3 more tips to avoid clutter

 

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I continue to believe that a minimalistic and uncluttered life can lead to more productivity, increased efficiency and greater happiness. I’ve written several blog posts on my experiments with minimalism and tips to reduce clutter – at work, at home and life in general. Here’s a short version, because I think it all starts with buying stuff…

Buy mindfully:

  • Only buy what you need – really need. If it’s a temporary need, see if can be borrowed or rented.
  • Go with a shopping list and stay focused. Don’t be distracted by displays or special offers.
  • Don’t buy anything ‘just in case’ you might need it. Trust that you’ll find it ‘just in time’.
  • Always buy quality. It lasts longer, so costs less in the long run.
  • Don’t compromise on your style, size or color, otherwise you may be discarding it too soon.

Discard ruthlessly:

  • Once you buy a new something, get rid of the old one. Not tomorrow, not later, right now.
  • Find local charities or Salvation Army stores where the old stuff could go. If it’s too bad or old or broken to go to charity, then recycle it.
  • Give yourself limited space to keep your stuff. Once that space fills up, you know it’s time to reduce.

Use gratefully:

  • Whether it’s clothing, gadgets, books or other possessions, be grateful every time you use them. Remind yourself that millions of people do no have access to such luxury.
  • One of the biggest reasons for buying and accumulating stuff is being ungrateful for what we already have – that feeling of not having enough.
  • When we are grateful, we take good care of our stuff, and don’t discard/replace them easily.

If that sounds too difficult, just take one step at a step. And perhaps developing the attitude of gratitude would be a good start.

6 Key Ideas on Simplifying Your Life (and fit all your belongings in an 18kg bag or less)!

mush-panjwanis-possessions-in-an-18kg-bag.jpgDuring a recent move, I was proud to put together all of my personal stuff (everything that I own) into an 18kg bag. And the FB post got a lot of interest – some wouldn’t believe, some wanted to know what’s in it, some curious to learn how or why. And that inspired this blog post, and I am happy to share why I do it and how.

It’s a lifestyle! Accumulating less stuff; getting rid of unwanted things; keeping within a pre-defined space; staying organized… is not a one-time project. It’s a lifestyle. I started the process about ten years ago, and wrote the first blog post on the subject five years ago. That post covers how I got rid of all the books, reduced the amount of clothes, minimized all accessories, simplified and organized everything, and then applied the same principals to my office and desk.

Why de-clutter and simplify?

  • Easy to find what you are looking for, whether it’s a file on your computer or a travel adaptor
  • Take less space, whether it’s a wardrobe, cabinet or a shoe rack
  • Focus on quality instead of quantity
  • Spend more on experiences (books, travel, personal development, causes) and less on things (except those you buy for others)

Buy less, of everything

  • Buy only what you need, and only when you need it, not whatever is on sale.
  • Wait and see if you really need it. Then see if you can borrow it, before you buy.
  • Buy good quality so it lasts longer and you buy less often.
  • Buy only if there’s space to keep it, not find a space after you buy it.

Continue getting rid of stuff

  • When you buy a new one, get rid of the old one – clothes, shoes, bags, stuff
  • If you bought something but not using it, either due lack of interest or wrong purchase, get rid of it.
  • If you get a gift that you know you are not going to use, get rid of it.
  • If you haven’t used it in 6 months, get rid of it.
  • Only keep stuff that’s essential, makes life easier, or inspires you. Get rid of everything else.
  • When getting rid of anything, try to sell or give away to somebody who can make use of it or recycle. Trash bin should be the last option.

Use technology

  • Unless you can’t live without the touch and smell of physical books, go digital. There’s a long list of pros and cons, but I only buy ebooks and only read on my iPad.
  • Covert all important documents, photo and videos into digital copies and put them all on Dropbox or iCloud. In my recent round, I took photos of loads of ‘emotional-value objects’ and threw them all out. These included large photo frames, desk gifts, crystals, accessories and more… all with thank-you notes, names, or messages printed/engraved on them. These were in a large box, which I don’t have any more!
  • I’ve stopped using notebooks or diaries and pens for a long time. All notes are digital.

