28 January 2015

The KonMari Method

Goal #7: Simplify

Like any world-class procrastinator worth his salt, I began my process of eliminating clutter by reading about how to eliminate clutter. For days. All the while no clutter elimination actually happened, but hey, it is important to have a game plan.

Oddly enough, it proved to be extremely helpful, because as I was poring over simple living and minimalist blogs and whatnot, I came across this book.

The author, Marie Kondo, runs a business in Tokyo solely focused on transforming the houses (and possibly, the lives) of her clients. She calls her approach the "KonMari" method - a play on her first and last names - and she promises that once you adopt it, you will never revert to clutter ever again. Yes it sounds like an infomercial, and the title is very cheesy, but I bought it anyway.

Two days later I found myself hauling eight giant garbage bags down the stairs and into the trash bins. My sister caught a glimpse of my closet and was incredulous. "Did you throw away all your clothes?!?" she asked. The question remains if I shall, indeed, never return to my cluttered life again, but from where I am right now I am extremely pleased.

Start by discarding, all at once, intensely and completely. 
The KonMari method offers a refreshing contrast in a world of gradual change and baby steps: it advocates a balls-to-the-wall, one-time big-time affair. It's also done by category, instead of by room or location. Everything - everything - is gathered and spread out on the floor. Nothing goes back to storage until the discarding process has taken its course - only then are we allowed to even think about where to store our things.
We should be choosing what we want to keep, not what we want to get rid of.
Part of what makes decluttering so hard is the focus on the throwing away of things. Parting with objects that we have been enamoured with at some point is always painful. Always. And so instead, we focus on what we keep. And there is one question, and one question only.
Does this spark joy?
This is the central tenet of the whole approach, and the thought process behind it is exhaustively discussed in the book. There is great deal of anthropomorphising going on, but I'd be lying if I say I don't do it myself (who doesn't talk to their gadgets?). Every single object must be held in the hands and evaluated, and those that are eventually discarded should be thanked for fulfilling their purpose.
Thank you, Pub Crawl T-shirt, for staying with me as I wandered about drunkenly in the streets of Prague and taught strangers the steps to the Macarena. 
Thank you, beige blazer, for teaching me to stay away from blazers. And beige. 

I'm not gonna lie - it was tedious, and for a while there it seemed like it would never end. It took me half a day to clear out my already pared down closet because I kept taking breaks. But the more I persevered, the easier it became. 

What's left of my closet, post-purge

There were a few hiccups here and there; I accidentally threw away the charger for my Sonicare toothbrush and I was forced to buy a new one. But for the most part I am more than pleased. It's liberating, finally getting a grasp of everything I own and knowing where every single thing is stored - no more random crap in a random drawer in every single cabinet!

Having said that, I still love this box. 
Today I finished organising the very last drawer in the house. It's immensely satisfying, but at the same time I know there is still a lot of editing to be had - some things I'm not entirely happy with but I keep because I need them (the cheese grater we bought out of desperation, for example). One day, I will reach what the book refers to as the "click-point": when you realise that you own everything you need to be happy, and there is no need for anything more. I don't know when it would happen, but it is something I excitedly look forward to.
Can you truthfully say that you treasure something buried so deeply in a closet or drawer that you have forgotten its existence?

12 January 2015

Kitchen Misadventures: Roasted Garlic

0. Start with an entire bulb of garlic.

1. Remove the outer skin, and cut the top off.

2. Drizzle with olive oil.

3. Wrap in foil, and pop into a pre-heated air fryer (160C) for twenty minutes.

4. Enjoy. ^^

07 January 2015

2015: Goal Setting

They call it the "fresh start effect" - that phenomenon behind gyms being full, employees reporting to work early, and junk food not getting consumed in the days immediately after the New Year. The idea is that people are more likely to purse their goals with renewed vigor following temporal landmarks - in this case, the start of a new calendar year. And while we've all had our share of broken resolutions, I think it's still a good idea to harness this not-so-newfound motivation.

