Update from the Medicine Cabinet

Hello back!

I've been tinkering and tinkering with different blogging platform and have decided to stick with this good 'ol blog for a while. As you can see, I cleaned up a bit and a few of old features were removed (accidentally or not-so-accidentally) from much tinkering. Oh well... there has been many things brewing in my cauldron and I thought why wait?! Please give me your feedback on the layout, or particularly on the installation of Disqus (which I am excited to have!).

So, for those who have been following me with my "use up the whole Medicine Cabinet" series, here's my final installment. For my past posts, please click here for the series of Living Below Our Means.

Let's start on the middle rack. I've only kept two toners (Hada Labo and Glossier) and an AHA exfoliant as my core skin care. I pair them with either Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream (on the bottom rack) or Cerave Moisturizing Cream (that I'd normally use for the body) as facial moisturizers.  The regular use of Retin-A keeps my skin in good shape as well. For sunscreen, I use the LRP Anthelios (the gigantic tube down below) with much success. Keep in mind, I have dry skin, and those with normal-oily or even slightly dry probably won't appreciate the thick texture of either Cerave or LRP. 
For hair care, I have now finished with both Bumble and Bumble sprays shown on the picture and continued using the core product I selected in my last post here
As for the rest, there are the nail necessities that I will always have (like Zoya nail polish remover, OPI dry oil, Sally Hansen cuticle remover), some makeup remover (Bioderma, L'Oreal biphasic in green bottle, and on the back, the pink liquid in spray bottle is actually MAC brush cleanser), eye drops, Zicam spray, etc.

On the top rack perched the Sisley mask that I've been savoring slowly to the last drop, and my beloved essential oils from Aura Cacia. You'd also notice the Lena and Sckoon menstrual cups. I'm in the process of writing about reusable menstrual products, so stay tuned for that.

On the bottom rack, there's La Vanilla deodorant (next to PapaLorp's Old Spice), which I use almost exclusively now in Winter and Summer. The key for me to not get stinky without commercial anti-prespirant is to take a shower (duh!). A big bottle of rubbing alcohol will also cut down the stink in a jiff, and is a great multi-tasking product in my household. Finally, the anti-lice spray of Fairy Tales and a big bottle of PapaLorp's beloved Lubriderm round up the group.

One big advantage that I gained from this experiment of no-buy is a new behavior of not buying anything that I don't need. It does not seem like much, and there is no sense of "I've arrived" with big "Pomp and Circumstance." It is just a general sense of all-rightness, like, yeah, this is where I want to be, living part of my life, no matter how small, according to my value.  Finally, no-buy means I have cultivated the habit of creativity and resourcefulness. For example, I am now cleansing my face with coconut oil (decanted into old Clinique Take The Day Off balm's purple container, on the bottom rack) and clay-water mixture as a second cleanse. They are super affordable and my skin feels the same as when I'm using commercial cleansers. I have also switched entirely to using flannel pads (piled next to the Sisley mask) and cloths to remove makeup instead of disposable cotton pads (I still use Q-tips, sadly). 

The journey continues. I hope this series have been useful to anyone out there who are thinking about using things up. It does get better, it will become your second nature, and in my experience, it spreads out to other areas of my life with most surprising result. 



Fresh year, fresh start. Aahh.. what can be better? 

Life here at the Land is moving at a glacial pace to a new direction. I have been pondering less about blogging yet I still have lots of ideas to share and connect with like-minded souls out there. 

With the discussion part on Blogger being wonky at times, I've been toying the idea of moving the blog to Wordpress and I think I am ready for it. Wordpress supports Disqus platform and I intend to use the new site as a place for discussion and bantering of ideas. It is still under construction, but when it is ready, the site will be posted here.

For now, many blessings to you and yours for the New Year of 2016. May this year be the year when all of us take time to stop and smell the roses (or lick the snow!).


Living Below Our Means: Three Tales about Relationship with Things

This series is titled "Living Below Our Means" first and foremost because it implies that we all have the means (limited, though it may be, even the seemingly unlimited means are limited to the realms of this world) to spend on things. The means could be tangible (money, possessions), or intangible (connection, opportunities).

In addition to having the means, we also have the freedom to choose to spend it on things according to our values. The title does not imply living with a limited amount of stuffs (as many would assume in minimalism). The set point of living within/below/above one's means runs the spectrum.

My personal goal, if you ask, is simply to decide mindfully on possessions that enhance the quality of my life, and with which I have a good relationship. Relationship with things, as I found out, is intricately related to that set point. Below are three tales about relationship with things. All of these are based on my personal experience.


