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App-o-neurosis

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I recently added some new apps to my phone.

Due to living in the real world, and interacting more with real live humans, I haven’t had the time to even look at the most popular apps of the past year that I added to my arsenal of “life improving” tools 2 weeks ago.

Just because they are the most popular, doesn’t mean they are best for me. Here’s another example of watching myself fall into the trap of doing what everyone else is doing due to FEAR of being left behind, or FMO: (Fear of Missing Out).

Remember the old film camera I spoke about in an earlier post? Same deal here. I’m feeling as If I am struggling to keep up on the most recent technical advances, but how many average, busy folks are doing more than just barely holding on by their fingernails during all of these lightning fast innovations and releases? If it’s free, does that mean I have to add it to my life? Free! free! free! What about being free of technological clutter as well?

I removed myself from half of my newsletter subscriptions online, only to add different ones that I thought I wanted to read a mere few weeks later. It’s challenging to keep up on all the interesting blogs and newsletters I want to read. I am not ready to be interested in less things, but I also want to spend more time with people face to face as opposed to having my nose buried in my laptop. Later this month I’ll be taking in my computer for some repairs. This is a perfect time to take a break on anything computer related, and since my phone is not the method I prefer for reading or researching, I will choose to take a few days off from my regular routine. I am hoping it inspires me to be more selective on how I spend my alone time.

30 Days “on the wagon”

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Well, it’s been an interesting 30 days.

I got a little stressed the first week without the absolute freedom to buy anything I wanted or needed, but then realized after about week 3 it wasn’t so bad after all. I actually forgot (truly an accident) at one point I wasn’t buying anything and bought some replacement wine glasses for a friend that had broken one of his favorite polka dot wine glasses. Oops.

Other than that I have been getting rid of more objects and haven’t bought any clothes. I sold my coffee table, so now I have no living room furniture.

I needed a new pair of shoes for running (mandatory) and some fitness materials, but nothing I could have substituted in its place, so now I can see how this can be tricky and will inspire me to become even more creative as the year goes by. I found out that when I go to most stores I just have to leave because I’m not buying anything anyway, so it’s pointless to go into my usual stores now. The places I would have gone to for sure, but haven’t so far:

Clothing stores

Liquor store

Online jewellery store

One of the side effects of this project so far is unsubscribing to about six different newsletters I used to read. I didn’t expect that. I’ve already been thinking about having another garage sale in April or May as well, so we will see how things play out between now and then. One bonus is that my floor is a lot easier to clean, and I can already picture all the objects I had here being used by other people that ow them now. That part makes me feel really great.

 

Own less, buy less

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Pointing a finger at over-consuming.

This year I have decided to try a little project. Others have done the same, which has inspired me to take the leap on January 1, 2013. I’m going one year without buying anything but food and personal care products.

No clothes, accessories, household items, cards, gifts..nothing but personal consumables for necessity.

Let’s see how many days I can go without buying anything. I think I have everything I need or want already. That’s a success right there in my books, who is genuinely satisfied with exactly what they have? The tricky part will be birthdays and Christmas. I have no idea how I will get through those events yet. I guess that is where massive creativity comes in.

Wish me luck, I can feel a bit of withdrawal symptoms happening already ūüė¶

Gifts made easy

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During the holidays, retailers sometimes remind us it’s important to keep gifts personal. (I don’t know about you, but I have never given anyone a Kotex Christmas gift).

I try to keep the holidays simple and personal, but in a different way.

Since I grew up during the heyday of excess, I still can feel the sneaky magnetic pull of consumerism. Working on ignoring all the consumer hype is similar to working out in the gym. You get stronger the more you work at it. I am finding myself stopping and questioning my options much more now, as opposed to thoughtlessly purchasing things and not thinking how it will affect my life in the future, and where the money has gone along with that.

Taking a step back from consuming, especially during the holidays takes some time and conscious effort in the beginning. I can feel the gripping feeling to buy stuff loosen, as I steer clear of stores and remind myself that these stores are designed to take my money. The people who own these stores where I used to shop frequently don’t care if I can afford it, nor will they admit that 80% of the stuff out there isn’t really needed by the average consumer. I am realizing I am not lacking for not owning these extra things, not inadequate, and not excluded from any social groups that I desire to be in, nor treated differently from the groups I currently belong to. I find this interesting because some of the people I know make bags and bags more money than I do, yet we all hang out together and I am treated like a peer.

People used to laugh at my small old-style television until a close friend bought me a huge flat screen one Christmas. (I actually missed my dinky TV for almost a year until I got used to the bigger one, but I still feel it takes up too much room in my place. I then gave the old dinky TV to a friend that needed it). I had a small 35mm film camera with a built in flash for the longest time until I needed to upload photos for work, and had to purchase a digital camera last year.

