Learning to Simplify Life

It’s been 4 months since K and I have been spending most of our weekends without dh. Do we miss not having dh around spending more family time together? For sure, but K and I are managing really well.

So what helped us?

Life can easily get cluttered living in fast-paced Singapore. Most of us tend to want buy more or just do more. Doing more makes us feel productive and ‘its always nice to own more.’ It gets even more challenging when friends seem to have the best lives, have nice things, are able to do plenty of exciting activities with the family, acquire good things for their children and are always planning for their next family vacation round the corner.

Surrounded by many friends who seemed to be living their best lives now, I wondered, is that all life is? It is all about what we have and what we seem to be striving for?

I took a step back to evaluate where we are now as a family and what we want out of life. And I decided that I wanted to live a simple, uncluttered life. This helped tremendously to manage the adjustments and to put things into perspective.

 

3 Steps that I took to simplify life: 

1. Get Rid of the Physical Clutter 

Screen Shot 2014 09 02 at 12 33 07 PMIt starts with clearing physical clutter of possessions. I have sold my home a while back and had to downsize my possessions to fit into a much smaller space. I gave/threw away more than 3/4 of what I possessed. Furnishings, clothing, books, toys, stuff. The things that I am left with now can be kept in 4 closets and some boxes in a storeroom.

I am now tempted to further downsize things in my storeroom. So I try not to visit this storeroom too often, as I will likely end up purging what I see and haven’t used for the past 1 year.

Only buy what you need. This also relates to your debt and finances too, don’t live beyond your means.

 

2. Spend Quiet time at Home

As a blogger, to get invites to experiences for my child is commonplace. It has been 1.5 years, and I have stopped accepting invitations to bring K along for a free ride, free meal or experience in exchange for a writeup on my blog. Besides wanting full control over what I share on this blog, I do not wish to be obligated to write.

Also I  prefer not to over-indulge K, who might start to develop expectations for things. Besides I want to avoid being burdened with the obligation of having to plan for some interesting activity every other weekend.

So exciting outings and activities are kept for the school holiday, and I prefer to plan and pay for my own way, thank you very much :P.

We spend the weekends relaxing and doing the things we enjoy at home, watching DVDs together or playing board games. K gets to scoot, while we run our errands around the neighborhood. Or he plays his video games for a couple of hours, while I catch up on my reading or listen to Christian sermons online while crafting.

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Once a month, we catch a movie together, or eat out in a nice place together, when hb comes back for the weekend.

Holidays are not on our top of our list, as I detest traveling. Travelling disrupts my routines, especially when it comes to my quiet time with God and puts me in a state of complacency spiritually, and I prefer to avoid that.

Having the discipline to set aside time to do this daily, means that it makes no difference when I don’t attend a physical church.

The last time K and I visited Manila for 2 weeks, I had to spend a few days getting used to doing my devotional time in the bathroom for 2 hours. So that’s why going on vacations do not appeal to me at all.

 

3. Don’t Schedule too many things

I made a deliberate effort to shift the focus from activity and accumulation, to just simply spending time together. It meant that I had to schedule less activities daily, have less extra classes to go to weekly. Already having to go for Chinese Enrichment, Judo and Art Class weekly keeps us rather busy on some days.

When I have less things planned mean that we will have less chances of wasting time commuting from place to place, also less probability of having to lose my cool when the boy takes his slow and leisure pace to get ready to leave the house.

 

Simplifying my life comes from my desire to live life from an uncluttered heart and it stems from my hope to align my life to what God wants for me.

It calls for a radical change in lifestyle from what most of us are used to, it is more than just eliminating things from your life that you don’t need, but it also a mindset change to re-direct my time and money into ways that will enrich my life and hopefully, the lives of others around me.

Interesting, when one don’t crave for possessions or experiences, I seem to be blessed with many things and I am never in need. It is like experiencing this verse coming to life, ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33′

The concept of ‘Selling all my possessions, give to the poor and follow Christ (Matthew 19:21)’ is still difficult to follow, since I have a child who is fully dependent on me and I still have bills to pay.

