Being an international student on the other side of the globe (and in my case, on the other side of the hemisphere), compels you to cut down on what you have. Students may have a few more kilos allowed on the plane, but you can’t bring your whole house with you.
I threw away and donated a lot of clothes consistently throughout my 3 years of study. I only kept the minimum, whether it was in terms of household items or shoes (I think I only had 3 pairs back then). That was because, first, having a small physique disabled me from carrying a lot of stuff during transition periods, and second, I moved out quite a few times.
As a student, I knew I would be constantly on the road and that the room I was living in would only be a temporary home, therefore, I started being more careful with my purchases. Why buy so much stuff when you’re going to get rid of them after graduation?
Gradually, my perception of buying, owning and hoarding things changed. I focused on living a simple life with less of a materialistic approach. And I’ve kept these mindful habits until now. In fact, people in the US would most probably call me a minimalist.
After learning to live with less, thanks to my study abroad experience, I’ve realised that there is a lot of stuff I can happily live without… despite societal pressures telling me otherwise. My list, as written below, is quite controversial, but that’s mainly because it highlights my personal goals and the ideal lifestyle I want to achieve. Choosing to live without certain things comes down to your personal needs.
By sharing this personal list with you, I want to raise awareness on being materialistically mindful, that is, to own the things that resonate with you, that reflect who you are and not what other people decide you should be. Thus, take my list it as a reference, an inspiration to start your own and not as a must-follow guide.
1. A Car
People are usually quite shocked when I tell them I never want to own a car. For many, a car is an essential tool to get to any desired destination. But I’ve been to Singapore and I fell in love with their efficient public transport system. I believe Japan also has incredible transportation. And frankly, even Malaysia opened my eyes to how far public transport could go to serve the people… together with the increasing use of ride-hailing apps like Grab! (Like Uber in Western countries.)
To be super honest with you, my ideal lifestyle is to live in a city where I’ll never need to own a car. I want to carpool, ride the train, walk… I don’t want to stress out about car insurance or maintenance or being stuck in traffic while I’m behind the wheel.
2. Earrings and extravagant jewellery
I believe it was last year, but there came a point in my then student life when I decided I would stop buying and wearing earrings. This sounds a little crazy and quite insignificant, I know. But a few years ago, I was the type of girl who was all about jewellery. I’d have the whole set: matching earrings, necklace and bracelet.
Today, whenever I go out, I only wear a watch and a little necklace. For some, jewellery is a fashion statement, but for me, I’ve decided to keep it simple. And why give up on earrings, above everything else: because I never style my hair behind my ears so no one ever sees my earrings, unless I wear super big ones… which, nope, doesn’t match with the simple life I’m aiming for.
3. More than 6 pairs of shoes
I said before that I decreased the number of shoes I owned to 3 back at university. Well, now that I work in a corporate office (and get paid!), the number has gone up to 6:
- 1 pair of sports shoes
- 1 pair of high heels for special occasions (been using the same damn shoes since 2015)
- 2 pairs of casual shoes
- 2 pairs of shoes for work
After some reflection, I settled on the fact that 6 pairs would be the maximum I would ever buy. Now if I want a new pair of shoes, I’ve got to give up one of them. Anyway, I mostly replace them when they are broken and worn out. Oh, and they are all black, so they can match with any outfit I wear.
4. Skincare products
There was one time when a friend asked me: “I love your skin! What products do you use?” And I replied, “Water.”
To this day, I still only use water to wash my face. I don’t have any face wash or anything like that. Although I do have a makeup remover which comes like a face scrub: that’s because I do have to remove my makeup at the end of the day. But I don’t buy products unless I need them to solve a specific problem, for example, if I had acne.
5. An eyebrow kit?
I’m sorry if you’re a guy and you lost interest in this list, but I can’t help but mention makeup. Having an eyebrow kit or even an eyebrow pencil has been on my to-buy list for a long time, but I always end up using my favourite brown eyeshadow instead, with a small brush which I already own to fill in my brows every morning.
I’ve become increasingly minimal with my makeup routine and purchases, and although I would love to have a full set of basic makeup products, I just can’t lie to myself on this fact: the eyeshadow works wonders on my eyebrows so why bother with the correct product!
6. New clothes for special occasions
I was telling my manager a few weeks ago that I always recycle my cheongsams (traditional Chinese dresses) for special occasions: from my graduation ceremony to weddings and annual balls. She said, “So it’s like you have a uniform [for special occasions]!”
I hadn’t realised it, but yes I do! Why bother buying a new dress every single time? The advice I’d give is: get yourself 3 of your utmost favourite fancy outfits and wear them in cycles for every special occasion. Believe me, people don’t care… but most importantly, why should you care?
Oh, but if I do buy a new dress for a special occasion (most likely because of an imposed theme), I make sure that it’s a dress I can wear again.
7. An iron
Funny story: at the start of my university studies, I bought an iron… but I only used it maybe twice in 3 years. That’s when I realised I don’t need to iron my clothes. All my going-out clothes hang on hangers in my closet, which helps in smoothening the wrinkles, and most importantly, I only buy clothes which are not made of an easily wrinkly fabric. That’s why I often find myself shopping at ‘expensive’ shops… I’m just too picky. Just to save me from using an iron.
The only clothes I’d iron are those I wear for special occasions.
8. A king size bed
My dad and I were talking about getting a new bed for me. He said, “You want a bigger bed than you already have or a similar one?” I said, “A smaller one!” He laughed. I ended up using my same old queen size bed.
Well, I don’t have a lot of space, so if I do need to upgrade my bed, I would buy one which is smaller, more compact and doesn’t have that unnecessary space below it (you know what I mean). I’m quite a tiny person, you know, and I’d rather spend on a bigger desk. Yes to productivity! (Okay, I’m weird)
9. Alcoholic drinks
People drink a lot in Mauritius. I used to drink every week with my family and regularly with my co-workers too. But the reason why I love to drink in the first place is that of the taste, the act of savouring that strong liquor in my throat. Not because I want to get drunk. And drinking regularly diminishes that ‘appreciation’ of alcoholic drinks that I have.
That’s why I decided to stop drinking on a regular basis. Instead, I drink only on special occasions, such as weddings and my office’s quarterly happy hour parties. I don’t know if I should be deemed lucky or not, but in Mauritius, special occasions are not that ‘occasional’. I do often miss my not-drinking-except-for-that-one-fancy-time life as a student.
10. A big house
I’m sure many of you clicked on this article to get to this part. If you’ve been reading the news, times are changing and many young people don’t feel that a big house is necessary to have achieved a successful life.
Frankly, the personal reason I don’t want a big house is I don’t want to have to deal with the (financial and physical) maintenance that comes with it. I’d love to own a small apartment I can call my own, my home, but not your typical two-storey house.
I guess I don’t need much to be content in my way of living. I love to be as simple, yet as meaningful as I can be. That’s the way for me to live a happy life.
And what’s on YOUR list? What are the things you can live without? Comment below!
D. K. Waye.
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