Whether by car, bus, train, plane or even on foot, there’s nothing simple about the way most people travel. Complicated arrangements, high-priced accommodations and lengthy itineraries don’t immediately seem to fit into a simple, deliberate life.
So how does travel fit into the minimalist lifestyle? Many insist that it does, but is that a stretch? I’m looking forward to your thoughts on this one.
Some so-called minimalist bloggers have created very convoluted definitions of the simple life. Have you noticed that?
Because they have a penchant for the finer things in life, they include high-end designer laptops among their possessions, rationalizing that since they work online from coffee shops they need a full-featured, status-symbol machine instead of the simplest, least expensive one on the market.
Some who call themselves minimalists are also brand loyalists, adorning themselves with name-brand khaki shorts and expensive shoes that hug their toes instead of simpler, more durable alternatives.
More interesting than either of those example, however, are those young minimalist writers who insist that a simple lifestyle includes lots of traveling. Since they aren’t tied to possessions, they can go anywhere they want with restriction, can’t they?
At least one admitted, however, that after a lengthy trip to Australia, he came back with thousands in debt. How simple is that?
In fact, how can something like travel that depends so heavily on corporate systems really be part of a simple, deliberate life?
The Case For Traveling
Travel expands our small lives in grand ones, doesn’t it?
Travel promotes connection with ancient cultures, and the simplicity of these ancient lifestyles is sometimes amazing. The things ancient people were able to create because they had the time is amazing too. I talked about that idea last year in a post called Ancient World Lessons In Simplicity.
Of course, another important reason for living simply is to have time to enjoy the beauty of life around us. On my trip to Los Angeles a decade ago, I found the city’s downtown area just as beautiful as the cityscapes around where I live. The beauty of the Pacific Coast Highway and the Crystal Cathedral didn’t escape me either.
In San Antonio, ancient missions stand as testament to a different, perhaps simpler time. Replicas of an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue and the grotto at Lourdes are inspiring even to those of us who don’t understand their significance to Catholics. And the Paseo del Rio — called the River Walk by most people — is stunning even though it is human-made and commercialized.
Living simply also allows time for adventure. I don’t want to climb a mountain or fall from a functioning aircraft, but I can understand the desire some people have to establish broader boundaries on their lives. And I can’t climb a mountain here in North Texas. We don’t have any.
The Case Against Travel
Many people use travel as a way of escaping the very real problems of life. Running away only feels good for a moment. Reality is always waiting for us when we return. Using travel as an escape mechanism isn’t a very good idea.
Then, there’s the environmental impact to consider. Every method of travel except walking along established paths has a negative impact on the environment. Is it really worth further damaging the planet just so I can see Stone Mountain?
Perhaps the strongest case against travel involves the complex systems in which travelers must participate.
Travel by car is relatively simple. A few traffic jams, some high gas prices and dependence on a single, fallible vehicle while hundreds of miles from home is almost tolerable.
But traveling by air, train or bus involves participating in complicated corporate systems designed to make money for others and create hassles for us. Like me, don’t you do everything you can to avoid needlessly complex systems?
For me, the verdict on travel varies with my mood. I don’t have the money to travel right now, but that never really stopped me in the past. Some of my favorite places are just a couple hundred miles away, but I also enjoy the attractions that I’ve visited in the towns around me — and there are many of those I haven’t seen yet.
What’s your feeling about how travel fits into the simple life?
I’d like to see Venice and even Cardiff, but I haven’t seen Portland or Madison either. I’ve seen Los Angeles, Atlanta, Washington, D.C., Oklahoma City and even Cozumel, however, and I know distance and preferences means many of you will never see those places.
I’ve been fortunate to have traveled to some dream locations in my life, but I’m not very motivated or excited about visiting any more bucket-list locations in the next few years. Maybe someday.
For now, I’d like to get my own house in order before I gawk at someone else’s, ancient or modern.
It seems a reasonable course of action to me even though I know that somewhere in this nation a supposed minimalist, backpack in tow, is boarding a plane for Auckland.
As I’ve simplified my life, I’ve noticed that my mind’s tendency toward spiraling out of control has mostly eased away, leaving me with a brain that’s much more functional than it once was.
Have you noticed a similar mental benefit from turning toward the simple life?
For most of my life, my mind seemed to be in overdrive. My thoughts were always spiraling out of control in one way or another. Whether it was a downward spiral of depression because of a small misstep, an upward spiral of excitement about a project that I never bothered to complete or unceasing planning and rehashing rampantly running through my mind as I prepared for sleep, my mind wouldn’t leave me alone.
Now, my thoughts and I get along well most of the time. The spirals and lapses of control are exceptions rather than the rule.
Shifting deliberately toward a simpler life has made a major difference in my thought processes, and that’s making a major difference in the quality of my life.
I’ve also learned some coping mechanisms that help me deal with my overactive thoughts.
Based on my experience rather than any psychology textbook or any psycho-babble espoused by a self-proclaimed guru, these three methods help me get through those days when my simple lifestyle choices aren’t enough to keep my thoughts from running away with me.
1. Appease it.
One of the simplest ways to deal with a mind in overdrive is to put it to rest.
If it’s a concern about an unlocked door or an electronic payment that might have cleared before the money to pay it arrived, the simplest way to get the worry off my mind is to feed in some accurate information.
That is, I give in and give my brain exactly what it wants. That means checking the bank balance or going back to be sure a door is locked even if I’m miles from home.
Maybe it’s not the most enlightened or intelligent way of dealing with a problem, but it works. And that’s what matters. When my mind won’t budge from a particular line of thought, it will often accept nothing less than being proven right — or wrong.
