What If Your House Catches Fire?

Girl near fire

A lot of people don’t like to think about negative situations. Some believe it attracts bad luck, while others are simply not comfortable with dwelling on negative possibilities.

But sometimes it makes sense to ask yourself, “What if?” What if this X, Y, or Z situation happens? What will you do?

In my minimalism journey, one of the questions I frequently ask myself is: “What if my house catches fire?” The possible answers are definitely not alluring, and most of them lead to depressing scenarios. But I force myself to face this possibility because 1) it can happen to anybody at any given time, and 2) asking myself this question helps me identify what’s really important to me.

Whether you’d like to practice minimalism or just want to be prepared for any scenario, I encourage you to ask: “What if my house/apartment/dorm room catches fire?” You can break it down into three sub-questions:

1. What will you save?

Assuming you have a few seconds to grab some items before you run out the door, which items will you grab? Limit yourself to five things or less; in a real-life fire, you probably won’t have time to pile dozens of things on your arms. And be realistic: you can’t expect yourself to lift your foosball table or 60-inch flat-screen TV all by yourself.

Different people have different answers. For me, I’ve decided to save my laptop (because I need it for my work) and the plastic envelope in which I keep my important papers (because getting a new copy of my birth certificate, college diploma, etc. would be a pain). I’ll also grab my messenger bag, which contains my ID cards, ATM cards, and a bit of cash. If I have enough time, I’ll grab my laptop charger and pocket Wi-Fi so I can still work and earn money to support myself.

My dad, on the other hand, saved his newly bought television when the apartment he shared with my mom almost caught fire more than 30 years ago. This was not a scruffy little TV; it’s one of those huge-ass television sets in the 1980s that came with its own heavy cabinet. He was able to carry it down a flight of stairs and into the street, but he had an asthma attack once the adrenaline rush went out. I don’t know what he planned to do with a TV if their apartment burned down and they ended up homeless. (My mom, during the same incident, grabbed a couple of suitcases without realizing they were filled with her old college textbooks and nothing else.)

Your answer will be different from mine and my parents’, and that’s okay. The important thing is that you identify the things that you need to survive and thrive after disaster strikes. In the process, you’ll discover which items are truly necessary for you and which ones are not.

2. What can you leave behind?

Once you’ve answered Question #1, it’s easy to answer Question #2. Basically, anything that’s not on your Must-Grab list should be left behind — yes, even your most valuable and most expensive possessions. It might seem difficult at first glance but, if you look closer, you’ll see that it’s actually doable. This is especially true when you finally let go of sentimental value and see your things for what they truly are: just things.

In my case, I realized that it’s impossible — not to mention impractical — to prioritize my books. I’ve mentioned before that I’ve downsized my book collection from 200+ to just 16 but, even then, it won’t make sense for me to grab them first when there are more important items to secure. This has helped me realize that I can live without my books and that I’ve finally let go of my emotional attachment to them.

This applies to my clothes, too. I’m not a fashionista so I’m not too attached to my wardrobe, but I do appreciate the importance of having clean, decent clothes that fit me well. Asking myself the “What if” question has helped me realize that I can live with just the clothes on my back, if worst comes to worst.

These don’t mean, though, that I’ll throw all my books away or donate all my clothes and live with just one set of clothing. It just means that I’m ready to face a life with less.

3. Are you willing to leave everything behind?

This is a difficult question to answer, but the answer should be “Yes”. Many people have successfully escaped from their burning house, only to end up injured or even dead because they went back to save valuable possessions. Don’t let yourself become one of them. Prioritize yourself and your loved ones; you can buy another TV or laptop or electric guitar, but you can’t buy another life.

Perhaps you’re not ready to say “Yes” right now. That’s okay; it takes a lot of time before you can completely let go of your emotional attachments to your possessions. What’s important is that you make the effort to recognize that things are just things; it’s only us who add sentimental value to them. You also have to realize that our memories are not in our stuff but are within us. As long as we nurture our relationships and are mentally and emotionally present in every moment, we don’t need physical objects to remember our loved ones.

