Maybe I’m getting old, but it feels like many things just aren’t built to last anymore. Planned obsolesence, which is a business strategy to have things fail and encourage consumers to replace them, seems to be real phenomenon. In addition, we have endless items available to us as consumers that are virtually disposable – super low cost, easily accessible and so cheap that you’re happy to buy without thinking, even if only to use once or twice. Sometimes I think things are just too affordable.
Even if something doesn’t break, we feel compelled to replace it in time anyway. Marketers employ sophisticated techniques to convince us that new is good and old is less desirable. “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality is unfortunately common place and, as consumers, we are conditioned to buy, buy, buy.
What is the true cost of our hyper consumerist, disposable society?
This morning my wife commented that I rarely do things in moderation. I guess she probably has a point, and on reflection I can see many examples where not only have I been overly-enthusiastic (maybe sometimes obsessive) about a hobby, cause or new area of interest but also how I yo-yo between extremes. For example, in my pursuit of Financial Indepence I know that at times I’ve been overly frugal but occasionally I’ll randomly go and spend a ton of money. I can go cold turkey with my Coke Zero (habit/addiction) but then revert to drinking way too much. This see-sawing behaviour often negates my positive intentions.
Perhaps the old saying “everything in moderation” has some merit. Those that read my last post about the concept of FILLS know that I’ve been thinking a lot about balance, sustainability and our place in the world.
To my surprise, the applicability of lessons outlined in Essentialism extended far beyond the work context and time management strategies. At its core, this is a book about focusing on what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so you can concentrate on the things that really matter. For me, the book reaffirmed my belief that a simple life can be fulfilling, productive and meaningful.
There is no one-size-fits-all definition of a simple life, but for me it is about uncomplicated, sustainable living. A life of happiness and intention which isn’t ruled by possessions or the expectations of others. Living a simple life is about having the time, energy, health and resources to focus on things, topics and people that matter. It’s about doing and having less, while gaining and giving more. It’s about choice, control and contentment, rather than reacting to societal pressures, norms and rampant consumerism. It’s about finding real happiness and a high quality of life.
“There is nothing that the busy man is less busy with than living: there is nothing harder to learn”
Being clear about the life you want to lead is important. Below are ways I’m working towards that simple life:
I’ve posted previously about our liberating decision to start living with fewer possessions (The benefits of subtraction – the freedom and happiness gains of owning less). This has involved not only buying less, but also reducing the number of number of things we have in the house. Letting go of stuff is a process. Even when we are are ready emotionally to let things go, deciding what to do with the stuff is important.
What we’ve discovered in the process of decluttering and selling over 100 items in the last six months (in addition to everything we have donated or thrown away), is that the old adage “One man’s trash, is another man’s treasure” is true. We have managed to generate almost $7,000 in cash by selling unused and unwanted items including sporting equipment, comics, books, kids toys and some furniture. Old LEGO has been especially popular.
This wasn’t an emergency cash grab, but rather an intentional process of donating, selling and discarding superfluous stuff. Less physical clutter, creates more mental space and gratitude for the things we keep and value.
I’m an aspiring frugal minimalist, working towards Financial Independence. Given that, saving should be second nature and easy for me, right? Well normally we are are pretty good and put money away like clockwork, but this week was a reality check as my monthly budget went up in flames. The budget collapse wasn’t due to any unforeseen disaster, medical emergency, or car problems. I simply overspent and purchased what could be classified as an unnecessary, luxury item.
So what went wrong and how do I avoid overspending in the future?
Do you ever have the feel like you’re being pulled in multiple directions, overworked and stressed, never have enough time or are constantly worrying about money? Me too.
Somewhat paradoxically “less” may be the secret to getting back control over your life. Focusing on the essentials, being more selective about what we do, minimizing the stuff we strive to obtain and consume, spending time with the people that matter. Living a life with less allows us to focus on what really matters. Cutting out the crap, the unnecessary and the toxic, is key to making this philosophy work.