"We spend money we don't have on things we don't need to make impressions that won't last on people we don't care about." Vishal Gondal
One of my goals over the last couple of years has been to reduce my attachment to things, and put my energy and resources into experiences. I've also been learning to stop worrying about people I don't care about, and focus on the friends and family who are important to me.
I've been in America for about a year now. I arrived with two suitcases, and left everything else behind or got rid of it. At some point I'd like to reclaim my guitar and violin, my artwork, the boxes of mementoes, and the few books I kept, but in the main, I've found I haven't missed having them around. It seems to be working.
So just for the hell of it, I decided to look around the house and see what things I've bought in the last year (in decreasing order of cost).
- A house. Yes, OK, so that was a pretty damn big purchase. But I sold my old one, so I still have just as many houses as I had before. And this one is actually smaller.
- A hot tub. That was a big expense, and yes, it's a bloody good toy. But it's made one hell of a difference to my back and Anna's, so it's not just sybaritic indulgence.
- Our wedding rings.
- A bed. Because, we didn't have one when I arrived and I'm too old for sleeping on the floor.
- A desktop and a laptop. For work. Mine died shortly after arrival.
- Office equipment: chair, filing stuff, stationery, and so on. Also for work.
- New glasses. Necessary. I can't use a computer without them.
- Half a dozen shirts, two pairs of shorts, a pair of jeans, swimming stuff, some underwear and new sandals. I got fat and my sneakers wore out.
- A painting by our friend Ben. Undeniably, purely for my own pleasure, because I loved it the minute I saw it.
- A large TV. Used, and ridiculously cheap.
- Half a dozen food magazines and assorted used recipe books.
- A small box of inks & brushes.
- A kettle and a slow cooker.
- A necklace from the Pow-Wow we went to, for all of $10.
- A $5 print of a Weird Tales cover, which now hangs above my desk.
- A shakuhachi (bamboo flute) which I can't play, but would like to.
- A guitar amp, which I swapped for a load of audio stuff we found in the storage of the old place and cost me nothing.
And that's it. No books, DVDs, games or CDs. No gadgets. No stupid "seemed like a good idea / joke at the time" ornaments. No T-shirts with a slogan that you wear once and then hide in the back of the cupboard. Very little of it is stuff I don't genuinely need, let alone intended to impress anyone else. Basically, barring the furniture and the office stuff, I can still nearly fit everything I own into those same two suitcases I arrived with.
I've thoroughly enjoyed spending what money I have on good food and drink, going out, seeing bits of Florida, and generally having a good time. I've found that to be infinitely more rewarding than accumulating piles of crap, and it makes me feel like I'm no longer carrying around a huge burden labelled POSSESSIONS.
More importantly, though, it's become clear that my life isn't about having things that make fleeting impressions on people who don't matter. Instead, I've been developing new friendships with people I care about, based on who I am, not on what I've bought. And that, when all's said and done, is the key to a happy life.