May 31, 2015

Turn Off The News - Turn On Your Brain

Since changing our news consumption habits we have been enjoying more music.

In my post "I Quit" I talked about the simplicity of subtracting things that no longer make sense in our lives. A reader left a comment with what I think is the secret to successful quitting, and implementing positive lifestyle changes. Question Everything. All The Time.

He said, "Over the years, I have quit a lot of things I previously took for natural. The most important part is becoming aware that something you have been brought up to accept as unquestioned is a rather strange habit. I now question everything in my everyday life. What do I do this for? Do I need it?"

It has been 3 weeks since Linda and I asked these very questions about our news consumption habits. Our answer was to quit by implementing a news fast. Cold turkey. We went from checking several newspapers from across the country and the globe daily (or even several times a day) to nothing.

Surprisingly easy, our news fast has provided a space of peace and tranquility that we felt was missing from our lives lately. We replaced the time we would have spent obsessing over newspapers in healthier pursuits, like music or stretching or reading a novel or baking or cleaning or visiting a neighbour. Or doing nothing.

I don't know if no news is good news, but I am pretty sure that too much news is bad news. Going forward our news consumption will be far more limited, selective, and independent/alternative vs mainstream media.

Turn off news. Turn on your brain. And Question Everything.

May 28, 2015

Mumpsimus Mania

mumpsimus |ˈməmpsiməs|
noun (pl. mumpsimuses)

a traditional custom or notion adhered to although shown to be unreasonable.
• a person who obstinately adheres to unreasonable customs or notions.

Mumpsimus mania is bringing us down. We don't know when to stop. Or want to stop.

Human nature is such that we often cling to old ways and notions even after they serve as a positive influence in the world. We have a tough time recognizing their best before date, and most often our ways and notions have to spoil and fester before we can think about retiring them.

After tragically shallow learning curves, we no longer adhere to failed ideas such as slavery, smoking, or spraying kids with DDT. Many innocent people died before we were ready to officially label them as perhaps, maybe, sort of bad for us (rarely do we admit outright failure).

Surely by now the notion that a small privileged segment of the population can consume the majority of the planet's resources without affecting other people or the environment is universally thought of as unreasonable.

There is an outbreak of mumpsimus mania surrounding our ongoing unreasonable over-consumption. Rather than wait as long as it did to admit cigarettes cause cancer, we have to stop, let go of old faulty thinking, and get on with restoring the damage that thinking has done.

Minimalism, not mumpsimusism is the way to go.

May 24, 2015

Simple Pleasures: Playing An Instrument

After quitting my teaching career to pursue a more simple life back in 2001 I found myself with a wealth of time to use as I pleased. One of the first things I did with my new found stash of moments was pick up a guitar and start noodling around. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Since then I have noticed all kinds of mental benefits as a result of playing an instrument, most notably memory improvement, not something we usually associate with getting older.

As a teacher I knew that engaging in musical activities has many benefits for students, and has been shown to improve performance across all subjects. It is good for you.

The video above provides a short explanation of this phenomena.
"When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout." - TED-Ed
This is for everyone that has ever had the slightest urge to learn to play any instrument - DO IT.

Tackle the tuba. Get a guitar. Pound a piano. Massage a mandolin. Vibrate a violin. Have fun and work out your brain at the same time.

If life is too busy, consider simplifying things enough to have the time to learn and experience the endless joys of playing. I don't know about your neighbours, but your brain will thank you. 

May 20, 2015

Comments Encouraged

It has been said that a blog without comments is not a blog. I am not sure what a commentless blog would be then (an archive of writing perhaps), but I admit that comments are definitely nice.

Only a small fraction of readers leave comments, and thank goodness for them - comments do turn a blog into something special. They add new dimensions of sharing, encouraging and enlightening from which we all benefit.

Over the past year Linda and I have given away most of our possessions, uprooted our lives on one coast, and replanted them on another 6,000 km away. One of the most noticeable and reassuring constant in our lives throughout this tumultuous trip has been our blog and the amazing, supportive commenters.

We read every single comment together, and marvel at their contribution to our lives and our blog project. We have felt supported on our journey not only with moving, but with living simply as well, which is our larger and most important adventure.

