21 June 2016

Things


I recently read an article about how awesome it was to not own anything and move around every couple of days, never doing laundry, just buying a new T-shirt when the old one becomes too icky to wear.

The whole point, according to the author, was "experiences are more important than things."

I unleashed an entire spectrum of emotions during the next 24 hours or so, from shock to disgust to pity.

I was very, very angry the author put himself so far above everyone else because everyone else owns things, and his life proves things are not necessary.

I also was pretty disgruntled because I've volunteered on behalf of the homeless, and most of them have no such superiority complex. (I don't mean to be judgmental.)

When I finally began to settle down, I realized I don't want to stoop to the author's level (which I just did again) and put anyone down. However, I do see great value in my experiences and in experiences I've encountered because of or thanks to things I own.


the garden we wouldn't have without a house of our own

I'll be the first to admit I don't really need any more "things" - well, except for fabric, yarn, camera batteries, memory cards, external hard drives and replacement bike, sewing machine and car should the existing ones ever go away in any way, shape or form. Aw, what the heck. I need lots of things. But I don't need to buy new things every few days or weeks or months. I'm perfectly happy using my 34-year-old sewing machine, my 17-year-old car, my 13-year-old bike, my 8-year-old camera and my one-generation-back iPhone. I'll keep using the laptop we bought in 2013 until the motherboard can no longer be repaired. Which is exactly what we did with the 2005 laptop we used until it could not longer be repaired.

I intend to keep living in the house we bought seven years ago but won't actually own for 22 more years until such time we decide to relocate to a state where the grass is not greener, if you catch my Colorado drift. And I'm not talking snow. But that's a different rant for another day.


scraps I couldn't make into something useful without a sewing machine

Without my sewing machine, I wouldn't be creating my own clothing, clothing for others and quilts for charity, friends, relatives, gifts, business, you name it. Creating is an experience I wouldn't trade for much of anything. It is absolutely an experience, and not just ownership. However, ownership is a grand piece of the experience, too.

I had to work for a long time to save up money to buy my sewing machine when I was still fairly young, and I made payments on it for about two years. That meant I had to keep working. My sewing machine didn't teach me to be responsible, however. My parents did.

I've been lucky and have liked or loved all my jobs, so working has never been an issue for me. Nevertheless, the responsibility of keeping up payments and the enjoyment of using something I paid for myself is an experience. My paid-off (and recently re-warrantied) sewing machine has brought many wonderful experiences, learning opportunities, charitable projects and teaching activities. It has built many friendships. It provides an outlet for my overflowing bottomless chasm of ideas. I expect it will continue to do so for as long as it lives. (I don't know which of us will last longer, me or the sewing machine, but that is part of the experience.)


still smiling, even with a flat

My 4Runner is another thing I had to save for and sacrifice on behalf of for many years. I would say I actually do love my car, even though I probably shouldn't love things. This car has taken me places I have enjoyed. It has taken friends and family places they have enjoyed. It has allowed me to volunteer in places I would not have been able to reach without it, and it provides a way to get the equipment I need to volunteer sites. I could not/would not pack all my camera equipment and lights to a rehab center aboard public transportation.

My car periodically has served as sleeping quarters, a dining room, a writing cave and the parent of countless photographic adventures. In the event of a flood or other natural disaster, it will provide a means of escape. It will transport and keep safe much of what we and others need in order to survive unforseen disasters. It has been paid off for a number of years now, but it requires continual upkeep, which requires continual commitment and hard work. I have to take care of it if I want it to last as long as me. That's an experience. A valuable one, too, as far as I'm concerned.


My bike... need I say more!!! Try doing Ride the Rockies without a bike! I'm afraid that won't quite work. Riding my bike from point A to point B is an experience, and sometimes it's even an experience with someone else. Getting up a mountain without an engine is a cherished experience, and it's good for my health and body, too. When I'm on my bike, I see and hear and smell animals, rivers, trees, flowers, storms in a way I can't possibly experience them from inside a vehicle. I'll bet I get more experiences in one week on my bike than the author of the aforesaid article gets in an entire year of moving into new rental quarters every two days and opting not to own anything but two pairs of pants, two dress shirts, two pairs of underwear and two T-shirts (which he presumably discards instead of laundering because he says that's all he buys... two more T-shirts every once in a while).

