In my last post, I talked about how a comment left by reader Mason sparked in me the need to respond.  I responded because he brought up good points, despite being a bit rude and accusing.

This brought about responses from the Everyday Minimalist, Hasina at Fabulissime, and Charlie over at Charlie’s Blog.  It was great reading all these different responses and made me think even more on whether or not minimalism is a fad.

From reading the various discussions, and my own experience, minimalism is personal.  Everyone’s minimalist journey is different – you don’t even need to call it a minimalist journey – call it the awareness journey, priority journey, whatever you like.  You can have 50 items, you can have 100 items, you can have 500 items – it doesn’t matter.  No one is counting.  What’s important is that you make a conscious choice to keep the things in your life because they add value to your life.

Yes, there are people who take minimalism to the extreme and live with 50 items, or 100 items, and they write an e-book or book about it.  As Everyday Minimalist put it, they live with their backpack and headful of ideas.  Good for them.  If they create a quality product where there is a demand and need for it, it’s smart marketing.  If it can sustain their lifestyle from selling their products, then all the power to them.  They deserve it.  But they are not the only minimalists out there, and not all minimalists need to follow that path.

Sure, we read about minimalists who have quit their day jobs and are living the carefree lifestyle, jet setting or living out of their backpack.  Not everyone can do that.  Not everyone wants to do that.  This way of a minimalist lifestyle that is most feasible for young, single people.  What about the couple who work a little above minimum wage, and are barely making ends meet to feed their family of 5?  Do you think them quitting their day job is going to give them freedom?  Probably not.

There are plenty of people who work 9 – 5 jobs, own a house, own a car, live with more than 100 things, watch tv, sleep on a bed, and they can also be minimalists.  Being a minimalist is having your priorities straight and living in line with your purpose in life.  You spend money and time on things that will bring you value, and cut out the rest.  It can and should be fun 🙂

For me, living a more minimalist lifestyle has following positive impacts:

  • Spend with a purpose – I really do my research before buying something (i.e., no less impulse shopping)
  • Spend less
  • Save more
  • Be more aware of other aspects of my life, such as the chemicals I use (i.e, shampoo, cleansers, etc.)
  • Be more aware of the food I eat and eat better (i.e., how processed it is, is it local/organic)
  • Give more to charity
  • Reflect and re-evaluate life more
  • Use the library or swap books more
  • Keep my place cleaner and less clutter
  • Help my parents plan for early retirement by understanding how they can downsize their lifestyle and achieve financial freedom

I loved that Everyday Minimalist shared how she is a normal individual with a twist.  That really resonates with how I see myself, as well!

I’m a just a normal woman who is happy with less stuff, and having more meaning in the stuff I keep. I’m not doing this because I am in debt, or because I need to cut back on spending.  I am doing this because it makes me feel lighter, happier, and it gives me financial stability  That’s all 🙂

A few things about me:

  • I have a 9-5 job as a young professional
  • I drive a car (my parents)
  • I live in a city
  • I wear make up
  • I like fashion and nice clothes
  • I love my bed (it’s got box spring and mattress, and bed frame)
  • I have a tv and basic cable (a Sharp 1995-ish – good quality 😉 )
  • I use shampoo on a daily basis, but have tried several times to ween off of it to no avail
  • I eat meat, though I aim to eat less red meat and rarely make it at home
  • I eat out at restaurants and I enjoy it
  • I have watched the following shows religiously at one point or another: The West Wing, How I Met Your Mother, The Big Bang Theory, Criminal Minds, Law and Order, Modern Family, The Wire, Sailormoon, Arthur, 30-Minute Meals, Everyday Italian
  • I love to travel and will happily spend money and my precious 10 days of annual vacation exploring another city, country or continent

Your life is how you make it, and your style of minimalism is how you make it.  Maybe you’ll try it and find it’s not the thing for you, that’s OK.  It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and as Everyday Minimalist, Charlie and Hasina pointed out, it will probably be a fad for many.  But for those of us who are true minimalists, our values are not altered by the state of economy, and therefore, it’s not a fad. It’s a way that we chose to live.

Thanks for all who have shared their thoughts, and thanks to Mason for bringing this discussion to light.

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I believe that we have been told this lesson for most of our lives.

Another way to put this is, if you don’t do something about it, who will?  It could be big things, like asking for a raise.  It could be small things, like asking for a really yummy basil-mayo for your sweet potato fries (yum!).

Simply asking, can make your life a lot easier.

