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Monday, April 6, 2015

The Less is More Project: Week 14 - Little luxuries

Philip Taylor, Flickr

As the members of our local Minimalist Group would tell you, living simply does not exclude pleasure. I had just apologetically admitted to owning a lot of books. Uncomfortably staring at my feet, I said "We all have our weaknesses... don't we?". A fellow member reassured me that we all do; another one added that "we cannot be frugal with everything".

It reminded me of this tiny house that was equipped by its owners with a system for brewing their own beer. What a paradox: getting rid of most things people take for granted, yet making place for specialized equipment - plus the collection of beer appropriate glasses? 

Which had in turn reminded me of the fact that everywhere in the world, even in the poorest slums of India, people will go out of their way to celebrate when they feel an occasion warrants it, spending the last cents of their meager income on "superfluous" items such as candy and colorful decorations.

Those stories are all a lesson in human experience: we need to enjoy life. In many cases, even living an ascetic existence, where you purposely deprive yourself, brings about pleasure, as it makes the simplest things significantly more enjoyable: drinking water when thirsty, for example, is one of the best feelings in the world when you focus on it. When you have very little, everything just "tastes better".

As I get rid of things and scrutinize each and every one of my consumption habits, I face the fundamental question: when is a superfluous object or activity acceptable? Luckily for us, The Minimalists (of the eponymous blog) have the answer: 
instead of mindlessly getting rid of everything, let's simply ask ourselves if the things we own (and the things we do) really add value to our lives. If they do, they can stay. If they don't, they have to go.

I know I can live without good quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar and wine as opposed to the generic. I also know that keeping a bottle of each of those in the house really does add value to my life. In fact, when it comes to wine and chocolate, I would rather have less if it means having "the best". Quality vs quantity. For me, the choice is easy.

Another area where I think quality (as opposed to the cheaper version) makes a significant difference is outdoor gear. Oftentimes, it is not even more costly... if you consider the long-term. Good quality hiking and camping equipment, after the initial purchase, will provide you with years and years of comfort and convenience. The cheap stuff will quickly have to be replaced. I know from experience.

No matter what your actual means are, there are areas of your life that are worth some indulging, whereas other areas could use some skimming.

What are your own personal luxuries, the things that are worth your time and money? 

Are there other areas of spending, objects or activities, that don't really add value to your life?



I cannot speak of temptations per se this week, but I realized that shopping for basics still adds up, after buying a CO2 detector, a smoke detector and a few other needed items for the house. 

Donations (good riddance)

I took advantage of the long weekend to make some progress on my spring cleaning. This time, the unsuspecting victim was my walk-in closet. This closet was one of the - many - reasons I fell for the house when we first bought it. I loved its size and layout. But big closets have that annoying tendency to overflow with stuff. I had already "worked" on that closet last year, and yet I still found tons of various things that should not be in it - things that should not be in the house altogether, to be more accurate. This cleanup created 3 big bags of clothes and accessories for donations, and 1 big garbage bag of "ungivables".

Observations and cogitations

Easter. As all of the other "big holidays", it has turned into a festival of consumerism. I will not deprive my kids of the wonderful pleasure of a chocolate egg hunt, but chocolate is all I bought for Easter, and in reasonable quantities. I am happy to say that I did not succumb to the plethora of pastel colored and spring related items that were everywhere to be found. 

What did you resist this week? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...

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  1. Books enrich me. They feed my mind, they offer me sanctuary. I still need to rain my love in. The garden also improves my quality of life. And I need to be more careful there too.
    I will not give either of them up, but neither do I need to shovel money at them.
    As usual I gave time. Another seven hours tonight.
    Challenge? Easter goodies. I don't want them, I don't need them. My partner doesn't need them but does want them. So I bought him some. He would have felt unloved if I hadn't.

    1. "felt unloved". I find that interesting!

      I agree with books and gardens: they make life better, but do not need us to spend a lot of money on them. For books, there are libraries, and for gardens... there are friends.

  2. Still getting used to the changes we made over the last two weeks.

  3. What is a house without books? You don't have to buy them new (although that is nice) use libraries, second hand books shops. I love having a look in second hand book shops .... I often wonder what sort of house or owner the book I'm thinking of getting belonged to ..........

    Have a good week

    All the best Jan

    1. Fully agree with everything you say here! Most of the books I read, I got as a gift, or second hand, or from the library (the latter don't clutter my house for long). Thank you for commenting Jan!

  4. I think you should keep your books! They may further enrich your children and their children's lives. Besides, what would happen to them if you got rid of them? Collect dust on some lonely shelf? Be in a landfill? They are like your pets :-)

    Since you have had the experiences of world wide travel, isn't it interesting that one person's minimalist living could be another's luxury lifestyle.

    1. Absolutely. The reason I keep a lot of books is because I remember how much I benefited from my parents' books as a kid. :-)

      For sure, voluntary simplicity in an affluent society is very different from actual poverty.

  5. Enjoyed your blog, I am heading out to the running room to get myself a good pair of running shoes. My knees simply no longer like my old ones, so I agree with the outdoor gear part.

    1. Unless you are living in actual poverty, good shoes are not a luxury. :-)

  6. While in the US Coast Guard, I traveled extensively in the Caribbean in the early 1980s. About as third world as it gets. save Africa. One of the things that struck me, especially while living in Jamaica, was how *fun* is an expectation in daily life -- even for those who live in corrugated tin shacks.

    I have fond memories of a woman named Examiner Tate, who ran sundry shop which she also lived in. She always smiled. Always took evening walks along the coast of Port Antonio. And she ALWAYS made sure her sons were playing soccer after school. True story.

    Having little doesn't mean having sadness, but in the middle class western world they are too often lumped together.

    1. I have had that same feeling in Third World countries: fun is part of every day life. Smiles, laughter and generosity are what I remember about the African people (when I lived there in my childhood).

    2. One of the things that struck me in South Africa was that the people who were in the lower classes would often be seen laughing and socializing while the ruling class were always so serious!

  7. love my kindle. it keeps my books invisible to the nekkid eye. LOL

    Today I tackle the 2 large storage boxes in my master bedroom closet that hold the 'stored indoors, not in the garage' holiday decorations. They are over flowing. Time to take a long hard look at what I've used the past few years, and ditch that which I have not.

    We are in the final couple of days of a 3 month reno caused by a kitchen sink pipe burst. We have already decided we are going to be BRUTAL about what comes back in, in the already small kitchen. BRUTAL. :)

    1. Interesting! I haven't acquired an e-reader yet, but it could be an option. Although I do like the sight and feel and smell of books. :-)

      Decorations are a great source of clutter. And I love that you are using your kitchen issues as an excuse to declutter even more!

  8. Running shoes are the one thing that I won't ever skimp on and don't skimp for the boys - I spent too many years running in shoes that weren't really good for me and I think it contributed to the high number of injuries I had through high school and college.

  9. I love you JOIN IN and JUMP IN the easter fray still.
    we do too even though we're Jews (look at that? Im a hiphop rhyming Jew :-))

  10. We lived on our 45 foot boat for 20 years and could keep no useless or un-used possession.