People (including a couple of friends) tried to poke fun of my old, outdated stuff but I didn’t care. Those things I owned came into my life with wonderful stories attached. A former boyfriend ended a relationship, and didn’t have the guts to pick up the dinky TV he left at my place. (I subsequently gave away all the really cool DVDs he left behind, including a Family Guy box set which I used to listen to in French and Spanish for fun as the discs had a language option). As for the camera with film? One of my clients purchased the 35 mm film camera for me for my birthday in 2001. It was a great surprise for me at the time, it meant a lot, and I needed a camera. My camera before that was given to me by my Uncle Nick as a kid and I couldn’t find places that sold flash cubes after a few years. Wow, time flies doesn’t it? Those things reminded me of those people. My new camera is just that. A new thing, no story attached. Just a boring new thing that works extremely well. Sometimes gifts are great because they were given by great people, not because the gift itself was mind-blowingly unique or personal.

One Valentine’s day I gave one of my boyfriends shit because he bought me a pizza cutter for Valentine’s day. I suggested we go out and get a pair of earrings to “romanticize” the occasion. He conceded, and we went out the next day and bought earrings. I don’t wear the earrings anymore, but guess what I still use to cut my pizza?

Exactly. The man was right after all.

Are the Jonses really happier?

A while back, I was riding in a car with someone who was having a less than perfect day. I asked them what was wrong. They said they were feeling a little resentful that their friend seemed to “have it all”. His friend has a great family, a great home, a vacation home (with a tennis court and zip line in the backyard), a “man-cave” type lodge/garage separate from their main summer home, cars, snowmobiles, bikes, the latest gadget of any category, access to the best wines, and lots more stuff stuff stuff. My friend felt he deserved to have the same. He worked just as hard, had many of the same friends, connections, and had equal amounts of business savvy. On that day, he felt resentful that he had to struggle more, work more hours to get what he wanted, and their friend seemed to have an effortless luxurious lifestyle.

This conversation happened a couple of years back, and while I was surprised that my friend wasn’t content with what he had at that moment, I did mention that he had no idea what that guy really had to go through to not only buy, but maintain all that shit.

I zip lined at Mr. “have it all’s”¬† place this past summer and to be honest, it was kind of anti-climactic. It would exhaust me to think about all the bills he has to pay and people he has to hire to maintain all that crap. The electric bill alone would be staggering. If I could wave a magic wand and evaporate all his things, I don’t think this guy would be actually happier.

I think my friend had a brief moment of envy which is beautifully human, but truthfully he would never change shoes with this dude. He wouldn’t want all the responsibility of managing all those external things over and above a regular work day, which is exactly how I see it. More things = more management, upkeep, repair, payment, replacement, etc. In fact, my friend actually has a better sense of who he is than that other guy.

I can see that at first glance it all looks so perfect..until you get the bill in the mail.

Do the math

How did it all happen? Where did all this stuff come from?

I’ve heard some people mention they weren’t entirely sure how all that stuff got into their possession in the first place. How did they end up with so many things and so much unnecessary stuff?!?

Let’s do some easy math.

Let’s imagine you are 20 years old and just starting out in your life. (Maybe you actually are my imaginary example) You get your very first place of your own (yay!), and set it up to your liking. You procure kitchen items so you can feed yourself, bedding, towels for the bathroom, a couch, maybe a coffee table for the living area, plus some of the things you already own and collected as a child if you still have them. Beyond the basic necessities which I imagine were your first priority, you either took a break from buying, or you kept going.

If you bring just one new thing (furniture, clothing, books, a lamp, jewellery etc. etc…anything that stays in your environment) into your home once a week for the next 20 years (52×20) you end up with one thousand and forty things.

Yep, that’s 1,040 items you now own and are responsible for.

That sounds crazy right?

OK, so if most of you reading this don’t think you would ever bring home approximately 4 things a month without getting rid of 4 things, let’s make it a bit more simplistic. Let’s choose 2 things a month. Let’s roughly half the number, and take 2 weeks away to make it 50 weeks. So now you are bringing home and keeping only 25 things a year. The number still sounds small. By the time you are 40 years old, you will still have added 500 permanent items either big or small to your living space, parking space, or storage space depending on the size of where you live. Did you manage to convince your folks to store it in their basement or garage for you because your space is too small? Good for you, now you have other people dealing with your stuff.

Did you move from that tiny new place within those twenty years? You probably did, but let me guess.. you live in a bigger space now, so your stuff is just spread around¬† more so it doesn’t look as full. Good thinking on your part. Just keep getting a bigger and bigger pad to fill with all your stuff. Until you can’t afford the cost of keeping all that square footage, or you die and your kids/friends/government trustee has to move all your crap for you.

2 things a month=500 items over 20 years

4 things a month= 1,000 items over 20 years

6 things a month=1,500 items over 20 years

8 things a month=2,000 items over 20 years

10 things a month is an unsettling 2,500 items over 20 years and gives me a headache just thinking about it. Are you on a collection course to over a thousand things in the next 20 years? Does the person with the most stuff when they die really win like the saying goes?

