My month without buying crap – 22 days in

Many times this month I have seen items in shops that I wanted or for whatever reason I’ve thought to buy different things. Because of this challenge, though, I obviously haven’t been able to. The amazing thing is that within minutes of thinking “oh well, I can always buy it next month” the desire for the item usually left. I realised that, at least for me, the desire for things is strong but fleeting and there aren’t that many things that I really do actually want or need. The desk fountain that I was coveting really bad at the beginning of this challenge I don’t really want any more. I still think it would be cool but I don’t feel like I need to have it. In fact the things I do think I’ll buy at the end of the challenge are so few that I can name them right here.

1. New underwear. Apologies for the TMI but I do need some.
2. New toiletries bag. My old one is showing its age. It’s dirty, it’s faded, I’m sick of looking at it, and I there are so many cute ones for sale right now
3. Large photo album. I am sick of staring at my giant pile of lose photos.
4. Possibly a large yoga mat and bolsters. More on that in a minute.

The really crazy thing that has come out of all of this is that I’m almost getting a little addicted to not having stuff. Rather than focussing on what I can buy when this challenge is over, I’m more focussed on what else I can get rid of. I have donated quite a lot of stuff to thrift stores this month and am enjoying pairing down what I own more and more all the time.

I think part of my desire to get rid of stuff has to do with my wanting to move. I want to move out of state and the less I own, the easier that will be. I’m a bit of a seagull in that way .. before I fly away I like to do a big dump 🙂

Partly inspired by this process I’ve also finally got around to sending a whole lot of stuff back home to my parents (stuff that belongs to them that I have been storing). By doing this I’ve now cleared out a space in my laundry room and I’m thinking of putting my kitchen table in there for the time being. If I do that I can have a large space free where I can put a big yoga mat that can just live there. I really don’t use my kitchen table for eating and so most of the time it’s just a dumping zone. I haven’t been doing any yoga for like a year and my body feels all stiff and creaky. I definitely want to start doing it again and if I don’t have to actually move furniture around to do it, there’s a much better chance I’ll actually do it.

I’m realising mostly that when you have less stuff, you have more room. Room for yoga, room to think, room to not clean, room to save money, room to save planetary resources, and room to appreciate the stuff you have that you actually love.

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My month without buying crap – 11 days in

Well I’m 11 days into my experiment of not buying myself anything this month. So far it is going well. There are only two items that I know for sure I would have purchased had I not been on this challenge.

1. A desk fountain ($50)
2. A new toiletries bag ($20)

So I suppose in 11 days I’ve saved myself $70. Not bad! As I mentioned in my last post, though, this isn’t about saving money as much as non-consumerism.

I’ve found myself really disgusted lately by our consumerist society and as much as possible, I don’t want to be a part of it anymore. People always use the excuse “you can’t take it with you” for why they spend money excessively. But the way I see it, if you can’t take it with you, why buy it in the first place?

Rather than buying more crap I don’t need, I’d rather spend my money on good food, meaningful experiences, movies with friends, donations to causes I care about, and most importantly – to save for emergencies, eliminate debt, and eventually pay for a home.

This isn’t to say that there is anything wrong with buying things. I am already thinking about what I might buy in July or August. I wouldn’t mind a new pair of jeans and a new winter coat. When I do buy these things, though, I will shop purposefully for them and buy quality items that will last a long time – not crap made by underpaid factory workers in some sweat job overseas. And I also won’t get sucked into the impulse purchase trap while I’m out looking for them.

I think our modern society has become incredibly selfish when it comes to money. In so many parts of the world a family is considered rich if they have a place to live, heat, and a reliable source of food. They don’t need two cars, a gigantic flat screen TV, boxy modern furniture, the iPhone4, a fridge full of soda, or a magic bullet. And they certainly don’t feel “entitled” to any of these things.

Here is a passage from the Tao Te Ching that has been a source of inspiration to me for this challenge:

Imagine a small country with few people.
They have weapons but do not employ them;
They enjoy the labor of their hands
and do not waste time inventing laborsaving machines.
They are content with healthy food,
Pleased with useful clothing,
Satisfied in snug homes,
And protective of their way of life.

