Chasing simplicity. Thoughts on life and money.

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HEAD OR HEART.






I haven’t been able to put this vague notion into words, until now. As I become more aware of my emotions, it’s easier to identify the distinctive spheres in which these emotions exist.

The heart space is a lovely place to be in, where I am happy with the status quo. I see things through the filter of contentment, and everything is often fantastic . Even when things don’t go well, a dose of gratitude is often all that’s needed to transform an undesirable circumstance into something a lot more bearable. The heart place is a place to rest. My family, my son, and my treasured friends all belong to the heart space.  Also found here are my spiritual beliefs, yoga, creative pursuits. There are simply no goals, no destination, no itineraries, just the calm moments suspended in time and space, the way the fog hangs over a sleepy winter forest, the way the sun melts into an mirror of sea at sunset.

The head space is a space for striving, achieving, and achingly yearning for MORE. It’s about noticing where you are and then desperately trying to pursue the next goal post, the next achievement, the next mountain to climb. It’s about putting on a brave fight in the arena. It’s a heady mix of mountain top highs and crushing lows.The head space is where I am in when I am in business mode, where profit matters, numbers need to be closely watched, and ever expanding to do lists gotta be conquered.

I recently had to make a decision in my business. It baffled me how polar opposites my decisions are depending on whether I’m functioning in head mode or heart mode.

And here lies the dilemma. When I’m stuck in my head mode I can’t rest. Stuck in my heart mode I can’t grow. I wish I knew what the perfect balance of the two are, is it 60:40, 50:50 or maybe  30:70? Does it have to be so black and white, so distinct? I have found that what utmostly shift the balance between head and heart are the circumstance, the matter involved, the people involved, and what’s at stake.


And much as I love comfort and contentment, I sometimes find that I can’t reside in the heart space forever. The waters there are just to still for my liking.



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All the moons, stars , jeans and plain T-shirts.
























I don't go through life thinking about certain things on a daily basis, things such as auroras on Jupiter or the spherical and the odd-shaped moons of Saturn, how these moons named after the mighty Gaelic and Inuit gods and how they journey silently through space, unknown to most humans most of the time.

I approach my clothes in a similar way, with little attention paid and a high degree of automation. While I am a passionate admirer of the brand Gorman - how fantastically bold and colourful and centre-of-the-party the prints are, most of the time, I wear my dark coloured jeans with my plain T-shirts, mostly grey. The uniform simplifies life. It frees up energy wanting and shopping and entering these purchases into my YNAB (money-tracking program). It leaves plenty of room for admiring things from afar. All that little pockets of energy and time saved usually knit together into a sense of freedom and gratitude for the good things I have in my life.

The capricious Melbourne weather is actually kind to my wardrobe. Except for a few handfuls of hot days in summer, jeans and short-sleeved T-shirts are perfect for a base layer, before knits and jackets pile on top.

I am not saying I am dressing this way for the rest of my life. No. I know myself well enough to realise that I don't usually commit to a certain way of doing things forever. But now, I feel that I've truly stumbled upon something that both simplifies and transforms at the same time. And for that I am grateful.

I'm not my bag.








I call myself a minimalist, not because I have so few possessions that I can proudly do youtube video and show you everything I own in under two minutes. No. I am a minimalist because, for a few years now, one of my core beliefs and primary desires is this insatiable urge to contract rather than to expand the number of things I own.

I have one pair of black shoes that I wear ninety five percent of the time, one pair of heels, one pair of ballet flats, one pair of summer sandals, but that's not the point really. I spend money mostly on e-books, take-away coffees and colourful salads. My purchases often don't have a physical form, they don't add to the small number of things I have already own. What they do add to, what they grow exponentially in, is this incredible sense of freedom. Every morning, as I sit in my mostly empty room at home enjoying a cup of coffee, I feel as though I could easily PACK UP  and leave my life ANY TIME, even though the need for such a drastic act of abandonment has never arisen. I am telling you all this because I am about to tell you how I fell off the minimalist wagon.

A few months ago I caught up with a friend whom I  had not seen in a while. She works in the same industry as me. I had a good time, the meal was thoroughly enjoyable, until I noticed her bag. It was small, Chanel's, with a price tag of at least five thousand dollars. On that very day I had been walking around the city with my husband and son. At that very moment, my bag was a cheap vegan shoulder bag, wet from water spillage, bulging with my son's half-eaten package of rice crackers. Against a bag that was neat, elegant, and exquisite mine seemed unorganised, disheveled, cringe-worthy, and JUST-NOT-GOOD-ENOUGH.

Now, not-enough-ness is a peculiar thing. It compels people to do many strange things. So the next day after the bag incident I went shopping for a designer bag. I know. I know.

