August 31, 2011

Nature


Nature at our doorstep

Over the years my partner and I have made major life changes, sacrifices some may say. These were done for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is so we could be surrounded by nature on a daily basis.

Our rural community of 10,000 people shares the land with one of the highest concentrations of black bears and cougars in the world. Nature still rules here - we are wedged between the wilderness of the hills and forest on one side, and the wilderness of the ocean on the other. It is rugged and less civilized, just the way we like it.

It is so wild in fact, that last week I had to go no further than the living room window to see a black bear. I grabbed the binoculars and settled in. The large bear was across the river from us, and on the beach. I watched it eating, sitting on its haunches pulling berry-laden branches down to its big pink mouth.

When it finished eating it began to amble along the beach, without worry and exuding confidence and calm. All of a sudden it began to run, and it was scary fast. I was glad I was viewing it from a distance, and not doing the 50 yard dash to the closest tree.

Vancouver Island Black Bear
The bear looked like it was running out of pure joy. It was in a relatively undeveloped natural area, and there appeared to be no threats. When it was done running in and out of the forest it slowed to ambling speed again, and headed toward the river.

Still watching the bear through the binoculars, I then got to see it go for a swim. It went right into the deep water of the river, and completely immersed itself except for its nose, eyes, and two round ears. How could such a large predator vanish like that? Bear stealth mode.

It lolled about in the water, and since it was a hot day I could hardly blame it. After a few minutes it exited the water, shook off like a big, plush doggy, and disappeared into the shadow of the forest.

I thought about my bear experience this week when I heard of a Vancouver Island man in Campbell River who, while walking down the street, encountered a large black bear. Stunned, he dropped to the sidewalk and played dead. The man said that the bear sniffed at him for a few minutes before walking away.

The traumatized dude, completely unhurt, said that the unbelievably pungent odor of the magnificent creature is what he will remember most. If that were me lying there on the sidewalk pretending I'm dead, the bear wouldn't be the only smelly thing around.

But that is what we like about Vancouver Island - it is wild. It keeps us on our toes and reminds us of our connection to, and dependence on, natural systems. It hones our survival instincts and skills - we aren't as soft and unprepared as we used to be.


August 29, 2011

No Impulse Shopping Monday

Businesses have ways to separate you from your money - Mind Control!
Definition

Impulse shopping is an unplanned decision to buy a product or service, made just before the purchase. 

If you have ever been waiting at the check out till of a store, and spontaneously bought some of the magazines, candy, or batteries on display, you have fallen victim to "mind control tools" that drive you to spend money you did not intend to spend.

Businesses know that the impulse purchase is a critical tool for driving retail profits, but the customer seems to 'benefit' too - impulse shopping can put us in a better mood if we are feeling stressed or angry. 

We will feel better, even if our impulse purchase is only a pack of gum - for a little while, anyway. At least until we realize we have been had, and that tricks have been employed to encourage us to make unplanned, and often unnecessary, purchases.

Impulse Shopping Facts
  • 88% of all impulse purchases are made because an item is on sale.
  • Impulse buying goes down by 13% during a planned shopping trip.
  • Shoppers who go to the store by car instead of on foot are 44% more likely to make unplanned purchases.
  • Rather than purchasing useful or necessary items, impulse shoppers buy primarily because the item puts them in a better mood.
  • When people shop with the purpose of buying immediate needs, the rate of impulsive buying falls by 53%.
  • Impulse shoppers usually buy because they are angry, stressed, guilty, or bored.
  • Grocery shoppers with full stomachs make fewer impulse purchases than those that shop hungry.
  • Younger, single shoppers make 45% more unplanned purchases than older married shoppers.
  • Conditions for your shopping experience are heavily manipulated so that sights, sounds, and smells in the store encourage you to make unplanned purchases.
  • Knowing you are being manipulated helps you avoid being taken advantage of by unscrupulous marketers and businesses.
  • Focusing on your long term goals helps you overcome the urge to make impulsive purchases. Think about the money you will save, and how you might better spend it on planned purchases.

August 28, 2011

Simple Tips For Reducing Energy Consumption


Why waste increasingly expensive energy? Cut your electric bills with these free, money-saving tips that start with the basics. These simple solutions will benefit the environment, and your pocketbook, as soon as you start using them. 

