on my financial situation coming from August. It’s a pretty fun month, since I had 3 paychecks due to the weird biweekly situation with pay, and I’m glad to report that there has been a lot of progress in the net worth view as well.

From the financial perspective, here’s what happened:

Income$6,5003 paychecks, baby!
Expenses$8,200Still haven’t figured out how to adequately measure combined expenses, and also combined income since we split our spending. Maybe count inflow of money from spouse as “income”?
Assets$10,600Slowly but steadily adding to investment accounts
Debts$40,700Combined student loans
Net worth($31,800)

We added a good chunk of net worth through repaying more of my student loans with a sizeable part of the paychecks. Can’t wait until all those payments are going straight into our investment accounts!

Another thing I wanted to talk about this month was how much I really struggled with feelings of deprivation and how I still intrinsically tie some of those things to purchases. I know logically in my brain that the more aggressively I save, the more I will be able to retire early, but I also live in the fear of not having enough time to enjoy the simple things in life, some of which unfortunately is tied to money. And due to the budget and my spouse and I’s pretty frugal nature, we don’t usually spend on things that aren’t important to us or give us happiness. So I just try to give myself grace and remind myself that this spend is good spend in that it contributes to my quality of life and happiness anyway, and that there is already enough aggressiveness in our saving/repayment rate that our path will still be relatively short compared to others in the rat race.

I had a bad breakdown about this topic because of the guilt I felt with non-necessary spending, and my spouse basically balanced out the guilt I felt with good advice and his more relaxed perspective on our financial path. It feels good to have a partner that can do that, and still be well on our way to an early retirement for both of us.

Overall, I’m pretty happy with our progress for this month, and looking forward to our continued progress in the coming months!

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Life Things

The continuing struggle of consumerism

I have been rereading Fumio Sasaki’s book which I found in the local library to encourage me on my journey towards looking for less. The more I live in the U.S. and am exposed to American levels of consumerism, the more it becomes difficult honestly. Also, getting more used to the comfort of living in a first-world country opened my eyes to how many consumerist solutions there are for literally almost any problem you can think of. Specialized jackets, specialized pillows, everything delivered to your house, same-day delivery – it’s so easy and comfortable to fall into the trap.

One of the most common strategies I see touted online is to give a 24h or so leeway before purchasing an item. When 24 hours is up and you still want to buy it, buy it. The problem is this doesn’t work for me. My mind has an obsessive quality to it and it won’t stop randomly thinking about something if I decide I want to buy it. It can go on for many days before I forget it, so I don’t follow this rule or else I would just be buying everything.

Two things I’m trying out now are to refrain from buying new things when other things are still in shipping, and to stop dining out during the weekdays. To be honest, this has not been a habit of mine until I lived here. I am not in a city so it is not comfortable to just walk out to a restaurant or a grocery and buy food. The grocery is around 10-15 minutes away by foot, which is fine, but going back lugging heavy groceries is not fine. However, I now have access to an Amazon Prime account so I am using their Amazon Fresh delivery services for free to try out grocery delivery. This is still more expensive than actually going to the grocery and just buying food, but it’s healthier and cheaper than dining out during the weekdays when I’m out of groceries.

The shipping thing is something I came up with when I noticed that during the holiday season (which is basically November to January because of Thanksgiving and winter break), I would always buy at least one thing every day. So in order to curb the spending a bit, I opted to start with this rule and then hopefully progress to rules like Buy Nothing Week when I’m able.

Hope you’re all keeping safe!

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Things

Networking vs. Mindful Connections

In business school, there is always a strong emphasis on building and using your network. All my life, I have only made connections with people I feel I would get along with, which frustrated my bosses and other people trying to teach me how to network. However, I have long considered networking for the sake of an ulterior motive slightly manipulative and therefore inauthentic.

I’ve started doing networking again, in an attempt to find champions for my internship search, and it’s been a lot more enjoyable this time around. I don’t feel inauthentic because I do authentically want to learn more about their backgrounds, and I’ve met some cool and helpful folks that I would like to keep in touch with. Yet I still feel a bit overwhelmed by meeting so much new people in a short amount of time.

I think a lot about how to maintain these new connections. Are they mindful? Or was my old approach to meeting new people more mindful? This definitely feels more intentional, but the old friends I made seem to have built into more natural friendships, or is that only because of the ease of developing relationships in the context of a fixed situation (school, work)?

For people that I do not have bonding opportunities with on a regular basis, how do I nurture these relationships? How do I even know that they want me to maintain these relationships, especially if they started off as formal meetings to gain more knowledge? It is doubly harder in today’s remote world. At least in person, you can kind of sense if the other party likes you or not. It’s harder for me to guess via phone call.

What I’m doing so far is just reaching out and seeing if they reach back to me. If not, after a few tries, I assume the interest to maintain the relationship is not mutual, and I just drop all contact. Time will tell if this is actually the most useful method.

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Things

Declutter 2: Books

I don’t know a single person who finds it easy to throw away books.

I think that’s probably because I myself love books and used to be a voracious bookworm, so I must have surrounded myself with a lot of like-minded people growing up. I was raised in a household with its own tiny library and I used to buy books, not clothes, as retail therapy.

I actually went on a book-buying spree earlier this year as my credit card provided me with free book gift certificates as rewards for my good payment behavior so I found myself stockpiling a lot of books that seemed interesting. Eventually though, I wasn’t able to read them all due to the precarious act of balancing my hectic work schedule, doing extracurriculars, and resting.

Therefore it was with apprehension that I approached the task of decluttering my books. First, all of them were scattered in various places around the house, making it a lot more tiring to get them together and dump them on a table, unlike my clothes which were all in one box. Second, since my family is big on books, sometimes I could not remember which books were mine or were actually owned by someone else.

