Friday, November 12, 2010

Seven More Sleeps 'Til Buy Nothing Day


Pretty much every day is Buy Nothing Day here on the old homestead. Even if I had a disposable income, there really isn't anything to spend it on, other than local produce or an evening at the pub.

Over the last couple of years, I have been living on what I thought was very little money. About $900 comes in each month, and $600 goes out for rent and phone. The remaining $300 buys groceries, dog food and the occasional chocolate treat. God forbid there be an emergency, but most months I manage just fine.

But recently I met a guy who has been living for the last 14 years on $2000 a year. That works out to about $160 a month. Now this guy does own his own home so he doesn't have to pay rent, but that still means awfully meager rations to live on. How does he do it?

A lot of scrimping and saving, mostly, but I have to say he is pretty much the happiest person I know. He plays a great Spanish guitar and has a charming sense of humour. He has many friends, some of whom do indeed look out for him with offerings from the vegetable garden. He does have a bit of an unusual interest in sungazing, which apparently can be so nourishing to the soul that one doesn't need to eat food, but perhaps in his case it is a purely practical quest.

I read a while ago about Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who has been living without money for fourteen years. She also speaks of the positive effects of opting out of the economic system: “Life became much more exciting. More beautiful. I had everything I needed and I knew I couldn’t go back to my old life. I didn’t have to do what I didn’t like, I had a more profound sense of joy, and physically I feel better than ever. Living without money was just the first step. I realised that I wanted to change the world and I wasn’t going to do that by looking after someone’s cat while they were on holiday.” More can be found about her inspiring approach to life here.

Several years ago, my friend Wendy Tremayne lived without monetary exchange for twelve months. She told me that it was the richest and most fulfilling year of her life, and the experience prompted her to move from New York to New Mexico, and immerse herself in a more sustainable way of living.

Both Wendy and Heidimarie used swapping of skills, or barter, to obtain the goods and services they needed. But they also mention a phenomenon that I have experienced as well - that when living a conscious life, with a focus on genuine human interaction, what you need appears as you need it.

Another brilliant spark, Carmen Mills, has written a thought-provoking piece about money and our relationship to it here. She draws from her Buddhist practice as she says "Lend it, spend it, give it away. But keep it moving, because it is always an exchange, energy for energy, as the wheel goes ’round."

And especially for artists and creators, one last reference if you desire any more inspiration to re-examine your relationship to the material world: Lewis Hyde's book The Gift. It describes the concept of a gift economy, and makes for a very exciting afternoon of reading, especially if you're not the sort to hit the malls on November 26th.

9 comments:

  1. a great post. i guess it might depend on where you live. i need to relocate. ha!

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  2. I have read the gift and enjoyed it very much. I also beleive in the idea that the Cosmos will look after you or in my case God provides all my needs not always my wants. I love this post and will be passing on some of your points to family and friends. Take care, stay safe, be happy.
    Beverley (UK)

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  3. Yes, a great post. It is food for my mind and soul, I feel the need to go deeper into this 'spend less money'. I am in a phase of change in my life and I am starting to feel the need of getting rid of things and having a simpler life.
    Thanks.

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  4. hi heather..i just left a comment
    for Wendy. amazingly, i live not
    so far from her, just up the
    freeway from T or C near Socorro.
    enjoyed reading back her blog
    about the sewing kit you had
    made her....world sometimes gets
    so nicely small.
    REALLY great post here

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  5. I love this post, and it came to me at a very appropriate time. I will definately pass on alot of the points.I especially love the Buddhist practice and exchange of energy. Thanks!

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  6. Heather, I took inspiration from your post and wrote one on my blog.
    I hope that this is fine with you, if not please let me know.

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  7. I love this place. Your article perfecly explaine us how happy we may live with few ... probably it's the only way to appreciate life.

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  8. Nobody has pointed out that Buy Nothing Day is actually two weeks from the date of posting, not one! Either you are all an incredibly tactful bunch, or you share my lack of calendars!

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