Maybe. one day, when K grows up and becomes independent, that will be a possibility. So no plans for a comfortable retirement for me :P

Goodlives

‘A life of good days lived in the senses is not enough. The life of sensation is a life of greed;

it requires more and more.

The life of the spirit required less and less; time is ample and its passage sweet.’ – Anne Dillard

 

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The Ultimate Staycation

I am the odd blogger who is not keen on any Stay-cation locally.

Stay-cations have been a huge trend with Singaporeans in recent years, with more locals staying the weekend at a local hotel, enjoy its buffet selection and the use of the amenities. In fact, it is common-place to have stay-cations offered to bloggers, for a blog post in return for a night stay and some meals covered at the hotel.

I think it is too much of a hassle to pack a small luggage for a night stay. And I have issues getting used to a new bed each time when I am away from home. It takes me at least one sleepless night, before I am able to sleep well in the hotel bed the next night. Then, it feels all too anti-climatic to have the check-out of the hotel after 2 nights, just when I have got used to the hotel bed to get a night of restful sleep.

The last Stay-cation I took in Singapore was in 2010, a short ‘vacation’ away from home, without having to leave Singapore, complete with free accommodation, with no strings attached (i.e., not obligated to blog about it). We had fun together as a family, since there were plenty of activities to do in Sentosa. Even then, 3 days was too short.

So this time round, K and I are taking the ‘Ultimate Stay-cation’, of a grand total of 15 days or 1/2 a month.

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From the Land of Banana and Mangoes…

K and I hopped on a plane last weekend to spend some family time with daddy, who is now based in the Philippines.

Manila Philippines might not be the top destination that families will travel to for a vacation. But for us, the quality time spent together as a family is what matters.

Most people have the impression that Manila is not a very safe city, but I think if you are in the hub of the business district, it is relatively safe. As long as you don’t wander into some quiet alley or obscure areas, away from the business or shopping areas.

K and I spend most of our days in hb’s apartment, right in the heart of Makati City, 2 minutes walk away from his office. Hb still has to work on the weekdays, while K and I will walk to his office to have lunch with hb daily.

As for what K and I do in the day while daddy’s at work?

Manila is not exactly a very child-friendly place, and I am not a fan of wandering around malls, so we stay home most of the time.

We don’t have any problems keeping ourselves busy in the day, even though we rarely leave the apartment. Just doing the things that we enjoy, very much like what we will do on rainy / hazy days. Besides watching TV, playing board games and drawing, these are the things we have been doing;

- K is still in his ‘Legolas-warrior-mode’, so he all he needs is a bow and arrow for pretend play.

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- We build Legos…

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- Discovered something to do with beads that helps keep little hands and minds busy, that doubles up as a hand-made Fathers’ Day Gift. One creation from Hama Beads can take up to 2 hours or more to complete, which is great for training his attention span, fine motor skills and spatial awareness.

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- And for some exercise daily, he swims in the swimming pool in the apartment building.

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One of the best parts about Manila has to be how affordable eating-out is.

We eat out for lunch daily and for dinner on alternate days. Lunch in cafes are about $6 – $10 per head, while for dinners, the international selections in Makati City are diverse and at least 30% cheaper than what we get in Singapore. Even grocery shopping in their hypermarkets is cheaper.

So we get to eat well, sleep well and stay well, pretty much all the elements that are needed for an enjoyable stay-cation.

And to complete this ‘Ultimate Stay-cation’? It is having the family re-united and we are just content spending quality time together as a family, just doing mundane things.

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I am Officially in a Long Distance Marriage

This is the first time I am addressing a topic on my blog that I often try to avoid.

I don’t think I am in a position to advise people how to maintain a good marriage. I may have been married for 10 years, but sharing tips about how to maintain a good marriage is just too contrived for me. Besides, the rule of thumb for a blogger, don’t write about something that you don’t know much about.

I used to think that I wanted to keep that part of my life private from this blog, and have avoided discussing about my marriage in this space. But I think its time to break my silence about it.

I am officially in a long distance marriage, after sending hb to the airport this morning.

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Life from today consist of pretty much just Kyle and I, with my extended family. And communication with Daddy will be limited to Skpe, FaceTime and What’s App daily, with the occasional family time 2-3 days a month.

