a modest manifesto

  1. Your career and productivity aren’t indicators of your worth as a being. This is a rally against careerist attitudes so widespread across my alma mater (Cal) and elsewhere, especially among Asian-Americans. I find it unpalatable to see people in jobs that make them miserable just because it pays a certain amount, or even worse, those who try to encompass their identity entirely around their career (unless their career has a direct, positive impact on human society, in which case, all the kudos are due.)
  1. Divide your post-tax salary into a hourly wage and start looking at prices in the currency of time. If you’re earning $100K and working 40 hours, that’s around $40 after tax. Is that flimsy polyester dress that doesn’t fit good on you really worth an hour you spent on a meeting where you wanted to claw your ears out?
  2. Create a one-in, two-out system. For shopping aficionados, quitting it cold-turkey will be infeasible. That is why I have a system where if I want to buy an item, I will sell or donate 2 items of a similar kind. This works best with clothes and books. eBay and Poshmark are both excellent places to sell your used clothes for decent profit, and it’s easy to get started. And it goes without saying, finding them new homes is always better than filling up our landfill.
  3. Mark the next 3 Sundays on your calendar as “Marie Kondo Day.” If Christopher Columbus gets a day, so should our ever-wise queen. Divide your house into 3 (e.g. living room + kitchen, bedrooms + bathrooms, garage + attic) and allocate each day to declutter each part. As a general rule of thumb, discard anything that you 1) haven’t used in the past year, 2) won’t need in the next 90 days, and 3) don’t receive marginal joy from anymore.
  4. Be especially objective when parting with sentimental items. Gifting has been a steady part of human culture, but that pair of garden clippers your cousin-thrice-removed got you for Christmas 3 years ago? Realize that the value of the gifts are carried in the intention behind them and not necessarily the object itself. Tip: take a photo of your sentimental items, and make sure they find a good home elsewhere.
  5. Keep a streamlined investment strategy for your newly-saved cash. With all the money you save from not buying shit, you should start putting it into guaranteed investments. I highly recommend Betterment, a robo-advisor that automatically invests for you. Don’t let that money wallow in a savings account earning you a measly 0.02% APY.
  6. Like I said above, find sources of happiness and fulfillment that do not hinge on having large sums of money. Whenever you get the urge to buy something, develop a Pavlovian response to do this instead. Reading, making loose-leaf tea, calling a friend, going for an aimless walk out in nature, hitting up a cafe or lounge… guaranteed to make you happier than any plastic-laden tchotchke.
  7. Unfollow so-called “influencers” on social media. Often, they use the guise of selling experiences to actually sell you more products, which puts us back at the square one that is materialism.
  8. Read “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo and “Goodbye, Things” by Fumio Sasaki. Also, I recommend engaging in articles and books about zen Buddhism and stoicism even if you are of a different faith or of none (start with this blog). The two schools of thought perfectly outline why simplicity is the key to a meaningful, well-lived life.
  1. If consumerism has been a large part of your life, removing it will make you feel barren. If you fill the empty space with what brings you genuine fulfillment, you will become the person you strived towards all your life.
  2. You train yourself to become a discerning buyer. The items you buy will be of progressively higher quality, because you know not to bring shit that doesn’t spark joy into your house in the first place.
  3. Your house is now wholly capable of looking like the catalogue of a Scandinavian furniture store.
  4. You enjoy greater mental headspace to focus on activities that overflow with intrinsic meaning to you, without needing extrinsic validation of green paper.
  5. You discover new sources of joy and revisit old ones.
  6. You feel physically lighter alongside your house. You have room to breathe, grow, and dance to the heartbeat of your soul.
  7. Your mind is now a reservoir after a night’s downpour. You can share your well of mindfulness with friends, family, and strangers and focus on building deeper relationships you have longed for after a slew of superficial encounters. The petrichor feels crisp against your skin after a long, chaotic season.
  1. If I can’t buy things for my [insert loved one here]’s birthday, what should I do? Buy them an experience (even better if it is a shared activity that involves you!) Exhibit A: My friend recently gifted me a ramen-making class from Airbnb and it was hands down the best present I have received in my 23 years of life.
  2. Is spending money on “experiences” instead of physical things really that much better? Sure, we can and do produce harmful emissions with certain experiences, liking hopping on a plane to a remote island. But it isn’t comparable to the footprint involved in producing tons of items (+ emissions) that are transported multiple times (+ emissions) will probably be used once or twice before being thrown away in a landfill (+ emissions) or in our oceans (+ dead baby turtles). Just make sure to follow the cardinal rule of “Leave No Trace” wherever you go. Furthermore, by encouraging experience-based currencies, we empower more people to make a living through their talents and return to our roots as artisans and creators (Airbnb Experiences are superb examples of this.)
  3. Don’t certain people can thrive better in maximalism/chaos/etc? Nope. I don’t buy this one bit. Show me one person who can complete their assignment better with 40 different loose paper strewn across their table compared to a clean, organized one.
  4. Isn’t consumerism is a necessary part of economic growth? If our world is propped up on the backs of indentured servants in 3rd-world countries producing toxic plastics and cheap fabrics for the short-lived pleasures of the Western world, we are truly fucked. Time to start defining consumerism in different ways (i.e. focus on sustainable production and experience-based currencies).

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