More Or Less?

Minimal, essential.

Declutter, downsize.

Priorotise, simplify.

You can see where I’m going with this. A bevy of words ushering us to consider a life of less ……and more.

The ‘Less IS More’ post-modern catchcry has spilled out onto the world stage offering us up a ‘Happier Life’ if we simply have, do and spend less.

I am wondering if it’s got anything to do with the plethora of garage sales that seem to pop up every weekend, scattered about the suburbs.

Have people caught on to this declutter trend, or just saving themselves a trip to the dump?

The question I’ve been keenly exploring is not; Why do we buy, accumulate, and hold onto things we don’t need? That’s had it’s day.More or Less

No, I think the question that has helped me somewhat of late is the more basic version of that question; Do I ‘NEED’ it or simply ‘WANT’ it?

Now splitting the difference between these two terms shouldn’t be a challenge, but in today’s consumer-driven society it’s not so cut and dry.

A Lesson Learned

I vividly recall the first time I became aware of this distinction.

As a teenager (surprise, surprise!) I was desperate to own a pair of Reef surf sandals. You know the kind; brightly coloured, tribal patterned, rippy velcro straps (very 90’s) and a cool reputation to boot if you wore them.

I knew they weren’t cheap, but I wanted.. NO needed them, like my future happiness depended on it.

I’d saved for them ($50 was a lot of money), dreamt about where and how I’d wear them, what my friends would say. I was finally going to be ‘cool’.

But it was a love lost in the end. The very next day I wore them, my heart sank.

I didn’t feel any ‘cooler’, in fact they now looked kind of ugly on my feet (the fluro pink and green print certainly made that glaringly obvious).

And if I was honest, I knew I’d let that daemon desire overrule my common-sense. I was left with that niggling ‘I’ve just wasted my hard-earned money’ ache.

In my defense I was a teenager and as Murphy’s Law would have it, a few months later our dog chewed them up, so I’d felt the lesson fully by then.

So WHY do we do it?

According to becomingminimalist.com there are ‘7 Reasons Why We Buy More Stuff Than We Need’.

  1. We think it will make us secure
  2. We think it will make us happy
  3. We are more susceptible to advertising than we believe
  4. We are hoping to impress other people
  5. We are jealous of people who own more
  6. We are trying to compensate for our deficiencies
  7. We are more selfish than we like to admitStreet with light

Each of these seem to feed off that malevolent mistress ‘Desire’.

The desire to be happier, the desire to be better than others, the desire to be someone else.

A feeling that has a habit of becoming our default setting when making decisions.

Reining in our Desires

So, is it OK to let our desires guide us in this way? How or can we rely on our rational brain to determine if it is indeed a ‘need’ or a ‘want’?

And how can we reprogram some poor habits to ensure a life of ‘less, is more’.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t need this chocolate right now, but damn life’s better with it than without it.

I don’t need to go on a holiday, but it’ll be a nice change to see new places.

I don’t need to see that film at the cinema, but I feel like a bit of escapism to fend off the mundane.

I think it’s necessary and obviously normal to have some of our ‘wants’ fulfilled. Life would be undoubtedly boring without them.

I guess it’s about learning to rationalise the value we place on these ‘wants’. Asking ourselves; is it excessive, over-the-top, a substitution for something else? And ultimately not letting our desires get the better of us.

So over the years as I’ve tried to wrestle with that trying ‘WANT’ Daemon, the following basic principles have generally held me in good stead:

  • The ‘sometimes treat’ mentality
  • The ‘I could get by without it’ reasoning and
  • The ‘delayed gratification’ approachsupreme

It’s certainly not easy, desire is also a fickle mistress…… but it’s worth a shot trying to rein her in if we ultimately want more! More time, sanity, space, money and dare I say it…..Happiness.

‘Screw motivation, cultivate discipline’ Steve Kamb

Tighten those reins somewhat, rule with restraint and reign supreme (to an extent).

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A Fortunate Life

I believe in luck, providence, good fortune.

Goodness knows life likes to throw the random our way, enough to ensure we’re kept on our toes.

So naturally I also believe in misfortune, bad luck and Life’s uncanny ability to knock us when we’re down.

Each of us I’m sure, could rattle off a series of events throughout the course of our unique lives, which demonstrates the all too familiar effect fortune (in both its forms) has played.

He fled his country seeking asylum, only to be saved by Thai pirates and become Australia’s ‘Happiest Refugee’ (Anh Do).

She was shot in the face, yet went on to become a spokesperson for young women the world over (Malala Yousafzai).

While we may not think our lives are as extraordinary as these examples, I’m inclined to think that we all face relative episodes of luck and misfortune no less significant to our relative lives.unfortunate

What intrigues me most, is why some people seem more prone to draw strength from these events of misfortune and take something positive from them?

What makes these ‘glass half-full’ humans, see the bleakness of what life can offer up and yet choose to move onward and upward?

A life less than fortunate

I recently came across a copy of A.B Facey’s autobiography ‘A Fortunate Life’. It’s always been one of those books I knew I should read, but just never got round to reading it.

