Redefining your standards is what simple living is all about

“Set high standards and few limitations for yourself”

Anthony J. D’Angelo

There are some fairly standard things that I’ve given up to save money. Many of the items on the list below are such standard living conditions in the west that it is actually fairly unusual to go without them.

A couple of for examples things we gave up on are:

  • Breakfast (unless it is free)
  • Toothpaste
  • Hot water (for some showers and entirely for washing clothes)
  • Movies
  • Credit Cards
  • Restaurant and cafe meals (unless they are free, but don’t worry I don’t scoff and bolt)
  • Facebook
  • Mobile Phone
  • Radio
  • iPads or tablets or gaming console
  • A stereo
  • A clock radio
  • A watch
  • Drawers (a no brainer when you have almost nothing to put in them)
  • Casual shoes and running shoes (although I still run some – for fun and when I am fleeing from restaurants…kidding)
  • Pets
  • Formal education (I have been enrolled in some education or other since I was 5 up until about 4 years ago. I’m 37 by the way).
  • A microwave
  • A food processor.
  • Milk
  • Bread

All of these things have a purchase price, an opportunity cost (what else you could do with the money like invest it and live off it) and an operation or lifetime cost. It might be cheap to buy a microwave, but the cost of lifetime electricity would be significant. If you don’t mind cold food or you are allergic to microwave radiation then you might choose to live quite happily without one.

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Born to move

“Let they that would move the world first move themself”

Socrates

It’s pretty evident that we aren’t designed to sit in stooped postures all day everyday.

Humans are born to move. By moving we encourage and maintain good physical health. Our mobility is very much a case of use it or lose it. The generative breakdown of old age largely the story of how active we have been throughout our life time. Like Goldilock’s porridge too much or too little is not good. We need just the right amount of movement and activity. If you keep your head very still and stare at a screen for long periods you will begin to have a forward-head-posture then tension headaches followed by clicking popping and then neck pain and loss of movement. Neck range of movement reduces and one day you realise that you can only turn your neck about a quarter of the distance you could a few years ago.

To counter our sedentary lifestyles we all rush to the gym to complete calisthenics, pump classes and cross fit sessions. Maybe we throw in some Pilates and Yoga too. This one hour musculoskeletal blasting is supposed to overcome 10 hours sat perfectly still at our work desk.  Given the numbers of people with mechanical breakdowns it doesn’t seem to be working to plan.

It’s easy to find an excuse to be sedentary, or inactive but we need to move all day everyday to maintain good body health. So reverse it up. Find excuses to be active and find physically active ways to have fun. Slip in a stretch in the hall when you go to the bathroom. Dance to a meeting. Run in mid morning. Ride your bike home from work. Skip with your child. Climb a tree. Body surf in the ocean. Or if that is all just too adventurous just get up go for a walk or stand up and clean your desk. Everytime you find an excuse to go from still to strolling you are doing your self a world of good.

Becoming routinely happy

“The secret of your future is hidden in your daily routine”

Mike Murdock

A lot of life comes down to routines. The patterns of behaviour and our fixed ways of responding to certain situations. What you did yesterday is gone. Realistically it should not determine how you respond today in the same way that the wake of the ship shouldn’t have any bearing on setting the course that you sail in.

It shouldn’t, but mostly it does. We are creatures of habit and habit is just routine reactions. If you are not happy it won’t take much introspection to figure out how your routines are contributing.

Like for example if you wake up on a work day meditate, go for a run and then dance in the lounge with your kid before work you might find you have a happier start to the day. Happier than say…getting up niggling and picking on your spouse until you get in a major fight and then reading all the doom and gloom in the newspaper all the way to work a job you hate.

What you do regularly determines what you experience which ultimately determines who you become. If you want to be happy you’ve got to begin to consciously build happy routines and repeat them regularly until they become automatic. Your default responses should lead you towards happiness.

One of the best ways I’ve found to create better routines for myself is to watch children. They live for joy. Everything they do is joy seeking behaviour. They don’t get caught up in the seriousness of life. They smile. The play like life’s a game. Because that is what life is really all about. Being happy.

Sat beside the pool…a hard day not at the office.

“In France one must adapt oneself to the fragrance of a urinal”

Gertrude Stein

As I write this I am sitting beside a pool at a house on a hill that overlooks a small country settlement. It’s really quiet. The town I am in is around 400 kilometres from home. The morning is crisp and clear. I can see for miles in every direction. It’s also a work day. I’m outside with my laptop writing this note while on the company dime. 🙂

I’m thinking about a lot of things. It’s one of those beautiful and inspiring places that facilitates clearheaded reflection. One of the things in my head is an appreciation that I’ve probably got the most idle-compatible job in the world. Best I don’t name the company though. They might not agree. But, they pay me a pretty decent wage to solve a few problems and by all accounts I do it fairly well. I’m obviously a lot more efficient than they expect because I have a lot of time and space during the work day.

