Freedom From Things

Grad student lived in van to remain debt-free

I read the above story. And then I went on to read all the rest of the stories about men and women and families who choose to live with less. This wasn’t a first for me. These days, I’ve been reading a lot of these articles. It seems so many people have discovered this amazing theory of living more with less. But that’s what it is to me now still. A theory. And until I put this theory to the test, that’s all it will remain to me. 

So that’s just what I’m gonna have to do. Do it. Clear the clutter, junk the junk; reclaim my ‘om’. I think it’s something I’ve been saying for a long time but have never gotten round to actually doing anything about it. Which means absolute zilch. And yeah, I’ve grown to hate myself for making empty promises about emptying out my life. And that weighs down on me, adding to the already unnecessary baggage that surrounds my existence.

Yes, I gotta do this. Now it’s a question of how. Every one of these people had their own way of doing it. Yeah, living out of a van was one. Hmmm, don’t think I have to do that yet; thankfully I still have a rent-free roof over my head. That’s about as good as it can get for some people. I had considered forking out $1000 a month to rent this really cool, raw, industrial-looking studio apartment near the office to finally get some true privacy and creative space to do my writing and thinking, but now I think maybe I could do better saving 2-3 months of that rent and redoing the place I’ve got now to fit the bill.

Some other people rely on the charity of others. I think receiving something from a stranger at the very moment you really need it could possibly be one of those law-of-attraction type miracles you’ll never ever experience hitting 8-ball in your Soho loft. But I think right now this is something I’d like to do on my own, maybe just to challenge myself.

Some people turn into these crazy discount and bargain hunters. At the risk of sounding ‘auntiefied’, I’m afraid I’ve always been one of those people right from the start. For one, I buy all my stuff pre-loved. I had the opportunity to work for a little company that dealt in second-hand baby items back when I was maybe nineteen? That was the first time I had learnt this word “pre-loved”. I remember how that totally changed my thinking – it wasn’t about someone’s junk becoming your treasure, or having something that’s been “used before” – it was giving new life to something.

That probably started me on the lookout for pre-loved items every time I decided I needed something. It started with books (but also because I adore time-weathered, well-thumbed paperbacks) and clothes, but soon morphed into all the big-ticket items in my life – cameras, game consoles, home massagers, exercise machines, TVs, fans, wardrobes, even this Mac (and wireless keyboard!) I now type this on… I think the only one gadget I’ve purchased brand new is my phone (and that’s only because of the whole plan thingamee).

[Actually, come to think of it, I don’t even really need any of those things. I haven’t even watched television much in the last couple of years.]

I’m also a huge Groupon/deal and Qoo10 shopper. To me, that was my way of living simply, enjoying luxuries for less. But what I didn’t realise so easily was that just like how the advent of computers to simplify our lives has actually made our lives more complicated (IT is a field of study, job industry, pillar of economy…), getting more things at a cheaper price ended up making me spend more. “Oh, look at this! So cheap! So useful! How can I not get that?!” became commonly heard. Wait. Did I even know this thing existed just moments before I clicked on that enewsletter in my inbox? Sometimes I sit in awe of my ability to create complex Maslow-type lists of things I now apparently needed and simply could not have imagined ever being without before or in the future. Oh gosh, my word.

So I unsubscribed from everything. What I don’t know (is on offer) won’t hurt me, or at least won’t burn a hole in my pocket, that’s what I say. Now if I really need something, I’ll go look for it on those websites, and instead of roboticised notifications, I rely on friends to point out good deals they think I’ll enjoy because they know me (Hello? Better than maybe even Google, you creepy stalker you).

So yeah, I think I’m pretty much cut out for this. At least the essence of frugality has already been wired into my bones. I just need that push. Most of these people quit their cushy job and some went and travelled with just one bag or lived out of caves. I’m all for adventure, but even I have to be the first to admit I’m a little too spoiled to live in a cave. :/ And quitting my job isn’t exactly practical just as yet, because the money I make from there illuminates my exploration of dance, songwriting, and various other projects I’m currently working on.

That travel thing might work though. I don’t exactly have the luxury of taking so much time off to just hit the road without a care or a week’s change of underwear, but maybe I should aim for that same result. Squeezing my life into one bag. Or if I were Ken, and I’d have to live out of a van… I guess when I’m throwing out stuff from my wardrobes and shelves, I could just ask myself, WWKD?

Actually the one article that really started this all, was Courtney Carver’s post on her blog, about this experiment called The 100 Thing Challenge (first by Dave Bruno). Yes, live with only 100 things. In her post, she actually lists each of them, one by one. Yes, every toothbrush, bracelet and yoga mat counts as one thing each. And yes, so does every single pair of shoes/pants/earrings that you have in every single colour it was made in.

When I first told my girlfriend I was thinking about doing the challenge, I think she had a hard time swallowing her supper. It is *that* crazy. My mother had ever issued me a challenge to never wear the same outfit twice in a year, confident she would never lose. I backed down from the challenge, perhaps out of fear she might actually be right. :/ And that was a couple of years ago, and we all know that things reproduce organically like amoeba.

Ok fine, I told her, I’ll do The 200 Thing Challenge. She looked at me with a half-laugh of disbelief. Okay, 300! I shouted. As I look around my room right now, I feel that half-laugh of disbelief coming on right from my gut.  But hey, I’m gonna do it no matter what. I CAN I MUST I WILL. And then I’ll indulge in a full-laugh of relief.


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