Photo taken at the start of my first (turbulent) flight of the year

Goal #1: Go someplace new.
Or: Shop less, Travel more. Research has shown that experiences provide more enduring happiness than material things, and yet here I am stubbornly going through purchase after purchase. It does not compute. And as much as I love Tokyo, there is still the rest of the world waiting to be discovered.

Goal #2: Read at least one book a month.
I used to be able to read a lot, back when I still had to commute to work. Now that I only have to walk to the office, I feel like I no longer have the time to read, when in fact I have plenty - it's just that I have to do it at home and not inside a moving vehicle. I probably would have to spend less time on Facebook, but hey, that's a good thing.

Goal #3: Create a capsule wardrobe.
One of my key insights from the minimalist project is that I have a closet which does not make sense, primarily because I keep buying 'meh' pieces just because they are on sale. So my target for this year is to create a cohesive wardrobe that reflects my own personal style (if you could call it that) with pieces I truly enjoy wearing. It's time to stop looking, and feeling, frumpy.

Goal #4: Learn something new.
Last year I signed up for (beginner) German classes. They were paid for by the company but conducted externally. There was the initial trepidation of being in a tiny classroom with strangers, but I ended up immensely enjoying myself. In fact, I never missed a class, even if we were allowed to skip up to three, and I completed it with a sehr gut rating in the written exam (of which I am disproportionately proud of). Hopefully I'll be able to take the next round of classes, but at any rate I have (re)discovered that there is joy to be found in learning new things. Indeed, now that I think about it, the people I admire the most, in the office and elsewhere, are the people who never stop learning.

Goal #5: Have a better grip on my finances.
I am simply way past the age when "do not go into credit card debt" is an acceptable financial goal (for the record, I didn't).

Goal #6: Yoga.
I have been wanting to practice yoga for ages, but laziness always gets the better of me. That, and the fear of going to a studio full of strangers by my lonesome. I know for a fact that it goes away after the first class - as evidenced by my Barre3 experience - but that initial step is always the most difficult, isn't it?

Goal #7: Simplify.
There is beauty in living with less. 2015 is the year I get rid of all the clutter.

Ready. Set. Go.

20 December 2014

The Minimalist Project: Progress Report #1

Conceptually it was so easy - just get rid of all the junk. I had visions of myself going from cluttered to minimalist in a month. Clearly I was delusional.

Status: Fairly okay

I rarely buy makeup now, which is huge considering how much I used to shop back in the day (and by back in the day, I mean a couple of months ago). I have also managed to whittle down my collection to fit in a single five-layer Muji drawer. It's still a lot, but these are products I genuinely enjoy so I'm keeping them; I'm not going to throw away things I love just for the sake of throwing things away, you know?

I have also "decluttered" my YouTube subscriptions. It has evolved so much from women filming in their bedrooms talking about products they love to PR-managed mini-celebrities shilling products they have barely even touched but are paid to endorse. It's great that they have made a career out of it, but that's just not the content I originally subscribed to. I mean these girls have started filming themselves while taking a shower to hawk shampoo or some other bath product. Seriously, why is this a thing? Do normal, non-pervy people really get a kick out of watching other people bathe? "Hey, I didn't know you could wash your hair like that, how innovative." Nope, I'm good, thanks.

Status: Getting there

Ever since I moved here I've worn flats almost exclusively, especially now that I walk (a kilometer!) to work. However, I love shopping for heels, because in-store they do nothing but elongate your legs. The pinching and the blistering and the bloodshed, that only happens when you get home. The end result is a shoe cabinet filled with barely-used heels and a few very worn-out flats.

I must have thrown away around twenty pairs over the course of a month, which was painful but necessary. Singapore heat and humidity is not kind to shoes on storage, so regardless of how much I loved them it was too much of a risk to wear them out.

As it stands now, I have several pairs of flats on rotation, and still a handful of heels. From this point forward it's going to be a one-in one-out situation - I can only get new shoes to replace a pair that is on its way out.