Final Thoughts

I don’t mean to trivialize the mental, emotional, physical, and financial impact of having your house burn down to the ground. Those who have gone through this experience will tell you that it’s an extremely difficult situation to be in, especially if you lose everything you own or even lose a loved one during the incident. But, while we can’t tell when house fires would happen nor completely prevent them, we can do something to be more prepared in case they do take place.

Most people find it hard to let go of their stuff, and they end up believing that everything they own is important. They only find out the truth when they face a disaster, which forces them to accept that they can, in fact, live without most of their possessions. Don’t wait for this to happen. As early as possible, go through your things and decide which of them are truly important and which ones are just there as pacifiers. Doing this will help you be more prepared for house fires and other unfortunate events and become ready for anything that might happen. Who knows? Along the way, you might find yourself adopting minimalism principles and using them to live a freer and more meaningful life that’s not burdened by unnecessary stuff.

The Power of Labels

Labels have become a normal part of our lives. We check labels to know the ingredients of the food we eat and find out how much fats, carbs, and proteins they have. We read labels to know how to care for our clothes, what substances are in our shampoos and other grooming products, and where the things we buy are manufactured.

But the power of labels go beyond the things around us. It can also be used to lift ourselves up or put others down.

Labels can be harmful if we use them to put people in a box and/or make fun of them. Stupid, dumb, retarded — these are the adjectives we use on those who have ADD, ADHD, dyslexia, and other conditions that make learning difficult. Slut, whore, bitch — these are the slurs we use on women who are confident enough to express themselves and embrace their sexuality. Homo, fag, abnormal — these are the words we use to describe people who don’t adhere to gender norms.

Labeling others is hurtful and useless. It doesn’t really accomplish anything. Some people might argue that labels help them understand others much better; for instance, knowing that someone has ADHD or has experienced sexual abuse might help his friends and family understand why he behaves in a certain way. While this might be true, I think it would be better for us to go beyond the labels. We tend to be focused too much labeling others and putting them in a box; it’s time to get these things out of the way and take the time to really know the person behind all the terms and legalities.

I don’t think labels are entirely bad, though. In fact, I think they can be a useful tool in helping us learn more about ourselves and eventually accept our strengths and weaknesses.

I experienced the positive effect of labels a couple of months ago. For years, I struggled to define myself: I look and feel like a woman, and I know I am a woman inside and out, but I’m attracted to men and masculine-presenting women. My friends told me I was bisexual (because I liked males and technically females), but I argued that I was straight (since I wasn’t attracted to “traditional” girls, i.e. feminine women like me).

It wasn’t until early this year when I stumbled across the term “cisgender and bisexual”. When I learned what it meant, I immediately knew that this was it. My reaction was, “Holy shit. This is ME. This is who I am.”

It might not be a big deal for you, but it sure was (and still am) for me. I’ve solved the mystery of one of the aspects of my life, and I now have another label to add to the list of terms that I use to describe myself. Minimalist. Bookworm. Introvert. INFJ. Coffee addict. Writer. Dog lover.

Cisgender and bisexual.

I’ve accepted my sexuality a long time ago, but it wasn’t until now that I have a label for it. A label that I can proudly use to describe myself. A label that helps me become more comfortable in my skin.

I can now stop asking, “Who am I? What am I?” I no longer have to wonder if I’m a freak of nature because I now know that there are others like me. All I have to do is to do a Google search with the words “cisgender and bisexual”, and I’ll find a list of pages full of stories from people who have labeled themselves the same way. People who are like me, who have gone through similar experiences and understand how tough and beautiful the journey is.

Of course, the positive effect of labels doesn’t just apply to gender and sexuality.

The acronym “INFJ”, for example, has helped me understand why I’m weirder than other people and why I’ve always felt alone and out place since I was a child. The term “minimalist” has helped me connect with other people who share my outlook on consumption and ownership and want to build more meaningful lives. The label “writer” has given me the confidence to pursue what I love to do, continue improving my writing skills, and work towards my goal of publishing a book that’s worth reading.

What are YOUR self-labels?