1. Unplug



  • Unplug seldom-used appliances, like an extra refrigerator in the basement or garage that contains just a few items. You may save around $10 every month on your utility bill.




  • Unplug your chargers when you're not charging. Every house is full of little plastic power supplies to charge cell phones, PDA's, digital cameras, cordless tools and other personal gadgets. Keep them unplugged until you need them.




  • Use power strips to switch off televisions, home theater equipment, and stereos when you're not using them. Even when you think these products are off, together, their "standby" or "phantom" power consumption can be equivalent to that of a 75 or 100 watt light bulb running continuously.





  • 2. Set Computers to Sleep and Hibernate




  • Enable the "sleep mode" feature on your computer, allowing it to use less power during periods of inactivity. In Windows, the power management settings are found on your control panel. Mac users, look for energy saving settings under system preferences in the apple menu.




  • Configure your computer to "hibernate" automatically after 30 minutes or so of inactivity. The "hibernate mode" turns the computer off in a way that doesn't require you to reload everything when you switch it back on. Allowing your computer to hibernate saves energy and is more time-efficient than shutting down and restarting your computer from scratch. When you're done for the day, shut down.




  • Using sleep and hibernate modes not only saves energy, they can extend the life of your computer.





  • 3. Take Control of Room Temperature



  • Set your thermostat in winter to 20 degrees C (68 F) or less during the daytime, and 13 C (55 F) before going to sleep (or when you're away for the day). During the summer, set thermostats to 26 C (78 F) or more.




  • Use sunlight wisely. During the heating season, leave shades and blinds open on sunny days, but close them at night to reduce the amount of heat lost through windows. Close shades and blinds during the summer or when the air conditioner is in use or will be in use later in the day.




  • Set the thermostat on your water heater between 49 C (120 F) and 54 C (130 F). Lower temperatures can save more energy, but you might run out of hot water or end up using extra electricity to boost the hot water temperature in your dishwasher.




  • 4. Use Appliances Efficiently



  • Set your refrigerator temperature at 3 C (38 F) to 5.5 C (42 Fahrenheit); your freezer should be set between -18 C (0 F) and -15 C (5 F). Use the power-save switch if your fridge has one, and make sure the door seals tightly. You can check this by making sure that a dollar bill closed in between the door gaskets is difficult to pull out. If it slides easily between the gaskets, replace them.




  • Don't preheat or "peek" inside the oven more than necessary. Check the seal on the oven door, and use a microwave oven for cooking or reheating small items.




  • Wash only full loads in your dishwasher, using short cycles for all but the dirtiest dishes. This saves water and the energy used to pump and heat it. Air-drying, if you have the time, can also reduce energy use.




  • In your clothes washer, set the appropriate water level for the size of the load, but try only washing when you have a full load; wash in cold water when practical, and always rinse in cold.




  • Clean the lint filter in the dryer after each use. Dry heavy and light fabrics separately and don't add wet items to a load that's already partly dry. If available, use the moisture sensor setting. (A clothesline is the most energy-efficient clothes dryer of all!)





  • 5. Turn Out The Lights

  • Don't forget to flick the switch when you leave a room. Or better yet, don't turn lights on and work by daylight, if possible. Use timers for lights in stairways, entrances, or hallways.




  • Don't leave outside lights on all night. Such lights can be set on timers, light sensitive switches, or motion detectors.




  • - adapted from NRDC "How To Reduce Energy Consumption"

    August 26, 2011

    The Fight Against Stuff

    How do you fight the urge to buy stuff?

    Reddit is one of the most popular web sites in North America. It is a form of social media where members post links to news and items of interest on the web. It is a place to share and discuss anything - including the Fight Against Stuff.

    I am a moderator on a Reddit sub-page, or 'sub-reddit', called Simple Living. When I took over moderating about a year ago, the page had 209 subscribers. Now it has 4142, so it would appear that simple living is a topic of interest in these economically challenged times.

    The brief description for the Simple Living subreddit reads:

    "Ideas and inspiration for living a simpler, saner life. A place to share tips on living with less stuff, work, speed, and stress, and more freedom, time, self-reliance and joy."

