Wonderfully poor simply happy

“I don’t want to make money, I just want to be wonderful”

Marilyn Monroe

There seem to be so many celebrities that are unhappy. They have heaps of money, all the opportunities in life but they end up dead in a ditch or in rehab burnt out on drugs.

There are also millions of people with no money. Dirt poor. They have none of the money and maybe not even the basic stuff they need to survive day to day, but they are happy and grateful for their lives.

Then there is the rest of us. That’s everyone in between. People with an average deal who are high on life and others who are dredging the doldrums.

Our family is in the top 1% of the world’s wealthiest and so are you if you have power, a computer and clean water to drink. It is not about our economic resources or our social opportunities.

It is about appreciating simple pleasures and being grateful for the good things that happen in our lives. I am teaching our son about happiness. It’s the most important thing I can pass on as his parent. I wish more people gave up the rat race for money and put their energy into the happiness of their family. It would be a wonderful world.

Infobesity: A digital data diet for the ages

“…a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention…”

Herbert A. Simon

Infobesity or information overload was a term coined by journalist John Naish. It refers to the overwhelming amount of information that we are bombarded with.

The New York Times estimates that we are exposed to upwards of 5000 advertisements per day every day of our lives. It saddens me that most toddlers can’t recognise a potato, but by age 3 they can easily recognise the golden arches of McDonald’s.

We feel compelled to leave our phones on 24 hours a day. An increasing number of people report that they are nervous or anxious if their mobile phone is turned off even for a few minutes (during a funeral, on a plane or in a movie).

I sometimes wonder why people bother going out to dinner with three friends when they prefer to spend the evening texting LOLs and WUWHs (wish you were here) to 200 other close personal acquaintances that they considered too unimportant to invite to dinner in the first place.

Worse still our phones are increasingly becoming handheld computers that keep us plugged into the internet and our email without relent. We instantly respond to the ping at speeds that would delight Skinner and Pavlov.

Television channels produce full day news bulletins covering breaking news, but after the initial incident (that may be newsworthy) the remaining day long coverage has little if any newsworthiness.  Yet we compulsively watch the endless live updates from the reporter at the scene who tells us that…’nothing has changed since the last update’ twenty minutes ago.

The internet has placed the entire knowledge of human history at our fingertips, but instead of going deep and learning new things we flit from a photo of a cat in a clown costume to a picture of the latest Lindsay Lohen fail. We are connected to thousands of acquaintances by the click of a button, yet our physical connectedness to real human beings dwindles year by year.

None of us would peak into the window of our neighbour, but we are all very comfortable peeping into the lives of strangers on Facebook- my workmates wife ate an orange at 8 am yesterday (FYI).

For all the interconnectedness young people still struggle to find comfortable conversations with their barber, or a neighbour they bump into at the market. This constant stream of living that passes across our screens has us watching life rather than living it.

The attention grabbing noise from our digitized lives is overwhelming. We are over tired, over stimulated and strangely given all the data we are exposed to in one day – extremely under informed about what matters in life.

I have decided to ignore the droplets of data. I will instead focus on rivers of wisdom. As part of my own less is best quest I biffed out my phone (no more monthly bill!), found the off button on the TV set and reviewed the level of intimacy I was having with my laptop. The benefits were immediate.

Since these changes the most noticeable improvement is that our house is quieter, calmer and more enjoyable to live in. I am now even more convinced that technology should serve me and not the other way around where I am constantly at its mercy responding to every blip.

There are several data diet experiments that you could trial for yourself. A trial is a nice non threatening step and doesn’t mean you are unplugging from the machine permanently. By taking a temporary break you allow yourself the opportunity to consciously appreciate the benefits.  Your data diet might be so beneficial that it becomes a permanent feature. An ongoing step towards digital healthfulness.

Data Diet Strategies

Strategy #1: Divide information between nice to know and need to know. Once you have established the division. Tune out of nice to know loops for one a full month.

Strategy #2: Unplug completely. Become a Luddite for at least two weeks. The best way to do this is to take a digital holiday the next time you take a physical holiday (e.g. don’t pack your PC, tablet, smartphone when you fly to Samoa). Don’t fret your life won’t fall apart. You can always tell people that your smart phone was in for repairs or the island had no signal.

Strategy #3: Tune out of the least two information channels for one month. Good places to start with would be to eliminate mindless websurfing at night, stop watching the TV news, or give your neighbour your newspaper subscription. Other ideas include turning off your mobile phone for the weekend or waiting one month to check your email.