In the air-conditioned haven that's called Chadstone I agonised for hours. A few thousand dollars seem unreasonable given that those damn bags don't even suit my needs. They were either too heavy, too small, or too expensive. I wondered what the hell I was doing there. I wondered why I cared what people may think of my bag. I wondered if people even notice my bag at all. In the end, I settled on a large tote, light-weight, with a price tag of five hundred dollars. It it still slightly impractical for my everyday use, and until this moment it's still in its dust bag, waiting for the next occasion where I meet with same industry people with whom I think I SHOULD look successful.

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Don't pay yourself!





GROSS- BUSINESS EXPENSES = GROSS EARNINGS

GROSS EARNINGS- SUPERANUATION (retirement)  - TAX = TAKE HOME

TAKE HOME - DEBT - INVESTMENTS - DAILY EXPENSES = CASH


Ahh... being your own boss. It's heaven and hell rolled into one wondrous package. 


For every inch of freedom you gain not a having a boss breathing down your neck, there is a yard of uncertainty- Will you make ENOUGH? Will you be able to make a profit on the weekend? (Hello penalty rates!) Will your employees rock up today? Can you afford to step away from the business to go on holiday this year? And if bad fortune arose, how fast would the bank seize your house? 


In times of need, you can always forgo your superannuation (retirement) payment. It sure is illegal failing to pay your employees' superannuation, but yours? It is entirely optional. You don't have to pay your super. Detrimental as it is to your future, redirecting super to your current needs can boost cash flow during a dry spell.


Back to the first three formulas, I suppose after everything paid,  even if my cash never increases, it still is a good thing.





How to cull your books




The hardest things about discarding books is I feel as though I’m letting go of parts of myself. It is as if I am throwing away the heartaches and joys  of the past, and as if I’m releasing all the hopes and dreams of the future.

The trouble is, books are not just books.

Books, the ones that have been read, are keepers of memories- memories woven into words and paper  and ticket stubs used as a bookmark. Those books are my former self reading and thinking and feeling and inhabiting  for the first time the amazing worlds that the writers create neatly between the covers.


The ones that are yet to be read often feel like a promise. They are us hoping and dreaming. They are the things we are yet to become. Often, they represent every aspect of our fantasy selves- I'm referring to my stacks of unread French novels, poetry, yoga, photography and cookbooks, the ones that occupy SO MUCH SPACE.


And that’s why it’s hard.


And here’s what I’ve found that has helped

  • Focus on the end results. Knowing that letting go of physical clutter opens up this space. It is vast and empty and spacious. It is calming like a freshly raked Japanese pebble garden. It is a zen space that truly restores.
  • It is quite easy to get rid of things that don’t spark joy.
  • It takes some practice, but you can also get rid of the books that do spark joy. Take photos of them,  keep the photos safe on your computer. If you do need to read them again get a kindle version, or borrow from the library.
  • Say “see you later” instead of “goodbye” to the books that you let go. If it is truly memorable, they are already in your heart.




SIMPLE MONEY



This year, 2018, I am opting for simple finance.

Let me tell you why-

For four long years 2014-2017, I laboriously tracked all my expenses. This is what I have learned-

1. Some people may work well with a budget. Me, I struggle.

2. Some people may go on a shopping ban. Me, I struggle.

3-  which is also the most important thing I learned-

Spending money or saving money has little to do with complex cognitive rational decision making chains in my brain. It's all to do with emotions, or rather, failure to deal with emotions.

Buying is distraction. Buying, whether a food, drink, or clothes, is me being unable to sit with my uncomfortable emotions. Buying is using shiny new things to replace the yukkiness of emotions I don't want to deal with.

Buying creates the illusion of me being in charge and trying to change to make my environment better when the present is laden with fear, guilt, resentment, and discomfort.

Buying things is  also me living out a fantasy of a life of "shoulds".  I should wear better shoes and better clothes and spend a decent amount on bags because after all that's what a professional woman in my industry should appear.

That's why I'm SIMPLIFYING.

I am downsizing my wants, and needs.
I am tossing a lot of "should's" and letting go of possessions and ideas that no longer serve me.

And because of that, I am looking forward to a simple year.



Rest, of sorts.




In July, I flew interstate and overseas for a few business trips. On the minus side, when I don’t actively work at the business, the business bank accounts look a bit sad. With most small businesses, the overheads are the same whether you work or not. These trips were not sales related, they were mainly for the purpose of professional development. 


On the plus side, the trips were the break from work I desperately needed. I have written previously about the amount of stress I was under earlier in the year. Taking time off allowed me a chance to step back and reflect, and the knowledge I learned on these trips imparted a renewed sense of enthusiasm and confidence in my work. The breaks were tremendously restorative.



I went to a South East Asian country, where the air this time of the year was pleasantly humid, and people were polite and welcoming. I loved sitting in my 12th floor hotel room at night, facing the large window. This expanse of glass covered the whole facade of the room, floor to ceiling, providing a thin divide between the hotel room and the vibrant city underneath. Sitting there with my hands on the glass watching  the glowing city lights and the constant traffic trail, I felt as though I could palpate the pulsating energy of the night.