Don't Want It! Don't Need It!
During our twenties and early thirties Mr Saver and I used to go “hunter gathering”. We literally called it that, like the effort of doing all that shopping would ensure the survival of our species. After a forty hour week at work we deserved to treat ourselves to some retail therapy. Off we went to the mall to peruse the shops and snap up a plethora of things we didn’t even know we were looking for. We would then have a nosey around Bunnings buying things that would inevitably start another home DIY project that we needed to buy even more stuff to complete it. It kept us pretty busy I can tell you!
We made very good money, the mortgage was almost gone, we were saving as well and we had spare cash to fritter away.
I think that the Christchurch earthquakes may be what put a bit of a stop to all this. We had toiled for years on our house making it just how we wanted. We enjoyed our completed DIY work for approximately one week and then we found something else to change, so off we went on another building spree. Things cost what they cost and we got on with it. It was during one of these sprees that the earthquakes began. We had just had the gib stopper in putting on the final coats to the ceiling and walls of the living room and kitchen. ALL of our belongings except the tellie were carefully packed up in boxes in the garage. Ground water and liquifaction flooded our garage and those boxes got wet. Bang, rattle, shake and our LIVES CHANGED.
During the repack of the wet boxes I started chucking stuff out for the first time. When you look at your treasures in a different context i.e. in a wet, cold garage, their meaning and usefulness changes. Whereas two weeks prior they held heaps of memories now I was looking at a lot of them thinking “I don’t want that back in my house”. When the decision was made to leave Christchurch I again repacked the boxes and put our whole life in a 20 foot container. That is still a lot of stuff. When I unpacked our possessions into a rental house some of our stuff held less meaning. Out it went. When we moved to a second rental house, same thing happened. Out it went. When we finally moved into our own home again. Out it went. I rehomed thousands of dollars worth of items that we had purchased over many years of hunter gathering.
Something clicked for me when we returned to look at our old house in Dallington, Christchurch, now ‘red zoned’ by the Government. Absolutely nothing remained of the home we once loved. Not a brick, not a stick of wood. Once the house was wiped away there was not even a depression of where it once stood. We only ever occupied the top 300mm of the ground we lived upon. Only the native garden remained, their roots go much deeper.
In the Sunday supplement of The Press newspaper (29 May 2016) that a visitor left behind there was an article by Naomi Arnold where she talked about the “cult of minimalism”.
She said “Behind it all? A drive to avoid excess: stress, spending, stuff, weight, work; and focus on what’s really important: time, money, health, freedom, joy, meaning, energy, and focus”. I would add family. She mentioned a Wanaka minimalist called Hannah Faed who summed up quite succinctly how she went about achieving the things above; “We just started getting rid of shit, basically. I’m lucky that there’s an op shop on the way to work”.
Therefore the last couple of years have seen me adjusting my thinking. I need a lot less and as a result I buy a lot less. I save a lot more money. I don’t consider myself a minimalist (anyone who visits my home would agree) but shopping is no longer a pastime, I save the money and go for a run instead. I pass on the things I don’t want so that others might use them and I want to avoid tragic waste and overconsumption on behalf of this planet of ours too.
Listening to the radio recently a lady commented on how when we buy an item it holds a lot of value to us in both dollar terms and emotionally. But we are often frustrated when we turn around to sell it and no one wants it. She called it “The endowment effect”. That happens to me all the time. I’m still trying to give away 20 rolls of wool wallpaper from the 1980’s! I can’t belive no one sees it as cool. It is SO COOL!
Listen to it here: www.radionz.co.nz
When operation ‘get rid of crap’ really started kicking in my intention was to turn my unwanted awesome stuff into cash but as predicted above it soon became apparent that although everything had cost me money and held a lot of personal value to me it meant $0 to everyone else. So, largely I have just been cutting my monetary losses and giving it away. Then I don’t bring anything back into my home (although I do admit that I saw a fantastic pair of boots at the Sallie's and almost bought them, only to realise they used to be mine).
How much money have I wasted over the years buying things I don’t need? I could not even guess. What a waste.
If I was to define myself by the things I own then this week I’m a slightly buckled and bent tray of 24 pie tins, covered in dust. Some bakery over in Waikouaiti thought the purpose of these was to bake 24 pies all in one go but we elevated their status to fine art. They hung on our plywood living room wall as an object of art to be admired for their quirky artistic nature. When we took them off the wall they left 24 shadows where the light had faded in between the cracks leaving an everlasting footprint of pies.
When we originally saw this “art work” we just had to have it. $70 was a more than fair price to pay. Indeed I suspect we got a bargain, the next person in the door may have paid $140! Thank God I got there first. Now that I am loving it less and want to move it on I took it back to Keith from The Oddity second hand store in Waikouaiti (this is a MUST stop for any second hand fossickers). Keith and I are friends and as soon as I held up my pie masterpiece he recognised it from all those years ago when I fell in love with it.
The bargaining went like this:
“Keith, I paid you $70 for this 10 years ago, how much will you give me?”
“Ruth, I recognise it and it’s still very cool, I’ll meet you halfway at $35”.
So, the deal was done and I had spent 10 years with a depreciating piece of questionable art hanging on my wall. I liked it once but now that it is gone I don’t even miss it.
Then there was the buyers remorse I felt when late one night Mr Saver and I bidded our hearts out on a button. Yes a BUTTON. See here, it’s quite a cool button yes?
Clearly we were drinking at the time so would keep bidding and pushing out the length of the auction. We paid $60 for it. When it arrived our feeling of stupidity was immense; we paid $60 for that? When the gold I buy turns up in the mailbox it may be tiny, but at least we know it has a actual value. I suspect this button is worth $5 tops. Now I can’t sell this button because I’m ashamed of how little it is actually worth and how much I actually spent. Unless; would anyone out there like to buy a button???
Me getting rid of unnecessary stuff and getting no money back is kind of like my punishment for wasting such a lot of money buying it in the first place. Our net worth could have been thousands upon thousands of dollars ahead had I/we not hunted and gathered all this time. Shame on me and lesson learned. Just yesterday I did bring home a very old and beautiful orange colander, made in Poland. Mum knew I liked it and gave it to me. My intention was to rehome our other one and keep this BUT Mr Saver would not let the original one leave the house... he thought my orange one would make a better lampshade…
Clearly my family and I are still not immune to feeling the pull to shop, buy and acquire and my biggest vice these days is clothes shopping but the things I buy have very little value. I enjoy second hand shopping and I like nice clothes and my motto when looking is “if I don’t love it, I don’t buy it”. I generally only wear clothes that are well designed, better made and last a long time. Take today’s outfit, I am wearing my Converse High Tops ($10), my Country Road Pants ($4), my Karen Walker top ($6) and my Country Road cardigan ($5). My $25 outfit would have cost someone $700 or more new (could those Central Otago size 8 people with excellent taste please keep shopping new on my behalf...)
There is the small matter of another purchase bought recently more out of sentiment than need. A 1972 Land Rover is now sitting in my driveway. It is my father’s very last one and it pained me to see it leave the family. So, even the good savers such as me are all prone to our lapses!
What is the moral is this tale?
Overcome your wants and only buy your needs. The occasional lapse is OK.
A houseful of stuff that stresses you out when you look at it clutters up your life and is unlikely to enhance it.
MORE stuff is not better, but the better you are at buying only the stuff you NEED the MORE happiness it will bring.
Put the money you don’t spend away into your savings.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Rave, (that is SAVE spelt with an R so it rhymed!)
A good read is the book Stuffocation by James Wallman.
You can get it here: Stuffocation: Living More with Less