The only problem I have with comments is the fact that I do not always give them the attention they deserve, and write responses in a timely fashion. I wouldn't want anyone to feel that we do not value what is shared with us (and everyone else that stops by here).

Comments on Not Buying Anything are encouraged and appreciated. They make this a blog, which properly is a two way open communication platform.

As NBA reader/contributor Terri said recently (in a comment) "the commenting community on this blog is truly helping me transform my life".

We feel the same way, and we thank all commenters past, present and in the future.

May 18, 2015

Simple Gifts: Spring Colour

Fiddleheads splash green along the banks of Pine Brook, a short walk from our new home.

After a bleak winter of black and white (mostly white) it is nice to have a bit of colour creeping back into the local landscape. Fern fronds called fiddleheads are part of that colour, and are excellent evidence of Spring's exuberant pallet.

Fiddleheads are a nutritious wild food that have been eaten in Nova Scotia for hundreds of years. Scientists have discovered that this green delicacy contains omega 3 fatty acids, and more anti-oxidants than blueberries, another wild food that grows here.

The trees in town are greening out, but up here on the ridge the buds are just beginning to break with the green applied sparingly at the moment.

A few more warm, sunny days and 50 shades of green will flush across the valley below, a pen and ink drawing of tree skeletons no more. 

May 16, 2015

Rubber Time

Life is "wheely" short. The transition from baby carriage to wheelchair can seem like a quick one.

Life can be short. Way too short to waste in activities like shopping for things we don't need. Or working jobs we dislike, or staying in relationships that are toxic.

But when we concentrate on the things that are important, like sitting quietly beside a brook and listening, time can stretch out. When I play guitar or garden I am not even aware of the passage of time. Timelessness.

Seneca was a stoic philosopher that left us with a collection of ageless wisdom related to the art of living and the nature of time.

“It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested. But when it is wasted in heedless luxury and spent on no good activity, we are forced at last by death’s final constraint to realize that it has passed away before we knew it was passing. 
So it is: we are not given a short life but we make it short, and we are not ill-supplied but wasteful of it. 
You are living as if destined to live for ever; your own frailty never occurs to you; you don’t notice how much time has already passed, but squander it as though you had a full and overflowing supply. You act like mortals in all that you fear, and like immortals in all that you desire. 
You must match time’s swiftness with your speed in using it, and you must drink quickly as though from a rapid stream that will not always flow…" 
- from Seneca’s book De Brevitate Vitae, or "On The Shortness of Life"

Life can be short, but it can also be long enough. From experience I can say that there is a time shift when we abandon the distractions of Consumerland. Life is different on Rubber Time - it stretches and life feels not only better, but also longer.

Less pursuit of luxury, and more of simple living is not only ecologically approved, but Seneca approved as well.

May 13, 2015

More Crap

A while back I published a post about dealing with unwanted stuff or, crap. A short while later a dedicated Not Buying Anything reader emailed us regarding her own struggles with stuff. I have received her permission to reprint her experience here.

I've read your post titled, "Crap" and comments at least 30 times in the past 5 days since you posted it. Your piercing words of truth resonate deeply with me.

My life and relationship with crap is changing radically as a result. The radical part is because it is being followed up with action... crap is leaving here on a large scale, more crap out than ever before.

Since reading your post I've sorted, boxed up, bagged up, and hauled out a whole lot of crap from my apartment. I've experienced everything you write about dealing with your crap on the large scale with which you've just dealt.

I've found it very difficult to drive up to a thrift store and leave my crap  I had some of it boxed up to send to relatives because they said they want it. I've stopped calling and asking them because I hate how I feel sending my crap to add to their crap problem that they don't even know they have.

NO, I AM NOT going to try and sell my crap ...calling a thrift store that will come get it for free is the easiest and best way for me to handle larger pieces of crap  OR I might post it on Free Cycle...but that sounds maybe not.

'Damn if you do, damn if you don't is how it is with crap  If you give it away (which is a lot harder work than we think even if we are just leaving it at thrift stores), then we are contributing to other peoples' crap problem. If we send it to the landfill, then we are contributing to that CRAP problem. I've had guilt about some of this.

I've read countless books and blogs on de-cluttering, organizing, right-sizing, minimalism, reducing, simplifying, small steps till its nauseating.  Some books that I own only produced more crap on my shelves...and a reason to keep the damn shelves!

