Archive for March, 2013

Abraham Hicks and Clutter (or, Energy Experiment part 2)

26 March 2013

Abraham Hicks gives a number of processes to move up their Emotional Guidance Scale (22 processes to be exact — no, I don’t know the exact significance of there being 22 processes, nor or there being 22 places on the Emotional Guidance Scale. Maybe they just like 22). One of these processes is about eliminating clutter.

I quote: “a cluttered environment can cause a cluttered point of attraction.  If you are surrounded by unfinished work, unanswered letters, incomplete projects, unpaid bills, unnattended to tasks, unsorted piles of paperwork, and stray magazines, catalogs, and all manner of miscellaneous items – they can negatively affect your life experience.” Most importantly, “you all have the capacity for attraction, and when your process is clogged with stuff that you no longer want – the new attraction is slower and then you end up with a feeling of frustration or overwhelment“.

Clogged. Slower. Frustration. Overwhelment. I’m not sure the last one is a word, but it should be. Overwhelment.

It’s been interesting where I currently live, as the house has been horribly cluttered. Put bluntly, shit everywhere. Not even good quality stuff, but total shit. And it’s not my stuff, either; it’s the old lady’s who owns the house, who is now in care due to advancing age and health issues.

As I wrote in an Energy Experiment (part 1, as it turned out) I felt I was locked in an energy battle with the house. And I almost moved out several times, but I stood my ground. Now, finally, I’m starting to win against it.

The kitchen, for the first time, is clear. Still some stuff to clear away (way too many plastic containers, not to mention pots and pans) but it’s much, much better than it was. My bedroom, while still painted hideous clashing shades of blue, now has adequate mosquito netting (and therefore no more mosquitoes).

I’m also aligning my stuff in an orderly manner: I’m shopping my clothing off a list (just as if they were groceries, because that’s what they really are) and allocating a budget. (Last payday I allocated $80 to spend on clothing; I spent $78.10. Success!) I have one box of stuff that I know needs sorting out, but I don’t need to sort it all out right this split second.

Quoting Abraham Hicks again, “everything carries its own vibration, and because you develop a vibrational relationship with everything in your life, your personal belongings do have an impact on the way you feel and on your point of attraction“. Everything. Including all the shit that I’m still surrounded with at home.

However, something positive is coming out of all of this. Here are my two resolves as a result:

  1. All of my stuff will be tidy, sorted, completely listed and done by the end of the year. I’m rewriting my will as part of this in a few weeks (not expecting to die soon, but I do want everything in order). As I explained to my family, if I do die it’ll only take half an hour or so to sort my stuff, it’ll be all in place. My ultimate goal is to enter everything into a spreadsheet.
  2. Do what I can to assist with my current place being tidy and sorted. Finish going through the jewellery and the spice rack, get rid of the mismatched and ugly terracotta pots (was there a sale on ugly terracotta pots?) and even paint my room a soothing white. Get some zen happening there. I like a little minimalism now and zen.

I finish with the final pearl of wisdom from Abraham Hicks: “discard everything from your experience that is not essential to your NOW“.

Goodbye ugly terracotta pots!!!

The Power of Lists

19 March 2013

I have a habit, and it’s been a habit of mine that has stood me in good stead: making lists. I’m an incorrigible list maker. If I have to pick up more than three things from the market or store, I make a list. (Oh, and I never go shopping hungry; otherwise you end up buying all sorts of stupid thinks, like pickled artichokes).

And it’s a habit that I’ve been extending. I now shop for clothes the way other people shop for groceries: I make a list. I made a list of all the clothes in my wardrobe a few months ago, and the clothing I need, here. Right now I don’t need t-shirts but I do need business shirts: I’ll be going shopping for some business shirts on Friday, and I will simply walk past the t-shirt section. It’s that simple.

There are other lists I have, with lists of things to buy for the bathroom, the kitchen; my weekly shopping lists for the markets and the supermarket; and my diary, which is really a collection of 365 to-do lists. I have two lists of projects that I’m working on (ones that require money, and ones that don’t). The 2007 movie The Bucket List starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman really put into people’s awareness the wonderful idea of making a list of the things you want to do before you die. A brilliant idea. Needless to say, I have a bucket list.

