Conversations: Elfe's Minimalist Approach to Life
What struck me when I first met Elfe was how she took the time to think about her words before she said them. This seemingly small but mindful act would set the tone for our working relationship to follow.
I regard Elfe as someone who truly understands self-care, and leads by example with simple, manageable steps in managing life - something I totally agree with, and hope to share through our work here at Super Farmers.
An artist after work and a full-time employee here at Super Farmers, Elfe's philosophy about life is something so simple in theory yet would shift mountains when practiced.
I speak with her about why she prefers to simplify every aspect of her life.
Hey Elfe, can you share with us your philosophy when it comes to life, material possessions, eating, consuming, and social interactions?
Live with less. I know it sounds a little cliche but it helps me simplify when life gets too overwhelming or too cluttered mentally, emotionally and physically (space).
I arrived at this point because I was so fed up with constantly feeling overwhelmed; feeling worried always, having to deal with accumulated possessions, feeling rushed, consuming excessive information consciously and subconsciously (social media, news, ads) and then not being able to decide because there’re too many options. Eventually, frugality and simplicity became a necessity.
I began to self-reflect and think about the lifestyle that I wanted to create and then live it by only having the things that facilitate that. For example, I love things that are versatile because they serve multiple purposes such as a jacket that can also be worn as a raincoat in a colour that fits in with the rest of my wardrobe. I also have an insulated Klean Kanteen bottle because I can have the option of bringing either hot or cold drinks when I'm out, plus I can use it when I go camping or when I travel.
Life is actually a process of elimination; If it doesn’t fit, I don't need it.
You adopt a "enough is good enough" philosophy which is quite the opposite of what the world displays, where most people hanker after riches, excessive foods (think: buffets), better careers, opportunities and generally having more than what they have. Can you share with us your thoughts on why the world is like this, and how do you 'fit in' such a world which is so different?
“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
'Better', 'More', 'What-ifs' are scary words. We tend to think wealth provides security but even with wealth, we're not protected from war, crime, illness and emotional discontent. When the scale tips too far to one side, something has to give because an aspect of our life is not balanced and so that's where consumerism feeds this empty part of us. We think that by spending, hoarding and needing more, we'd be ''full''.
That's not true.
I believe people are slowly understanding what ‘living with less’ really means. They’re dissociating it with being poor, stuck or having no choice. What it really means is to streamline your life so that you become more efficient in achieving your goals. When you no longer feel stifled, you make space for happier beautiful things and then feeling good at where you are at this present moment.
It can get a little stressful for a slow-living person like me to live in our dense urban jungle. But I learned ways to work around it (and I’m still learning) such as going to work earlier to avoid the crowded trains, going for a walk in the evening by the reservoir, doing work in the early morning because it’s quieter and be very selective of what I view on social media.
Is this the happiest you've ever been? What is your dream?
I’ve never felt happier. I’m incredibly grateful and excited about my life now. I don’t know, I think the more experiences we accumulate, the greater clarity we have about the life we want to live and each day I get even bolder in working towards what I truly want and need. I am still, content and it feels right. I’m generally a very private person so my circle of friends are really small but these are the ones who have been there for me through everything. These are the kind of relationships that matter to me.
My dream is to be able to purchase my own home one day and host friends for a meal, live a minimalist lifestyle that I’ve always wanted and continue making art.
Elfe's Dream House - "There's Nothing In My House"
If someone hopes to achieve the same lifestyle as yours, can you share with them some tips how they can do so?
It's mathematical simplification; reducing to its basic elements. Remove anything that is not essential by thinking about what you need, then evaluating what you already have and then take out those that are just ''extras''. It's really easy once you get all the dirty work done because after that it'll just be about maintaining it. After that, you will find going back to multiplication quite impossible, really.
Don't rush. Start one section at a time. Maybe start off with your wardrobe, and the week after move on to your drawers and then so on. Think about functionality of an item not just aesthetics. That one thing must serve multiple purposes otherwise it's no good.
Also, manage your finances. Make a plan to pay off any loans, start building savings, cook your own meals rather than eating out and spend more time in nature. If you like, start growing and nurturing plants at home. It cultivates our innate sense of compassion and kindness which will remind us to do the same for ourselves.
Think about what is your core-conviction? What do you truly believe in and how you can simplify what you now have in order to achieve your non-negotiable core conviction?
Whilst over-eating could be due to reasons such as not eating at regular meal times, nutrient deficiency or even dehydration, it can also be due to emotional imbalance. We may over-indulge for fear of not having enough in life, worry and even stress. I think it’s okay to overindulge once in awhile but not too much. We’re humans after all and we’re all struggling to find that balance.
Being self aware in noticing these tiny triggers helps so much to differentiate what your body needs. We just need to slow down a little and learn to say no to things that we do not need.
With that said, you are enough. You have always been.
Elfe's painting "Circles of Life" sits proudly on our sideboard here at Super Farmers. It is inspired by the plants in the garden and life's moments.
Responses by Elfe R.
Questions and editing by Cynthea Lam
Photography by Cynthea Lam & Elfe R.