Possessions can create a sense of calm, security, and help create a meaningful life. Think of a car, for example: it makes travel convenient, it provides a secure home-away-from-home respite, and for many of us, a necessity. My car, Skittles (yes, I do name my car), is the hardest working 1997 Honda Civic in the world. Blue Book value? I'd be lucky if I can get $500 for her, but I drive her like wearing a badge of honor. I paid my car outright a few years after I graduated from college, and I have traveled many miles with her ever since. 
When I found out I was pregnant, the first thing I thought was to buy a  safer, better, more modern car. Makes sense, but did I actually do that? No, because there are far better use of my money (my means) than getting a new car (a decision proven to be prudent, considering we were downsizing to a one-income household). And my relationship with my current car is that of gratitude: I am utterly thankful that she always works when I need her to work (except for that one time, in Whole Foods... which is about the best place to get stranded if you ever got stranded with your car broken, and the fix was a little jiggle on the battery connection, no tow truck needed!), and never needs much maintenance, either. No, my friend, this is not a woo-woo, sentimental, new-age thankfulness to an inanimate object. This is a straight-forward gratitude from repeated experience of satisfaction of using a product. If Honda is ever sold in Amazon, I'd give this Civic model a thousand stars. I wouldn't trade Skittles for a shiny new Volvo even though she is the oldest grandma on the school run. My reliable car truly enhances the quality of my life and allows me to live below my means.


To the rest of the world outside the U.S., the practice of returning products after they are purchased is quite a peculiar phenomenon. Take the money (aka risk) out of the equation and you have the "Buy now, think later, it's ok to change you mind!" 
It comes in many flavors. There's the legitimate return of defective/unsafe products, thank goodness for this! Or, the often-justified practice of returning things with tags still attached (not used, not altered, etc.). Or, the sorry-but-not-sorry-I'm-glad-I-can-still-return-it returns of consumable items -- items that will inevitably be thrown away once returned (e.g. cosmetics).
For the sake of sales drive, companies are essentially rewarding consumers for their change of hearts, impulse buys, regrets, all-around "bad" consumption behaviors. When rewarded again and again, a behavior will turn into a habit, a cycle, an addiction. The cycle of buying and returning goods is an equivalent of "stuff bulimia" -- hauling and purging of things partly drives the economy. The more turnover, the more products are moved, the more profits are generated. 
I do understand the appeal of returns/money back guarantee. After all, I'm not attached to my things, or do I? Somewhere along the cycle, I found that repeated buying and returning creates a feeling of unease, an anxiety with possessions I do own, "Should I keep this item, knowing that if I return it in the future, I will get my money back to get a newer, better thing?" I found myself keep finding "the wrong" in the things I have just purchased: too similar, not glossy enough, too shiny, not shiny enough, not different enough, do they just change the formula recently? I over-analyzed my purchases, I over-purchased things. Before long, I have spent much of my mental energy thinking and planning: planning my returns, thinking about what to do with the credit from my returns, plotting my future purchases, stalking for LE products. All the while, those items were sitting in my drawer, unused, or half-used half-heartedly. Yes, I used to have piles of unused makeup, waiting to decide whether I really wanted to use them or not. Who owns what now?


Shortly after my mother passed away, I was bequeathed with a not-so-small task of sorting her belongings, mostly her academic papers, journals, and books. It was excruciating, to say the least, to face the mountains upon mountains of papers, all of which meant a lot to my mom. It is her life's work. If you have been following me, I have been exercising the Marie Kondo method since the beginning of this year. Surely, my journey has lead me to this occasion; if I am KonMari-ing my own home, I should be up to this task. My siblings did agree.
A few weeks after I came back home from my mom's funeral, I found myself in mountains upon mountains of my own papers: my own old dissertation, thesis, projects, old textbooks, lecture notes, papers, journals. All of them which has nothing to do with my life now, as a stay-at-home mom. Day and night, I pored myself over these papers, trying to find the best way possible to weed them out, which stays? which goes? which sparks joy? I found myself researching the internet, joining KonMari facebook groups, lighting candles, all in the name of reducing belongings to those which spark joy
Honestly, the joy is no longer there. I don't even know what spark joy in facing my own anxiety of impermanence. I can't find joy in things, period. They are all so joy-less. These papers, which represent my hard work and best effort for most years of my adulthood, are joyless. Soon, these papers, too, won't be able to speak to the kind of person that I am, just like those of my mother's. If I am not these papers, or the thing that they represent, then who am I? Shouldn't things liberate us to see what's truly matter? Instead, I am buried in thoughts of despair and worthlessness. Just when I thought I'm at peace with my belongings, I found yet clutter upon clutter in both physical and psychological world. 

Can you relate to any of these tales? Have you find the right relationship with your stuffs/possessions? Do you own your possessions or have your possessions consume you, more than what you are willing to admit?

The opposite of materialism/consumerism is actually over-preoccupation of what to do with possessions (and some may argue that this is the definition of minimalism).