I re-learned this lesson, yesterday, and of course, will share with my lovely readers 🙂

I take route B to work, most mornings.  I head east on Road B, then I need to make a pesky left turn on to the small road (Road A) which connects to my office.   I have taken this route for at least a year and a half, and luckily there is a left turn advance where I can turn from Road B to Road A.  All is well in my little world.

A few weeks ago, the left turn advance was no longer worker.  There are a lot of office buildings in Road A, and the back up for cars waiting to turn left without the left turn advance was awful.  I would either grumpily wait my turn, or turn left at the next road (though not ideal since it didn’t have a left turn advance).   I would make a mental to call the City to complain, and of course, I would forget.

After a few weeks, I figured they must be getting tonne and tonnes of complaints from all the angry people waiting to turn left at Road A.  And I finally sat down fuming and ready to make the call into the City to give me a piece of my mind.

I left a message with the traffic signal malfunction lady, and explained to her the situation and which light was not working.  She called me back that same afternoon, and asked for some more information – such as when I was driving through, and confirmed directions and roads.  She said that she would talk to some people and get it fixed.

I figured it was a long shot, and started to fume about City workers and the plight of our City.

The following morning, I got a call back from a traffic engineer with the City, and she told me that they had sent a Contractor out that same day to fix the problem.  It turns out the timer for the left turn advance was off by an hour, and has been reset.  The left turn advance only worked during rush hours between 6:30 and 9:15 am, but since it was off by an hour, the left turn advance was not working after 8:15am – which is about the time I got there!

I thanked the engineer for their prompt response and asked if anyone else had e-mailed or called in to report this malfunction, and she said, “no”, that the City never even knew about it.

Isn’t that funny?  Of all the people who were stuck behind that malfunctioning light for the past few weeks, I am the only one to call in and report it.  Like I said, it never hurts to ask 😉

Note: I only drive this route once or twice a week.  I try to take public transit one day, or I stay at BF’s and come another route.

What are some of your stories about good things that happen when you ask?

Clean Slate?

10/04/2010

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I admit that I have fallen off the bandwagon.

It’s one of the reasons, I haven’t been writing.

I’ve been feeling guilty.

Guilty for not tracking my expenses.

Guilty for going out to buy a jacket and 2 pairs of shoes in the past month.

Guilty for eating out too much and cooking too little.

Guilty for not having time to volunteer.

Guilty for seeing my family less.

I spent many hours this weekend and tonight trying to work backwards on my budget, and figure out where my money has been going.  It was long, tedious, and very depressing.  I was on a roll last year, for getting my expenses under control – and I thought that I could wing it.  I automatically deducted my retirement and savings – almost half of each paycheck – and I thought I was sure to stay on track.

Wrong.

Having an idea of what my goals are (in my head) is very different than writing them down (in this case, in a form of a budget), and keeping track of progress (in this case, tracking my expenses).

Long story short – even in my feeble attempt to back track my spending, it’s quite clear that I’ve pretty overspent in almost every category.  The worst being Eating Out.  I thought that I had groceries under control, but, boy was I ever wrong.  I’ve also been paying bank fee’s, since my balance is below the $2000 that waives the fee.  Transportation looks bad, but I do get reimbursed for mileage – which I found too difficult to account for in my budget.

On the bright side of things, my percentage of spending has only increased slightly in Eating Out.  I’ve given more to charity, and I saved more than I spent every month this year.   Having said that, my salary has also increased this year, so the amounts in each category is more.

So, I am proposing to start a clean slate this October.

This is my proposed budget not including rent.

Groceries:$100
Telephone: $60
Transportation: $100
Entertainment: $100  (Updated to include $85 volleyball league fee’s)
Medical: $25
Eating Out: $100
Charity: $40
Gifts: $50

TOTAL:  $525 (Updated)

In my budgets, I try not to deprive myself of the things that I enjoy – such as, eating out.  But rather, make it a conscientious decision (ie., dinner with a friend) as opposed to just being not prepared (ie., getting take out).  Will have a spending report for you at the end of the month.

My minimalist goal this month, is to also go through my closet and get rid of any items that I don’t absolutely love.  This is going to be a big task, so I may break it up and tackle my spring/summer wardrobe first, then do fall/winter in November.

How are you coming along with your goals?

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I ran my half marathon on Sunday, May 16th, 2010 starting at 7:30am.  I ran in the Mississauga Marathon with my sister 🙂

All in all, it was a great experience.