Am I missing out on the experience of traveling the world by being grounded into the place where I've set roots? Yes, but I can enjoy the photography and stories of others. I can't travel internationally right now anyway because too many people are depending upon my blood donations every six or eight weeks.

Oh, and blood donation... Isn't that an experience? Isn't that something special and needed? Blood donation would not be so easy if I were homeless and rootless.


My camera is no doubt a luxury. But I try every day to make good use of it, to share with others things they may have missed or may not ever get the chance to see. In many ways, it is my means of communication. I would not trade this communication for any other form of communication except face-to-face human contact. Even then, I don't want to trade it. I want both. But that's an experience too, right? Working to achieve both? Maintaining relationships with co-workers on a day-to-day basis in an effort to stay happy and make sure co-workers stay happy so no one dreads coming to work, even if we make jokes about the return to work after Christmas and New Year's holidays.


our fresh canvas

My husband and I spent two years looking for a home while living in an apartment that wasn't in the safest neighborhood. It took two years to find our home. Each Saturday morning, we'd go out hopeful it would be our last home shopping trip. And each Saturday afternoon we'd return home discouraged, not sure we'd ever get to experience the dream. Experience. There's that magic word again. The ups and downs, together, learning to keep trying, not to give up, to get along even when the chips were down, to make do with what we had, to budget, to be patient. Finding ways to experience joy even though it seemed our dream would never be fulfilled.

Then the economy tanked. Over-extended homeowners began walking away from their homes. Short sales and foreclosures were in abundant supply. We finally found a home we could afford in a neighborhood we liked. Neighbors with whom we could develop awesome relationships and experience wonderful things if we but invested in real estate and kept working and saving. We made an offer. We waited. The pins and needles alongside my sewing machine never had such meaning or impact. Short sales are not short by any means. Our wait dragged on for weeks.

And then the unimaginable happened. Layoffs in our own little world. Twenty percent of the workforce was gone overnight. The pins and needles morphed overnight into frigid shafts of sharp fear. What if one of us lost our job? What if we got the house, and we could no longer meet the required payments? What would we do?

This is not an experience I care to repeat ever in my life, but we had to prepare. We had to plan. We had to be able to find a way to survive and thrive if we lost even one paycheck. Thank heavens we didn't have to work through that plan then, but we did figure out ways to accomplish what needed to be done if things had gone differently. It made us stronger. It made us closer. It made us more committed to holding onto our dream and finding a way to be happy, no matter what. It helped us prepare for the current experience of living off one paycheck.


Our house is a fixer-upper. We are experiencing the joys of fixing things we didn't break. Yes, there is joy in that! Overcoming hardship, saving photos and journals from a backed-up sewer, replacing appliances and toilets as they wear out, trying to keep pipes from freezing, removing floorboards and carpet with pet odors from previous occupants, renewing, replacing, repairing, refreshing... Every little thing we do to our home makes it more ours and less the former occupants'. There is joy in doing the work ourselves. (Well, we had to call in a plumber for the sewer back-up and roofers when we lost tiles to a vicious windstorm, but most of the rest of the stuff we can we're fixing ourselves, and sometimes learning new skills in the process.)


impossible clove trees

Oh, and gardening! Trying to get tropical plants to grow indoors at 6,000-plus feet and 37 degrees north of the equator? Yes, I could try to do that in an apartment, too, but I wouldn't be able to do it if I was constantly on the move, new place to sleep every week. Plants don't count as inessential things to me because some of them provide our food, and most of them provide happiness. Our indoor plants help minimize the affects of seasonal affected disorder in winter.


We enjoy our home! Evenings together watching a movie, sewing, teaching our little 6-year-old neighbor to sew, crafting, playing chess, exercising, gardening, baking, reading, talking, editing photos, learning a new computer program, listening to music, remembering, writing, even the dreaded riding of the trainer in winter... Our home is a place of comfort, learning, love, joy, warmth, shelter, and slowly, month by month, a tiny bit more of it is ours each and every month and less the bank's. We even do repairs and new construction together. I wouldn't trade the experience of home ownership with my husband for any apartment anywhere. Period.


the best dining room in the entire country

Yes, I could rent most of the stuff I own instead of buy, but I'm happy with what I experience with the stuff I own and the house we are buying. Aside from the joy of ownership (complete with all the struggles and sacrifice required), a degree of familiarity enhances the experience, in my opinion. I know what my camera, my car and my bike can do. I don't necessarily know the ability and/or shortcomings of something I haven't worked with for years or even decades.


