Voluntary Simplicity

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. 

Advertisements

Coffee and Musings (5)

Let’s see what I’ve been up to lately:

🌷 Finalising 2nd quarter grades

🌷 Writing entries on report cards

🌷 Listening to my university playlist

🌷 Bringing home some work but sleeping early (without doing work)

🌷Filling Gratitude journal like mad

🌷Spend weekends out of town – hence the blog delays

🌷Eating fruits and vegetables on a non-negotiable daily basis

🌷Savoring this sense of calm I haven’t felt in years


Whenever I am excruciatingly happy, I can’t seem to write.

Writing and sadness seem like soul mates. One is lifeless without the other.

Sadness is not sadness in its glorious fighting form without writing.

And writing without sadness losses its oomph. At least it’s like that to me.

And right now, it is such a struggle to just go with the motions of catching that thought and punching the keys. It’s the slowest writing yet in my entire existence.


I am not complaining though.

As I said, I am savoring this calm that I have not felt in years.

Sure there are still deadlines and responsibilities. And the primordial fear of not having enough time for everything I want to do in my life.

But I am not scared right now. Nor tired. Nor wallowing.

Perhaps it’s because I have found something that has long eluded me – a sense of purpose to all the drastic changes occurring in my life.

Perhaps I have finally pinned down a thought that sums up the answer to my rather incoherent questions as to where all this is leading me to.


And here’s the purpose:

  • It seem like a mad effort to strip my life to the bare essentials, but I think that this is happening because I desperately needed to discover my truest self under all these trappings; to re-educate me about what self-confidence ought to be like : brand- less, status- less, fearless.

And here’s the thought:

  • That all this is leading me to another level of existence, a kind of personal utopia of grateful, simplistic and intentional living.

We rarely understand why certain things happen to us.

And it is such a miraculous gift when we finally do.

❤️

Sofia

*Photo from Free Photo Library (WordPress.com)

Living Simply (A Personal Look-back )

Clutter, unused things, rarely worn clothes, moth infested mementos – NO MORE!

Stuffed agenda, crowded table tops, full desk space and phone memory space – NO MORE!

These past few months have been the most liberating and redemptive in all of my life.


Since I have become intentional in the things I bring into my life, I found myself becoming better at waiting.

I wait because I make sure that it’s absolutely something that I can’t live without. And true enough, the tote bag I had been eyeing on has long been in the display area where I left it and that was more or less four weeks ago. And what’s more incredible is that I don’t feel diminished or wanting because I didn’t buy it.

I also discovered that I can commit to something now. In the not so distant past, I used to think that my fear of commitment (to anything) is merely an outroot of my creative nature, the artist who cannot be caged to a deadline, the free spirit who cannot be pinned down.

I now stick to my lists of “things I need” and in some miraculous cases, I find myself deleting lists every now and then. Even my proverbial “to do lists” have dwindled, allowing me time to breathe and mull over my life while nursing a hot cup of coffee.

And as I went along, listening and trusting and adhering to the seemingly nonsensical inner voice – telling me to let go, I also found myself shedding off the layers of pretense I have been wearing.

Living simply is not easy.

It looks easy though.

For me who has attachment issues and people issues and parent issues and self-esteem issues and self-worth issues (pardon the intense use of the conjunction and; there is a purpose for that I assure you), simplifying my life meant letting go of attachments, people (and their opinions of me), parents’ expectations, and self depreciations.

It is not easy. And while I am still not a hundred percent done with my downsizing (I still have loads to forgive and be forgiven of, psychic cobwebs, etc.), I am grateful that I somehow feel its pleasant effects now.


The following helped me finally cope with simplicity (if you know what I mean😊)

1. Finding My Joy

  • When I set out to find my joy in the little ordinary things in my life, I discovered that my joys are simple – savoring the day’s quiet; making lists and organising my day; filling my gratitude journal; sleeping/napping; having clean finger and toe nails; reading Dickens; taking a bath.

2. Spending My Time Mindfully

  • When I was cluttered and idealistic, I used to think that multi-tasking was a symptom of genius. I discovered that it’s not for me. I find that the amount of focus that I lavish on a particular task is equivalent to its resulting quality and worth. Making a segue here, I have come to detach myself from the resulting quality and worth. Minimalism has significantly taught me that it’s not always about me.