Let’s start with my thoughts from training, shall we?

The Beginning of my Training Thoughts

Training for a half marathon is hard work.  When I first started training in February, it was so hard to get up in the morning at 5:45 am to get to the gym at 6:00am and run at 6:15am.  Very, very difficult.  It was so dark out!

When I first started running, I was working at running 10 minutes without taking a break on the treadmill.  After a few runs, I realized that I was running way too hard, and I needed to slow my pace down.  I didn’t even know that I had a “happy” pace!  Once, I found my happy pace (approximately 5 mph), I was able to run longer and take shorter breaks.  I remember the first day that I could go on a 1 hour run, and not need to take a single break.  Such a triumph 🙂

Treadmill Training

When I first started training, I ran on the treadmill.  I think it’s a great place to start.

You can pick your own pace because sometimes you don’t know what pace you’re running at when running outdoors.

You can stop to rest whenever you need a rest, and rest for as long as you need to.

Outdoor Training

When the weather got warmer, I started running outdoors.  Little did I know that running outdoors is much harder than running on a treadmill.

You need to remember that no matter how far you run, you always have to run back!

You can rest, but if the weather is cold outside, your body also starts to cool down very quickly, and you need to keep running to stay warm.

You encounter hills, slippery surfaces, rodents, cars, bicycles and many other obstacles when running outside.  Always be mindful of your surroundings and make eye contact with drivers, cyclists, etc., before crossing the roads.

Race Day

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The night before race day, I laid out all that I needed the next day: running gear, hat, iPod, shoes, gel packs.

I was too excited and nervous that I didn’t sleep that well.  I woke up to all sorts of little noise that I never noticed before.

But at 4:15 am, my sister and I were up!  We changed, ate breakfast, and were on our way at 5:00am.

We parked at the finish line area, and caught the shuttle bus to the start line.

At 7:30am, we were off!

The Race

The trail was beautiful!  There were a bit of hills, but only one big hill.  There were beautiful mansions that I passed by in awe on Mississauga Road.

I took on a slower pace than usual, since I knew I needed to go longer than my usual runs.

I walked and got a drink at the aide stations- every 2 km.  Nothing more refreshing than water on a sunny day out running!

My first break  was at the 10km mark.  I felt quite good and energized!  I also took a gel pack to give me a boost of energy.  At 16km, was my second break, I still felt good, but I also started to feel tired.  At 18km, my body was telling me to stop and I started to walk more, and take more breaks.

At 19km, a fellow funner encouraged me to keep going since I was almost there.  I picked my tired legs off the ground, and ran the rest of the way.  The last 100m were the hardest!  My knees were really hurting me, and I could just see that I was so close, but not there yet.  People cheering and chanting really made a difference, and I finished as strong as I could.

My legs and knees were burning after.  It was then that I realized I hadn’t trained enough for my half, but it also felt so good to be done.

2 hours and 35 minutes 🙂

21.1km or 13 miles

What are some of your experiences in training or preparing for a big “event” in your life?

My Hair Story

05/22/2010

I was inspired to write this post, after reading Investing Newbie’s own hair story.

My hair story is not nearly as dramatic or exciting as her’s, but here it is.

As a toddler, both my parents worked, and my dad was often the one to bathe me.  So after every bath, he would also comb my hair (I had a lot of hair!), to a similar style of his own.  His style kind of looked like what Andy Lau has below.  Imagine my hair styled as such, and wearing the boy clothing hand me downs.  I was a really cute little boy.

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When I was about 3 years old, my mom was the one who styled my hair.  I had long hair and it was usually in pigtails or two braids.  She told me that she used to have to chase me down to comb out tangles in my hair after my bath, and tie them up so I didn’t get stuff stuck in it.

When I was about 4 years old, my best friend (at the time) got her hair cut to chin length.  Of course, I had to copy her, and my dad helped me chop off my tresses and I was left with the bowl cut.  I’m sure a lot of Asian kids are very familiar with this cut.

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After my parents had my two sisters, we all got this bowl cut from my dad.  My mom made up a rule that we couldn’t grow our hair until we were 10 years old.  (I think this was because she would not have enough energy to chase my 2 sisters and I down to comb our hair and tie it up).  And so, I had the bowl haircut right until I turned 10.  After that, I grew my hair for as long as it would grow.  After all, I had to make up for lost time, right? 😉

My hair grew almost past my back by the time I was in grade 6.  I started trimming my hair to be about mid back length in grade 7 – 8.