Status: Not yet started

Purses are not as much of a problem for me because I rarely buy new ones now. I guess it's because I really love the ones I currently own - I've had my Neverfull for three years now, and it still makes me smile everytime I use it - and they are absolute workhorses so there has been no need to get a replacement.

I'm pretty sure there are still a couple of bags lurking in storage that I have forgotten about and should get rid of, but after that I don't think I will have a problem managing the size of my collection (if you could even call it that).

Status: Majestic Failure

My closet can be summarized in one word: Meh.
I read this article where the author suggests we only keep things that "spark joy" and if you apply that to my wardrobe I will be left with two pairs of jeans that only fit on good days and maybe a scarf.

It raises the question of how on earth I ended up with a closet filled to the brim with pieces of clothing I don't necessarily enjoy - and the answer to that is sales. I always shop the sales. I mean, sure, this blazer is purple and it doesn't go with any other item I own and I don't even like wearing blazers because it's not a good look for me but holy crap only 19.90, from the original price of 79.90! Yep, story of my life. Blazer is in the trash now, along with two garbage bags of clothes that should not have made it into my closet in the first place.

I now have a significantly whittled-down wardrobe, after a month-long purge in which everything that made me feel just the slightest bit frumpy when worn went straight to the trash pile. In a way it was a question of why I would force myself to wear things I only remotely like when I could be wearing my favorites everyday. In the next couple of months I am going to be working on a capsule wardrobe of sorts, because I'm really liking the idea of having a "uniform". The goal is to look effortless but put-together. We'll see how it goes.

In the meantime, my Christmas vacation has officially begun. Happy holidays, everyone. ^^

14 December 2014

On Coffee

I have started my day with a hot cup of coffee for as long as I can remember. Literally. I have memories of sneaking into the kitchen after my mother has left for work and finishing what's left of her coffee - she only ever drinks half, until now. And one of the things I learned from my grandmother is that pandesal is best dunked into black coffee.

I have gone through several phases since then. High school was Taster's Choice I stole from home, college was 3-in-1 packets and flavored creamers, and when I got my first job I slowly but surely developed a relationship with Starbucks - at the height of it all I was guzzling half a liter of brewed Verona beans per day.

And then there were flings. The crazy strong canned coffee from Japanese vending machines (one step away from directly inhaling coffee grounds). Kopi-C in a plastic bag from Singapore hawker centers. The Aerobie Aeropress, which I loved but at one point I realized hand-grinding beans was not an ideal way to start the day. Eventually I resorted to pre-ground coffee, but it wasn't as good. There was the momentary allure of the Nespresso, that sexy machine that promises wonderful coffee with next-to-nothing effort, but after their trying the strongest brew they had and going "eh?" I decided it was not meant to be.

These days I like my coffee uncomplicated - just with sugar and plain, non-dairy creamer (milk in the morning = migraine). I have had my fair share of lattes in the past, but I have come to realize that I really, really, really do not like foam. It's like an extra layer I have to sift through to get to my caffeine. And the only flavored syrup I like in my coffee is mint, because it's interesting. I've also grown out of love with Starbucks. Something changed - either their brew or my tastebuds - but their coffee these days just tastes burnt and watered down (to me, at least). And then there's the price, which just compounds my disappointment.

Anyway, the whole point of this whole ramble is thus: I am crazy addicted to instant drip coffee packets from Muji.

They come individually wrapped, and the through some creative origami sorcery you end up with a basket on top of your coffee mug, like in the picture. You pour in some hot water, and voila! Five-minute drip coffee with zero cleanup. It's a bit on the strong side, but not as acidic as most Japanese blends, and very smooth (I don't know if that's a proper term for describing coffee, but that's what it feels like).

They are quite difficult to get ahold of, though. In fact I was just in Muji this afternoon to stock up hoard and they only had two packets left *sniff*. I guess I'm not the only one addicted to them.