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Posts Tagged Stuff

What do we really need?

Before we even start to think about floor plans or how you will store all your stuff in a Tiny House, we first need to get down to the basics.  What do you really need in this life?  It is often a lot less than you think, but I feel it’s also important to point out this isn’t about living without, we aren’t trying to sacrifice things here, we are trying to find the happy medium.  When we understand our needs, we then can determine the form and function of our house.

I have talked before about symbols of happiness, the idea that we purchase things which remind us of happy things, of our hopes and wants, of our dreams, but they do not themselves bring us happiness.  In fact, internally, I think this actually creates inner turmoil because our desires go unmet.  A perfect example is having a desktop or screen saver of a white sands beach, it constantly reminds us of us not being there, and it doesn’t seem healthy.

So what if we were to adopt a lens to view our world through to determine what bring us joy and contentment.  With this new lens we need to do a shift in thinking as well.  We need to know what things to strive for, to know what things we must pursue, but they should be achievable with hard work.  At the same time, we need to be okay with not having things that we will never have and shift focus to the things we do.

I am reminded of a story about a man who sought the wisdom of Buddha.

It is said that the happiest people don’t have everything; they just make the best of everything.  While cute quotes such as this one may be fun, we are beginning to see there is a solid foundation in truth to them.

There have been quite a few studies that show that too much clutter has a very negative impact on our well-being.  Angus Deaton, Ph.D., a renowned economist, and Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel prize-winning psychologist conducted a study where they were able to determine that people who made $75,000 a year were the most happy of any salary range.  They were able to show that above that figure had no bearing on happiness and in fact, it could decrease because additional stress that comes with that job.

Now $75k seems a lot to many, but I would expect that Tiny House people could achieve this same peak happiness at a much lower salary because your money goes further. It isn’t the amount of money here that matters; it is what it affords you that is key.  At $75,000 you can afford all of you life’s basics, you can have good health insurance, a good house, some money to take trips and still save some for a rainy day.  With a Tiny House you remove the housing from the equation, which is equivalent to many people’s 30%-40% of income; in this case $23,000-$30,000.  So if we adjust that $75k we are looking at $45,000 annual salary which is much more achievable.

One way I help people determine what is important to them is propose a scenario.  Imagine you wake up one night from a deep sleep and flames are curling up the walls, your house is on fire.  You look out the window to see your family and pets screaming for you to escape with your life.  What do you grab on your way out of the house, know that all else will be lost?

There are few things in this world that cannot be replaced: those close to you and things that remind you of times with those people are irreplaceable.

Finally the differentiation between wants and needs is a tricky lesson to learn.  We are exposed to a consumer culture that makes it hard for us to even separate these things.   So this part is a gradual process that many of us still find ourselves grappling with.  It has been taught to us from a young age that accumulation of things is better.  The more stuff we have, the better we are.  The psychology of these things cannot be understated; we need to dig deep into ourselves to examine our motivations.

So hopefully this has let you understand a little bit of what truly makes you happy, what to steer clear of in terms of things that we THINK make us happy and help change our thinking to determine our needs and wants.  Once we do this we are prepared to fully determine our true needs and how to arrange our life to live in a Tiny House.


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Embracing Symbols Of Happiness

When I attend Jay’s workshop a few weeks ago I gained an interesting insight from one of many discussions.  It was the concept of how many of us embrace symbols of happiness and that often we do not realize that the things we have actually represent happiness, but don’t bring it.

Take for example a photo of a white sands beach, an island paradise.  We see many people have these types of photos pinned inside dreary cubical or as our computer desktop.  What is this really?  Why are we compelled to hang such a photo in our homes, work, etc?  Subconsciously these are symbols of happiness, but they, themselves don’t bring happiness.  If anything they are reminders of something that is lacking in our lives.

It is an interesting perspective when we evaluate our personal belongings aka stuff, often which we have way too much of.  Here is a video where Jay talks a little about it.

Moving And Decluttering

In the next few weeks I will be moving to another place where I can live rent free and save my money towards my Tiny House.  While I hate moving, it does present a great opportunity to getting rid of stuff.  As you pack your boxes you have a chance to consider each item, your every decision weighs on you literally as you picture yourself having to sluff each item to the next place you’ll call home.  I find moving to be a great time for getting rid of stuff, to reflect on sentimental items, remember good times.

I find it puts a lot of what is truly important in your life into perspective.  How will this move impact my friendships?  How often will I see family?  What new opportunities will it bring?  It strikes me in these moments that I have these type of thoughts and paired with the fact that most possessions almost seem burdensome.  It brings a lot of focus to things.

Perhaps I will do a post on what all of my things look like, what I was able to weed out, and if I feel very ambitious, count each item to see how many I have.  We shall see!

How To Get Started: A Practical Guide Part 4

Now many of you who are looking to actually live in a Tiny House have some level of awareness of this cultural phenomenon we know as consumerism.  It essentially functions by creating social pressures to buy more stuff, our culture has an instilled mentality that we need more stuff to be happy.

The more stuff, the more happiness right?  Wrong.  Studies have actually shown that the purchase of stuff gives us a quick high, but ultimately leaves us even more unhappy.  Buying more stuff means we need to work more to pay for it, we incur more debt.  All of these things bring stress, give us less time to relax, time away from family and friends and when we do have free time, we are hounded by collection agencies.   When we move into a Tiny House, we need to reduce the amount of things we need to fit in, this actually reduces stress, focuses us on what is important and create greater value for what little we do have.

I encourage you to have some time set aside to do some introspection.  During that time consider what you have purchased over the last month using receipts and a spreadsheet.   I have seen it a million times, people who don’t track it, don’t realize how bad the problem is.  This is a pretty well document phenomenon.  Studies have shown that when people track things, they typically spend 1/3 less, just by tracking it!

It has taken me a long time to really weed through my subconscious to get to a point where I can realize when these deep rooted influences are pushing me to buy something.  I have been on this journey now for 2 years and still am struggling with it.  I do intentionally strike a balance between separation of consumer culture and still staying generally socially acceptable.  Clothing for example is a big societal function, fashions and trends drive us to buy more and I think many have a hard time breaking this cycle.

Now it is true, men’s clothing is easier to do this with, but I still believe anyone can do it.  My clothes literally can fit in a big suitcase, all of them.  I own 1 suit, 3 pairs of pants, 2 shorts, 10 shirts, 15 undershirts, 30 pairs of socks, 30 pairs of underwear, 3 work shirts, 3 shirt that get dirty, 2 pajama pants, a hat, rain jacket, winter jacket, one pair of dress shoes, one pair of running shoes, and one pair of garden shoes.   I have also worked to be able to work from home or a job that I can dress casually, this drastically reduces the amount of clothes and limits social pressures.

So today start looking at what you have spent, take some time to think about how these cultural norms influence you behavior and check out the story of stuff to help understand these mechanisms.

Story Of Stuff – Interview

A long time ago I talked about a really nice video called “The Story Of Stuff”  I put it at the bottom here, but I recently found an interview with her that I wanted to share.  The interview is with Stephen Colbert, who for those of you who don’t know of him, is a comedian who does a news show; so his interview tend to be a little ridiculous, but she gets her point across nicely.

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