In some ways my job is a bit like being in the Army. Long stretches of tedium where you try to productively fill your time. Then the dead spots are shattered by moments of panic. At those times I work hard to scoop up the guts of the bubble that popped and stop the shit spreading from here to Timbuctoo. I contain I mitigate and I spin. Things generally work out.

I often wonder how I got into this line of work. Perhaps it chose me. My predilection for idleness and my lack of motivation for work make it hard for a guy like me to stick in an occupation (or to bother turning up on time or dressed properly or at all). With this job I get to travel to other cities. Usually only for day trips. I get to read or sleep on the plane. I have a couple of ‘what happened’ or ‘why did you do that’ or ‘you know you really aren’t allowed to do that’ type meetings. Then I go look at things and write up a report using a fairly time tested format and approach that I have devised to cut out the corners and cross the goal with a minimum of critical thought or real effort.

So my 8 hour paid work day is two hours travel with maybe 2 1/2 hours of meetings and report writing. The rest of the day is really up to me. I don’t check emails while waiting for my flight. I don’t read company memos or business documents. I might write a blog or an article or I could go shopping or go to a movie. I catch up with old friends. I sit in parks and watch the world go by. I chat to strangers or I have long lunches in nice restaurants (paid by the company). One thing I don’t do anymore is sleep. I’ve missed a couple of flights that way. It’s hard to explain to management so I don’t sleep now even when I really want to.

For a long time I’ve been thinking I wasn’t really in the right job. More frequently since they called me back to work full-time (after being part-time for ages), but his morning I’m sitting here thinking I might have the best job in the world. No not the best job. What I have done is to achieve a decent wage collector with a minimum of personal inconvenience. I’m also not afraid of being found out by management.

And that is the real lesson. Figuring out how to fit yourself to your circumstances to make them work rather than trying to change the circumstances to fit in with your own preconceived ideas of how things should be.

Loving the Road

“Life is a lively process of becoming”

Douglas MacArthur

Whatever you are doing it’s extremely important that you are having fun right now. A myth of life is that there are destinations or achievements.  Upon accomplishing things or getting places our sense of pride quickly morphs into the need to make another step, to take on another challenge to get ourselves to the next local.

We know ourselves as human beings, but perhaps we should be called human becomings. We are always on a journey. Always becoming. Never arriving. And since we are travellers and challenge takers it’s important that we find ways to enjoy the road. The journey is your life and the fun must be found along the way.

Texting while smoking: Financial Hari Kari!

“The quickest way to double your money is to fold it over and put it back in your pocket”

Kin Hubbard

I work with a young guy. He’s on grad + wages. He wanted a motorbike which I’m fairly certain was to impress a girl…but I digress.

Some time ago he complained about not being able to save.

Quite directly I told him to quit smoking and sell his mobile phone.

“Both are financial suicide and both are socially obnoxious” I said.

He looked at me dumbstruck and told me that he couldn’t live without his phone.

Anyway, yesterday he came in with a bike helmet and proudly told me he’d finally saved the deposit. The rest is on finance (doh!). He actually thanked me because he did give up smoking and he’s never felt better. He also downgraded his phone to a very cheaper phone on a prepay plan. Turns out his mate bought his smart phone off him for $700 which he put towards his motorbike. He told me I helped him figure out that the motorbike was more important to him than surfing his phone on the bus (which obviously he no longer needs to do since he will be travelling by bike from now on).

I’ve long since given up on mobile phones. Now I just think they are stupid. I’ve also never smoked.

What I have done is figure out what is important and then I’ve had the tenacity to put everything I earn towards exactly what it is that I want.

Surf, a birdsong and the minimum quotient of work

“The moment a little one is concerned with which is a jay and which is a sparrow, they can no longer see the birds or hear them sing” 

Eric Berne

We wake to birdsong in a private forest. We grow more than enough to eat in our yard. We are all extremely healthy. For the most part we are exceptionally happy. We barely work. We talk instead of watching TV. We ride bikes where others drive. We like to read and we have time to do it. We surf, we camp and we tramp. In spring we picnic by our stream.

We live in the luckiest age this planet has ever known and we live a life that we have determined.

Let Hollywood have all the drugs and the fat bankers all the money. We will snatch more than our share of happiness and we shall enjoy and savour the small things that make living our life great. It is the little quiet moments in ones life that are the most precious.