perspectives on minimalism from remote locations in Australia (90 day consumerism detox – day 41!)

Hello everyone!!

I haven’t had a chance to keep up with this blog for a while – way too much going on! I’m doing about 80 hours a week of fauna spotting at the moment in a remote site in Central Queensland. It’s been pretty epic and there hasn’t been much time for anything else. I wanted to update you all, though, on my progress with the 90 day consumerism detox. Today is day 41 so just about half way there!

I honestly can’t believe I’m only halfway there, seems like ten years since I’ve bought anything! With my new job, it’s actually proving very easy not to buy crap because I get sent out for 4 weeks at a time to remote locations where there really aren’t any opportunities to buy stuff, anyway. The only ‘stuff’ anyone seems to buy around here is beer and cigarettes. At the end of each 4 week stint they send us home for a week but a lot of people out here (at least the ones who aren’t married) don’t even have a ‘home’ to go to. They just stay with friends or zip of to Thailand or Fiji for the week. Some of them have stuff in storage but a lot of them don’t seem to own much of anything. It’s pretty amazing and a great practical lesson on minimalism.

I’ve spoke before about the strange phenomenon that occurs when you take a break from buying crap. It seems that the less you buy, the less you want for things and that’s definately what’s been happening for me lately. For example, yesterday I went to a mall. It was crazy. Save for a few field guides and odds and ends I needed for work, I haven’t bought anything for myself in six weeks and up until yesterday, I hadn’t even seen a shop in weeks, let alone an actual mall. We were only there because there were two of us that desparately needed a new phone plan. Telstra seems to be the only phone network out here that serves the area we’re at and yesterday me and another girl got seriously lost for like three hours and were totally incommunicado from the rest of the world because neither of us had Telstra. Anyway, so me and this other girl were waiting in line at the Telstra store yesterday trying to solve our communication issue and realised that we actually had access to stuff! We found ourselves just standing there, wracking our brains about what we might want to buy but neither of us could actually come up with anything. Well, Lauren did buy some granola but that was it.

Usually, after a month of isolation you’d think you’d be desperate for stuff but we weren’t. It’s amazing what a break from consumerism does for you. It really puts life into perspective.

My 90 day pledge to not buy any more crap (consumer detox – day 1)

Since getting back from the Hayhouse South Pacific Cruise (which was AMAZING!) I’ve spent most of my time doing two things.

1. Bragging incessantly about my new amazing tan
2. Thinking about how much CRAP I’ve accumulated!

I didn’t actually buy that much stuff on the cruise – mostly books – but the week before the cruise I was working at a big folk festival and somehow managed to purchase not one, not two, but SIX new dresses and within a couple of days realised that I didn’t even like two of them. Doh! And in the month before that I had bought so many new summer clothes and other random crap despite the fact that I was unemployed and didn’t know how long I would have to make my savings last for. It was idiotic. Luckily I’ve already been able to find a few little profitable things which I think will allow me to not even bother with a ‘real’ job anyway (yay!) but still, I don’t know what came over me.

And seriously, my bedroom looks like the aftermath of Hiroshima at the moment because of this sudden new influx (did you see the pic for this post?). Gah!!

Anyway, it’s time for a detox. A consumer detox. Some of you would know that twice in the past year I went a month without buying anything. Well, almost. The first time I was mostly successful but on the eve of the final day of the challenge I cracked and bought a few things. And the second time I was totally successful but it wasn’t something worth patting my back about too much because I was in the middle of getting ready to move and so getting rid of crap came easy to me at that time.

Right now resisting the urge to buy stuff is more of a challenge because I’ve recently moved to a new state. It would be so easy to begin that natural accumulation of things – to allow that proverbial moss to start to grow on the rock that has stopped rolling (aka me). Ahh, but as I’ve talked about a million times, an excess of stuff does more harm than good. It clutters up your home and (for me at least) your headspace. It also costs you financially (more than you realise) and worst of all, it is so damaging to the planet. Dave Bruno, who started the infamous 100 Thing Challenge movement calls this phenomenon “American-style consumerism”. It’s yucky and despite the fact that I am a part of it, I hate it.

