Why you need to say ‘no’ to yourself

I had an epiphany the other day, after recently falling down the black hole of Youtube and consequently binge watching videos on morbid obesity for a week (stay with me here). While mesmerised by the plight of people who are morbidly overweight and still shovelling astonishing amounts of food into their mouth, I realised that their addiction to food is not dissimilar to my addiction to shopping, or my former addiction to smoking or other common addictions people have to alcohol or gambling. Whatever the severity of the addiction a person suffers from, the common denominator is the inability of the addict to truly say ‘no’ to themselves.

I think especially having grown up in a generation where I was encouraged by society and education to “be positive” and to say “yes” to everything, I have somewhere along the line, lost the ability to say “no”…at least to myself.

Even in society, the trend towards agreement, compliance and conformity has seen a resultant retroaction with the rise in books such as ‘The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck’ which teach readers how to say no to things, commitments and people in their lives that do not add value to their lives or contribute to what’s really important.

While I agree that some people definitely need a helping hand when it comes to saying ‘no’ to others, I am not one of those people. However, my epiphany made me realise that I do need a lot of help learning to say ‘no’ to myself. No to my appalling (but slowing improving) shopping habits, no to making poor food choices, no to spending so much time online, no to being lazy and not learning.

Previously, I thought that somewhere along the line I had forgot how to say no to myself. But after mulling the idea over a bit more, I realised that I never actually learned or was taught how to say “no” to myself. Since I was born to the time I became a legal adult, most “no’s” came from my parents. And by the time I turned 18, the number of no’s my parents dished out rapidly declined, but instead of picking up the slack myself, I started replacing their no’s with my yes’s.

Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing bad about using the word Yes in moderation when it comes to your own life…but when you’re using it indiscriminately, that is when things begin to slip.

So now after nearly 1.5 decades since my parents’ no’s basically became obsolete, I have to now teach myself how to say no to me. I already know this is going to be a hard lesson to learn, but it’s one that can’t be avoided if I want to lead a productive life that I can be truly proud of. And to think that it all starts with such a small word.

Too busy to live simply

I know it’s a bit of a contradiction to say that I’m too busy to live simply, but that’s how it is at the moment. Since I started my job 2 months ago, a lot of the good intentions I had about trying to live simply has fallen by the wayside. It’s hard to focus on living intentionally when you’re just focused on getting through each day.

My day starts with my alarm going off at 6:30am, followed by me hitting snooze until 7:15am. I then rush to feed my cat, hop in the shower (moisturise if it’s a good day and I remember), pull on some clean clothes, put on sunscreen, grab my stuff and run out the door. I’m usually at work by 8:30am and I usually finish at 5:15-5:30pm. If I’m feeling motivated I’ll walk home instead of catching the bus and because I live 5.5kms from work, the walk usually takes me an hour. When I get home I immediately hug my cat and then feed him, before crashing on my bed to watch YouTube until I get hungry (usually around 6.30 or 7pm). After dinner I’ll usually do some online shopping and more youtube along with a couple of chores. Then at 10:45-11:00pm I’ll start getting ready for bed. Before going to sleep I’ll listen to some music and usually fall asleep around midnight.

Outside of work, 80% of what happens in my day that I’ve written above is not how I want my day to go.

I don’t want to be hitting snooze for 45mins, or getting out of bed at 7:15am. I don’t want to be rushing with my morning routine and making a half-arsed attempt at looking decent. I want to exercise more rather than just walking home once or twice a week. I don’t want to come home and immediate start watching YouTube. And I most definitely DO NOT WANT to be online shopping almost every night.

So why do I do it? The answer is I seriously don’t know.

I feel like watching YouTube and online shopping does two things for me:

  1. Allows me to switch my brain off
  2. Offers me a way to obtain (very momentary) happiness/satisfaction

I know that my new job has been quite intense, I’ve had to learn a lot of new, complicated, difficult things like coding, data integrations, new systems, etc…all things which have always been in the peripheral of marketing, but not things that I’ve actually had to do before or engage in.