Or is that just called organized hoarding?

Pink metallic leather boots

I’ve had these crazy beautiful pink metallic leather boots for years.

Never wore them, never will.

I finally realized I’m not Elton John, Cher, or any other fantastic poser that might wear these type of boots. I donated them today. Sometimes I see other people in my neighborhood walking down the street wearing the one of a kind things I donate. It’s kinda cool, and at least someone is wearing my things instead of¬† having them collect dust in my closet.

Nearly everyone has at least one thing they own, really really like, and never use. What’s your item?

Collect them all!

What are collectibles really?

Collectible art, books, music, cars, dolls, dead stock clothing, and the like, are not necessarily rare. They can just be hard to find. There is a difference. Collectibles often appeal to a small group of people and can fluctuate greatly in value over time. Let’s take gold for example. Gold can be collected, and it has value. Even gold goes up and down in price and can never be guaranteed to reach a certain value in the future. Such is the case with many things people perceive as collectible and having value. One day items can be extremely rare and valuable, the next day they can become virtually worthless. (Enron Stock anyone?)
Just for kicks, go on E Bay right now and see how collectible and “rare” Beanie Babies are.

Many collections have no end to them. This is a brilliant sales strategy. How does the collecting treadmill start? We could use any object or item. How about expensive porcelain figurines? As a child I would find a kids’ version of porcelain figurines in boxes of tea my Mother would bring home. Hence at early childhood the collecting begins. You can start to collect them all, but new ones keep being released. New shiny beautifully crafted figurines keep being made all the time. The manufacturers are smart. They don’t concern themselves with exactly how many you buy, own, sell, trade, display or gift to others.¬† When is a collection too big?¬† Why did I listen to all those ads suggesting I¬† get one (insert any item here) in every color? I don’t feel manufacturers are supposed to assume to know more about what I need than I do. They create an imaginary need, and then fill that need with their product. As an adult I believe that it is my job to know what I need. I was giving my power away to advertising over and over again.

We have minimum and maximum recommendations from food manufacturers for food and nutrient  intake, why not  include recommendations for maximum object enjoyment? Inside a box containing a figurine there is no insert card outlining the maximum suggested number of figurines for healthy enjoyment. Maybe there should be.

Hoarding 911

Look at this living room.

Would it bother you if your living room looked like this? Does it evoke a sense of stress for you when you look at it, or does it calm you? If this was your place, would you pay someone to clean it all up, would you just to light a match to it, or..would you protect it with all your power?

This room belongs to someone I know.

After my initial shock of discovering this scene, the person who lives here asked for some help to clean it, but interestingly enough nothing could be touched while that person was in the house. It was made tidier (and safer) when they were not home. When they returned they felt better, but alas, could not keep it clean or continually tidy. The rest of the house looks similar.

This was, I believe, the tipping point of my journey to owning less.

I would come home from visiting this place and start looking around my loft at my own possessions. Feeling so shaken by what my eyes saw, I just started bagging my extra stuff and walking it over to Goodwill as to try to somehow avoid my future turning out like the photo I included in this post.

I have no idea why I thought my life would even remotely turn out like that. It may have been a knee jerk reaction to what I experienced in that environment, and how I felt about it. I was actually nowhere near that messy or cluttered to begin with. I never really thought I owned a lot of stuff either. I don’t own a home, I don’t own a car, I don’t own any pets. I felt better though after I donated my things, and every month or so I would take another 1 or 2 bags down the street for donation. I thought that all the stuff I owned was useful, but when it was gone I never missed it.

I often purchased more clothes and toiletries than I needed when on sale. (still do, still working on it). Luckily, toiletries are consumables and clothes change with the seasons and fashion, so they go in and out of my life. Clothes also wear out, so for me getting rid of those things seemed to be simpler than getting rid of stuff like unread magazines and old books. Subsequently I cancelled the two magazine subscriptions I had, and never read the newspaper anyway so now my paper retaining problem has been solved.

The bagging and donating went on very slowly and calmly for the next 3 years as I began to question the concept of material ownership. How much stuff is too much? The answer is as different for everyone as we will explore further.

Hello, it’s great to meet you

Who are you?

Not your name, not where you live, what you do, where you work, whether you are married or have kids..

or what kind of stuff you have.

This blog was created out of the contemplation of owning less, and becoming more in the process. Inspired by seekers of  simpler lives, minimalists, spiritualists and soul searchers to get a bit closer to true authenticity.

The mechanism? Owning less stuff.

But, hold on a second you might ask. Is that really possible, or even necessary? Can’t I just create a deeper relationship with myself and still own all my stuff? My answer has changed from last year to this year. My answer is no.

My journey began without consciously knowing I was headed in this direction, quite by accident through a series of events. I had no idea it would take me here. Now I invite you along the rest of the way as I explore what it means to evolve more deeply as a person inside while my outside material world devolves.

As of today I am not on Facebook or Twitter, but I will post regularly and we can follow each other on these pages.