I nearly spilled coffee on my keyboard when I came across a line from a YouTube video I was watching last week – THE JONESES ARE BROKE.
(refer to thegirlgonegreen)
In the past, when I would spend my time wallowing over my woeful situation ( i.e. purposefully owning cheap items to save money, relinquishing impossibly unattainable luxuries, building a certain image with the stupid expectation of eventually landing on the perfect life), I never ever thought that the Joneses could have the same problems I had. They all seem put together, not a crease on their clothes, not a spot on their things. Their cars are replaced yearly (on account of being on top of things) and their children are just as expensively dressed.
I never hated the Joneses. I envied them. For most part of my life, I tried to be them (and failed)
But I’m not a Jones. That’s just it, isn’t it? Literally and figuratively, I am not a Jones. And this is such a breakthrough for me!
Hence my journey towards voluntary simplicity. And here’s how it’s going:
🌻 Going Debt Free
In the Philippines, most parents support their children through college. I never had a student loan. And when I had a real teaching job, I never applied for any type of loan (personal, car, etc.)
But this didn’t keep me from having a very traumatic experience with debt – well technically it wasn’t mine. I was just a co-maker, someone the bank goes after if the principal loaner didn’t pay or has no capacity of pay the debt incurred. It was a very tough and humbling experience for me. I paid up and vowed to never apply for a loan ever.
It didn’t occur to me at the time that I was being taught something very valuable – something that would shape my life in ways I didn’t quite expect.
🌻 Seeing Things Differently
I never had a credit card. I never had a large sum in my wallet except when I was paid. And even when I had cash, I always appropriate them directly to bills and needs. I used to splurge on stuff, not exactly expensive stuff, but at that time it was my usual high – Starbucks, movies, clothes, meals out, gifts, treating others to meals, lending money (without collecting…I cringe as I write this)
And as I was slowly minimizing everything that consisted my life, I let go of Starbucks. Admittedly it did cost me the usual banter I had with friends. I hardly see them these days but I know they understand. I also let go of mindless shopping for cheap things. I recently concluded a three – month shopping ban and I found out that I’m still valuable and able to function well as a human being sans new clothes.
🌻 Downsize Routines
Along with saying goodbye to the chaos of my stuff, I did the same with my routine. I have a pretty boring routine. But I love it just the same as my pretty boring wardrobe.
I used to have a pretty elaborate weekend schedule – go to school to pick up on leftover work from Friday, head to the mall thereafter to have lunch, text my friends to come over and join me for the afternoon, while waiting for my friends I’d hop in my favorite spa for a facial or at a salon for a hair treatment, whatever, then cruise the bookstore aisle to buy new books, throw in a few stationery and other consumables, and when my friends arrive, I order my favorite latte and pastry at our favorite coffee shop slash hangout. Then of course, the obligatory dinner and taxi ride home (in some cases, a movie or a mild massage after the dinner, then the taxi ride home)
*I must admit that all those were pleasurable experiences and there is nothing wrong with them. I must have just changed drastically. *
Now my routine is simple – weekends are for resting/get-aways and brainstorming, weekdays for work that can be done during office hours, weeknights are for the occasional laundry, cleaning and/or puttering.
🌻 Narrow Down To do List
My to do list was a nuke site for things to be done, things left undone, and things buried under things left undone.
I love Sue Bender’s Plain and Simple: A Woman’s Journey to the Amish.
I used to reread it every summer after all the grueling end-of-the-year work load of teachers – learner deliberation, computing final grades, finishing up official school forms, checking of official school forms, textbook inventory, card distribution, closing ceremonies.
She introduced me to the calm and power of simplicity though her candid descriptions of her routine when she stayed with the Amish.
When I narrowed down my to do list, I felt centered and more able to focus on the task at hand. I don’t even recall ever feeling tired after doing a particular task.
🌻 Returning to Roots
I must admit that my days, however minimal I have become in my ways, are still far from perfect. It’s still a messy human life, after all.
But I would like to note that I savor a difference in the quality of my response toward life and it’s imperfections. I no longer feel threatened. Though I still can’t quite pin down the reason(s) why I used to feel threatened.
I’ve become more accepting of tiny glitches. Looking back I must have been a really scary control freak. ‘Must have been’ being the operative verb phrase.
I can now easily let go of audible snide comments about me (or anything related). Although there are off days when I would buy into that sort of pettiness. But most of the time I try to justify the person for the offensive comment made about me – everybody has got to have an opinion after all.
I always make it a point to go back to my core – the reasons for my choices, the reasons for not back-tracking, the reasons why I purged my life.
I believe that there is a season and a reason for everything – that I am being led something bigger than my personal dreams. Although it seem illogical (and a bit eccentric sometimes) I feel that this is something I need to do for myself.
And although I know that what I am doing now far exceeds other’s expectations on what I should have achieved, it doesn’t matter.
I have learned that life can only be well-lived when one follows one’s own heart.