Learn to live with less

  • So what do I have in that suitcase? Clothes: formal, casual, summer, winter, gym and swimming gear. Shoes: just two pairs. Gadgets: MacBook, iPad, cables. Lots of socks and underwear; last few copies of my book to give away; pack of business cards; travel toiletries in mini sizes; travel adaptors. No ties, accessories, notebooks, stationery or camera.
  • Living with less inspires gratefulness; helps you keep organized; reduces stress; gets you more focused… is extremely easy to pack and move and unpack!

I know it’s easier said than done. I understand this may not be for everyone. I am sure there are people who can be happier with more, but for me, less stuff equals more happiness. I am happy to answer any questions and offer further advice to anyone who is starting on this journey or wants to get to the next level of minimalism.

 

 

Mush Talks #13: Julia Wong of ‘Triple Lanterns Cafe’ talks about dreams, happiness and slowing down

Triple Lanterns Café is one of the stilt houses in Tai O Village (Hong Kong), offering beautiful views of the canal, the bridge and sunset, besides great pizzas, cakes and coffees. What makes this café really special though is Julia, the owner, who is always happy and cheerful, and ready for a conversation with every customer. During our visit to Triple Lanterns yesterday, we talked about the story behind the café, dreams, happiness, success, customer service and the importance of slowing down to enjoy life… parts of which were also captured on my phone. Here’s an edited version, and I hope it inspires somebody to follow through on their dreams…

More about achieving your dreams, happiness and positivity at Mush Talks #1-12

Free eBook: 12 Things You Need to Know About Happiness at Work!

Two of my colleagues and best friends from the training at Woohoo Academy, Fennande van der Meulen and Maartj Wolff of Happy Office, have just created this fantastic and comprehensive ebook, together with Gea Peper of HappinessBureau. And you can download your free copy here!

screen-shot-2017-01-08-at-7-57-53-pmHappy people are more productive, both in everyday life and at work. Paying attention to a happy work environment generates many benefits for employees, as well as the organisation itself.

Research shows that happiness at work results in less absence, fewer workplace accidents, reduced stress, more grati cation, happier clients and a higher quality of service. Reasons enough to put happiness on the agenda of every organisation. However one question arises: ‘How do you accomplish this?’ In this concise booklet, HappinessBureau and Happy Office will look at twelve topics that delve into the answer to this question. We provide a number of tools to achieve happiness at work…

The book covers many important aspects of happiness, including goal setting; measuring happiness; creating a culture of happy habits, fun and optimism; the value of passionate employees; leadership… and most importantly, how to get started on creating a happy office. Download it now, read it, apply it, share it… the world needs more happy offices 🙂

7 Essential Apps for Traveling

IMG_4526.jpgOver the last few years, I’ve tried quite a few apps related to different aspects of traveling. And deleted most of them. Currently I have nine apps in my travel folder, seven of which are extremely helpful:

  1. Hopper. This is one of the best apps I have ever used for finding the best airfare deals, and buying tickets straight from the app. Unlike most airfare apps, it starts with the date of travel and shows you the most expensive to the cheapest dates in that month, marked as red, green and yellow!
  2. Airbnb. If you are looking for inexpensive and unique places to stay, or a homestay with a local family, nothing can beat Airbnb. Also great for getting local advice from hosts through the built-in messenger, even before you book.
  3. TripAdvisor. Great to find local local attractions, restaurants and things to do in that city or in cities nearby. Or to read other travellers’ reviews about the suggestions you hear from the locals, and write your reviews to help other travellers.
  4. Google Maps. Indispensable whether you are walking, cycling, on a taxi or even on a public transportation. You know where you are, and where you are going, especially for people with poor navigational skills (like me).
  5. Speak & Translate. The fastest way to communicate to anyone in almost any language. Click, speak in your language, click. Then it repeats in the local language selected! I still have the Google Translate app when I want to practice speaking the local language, or showing the translation to the other person. But I miss the days of communicating just through body language, actions and expression 🙂
  6. PowerPlug. Helps you pack the right plugs for your devices. I don’t carry the bulky universal adapter any more. It also tells you the voltage and frequency for the country you are traveling to, though I don’t know what to do with that.
  7. Currency. Check exchange rates before changing money, or instantly convert local prices to your home currency, and multiple currencies at the same time.

The most recent addition to my travel apps is Travelpod, the online travel journal which I started using to keep all the photos, videos, maps and stories in one place. Needless to say, you need to have a local pre-paid sim with Internet access to make full use of all these apps 🙂  Hope you find this useful. Please share your most useful travel apps too.