My hair is super straight, fine and I had a lot of it.  I tried a few times to braid my hair before going to sleep when it was wet so that it would be “curly” the next day.  No matter how much product I put in it, by noon, my hair was straight again.

In high school and the first few years of university, my hair length got a little shorter, and varied between shoulder length to mid back.  A friend of mine helped me put highlights in it, and I dyed my hair once.  Dyeing my hair was probably the most damaging thing I had done to my hair, ever.  This was terrible for my hair, and completely dried my hair.  At the worst of it, the ends of my hair reminded me of straw!

I moved to Boston for an internship, and that was when I took the bob plunge.  I wasn’t going into the salon wanting a bob, but I gave them free reins with my hair.  They gave me a really chic bob and I loved it.  It completely suited my hair, and my hair always fell in the most perfect way that I never had to style it.  (Yay for laziness!)

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After that my hair has always been about shoulder length or shorter.  I have a stylist I’ve been seeing for the past two years, and his cuts are amazing.  They usually last me about 3 – 4 months, and grow out nicely.  I love that he can cut my hair so that I can spend zero time on styling my hair in the morning without looking like I just rolled out of bed.

After being in my hair relationship for the 26 years of my life, I have come to terms with my hair.  I have accepted that my hair will always be straight and thin.  I will never have curls and waves, and I’m OK with that.  (But if I really want them, I can get it styled for the day.)

I prefer to have my hair cut at a medium – short length.  I like to air dry my hair, and I do not use any styling products.  I still shampoo my hair everyday, even though I have tried to stop.  I also make an apple cider vinegar with lavender oil rinse that I use once a week  to make sure my hair stays nice and shiny.  My goals is  to put minimal stuff in my hair.

This is how I had my hair last year, and I just got it cut in a similar style.

Current annual cost to maintain my hair:

Haircut $70 (including tip) x 3 – 4 = $210 – 280
Shampoo $6.99 x 2 (plus tax) = $15.79
Apple cider vinegar and lavender rinse = $6 ish

What’s your hair story?  Feel free to leave a comment or write a post and link back!

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I got the inspiration for this post from Angela over at her awesome blog, Oh She Glows.  (Btw, she makes the most delicious looking breakfasts, I am constantly drooling over those pictures!).

She talks about encountering a sticky  situation where her gut kicks in and tells her there is something wrong.  I think she did the right thing when she took off and removed herself from the situation.

As women, I feel we are often people-pleasers, and we usually shy away from doing anything that may be offensive or make the other party feel awkward.  This can be any situation, including encounters with friends and/or strangers.  I, too, fall under this category.

What I’ve learnt over the years is that no one cares more about you, than yourself.  No one cares more about your safety than yourself.  So, if something is “off” and your body tells you so – it could be a gut feeling, your hair standing on ends, whatever it may be, trust yourself.

Sure, you may seem rude for leaving the situation, and maybe you left the other person feeling weird, but that is not your problem. Your priority is to keep yourself safe, and if that means stepping on the dainty toes of some other people, so be it.

I led a very sheltered life growing up in the sub-urbs around Toronto.  So when I first started traveling abroad, I was probably too naive and innocent to see that not everyone has my best interests at heart, and that I needed to look out for myself.

I moved to Boston when I was 22 for an internship, and I would encounter people who would just come up and talk to me.  My good friends saw this, and they saw that it made me uncomfortable, but they also saw that I didn’t know how leave the situation.  They stepped in and pulled me (physically) away, and said something that I will always remember.

AM, you don’t have to speak with anyone that you don’t want to.  If doesn’t matter if they approached you, or not.  If they make you feel uncomfortable, just walk away.

When I asked them if that was rude, they responded, Who cares?  If you feel uncomfortable or not safe, that’s more important than someone else feeling a little miffed.

They are so right.

Another story that stands out and I want to share was when I was on exchange term in Singapore in 2007.

I got into the habit of running at night.   It was way too hot to be running any other time (except maybe before dawn).  I lived on the campus dormitory, and there was always people on campus even late into the night, so I always felt safe running – until this one time.

I ran around a road that encircled my campus, and I stopped to catch my breath and walk a little.  It just so happened that I was walking in front of our library, and a student stopped me to ask for directions to a dormitory.  It just so happened to be the dorm that I stayed at.

