Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Learning to be Possession Free and downsizing our lives

When I left home to go traveling for the first time in 2013 I had enough stuff to fill a three bedroom house.  Renting my house out forced me to sort through my belongings and I thought I had done a great job of downsizing. I got rid of furniture and all sorts of junk that I no longer needed and managed to squeeze all of my things into a 60 square foot storage unit. I was pretty pleased to be able to keep all of my, seemingly precious, belongings even though it was costing me over £100 per month to do so. It also gave me the peace of mind that if I hated traveling I could return home and move back into my house and my old life.

At this stage, living a minimalist life was not a thought I had entertained in the slightest. This meant that as I got ready for my big trip, I was busy making all sorts of unnecessary purchases. I was still in that consumer bubble where I got a mini buzz from shopping and arriving home with a hand full of bags full of shiny new things to 'improve my life', a bubble where I thought things made me happy. I bought clothes and toiletries and all sorts of travel gadgets, and no matter how many times I read blogs preaching not to do this and advising that everything I needed would be available in any country I chose to visit, I didn't quite believe it and I continued to shop. Looking back, I am not sure if this was nerves and excitement or if it was me being such a well trained consumer that my need for things was at its optimal setting through years of conditioning.

This meant that when I set off on my trip I was carrying far to much stuff and my bag was far too heavy. Even so it took me a while to start disposing of the things I was carrying along the way, after all, I might need them at some point - right? Even though I was reluctant to let things go, I was adamant that I couldn't carry anything new, add to that the fact that I was no longer earning and I needed to make my savings last for as long as possible, my shopping habit was finally starting to come to an end.

When I returned to England 11 months later, it was only for 2 short months, before we left for New Zealand. Michael pointed out to me that I had spent over £1000 to store my Ikea quality furniture and it was really not a good economy to continue to store it when it would be cheaper to buy it again new if I ever needed it. Opening up the storage unit for the first time in over a year was pretty daunting and I was really apprehensive about the thought of getting rid of things. The furniture, appliances and more practical things were really easy to say goodbye to. Some ended up going to the dump, some got sold at a car boot sale and a lot were sold on ebay. The clothes were also pretty easy to get rid of. After wearing the same 5 outfits for 11 months I had finally realised how many clothes one person actually needs, and so the clothes that didn't sell at the car boot sale were taken to a charity shop.

It was surprising going through all the boxes how much stuff I had forgotten I owned, even in just a year away. And don't misunderstand me, it wasn't easy getting rid of it all, so many things had memories attached to them or were given to me by people I really care about. There is a certain amount of guilt that comes with giving away gifts, even once they have served their purpose. Gifts are tokens that someone cares about you and thinks about you and so to dispose of such things doesn't feel good.

A very small part of me felt that I may, at some undeturmined point in the future, live to regret having such a big clear out but the overwhelming feeling was of relief, a weight was being lifted from me and the start of me really seeing possesions as a burden.

When we moved to New Zealand we tried not to buy too many new things but I guess there is a balance between living as posession free as possible and limiting your experience because of this. For example, although our appartment was furnished we had to buy some things for the kitchen to be able to cook different meals and I wanted softer towels than the ones provided. And then there was the time that I came home from work in mid December and Michael had bought some fairy lights and a little tree to bring some christmas cheer when we were both a little sad from being away from our families for christmas.

We always new we would be leaving New Zealand to travel again, and that anything we had bought would be left behind and so you start to see purchase in different ways. Its almost like you are renting the experience of using the for a number of months rather than owning them for their lifetime. Everything that we bought for the house was left for the next person, and maybe the person after that. And that is a much better feeling than if it was to go to a land fill somewhere or sit in a dusty box and not used at all.

It was a little harder in Los Angeles as our apartment was completely unfurnashed which meant we had to get everything new. A sofa, bed, table, shower curtain, toilet brush, and everything needed to cook. I pretty expensive situation as we are only going to get one years use out of everything, of course we will be able to sell a lot of things on when we leave but as the house is unfurnished we wont be able to leave anything here so it will be a bit more challenging to find new homes for a lot of things. Still we knew that when we purchased everthing so there are absoluty no emotional attachements to anything we are not taking with us. As much as I love using my bright red spatular everyday, a few days after we leave I will forget it was ever in my life. A silly example i know but you get the point.

One small obstacle, is comunicating to others how we want to live. That owning as little as possible is actually a desire and not just a way to save money. It is freeing and it lift a burden from us. Dispite stipulating on or wedding invitations that we did not want any gifts, it really was enough that people were traveling halfway round the world to celebrate with us, we still ended up with a handful of presents. And we are not ungrateful, they were all incredably sweet and thoughtful but now we will have the dilemer of what to do with the when we leave this city, will we have to post back to england to be stored, will we carry them on our travels when we go to Asia in december, not very practical, or will we have to leave the behind and hope they find a new home and then deal with the guild associated with that choice.

The mimiulist lifestyle also fits in with desire to reduse the amount of hours we have to spend working to sustaine our lifestyle. Its not that we don't to work, we just don't want to use all our energy working for a company that we don't believe in to sustain a life that doesn't make us happy. We are lucky that we can afford to live in this city on michaels wage alone. But what is the point of him working for 50 hours a week, exhausted and frustrated just so we can spend over $2000 per month living in in these four walls. It doesn't make any sense, other than it is also enabling us to save enough money to make the life changes we want to. It is certainly not sustainable long term.

I am in no way judging people who want the lifestyle that we don't. There are many people that are very content working for 40 years to pay off their house and I thought that is how my life would go to. But over the last couple of years I have changed my mind and realised how unhappy that made me and how many alternatives there are. We are looking for our alternative and for a way to sustaine it without returning to the 9-5

Time is the one thing that is in short supply, as everyday goes buy we are running out of it and it is the one thing you cannot buy more of. We need to use the time we have better, use it on experiences and not on earning money to buy things that we have learnt that we don't actually want.