Wish me luck for the next 19 days! If all goes well I’m thinking of doing it again!

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My month without buying crap

Hi Everybody,

Just a quick update this evening as I’m afraid I have been neglecting this blog a fair bit lately as a result of my day job and my studies. I have enjoyed keeping in touch with everyone via Facebook and Twitter as always, though.

I have endeavoured to spend the greater portion of one month (it would have been a full month if I hadn’t thought of it on the 2nd of June!) without purchasing any personal items. Of course I am allowing myself to buy food and basic toiletries if they run out but that’s about it. No books, no dvds, no clothes, no craft stuff. I’m still allowing myself to purchase experiences (going to the movies, etc.) because this is more a test in non-consumerism than it is in frugality although if at the end of the month I find I’ve spent less than usual, well then that would be terrific.

So far I am only three days in and already it has been tough. I am selling my fish tank (long story – turns out I simply cannot keep fish alive and I get really upset when they die!) and now that the fish tank is going I desperately want to get a little desk fountain to go in its place in my feng shui ‘wealth corner.’ Normally I would have got obsessed with the idea and spent the day prowling through Chinese trinket shops looking for one but alas, this time I must wait three weeks! Can I do it? Who knows. I think so. We shall see. If anyone wants to join me in this challenge (ending July 1st 2012) let me know! I’ve been watching all these documentaries about African tribal communities and our lives looks so wasteful and stupid compared to theirs!

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How cluttered is your life?

As some of you know, I am very passionate about home design and over the past year or so I’ve become fascinated by minimalism. I’ve recently had the opportunity to actually live the minimalist life. I’ve moved to a studio apartment where my entire living and sleeping area is confined to a single room with just two other small rooms – a bathroom and laundry – tacked onto the back.

I wasn’t sure how I’d go with living in such small quarters but it’s actually been really great. I think I would call my little house here a practice in “cozy minimalism”. I have lamps, candles, blankets, and pillows around the place but in no way does it feel cluttered. Eventually I will move out of here and into a larger home but I imagine I will continue to employ a minimalist mentality to any new space I enter.

Most people think of minimalism as the stark, “modern” style of home design that has recently become trendy. I find this style of home design interesting and inspiring in its un-cluttered aesthetic but also somehow at odds with the “live simply” mentality that is the heart of true minimalism. Here in Canberra there are “minimalist” homes going up all over town and a lot of them sit at the $800,000 to million dollar+ price point which is just crazy and totally at odds with the non-consumerist minimalist mentality.

To me minimalism is about living simply, without clutter, and focusing your energy and money on what is important to you rather than on stuff.

Here are a few ideas for any of you interested in moving toward minimalism:

1. Drastically reduce the amount of knick knacks you keep around.
Knick knacks are something many people find difficult to part with because they almost always hold sentimental value. The problem, though, is they clutter up a place like nobody’s business. One trick I’ve come up with is to put all your knick knacks in a box and only put the most important ones back out again. Donate or give away as much of what is left in the box as possible. And for God’ sake – don’t buy any more!!

2. Dare to wear out your best clothes – and chuck the rest.
Don’t save your nicest clothes for a special occasion. Wear them. It’s better to wear things out than to hold onto them for so long that they go out of style and have to be thrown out anyway. Go through your closet and get rid of absolutely everything that you don’t like, doesn’t fit, or that you just don’t wear and never will – and be brutal about it. Whatever is left, wear!

3. Take the time to put your photographs in albums – and chuck the rest.
There’s no point having a gigantic box of lose photos sitting around. Take the time to properly display your memories and get rid of the anything that isn’t worthy of either being framed or going into an album.

4. Eat out your fridge and cupboards before you replenish them.
Food can be a major money sink, especially when you’re routinely buying perishable items that go mouldy before you use them. Throwing out or not using good food is also disrespectful to the farmers and land that was used to create it.