(Ah, to have a parallel life devoted purely to reading. That would be fortunate indeed)

Reading through the first few pages it’s glaringly obvious that this guy had a damn rough start to life; parentless at 2, forced to find a job a 8, working under horrific conditions, sent off to fight in WWI which saw the loss of his two brothers.looking through hole

His own son years later was also killed in WWII. You could say misfortune unfairly plagued this guy from birth.

Granted, he lived during what some would call ‘hard-times’ but this only makes his determination and grace at calling his life ‘fortunate’, all the more remarkable.

‘Many people had little feeling or sympathy for those in need’ A.B Facey.

Despite the ‘bad luck’ that freakishly followed Facey about, he seems to have consistently found strength and purpose in his life.

He taught himself to read, made a success of his farming business, was happily married with seven children and of course later in life at the ripe old age of 87, he became a household name through the publication of his life story ‘A Fortunate Life’ (That’s flipping the bird at Luck right there!).

We might unfairly suffer through a family tragedy, or find frustration with the unfair demands placed on us in our jobs, relationships even and Luck may indeed seem to play the greater hand at times.

That is a truth no one can deny us of, but I think we have the option to choose the way we view these episode of ‘misfortune’ and in turn direct the way we deal with them.

It’s about how bad you want it; Life…. to be more than a ‘series of unfortunate events’, that makes the difference.perfect perspective

A.B Facey’s autobiography (among many others), is a fitting reminder to us all that despite our hardships, it is more about about perspective and less about luck.

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Pokémon GO, That Colouring Craze And Our Need To Belong

The streets are awash with youngsters armed with their funky coloured iPhones and the latest app, in search of a virtual Pokemon.

Zombie-like and in a state of dazed concentration, this extra appendage directs their every step and it’s apparent…….. they’re proper ‘into it’.

Who would have thought those pesky Pokemon creatures from the 90’s would make such a comeback?

I get it, they’re teenagers. Despite their claims to individuality, the need to belong and keep up with what’s trending pushes all rational levels of common sense out of the way. But it’s not just this group that’s easily swayed by trends.

Bookstores awash with books that require no reading, but instead the steady and calming act of colouring in. The most recent craze to take the publishing world by storm and afflicting adults the world over with a child-like urge to colour. Who would have thought?Colouring pencils

The slightly self-obsessed and aptly named ‘selfie’ trend seems like its our default setting at any given opportunity to snap a pic.

And then there’s that American, all-girl, reality TV family (Kardcashians is it?) offering us up handbag trends, a fashion following and plenty of scintillating gossip. The need to follow their lead or at the very least know of it, is a fad in itself.

So what is it with trends and our ability or in fact desire to latch onto them at such a startling pace?

I’ve been wondering if it’s a by-product of our increasingly media savvy society or some other forces at play?

I like keeping abreast of some trends as much as the next person (maybe with the exception of Pokemon GO), so it’s definitely got me thinking…. is there a way to maintain a level head, keeping a skerrick of individuality and freedom of choice, without conforming to the latest trends and succumbing to their sneaky shine?fashion trends

“We’re drawn to the new and novel, to things that provide a feeling of change, and, perhaps, progress. We also want to belong – to be part of something recognizable” Rebecca Arnold, author of ‘Fashion: A Very Short Introduction’.

Trends and the desire to conform have always been a part of our society. Think of the original fashion fixation with the corset. Totally impractical, far from affordable and a burden to most women the world over, yet a trend that persisted well into the 20th Century.

The unequivocal desire to follow the crowd has also taken startling turns socially and politically, as evident in the rise of Nazism during Hitler’s time.

And our current fixation…..obsession with social media means our interactions with others is constant, as is our exposure to trends, Social Mediaunwittingly signing us up to consumerism in all it’s forms.

“We often change our decisions and judgements to conform with normative group behaviour,” said study leader Dr Vasily Klucharev, from the FC Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging in the Netherlands. (The Telegraph)

There is more research now which endeavours to make sense of the psychology and sociology behind trends and their impact on us  (some of which you can read about here).

But the general buzz and perhaps obvious findings into why we so quickly and utterly subscribe to trends, lies in our need to belong. So conforming by following trends is one way to secure this.

According to Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’ the need to belong is right up there next to LOVE, after our basic needs for food, water and personal safety are met.

The other element which inevitably stems from this need to ‘follow the crowd’, is based on our fear of being an outsider.

If we don’t subscribe to the latest trends then we risk being excluded or ridiculed. It is this fear (sometimes on a subconscious level) that can quickly override any common sense that may come into play when questioning why we do this, or think that, or have ‘it’.

I’m not in the least interested in The Kardashians, or Pokemon GO, but if I’m honest I’ll admit to my curiosity being plucked at, and not just to see what all the fuss is about.

At the root of it, I simply don’t want to be seen as that ‘emu with their head in the sand’. I want to at least form an opinion about it so I can contribute to conversation and feel a part of the collective -society.

So, while it’s looking more and more like our basic human needs will yet again override rational thought, I reckon the secret to avoid being suckered into the latest craze, might just lie in recognising this fact first. Accepting that at the heart of it all, it’s about wanting to belong and that’s ok.Outsider

But remember it was and still is, those unique individuals and groups who venture out on a limb, crave change, explore the unchartered and remote territory to offer us up something we now happily subscribe to and label as trends.

Maybe being an outsider isn’t so bad after all?

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