    Over the months the page has become a great place to share ideas on battling consumerism and the flood of temptations that we are exposed to daily. Take for example the following post:
    "I want stuff. I want a lot of stuff. Almost every day I'm surrounded by stuff I don't have but want. None of it is useful, all of it is expensive.

    Every so often I have moments of clarity. I stop and think. I don't really want this stuff. It wouldn't improve my life in any way. I'd actually be quite happy with nothing but a few clothes, a small computer, and enough money to pay rent and food, and the occasional book. Maybe some shoestring travel on the side as well.

    I'm constantly told I need a high-paying job. Why? To buy more stuff of course! And to get a bigger house! I don't want a high-paying job (and, indeed, I'm not qualified for any), and I don't ever want to own property.

    How do I get away from these urges? How do I break the habit that's been ingrained into all of us since birth?"
    I responded with the following:
    "The rural area I live in is less materialistic than the city I moved from. Less advertising, more wilderness. Being away from the stuff-oriented mainstream reduces pressures to spend.

    I have also come to realize that "the habit that's been ingrained into all of us since birth" is a scam, and that I don't want to participate. Therefore, the less I buy, the more successful I am.

    I have been buying so little in the last 10 years that I have been able to support myself on temporary casual jobs. All of the jobs have been fun for one reason or another. I have worked as a limousine chauffeur (for a VERY interesting look at how the rich live), a raft guide, and an environmental educator with school-aged children.

    I was able to do these things because I quit my "high-paying job" so that I could do whatever I wanted. My low stuff/low wage labour lifestyle has been fun and free ever since.

    You can break the habit by realizing that your personal liberation lies in living simply, even if (especially if?) you have next to nothing."

    How do you break the habit to buy? What has been successful in your fight against stuff?

    Read more comments on this Simple Living thread here. Consider becoming a Reddit member, and subscribing to Simple Living. It is a good way to access information, and discuss topics that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

    August 24, 2011

    Stuff Is Bait

    bait
    n.
    1. An enticement; a temptation.

    v. bait·ed, bait·ing, baits
    v.tr.
    1. To place a lure in (a trap) or on (a fishing hook).
    2. To entice, especially by trickery or strategy.


    When people go fishing they put a hook through a piece of bait, then dangle it in the water in what they hope is a manner tantalizing to fish. A fish can see the tasty morsel, but after a while may discover that there is a sharp hook in it. It stays away.

    We must beware of enticements, especially those by trickery or strategy. There are people that will scheme and lie to make you believe that their product or service will make you happy. Beware - they are fishing for something, and their tempting stuff is bait.

    People fishing for money and minds discovered long ago that consumers with sufficient money (or ability to make money in the future) will take the bait. We know by now that there is a dangerous hook inside, but the constraining lines of debt and work feel like a small price to pay for being able to enjoy the bait. But we are being reeled in hook, line, and sinker.

    The fish is harmed if it takes the bait, as we are harmed by biting on the enticing morsels of the material world. Stuff is constantly dangling in the murky waters of consumerism that surround us - it is hard to escape.

    "It will make you happy", the fishers tell us as they present their lures. But the fishing trip (advertising) is a calculated strategy. It is trickery - a deception that more and more of the world's population is falling for. It is a dangerous deception, for the lures bristle with hooks.

    Be an aware fish and stay away from the hooks. Know that the only things that bring lasting happiness are love and understanding.

    Everything else is bait.

    August 22, 2011

    No Meat Monday

    "I used to like hanging your artwork on the fridge better before that vegan teacher came along."

    Some people think that meat is murder - tasty, tasty murder. For the past 10 years I have not been a big murderer meat eater.

    Labels make eating complicated, and are controversial. Discussing food issues has ruined many an appetite.

    We are not vegan. Are we even vegetarian? Is being mostly vegetarian like being mostly pregnant? Ovo-lacto semi-vegetarians doesn't sound much better.

    We eat low on the food chain. No meat except for the occasional can of sardines and some shellfish for their rich stores of healthful omega fatty acids. We eat a plant based diet - mostly fruits and vegetables - of whole foods. No fast food, no restaurant food, no processed food.