It took me a day to round up all my books and then go through them one by one, determining which ones I did not want to keep. I’m not sure if it’s because my ability to “detect joy” is better now that I went through all my clothes, but sorting through my books was faster this time around. Yay!

In the end, I chose to discard roughly fifteen to twenty books. What did I do with these?

I find it wasteful to throw away books because they’re a great channel of knowledge transfer! It seems lame to throw away things that others can still benefit from. Since all of my books are in perfectly usable condition, I posted them all up for sale online at greatly reduced prices. It feels nice to think that other people will be getting these books at cheap rates and will love them and learn from them just the same.

To make sure I didn’t needlessly hang on to these books out of sentimentality or change my mind halfway, I set myself a deadline – August 15 – where I can donate whatever hasn’t been sold yet. To be honest, I’m not sure where you can donate books, but I’m sure there is a place out there that would gladly have them.

For the books I decided to keep, I utilized the bookshelf in my old room and organized everything by height. It looks so neat and tidy! I’m sure it would be a breeze to clean it up.

Coming next: Papers!

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Things

Declutter 1: Clothes

I devoured Marie Kondo’s “Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up” over the past 3 days and became gradually more excited about the process of simplifying my belongings and combining my knowledge with what I learned from Fumio Sasaki.

Sasaki is much more of a minimalist than KonMari and his book was more philosophical in a way, discussing his journey and transformation aided by minimalism. KonMari’s book was more instructional, and she listed down practical tips and funny stories on how to spark joy in one’s day-to-day life.

My approach to things is more practical than affectionate, and so I relate more with Sasaki on this, but Spark Joy really helped put a method to the madness and so I started my own tidying festival of sorts and have just completed the first category, which is Clothes.

I already started decluttering clothes last week but I’m glad to say I was able to donate my extra clothes to a Christian charity organization called Caritas. I emailed them and they instructed me to drop off my clothes at their main office. I booked a courier and sent a box and a bag of clothes their way.

For the rest of the clothes I decided to keep, I folded them KonMari style and kept them neatly in drawers or hung them in decreasing length in my wardrobe.

Looking at my clothes makes me feel pleased and not stressed, and I feel like it will be easier to laundry now due to less clothes! Yay!

My next project is to declutter Books, and I will update you soon!

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Things

Start With the Clothes

I first realized that I had too much clothes when I moved out of the house to live on my own.

Since I was moving gradually, I only brought enough clothes for me to wear until it was time to send things to the laundry – which was a week’s worth of clothes. After a year, I found out that I could actually live without 70% of my old clothes which I had forgotten at home.

Due to my commitment to find happiness in simplicity, I decided to start my decluttering with clothes. Due to the COVID pandemic, I moved back to my parents’ house and was confronted with my huge pile of pants, shorts, and tops. My clothes could not fit in my drawers and plastic containers; both were full to the brim and literally popping off already.

To start, I first decided that I would list some of my old clothes for sale on a shopping app called Carousell. I received some offers for shirts and bottoms, so I was able to sell them to other people for a fraction of the price.

Afterwards, I decided that I would donate the rest of the items to the people who need them more. I looked around for charities that I can donate to, such as Caritas Manila, where I used to donate my old clothes. However, no one from the Segunda Mana initiative replied to me, probably as they were swamped with their COVID initiative.

After some searching, I learned about Tzu Chi Foundation, which is a Buddhist foundation that is active in relief operations and accepts aid for the less fortunate. I was able to phone them and they informed me I could drop off my donation at any of their branches. Great! A colleague also vouched for them, saying that he knows they work a lot with the social work arm of the government.

This afternoon, I sat down and went through all of my clothes one by one, sorting them into 4 piles of Donate, Discard, Keep, and Unsure.

  • Donate – in good condition but I did not want to use or had not worn for over a year
  • Discard – in bad condition, e.g. moldy or had huge holes
  • Keep – in good condition and worn often, or those that served a specific purpose (e.g. blazer for formal events)
  • Unsure – I wanted them but did not wear them in a year

After sorting everything, I went through the Unsure pile over and over until I had arranged them into the other 3 piles. Then I packed all the Donate clothes in a box and sealed it for delivery, threw away all the Discard clothes in the trash, and hung the Keep clothes in my closet.

I have nothing in my plastic container now, and I freed up one whole portion of my drawers. Yay!

I’ll be shipping off my clothes tomorrow to Tzu Chi and I hope other people will be able to use my clothes well.

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Things

Goodbye, Things

I had been thinking about minimalism for several weeks already due to the fact that I could not fit all my clothes in a huge plastic container. I realized that I had too much clothes, half of which I had not worn in 2 years.

My room was also similarly messy, with piles of things I took from my apartment shoved beneath the bed. I vowed that I would one day look through them and sort them, but it’s been almost 2 months and nothing’s changed.

I stumbled upon Fumio Sasaki, a Japanese minimalist, from a YouTube video after searching “Japanese minimalism”. He wrote a book called “Goodbye, Things: The New Japanese Minimalism”, which I devoured in 2 days! He shared his transformation from slobby antique-collector to spartan minimalist, and how his relationship with his things also changed his attitude towards life.

I was immensely inspired to embark on the same journey of my own, and I wanted to chronicle my attempts to uncover a happy yet fulfilling life. So here we are, and welcome to Looking for Less.

A short introduction, before I share more about this task: I am a twenty-something year old, working in corporate. My relationship with things is similar to Fumio – I often bought things I wanted but did not need, and am a bit of a slob with my living area. However, one thing that is slightly different is I can be very unsentimental about things. It is easy for me to throw things away if I go on a cleaning spree. The struggle is just getting to the cleaning part.

I’m hoping that this journey will make me a better, happier human being. I’ll share more updates in the coming days! See you then.