You’ve probably already started giving labeling yourself. If not, why not give it a try? Acknowledging your hobbies is a good place to start since it transforms you from a “doer” to a “being”. Instead of saying “I love baking”, for example, you might say “I’m a baker”; instead of stating “I like to surf”, you can claim “I’m a surfer”. It doesn’t really matter if you’re not a professional baker or if you don’t join (or win) any surfing contests. The transformation from passive “doing” to active “being” is usually enough to boost your confidence and make you feel great about yourself.

Even the simplest of labels have the power to transform your life if you take the time to understand their true meaning. Calling yourself a mother or a father means you’re blessed to have your own children, either biologically or through adoption. Calling yourself a son, a daughter, a brother, or a sister means you’re lucky enough to have a family who’s there for you through thick and thin. Calling yourself a pet owner or a pet parent means you have a dog, a cat, or any other pet who loves you unconditionally. Calling yourself a homeowner or a renter means you have a house, an apartment, or even a room that provides you with shelter and keeps you safe and warm.

Self-labeling is a powerful tool, and using positive labels for ourselves can lead to a more positive outlook in life.

Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists) once said that we shouldn’t define ourselves based on our job titles, and I completely agree. It’s not advisable to base our self-worth on the impact of our job titles — or on the kind of car we drive, the type of house we own, the amount of money in our bank accounts, and other external factors. However, it can be helpful to use the power of labels on our inner selves. By properly labeling ourselves, we’ll get to know who we truly are, appreciate our blessings, and love ourselves more than ever.

Two Years into Minimalism

TWO YEARS INTO MINIMALISM

It’s been two years since I officially adopted the minimalist lifestyle. I haven’t been able to document everything that has happened here on my blog, but I can say that I’ve made several changes in the past 24 months. Here are some of them:

1. I no longer have so much stuff

Most minimalists will agree that the minimalism lifestyle isn’t just about counting your stuff and owning as few things as possible. However, it’s also not possible to adopt minimalism principles and not pare down your things in the process. I believe that minimalism and decluttering come in hand in hand: as you begin to understand the pitfalls of consumerism, you inevitably want to get rid of unnecessary stuff to make room for the necessary things — which are not things at all (as Ryan and JFM point out).

So, today, I own only the things that fulfill my needs and/or give me joy. I have minimized my book collection from more than 200 books down to just 16 (although I do have a lot of ebooks). I went through my old toys, stuffed animals, and unused art supplies and gave them to my young nephews and nieces. I got rid of old diaries, letters, and other mementos that I’ve been hanging on to but no longer really want. I sorted through various work-related documents, threw away those that aren’t really important, and neatly arranged the remaining papers in a new plastic envelope. I’ve curated most of my clothes and, although they’re not new or stylish and I still don’t look like a fashion model, I can now open my closet, grab something, and know that it fits me well.

Right now, what I’m working on is convincing my mom to start letting go of her unnecessary stuff. It’s not easy because 1) she thinks everything is necessary and 2) she freaks out when I try to declutter her things. But it’s okay; life is a work in progress, and there’s no need to rush.

2. I’ve developed better relationships

Since I’m now working at home, it’s easier for me to be selective about my relationships. I no longer keep friends because of convenience; rather, I keep those who have the same values and beliefs as I do. My friends and I don’t see each other every day, but we do try to meet up at least a few times a year.

I’ve also joined a Facebook group called Minimalist.org: Online City Public Group. It’s composed of people who have decided to adopt minimalism principles and are at different stages of the minimalism journey (some are still starting out, while others have been practicing the lifestyle for years). What I love about the group is that most members are not judgmental; they know that minimalism means different things to everyone and that there’s no right or wrong approach to it. Because of this, the group provides unconditional support to all the members, and everyone encourages each other to be the best version of themselves.

3. I’ve learned to use Facebook wisely

I mentioned in a previous post that I had quit Facebook. A few months after I uploaded the post, I signed back on to the social network because I realized that most of my friends used it communicate with me. I also had to have an account to join Minimalists.org and interact with fellow minimalists all over the world.

