Friday, December 9, 2011

Less Stuff = More Happines

This video sure does make you think. 

I am never this happy while moving!

That's that I have been doing a lot recently, thinking. Thinking about the things I have in my home. What is all this stuff I have? When did I acquire all of it? Do I even use or wear it? How much money have I spent on stuff that lives in boxes or sits around collecting dust? It is scary to think about- but is something that needs to be looked at closely. Over the years I moved almost 20 times (between shuttling back and forth to college, to jobs out of state and back again), and I am only 27 years old. Each and every time I've moved I have gone through the process of getting rid of stuff. I go through my DVD's, my closet, my books, my kitchen and all the other random stuff in between. I have also gone through phases of getting rid of clothing and other stuff I don't need. This has happened a lot. And times, I will go through my closet and fill a trash bag with clothing I don't want. The next month, I do it again. And on a day when I can't seem to find room for my clean laundry I do it yet again. Each and every time I felt like I got rid of a lot, and yet I always seemed to have the same amount of stuff.  Sound familiar to anyone? I would be flabbergasted to learn that I was the only person in America who has gone through/is going through this!

You cannot tell me that this woman looks happy.
How could that happen to me? How could someone get rid of so much stuff and over time, end up with the same amount? I wish I could say it magically appeared, but that would be a lie. Well, for one, I was a slight "shopping addict". Over time, I have almost recovered from the disease. Almost recovered, but not entirely (I do get the yearning to go buy things every now and then). I bought so much stuff- DVDs at Blockbuster (4 for $20), cute holiday candle-holders or decorations (that were always on a super-sale), and clothes (even though I am not the least bit "trendy" or "fashion forward". I made excuses for why I needed an item- I could never admit that I just plain wanted it. It didn't help that I worked at a sporting goods store for many years (where I got a discount and first dibs on new "fashions", markdowns or the clearance rack). I always say that with the amount of athletic clothing I had, I should be an Olympic Athlete (which I clearly am not)! Shopping was also such a great experience for me, or so I thought. I loved going to the store and picking out things. It fell so great to fill my shopping basket, paying for it with own money (or in my case, own shiny credit card) and bringing it home. Once I got home though, I realized that all those things in the bag didn't actually make me happy - it made me feel empty and a little depressed. Especially when I got my credit card bill.

CC bills and my over-stuffed living space made me feel like this!
I used shopping as a band-aid when I had a bad day or when I was bored. I liked to shop when I was having a good day and even more when I was having a bad day. In the end though - I ended up with a house, dorm room, or apartment overflowing with stuff. Stuff I didn't need, and sometimes didn't even want. Stuff that was made overseas and traveled thousands of miles to get to my house, that took natural resources to make (and ship) and would probably end up in the landfill one day. Now, I didn't really change my view on shopping and consumption until fairly recently. It really started when I started working at my current job. Working in the solid waste management sector you learn a lot about the problem of trash and over-consumption in America. I mean, it wasn't that I never thought about the environment, I did. I grew up recycling and composting and saving every single piece of wrapping paper, tissue paper and gift from birthdays and Christmas. But I guess I never really realized the problem - that every family in the US is not like my family. Now everyone uses reusable water bottles or coffee mugs. Not everyone takes their lunch to school/work in reusable lunch bags in tupperware and with metal utensils. I realized that my adult self had turned into the problem. I was an over-consumer. And this over-consumption had not only resulted in significant credit debt, but also, all of this stuff I had  didn't make me happy - it made me frustrated, because it was everywhere I turned.

I have filled plenty of bags like this recently!
So how have I changed over the past year? Well, for one, I am actively not buying things unless I really need them, being careful to avoid single-serve packaging and items, getting rid of things in my home that I don't need or want, and walking the talk. I can't expect school children to recycle, compost and reduce waste just because I say so. They should know that we are doing this side by side and are all working together toward a common goal. What also motivated me to work harder to simplify my life was Tropical Storm Irene. After the storm hit Vermont this fall, I immediately knew that I could help people. I had a closet full of clothes (most of which I hadn't worn in 6 months or more), and plenty of other household items I could donate. My house was overflowing with stuff and there were Vermonters out there who had just lost everything. So, with this as my motivation I have been working hard to look at what I owe and think about what I really need and want in life.

I would love to work less so I could spend time with my pups!

I recently visited the Cliffs of Moher on a trip to Ireland!

I love hiking and spending time outside- and would rather do that then fill my home with unnecessary stuff!
What do I want in life? To travel, to spend time with my friends and family, to get outside, to start a veggie garden and grow my own food. The less stuff I buy, the more money I can save. With no credit card debt from unnecessary purchases I can save money to go out see the world or to buy my own home with some land. If I can make do with a smaller living space, I may save money on rent or utilities. In turn I may be able to work less and spend more time doing the things I enjoy with the people I love - instead of worrying about my paycheck.

Picture Credits:
Moving -
Sad Shopper -
Sad Little Girl -

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