    Our food choices enable us to make daily decisions about how the earth will be used to feed us. We want to eat as low-impact, healthy, and sustainable as possible.

    You can start moving toward a more gentle, earth-friendly, plant based diet by eating yummy vegetarian meals one day a week.

    How about making today a No Meat Monday?


    August 21, 2011

    New Feature On NBA: Amazing Feats Of Simplicity

    H. D. Thoreau will be featured on an upcoming post for Amazing Feats Of Simplicity

    I would like to share the most recent addition to the Features Page - Amazing Feats Of Simplicity. The Features button at the top of this blog links to a page that highlights several reoccurring themes on NBA.

    Amazing Feats of Simplicity will include posts that focus on individuals who are models of simple living. It will include historical figures as well as people who are choosing simpler ways of life today.

    The first post in this feature is on a Japanese soldier that lived on his wits and the jungle environment around him for decades after the end of the second world war. His story is a tale of survival, austerity, discipline, and commitment to ideals and values.

    The second post is about a former teacher in Germany that quit her job and middle class existence to live a nomadic, community-centered life of simplicity. She lived for 13 years without the use of money. Her story forces all of us to consider what we really need in life.

    I find these stories fascinating, inspirational, and motivating, and hope you will too.

    I add this new item to the other categories on the features page, and invite you to check them all out:
    • Make It Last
    • Simple Pleasures
    • Extreme Frugal Living
    • No Mischief Monday
    Just click on the Features button above.

      August 19, 2011

      Living Without Money

      H. Schwermer with her worldly possessions
      Money, it used to be said, makes the world go round. Now it creates chaos and havoc, poverty and riots. Not that there is a shortage of the stuff - there is an abundance like never before. It's just that a tiny group of people possess the majority of it, while the rest scrounge for coins that fall through the grate. But what if you could live without money?

      That is exactly what Heidemarie Schwermer did for 13 years. She is an ex-teacher living in Germany, and after a 'conversion moment', her life changed. Unleashed inside her was a strong desire to live a more simple life with fewer possessions and a more authentic, cooperative existence. To do so she needed to remove the obstruction of money.

      Eventually she worked hard enough to get off of money all together.

      Part of Schwermer's plan was a Tauschring, or barter community. She called it Give and Take, and it became a thriving money-free zone. Members exchange goods and services. Haircuts are traded for electrical work. Unused stuff is traded for things that are needed. The horrors of big finance are nowhere to be seen, and the economically disenfranchised are empowered while building and sharing skills.

      In a money-obsessed world, living without money seems like an outrageous idea. And yet, some are doing it. Sickened by the greed and mayhem in the glass monoliths of the word's financial centers, some barter members are disconnecting entirely from the mainstream economy.

      For Schwermer quitting teaching, stuff, and money has been liberating. She is contributing to her community and feels more free than ever. She illustrates her unfettered life by displaying her entire set of possessions - everything fits into a suitcase and a duffel bag. 

      No money. No stuff. No problem.

      "The point is that my living without money is to allow for the possibility of another kind of society. I want people to ask themselves, ‘What do I need? How do I really want to live?’ Every person needs to ask themselves who they really are and where they belong." - Heidemarie Schwermer

      August 17, 2011

      Buying Stuff We Don't Need

      How much do we spend on purchases of nonessential goods and services? Quite a bit, as it turns out.
      "A non-scientific study of Commerce Department data suggests that in February, U.S. consumers spent an annualized $1.2 trillion on non-essential stuff including pleasure boats, jewelry, booze, gambling and candy.
      That’s 11.2% of total consumer spending, up from 9.3% a decade earlier and only 4% in 1959, adjusted for inflation. In February, spending on non-essential stuff was up an inflation-adjusted 3.3% from a year earlier, compared to 2.4% for essential stuff such as food, housing and medicine."
      - source
      Since American consumer capitalism is the model much of the rest of the world is using, it looks like a lot more of us are going to be buying goods and services we don't need.

      It seems an odd thing to do with the wealth we generate. We don't use our improved situation and growing wealth to help lift others out of poverty. We don't generate enough money to buy the things we DO need, then relax. No, we make as much money as we can, and with the 'extra' we buy stuff we don't need.