5.Be honest about how many skin and hair care products you really need.
So often our bathrooms are full of samples and random products that we have barely used yet have been sitting there for years. If you’re not going to use them, throw them out. If you are going to use them, use them.

6. Invest $5 in a library card
You really don’t need to be buying books that you will only read once. There’s also no real point in spending money on dvds and cds when the technology will soon become irrelevant anyway. Save your money and start going to the library.

7. When it comes to furniture and other big ticket items, buy things that truly speak to your heart.
The beauty of minimalism is that when you do decide to purchase something, you have the luxury of opting for quality because you haven’t been spending all your money on meaningless crap!

8. Use the time and money you would otherwise spend on the acquisition and care of possessions to better your life.
After you have de-cluttered your space, set to work on de-cluttering your whole life. Get rid of the thought patterns and beliefs that have been tripping you up, clear up your financial mess, let go of those so called friends who do you more harm than good. At the same time, sign up for that art class you have been wanting to take and call up that family member you don’t get to see as much as you’d like. Minimalism is about clearing out what doesn’t matter so you have more time for what does.

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Men are competing for us even after they have cum and gone (sperm competition in bats and people)

It’s true – even after a man manages to woo us, fend of the competitors and get us into the sack, the job still aint done. At this point he basically just relays the responsibility onto his sperm who continue to compete in what reproductive biologists call a “sperm competition”. For sexually monogamous couples there are no sperm competitions but when a woman cheats on her partner or if she goes on some kind of unprotected Girls Gone Wild SOCal spring break, there can be stiff competition (pun sadly intended) for sperm.

I have just begun research into sperm competition for my master’s degree. I’m studying it in regards to bats. Bats have always been of fascination to me but it wasn’t until I started learning about their sexcapades that I decided to go into major student debt over it!

You see, because many species of bat live in gigantic social groups (sometimes numbering in the hundreds of thousands) there are near unlimited opportunities for them to sleep around (or “hang out” as we Gen-Y’ers call it ..hey maybe we get this term from the bats!). Most bats also don’t believe in monogamy. Only 12 of the over 1,200 species of bat are believed to be monogamous – and with a little genetic testing, I’m convinced it’s even less than that. They tend to live either polygamously or, more commonly, like baboons where any male can mate with any female with the exception of some direct family members. For bats, every day is a SOCal spring break! At least in the breeding season, anyway.

Even more ridiculous, female bats can distend their reproductive tracts to hold huge quantities of semen which they can keep alive in their bodies for up to 200 days!! All of this adds up to a situation where sperm are competing with each other like gang busters.

What happens, then, when the sperm have to compete so much is that natural selection favours males with larger balls (that produce more sperm) in the way that if you want to win a raffle you buy more tickets. Over time, then, bat balls have evolved to absolutely vulgar proportions! In one species, the Rafinesque’s big-eared bat, the combined testes weight is 8.4% of total body weight. That’s the equivalent of a 180lb man walking around with 20lb balls! IT’S INSANITY!!

The craziest part of it, too, is that because bats have to maintain low body weights in order to fly they can’t just carry around these gigantic balls without having to pay for it somewhere else and so not surprisingly – the brains take the hit. They have actually found that the larger the balls of a bat, the smaller the brain*.

I was just thinking about all of this in the shower (as you do) and realised how ridiculous it all is. I mean in an effort to be the winner of the sperm competition, testicles only think to do one thing: produce more sperm. Even if the end result makes them dumber. Does it never occur to them to produce quicker, faster, more efficient sperm and not have to sacrifice grey matter? Nope. Well, sometimes. Occassionally, rather than producing more sperm to win the sperm competition they’ll produce bigger sperm but this really isn’t much better.

And doesn’t this just sum up men perfectly?? I mean the male agenda is always about bigger, better, more. Women on the other hand, understand value. That’s why we produce one perfect, valuable, egg rather than a million crappy ones. Not to mention why we fantasize about one perfect partner instead of a threesome …

*This doesn’t apply to flying foxes

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