Walking through Carnaby Street the other day, this little shop called my attention. It’s full of cute (overpriced) things for tourists; as I was trying to figure out the price of a weird mug, my eye wandered and stopped at this book, with a tittle and cover that made me smile:
“I’ve lived in East London for 86 ½ years”
I bought it and it’s quite honestly one of the most adorable books I’ve ever read, a great Christmas present if you ask me. Either way the book consists of a series of shots of Joseph, the 86 ½ year old gentleman, with short captions of his stories, and views, of East London and the world. One of my favourite captions was the one ‘on the most important things in life’ (for Joseph):
“The most important thing I own is my keys. And my bus pass. And my belt. If you lose a cigarette or a pound coin you replace it. But if you lose your keys then you’re left outside. And you can’t get home because you’ve got no bus pass. And they won’t let you on the bus if your trousers have fallen down. This is important stuff, you know.”
Keys. Bus Pass. Belt. That’s it. I know it sounds silly and simple, but I think it reaches different levels of complexity.
See for a while now I have been dwelling with this need to simplify things but at the same time finding myself wanting to buy those ‘burgundy shoes I saw in a magazine and have absolutely no need for’. I am trying to be more responsible, to be a more balanced consumer, to learn to draw the line at between spending and unnecessarily spending. Not that I was ever a shopaholic, but I am as guilty as many of having far more things than what I need. I never made expensive purchases without really considering it thoroughly, always weighing the pros and cons, nor have I ever put myself in debt to buy anything (that includes credit as well). But still, anyone who has met me, knows how I can’t resist a good bargain, or buy the entire petite section of asos when the sales kick in.
I have gotten much better though. Many wouldn’t even recognize me. I had friends staying over and we went shopping, and I didn’t feel the need to buy a single t-shirt. Nothing, Nada, Zero. Did I see loads of stuff I would gladly buy? Yes. Did I really want it or need it? No. So no buying.
I want to live simpler. I want to uncomplicated it. Since I quit I also had to access my priorities of course; obviously if money is not coming in you can’t spend as much. Now I have the part-time, which is still less money than I was making, but I am not just talking about saving money and being ‘cost-efficient’. I’ve been reading about people who just give loads of their things away, purely because it’s too much for just one person. They feel selfish and so do I. I got to a point when I even feel guilty sometimes, so I’d rather just spend it elsewhere… savings, travelling, charity. Experiences rather than things, I guess that’s what I am saying.
Please know, I am not against buying stuff, no; but I do think that at times it all becomes a bit too much – people get so caught up in buying things ‘just because’, to please others, to please themselves, to increase status, to parade and show-off, to show they can… I don’t know. And then we’re stuck. See if we get ourselves more and more and more, sometimes we don’t know how get out of it. You establish a certain ‘status’ – big house, then bigger and bigger; 5 bedroom house because the kids need one bedroom each; ok car, big car, very nice car; a fully decorated house because ‘God forbid’ we don’t have a coffee table… once you know you’re stuck, because you have to pay for all of that and you need to put in more hours, or take jobs you don’t really like… all I am asking is: is it worth it?
A friend of mine posted this video recently, of people acting like animals going into H&M to get their hands on the (gorgeous) Balmain collection. See, I like it too, I think it’s gorgeous, but it’s way out of my league, even if it is ‘so much cheaper’ than actual brand, and to be honest, I couldn’t in a million years be arsed to go face the wild deranged mob. Still if a friend of mine buys one of the jackets or dresses, I will totally compliment on it, because it is beautiful clothing. Still I think it’s just sad that someone would be so desperate they’d step over other people, pull hairs, and fight them… for a coat! I swear hungry people are less scary. Can you imagine if people would have the same reaction every time there’s an appeal to help for people dying or starving somewhere? My gosh the world would be magical!
I am not an extremist, I swear; I have said it before, as long as everything is within your reach (aka you can afford is), is measured (don’t beat up people for it), and you’re sure it makes you happy, then I will be the first one to compliment and cheer you. Hell, I still buy things, don’t get me wrong, and love getting myself a pretty little dress, or a dream trip. Just saying, don’t go to lengths you’ll struggle to come back from. Make sure you are still enjoying your life, and if you’re not, don’t be afraid to take a step ‘back’. It will be a step forward for you, if happiness is what’s on the line.
I recently read this book, ‘the top five regrets of the dying’, and one of the patients, Charlie, speaks of the benefits of living a simple life. As the author, Bronnie Ware writes at the end:
“True value is not on what you own, but on who you are. Dying people know this. Their belongings are of no consequence whatsoever at the end. What other people think of them, or what they have achieved in belongings, does not even enter their thinking at such time.
In the end what matters to people is how much happiness they have brought to those they love and how much time they spent doing things they themselves loved.”
I am not as extreme as Joseph, although my keys, wallet and passport are definitely the top 3 (oh and the phone!), but I do sometimes wonder, can I make it simpler?