The topic will give you a gist of what has been on my mind the past few days and the photo on the blog shows the pictorial depiction of those thoughts (photo credit – Google). I have been calibrating my finances, my debt, and expenses. I found a motivating method of budgeting and I have refocused my financial goals this year. The last year has helped in moving me towards a mindset of minimalism or rather I should say the travel restrictions and restrictions in general due to the lockdown forced me to re-evaluate my spending habits. I do not splurge on unnecessary or heavily priced items or branded clothes in general, and I am not a compulsive shopper in the usual sense, but I love the act of buying. I collect crystals and oracle cards and perfumes and I did not realize it has kept me in a loop of credit and repayment and I guess I cannot go on like this. So my focus is closing out the debt I have, it is not a mountain, but it is still a small hill that will require patience and discipline. The reason I share this is to set the context of what led my thoughts to wander into the topic of this blog. I am sure like me there are many others who have used shopping as a distraction or coping mechanism or rewarding mechanism to help deal with some serious life issues and who now have matured to acknowledge that its job is done and it is time to look at it objectively. And to be honest, I am excited about the new financial goals and the discipline and the no-buy year, it is a challenge and hence it is fun, I do not feel I am depriving myself of anything. I am grateful that there is this amount of debt that can make me take this mindset change seriously and I cannot delay it further. I grew up in a normal middle-class household and when I started earning I wanted to spend my money and live the way I wanted to, I have no regrets, every move teaches us something.
While this change was happening, I came across videos and documentaries on hoarders and how this is becoming a wider problem especially in countries like the US & UK. A hoarder is someone who loves buying and bringing in all kinds of things into their house, with an intent to use but instead end up stuffing their houses from floor to ceiling in items, so much so that they cannot walk around in their own home. They have a mental condition where they cannot let go of any stuff even trash at times and in progressed cases they value things more than family. People who live with them suffer the most, especially children and spouses. These are seemingly normal people and have normal jobs like any of us, and you would not know a hoarder on the street if you met them.They require serious interventions from family and friends and often need professional and psychological assistance to recover. Things can take over you if you do not take control of your things, so true isn’t it? But what is contributing to this increase?
It is mass production, cheap products, use & throw culture, availability of one dollar stores and cheap fashion which is created in such a way that those clothes won’t last two washes and you will be forced to buy again. Sale and clever marketing techniques that force you to buy more in an attempt to save little even when you do not need it. How many times has a store employee urged you to spend that little extra for a discount and in spending that little extra you bring home something you never needed or will need and you end up giving it away? We are not only living consumerism we are unconsciously taking part in it.
While the number of hoarders and consumerism is increasing, we also see a rise in people stopping and realizing that how much is enough? They are giving up all but essential items in their lives and leading what is called a minimalist lifestyle. These are not old retirees, most of the minimalists are young people even families with young children. They take a stock of what is really used and the rest is let go off, they reuse things until they are worn out before replacing and not because they cannot afford to buy new ones but a conscious effort at reducing the fast buying mania and actually valuing what they own. In owning less we take care of our things better than if we know we can easily replace something. The minimalists claim that removing all the unused junk in life has freed them on a mental level as well. When you own less you worry less about things. It is true, when you own a vehicle you have to maintain it, service it, if it gets damaged repair it, buy insurance every year etc. If you use public transport, you don’t need to think of any of this. It may seem like a small mind space but think of all the things you own and the amount of time and mental energy and money is spent on maintaining, repairing, servicing of all those things.This not being stingy or depriving oneself of what gives us joy, there will always be people who save 70% of their income being stingy and frugal. This is about conscious living and mindful spending.
“You say, ‘If I had a little more, I should be very satisfied.’ You make a mistake. If you are not content with what you have, you would not be satisfied if it were doubled.Charles Spurgeon
It all points to the stress of living a certain lifestyle and it keeps upgrading every year and we expect to earn more and more, we jump jobs to get paid more, we upskill, we negotiate, we run and run and yet most of us find ourselves with less. We never feel like we earn enough, the more we earn the more our lifestyle upgrades and the rat race continues. When I was looking at my finances and the debt, I thought I should try to switch jobs to get paid more and I put so much pressure on myself to find a high paying job. Then I stopped and asked myself, why should earning more always be the solution? The only solution? It is then that I embarked on this journey of understanding true financial freedom, it is not in earning more, it is in managing with what you have and feeling rich. Feeling like you have enough and more and stop feeding the consumerist in you. You do not need the 5th type of mascara in your make-up kit, nor do you need the 100th book from Amazon overnight, just so you skim through 10 pages and it lays in your bookshelf gathering dust never to be touched again. Sounds familiar?
Refocusing on needs more than wants, value more than quantity and testing my ability to stop that urge to spend now and pay in EMI later, that instant gratification that has turned us into 4 year olds.Extremes always help us find the center, explore and read up on the hoarders and the minimalists, experiment and figure out what adds value to your life. Mindless consumerism is here to stay for a while, we all are against it in principle and are armchair activists tweeting and facebooking against it, and yet when we walk down the street we cannot help ourselves when we see a good deal or a sale, we convince ourselves that we donate our used clothes to the poor but we don’t actually see poor people wearing those fancy jeans and silk blouse do we? We hand these clothes over to someone or some NGO and they are left with the headache of sorting these clothes and finding something poor people can actually wear, the rest goes to landfills. I realized this during this lockdown, I only wear a handful of clothes on a regular basis, the rest have now been packed into a suitcase.
“Refocusing my mind, I wonder why it wanders off so often into its own web of fears and anxieties until it is trapped in this maze and starts suffocating. I start again by retracing my steps, guiding it back step by step, calming its nerves, reassuring it like a child, until I am able to ground myself and bring it to focus back on what matters. The cycle continues, I was foolish to believe it ever ends.”Pooja Damle
Launch your own investigation, observe your own little self and track your spending habits. This problem will not disappear because you choose to ignore it and it affects all of us. Mother Earth can only process a limited amount of our greed. I wrote this prose as part of my journey of self-discovery. I have to keep refocusing on what matters, our brains can trick us back to old paths and down familiar roads only to overwhelm us. Let me know your thoughts and discoveries on these topics, an exchange of ideas are the only way to move ahead as a collective consciousness, we may feel we are individual but we are part of the universal collective.