There seems to be a wild obsession to manage stuff. So many books and blogs to teach others how to manage crap in one way or another. Books on how to manage crap  organize crap  de-clutter crap  decide about crap  right-size crap  minimalize crap  reduce crap  simplify crap  store crap  reuse crap  repurpose crap  what to do with your crap  reduce the size of your crap so you can keep it in a smaller space. It makes me dizzy. It's an endless hamster wheel.

What the hell are we doing? I've just realized we've created a whole new industry to manage crap.

Are we compounding the crap problem by being obsessed with managing it?

Crap is a lucrative industry.

And if this isn't enough, I woke this morning with a sobering thought. I actually pay for insurance to replace my crap if it is lost in a fire, flood, tornado, disaster or if I am robbed. I have renters insurance! A.K.A contents insurance. My crap is insured!

I'm seeing this in a whole new light today! I got on the phone first thing and called my insurance agent to see how much my crap was insured for and how insurance companies calculate the value of my crap to determine my rate. Is it square footage of my apartment home? I was SHOCKED to hear I'm paying for insurance on THIRTY THOUSAND DOLLARS WORTH OF CRAP!

I'm tired of managing crap  I'm tired of managing my emotions about my crap  I'm tired of returning to my de-clutter project over and over again. I'm tired of small steps. Repeated purges. I'm tired of people giving me huge volumes of crap because they think I need it and they want me to deal with their crap by giving it to others. I'm just tired. Tired. Tired. Tired.

Small steps were good, a good place to start as I was learning what was happening. It is very useful to take small steps in many situations.

For me, the time has come when small steps are not enough. I'm sick and tired of endless purges that don't fully deal with the crap.  I've drawn a line in the dirt. I've leaped over that line. I'm dealing with my crap on a large scale.

Ernie Larsen said "When your truth doesn't match your life, chaos exists." I'm beginning to feel harmony as I further de-crap my life.
I'm no longer calling it a de-cluttering project. I am now de-crapping my life, purging chaos. I'm not mad at myself so much. I am determined. I am determined to live as far away from chaos as I can. That means losing a lot of crap.

You and Linda have had something to do with this determination and the most important thing ACTION. I just felt I wanted to share some of my experience and how your blog and your own experience has helped me take action that I've not been fully able to take until now. Thank you.

Thank you, Terri, for making us laugh and nod knowingly at the same time. Like you we have come to enjoy the benefits of a major de-crapping. Hopefully your experience will encourage others to make the same leap into the liberation of simplicity.

May 11, 2015

News Fast

Linda and I both love reading. We like to do research and learn new things. The internet has been a boon for our information gathering. But as we well know, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We were overdue for a news fast.

Even before we turned to the computer for our news we liked to buy a (paper) newspaper and go over it over the course of a weekend. Now we have all the (digital) newspapers of the world at our eye ball tips.

Heaven? Or Hell?

Over the past few months I have increasingly been falling on the Hell side of the equation. The News has become news-ish, newsy, news light. It reads more like advertising or propaganda, and has become more of a distraction than actually learning anything of worth.

Even when there is good news (and there definitely is some of that) it is a 1 to 10 ratio to bad news.

Must. Pull. Eyes. Away. Which is hard for news junkies like us. But it must be done. We want to create more and consume less.

Sunday we spent our first day sans news. It was a very different day. Lighter, laughier, and overall lovelier. We baked bread, talked to friends and family, did laundry and played guitar. We let go of our need to know exactly what is going on in this big bad world of ours, and we liked it.

We are going to be crazy and try for a week. I am expecting it to be transformative.

May 10, 2015

Honouring Our Mothers

We should be good to our moms - both of them.

Your mom called. No, not that one. Your other mother - Mother Earth. She wants us to continue to reduce our consumption. She would also like us to quit supporting corporations and people that continue to harm her.

Today we honour all mothers. Let us not forget the most important mom of all - Mother Earth, for she is the mother that we all share. Brothers and sisters, let's celebrate the mom that gave us all the gift of life, and maintains that spark.

While gifting our moms with our time and presents, let's also do something for the Mother of All. She could really use our help.

