Originally published on Urban Affairs Magazine on December 7, 2017

Winter has arrived in Bangkok with cool mornings and breezy evenings. It’s that time of year when you reunite with good friends and things at the office hopefully start to run at a slightly slower pace. It is also a time for reflection and for setting goals. One of my goals is to live more with less. The other day, my husband picked up something of mine, and asked me, “When are you going to use this?” Although I’ve been decluttering regularly for the past few years, I realize I’ve fallen off the decluttering bandwagon and need to get back on.

I first started decluttering a few years ago after I read an article in The New York Times about the Kon Mari craze grappling the US. I was curious and went out to buy Marie Kondo’s book The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. I immediately saw why it was a hit. The book was both humorous and eye-opening. After reading it, I looked around the house and started seeing things I hadn’t used in years. Ever since, I have been working on minimizing the amount of “things” in my life.

Marie outlines her Kon Mari Method which is a guide to acquiring the right mindset for creating order and becoming a tidy person. Purging and throwing away things takes a lot of mental power as it is all about making decisions. I find myself asking a myriad of questions: Should I keep this or that? What if I would later need to refer to these old lecture notes? This was a gift or this was once my favorite bag/shoe/dress. Should I save this for when I lose weight?…And it goes on and on. The reasons as to why I should keep something are endless and mentally exhausting. Looking back, some of them are quite funny. My husband solves this by suggesting I take photos of things I’d miss.

Marie Kondo’s method is simple. You keep the things that “spark joy” when you touch it. That is her sole criteria for whether you keep or throw something out. If you decide to throw something out, she says you should also thank it for the joy it gave you when you bought it, and for letting it teach you that it doesn’t suit you and to let go. This part reminds me a bit of Buddhism.

Following the Kon Mari method does not mean you tidy by room or area as we often do, but by following a systematic Kon Mari approach. We start with clothes, then books, papers and miscellaneous items. This is to prepare our minds for decluttering more difficult categories. Each category is subdivided. For example, under clothes you start with tops (shirts, sweaters, jackets, etc.). You take all the tops you have, wherever they may be in the house, and pile them altogether. The size of the pile gives you a sense of how much you have. The first time I did this I was shocked. I was never much of a shopper, but I certainly had more than I needed and there were certainly a few I hadn’t touched or thought of in years. It was a bit overwhelming. I had to take a deep breath and go for it and I’m glad I did. The outcome is cathartic. A house clear of unwanted and unloved goods feels amazingly good.

A wonderful side effect of decluttering is that you save money on buying storage and you save time because it becomes much easier to find anything you need. Money and time for you to live your life and accumulate more experiences. Isn’t that wonderful? Marie Kondo sums this up well in her book: “when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too… You become surrounded by only the things you love… pour your time and passion into what brings you most joy, your mission in life.” Life begins when your house is in order. Now let’s get on the decluttering bandwagon!

Places to Donate in Bangkok

Last week I wrote about cleaning up and purging things.   The next question then is always where should I donate the clothes I no longer where or other stuff I no longer need?  Below I’ve compiled a list of places you can donate your things to for reference.

