Category Archives: Lifestyle

Minimalism or Packratism; It is Up to You

“The more the merrier”. Author, English Man

The popular saying, ‘the more the merrier’ is an utterly wrong statement to use as an objective in many facets of life. I may be wrong.

My religion tells me one should be in this world like a traveler. That one is on a journey to another destination where what you possess here does not mean much there. One is encouraged to aim for less worldly things and garner more spiritual attainment. A belief that only augurs well for those who deeply believe or have a core belief.

But what does it mean to be a traveler? A number of things. One, you are transiting from one place to another for an objective. You have left home in search of something. And when you assume the status of a traveler, something is bound to adhere to; packing. What do you bring on your journey and what do you not?

I was a terrible packer years then. In fact, right from High School days, I remember how I always try to bring everything and fill my bags to capacity. Fast-forward to my adult life, I still fail, not miserably though. At one time when I traveled to Tokyo, I had brought a number of clothing, for every weather (despite it was summer then). To be fair to myself, I was going to be away from my place of domicile for about 3 months. Therefore, I thought I should just bring enough clothes.

It was a terrible idea. I had simply brought more than enough. Now let me ask you, how many clothes do you bring for a journey lasting for about 3 months? Clothing for one month, so you can wash and reuse or for 3 weeks or two weeks or one week? The math isn’t so easy to come by after all.

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When you are going away for a year! 😀

My observant roommate in Japan, Alex noticed the need to improve my packing (over filled bag) and tells me how he packs. ‘Bring together all the things you need for a journey, then just halve it by two.’ He said in a genuinely British accent that resonates in me anytime I am packing to travel. “Halve it by two’. If I am going away for two weeks and thought to bring a pair of cloth for every day, that will be at least 14 pieces of shirts/t-shirts, trousers,  underwear (singlet and boxers), stockings. At least.

Wrong! Halve it by two Alex says. And you will be okay.

Packratism on a short trip is just a little tip of the ice-berg. What about in everyday life? What do you need every day? How much should you keep and how much shouldn’t? How many cars and clothing and shoes do you need in your garage and closet?

The word for such a less material possessive life is called minimalism; having less of everything. Minimalism is a tool for finding freedom, living more consciously and more deliberately.

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It’s what Buddhists monks and many people. They call it viagyra-the intentional giving away of your possessions. Sayyidna Abu Bakr, r.a., the first leader of the Islamic Caliphate after the demise of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) practiced viagyra too in his life time, by giving away all his wealth. Read about the beautiful story here.

Practicing viagyra leaves you to enjoy moksha-the moment after giving away everything. Having this kind of moment-the moksha moment- can reduce your mental stress. It leaves you with much more time for other stuff instead of battling to create time to enjoy/use/admire/caress/display/…(fill in the blank) your gadgets, farmlands, automobiles, houses, and whatever you may have purchased. Hence the thinking that you have all these and you need to guard and use them frequently creates thinking and decision fatigue.

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Buddhist Monk

Minimalism is a line of thought to always serve in what you do. From making purchases to traveling and collecting collectibles. It’s the opposite of being a packrat. Possessing a lot of stuffs that you have to carter for might become a mental stress.

I remember how last year, I used the elementary but powerful economic principle of opportunity cost and scale of preference to decide on what to spend my money on. Things or experience. See my blog post about it here.

I shrink in my chair and reminisce walking the streets of Amsterdam. From one street to another, turning at river canals and crossing over the old bridge. I found a very good restaurant; a Suriname cuisine. I heard the name of the country once before, but never knew they were colonized by the Dutch. So it was easy to have such a restaurateur from Suriname serving food cooked in his native seasoning in the middle of Amsterdam.

Those are the kinds of thoughts that come into my head often. Then occasionally, I get interrupted by what I could have possessed if I hadn’t spent my money on different cuisines and traveling to different places. That new phone, an expensive leather wrist watch or a designer couture bought from Champs’ Elysees.

The could-haves are just numerous to wonder in. but they didn’t matter then. And they cannot now.

To conclude my post, here is a challenge.

Look at all your possessions. Which ones haven’t you use used in the last 3 (or even) 2 months or so? Shoes, clothing or what? Now is the time to bring them all out and giveaway.

Want to go deeper in minimalism, read the Chicago Tribune post here.

Less is more! Less is more!!

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Decision Making; Spending Money on Things or Experience

A thought crept into my mind while sitting at my desk at the office last week. I had to take a decision about an expenditure I was about to make. I have been indecisive about it simply because I was taking my time in conceiving how much change or impact my final option would have on my life.