But now I use Facebook in a smarter way. I’ve accepted friend requests from a lot more people than I ever did, but I’ve unfollowed them so their posts don’t appear in my News Feed. I also adjusted by Facebook settings so my News Feed would only show updates from the Minimalists.org group and a few other pages that I follow.

If my friends want to talk to me online, they can simply leave me a message on Facebook — this allows me to communicate with them without getting sidetracked by the non-essentials. If I want to know what this friend or that friend is up to and how they’re doing, I visit their Facebook page — or, better yet, I leave them a Facebook message or text them on my phone and ask them how they are. This makes my social media usage much more intentional and helps me avoid mindless scrolling and in-your-face FOMO.

4. I’m more aware of how I consume

I was never a big shopper, but I’ve become even more conscious about buying stuff. Whenever my brain tells me to purchase this or that, I’ve learned to ask myself important questions before heading off to the store.

Do I really need this item, or do I just want the symbolism it represents? Does it make more sense to buy a higher-quality but more expensive option, or can I make do with a cheaper version? What is the environmental impact of buying this thing? If I no longer need/want it, how will I dispose of it? How much space would it take up, and am I willing to go through the hassle of cleaning/maintaining it?

Asking these questions has helped me figure out which things I really need and which ones I just want to have for their symbolic value. It also helps me save money and reduce the clutter around me.

Final Note

Minimalism has not made my life perfect, because no one will ever have a perfect life. But it has helped me create a better version of myself, and I’m looking forward to making more improvements.

Book Review: Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life

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Who wrote it: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists)

What it’s all about:

If Everything That Remains is the “why” of minimalism, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life is the “how”. This is the reason why I read Everything That Remains first even though it was published after MLMF: I wanted to first understand why Joshua and Ryan decided to become minimalists before I read about how they switched from their corporate existence into a more meaningful and intentional life.

MLMF talks about the Five Values that you must focus on as you transition to minimalism. These Values are Health, Relationships, Passions, Growth, and Contribution. It also discusses the strategies that you can use to improve these five areas in your life. Joshua, for example, talks about his daily 18-Minute Exercises, which help him stay in shape without boring him with workouts he doesn’t like.

Why I like it:

MLMF, for me, can be considered as a bible of minimalism. It doesn’t just talk about eliminating unnecessary things it focuses more on adding more things to your life: more passion, more growth, better health, and better relationships. In a world where we’re bombarded with books on “how to remove clutter”, MLMF is a breath of fresh air since it turns our attention from physical things to inner improvement.

One of my favorite sections is the one about food. MLMF gives a list of foods that must be completely avoided, those that we should reduce or eliminate, and those we can freely consume. It also discusses several types of diets including vegetarianism, veganism, and pescatarianism. The best thing about it is that Joshua and Ryan aren’t preachy; they lay out all the facts for the readers and allow us to make our own choices based on our personal beliefs and situations.

I also like the section about “Removing the Anchor of Money”. I love reading about personal finance so I’m already familiar with the concepts they discuss, but reading these concepts in the book enforces their importance and reminds me that I still have to work on my financial situation.

Where to buy it: I bought my copy from Amazon. The Minimalists also offer a free digital copy of the book, which you can get here. I’ve downloaded the ebook, but I decided to buy a physical copy of MLMF because I like the feeling of holding a real book in my hands.

Favourite quotes:

The desire to improve your health has little to do with looking better.”

Most of us think that being fit and healthy is equal to looking like a model, but this mindset is actually damaging since it turns our focus from our health to our outer appearance. We have to remember that not all models are healthy and that not all healthy people look like they’ve stepped out of a magazine.

This is something that I have to often remind myself since I had gone through a health craze phase in my life. During this time, I went to the gym every day (even though I hated it) and counted every single calorie I ate so I would lose weight and get a thigh gap. I finally stopped when I had a mini-meltdown after I ate a McDonald’s cheeseburger and learned that it has 500+ calories and that I had gone over my 1,500-calorie allotment for the day. Calorie counting works for some people but not for me, and I don’t want to go back to that phase. I’d rather much focus on eating healthy food and enjoying what I eat instead of obsessing over every single kilojoule.