This means at the end of the day I just want to switch my brain off, because I feel like if I don’t, it may just explode. As I’ve settled into my job, I feel like this is easing off a bit and now I feel more prepared to go back to trying to simplify my life.

My new job also meant I bought a lot of new clothes, shoes and bags. I really wanted to look more professional and also to look the part for my new role (which involves client meetings – something that I didn’t need to do in my previous role). Because of this I’ve fallen back to old habits and have bought a lot of things over the past 2 months. I’ve decided that this needs to stop.

Two good things that I am proud to say I have been able to keep up somewhat is having a more plant-based diet and also not smoking as much. When I started my new job I started smoking again (about a pack a week). Now I’ve got an e-cigarette (vape) which I love. I actually prefer this a lot more to smoking and now the taste of a cigarette seems disgusting compared to Cola or Apple Crumble flavoured vape.

Secondly, I did the two-week vegetarian challenge and made it. After completing that I realised that:

  1. It wasn’t as hard as I thought to not eat meat
  2. I didn’t miss meat as much as I thought I would
  3. Meat didn’t taste as good as I remembered it when I did start eating it again

So now I am trying to be at least part-time vegetarian and I’m doing ok so far. Usually I’ll have 2-3 days a week where I don’t eat any meat at all and then the remaining days I’ll have a little bit of meat. I plan to increase my vegetarian days to 4, even 5 days a week over the next few months. I find that being a vegetarian is easier when you’re eating at home and taking home prepared food to work. It becomes a lot harder when you eat out and by food outside….the vegetarian options exist, but a lot more limited when compared to the meat options available.

Anyway, I am going to try my best to get myself back on track over the next month and hopefully re-start my year of simple.

No Spend: The Land of Temptation

Today I went to Chatswood, which is a area of Sydney with a sizeable shopping district. There are 3 shopping complexes within a block of each other. I had to go to two of these shopping centres to return stuff I’d previously bought (prior to my no spend month). I knew this would be a test of my willpower and I was right.

Here is the list of things I wanted to buy (but didn’t) during the short 2 block journey from the carpark, to store 1, then the walk to store 2 and then back to the car.

  1. Bonsai tree
  2. Mug
  3. Waffles
  4. Spanish paella
  5. Chorizo, prawns and garlic mushrooms
  6. Boost smoothie
  7. 2 x floor cushions
  8. Fur rug
  9. Another mug
  10. Himalayan salt lamp
  11. Sausage bread roll

I am so thankful I had planned ahead and ate a homemade lunch before I went to the shops, otherwise I definitely would’ve definitely got the chorizo and prawns and the smoothie.

A few things I realised on my trip:

  1. I have never had to say no to myself so many times in such a short period
  2. The shopping culture/habit was developed when I was very young. It’s currently school holidays now, so there were many groups of kids just hanging around shopping centres today and that reminded me of how I used to do that when I was young. I mean if you spend your free time as a kid hanging out at shopping centres with friends then of course you’re going to develop a shopping habit.
  3. How much money I would’ve usually wasted on small things (e.g. smoothie, food, a mug, etc), which I never realised before.

Even though I am still in the very early stages of the no spend challenge, I can feel my thought patterns beginning to change slowly and it’s like I’m learning from scratch how to differentiate a ‘need’ from a ‘want’.

It has also highlighted how mindlessly I used to buy things, it was like I was on autopilot handing out money to whichever store wanted it. Now I feel like I have to go to the other end of the spectrum and be extremely conscious and deliberate with every decision, no matter how small. I basically need to learn to say no to absolutely everything so that I can recalibrate my decision making process when it comes to purchasing and maybe in future I can find some middle ground.