3. Collecting Epiphanies

  • Instead of collecting things – books, coffee mugs, shoes, bags, formal dresses (I know, one of my idiosyncrasies), I now collect musings, realizations, reflections, and those ah-ha thingys that can only be best preserved in one’s journal.

4. Simplifying My Routines

  • Grooming includes bath, teeth, clothes, skin, finger nails. Work includes prepping, classes, related paper work (I recently said no to two sets of extremely long survey sheets because they are not part of my work. And I never say No, ever!)

5. Taking a Closer Look

  • I am your average scatter brain. What should be done? How? Ooh that looks nice! How much? What’s up? I’m afraid! I’m stupid! No you’re not. Keep calm. Now what?! – all that in one thought blob.
  • But recently I have been looking – really looking. And I find (again) that what one looks at is not entirely the embodiment of this whole thing, that it’s only a fraction of its entirety. And I breathe easy and practice letting go of my limited perceptions and divert my thoughts to invisible possibilities.
  • I still practice. A human hazard, I believe. ☺️

❤️

Sofia

*Photo taken overlooking Luxe Hotel, Lim Let Kai Complex, Lapasan, Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines (December 2016)

An Overdose of Everyday Living

There was a time when I used to pride myself for a cramped schedule; a swamped desk; and a busy social life.

There was a time when I allowed the voices in my head (and outside my head) to decide for me – to please others; to blend in; to want the things others want.

And it pains me to remember that for all those moments that I chose for the sake of being liked, I have betrayed myself.

In as much as I want to claim that I am not the same person as I was, I would be lying.


Life is always a work of continued revisions.

I sometimes find myself moving forward fast, only to move back again to where I first started. I used to wage war against this phenomenon. Now, I raise my white flag and make peace with it.

I would scramble up to do the important tasks – tending to daily responsibilities; making enough brain and heart space for understanding others; making each day count. Only to find myself depleted and resentful.

I badger myself for not creating time to accommodate social invitations. When these invitations cease to come, I would badger myself some more for neglecting them in the past.

I do and re-do my lists of things I need to accomplish by the year so and so. I end up doing some of them. On a scale of 1 to 10, I’d be a one.

I rave and rant about possibilities and opportunities. I rise up and meet them. Sometimes I just rave and rant.


Nevertheless, my life has been redeemed from the ashes of pretense and people pleasing.

Although some consider my being a recluse bad form, I would much rather perceive it as a form of self-preservation.

As to deciphering the purposes of my personal decisions –

  • going minimal
  • ditching social media
  • making physical and psychic space for something I can’t even point my finger at,

I am still struggling to fit the pieces together to create a coherent whole.


I hope that all these will make sense one day – my downsizing, my introspecting, my eccentricities.

For now, let this be just an overdose of everyday ordinary living.

❤️

Sofia

*Photo taken at El Salvador, Misamis Oriental, Philippines (October 2018)

Making Room for More Memories

I have been procrastinating on decluttering my digital and physical photos for weeks.

But I finally did it! I ditched my Monday afternoon schedule for half a day’s sorting.

And a tsunami of memories came crashing on me.

But I felt nothing.

I expected to feel remorse, resentment, perhaps a touch of the inevitable gloom that comes with throwing away ‘frozen’ memories. But I didn’t. I only remember feeling a mixture of relief and excitement.

And eventually, that was enough reassurance that I was doing the right thing.


  • Perhaps I was unknowingly preparing my life for more fun memories.
  • I finally ditched my shameless selfies circa 2000 something when I started my toxic relationship with Facebook. It’s been three years since we broke up, Facebook and I.
  • I also ditched photos of former friends (minus the resentment, of course. I’ve mentally said my goodbyes and well-wishes.)
  • I gave extra snapshots as friendship tokens to people at work. Of course, I gave them to people who were in the pictures.
  • And I somehow found the courage to forgive myself for the mistakes done in the past – being a know-it-all on certain bygone occasions, having been young and haughty and thinking myself above others, my pretensions on being emotionally stable and strong, my inability to forgive others for their transgressions toward me.

I am grateful to have released the past and emotionally freed myself as a result.

I find myself being extremely excited about the future. As opposed to feeling a palpable sense of dread every time I think of it.