Mother Earth gives and gives and gives, like all good mothers. We should not abuse her after all her nurturing and love.

The Golden Rule should be: Be Nice To Your Mother. At all times, in every place, in all ways. If we don't take care of her, she can't take care of us.

Happy day to all moms, but especially Mother Earth. 

May 8, 2015

Listen To The Trees

Visiting a 1000+ year old Western Red Cedar on Vancouver Island before moving to Nova Scotia.

"Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence.  And though rooted in earth, they seem to touch the sky.  For these reasons it is natural to feel we might learn wisdom from them, to haunt about them with the idea that if we could only read their silent riddle rightly we should learn some secret vital to our own lives." 
- Kim Taplin

May 7, 2015

I Quit

Living a more simple earth-friendly lifestyle does not need to be hard. It is not so much about having to do something or start anything. All you really need to do is just quit.

For most of us living in hyper-consumer economies, things have been getting steadily more complicated and cluttered since the 1950s. Now our lives are so full that it is getting difficult to add anything more without clones to help us consume an infinity of stuff.

So just quit and exercise some simple mathematics. No more adding and multiplying the stuff and demands on our time. It is time for subtracting and dividing our way to a more reasonable simple lifestyle, one with more space and time for the things we are passionate about.

Over the years my family has been doing the math, and subtraction is where it is at. Here are a few of the things we have happily removed from our lives.

- fast foods and processed foods
- frequent use of meat
- driving for pleasure and entertainment
- restaurant meals
- excess baggage of stuff that has ceased to be meaningful to us
- Christmas gift giving
- the need to say yes to everything
- shopping
- ketchup
- shaving
- wants

Satisfying our needs is simple and straightforward. As soon as we start adding wants, and especially infinite wants, life gets decidedly more complex. And expensive. And harmful to yourself, others, and the planet.

Instead of starting anything in an already busy life, why not quit a few things? Rather than onerous, you may find it liberating.

May 4, 2015

Truth In Advertising

Can there ever be too much truth in advertising?

In most marketing truth is the victim. Rarely does the hype match the product. But in rare cases the truth is the marketing strategy.

Recently while cruising the 50% off bin at the grocery store I found a product that was labelled with a lot of truth. Maybe too much.

I picked up a box of bran "wafers". They looked a lot like cookies to me. But these cookies were being sold as a health product, and were labelled in bright, large letters. 

"Bowel Buddies" is what they were tastefully named.

That caught my attention, mostly because of the uniqueness of the marketing approach, but also because the name made me laugh out loud.

With such an honest label it was not surprising they were 50% off. 

Most people don't like to think of pooping when they buy cookies or anything else, except Koapectate or Exlax.

Information on the box told me that, "2 Bowel Buddy Bran Wafers will supply your body with 22.65 grams of insoluble fibre that will keep your colon cleaned and regular." 

Yum. Who wouldn't like that?

Intrigued, I bought a box to see if they lived up to the manufacturer's claims.

They did.

Truth in advertising - what a refreshing, regularity-inducing, bowel-cleansing concept. 

Is that too much information? 

Or too much truth?

Refreshing any way you look at it.

May 1, 2015

Consumerism Breeds Violence

People of the world, unite. Today we recognize May Day.
“The Roots of Violence: Wealth without work, Pleasure without conscience, Knowledge without character, Commerce without morality, Science without humanity, Worship without sacrifice, Politics without principles."
- Gandhi

Consumerism is a violent way of life. From the violence of tearing raw materials from the earth, to the violence perpetrated against workers in extraction, transportation, manufacturing, wholesale and retail, everywhere is violence.

Consumers, who may truly believe that life is better surrounded by things they don't need, and act as cogs in the machine, are wracked with the violence of being part of the relentless War on Everything.

Together we can tackle the real weapon of mass destruction - greed. It is this missile that spreads the cluster bombs of poverty, inequality, misogyny, and ecocide.

Today we can begin to take back our lives, and stop the violence. But to do it, we will have to unite under the banner of living with nature and each other, and through that work save our planet for the benefit of all her children.

"That’s the only thing that will prompt a new consensus to form around some alternate, more plausible future, and the emergence of a generation willing to fight for it, even if it requires some real creative destruction of the things that are killing us anyway." 
- James Howard Kunstler