I’m writing this on what has been dubbed “Black Friday” in the United States. A big shopping push made by retailers all around offering big “Day after Thanksgiving” sales to lure anxious consumers into their stores to start their Christmas shopping.
After being unpacked now for six months, surrounded by all my belongings, I feel the need to take stock in how this feels. Although, I am a purger and love getting rid of stuff and like to keep my life as simple as possible, there are still just some ‘things’ that come along with apartment living: i.e. kitchen utensils, sheets and towels, and bigger items like furniture. I do like my bed and my couch and I enjoy cooking and having the pots and pans that I use. But I was surprised by some of the extra items I had unpacked—like spare bottles of shampoo and lotion–I probably bought them because they were on sale. There is this habit of stocking up or buying in bulk that I have kicked now—for two reasons: 1. I simply don’t want to have extra items around me mostly because I want to be more mobile and want to be able to travel easily. And, 2. I no longer have a car, so simply buying big, bulky items or multiples is thankfully no longer a real option for me. It’s not too fun dragging a super-size box of laundry detergent or a 20-roll package of toilet paper on my bike or on the bus or train, so I do just fine with my four-roll store brand package. It’s two-ply and everything.
But I still have gotten rid of so much and continue to try to pare down my belongings. A nifty side-benefit of travel is that I lost weight from all the walking I did around the world. And since I’ve gone down a size or two in clothing, I gave away about a third of my clothes. Sure they were cute and maybe I’d gain the weight back, but I don’t care. I’d rather not hold onto it ‘just in case.’ I gave away the appliances I didn’t use often enough (bread maker, food processor, etc). These can come in handy once or twice a year, but they just weighed me down. Overall I am still continuously trying to get rid of stuff. And this idea of Black Friday makes me a little nauseous as Americans flock in droves to the malls to fight over the latest doll or video game for their kids. Now, don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with buying your children and loved ones some gifts, as long as the loving and ‘giving’ notion is really behind it. I enjoyed many smiles as a kid opening fun presents under my mom’s Christmas tree. But even as a young adult, I remember telling my mom I didn’t want or need much and definitely not anything physically ‘big’ that would take up a lot of space. It makes me think of even more ways to simplify my life and how it’s not that difficult if you don’t ‘buy’ into the whole marketing machine of consumerist culture. Of course if you like that culture and shopping and if adding to your possessions is your thing you can stop reading here as this article will not pertain to you.
Simplifying your Life:
My feeling is that if you don’t love it, use it, or wear it–get rid of it and more importantly try not to buy it in the first place. Donate, swap, or sell the stuff you just don’t need. Sites like Craigslist, Swap.com, Bookcrossing, & Sell DVDs Online are incredibly helpful with this. Do you really need the latest iGadget just because it’s ‘new’ this year or has been upgraded to 57.5 Megapixels? We already live in too much of a throw away culture and we often turn a blind eye to exactly where these things are going after we just ‘toss’ them out.
Don’t waste time hanging around with people you actually don’t like or that tend to bring you down. Around the time I turned thirty, I stopped doing this. I pride myself on being social and proactive in planning stuff with friends, but it finally occurred to me that I didn’t need to spend my time with you unless I actually liked you. In my twenties, a bunch of us from my TV station used to hang out after work. One day, I was asked to join a few and realized that I didn’t even really like these particular people and I’d enjoy myself more alone at home. And that was that. I started appreciating my own time more and what I actually wanted to be doing with it.
I am definitely attached to my email. Admittedly, I check it whenever I can. A lot of it is business related since I primarily work for myself now and have several different clients and outlets. But I often find myself trying to do too much at once or being torn in different directions instead of staying focused on attending to one task at a time. I’ve started trying to unsubscribe from email lists to at least whittle down the sheer number of emails I get each day (somewhere from 75-100). Social media outlets like Facebook and Twitter can be fun, but also are an important aspect of my job. But they are a huge time sink and take even more of my attention and time. It’s a necessary evil that I have yet to fully embrace.
One thing I am very good at is NOT talking on the phone. I haven’t really enjoyed being on the phone since high school. When I traveled for two and half years…I had NO cell phone. I canceled my plan (along with all of my bills) and didn’t miss it at all. Of course that was because I hardly used it before and, as I mentioned, am more email-centric anyway.
Upon return, I have only purchased a pre-paid cell phone that I use as little as possible since I pay for every call and text. But this only costs me about $200 a year or $16 each month. That is pretty good considering most Americans pay at least $50 each month and often closer to $100 per month. And it serves me just fine. I can still make or receive quick business calls and texts and don’t really feel it limits me at all.
Season of Giving
So as we enter this busy, very commercial season, how about giving your time more by volunteering?
And as far as gifts, how about giving something more experiential instead of material goods? Take a look at what my friends are doing at wisegifter.com where you can give people experiences instead of material ‘things’.
There is a balance to strike. Of course, I’m not living like a pauper with nothing. I enjoy some nice things. I love my comfy bed and for personal and work reasons love having my laptop. But I just feel much more aware of all that I consume and then in turn throw away and I am glad to be aware of it and continue to reduce my footprint on our planet however I can.