This is the bumper of my 1994 Buick called “The Couch”:
I have to admit that I love bumper stickers. Traveling versions of Facebook, they give us a glimpse of personality, regardless of whether they exhibit true self-awareness. Periodically, I’ll change out stickers on my car, but this one has by far had the longest life, and has also received the most attention. People are always coming up to me about this particular sticker. Some ask me what it means, after which, they usually give me some interesting looks. Some want to talk to me about its implications. I even had one guy confront me saying that I was a hypocrite by displaying that sticker because driving a car is the exact opposite of what it means. Fair enough. I’m ok with that.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about buying a new car. I’ve been wondering if I should buy land, and where that would be. Getting another home has crossed my mind, and renting the one I have. I’ve been considering getting another cat, even though I just lost one of my favorites just a few months ago. I have a small bathroom and the other day, I was talking to my dad about expanding it. Walking the streets of Charleston a few days ago, I was chatting with a colleague about how cool it would be to own a second place in some warm climate, far from Alaska. I suppose that having more money breeds these thoughts.
The thing is I’d rather spend my money on traveling than be strapped by two mortgages. During most of my life, I’ve resisted growing out and going big. I’ve tried to limit my stuff. I have never understood paying for storage. Even though I’d really like having another one, owning more than one bike feels strange to me. When I purchase something big, it usually comes with some guilt.
Less is more. I live in a small duplex, and don’t own the other half. I’ve never owned a new car. I wear and keep old clothes for way too long, and that includes bras and running shoes, those items that you are supposed to retire on a regular basis. Even though I could afford to buy more socks in a timely manner; this morning, I threw three pairs away that had holes in the heels. Recently, I upgraded my professional wardrobe-finally. Thanks to my mother, I just threw out about five old kitchen pans that had no business being used, and put money into some non-stick cookware. I can now make a mean omelet, but I could have had that pleasure three years ago.
While I do have three pairs of skis, I can honestly say that is the only category where I feel like a gear whore except for maybe shoes. Do I need three pairs of casual boots? In my mind, I work hard defending why I own all of those skis and boots to prevent me from going there in other categories. I use to have a really hard time giving books away, but now, I try very hard to keep my library limited. I prefer traveling light.
At first, I didn’t live this way due to my environmental viewpoint. I don’t really think I had one. I never use to consider how where I spent my money impacted the globe. I didn’t think that me living in a cabin without running water might be representative of living simply; I just couldn’t afford it any other way. It all started when I wrecked my car in college, and was forced to ride my bike for transportation. I realized that I could live without, and thus, not need as much money, but I also discovered the evil of money. In college, this is where debt usually begins.
Fast forward and now, I could argue that in some ways, I live an environmentally responsible lifestyle; however, that entire statement comes with its own hypocrisy. The above makes it sound like I may be frugal, but really, I spend money like the best of them; I just prefer not to spend it on a bunch of stuff. I do have debt, and a solid financial advisor could easily rip me apart when it comes to my portfolio. Give me a good wine and I’ll throw it down. I fly planes all of the time. I have certain products that are outrageously overpriced, but full of quality so I have committed to some snobbery in the way of lotions, coffee, and a few other categories that I’m embarrassed to admit. Even so, I’m trying to be a conscientious consumer, thinking before buying. Maybe I’ve taken it too far with socks and cookware, but you get my point.
Sometimes though, there is this desire in me to go get something, to buy more. Have more.
This morning after I spent too much money on some clothes, I watched a Ted Talk, and as with most Ted Talk experiences, I met back up with myself through Graham Hill’s “Less stuff, more Happiness”. He talks about Life Editing using simplistic steps. He brought me back to the reality I prefer. Yes, I could afford to buy a new car and for many reasons, I could defend that decision. I could afford more expensive stuff in my home, but do I really need it?
Check Graham out. It’s 6 minutes of your time, and well worth the reflection. Less really is more. Happy weekend everyone!