There will always be something there to tempt you from doing the things that make your life more meaningful. The good news is you can avoid those tempting activities by transforming the positive experiences you dislike into positive experiences you enjoy.”

These two paragraphs hit me to the core. For the past few months, I’ve been trying to update my blog as often as possible. In fact, I already have a list of topics that I want to write about. The problem is that I find it hard to write whenever I have free time. I don’t know if it’s caused by burnout (since I work as a freelance writer) or if I’m just naturally lazy. Either way, it’s easier to play Candy Crush or watch TV than to plunk my butt in front of the laptop and write a blog post.

But MLMF has inspired me to change. Writing for my blog is a possible experience that I dislike, but I can turn it into a positive experience that I enjoy by 1) associating pain with not writing a blog post (e.g. my blog won’t grow if I don’t make the effort), and 2) associating pleasure with long-term fulfillment (owning a blog that gives value to people).

I could go on and on about the things I’ve learned from Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, but we don’t have the whole day. I hope you’ll read MLMF and use it to be closer to an intentional and satisfying life.

Book Review: Everything That Remains

Everything That Remains

Who wrote it: Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (aka The Minimalists)

What it’s all about:

Everything That Remains which is mainly written by JFM, with Ryan giving his thoughts and ideas in the endnote section is about a journey into minimalism. Specifically, it talks about how JFM started as a successful but unhappy director of operations in a telecommunications company and ended up becoming a happy and fulfilled self-employed minimalist who‘s now living a more meaningful life. The book takes the readers through the ups and downs of JFM’s life (such as his divorce, his mom’s death, and his surprise discovery of minimalism) and illustrates how he used these experiences to become a better person who doesn’t rely on pacifiers and who has learned to live intentionally.

Why I like it:

I liked the book even before I read it mainly because it was written by The Minimalists. I love their website, and I was sure I would like their books. And I wasn’t wrong: Everything That Remains is one of the best books I’ve ever read.

One of the things I like the book is that it gives readers an in-depth look into JFM’s life. Some people think this is selfish on his part; in fact, I read one review in Amazon stating that the book was “a long, wordy story about the author’s dysfunctional (sic) childhood, followed by his corporate success. He then shares that he downsized his life, but there are far more pages of mere rambling than there are of interesting dialogue (sic) about his simplicity journey.

I can understand where the reviewer is coming from but, personally, I liked reading JFM’s account from his childhood and to his adulthood because 1) it helped me understand him more, and 2) it helped me understand myself more. As Gretchen Rubin points out, “We’re more like other people than we suppose and we “often learn more from one person’s highly idiosyncratic experiences than we do from sources that detail universal practices or cite up-to-date studies”. So, JFM’s life may be different from my own, but I can definitely relate to his experiences. And, because I now know his background, I‘m able to understand why he has OCD tendencies and why he was driven to become successful to the point that he neglected to focus on the things that matter in life.

I’d also like to point out that Everything That Remains is a memoir. (It says so on the front cover, although JFM and Ryan tell us that we’re “free to call it something else”.) By description, a memoir is an account of a person’s life, and JFM more than delivers in this aspect since his narrative inspires us to transform our own lives and create our own flavour of minimalism. Those who are looking for specific tips on how to become a minimalist can read Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life.

Where to buy it: I bought my copy on Amazon. (If you’re in the Philippines and don’t have a credit card, you can read this and this to know how I managed to buy books online.)

Favourite quotes:

I actually have LOTS of favourite quotes from this book (my copy is striped with yellow highlighter and looks like a neon zebra). I’d like to share a couple of them:

What happens when I accumulate all the stuff and make it past a particular finish line? Unsatisfied, I always immediately start looking for the next finish line.

I’m sure all of us have felt this at some point. You start saving for a pair of designer shoes and, when you buy the shoes you want, you start planning to purchase a designer bag. Then a pair of designer jeans. Then a designer head-to-toe outfit. Or maybe clothes aren’t your trigger; maybe it’s about collecting a certain book series or completing your collection of action figures or even filling your garage with luxury cars. The point is, you probably won’t stop at buying just a single thing: you always want more.