      $1.2 trillion a year is a lot of money to spend on things we might live better without. And that is just the US. Global spending on luxuries is increasing with growing wealth. 

      Is this the improved world that consumer capitalism promises? Where everyone experiences a questionably better life as a result of buying useless crap from each other, while destroying nature in the process?

      Not for me - I am not buying anything except for what I need. Doing so has been a good way to:
      • get out of debt.
      • put a stop to clutter.
      • generate less garbage.
      • free the mind.
      • spend less in order to be able to work less.
      • join in solidarity with the majority of humans on the planet who are also living this way.
      • reduce our impact on the ecosystem.
      • push back against a broken, misguided system.
      We all spend money on things we don't need. Identifying such things, then slowly eliminating them, is not only good for the planet, but is personally liberating as well.

      August 15, 2011

      No Corruption Monday


      I didn't particularly enjoy grade school as a student. When I entered the school system later as a teacher, I discovered it wasn't much better from that end. Students and teachers both end up corrupted.

      What bothered me in both roles was how the education system is increasingly set up to produce compliant workers, not independent thinkers. And not just education, but most parenting as well. You can be different, but not too different.

      I always looked up to those people that thought differently - artists and rebels, musicians and writers, hermits and hippies, and all manner of misfits and malcontents. But it was hard for me to maintain my "Stick it to the Man" when all of a sudden I was a teacher, and I was the Man.

      We do our youth a disservice by training them to accept cubicles, rather than help them break down walls and imagine something different, something better. I did what I could to foster independent thinking in my students, while realizing there was a larger world out there they would need to integrate into (if they chose to do so).

      Schools may be turning out students that are well adjusted to the larger world, but what if that world is profoundly sick? If we all share the same delusion, how will we know we are delusional?

      Let's stop corrupting our youth, and start telling them the truth: Our system isn't working, and we need people who can think differently and imagine better ways of doing things.

      August 13, 2011

      What Happened To The Boomers?

      These are the ex-Flower Children?

      The 1960s was the last time there was a popular mass movement that espoused simple living. The counter-culture movement, made up of early baby boomers, had an ethos of working with nature, communal living, creative expression, and questioning authority. But the movement quickly devolved into a pathos of shattered dreams and missed opportunities.

      After a good start in the 60s, by the 70s the peace-loving, anti-authority generation had tuned out, turned off, and dropped in to the "narcotic tobacco haze of Capitalism". Clear eyed idealists of this huge group were overcome by the more populous section of their contemporaries that eventually turned into bleary-eyed consumer zombies.

      What of the ideals of the movement?
      "A 1967 article in Time Magazine asserted that the hippie movement has a historical precedent in the counterculture of the Ancient Greeks, espoused by philosophers like Diogenes of Sinope and the Cynics. The article also claimed that the Hippies were influenced by the ideas of Jesus Christ, Hillel the Elder, Buddha, St. Francis of Assisi, Henry David Thoreau, Gandhi, and others." - wikipedia
      This is a major Who's Who of the great teachers of simplicity. Diogenes lived in a barrel in a public square, and preferred enjoying a warm, sunny day to meeting with influential politicians. He was all about living freer and better, unencumbered by things and the inequality of social classes.

      The 1960s emphasis on living more satisfying, sustainable lives was an important movement in the right direction. People were seeing the dehumanizing, ecologically damaging effects of putting money as the bottom line for decision making. But then the mighty cultural pendulum began to swing, often aided by riot squad tear gas, billy clubs, and bullets.

      Communes and cooperation (almost a million people lived in more than 10,000 cooperatives across the US in the early 70s) gave way to McMansions in gated communities. By the 1980s geodesic domes looked like quaint playthings when compared to 2500 square foot starter homes in 'architecturally controlled' neighbourhoods. It was the beginning of the era of 'Greed is Good'.


      Bicycles and VW Beetles were replaced with bulldozing Hummers and BMWs. Mind-expanding drugs were set aside for the mind-numbing high of buying enough stuff to fill billions of homes and garages and storage lockers and garden sheds and drawers and closets, and...