Strategy #4: Use technology to slightly reduce your exposure. For instance set your device to download your email twice per day. Pre- programme TiVo or your DVD recorder to horde fewer shows. Set your phone to turn off automatically for periods of the day. This will seriously save your phone battery life.

You will never know the benefits until you try out a digital diet for yourself. This could lead to a longer digital holiday and who knows…perhaps a deep appreciation of the Luddite lifestyle. Having lived these experiments myself I know that a low data works better for me.

If I were to do some soothsaying – I suspect that in future we may see a growing number of young people rejecting pervasive digital technologies in favour of simpler more direct experience of their life. A life more akin to how our grandparents lived. Closer to nature, more resourceful and with a strong sense of place linking them to the communities that they lived in.

On ‘work’ by Jerome K. Jerome (1889)



[The following is an excerpt taken from the wonderful novel ‘Three men in a boat’ written by Jerome K. Jerome in 1889. Highly entertaining reading!]

It seemed to me that I was doing more than my fair share of work on this trip, and I was beginning to feel strongly on the subject. It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to work, mind you; I like work; it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me; the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me; my study is so full of it now that there is hardly an inch of room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.
And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn’t a finger-mark on it. I take pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation that I do.

But, though I crave for work, I still like to be fair. I do not ask for more than my proper share. But I get it without asking for it – at least, so it appears to me – and this worries me.

11 certain signs you are living a simple woman’s life

How many things are there which I do not want”

Socrates

11 certain signs you are living the life of a simple woman are:-

11. You enjoyed a delicious home cooked meal with your extended family in the last 7 days and it probably didn’t cost $20 for the whole rabble.

10. Friends compliment your clothes and ask you where you bought them. You tell them how you got them from Repel Le Label (vintage, second hand, free or cheap non label clothes). It’s all about an eye for the buy. Define your style. Buy for life. Avoid ill fitting fashion of the week and above all no harm clothes warm from within.

9. You worked the soil this week. Planting or tending to the fruit, veggies and native plants on your landholding.

8 You decluttered, tidied or optimised something to save time later. The effort today is a gift to future you.

7. You’ve made some furniture or other household item out of a packing crate or other found materials. It’s not just the men that have rights to escape child care duties in the shed.

6. You make your own household cleaning products for your man to use around the home. Forget toxic expensive supermarket cleaners (heck forget supermarkets – they are evil!).

5. Your free time is active free not passive expensive. Life’s way better when you play with the kids and exercise rather than shop and watch TV.

4. You’ve changed your hairstyle to something simpler and cheaper to maintain.

3. You’ve had a chat and a laugh with your girlfriends in the last 2 days.

2. You smiled twice this week when people living rich complained about their working life. Bigger smiles when over spenders give you a subtle put down for living within your means (and having all the rewards that job freedom offers).

1. You didn’t work today, but you still received some money along the way.

The dilemma that is insurance

“Bold print giveth and the fine print taketh away!”

Anonymous Insurance Agent

I don’t really understand insurance. I know I am not alone.

To my simple way of seeing things insurance is basically people like me, who don’t get embroiled in never ending shenanigans, having to indirectly fund people who are repeatedly tormented by the Gods or their own stupidity. All the while the company takes a crooked cut from both of us.

One positive is that if you live simply enough, and you are not attached to material possessions, then you don’t really need contents insurance. There is nothing important to be stolen, nothing that you must replace after a fire and nothing to be ruined in a flood. If you view everything you own as for sale or temporarily borrowed there is no point paying someone to protect them. One mental trick that I use is to view an item as already broken in the moment that I acquire it.  Seeing yourself throwing away a dull bent or broken thing can help you to avoid the allure of the beautiful shiny new thing that you desire. Seeing it as broken also helps you deal with the event when it actually does break. That moment can pass harmlessly.

Still even the uber minimalist among us have some stuff, however few, however basic and so some level of contents insurance is advisable. Even if you would view the loss of all your possessions as the final giant unclutter you would still need a few clothes for your back and some simple cooking equipment. Having insurance would help.

While I am ambivalent about contents insurance I am not so when it comes to home insurance. The risk of course, if your home were not insured, is that you return home from work one day to find a jet plane engine has fallen from the sky and flattened your house.  This would leave you with mortgage payments on a property that you can no longer use, and at the same time trying afford living costs somewhere else.

So insurance helps me mitigate the risk of having to make two large payments to buy one house. Still can insurance costs be reduced, neturalised or tuned to profit? If you are wondering where insurance sits on our framework it is in reduce mode right now.