In trying to be decisive, I had a retrospection of last year’s event. The retrospection should aid in taking me out of my current indecisiveness. I went over some of the decisions I took last year, the strategy I used in taking them should help me in deciding what I have at stake. Some of the results of those decisions I took last year stare at me daily in the office.

Standing conspicuously on my office desk are 3 memorabilia; replicas of Eiffel Tower, Pyramid of Giza and wind turbine of the Netherlands. As you will guess, all acquired when I traveled to Paris, Giza in Egypt and the Netherlands.

Occasionally, I did hold these precious items in my hands to glance closer or play with them as I get deep in thinking about office work or whatever that comes to mind. On some instances, I remember the trips to their originating cities. It refreshes my memory and invigorates me.

Back to my indecisiveness, my final decision boiled down to one thing; use my money for a material thing or spend it on an experience I can reminisce on. I thought about all the not needed things but good to have things I could buy with the money; upgrading my car, getting a cozy apartment, new shoes, a new laptop, a new phone, new wrist watches, sunglasses, etc. The consumer culture thing you know.

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The thing is I can manage without those new things. I learned to resist impulse expenditure about 3 years ago from Brian Tracy. Sometimes, it is more about ranking expected expenditure according to needs. Economists call this scale of preference. The idea that you rank a number of things you want to expend time and money on, in order of desperate need. And when you forego one item for the other, it becomes the opportunity cost of the foregone item. Last year, I had a European trip, culminating to be the opportunity cost to many material possessions I could have. Did you miss the story? Read it here again.

And that’s why I often don’t do well to the expectation of people I meet after returning from a trip, when they ask ‘what did you buy from …(insert name of a foreign city I visited)? I did not purchase something worth their 100% attention or societies 200%. Instead, I invested much of my little cash in paying for an experience such as snorkeling, go-karting, new dishes at restaurants, transportation, desert safari etc. and invest the tiniest fraction on a memorabilia such as the ones quoted above or good to have things.

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Go-karting in Dubai 2014
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My fun friends after the go-kart race in Dubai

I looked up some hard facts online about whether my decision on spending money on experience instead of on things is congruous to many people. Yes it is. Huffington Post reports about a 20 year research carried out by a Cornell University professor Dr. Gilovich on spending money on experiences instead of things  makes you happier.  Here are the three things that helped him arrive at his conclusion.

One. Getting accustomed to new possessions. At the instant you acquire something new, it’s your high point of excitement. However, this thrill fades away as the earth orbits around the sun. True?

Two. Raising the bar always. When you buy a $100 dollar sunglasses today, an expected value of what cost of sunglasses you will buy next will be higher than $100. Once we get something, we want a better one next time. True?

Three. Keeping up with the Joneses. By nature, Dr. Gilovich says, possessions foster comparison. Very true. The instant you see a friend’s car, it’s about comparing which is better. Truth is, there will always be someone with a better car.

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It is called the paradox of possessions says Dr. Gilovich. The wrongful assumption that buying things will make you happy as long as the item exists is wrong. It defies common sense I know at times. Buying something that will be there for a very long time should sustain the happiness you got earlier. Reality is, no. It won’t and will never.

However, foregoing such material expenditure for experiences such as travels, dining out with friends, donating to fundraisers, signing up for gym or yoga classes, trying out new cafes or restaurants should leave a more lasting happiness for you.

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This will give you some well lasting memories. Take your friends with you.
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Or go kite-surfing

Often times, it is not easy to always think of the opportunity cost while about to spend your money, especially when you have enough of it. But it should be. Often when I hear and see people complain of little or no money to spend on experiences such as a vacation, I am bewildered by their considerations as I observe their material possessions that could cover their dreams.

Why have an expensive car, while suffering from ADD (adventure deficit disorder) and not sell it to buy a cheaper car and get cured.

“Our experiences are a bigger part of ourselves than our material goods. You can really like your material stuff. You can even think that part of your identity is connected to those things, but nonetheless they remain separate from you. In contrast, your experiences really are part of you. We are the sum total of our experiences.” says Gilovich.

It is easier to bond more with people you hiked Mount Kenya with or traveled to Rome with than with someone who has the same car or phone as you. Even if you did not take the trip together, knowing you all had similar experiences will bring you closer. And that’s more reason to ditch retail therapy (material items) for experience soaked expenditure.

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When I went hiking to Mount Kenya with friends in 2015

What limits you from foregoing spending on things for experiences? What frequently ranks high on scale of preference, purchase of material possessions or expenditure on experiences? Do you always think of the opportunity cost when you come to spending? I would love to hear what is more important to you, things or experiences and why?

Please drop your comments below.

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