Homeless no longer! But keeping it simple.

Thank you to all who have followed me over the past year and a half on my journey to a simpler life. You encouraged me as I de-frumped my wardrobe, had several attempts at buying almost nothing for various periods of time, and eventually gave up any kind of structural residence and lived out of my car for three months. I went over a year with virtually no furniture to my name (just a book case) and learned that it is possible to be happy in life without all the ‘stuff’.

I also learned that I am more resourceful that I ever realized and I was surprised by the way that I really didn’t miss the many boxes of possessions that were safely stored while I ventured into volunteer homelessness. I also realized that despite all I had learned along the journey, I actually really do like having somewhere to live.

For most people that would be an obvious thing to know about oneself but for me it really wasn’t. I had always harboured this romantic notion of living life out of a car with no strings and the wind at my back. I soon realized though that the sense of liberation wasn’t worth the general annoyance. For instance, it’s not always easy to find a shady place to park up at night that is reasonably safe, close to a public toilet, and not out in the complete sunlight. It doesn’t take many hours of daylight, as I discovered, for the Australian sun to COOK a human woman inside a Subaru forester.
I also found it incredibly challenging to find a way to complete all the writing of my master’s thesis that I was in the middle of writing when I started the volunteer homelessness challenge. Libraries were very helpful but I seem to be one of those people that strangers want to have long, in-depth conversation with for no apparent reason. I don’t usually mind that but when the library closes at four or at one on Saturdays and then doesn’t even open on Sundays you really don’t have time to socialize. Luckily my friends came to my rescue in this respect and a couple of them offered me their homes to stay and write as needed. I really don’t know what I would have done without them.

I normally wouldn’t have attempted such a full-on challenge with a major assignment so nearing its due date but I didn’t realize when I first started the challenge how much writing I was going to have to do for my thesis (I didn’t realize for a long time that a substantial literature review was required). When I embarked on the challenge I was also expecting to get a lot more away-work than ended up happening. I am usually away for weeks on end, happily living and working out of hotel rooms but ironically just when I got rid of a permanent structure over my head our company experienced a lull.

In the end I did end up moving into a smallish (though plenty ample for me) apartment which for me was the right move. The apartment is literally about 100 metres from the beach. Even with the windows closed I can hear the roar of the sea as I drift off to sleep. I don’t know what it is but there is something about seaside living that just perfectly lends itself to someone such as myself who is searching, amidst chaos, for a simple life.

Since moving in I have allowed myself the freedom to furnish the place but in keeping with the spirit of minimal consumerism for the sake of the environment I have purchased almost everything secondhand from Gumtree (the Australian equivalent of Craigslist). The place is by no means sparse but I am trying to maintain and employ many of the lessons I have learned in my dabblings into minimalism. I am trying to keep the space uncluttered and relatively – though not obsessively – organized. I want there to be room to breathe, room for the sea breeze to flow freely and not become stagnated and stale by getting caught on tchotchkes or other random objects with no use, purpose, or meaning.
uncluttered bookcase
I also want to have a purpose for every room and to not let other purposes infiltrate those spaces. For instance, I am going to make a serious effort to keep the guest room as a sanctuary for friends and family and not let it become an overflow storage space for myself (admittedly I have already commandeered the closet though … sorry guys).

restful bedroomMost of all I want to use what I have learned over the past year and a half to allow my new home and any future homes to be a place that you can enter after a long hectic day and find respite from the many troubles of the world.

It’s good to be home 🙂

Extreme simple living – voluntary homelessness!

Some of you would remember when I did a personal experiment on simple living and vowed not to buy anything for myself (sans the usual grocery items) for a month. It was a challenge but really helped me to identify the luxuries in life that were free or that I already owned. I saved quite a lot of money that month and it put me on a path of thinking harder about the financial and environmental consequences of my daily purchases. I realized that I had fallen into a pattern of absentmindedly buying stuff to ignore the feelings of boredom or glumness that were showing up in my life. I also realized that the practice wasn’t really accomplishing anything. I had fallen into debt and I was becoming irritated by all the clutter, further adding to the rather shitty emotions I was experiencing.

Even shittier, I started feeling really guilty about what I was doing because I knew I didn’t want to be so actively participating in our culture’s emphasis on constant acquisition. It was costing me a lot and I knew it was stupid to get sucked into the modern day acceptance of credit card debt. I was also feeling guilty because we live in a world of finite resources and it felt selfish to be consuming so much when so little of it was necessary and almost none of it contributed to a more fulfilling life.

A few months after the month long experiment I completed a three month experiment which I called a ‘consumerism detox’. Even though this challenge was three times as long I found it easier. I had sort of realized by then that it’s actually ok to sit and wait and want something for a while and that you don’t have to just immediately rush out and buy (or charge) whatever it is that you’re wanting. I had also started to get used to enjoying what I already owned – my books, my movies, my internet connection. In the end I was more excited about getting rid of stuff than getting new stuff, especially on the day I de-frumped my closet.