      It was a race with the Joneses, even though no one knew who they were (or that they were financing the whole lifestyle with loans). Purchasing power formed the new ethos - it was survival of the most privileged, connected, and wealthy. The counter-culture was gutted, and reduced to a fashion trend.

      Flower power and universal love were seen as subversive and weak. The most competitively minded and ethically challenged among us began to take over, often using hate and divisiveness to separate and control us. 

      By the 2000s we had forgotten all the lessons of the counter-culture, and had succeeded in soiling our nest to the point of looking for extra-solar planets to move to when this one is done.

      Wow. What happened to the boomers? Does a glimmer of the freedom of the counter-culture still burn in their cold, consumeristic hearts, and can they rediscover the peace and love that will be required to kick the high-consumption habit?

      It would be groovy if they could.

      August 12, 2011

      I Am Not My Stuff



      Stuff. What's all the stuff for? We have paid dearly for heaps and heaps of stuff, most of which essentially has no real purpose or value. We are using mass-produced consumer items to distinguish ourselves on the ladder of excess, to identify who we are and what we stand for.

      But we are not our stuff. We come into the world with nothing and with nothing we will leave it. In between the two, the lighter the load the better.

      When we rid our lives of all the useless stuff - that threatens to drag us and the planet down - we can find out who we really are. That's when the work really starts.

      Perhaps if we knew how liberating it is to not buy anything, to live with less, and to be more free, we might wish for a pyre large enough to incinerate all the stuff, and from the ashes start a new simple life.

      You will be the same person you were before the flames, only without all the stuff.

      August 10, 2011

      Perspective



      When we come to realize our amazing insignificance in the grand scheme of the universe, we become aware of the extreme significance of the small things that make up our lives.

      We can quit living petty lives and focus our energy on our children, families, friends, nature, the preciousness of good health, and the importance of cooperation and being kind to one another.

      Considering the vastness and richness of space helps put things into perspective. How important is it that I spend more time making more money, to buy more stuff, to impress more people?

      Is that really our ultimate purpose on this "mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam"?

      August 8, 2011

      No Turbulence Monday

      Our patio container garden - very tranquilo
      My front patio is a place I like to go when I am looking for tranquility. It is a peaceful place where I enjoy experiencing the cycles of life.

      Our square inch garden has graduated to a square foot garden. There is nothing like growing food and getting soil under your nails. The cycle of life, nurtured by your own hands and unfolding before your very eyes.

      The temperature on the water is always a few degrees cooler than further inland, and some doubted vegetables could be grown in this location successfully. There is usually always a cool breeze blowing off the water, and we are in the shade of a centuries old, gnarly conifer.

      The Leaning Tree
      We have been enjoying nurturing the peas, beans, lettuce, potato, and spinach. Today our garden received the seal of approval from our 85 year old neighbour. Heartened by our success she is considering switching from flowers to vegetables next summer.

      August 7, 2011

      How To Not Buy Anything

      Bend back the bars of consumerism - try not buying anything.
      Some people try buying nothing for a day, or for a holiday such as Christmas. Some are not buying anything that they have ever seen advertised, including food. Others try not buying anything (or anything new) for a year.

      My partner and I have been enjoying not buying anything (except necessities) as an ongoing lifestyle. It is permanent - we do not plan on going back to a high-consumption way of life. We have discovered how much we already have, and how little we need.

      Our move toward buying less was motivated by a desire to reduce our environmental impact, and live more sustainably.

      We also wanted to reduce the number of hours of wage labour we needed to engage in so we could enjoy life more, and nurture our priorities.

      Along the way we have become better at not buying anything. These are some of the things that have helped us move closer to our goals:

