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.
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!
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.
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.
Today a good blogger friend of mine was featured in the New York Times, it talks about life simplification and what actually makes humans happy. Not only is it inspiring, interesting and thought provoking, it is backed up with a good bit of research. The article is really well written and I strongly encourage you all to read it.
A two-bedroom apartment. Two cars. Enough wedding china to serve two dozen people.
Yet Tammy Strobel wasn’t happy. Working as a project manager with an investment management firm in Davis, Calif., and making about $40,000 a year, she was, as she put it, caught in the “work-spend treadmill.”
So one day she stepped off.
Inspired by books and blog entries about living simply, Ms. Strobel and her husband, Logan Smith, both 31, began donating some of their belongings to charity. As the months passed, out went stacks of sweaters, shoes, books, pots and pans, even the television after a trial separation during which it was relegated to a closet. Eventually, they got rid of their cars, too. Emboldened by a Web site that challenges consumers to live with just 100 personal items, Ms. Strobel winnowed down her wardrobe and toiletries to precisely that number.