Well it’s now been nine months since I completed the three month challenge. Since then I’ve continued to live a more simple life although I haven’t had any specific ‘rules’ to live by. I paid off my car and almost all of my consumer debt (just about one more month to go on that) and have just began a new experiment, this time with no specific end date in mind. I am sure it will seem extreme to many of you but I have actually become willingly homeless.

I have moved out of the house that I shared with two friends and into a storage unit with no plans to get another place any time soon. My friends were going to be moving out of the house we shared anyway and since I am away most of the time with work I don’t really want to waste my money on rent when I could pay the same (or less) and just get a hotel for a few days or camp out somewhere. I usually only have a week or so off in between work assignments so my plan at this stage is just to cruise around when I am off work. Go visit people, travel, volunteer, work on the film that I have been needing to head up to the Atherton Tablelands to get footage for, stuff like that.

The only problem that I can see with it is that I am one of those people that loves to be at home. The idea of not having a home is a little confronting but I do think that this experiment will be character building and will (hopefully!) allow me to save up to actually buy a little place somewhere in the next year or two – hopefully somewhere peaceful in the hinterlands and not to far from the beach.

I shall keep you posted!

To see how I’m going with this, click here

Oh crapola, I failed my 90 day consumerism detox .. but .. it’s cause I got a cool job!

Oh dear. Can you believe it? I FAILED!! I already failed my detox and it hasn’t even been a month!! Geez.

For those of you who have been following my blog for a while, you know that at the start of the year I vowed to go on a 90 day ‘consumerism detox’ where I would not buy anything new for myself (save toiletries, food, and the other basics) for 90 days. I have done this for two month-long periods in the past and have always found it a worthwhile exercise – bordering on spiritual, actually. There’s something very liberating about temporarily stepping away from our society’s emphasis on more and realising that you already have all that you need.

Anyway, as romantic of a notion as this was, I unfortunately already failed! Luckily, though, the only reason I failed is that I just got a fantastic new job and had to buy a few things before I could start – some pants, some boots, a couple new field guides, and a few other job-oriented, survival-type things. I suppose you could argue that this stuff fits into the ‘basics’ category of things that I can buy since I didn’t really have a choice. The job I accepted was as a wildlife rescuer where I’ll get flown all over Australia to rescue animals from development sites. It’s been amazing so far. Stay tuned to my Facebook page for pictures of my daily wildlife adventures.

As I was buying the field guides, I was really really tempted to buy Matt Rolof’s book, ‘Against Tall Odds’, (I heart Matt Rolof so much!!) but by a sheer miracle, I was able to resist. So I suppose that’s progess. In the past I would have justified buying it by telling myself that I was already failing the challenge so I might as well go all the way .. kind of like when I have fallen prey to the sweet allure of a lunchtime cheeseburger and then decided to have a steak for dinner to just make the whole day a write-off.

Oh dear, but not to worry – after picking up the few things I needed for work I managed to crawl back on the wagon. I’m back on the detox and am looking forward to forging ahead with my simplified, clutter-free life! Wish me luck! The good thing is that I’ll be out bush almost all of the time with this new job so there won’t be much opportunity for consumerism, anyway!

De-frumping my wardrobe (90 day consumer detox – day 10!)

“as if a sunset is more beautiful when I’m watching it while wearing the ‘right’ brand of clothing” – Dave Bruno in ‘The 100 Thing Challenge’

Today is day 10 of my 90 day consumer detox! Two of my friends have decided to do the detox with me, yay! I’ll get them to chime in from time to time on how they are going with it.

I’ve had a few close calls already in attempting this fast of ‘American-style’ consumerism – not because I was intentionally trying to fail the detox but because I forgot I was even on it! I nearly bought the Katie Perry movie, “Part Of Me”, the other day (embarrassing!!) and then a few days later I nearly bought a heart shaped cake pan to make a friend’s bday cake. Whoopsie! But luckily I remembered just in the knick of time.

So how am I going with it? Well, apart from forgetting I’m doing it – fine! The strangest phenomenon has again taken place which happened when I attempted the month-long versions of the detox in the past. Instead of willing for the day when I can again be a slave to the enticing red glow of Target, I am actually finding myself more interested in getting rid of stuff. My housemate and I spent a few hours the other day going through our closets and looking for stuff to donate. We decided to get rid of anything that makes us feel frumpy which as it turned out, was a TON of stuff! (see photo below). There’s something very liberating about looking at a closet that is entirely full of stuff that you love and which suits you. And best of all, we donated everything to a special thrift shop where all of the proceeds are donated to RSPCA-QLD.

I’m feeling lighter already!

Look how much stuff we donated to the RSPCA thrift shop!

Photo credit – with thanks

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!