  1. Pankan Society: .  They accept almost everything that is still in working condition, resell the things for a very reasonable price and use the funds to for educational scholarships.  If you have large pieces such as furniture or large quantities of donation stuff, they will pick it up from your place for free.  I’ve used their service before to get rid of old tables and shelves I no longer needed and although it’s around a two week wait, they staff were extremely friendly and even came on a Sunday for me. Call 02 301 1096
  1. Mirror Foundation, Bangkok : Founded over twenty years ago the foundation has a number of local initiatives such as helping villagers affected by flooding, helping the homeless, or orphans,  any many more.  They accept all kinds of things still in working condition as well as books.  If you have old computers you no longer use, they also accept it.  They offer pick up  service as well from your place, but you may be asked to email them photos to show that it is still in acceptable condition.  Pick up costs THB 200 to help with transportation costs. Tel. 02-973-2236 -7
  1. SuanKaew Foundation :  Founded by Monk Phra Payom Kallano almost thirty years ago, the foundation accepts everything from broken down furniture, electronics to old clothes.  Basically anything that you no longer want.  The foundation will fix the furniture or any electronic and resell them.  This provides work for the jobless, and also gives them a way in which to make money.  The money helps those in need and is even cycled to a number of other projects such as housing for those with AIDs, food for the hungry and other projects.   Oh, and if you would like retro furniture at reasonable prices, you can also go shop at their outlets!   I saw pictures of old school desks which are perfect for those with children. Tel.  02 595-1946 , ext 113-119, 135; 02-595-1444, 02-921-5023, 02-921-5602-3
  1. The Thai Red Cross Society:; You can also donate things to the red cross society and they will resell it at their shop.  Tel. 02-256-4622; 02-256-4440-2
  1. Foundation for Children:; This foundation focuses on helping children who are our future.  They provide housing, education and food. Donations accepted run from foods to other necessities.  So if you stocked up on years worth of shampoo or toilet tissue and want to declutter your house.  These children would be more than happy to accept your oversupply.  They also accept educational toys, school materials and sports equipment. Tel. 02-814-1481-7 Donations can also be sent by post.
  2. Foundation for Slum Child Care:; This foundation helps children who live in slums have a better life. They accept both monetary donations as well as donations for all things children related from old toys, mattresses, pillows to food. They also have corporate programs or can help you organise lunches for children.  Tel. 02-249-0953-4 ; 02-541-7991, 02-541-6092-5

There are many more foundations and if you have any particular one you would like me to add to the list, please let me know! 🙂 Let’s help us make this world a better place for everyone. If we don’t help, who will? 🙂  Your excess is someone else’s treasure.

Reflections after the storm

In the wee hours of this Sunday morning we had a summer storm. I woke up and lay in bed listening to the sounds of howling winds and raindrops pouring down on the roof and garden. I loved it. I love listening to sounds of rain, of course when I’m not stuck outside, and blissfully thought how much cooler it would be later on in the day. I thought about how the dry grass would be rejuvenated and trees would blossom from the water. I thought about how happy the birds would be to have some water. They always liked to come play whenever I watered the plants. I thought about the toads that would be hopping around the garden.

I got out of bed and as my morning routine is to grab the ipad and start reading odd news here and there while having some morning time with the dogs, I realised the wifi was slow. It annoyed me. I felt emotions of annoyance bubbling up on such a lovely morning.  Then Alex reminded me, it’s good enough that we have internet.

That’s true. It’s indeed a blessing to be able to have wifi all day, 24 hours a day. I admit I am addicted to the internet and to being ‘connected.’ Two decades ago, this would not have caused me to be annoyed. I grew up in a time when essays were handwritten.  Internet required modem dial-ins.  I still remember the sound of the modem and how it would signify communication from afar (email).  It’s so easy to forget and lose ourselves to our emotions and be dissatisfied, never satisfied, always wanting more. Wifi and being connected aren’t worth the energy being dissatisfied. Life is too short.

Life should spent be living. Research says that showing gratitude and content are key to happiness. I agree. For now, I feel blessed to be able to think about all these things and not have to worry about the roof of my house flying off from the wind or that the house would be flooded. I don’t have to worry about my next meal or if I’d have clothes to wear.

Time for me to donate some more to charity. Clear the clutter from the house and donate to where it would be better loved. Live simply. Less is more. Happy Sunday!

Help Help and Help Flood Victims

Parts of Bangkok has been flooded for over three weeks. If you’re lucky, and in the minority then you are still dry.  This, however, depends largely on the power of the pumps.  Yes, inner Bangkok is dry for the moment because the water pumps are working full time to keep the water level at bay.  Lets hope the pumps do not break down.  Anyways, I’ve been asked by some readers as to where they can volunteer their help and their time to doing something for the flood victims?  A lot of you may already be helping, but here is a short compilation for those who have just arrived in town or just want to help.

