Before buying anything new, I ask myself: “Will buying this make me happier?”
Despite this habit, all the things I accumulated without even realising it are resurfacing today in a big mess. I have 6 days left in Zurich and a flat full of boxes and half assembled furniture. Getting ready to move reminded me that there’s more happiness in a good book, mental space, and the learning of a new skill than in any of the boxes I’m packing to take away.
Clutter makes me unhappy
I arrived in Switzerland with a big suitcase containing all I had. Three and a half years later, I have accumulated much more stuff than could fit in 15 suitcases. Since everything I ship to New Zealand will cost me money, I evaluate how much I need each piece of clothing or home supply before putting it in a box. The result is a huge pile of stuff to throw away or to give: old and new clothes I never wear, candles I’ll never light, half-empty bottles of body cream… Looking at this pile of waste makes me feel ashamed and unhappy. How did I manage to buy so many things and never use them?
The big mess isn’t only in my flat, it’s also in my head. I accumulated as many real and imaginary problems in my life as in my closet. Sorting out my stuff allowed me to sort out my thoughts. I don’t want to face the same piles of stuff and mental garbage the next time I’ll move. Hence, I vow to accumulate less in the future: less stuff, but also less problems. Nothing is a problem by itself until I allow it to become one.
A good book is the quickest way to happiness
Sometimes, it makes me feel sad and disconnected to leave friends and family behind. There might not always be someone around to cheer me up in the near future, until I make new friends. But books are always around, and they’ve never let me down. Picking up a good book when you feel blue is the best thing to do, really: you don’t burden anyone else with your silly anxieties, you take your mind off things troubling you, and you escape into a different world.
At the moment, I’m reading The Gods of Small Things, following a recommendation from fellow blogger Kristen. It’s wonderfully written- full of unexpected images and metaphors. It’s light and refreshing even though it deals with heavy topics such as caste and forbidden love in India. Some parts of the book offered me the simple truths I needed to read:
“D’you know what happens when you hurt people?’ Ammu said. ‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less. That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”
“And the air was full of Thoughts and Things to Say. But at times like these, only the Small Things are ever said. Big Things lurk unsaid inside.”
Good writing that touches my heart makes me happy. And reading The God of Small Things reminded me that my Kindle really is my best friend.
Learning a new useful skill boosts happiness
All I can do to feel a sense of direction in the middle of the big mess that moving away creates is to start getting ready for the journalism school. If you’ve read this recent post of mine, you know about my terrible weakness: I don’t type very fast. I use two fingers and have to look at the keyboard while I type.
I took a typing speed test and my score was 30 words per minute. It’s not as appalling as I thought it would be, but there’s room for improvement for a future journalist. Nick took the test as well and gloated for 15 minutes because his typing speed is 85 words per minute. He annoyed me but then he found this website for me to learn how to touch-type. There you can evaluate your typing speed and get progressive lessons to learn this useful skill. As I type this post, I’m still working on my home row (the middle row of keys) plus the letters e/r/u/i.
I’m not yet able to type this post without looking at my keybeard but I’m slowly getting there. And it makes me so happy to sit down everyday to do the typing exercises. I give myself a mental high five every time I finish a section and I can see my progress. Doing the touch-type exercises reminded me that learning is vital to my well-being: be it typing, a new language, painting, or writing.
Sorting out my life before packing it into boxes brings me back to my basic happiness needs: learning, a good book, and space both in my head and in my closets.
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