So .. I’m going to try to walk my talk for a while. I’m going on a 3 month consumer detox, ending April 11th 2013. What does that mean? Well, it’s pretty simple. Following the same rules I placed on myself during my former one month challenges, I won’t be buying anything for myself for the duration of the challenge. I can still buy presents for other people if I want although these challenges have inspired me to start buying people gift cards for experiences rather than adding to their personal crap-loads. The only other things I can buy are the essentials like food, petrol, shampoo, deodorant, etc.

Right now the only thing I really want is some deep ‘celestial’ blue wool to knit a pouch for my new Angel Tarot cards that I bought last week on the cruise. I don’t really want to wait until April to buy it so my friend is going to see if she might be able to get me some free wool for me from her work .. that might be cheating, slightly, but oh well 🙂 Don’t worry – I won’t make a habit of jumping through loop holes. I might also be opening a market stall here in Brisbane soon to do henna body art so if that happens I’ll have to be creative about how to set up and decorate my stall. But I’ll worry about that when/if the time comes.

Wish me luck, peeps and if anyone wants to join me, please do! And let me know!

My month of not buying crap – end of month review

Well I have completed my month without buying crap!! It was mostly successful. I did channel my shopping energy into doing all of my Christmas shopping but that doesn’t count against my challenge because the deal was to not buy anything for myself. The challenge also excluded food, misc. consumables like shampoo and cleaning products, and the purchase of experiences. Confession time, though. The three items I was planning to buy at the end of the challenge I actually bought on the last day of the month (yesterday). Doh!! I threw my back out last week and haven’t been able to drive because of the Codeine pain pills I’m been on. My friend offered to take me out yesterday, though, and we ended up going over to Target. I guess that means I failed but oh well, I’m still really proud of what I achieved. I’m planning to do another month without buying crap in August so I’ll have a chance to redeem myself.

I also saw on the news that there is an official “buy nothing new month” movement happening in Australia where you’re encouraged to buy nothing new for the entire month of October. I’ll most definitely be participating so for 2012 I’ll be doing three buy nothing new challenges. The movement has been getting a lot of slack in the media because of the way it essentially encourages people to boycott retailers for a month. I think this is ridiculous, though, because honestly, most Australians aren’t going to be taking part in the challenge and so the retailers are going to be just fine. It brings up a few important issues, though, that are worth talking about.

1. Everything we buy is made from natural resources and has to be disposed of somewhere

We need to remember that the crap we buy and the packaging all that crap comes in doesn’t just magically manifest in the universe and then magically disappear after we’re finished with it. It all comes from natural resources in one way or another. And it all has to go somewhere in the end. It’s worth reminding ourselves that when we put something in the trash can, it doesn’t just disappear into the ether. Scientists estimate that plastic takes between 500 and 1000 years to break down. Plastic has only been around for about 50 years which means that every piece of plastic that has ever been thrown away is still just sitting there, in the land fill or the ocean or wherever the hell it landed. Every diaper, every plastic McDonalds straw, every piece of plastic packaging that ever came into your life or your parents life is still around. It’s pretty disgusting when you actually sit back and think about it.

2. We need to learn that we can’t spend our way out of our problems

How much debt is the United States in? Well, as of 5AM PST on the July 1, 2012, it’s $56,925,015,397,300. We’re broke. In fact we’re so far beyond broke that if we were just broke we’d be really freaking excited. And yet the government still has the nerve to try to tell us what we should be doing with our money?! Like they know what they’re talking about or something?! It’s just stupid. And a lot of us have bought into the bullshit idea that spending your way into debt is a matter of patriotism. DUMB! In life if you want to experience financial peace, you have to stop buying stupid crap you don’t need. Congress would do well to work this out and put an end to their debt crisis. Honestly people, debt never helps anything.

In terms of my challenge, though, and everyone else involved the bigger campaign, we’re just trying to do our part to help the planet a little. I don’t beleive that by setting out on a challenge like this that we’re harming the economy because nothing about this challenge says you can’t spend money on going out to eat, going to movies, or doing other things that cost money but that don’t encourage excessive consumerism. And even if this challenge was taken on by so many people that the retailers did feel it, the future of our forests and oceans is always going to be more important to me than they are. I’m sorry but I just can’t apologise for that.

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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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