 

What transpired?

A few days before hb shared that he will be going to Philippines for an interview. I had a dream that confirmed that we will be separated for a season, I woke up from the dream in the wee hours of the night and sobbed. Amid the tears, I knew this was God’s way of preparing me for the changes ahead, and I said, “If this is your will God, I will accept it.”

A few days after when hb broke the news that a business associate called him up and asked him to go to Philippines for an interview, I vehemently disagreed and told him “No…you can’t leave the country to work and leave us, what will happen to our marriage?” He obviously didn’t have the answer to my question and went for ahead to travel to Philippines for the interview.

Fast forward a week later, he signed the offer letter and he quit his job in Singapore. He shared with me how the whole process had no hiccups. The offer was way above what he initially expected and most importantly, during his days leading up to the interview and after, he had numerous confirmation from God that this was the path that He wanted him to take.

With a dream confirming this ‘separation’ and more confirmations from his end, we both were able to decide together that going to Philippines for work was indeed God’s will for him.

Morever, since July 2013 last year, spending only the weekends together was ‘boot camp’ of sorts to prepare us for the real thing, to face the real challenge of having a long distance marriage.

Why didn’t we go with him? There are several reasons why K and I are not going with him, and don’t plan to in the long haul. Even if this overseas job stint may be for 2-3 years or more, we are planning to stick with the existing arrangements.

Sure, I got my fair share of advice from well-meaning friends and family. But we have come to a point that we are certain that this is God’s will for this season of change ahead of us. I have experienced enough to vouch that indeed, God’s thoughts and His ways are not the same as our ways (Isaiah 55:8)

 

Two Halves Making a Whole?

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In every marriage, a husband and a wife is often dependent on one another emotionally, that I believe the old adage about ‘Two halves making a whole’ is coined in perspective of that. So often people get into relationships or marriages hoping to find their ‘other half’.

With this same dependence on their spouse, in considering a long distance relationship, comes the insecurities of “What if he/she finds someone else?” or “What if after these few years, we realize that we don’t need one another.”

I think that it is not healthy to look outside yourself to find someone who can validate you, find worth or depend on emotionally. How strong can a marriage be when one party has differing expectations of the other, or the other person could feel ‘drained’ by the dependence?

Nonetheless, I do agree that it will be hard to maintain a long-distance marriage and have this lack of ‘father’s physical influence’ in my child’s life for a time.

Hug 1A kiss from daddy before K left for school

I admit that it has been hard making this change, for all 3 of us. Being the only one left to ‘hold the fort’ here in Singapore, I can choose to let this problem take me down, resent it and then feel sorry for myself, and then dwindle into a pit of self-pity.

And how would the world see me? “Oh it must be so hard to be apart from your hb, be prepared that things might happen” or “Oh your son so poor thing, don’t have his father with him” or the well meaning advise, “Watch him carefully, if he cheats on you, walk out on him…”

This change may have potential problems, but I see them as a perspective-lifters.

Besides, if ever hb decide to cheat. It’s between him and his personal accountability to God.

 

Perpective Lifters

I have come to realized that I don’t lead a conventional life.

What normal things that most receive easily, often I have had to sit back and watch as “others may, and you may not”. Some people will say that our lives are a consequence of the decisions that we make. I agree that consequence play a part but I think there is a bigger picture in it all.

Is there anything in our lives that God don’t know about? He already know what decisions we will make and have planned it all in the life story that He has written for us.

Lack is a good thing. I perceive this lack as a LADDER. A ladder to enable me to climb up and see my life from God’s perspective.

Why? Lack are opportunities to latch onto God for unashamed dependence. I have learnt that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Happy families, health, wealth, or even life can disappear overnight.

In case, you have an impression that I am a very strong individual. Trust me I am not, I often tell God that I can’t.

The only thing that I have learnt to be strong in, is the awareness of my inadequacy, which I believe is a rich blessing, that trains me to rely whole-heartedly on Him. I rejoice in this insufficiency, knowing that His power in my life is made perfect in weakness.

So life really have not ended for me, instead, life as I know it, has only just begun.

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This song really says it all for me;

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