I pointed him out to the appropriate on-campus bus to take and was about to be on my way, when he said that the buses were really complicated and asked if he could walk with me instead.   I explained that I was running (if he couldn’t already tell from my sweaty self), and he pointed it out that I was walking at the moment.

I told him I was taking a break, and he asked if he could just follow me and I agreed but I wasn’t going to wait for him.

I know, I know.  Alarm bells, right?

I felt something was a little “off” and I ignored it. It wasn’t until we got to a more deserted stretch of the road that my imagination started acting up, and I realized that following me was a stranger.  So I picked up my pace and ran as hard as I could until I got to my dormitory.  He was carrying a backpack and a bunch of text books, but I wasn’t about to underestimate his strength or speed.

However, when I got to the dormitory, I felt safe again.  People were surrounding me, and there were lots of lights.  And I felt that I had let my imagination get the best of me.

The stranger caught up to me, and I was about to leave since he had found where he was looking for.  Then he asked if he could have a tour.  I said that I was about to walk back to my room, and he could just look at the common areas, and he could back during office hours.

After the walk through the common areas, I was about to take off, when he asked me to see my room.

What was this guy thinking?!

At this point, I didn’t want to be rude, and explained that I just finished my run, and would be washing up and then going to bed, so he should really come back for a tour with the resident staff.  I did not feel comfortable showing a stranger my room.  Or, I could ask my guy friends to show him their room, if he really needed to see it tonight.

He responded by saying, he could wait while I took my shower, and that there was no need to call my friends.  When we got to places where there were lots of people, he backed away.

Finally I listened to my guy and alarm bells.  I said that I was leaving and he should go.

He asked if he could come up to my room.  I refused.  He asked again.  And again.  I told him I was going to call the police.  And he finally left.

My dormitory has pretty high security, and you can’t get into the elevator without an access card.  Then, you can’t get out of the elevator lobby without the right access card.  And of course, there is the individual room keys.

When I got back to my room, it finally dawned on me what a perilous situation I had put myself in.  And I felt both really stupid and relieved at the same time.

I called my friend and told him what happened.  He made sure I was OK and the stranger hadn’t touched me, and from then on, we always ran together at night.

The next day, we discussed it, and I realized why the stranger had asked me so many times if he could come up to my room.

In Singapore, the girls are more docile, and usually feel embarrassed to refuse (especially so many times) and usually give in, even when they don’t want to.  If I was a Singaporean girl, I might have caved and agreed. I think that’s what this stranger was counting on.  Instead, he encounters a naive Canadian who is wondering why the heck he keeps repeating the same question.

Funny enough, my friend and I ran into the stranger at the library a few days after.  Complete coincidence.  But I wanted to show him that I recognized his face, and he better not try to pull this stunt again.  We approached him, and I greeted him.

Hi, StrangerName.  Remember me?  I just wanted you to meet my friend, and if you ever want to see a room, you can ask him.

I never saw him again.

My story could have had a tragic ending. And I scare myself when I say it out loud – he wanted to rape me. I’m pretty sure of it now.

I was lucky.  I should have listened to my gut.  Now, I know better.

If I feel uncomfortable in the slightest way, I will leave.  I have a right to do so.  And if I seem rude, then that’s better than putting my safety at risk.

Do you have a gut feeling story?  Do you listen to your instincts?

I have a confession.

I LOVE it when BF brings me back little trinkets from his travels 😀

BF travels a lot for business, and whenever he comes back from another city or country, he’s gotten into the habit of bringing me back a stuffed animal or other little trinket from that place.

It started with the Paddington Bear from London, England.  Then, a little Koala bear from Sydney, Australia.  Then MukMuk, the marmot from the 2010 Vancouver Olympic games.  And the latest, a little Havana flip flop magnet and Corporal Flapjack Jr. when he came back from Brasil.

I know.  I know. So NOT minimalism.

It’s not so much that I really like the gifts, I just feel super special – it’s almost like “proof” that he was thinking of me.  Silly, right?  Right? !

The minimalist part of me needs to realize that this is silly, and that I am just piling up “stuff” for a sentimental reason.

I’m kinda at a loss of what to do about this dilemma – I feel so special when I get a little gift 😛

Maybe I could suggest to BF to bring me back a postcard with a little message.  I love postcards 🙂

I guess what I should be focusing on is this post isn’t the trinkets.  But about when I look forward to each time with BF coming.  And the best part about BF coming home – is BF 🙂

When I think about it like that, I don’t really have a need for trinkets!

What are your thoughts on this topic?  Do you like gifts/trinkets?