And technically there’s nothing wrong with that since the act of buying things isn’t bad. It’s the act of assigning a higher value than normal to your things that’s bad. Once you push yourself to earn more money to buy more stuff, and once you start worrying that your collection is lacking and that you need to add more to it, that’s when you lose your mind, body, and time to consumerism and become its slave.

And that’s something you don’t want to become.

I’ve always claimed that my priorities are grandly important activities like spending time with family or exercising or carving out enough alone time to write. But they’re not. Until I actually put these pursuits first, until I make these undertakings part of my everyday routine, they are not my actual priorities.

I actually got stricken with guilt when I read these three sentences because I can freaking relate. I studied nursing in college, so I know how important it is to eat nutritious food and exercise regularly and get enough sleep yet I wasn’t doing any of these! Instead of finishing my work early so I could get 8 hours of sleep, I dawdle and spend most of my time browsing through BuzzFeed and end up getting only 5 to 6 hours of shut-eye. Instead of eating healthily, I buy junk food and gobble them down like it’s the end of the world. I know what my priorities should be but I’m not actually prioritising them.

Maybe you can relate. If you can, I encourage you to start changing your priorities and actually doing the things that are important to you, not just making lip service. If you need a gentle push, you can read Everything That Remains and get inspiration from JFM and Ryan’s experiences.

 

6 Reasons Why I Quit Facebook

6 Reasons Why I Quit Facebook

It’s been more than a month since I deleted my Facebook account. I’d love to tell you that taking this step completely changed my life and made me a better person, but it hasn’t. I’m still the same old me, albeit a lighter and less-stressed version.

What I did might seem novel, extreme, or even downright weird to many people, and I don’t really expect everybody to understand. With the constant connectedness that has become normal in today’s digital age, wanting to unplug can come across as strange and even rude. After all, why would you cut the lifeline that connects you to your friends and family? Why would you want to stop looking at pictures and videos of your loved ones?

In my case, though, quitting Facebook was the most logical step to take because it allowed me to:

1. Avoid relying on others for self-esteem

If you don’t get an ego boost from having numerous Likes, Shares, and Comments, I applaud you. You have a healthy self-esteem, which I unfortunately don’t have. I enjoyed the rush that came from posting a status or photo that my friends liked and commented on. In fact, I enjoyed it too much that I was constantly thinking of how I could duplicate the experience and come up with another well-liked and well-commented post. I also became sad when my posts didn’t garner as much attention as I wanted.

These might seem normal reactions. After all, isn’t that why most people are on social media to create content that would make our friends and family smile or laugh? But I have come to realise that I don’t like it. I don’t want my self-esteem to fluctuate based on the number of Facebook likes and comments I got. I don’t want my happiness to be based on the popularity of my Facebook posts. It’s time to look into myself and find happiness and confidence from within me.

2. Escape FOMO

You’ve probably heard of the Fear of Missing Out or FOMO. Hundreds of articles have already been written about this topic, and I’m here to tell you that FOMO is real. You may feel it, too, when you scroll through the fabulous OOTDs or breathtaking holiday photos of your friends and you look at your life and wonder why you’re not enjoying the same things.

FOMO can be great in small doses because it forces you to assess the way you live, determine what you want to change in your life, and take steps to improve your existence as a whole. But, when you’re exposed to FOMO every single day, it can make you sad and even depressed because you’re constantly comparing yourself to other people. You begin to hate yourself and your life because you’re missing out on a lot of things. You begin to forget that most of the things posted on social media are well-curated and that what you’re seeing are only little perfect snapshots into your friends’ imperfect lives.

So I try to stay away from FOMO as much as possible. I’m not trying to escape the fact that my life kind of sucks compared to my friends, former classmates, and old co-workers who are having the time of their lives. But I want to fix my life at my own pace. I want to fix my life because I want to, not because I feel like I have to because So-and-So are taking a Europe trip/going to Disneyland/buying a condominium unit and I’m not.