What I really need, perhaps, is then a list of lists. But here goes so far:

  • Clothing that I have
  • Clothing that I require
  • Colours that actually suit me (as opposed to the ones that make me look deathly ill; canary yellow and mustard, I’m looking straight at you!)
  • Things to get for the bathroom
  • Things to get for the kitchen
  • Vegetables I would like to grow
  • My to-do lists (daily, in the diary)
  • Essential things to pack when I travel (an upcoming post)
  • Things I would like to do in my career
  • Gemstones that I would like to cut and give to friends (it’s a long list and I’m very slow, so please don’t expect to see a sapphire coming from me any time soon!)
  • Things I want to achieve this year
  • Things that I would like to acquire in my life (bucket list part 1)
  • Things that I would like to do in my life (bucket list part 2)
  • Places that I would like to go to in my life (bucket list part 3, and by far the longest one. What can I say, I’m a born traveller!)

I did mention that I’m a list maker, right? Good.

So, how on earth does my almost obsessive list-making relate to minimalism? Simple. If it’s not on the list, I don’t need it.

For example, if I go shopping and I haven’t written “chocolate” on the shopping list, I don’t buy chocolate. Ever. (Needless to say, I am now very good at remembering to put chocolate on my shopping list — usually near the top! 🙂 ). But it also works for my other lists: I no longer get distracted by things that aren’t on my list. I had a friend once whose goal was to visit every single one of the 50 states of America. All 50 states are not on my list: if I don’t get to Wisconsin, I won’t be bitterly disappointed at the end of my days. But I really do want to cruise Alaska, go for a helicopter ride in the Grand Canyon, tour Hawaii, Seattle and New Orleans, and revisit San Francisco, Boston and New York.

The power of lists is the power of focus: you know exactly what you want, you only go after exactly what you want, and in all probably you get exactly what you want. And you don’t end up with stuff you don’t want. True, there can be some nice surprises: things and places you didn’t expect to enjoy but end up loving to bits (hello America!), but for the most part, you get what you want.

And I think lists are essential for minimalists.

Why I Blog (or, what exactly is the point of this again?)

12 March 2013

There are several reasons why I’m writing a blog — and, no, money isn’t it. Just to sum up the reasons that I am blogging — and more importantly, persisting with blogging — are as follows:

1. I think I have something to say. No, really. Australians have the largest houses in the world — even bigger than the Americans — and the strain of building six bedroom four bathroom McMansions way out in the ‘burbs is showing up in our cities. Melbourne has been voted the most livable city for several years, but even this city can’t endure people building mega-mansions 50km from the city centre and then demanding decent public transport links. Folks, it doesn’t work like that. If you have low density housing — really low density housing — you can’t expect trains at your doorstep every ten minutes. It’s just not viable. If you want to live with excellent public transport and road infrastructure, you have to compromise and accept higher density housing closer to the CBD.

And I strongly suspect that a large part of people buying massive houses is to fill it with stuff. Stuff is expensive: not only do you have to buy the stuff itself, you also have to buy the houses to put the stuff in, and big houses cost more money. And to afford a big house, you need to go way out to the back of Zone 2 (or whatever the equivalent is in your city) and spend hours and hours commuting, so now you have to factor in the time that it takes to get to your stuff-laded house in Narre Warren or South Morang or Pakenham or wherever.

See how expensive stuff is?

2. Writing practice. I blog to sharpen my writing skills. I also do volunteer work as a section sub-editor for the North and West Melbourne News, which gives me another outlet for my writing skills. Currently I’m finalising my first fictional novel, Sinister, set in a dystopic world that discriminates against left-handed people. I’ll let you know when it’s available. But blogging is helping me find my voice. I don’t think I’ve completely found it yet, but it’s on its way. I’m not yet writing epic shit, but I’m on the learning curve.