      How To Not Buy Anything
      1. The best way to not buy anything is to reduce your desires. Ask yourself if you really need the item in question. Really need. No, really. Keep on asking. Life can be complete, exciting, and rewarding without spending money.
      2. Consider (as much as possible) the full environmental and social consequences of your purchases. That alone will make most stuff less attractive.
      3. Lower your income. The less money you have, the less you will spend. If you like your high income work, save the money you would otherwise let slip through your fingertips. Share it.
      4. Don't pay for anything that you can make or do yourself. This includes cooking, haircuts, riding a bike or walking for transportation, repairs around the house, and growing a garden. The potential list is huge, depending on your skills and how much time you have. Public libraries and the Internet are the go-to places for free resources to learn how to make and do new things. It is fun.
      5. Separate socializing and commerce. This is a hard one since the majority of social outings are based on spending money. Suggest meeting on a bench somewhere, and bring a thermos of hot beverage and a snack from home. Have a picnic in a park. Meet in a public venue with bag lunches. Go for a walk together.
      6. Don't buy anything that is not good for you or for others. Processed foods, snack foods, restaurant food, alcohol, and violent movies are things that probably are not so good for us - why spend money on them? We cut our gas purchases by 50% this year because burning fossil fuels degrades our collective resource - the atmosphere.
      7. Resist the urge to upgrade. Upgrades are expensive and wasteful. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to replace perfectly good devices with ones that are questionably 'better' or 'improved'. When you buy something, try using it until it wears out and dies a natural death. Many things you may never need to buy again.
      8. When you go out take food and water with you. Even crappy fast food and pop or bottled water are temptations when you're thirsty and hungry. We never leave home on longer outings without food and something to drink. This makes spontaneous picnics possible, and we have them frequently. Costs less, and no garbage is generated.
      9. Do not compare yourself to those around you. It does not matter what other people have, or think you should have. It does not matter if those around you go for annual vacations in warm third world destinations. The Joneses lost the house, gave up, and left the neighbourhood years ago.
      10. Make what you already own last as long as possible. Use your things gently, maintain them, keep them clean, and lower your cost per use.
      11. Try not to be guilted into buying things. Reduce the obligations that you do not agree with that make you feel like you 'have to' buy things.
      12. Number 1 is worth repeating. The best way to not buy anything is to reduce your desires.

      The antiquated idea of 'the one who dies with the most toys wins' is dead. We have the capacity to be happier with less. The more we live this way, the more we wonder what all the other stuff was for.

      The high consumption lifestyles that we are trained to aspire to are looking obscenely wasteful in an increasingly wasted, famine-ridden world.

      We hope our tips will help you not buy anything except the necessities - for a day, a Christmas, a whole year, or as an ongoing, low impact, sustainable lifestyle.

        August 4, 2011

        I Cut My Own Hair

        Do you cut yours?
        I cut my own hair again. Most people would consider that in the category of extreme frugality, or more than likely, just plain crazy. But for me it is fun, free, liberating and empowering.

        I did the deed on a day I had a headache, and I think that helped. I felt like cutting out some of that negative energy, and my lengthening hair was the perfect target. It had been wanting cutting for some time.

        I was not attached to a particular outcome as I stood in the bathroom with the scissors poised and threatening. I just wanted to have shorter, neater hair, without making an appointment, going for the haircut, then paying precious dollars for it. I looked in the mirror and started hacking.

        This is the third time I have self-coiffed. All I do is pull my dry hair up away from the scalp between two fingers, then cut a few centimeters off right above the fingers and hope for the best. I repeat this around my head, trim around the ears and bangs, then clean up my neck with electric clippers. It was all over in about 10 minutes and it felt great.

        So how did I make out? Well, my partner in simple living tells me I did a fine job (I think she is being sincere). She said that the back was cut straight across, that I had used the clippers effectively to clean up, and that the overall effect was 'acceptable'. That seems hard for me to believe, but she has since gone out in public with me so she might actually be telling me the truth.

        This is not completely surprising since before we started doing our own hair cutting we did research at the public library. We borrowed some resources that covered basic hair care to get us started, and discovered that we already owned everything we needed as far as tools were concerned (sharp scissors, comb, spray bottle to wet hair, electric clippers, sheet).

        We also discovered that it is fun to thumb our noses at fashion and take charge of our own 'look', if you can call it that. It might also be fun to one day get proficient enough to be able to cut other victims people's hair. It would be a great skill to have as one could use it to barter for things. I wonder if I would need malpractice insurance?

        "Will cut hair for food." Any takers out there?

        August 1, 2011

        No Greed, No Waste Monday

        The most alarming sign of the state of our society now is that our leaders have the courage to sacrifice the lives of young people in war, but have not the courage to tell us that we must be less greedy, and less wasteful. - Wendell Berry (click to enlarge)
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