Friday, June 20, 2014

Design Your Life

I pulled this image off Facebook yesterday, and it is totally apropos of today's train of thought.

Several of you commented recently about wanting to hear more about how I simplified my life.  So that's where I'm going in this post, with additional posts to follow in the coming weeks.

Interestingly, a couple years ago I thought about writing something -- a book, an essay -- called The Pauper's Guide to Living The Good Life.  I never did that because I couldn't imagine dealing with any aspect of the publishing world, even self-publishing, which would entail marketing that I have absolutely no desire to have to do.  All of that mumbo jumbo would go against the grain of my anarchic, seditious self.

And that's a good place to begin ~~ In order to simplify your life, you have to be up for rebelling against the system in any and every way possible, however you can make it work for you.  Probably THE most subversive thing one can do these days is to get out of debt completely.  Don't owe anybody anything (beyond your normal monthly living costs).

Granted, this is easy for me to say, because I never owned property (not since the early 1970s anyway, and that's so long ago it doesn't count) so I never had a mortgage/lending institution to deal with.  When I radically downsized several years ago, moving from a 1700 square foot house in Eureka to my 294 square foot cottage in Fortuna, I sold or gave away almost everything.  I used that money to pay off all my credit card debt and my car loan.  I don't even have a credit card anymore and haven't for four years.  I use cash or my debit card for everything now.  If I don't have the money for something, I won't buy it until I do.  And I've honestly never been happier.

That delayed gratification thing, which has never been a problem for me, has a huge benefit, because wants pass.  If you can't buy it now, if you have to wait for it, you'll very likely find that you don't actually want it anyway once you really think about it.  Buying a lot of stuff is a major addiction.  And the best way to break that addiction is to not spend money you don't have on stuff you don't need.

The best way to not want stuff is to severely limit your exposure to mass media.  Kill your TV, don't read any newspapers, don't read mass media magazines (and that's 95% of what's on the newsstand especially at supermarkets), get yourself off catalog mailing lists.  The entire consumer system is designed to make you want stuff you don't need.  It's designed to get you hooked and it doesn't want to let you go.  The only way to fight the system is to refuse to play in the first place. And this goes for consumer electronics as well.  Some of you may rail against this, but get rid of your smartphones.  The only people truly benefiting from the entire genre of i-Everything are the corporations who are raping the earth for the resources to make that stuff while impoverishing most of the rest of the world's population and keeping us in slavery ("I owe, I owe, so off to work I go").

Personally, I don't have a cellphone -- I have a landline and DSL.  I have a laptop.  I don't have a TV, I don't listen to radio, I don't go to the movies, I don't subscribe to magazines (except Tricycle, a Buddhist quarterly).  I watch the few TV programs I like online, without ads, and for free, I might add.  I only just added Netflix, at $8 per month, so I can see foreign films unavailable at the library or the local video shop, and Netflix is far less expensive anyway than renting locally.  I don't buy books (except art books), I borrow from the library.

You might think I'm isolated or out of the loop.  It's simply not true.  I judiciously pick and choose what I'll let into my life.  If you want to simplify your life, you've got to do this.  You've got to make conscious choices about how you want your life to be.  Which means creating a life that reflects your true values.  What is it that you value, really?  Is it being "up-to-the-minute" with new technology and more stuff and more information available all the time than one human can possibly process in a lifetime?  Or is it privacy, silence, thoughtfulness, mindfulness, peace of mind?  It's your choice. 

10 comments:

PamelaArtsinSF said...

Great post, Connie! I agree with almost everything. I have pretty much always lived a simple life -- and enjoyed the simple pleasures every day. If you can't afford it, don't buy it. I pick and choose too. But I have to say I LOVE my iPhone. each to her own!! Thanks for a good--thought-provoking post, my friend. See you in the mail.

Birdie said...

Absolutely! I haven't had a tv for over a decade and I don't miss it. Never read magazines and have given up newspapers - I do listen to the radio, but never commercial stations - I don't own property and wouldn't unless I could buy it outrightt and my dream is to live off grid (ie not dependent on utility companies for anything, I don't mean drop out altogether). I do have a phone but only because I have no choice - to do with where I live which is only accessible by boat. However I never buy them - sooner or later a free one comes my way, when someone else upgrades and I never have a contract.

And like you I do not feel out of the loop - I 'keep up' as much as I want to. A lot of this was not initially planned out - I simply hated TV so stopped watching it and realised how much better my life is without it. In fact it's the no.1 piece of advice I would give anyone wanting to simplify - start by getting rid of the TV and see how mic better your life is in six months :) everything else has really followed that decision for me.

I look forward to reading what else you have to say on the subject.

Roberta said...

Back in my hippie days we lived with no electricity, no TV, nothing. Off the grid was the norm. As the kids got older we began accumulating more and more stuff. Kids are great at dragging you into the consumer mentality. So ever since they left home I have been trying to downsize slowly. TV is horrible I agree. I have a few shows I watch but never ones with commercials. And I like Netflix for that reason. I do own my condo and have a mortgage but I am ok with it. Made my peace so to speak. And no other debt. I am currently going through my condo a little at a time and giving away things I no longer want or need.

Paper Chipmunk (aka Ellen) said...

I love listening to the radio... Overseas radio with no ads streamed on the internet. I am glad to be living in the internet age.

I do have a cell phone. In a dual-illness household, there is peace of mind in being reachable. However, I rarely use it, and only use a landline at home. Recently when I was dealing with the UCSF folks, one of the departments wanted to contact me shortly after my appointment (while I was out in town and not at the motel) to follow up with something. "We'll text you." I explained I don't have texting ability on my little flip phone. The woman looked startled. "Then we'll email you." "No--I don't have a smart phone and will not get the email. You'll have to call me." She actually looked shocked.

Jeannie said...

I love this post! I never had much growing up and as an adult, I saved. I was teased, ridiculed, and was able to retire at 50. As our friends were buying boats, McMansions, and whatever else they thought would make them "happy", not realizing they were signing themselves up for a retirement age of 75, if they live that long. No cell, DSL, a TV that is covered in dust, and a happy little elf making art like she dreamt of doing when picking produce for the cannery. My Gram taught me well. Have a beautiful weekend, my friend!

Maggi said...

Great post Connie. I have never been seduced by consumerism so am lucky in that respect. I do have a TV but only watch the wonderful British and Scandanavian dramas and the motor racing. like you, my local library is my first port of call for books. I do have a cellphone, no internet connection, but only because I need it in case of emergencies when I travel long distances. Am I happy living this way? Most definitely.

Judy Sall Fiber Art said...

Beautifully put, Connie! I have a ways to go yet, but there are things I adamantly refused to do, like get a smart phone or a lot of other electronic money wasters. But the further along this journey I get, the more I value the treasure of silence... absence of noise. An open window to let in the bird songs is my favorite sound.
I look forward to more posts about this!

Corrine at sparkledaysstudio.com said...

Good advice all...we do own a house but once our rehab is finished we will be where you are. I love no debt, it's so freeing. I do buy books and art supplies but almost nothing for a year now and am using up what I have and will do so for quite a while....a good friends does netflix and there is some great access to quality programming there....might be seriously checking it out once we move. I keep trying to get off the catalog lists because all I do is recycle them, but they make it very hard.....

Alice said...

Fascinating post & I look forward to future installments. I'm a fan of the Tiny House Movement, too (in theory, not practice, alas), and you espouse some of the same tenets, but you're coming at it from a slightly different angle.

Jan said...

If only more people were like you....