3. Discipline. I blog on a Tuesday — every Tuesday, without fail. This included Christmas Day, 2012; New Year’s Day, 2013; and the day after I had surgery a couple of weeks ago. I’ve made the commitment to writing every Tuesday, and every Tuesday this is exactly what I do. It all comes down to discipline. And I suspect that the discipline I exert here will strengthen my discipline in other areas, such as budgeting money, eating healthy foods, managing my time effectively, and regularly exercising. All of these activities require discipline to some degree, and building up my “discipline muscle” can only be a good thing.

4. Inspiration has to come. There’s no point in showing up at the computer on a Tuesday with nothing to write. I have to think of something. Forced inspiration, if you will. Closely related to the previous point about discipline, this is about moving from a passive “waiting for the muse to descend upon me” to just write something, dammit!

5. Familiarity with web tools. Confession time here: I am so not a geek! I wish I was. Over the next few weeks, I plan to take and upload some photos for this site — not random, meaningless ones, but ones that obviously relate to the content. And it means moving from my luddite technophobia to, well, if not entirely embracing technology, at least being a little more down with it than the Amish.

And that’s why I blog right now: it’s therapeutic, builds discipline, and hopefully I can contribute to reducing Australia’s housing obesity. 🙂

The Zen of Limits (or, minimalist budgeting)

5 March 2013

Currently I have some financial issues, mostly relating to an ill-timed redundancy from the employer from hell (GlaxoSmithKline, I’m looking straight at you) and my decision to immediately do a Masters degree. My decision to continue on to a doctorate is probably not helping, and neither was my taking the opportunity to study overseas (Denmark) for part of my degree.

<sigh>

So I’m watching my pennies. And oddly enough, now that I’m living on Newstart (a grand total of $573 a fortnight) I’m now better than ever with money. It’s as if the zen of limits has had an amazing effect on my abilities with money.

Just over a week ago I had surgery, and I had a few out-of-pocket expenses associated with it (mostly medication, such as nose drops). A couple of years ago it would have put me into a panic; this time round, I had deliberately saved a little extra in my stash to cover for the cost. All I had to do was electronically transfer the funds to be available the next day. Easy.

So here are my current rules for balancing a budget. These are likely to change as I get more money — in fact, I very much hope they do, I do expect at some point in the future to have more income. But these are the rules:

  1. Always put aside minimum 10% into the stash. And this stash does. not. get. touched. Ever!
  2. The day before a payday — every payday — write out a budget. No budget, no spend. I find the very worst thing I can do is to start spending money before I’ve written out a budget. Know how easy it is to spend money that way? Too easy. So, NO BUDGET, NO SPEND!
  3. Use round amounts: budget in multiples of $10. This is just to make it easier: in Australia, ATM machines will only dispense in multiples of $10, which is a lot easier to deal with than amounts such as $35.76.
  4. Generally, round up. If a bill comes in for $47.80, round it up to $50. Exceptions are if the amount is really trivial; a four-week rail pass costs me $60.20 (Zone 1). I can scrape up 20 cents pretty easily. 😀
  5. If I really want to buy something (clothing, bedlinen), it goes into a “projects” pile of money. I can choose which “project” I spend money on. For example, right now I’d like a pair of sneakers and fill a few minor gaps in my wardrobe.
  6. Projects are a list — actually, a series of lists — of things that I would like to buy. It is not, and never is, spontaneous.
  7. All of the odd amounts of money left over (such as the $3-something from the Newstart allowance, because I budget using $570) plus the differences in billing amount all get electronically scooped up and put into the stash. Thus, instead of my stash routinely being $60 (10% of $570, rounded up), it’ll be something like $68.45.
  8. If money is going into my wallet for a designated purpose other than food or basic socialising (e.g., to pay a bill) then the banknotes get folded up double in my wallet. This means I don’t inadvertently spend money for a bill on food. A small thing, but handy nonetheless!

So those are my tips and tricks for minimalist budgeting. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments, and any other suggestions you have. Happy budgeting! (Yes, I mean that, I really do!)