Lastly, I did get a few things, however I am still counting it as no spend because it was an exchange for some of the items I returned at the first store, so technically I didn’t have to spend any money on it AND I still ended up getting a refund of $64. The three items I got were:

  • Striped button-up shirt – I’ve been looking for one like this for the last 4 months so I definitely been wanting this for a long time
  • Knit top – I have no reason for wanting this aside from it looks good on me
  • Sling bag – I’ve been using the one I have basically every day for the last year and it’s looking a little worn, so I wanted a replacement

Just in case I change my mind, I’m leaving the tags on these items for a few days and I’ll see how I feel about them by next week. If I still love them then I’ll keep them, if not I’ll return them.

*UPDATE* – I just tried on the knit top again. I like it but I don’t love it, so it’s going back.

No Spend Month: Cigarettes

Depending on how you look at it, this was either a great idea or the dumbest idea ever. I decided to quit smoking the same time I decided to start my no spend month.

Considering one packet of cigarettes (Winfield Gold Optimum Crush 30s) costs around $34-$37 now in Sydney, not smoking will do wonders for my savings account. It also helps with the quitting (in a way) because every time I think about going out and buying cigarettes, I also think “It’s no spend month and ciggies aren’t necessities, so don’t buy them”.

On the other hand, I am literally going crazy. Quitting shopping and smoking at the same time feels like the equivalent of chopping off one of my hands. Because the quitting and the no spend challenge is a “thing” that I’m so conscious of now, I can’t help but think about it. If it wasn’t a “thing”, I think I would’ve actually thought about both shopping and smoking a lot less than I have over the last couple of days. In that way it’s actually making it harder. I know this because I have quit smoking multiple times, so I have previous experience to compare to and usually I’ve quit for at least 3 months and often for 6+ months at a time without too much difficulty. Not only that, but I normally don’t find it difficult for the first month to 6 weeks. It’s always around the 2 months mark that I get cravings and once I get over that point, I’m good until the 6-7 months mark.

Right now I’m at the 2 day mark and I think about it every 10 minutes or so. It is driving me up the wall. I really hope that I can persist with the no smoking and no spend, but at the moment it is very hard to do.

I’ve thought about buying cigarettes at least 12 times while writing this post.


No Spend Month

So I start my new job in 2 weeks. Until then I’m living off my own money, which is why I think it’s a good time to try the no spend challenge.

I’ve been trying to cut down my spending over the last 6-9months with slow progress. I have cut down my spending a little and I have improved in that the things I buy are not completely useless. Even with clothes I only keep the items I really love and return everything else.

The rules I’ve set up for myself during this challenge are:

  • No frivolous spending e.g. unnecessary things – mainly clothes, bags, shoes, homewares, decor, kitchenware, gadgets, etc
  • No spending on takeaway food
  • No spending on desserts when eating out
  • No coffees, smoothies, juices, etc

What I can spend on:

  • Necessities e.g. rent, bills, groceries, transport, petrol, medication, etc
  • Experiences e.g. going out with friends, dinners out, brunch, museums, outdoor activities, etc

I know a lot of people who have done the no spend challenge also included going out as part of the challenge, but that’s just not something I wanted to include in mine. This is mostly because I think experiences are worth spending money, time and effort on. These are the things that I’ll remember when I’m old and these are the things that help me spend more time with people that I love.

Also, I don’t go out that often and when I go out I never drink, which means I don’t spend much money anyway.

I’ll make weekly updates on my progress. Hopefully I’ll manage to save some money.

Un-Minimalist Moments

I have been very un-minimalist the last couple of days and it kind of makes me cringe a little on the inside.

As I mentioned in one of my previous posts, there was the possibility of me getting a new job that would require a more corporate dress code. Well yesterday the job offer came through and I’ve decided to accept. I’m very excited, but it also means I need to update my work wardrobe a little since I’ve been wearing pretty casual outfits to work for the last 3.5years.