10 Reasons You Should Travel Solo at Least Once a Year!

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The first time I wrote about ‘five reasons I travel solo‘ was in August 2012, after my trip to Chenzhou in China. Since then I’ve been blessed with many more solo trips and experienced the endless joys. Earlier this month, I was in Da Nang and Hoi An in Vietnam, for a week, all by myself. I got to experience for the first time…

  • Living on USD20 a day, including accommodation, meals and transport!
  • Riding a scooter, and that too on the right side of the road!
  • Learning to make ‘Vietnamese fish rolls’!
  • Homestay in the middle of rice fields (way different from the B&B above the rice terraces in China)!
  • Taking a tour with a traffic police officer!
  • Starting an online travel journal on TravelPod!

Most of these wouldn’t have been possible if I wasn’t traveling solo. So here’s my expanded list of benefits, and why you should travel solo at least once a year:

  1. Plan easily. Pick your own dates and destination. The places-to-see on your list are not the same as the places your family or friends want to see. And finding a time that suits everyone is not easy.
  2. Try new things – accommodations, means of travel, food – and get out of your comfort zone.
  3. Have conversations with fellow travelers and locals. You learn a lot more about the people and places when you are on your own.
  4. Be more flexible with your time, destinations and decisions you make. Wake up for sunrise or sleep all day.
  5. Overcome your fears. Whether it’s fear of new places, fear of being on your own or fear of darkness… the more you travel the less you fear.
  6. Gain confidence by handling problems and situations on your own. You take your own risks and learn.
  7. Indulge in whatever you want, without being judged.
  8. Stay within your own budget. No compromises or overspending.
  9. Become a better traveler by observing more. You engage more fully with the people and places when you are on your own.
  10. Get to know yourself better. When you are on your own, it’s easier to listen to your heart and focus your mind. The extended me time is an opportunity to dream, plan, think, and even reflect on your travel experiences.

That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy traveling with family, friends or groups… solo travel just a different kind of great experience!

PS. One of the most common questions I got asked by fellow travellers and locals: ‘Your wife doesn’t mind your solo travels?‘ And the answer is, one of the reasons we have been so happy with each other for over 30 years is that we accept, understand and appreciate the differences between us. And we allow each other to do our own things. [Thank you, Salma!]

You may view all the photos from the Vietnam trip and the daily journal on TravelPod here, or a selection of photos on Facebook through this link. And more of my travel videos here.

Gratitude Makes You Healthier

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I just read this amazing article by Deepak Chopra that not only confirms but also explains what I believe, preach and try to practice all the time: Gratitude. Chopra also talks about the three stages of gratitude. Here’s an excerpt, followed by a link to the full article…

The mind-body connection is quickly coming of age. We’ve moved from the early stage when researchers were challenged to prove that our thoughts affect our bodies. The next stage was focused on how toxic mental patterns can harm us. Now a new phase has dawned, where “positive psychology” is the main focus. To see how this works, a perfect example is gratitude.

In one 2007 study a group of subjects kept a personal journal for ten weeks in which they rated their mood, physical health, and other factors that contribute to being happy. They were told either to describe five things they were grateful for that had occurred in the past week (the gratitude condition), or they did the opposite, describing five daily hassles from the previous week (the hassles condition) that they were displeased about.

Those in the gratitude condition reported fewer health complaints and even spent more time exercising than control participants did. Similar studies have shown improved emotions when someone who has a chronic illness focuses on an “attitude of gratitude” instead of feeling negative. Similarly, gratitude leads to lower levels of stress hormones.

Now that we know gratitude is good for you, it joins the list of things, including love and empathy that create a biochemical shift in the body. Since gratitude is a mental activity, it’s a powerful finding to show how something totally non-physical can alter the physical activity of the brain. The general lesson here is that the brain responds to positive input and sends life-enhancing messages to every cell in the body.

How can you activate the power of gratitude in your own life? There are three stages of gratitude, each one more effective than the one before. These are:

  1. Feeling grateful for the good things in your life.
  2. Expressing your gratitude to the people who have made your life better.
  3. Adopting new behavior as a result of interacting with those who have helped you.

Here’s the full article.