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

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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