There are of course many ways to avoid insurance like renting a house and riding a bicycle instead of owning your house or operating your own car. That way your landlord can deal with the scoundrels of actuary and you don’t have to.

There are also ways to minimise insurance by actively managing your behaviour to reduce premium costs or by picking policies that better fit your needs. For instance you could chose Fire, Flood and Theft insurance (FFT) instead of complete cover. FFT provides cover for 90 % of claims..the most likely things that can go wrong, but not the jet plane scenario if it were to happen. The main benefit is that FFT is significantly cheaper than full cover. It’s the odd ball catastrophic unpredictable risks (that virtually never happens) that drives your insurance premiums. If you are prepared to take the risk that a drunk driver won’t put his car through your lounge wall next Friday night then you can potentially save a lot in insurance payments.

But at the root of it if you own a house you need insurance cover and if you own a car you need third party insurance (as a minimum). This is and unavoidable life cost unless you like la pari! (to gamble).

I’ve racked my brain on the insurance obstacle for a number of years, but in that time I have not found a better way around the problem of paying someone a heck of a lot of money to protect me from something that is really unlikely to happen. In terms of probability its like paying someone a full time salary just to walk around with me at the golf course on a Saturday morning and catch errant golf balls before they hit me. You really appreciate that one that they catch an inch from your noggin, but as weeks roll by without incident you can’t help feel that you are wasting your money.

As you can see I struggle with the whole concept of insurance. Recent events have renewed my enthusiasm to surmount the insurance dilemma.

For one thing we would save all or part of our $3000 insurance payment that we gift every year. That’s an extra $75,000 that we are missing out on in our retirement fund.

The other issue is that a significant sized city in the country that I live in has been badly affected by a major natural disaster. The result is that the main insurance companies have reviewed the cover that they are willing to provide to anyone living in other cities not affected by this disaster.

Let me explain. Our insurance is currently replacement insurance. This means that we pay the insurance company a fixed premium and they cover us by rebuilding a similar house for us if we ever needed one. The price escalation risk (i.e. that property construction costs might be higher than the premiums we pay) is carried by the insurance company.

But now the major insurance companies have been badly affected by escalation (suddenly everyone in the same large city wants a new house at the same time) and the price to rebuild has spiked sharply. Insurers have responded by passing this price escalation risk directly back to their clients (carrying none themselves) through a nasty change in their policies. As a result it appears that I will no longer be able to purchase a ‘replacement’ insurance and instead will have to settle for a ‘sum insured’ policy.

This is worrying. We need to consider how much we would actually need to rebuild our home. In the event that our city was affected by tsunami or earthquake the price of home rebuilds could go up 100-150% as builders and materials will be in short supply. The problem is that if we covered our selves for 150% of our home’s current value we would be paying insurance premiums that are way too high considering the actual value of our house and an over insured house is a motive for mischief..and here is the issue.

Insurance companies cannot allow people to over insure or the number of ‘accidental’ home flambe’s would increase sharply.  Although the costs of rebuilding after a major disaster could be double the price it would be unwise for an insurance company to allow this type of cover even if  their customers are willing to pay them inflated premiums.  Bottom line…no insurance company will sufficiently insure our family home against natural disaster, but because this is so very unlikely is it actually a problem (even though it just happened in the city next door)?

As I see it our options (in order of decreasing riskiness) are:

Don’t insure at all. Redirect the savings to grow my capital retirement fund faster.

Continue to pay $3000 per year and hope that in my lifetime we are never affected by major flooding, earthquakes or tsunami so our cover should be sufficient.

Battle with a company to let me pay them+$6000 per year so that we are covered for everything from possible to improbable.

Return to renting. Let the landlord sort it.

I have also considered ideas like form my own insurance co-op, but I still need to learn more before I could consider a co-op as a serious alternative. Coorperating on insurance isn’t as far fetched as you might think. It is just a question of scale, equity and stability.

Anyway, I still pay insurance. I don’t want to, but I pay it.  Still I frequently think that perhaps there is something I am missing? A beautiful, elegant solution that my pigeon brain has failed to uncover…

Dear readers I’d love to hear from you if you are an insurance dodger. Help me out!

Excuse me…is this where enough lives?

“He who knows that enough is enough will always have enough”
Lao Tzu

I often ask people to help me understand where enough lives.

How do you know when you’ve watched enough TV?

How much food is enough at a free banquet?

How much money do you need to have enough?

If you’d been to every continent on the planet would you have travelled enough?

When should you push the off button on your laptop in the evening?

How big is the perfect house? How many rooms are enough to live comfortably?