1. Thai Red Cross:  Here you can donate your money, goods, time and even your blood to help flood victims.  You can even donate online.  It’s located on Henri Dunant Road not too far from Siam and I think the nearest MRT (underground station) is Lumpini. (Please check)  They are open from early morning until late at night.  You can even help with field work if you want to witness the flood first hand.
2. Central Retail:  In front of Central World (CTW) on the Rajdamri side you can volunteer to help pack food for flood victims.  I read that it is open every Monday, from noon to 18.00hours, but I have also seen them packing on weekends so you could go and see if you are passing by the area.

3. Wat Pathum: Located between Siam Paragon and Central World, I saw the temple also has a small relief area helping prepare and distribute food to flood victims. Just stop by and help
4.  Chulalongkorn University:  Help at the main Sala is always needed to help pack relief packages for flood victims.  Other departments are also helping, so you could just stop by anyone that suits your taste.

5. Adhoc Kitchen!/adhockitchen  This one is great, because it was started by a group of friends who really want to have an impact on helping the flood victims.  Everything is done with the heart and you can be assured the money and food go directly to flood victims. In operation everyday, except Fridays at Bandara Suites.  Check on their FB page for more details.

6.   UniDog Thailand  Help dogs that have been left behind at home by their home owners. This non-profit organization helps provide dogs with food and even find homes for them.  If you are an animal lover then this join this community.  You can email them at  for more details.

7. You can go front line.  I am haven’t yet been to the front line, but I am quite sure that if you went to where there is water, there are bound to be people helping.  So just bring along your boots, your energy, along with your heart.   A helping hand is always much appreciated.

8. Evacuation Centres:  There are several evacuation centers now in Bangkok and they all need help distributing goods, taking care of people or even providing support for families with children.

You can also follow news and flood reports in English at this FB page:  They will occasionally post where help is needed. You can also ask them for more details.
If you want to listen to news coverage:  Professor Seri gives a synopsis every evening on TV channelThai BPS.  They post the clips online so you can follow the updates:

Have a good weekend everyone!  Take care and stay safe! Oh, if you know of other places where one can go help, please share. Thank you.

Different Realities

 Reading about Obama’s young mother in the New York Times, I am reminded about a discussion Alex and I had the other day on how we live in a world of different realities.  What sparked the conversation was his conversation with a random stranger at a government office while waiting for some documents.  It’s not at all related to Obama or his Mom, but it is about how we all have different lives growing up.  One cannot just assume everyone’s childhood was just as pleasant as ours even though we’d like to believe it.  His reality is not my reality and vice versa.

What really hit us was how this stranger, this pleasant happy chit chatting man, was talking about his family.  How he had a hard life growing up and how education for him ended at fourth grade primary.   He talked about his daughter and how he was so proud of her to have finished 9th grade.  It was like a dream had come true for his children to accomplish such a high level of education.  A high school diploma would be out of this world.

Now when we hear things like this, it brings us down hard about how different his and our lives are.  I know not everyone is as fortunate to have the life I have, but it’s not the same as when you hear it said.   In my family and in my circle of aquaintances and friends, we somehow never even thought about the possibility of not finishing college at the graduate level, let alone highschool.   A masters was now the new minimum.  Bachelors was not enough.  It would be difficult to imagine finding a job without a masters degree in this day and age.   The new trend seems to be even going for a second masters degree.

It’s like we live in different worlds, yet here we are at the same government office waiting in line.  A momentary crisscrossing of paths before we diverge and go on with our lives.  An event that though lasting only a few minutes can make an impression  that will last for years.  It teaches us not to take things for granted. 

Amongst many other things, we take education for granted.  We expect our cousins, nephews, neices to at least achieve a masters, but living on the same earth, the same country are those who would be more than happy with a 9th grade education.  That is their reality.  Food on the table must be worked for each day, whereas I assume I have food in the fridge and if I’m hungry, I’ll just go buy something.  I eat more than I should while out there are mothers skipping meals so that their children can eat. 

 It’s a world of different realities, but lets dream one day it’d be less of a contrast. Look around you and be grateful for what you have.  Be happy with what you have, waste little, donate lots.  It’s food for the soul.