When I read that article in question, I hated that someone would put down all people who own. Initially I thought the author in question perhaps has a little too much and perhaps needs to have less in order to appreciate the good in the world and to experience gratitude. But then, upon deeper and lengthy contemplation, I realized this person is on a journey of their own and may need to experience the footloose and fancy-free life in order to understand some things - yes, THINGS - are more valuable than freedom from commitment and investment.

Yes, things. Things that teach. Things that enable. Things that protect. Things worth investment and effort.

Things that, when combined with people, make life more worth sharing.

10 comments :

  1. Great rant indeed haha

    Things that are needed and can be afforded should be, as you say they can help create experiences. Frivolous things just to keep up with the Jones' though, pfffft to that. One has to have some things so they can do what they enjoy. Without a computer I couldn't write, so pfft to that. And getting clothes after the old are bad? haha I haven't bought clothes in years, old ones work just fine washing them. Sounds like an idiot author going way too far to the extreme.

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    1. Thanks, Pat. I've been sitting on this post for a while because I was afraid my attitude might ignite exactly the opposite reader reaction, so it's good to hear others agree. As for the original multi-millionaire author, I feel even more sad now for the experiences he is missing in the name of making a statement, especially a statement so arrogant and callous. But oops, there I go again passing judgment...

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  2. Nice write-up Snowcatcher! I remember that article. The clown had nothing to lose; and he had no concerns because he was financially secure. He could bail out at any time. Maybe he should hand out all his money, alienate himself from family, and then give it another go.

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    1. I don't think he'd survive, Lizard. He has no clue what it's really like to live off the grid.

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  3. Amen, sister!!! This will sound like a cliche, but it's nonetheless true: it's not what you own (or don't), it's what owns you.

    In an economic light, the person who has "given up owning" things has merely transferred the burden of ownership to others. Without stores or swap meets or marketplaces of some sort, where would this person get their replacement t-shirts? Where are the t-shirts made, and how do they reach the stores? Who builds and maintains the dwellings this person flits to and from in their transient life? Who provides the transport that carries this person from Point A to Point B? Stores, housing, buses, and trains, cannot exist without ownership of some sort, somewhere, whether it be private or public. And if the stores, etc. did not exist, this person would have a very hard time carrying out his/her program of non-ownership. (Presumably this person has money of some kind? Does he carry it all with him, or keep it in a bank somewhere? Who owns the bank?)

    I can understand the urge to lighten up and let go of things, to stop constantly adding more to the burden of stuff many of us drag through life. It's a battle Mr. M and I have been fighting for many years. We've chosen to do without certain things that many people consider necessities. This doesn't make us better or worse than anyone else, because it's not the things that count - it's our attitude towards them and what we do with them.

    As you say, maybe this person needs to live this way for a while in order to find some kind of balance. Meanwhile, the rest of us will get on with our lives, enjoying (and sharing) the fruits of our labours.

    Love the shot of your house and blooming garden!!! :)

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    1. Thanks, Sue! Such thoughtful comments! You were much more compassionate and tolerant than I was when I first read that article.

      PS: oh, how I love my garden, too!!! I may even try to grow a row for Project Angel Heart!

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  4. I think you hit the nail on the head! Own as little as possible, use things until they can't be used any more, and be grateful for what you have. Nobody can tell you what is right for you, and I appreciate many of the same things you do - roots! Just keep doing you and don't worry what those other people say. <3

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    1. Thanks, Patty! Terrific advice! And I don't think I tied in roots, but how appropriate!

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  5. Totally agree! Amen! I wish more of the world was like you (and me!), less is more!
    Richard
    bikingadvice

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    1. Unless you're talking fabric, Richard. That's the one thing I seem to never be able to get enough of. :)

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