If you suddenly had every possession you’ve ever wished for would that be enough or would you soon need something else?

Unfortunately, humans are hard wired to search so we have a really tough time trying to answer capped questions. As soon as we soar to a lofty perch atop the tallest tree we spy an even bigger tree off in the distance that looks even better to roost in. Once we have spied ‘better’, we take often take unconscious steps to attain it immediately. Our failure to pinpoint enough explains why you see extremely fat people that carry a block of cheese in their purse or why an incredibly wealthy business person will continue to work themselves into an early grave. It also explains why you regularly hear of a family with a 20 room house who are looking for a new place with more living space.

I appreciate that I must search. It is my nature to search. The market, the internet, for a better life. My ancestors succeeded because they could search better than other species. Their exceptional search abilities were the reason they found safe shelter and scraps of edible food to survive. In our early history both were in such short supply that the search function didn’t need an off button. There was never enough and so they searched for more perpetually…or they died.

That’s why I can’t stop myself from searching, but I can refocus my searching brain away from searching for more.  Now I search extensively for strategies to live with less. This is a good redirection of my nature. Better than waging a war of willpower over the pause button. Living with less has let me engage my search functions on hyperdrive without destroying myself and half the planet. Enough is a mirage in the dessert. There is no water only shimmering sand and the next mirage glistening off in the distance. Stroll on Governor.

For the first time since childhood I feel content and happy. I have enjoyed the search for less far more than I ever enjoyed my life when I was chasing down more or more recently wrestling with enough. Our ancient brains are perfectly content living life on simpler terms. Why fight our nature?  We must retrain our instincts that were built to succeed in scarcity and adapt them to our over abundant world. Scarcity is no longer the problem that our societies face. Now our challenge is avoiding destruction by abundance.

All around us are examples where we are failing to adapt to this new challenge and this failure brings us ever closer to the annihilation of our species. Nature is a harsh mother to her dullard children. We must choose to grow, to change and to evolve. Our fight for survival is very simple. We must shift away from fighting against each other and work together. In nature species that compete do not thrive as prolifically as those that entertain a strategy of mutual aid and mutual support. The Fire salamander, Lamnoid Sharks, Lions and Bears tend to compete, fight and kill each other. The highly competitive creatures are so few in number that if listed they would be unfamiliar to all but the most enthusiastic naturist.  Meanwhile, Ducks, Ants and Bees are playing nice together and have taken over every corner of the planet.

If we turn away from selfish competition and stop capturing (and squandering) all of the resources that we can get our hands on and instead practice a strategy of mutual aid, mutual support and mutual confidence our lives can become richer. As a species we have thrived because of our sociability. It is only a modern contortion of life that has killed community and fostered competition as the basis of our lives.  Kill the corporate I say. End rivalry. Reduce waste. Let’s give, cooperate, share, and help each other…for all our sake. Only when we appreciate that resources are so abundant, that there is no need to compete, horde and waste them, and that we can better achieve our life objectives working with others will we finally realise what enough looks like.

F1 Dishwasher Fault

“Broken! Busted! Everybody has something to repair. Before buying new, let Mighty Putty fix it for you”
Billy Mays

Tonight our dishwasher stopped mid cycle and started making a commotion.  It was flashing ‘F1 fault’. Probably very useful for a dishwasher repair person, but meaningless to me.

I was pissed off because there was water all over the floor and in the cupboards. I was then more pissed off thinking that I may need to fork out moola for repairs. Reluctant as I am to part with my money I didn’t want to pay a repair agent, so I wondered if I could repair it myself.

If my Dad lived in the same city I would of called him. He is a typical do it yourself penny wise miser. Unfortunately he doesn’t live in the same city and I didn’t wan’t to wait for his several months for his next visit.

I really didn’t want to ask my boyfriend. He’d probably start in on me that we need to sell it. At the moment he wants to replace our welcome mat at the front door with one that says ‘Everything you see here is for sale. Make me an offer!’.  He’s going to try to make it himself and it will look too tacky and terrible to live at my house.

He also hates working of electronic appliances because they have integrated circuits that make them over complicated to repair yourself. In this respect he’s more of a call in services type of guy. Probably something he got this from his never get her hands dirty Mum.

Anyway to cut a long story short  -You Tube!

Who would of guessed that You Tube would have a very detailed video on the exact steps to fix an F1 dishwasher fault? Took about 10 minutes and involved wiping out excess water, and then drying the exposed circuits with a hair dryer.

Girls can do anything.

Now to repair my hair straightener which has blow a thermal fuse…. Bring it on!