Monday, May 19, 2008

Stealing a Blog Post from an Email Thread

So my friend emailed me about some people she knew who were profiled in the New York Times because they are shucking off the coil of consumer trappings and moving to upstate Vermont. The article is here:

You really should read it or else you will have no context for my post. It's very short. It brought up a great discussion about what they are doing. This is how I responded to my buds: I admire the romantic ideal of what they are doing, I really do. I think it is amazing and I love the idea of being untethered from all the material possessions that I feel like I "need". And I hope that it works out for them. BUT, I find it very interesting that he is planning to continue to keep his job making a "ridiculous amount of money". WHAT?!!!! How is that living off the grid? I think that by trying to keep their feet in both worlds at once, their experiment is doomed to failure. Also, I was a little wary of the statement that they had a "brand new car". That shows that up until very recently they were still accumulating new, expensive stuff. IMHO, you might want to downsize a bit before giving away everything you own (including very sentimental posessions like your wedding rings) and moving across the country to live without electricity or running water. It might ease the shock a bit.
And to go further (and why I turned this into a blog post), it made me think of my own experiences. When Tim and I first got married, we didn't have a whole lot of money, but we had a very cheap apartment (how's $625 for a 2/2 sound?) and we were very happy. We were able to live life like we wanted with hand-me-down possessions and occassional splurge trips to IKEA while still having money left over to eat out when we wanted and invite friends over for mixed drink soirees. Then we both started getting raises, Tim especially. And we still had the same expenses. So every Sunday we'd get the paper and read the circulars while eating donuts or cinnamon rolls (this is also the time when I gained 20 pounds). And then we'd go out and go shopping, usually to Target, and come back with a bunch of crap. Granted, we were also setting up house, so you could argue we had places for it, but shopping was a hobby. That continued for a while until we decided to buy a house, so we went on a severe budget and saved the money for a downpayment for our house (which I think was only eight grand, but it seemed like an ENORMOUS amount back then. And actually, it probably was.)
Fast forward to now. When I think really hard about every single purchase. Like do I really want to bring this into my house? And a lot of that has come out of the design of our house and the evolution of my sense of design. Although the fact that everything we have to buy seems to be skyrocketing in price doesn't help. But focusing on the design element, I have grown to HATE clutter. I still have some tchokes that I love dearly, but for the most part I've tried to banish the ones I don't have material attachments to. Our house dictates we can't have clutter. Of course, the flip side of this is that when we make purchases they are BIG ones that are what I would call "investment" pieces. But I don't really buy much crap anymore. It's sort of a shock to realize that. But it's true. And when we moved from our old house to Tim's parents we got rid of a ton of stuff. Then when we moved in here we realized we still had a bunch of stuff that never should have made the move so we purged again. And just a few weeks ago, we cleaned out the garage and purged again. The moral of my ramble? There isn't one, I guess, except to say that even those of us who (somewhat reluctantly) continue our traditional consumerist lifestyle still put thought into what we purchase and how. And perhaps the one good thing that might come out of the recession would be a whole lot of people doing that same sort of self-examination. Because most of us have a lot of stuff we don't need.


Tim said...

The thing that also got me was that they were getting rid of so many things. We got rid of some things when we moved that we later found out we needed. So we've had to re-buy things. And that was just moving houses.

I cannot imagine how many things they're going to realize they need to re-buy, especially since they apparently haven't even thought out how they're going to get Internet access to their cabin without electricity to stay gainfully employed.

Not to mention that the things that you connect to the Internet need electricity. Which they don't appear to have thought about.

Kate said...

I'm with you guys that these folks don't seem to have really thought through the details of what's going to happen. And their monetary resources remind me of an article in Time magazine in the late 80's. It was all about Baby Boomers dropping out of the rat race and living some semi-crunchy granola existence. But the ridiculous amounts of money they made before helped them build the gorgeous home in the woods.

That sounds bitter and I'm really not. I definitely admire people who want to have less stuff. We're working on it. I'm a collector and a hoarder, but our house limits what we can have around. And we have (mostly) kicked our shopping hobby. It's also helpful for me to think about where I'll put whatever it is that I want so very much.