3. Create relationships in the real world

Facebook is great for finding your old friends, classmates, and colleagues and catching up with each other. But how many of these digital catch-ups have turned into real-world meetings? If you’re like me, the answer is probably “Zero”.

It’s easy to touch-base with other people on Facebook and think you’re doing enough to keep friendships alive. But remember: nothing can really replace face-to-face meetings with your friends. If you find yourself relying on Facebook to make new friends and maintain the old ones, it’s time to re-think your strategy.

4. Tune out online negativity

Here’s the thing: everyone has the right to post whatever they want on their Facebook accounts. If you want to complain about a restaurant’s poor service, you can. If you want to rant and rave about the bad day you’re having, you can. If you want to throw shade at another person’s outfit or love life, you can.

This doesn’t mean that other people will love reading what you have to say, though.

I don’t want to stop people from posting whatever they want on Facebook because it’s their choice. But I also have to make my own choice: get sucked in by other people’s negativity, or surround myself with positivity.

I choose the latter.

5. Avoid annoying people with my own negativity

Negativity is a two-way street. I’m only human, so I’m also prone to posting senseless drivel on Facebook without realising that I’m annoying those who read my posts. It might seem like a natural part of being on Facebook, but I realised that I wasn’t giving any value to anyone through my status updates. I was only unloading my fears, anger, and disappointment on my friends, who’d have to suffer the torment of reading my posts on their news feed.

So I’ve resolved to stop doing so. If I have anything valuable to share, I’d write about it here in my blog. If I just wanted to complain, I’d keep it to myself.

6. Have more control over my time

Have you ever promised yourself that you’d just peek at Facebook for two minutes, but you end up scrolling through your news feed for two hours?

I have.

A few months before I completely quit Facebook, I experimented with not opening my FB account for weeks, but I always felt the urge to log in to see if anybody had sent me any private messages. I guess I’m a stickler for staying on top of messages; I always read my e-mails first thing in the morning (so I have zero unread emails), and I can’t stand not knowing if anyone has sent me a message or not. This trait does help me stay on top of things, but it also caused me to waste my time because I’d always get sidetracked with the temptations on my Facebook news feed. As a result, I became less productive and usually worked until 3:00 A.M. just to keep up with deadlines.

So I decided to quit Facebook. Now that they can’t reach me through FB, my friends have no choice but to text me or send me an email. This hits two birds with one stone: my friends know they can always reach me since my phone and email are always on, while I no longer have to open Facebook (and face its time-consuming temptations) just to check for private messages. I’ve also noticed that exchanging e-mails with my friends leads to deeper and more thoughtful conversations. This usually didn’t happen with our Facebook chats, which usually were harried as if we were just stopping to yell “Hi! Bye!” to each other.

So that’s it. These are the reasons why I deleted my Facebook account. I’d like to point out, though, that I’m not completely Facebook-free since I’ve created a new FB account. It might sound contradictory to everything I’ve mentioned above, but I’ve found out that there are really times when I need to be on Facebook. In my case, I use my new account to get news and updates from The Minimalists, from my favourite charity Island Rescue Organization, and from our utilities providers (which post updates about upcoming blackouts and water service interruptions). I haven’t added any friends to this new account, though, so I’m still able to have more control over my time, focus on my real-world relationships, and keep negativity at a minimum.

Quitting Facebook isn’t for everybody. If Facebook isn’t your only source of self-esteem, and if it isn’t messing with your schedule and making you feel FOMO, there’s no reason to give it up. But, if you want to simplify your life, you might want to experiment with quitting Facebook for a short amount of time, like a week or two. Who knows? You might discover that you don’t really need it and that giving it up allows you to have more time for more meaningful things.

My Online Shopping Experience, Part 2: AMAZON and MYSHOPPING BOX

amazon and my shopping box graphic

After creating my GCash Amex account and putting money in it, I was ready to buy the books I wanted on Amazon. But wait: what are these books, and why am I so hung up on them?

