Learning > Inspiration

The zen of living with less

Getting rid of material stuff makes you richer in spirit, mindfulness - and bank account

Wong Kai Yi on 03 Jun 2018

The Straits Times


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Many moons ago, as a full-time student in Melbourne, I had my first taste of freedom.


Unshackled from duties such as coming home early and spending the weekends at home, I was free to come and go as I pleased.


This self-governance extended to my finances. Entrusted with a sum of money larger than anything I'd seen in my formative years, I adopted a damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead approach to spending.


But I consciously steered clear of buying frivolous things.


Neither were my weekends spent in a hedonistic haze of clubbing and drinking as is the stereotypical international student's life. The reason? Liquor and I are not good bedfellows.


My funds were instead spent on kitchenware, home items, bedding (if someone knows why Aussies call bed linen "manchester", please write to me), tech stuff, and assorted bits and bobs that I felt would enhance my life through their use. A measured, if flawed, approach to spending.


When the time came to move house, it was painful. Not because I had to leave behind so many memories, but because I had to leave behind so much of my stuff.


That bit about tech earlier? It has ballooned. As The Business Times' resident tech writer, I am required to keep abreast of the latest in technology - the perfect cover for acquiring more gadgets.


All this spending - prudent in type but admittedly not in quantity - has predictably resulted in my humble living space being festooned with every manner of home equipment.


At the risk of it sounding terribly like the onset of a hoarding problem, I grudgingly admit that I do not throw things out unless absolutely necessary.


Taking stock literally of the situation, I decided in recent months that enough is enough, and initiated Operation Clean Sweep.


What I could get rid of, I threw. And what I couldn't, I put online to sell. Similar to the exhilaration of a large shopping haul, putting things up for sale has been one of the most cathartic experiences I've had.


Take time on a weekend to KonMari your house or room. The word - named after Japanese author Marie Kondo, who invented the method - means to keep only what brings you joy and excitement - "tokimeku" - and discard everything else. It is a measured approach to an austere lifestyle, but one that we sorely need in our consumerist present.


Do not be afraid to make the extra effort needed for putting things on the marketplace to sell. It will net you some extra cash, and is a great learning experience to boot.


My initial foray into the online marketplace was a tenuous one. Selling a top-brand Bluetooth speaker, I neglected to research how much other sellers were asking for it. The result was that I could have sold it for almost 20 per cent more, as I had included several accessories with it.


Still, it felt liberating to be rid of something that no longer gave me joy. You gain this almost zen-like approach to life when you realise that getting rid of material possessions makes you richer in spirit and mindfulness.


If I could make someone else happy, and make money off it, that's a win-win in my book.


That first sale encouraged me to try selling more things online. An old Samsung Galaxy I put for sale was snapped up in mere days. The more I sold, the more tricks I learnt.


First, keep your product descriptions sharp and concise. People have short attention spans online, and even shorter ones when it comes to impulse buying.


Second, always do your homework by checking how much others are selling their items for. You may be able to command a higher price if you are selling, say, a mobile phone with all included accessories and in its original box.


Third - and this can vary among sellers - stick to your guns. Do not lower your price significantly just because the buyer is willing to close the deal immediately. You set the initial price for a reason, so stick to it. But always have a lower limit in mind if you need to drop the price.


Despite my short time as an online seller, it has enriched both my mind and my wallet. To achieve equilibrium, be sure to buy and sell equally. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be.


Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.


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