❤️

Sofia


*Photo of flowers take from Baguio Botanical Gardens, Baguio City, Philippines (May 2018)

*Photos of decluttered pictures taken October 29, 2018

Rediscovering Happy

Lately I have been really participating at life. It’s not that I cram my days with lots of things to do but I make it an everyday intention and action to keep moving.

Looking back, I am glad I did my own version of a life purge.

Although I don’t know if it’s technically a term in itself (life purge), I find that it has helped me let go, re-organize and re-claim the elements that make my life a life.

And as a result I have been rediscovering my own happiness –

  • reading my beloved Austen classics again (and buying them again)
  • actual real-in-my-life conversation with my friends at work
  • taking pictures of the precious scraps of my day (the half eaten butterscotch and coffee, messy classroom display corner)
  • writing without a proper draft
  • thinking of clothes again
  • falling in love in my own time with everything around me
  • reaching out to people I am most shy with
  • lavishing time on tasks that I have been procrastinating (to prove to myself that I am not entirely worthless, haha)
  • reminiscing childhood memories with my younger sister and brother with our nephews as our audience (and I hope they find it entertaining as well as educational ,haha)

It all started with a seemingly never-ending restless resentment for things, people, events, tasks, duties, worries that crowded and overwhelmed me. And in a moment of blinding realization, I plucked up the courage to claim my life one bit at a time. It is mine to manage and spend after all – a call to stewardship, I suppose.

I wanted this life so badly to reflect a peaceful simplicity. Perhaps that was why I was crazy about purging so much of the dreams and ambitions imposed on me as a child.

I wanted my life to reflect me and no one else.

I’m off to finish the 24th chapter of Persuasion so that I can pass this on to Florence Gay.

If you follow the trail of your own enthusiastically repeated stories, you will begin to rediscover the things that invigorate and enliven you. – Mary Anne Radmacher

So this is it perhaps. I have been unashamedly redundant in my blog entries only to find for myself a sense of well-deserved redemption.

I’m happy I took the time to write.

 

*Photo from Free Photo Library (WordPress.com)

 

Self-acceptance and Other Things to be Grateful About

Roughly a month has passed since I’ve stopped wearing foundation. The product I have been using had been used up and I didn’t replace it with a new one. I just knew intuitively that I won’t be scrambling over the nearest beauty store for a haul.

I currently have a finishing powder my sister gave me last April. I’ve stopped using it last Saturday. So it’s six days into it.

I still use my brow kit (a simple powder based one) and my lipstick. I still have not the courage to go natural. Perhaps someday. But for now, it’s enough that I only wear clear moisturiser on my face.

I see myself clearly. I see my face for what it really is – and ironically I think it’s not that bad. I even see hints of pink and a soft flutter of lashes somewhere.

Why did I not see this before when I started using cosmetics at age 22?

I see the same face though. Only that I believe I’m seeing what I have been hiding all these years and they’re just fine to look at. I see intelligence and strength. I see courage lurking somewhere too.


My shopping ban ends next week. I’ve been doing an inventory of my clothes and I realized that even as I restricted myself from shopping, I didn’t stop myself from decluttering.

When originally my already curated wardrobe contained 5 pairs of jeans, 17 tops, 3 jackets and 4 dresses, now I’m only left with 3 jeans, 8 tops, 3 dresses and two jackets.

I’ve decluttered my accessories too.

And then I realized that I feel just the same as when I had more.

Now that I have so few, I feel more excited about what’s in store for me because I know I have space to accommodate more abundance.


The recent teachers’ day celebration brought me letters and cards with my pictures on them. My students clipped these pictures from Facebook. These were my old pictures.

It struck me that I no longer react to these pictures as I used to. I have always thought that I looked prettier and healthier during my Facebook days. Then I realized that I was prettier and healthier – looking because of the filters in my iPad Mini.

While I look nothing like the pretty pictures now, I’m happier that I have come to embrace my true self.


I have recently given myself permission to enjoy. Half of yesterday was spent reading and writing. I sleep long and early. I started introducing more vegetables and fruits in my diet.

I am grateful for the seemingly tragic events that led me to these changes. Perhaps I may write about them in the future.

But for now, these are my thoughts.

❤️