The books I wanted to have were “Everything That Remains”, “Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life”, and “Essential: Essays by the Minimalists” — all written by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, the duo behind the popular website TheMinimalists.com. I’ve wanted to read these books ever since I stumbled upon The Minimalists’ site around two years ago, because I believe they can help me learn what it means to be a minimalist and figure out what my own flavor of minimalism should be like. But, as I mentioned in my last post, I couldn’t find these books anywhere in the country, so I had no choice but to buy them online.

Fortunately, I could now buy them with my GCash Amex account. I went to Amazon, ordered the three books, and entered the California address that GCash and MyShopping Box had given me as both my shipping address and billing address. Amazon’s final price was only around PHP1,860 (including tax), but I ended up paying PHP1,913.43 for the entire order because GCash Amex charged me an additional amount. According to its website, “American Express charges a standard 1.5% above the tagged market rate, while GCash charges a standard 1.5% on top of American Express’ rates”.

I admit — I was nervous because it was my first time doing an online transaction with a sort-of credit card, and I wasn’t sure it would go through! I was scared that my hard-earned PHP1,900 would go drifting off into cyberspace, never to be seen again. Fortunately, my paranoid fears didn’t come true; I did everything correctly and my order pushed through.

I placed my order with Amazon on May 14, and the books arrived at MyShopping Box’s California address on May 18. MyShopping Box offers two shipping options for books: by sea (which costs USD2.99 per pound and takes 45 to 60 days), and by air (which costs USD5.99 per pound and takes 10 to 12 days). I chose the latter and ended up paying almost PHP600, still through my GCash Amex account. (The books weigh almost 2 pounds as a whole, BTW.)

I paid the shipping fee on May 18 and expected my books to arrive 10 to 12 days after, which would fall on May 28, 29, and 30. But these days came and went without the package arriving, so I emailed MyShopping Box’s customer service and asked when I would get my order. The customer service agent reminded me that it was actually 10 to 12 business days, which meant that I’d receive my order on June 1 to 3. He also informed me that my order was expected to arrive in Manila on June 2 and that I would receive it a few days after that because I live in a provincial address (I’m in Cebu) and it takes them an additional four days to deliver to provincial addresses.

That was okay with me; at least I already had a date to look forward to. Imagine my surprise when I received a call from MyShopping Box’s delivery man on the morning of June 2, informing me that he was in the neighborhood looking for my house! I happily ran out to meet him and sign some delivery receipts and stuff, and I ecstatically received my long-awaited books.

minimalist books delivery

So that’s my experience. All in all, I had to wait 19 calendar days from the time I placed my order on Amazon to the time I received my books, and I spent around PHP2,600 in total. If you’re planning to use GCash Amex and MyShopping Box to buy books and other things from Amazon, here are some tips you can use:

1. Calculate the weight and volume of the products you’ll buy. Having this information can help you estimate your shipping costs and figure out how much you’ll pay. In my case, I checked the Product Details section in Amazon, which provides information about books’ shipping weight as well as their dimensions.

2. Always account for GCash Amex’s additional charges to ensure that you have enough money in your account to pay for your order. Amazon charged me USD39.72 or around PHP1,860, but GCash Amex took PHP1,913.43 out of my balance.

3. When placing your order on Amazon, remember that your billing address and shipping address should be the same. Use the address that Globe and MyShopping Box would send you through email when you sign up for GCash Amex. If you lose this address, don’t worry since you can retrieve it by dialing *143#, choosing GCash >> GCash Amex >> View Account Details then entering your four-digit PIN. Globe will send your account details through SMS.

4. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with MyShopping Box if you have questions. You can contact them here.

5. Don’t get carried away with online shopping! Whether you’re a minimalist or not, it’s important to think your purchases through. Sleep on it before placing your order, and ask yourself: Why do I want to buy this thing? Will it add value to my life? Do I really need it? Asking these questions will help you determine if you should proceed with your order or not.

This is my experience with buying books online. Every experience is different, but I hope this article will help you buy books and other things that will add meaning to your life and even encourage you to pursue minimalism.