I’ve purchased the following online, but I know for sure I’m not keep all of these items (I won’t know until I receive the orders):

  • 2 x black work pants & 1 x beige work pants – I’ve traditionally worn jeans to work through autumn/winter so I currently only own 1 pair of work pants. Even if I like the pants I purchased, I most likely won’t keep all three pairs – probably just 1 black pair and the beige.
  • 1 x black handbag – for this new job I’ll be catching the bus to work rather than driving my car which means I need a bigger handbag to carry my things in. Right now I have a tiny handbag which only fits my phone, keys, wallet and a small cosmetics bag. Everything else I just keep in my car e.g. jacket, lunch bag, etc
    Screen Shot 2018-04-18 at 11.52.59 am
  • 3 x black high heels – I’ve been wearing black slides for the last year or boots in winter but I feel like they would look too casual for this new work environment. I won’t keep all three pairs of heels, probably just one – I bought 3 because I wanted some options to try on and to be able to pick my favourite.
  • 2 x flat shoes – again this is because I’ll have to walk and catch the bus to work instead of driving so I need some flat shoes to change into for the journey. Right now I actually don’t own any professional/semi-professional looking flat shoes. The only flat shoes I own are thongs (a.k.a flip-flops) or sneakers. Even though I am trying to be a minimalist, I refuse to be one of those people that is dressed in a pencil dress and wearing sneakers.

I also bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite. This partially had to do with the new job in that:

  1. I wanted to get myself a little gift to celebrate getting the new job
  2. I want something I can take with me on the bus to work

I feel a little guilty about buying it because I don’t need it, but I have wanted it for a long time and kept putting it off. However, to make myself feel a bit better about it and also to ensure I make use of the Kindle and read more, I am going to unsubscribe from Netflix. That eases my guilt a little because at least now I know I will use and love my Kindle and I will be saving the money from Netflix to pay for it.

Also following on from my ‘Minimising for Different Seasons‘ post, I’m now going to declutter some more sweaters since I know I won’t be needing them for work anymore. One in, one out – the Minimalist way, right?


Minimalism & Reality-Givers

The road to minimalism is decorated with all the usual discomforts that come with change, from the guilt of indulgence to the glaring realisation that you’ve been moving, except in the wrong direction.

From the beginning, Minimalism in my mind has represented the path that would help me pare back all the distractions, all the debris and all the disillusionment that exists within my life so that I could get to the core of what life is really about. But so far, I am fighting a battle with the ‘me’ that I have dedicated 30 years to creating, and every single day is an epic battle. My brain, my habits, my weaknesses, my environment, my lifestyle has (up until the last 6 month) been designed to cater for indulgence, excess, greed and the unceasing hunger for more.

How easily my mind tricks me into thinking that it is acceptable to buy order after order from online stores, how deviously it makes me believe that spending money will make me happy and that I’ll regret it if I don’t. These subliminal influences ever so gently nudge me off course, bit by bit, thought by thought until one day I realise with a start that I don’t even know where it is I’m headed anymore.

Today I met someone who does not come from a life that is as lucky as mine and because of this he has to work so much harder to even dream of having what I have. And one question he asked me which was a sobering dose of reality was: “If you knew you would die in 2 years time, what would you spend your time doing?” I answered without hesitation: “I’d travel the world”, to which he laughed and said, “We say that and yet if we look at what we do day-to-day, it doesn’t reflect that at all”.

My Dream: to be free and not anchored down by possessions, to be weightless so that I can move easily to wherever I may please, all around the world.

My Reality: spend most of my time working to make money, which I will then waste while countless hours shopping for things I don’t need.

I’ve watched countless Youtube videos on Minimalism, I have read books on the topic, I have watched documentaries and while they do act as a gentle reminder of what I should be doing, nothing is more sobering than someone smacking you in the face with reality and pushing you out of your existing perspective and into a new one.

Therefore my recommendation is: if you choose to go on this journey and you’re going to be in it for the long haul, then invite and welcome these reality-givers into your life with open arms. They will be people from different walks of life, people you may not normally associate with, people who see with different eyes then you and those close to you. They will help propel you into the direction you want to go in when you are wayward and lack the discipline or strength to follow your goal. Let them pry open your mind and your eyes so that you can see what’s really there.