2. Meditate it away.
Chanting, praying or thinking problems through to their conclusions clears the head.
Meditation is an often-misunderstood term. In its simplest form, meditation is simply thinking about a problem until the thought processes related to the situation are complete.
For me, however, it’s a spiritual exercise of letting go and turning the problem over to God/the universe/whatever.
If you don’t know how to meditate, try taking deep breaths and letting your mind go blank — or say a prayer to whatever higher powers you learned about as a child. Those powers are still listening even if you haven’t called to them in years.
You can successfully meditate today even if you’ve never done it before.
3. Accept the worst case scenario.
What’s the worst thing that could happen? If you can make peace with whatever that might be, you’ll be okay.
Thinking about worst case scenarios may be bad advice from both a spiritual and a psychological standpoint, but it has help me calm my mind more than once. If I can see a way forward even if the worst possible thing happens, I know I can deal with whatever smaller calamity is more likely to result if things go wrong.
I know it’s better to focus on happy and good thoughts, but examining the worst case scenario can be helpful. These days, I most often plan for the best rather than the worst, but I know this tool is still available to me when I need it.
What About You?
Can you relate? Does your mind sometimes run out of control, spiral up and down and take you along for journeys on which you’d rather not go? If so, how do you cope? And does living a simple, deliberate life help you?
If you can’t relate to this post or don’t understand what I’m talking about, good for you. You’ve either conquered the out-of-control mind or never had the problem in the first place. I could worry about why my mind sometimes leads me to dark places when some minds never do that, but I don’t think I will.
It doesn’t seem like a very simple or deliberate way to use my time.
It’s a question that naturally follows from my Best Decisions series, but none of you have actually asked it: Will there be a Worst Decisions series?
My 10-part series on the best decisions I’ve made since getting serious about simpler living ended last week. I’m sure I’ve made other good decisions that should have been mentioned, but I’ll bring those up as they come to me over the next few months.
Surely, though, at least one of you is curious about the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
There won’t be a worst decisions series, however, because I don’t look at life in negative terms. Every decision eventually leads to something amazingly good. Some decisions, however, haven’t led me directly to the level of amazingness I was expecting.
That’s not to say I haven’t made bad decisions in my life. I just like to focus on the good.
For example, when my online used bookselling business began to fail because of lower demand and lack of inventory, I was slow to accept the situation. My financial situation would be much better now if I had accepted much earlier that bookselling could no longer be my primary source of income. I suppose I’m still suffering from not identifying that problem sooner, but I don’t feel like I’m suffering. I was simply slower to react to the changes in my field than I should have been.
Fortunately, life is about more than money. I’m not very good at managing money yet, so it’s probably been for the best that I’ve had very little of it recently. I’ve been forced by finances to embrace even simpler ways of living in recent months, and that’s helping me see more clearly how simplicity really does make life better.
I’m sure I’ve also made bad decisions related to So Much More Life, including bad decisions about what to post on this blog and what not to mention. For a while, I noticed that some posts got a different group of commenters than others. Some of my posts have focused heavily on spirituality and vague concepts, drawing commenters who like that sort of things. Other posts have very specifically targeted aspects of life that can be simplified with specific steps. A different group of you commented on those posts. I should be writing for the same audience all the time.
There’s No Alternative To Quicken
When I looked over my posts from the last couple of years for ones that offered suggestions, advice or questions that turned out to be worthless pursuits in one way or another, only one post came to my attention.
In the post Toward A Simpler Replacement For Quicken, I asked you to help me find a simple-to-use, stable alternative to Quicken for tracking my business expenses. You had very few suggestions, and I told you about an application I tried that failed miserably.
After more research, I reached an important conclusion: There’s no good alternative to Quicken. I don’t like Quicken’s planned obsolescence and proprietary practices that force you to track information on their terms and only for as long as they allow. But my refusal to upgrade to a new version of Quicken eventually resulted in me having to manually type a few months of information into — you guessed it — my new Quicken 2012 software.
I’m sure I’ve mentioned other things here on So Much More Life that can’t really be classified as good ideas, but the post about Quicken is the only one I can identify that resulted in no useful alternative ideas and no value to you or to me.
One useless post in a couple of years is a pretty good record, isn’t it?
I Should Have Asked Two Years Ago
Maybe I should have asked this two years ago, but most of you weren’t here then to ask: What have you done wrong on your journey toward a simpler life?
Even if you take the same attitude that I do — that everything is a learning experience and even bad things work together for good — surely a few decisions in your life stand out as questionable.
I’m asking because I like to ask questions in my blog posts, and I do everything I can to encourage comments.
But there’s another reason. If it’s all the same to you, I’d like to avoid repeating your mistakes. And I hope you’ll avoid mine.
So keep an eye on your work and when the tide turns against it, bail out in favor of something better before the ship sinks.
Oh, and learn to love Quicken. I have.
Everything in life goes better when you put yourself first, and that’s why I’m including putting myself first among my 10 best decisions on the path toward a simpler, more deliberate life.
Don’t think you agree? Let me state my case first, then you can decide — and sound off. As always, comments are open on this and every post on So Much More Life.
This is the final post in a series of 10 articles highlighting my best decisions since committing to a simpler life. While this series is almost over, that doesn’t mean the discussion of good decisions is ending. In fact, making good decisions is a recurring them here and always will be.
This series will also live on in many ways. But we’ll talk more about that another time.
Putting Yourself Above Other People?
My previous post on this topic, Arranging Your Obligations: Putting Yourself First, didn’t get a lot of comments, but among the comments it got was a suggestion that your children’s needs come ahead of your own.
I don’t have children, so I can’t discuss that topic. But I can tell you that no one’s needs come ahead of my own. And I’m a better person because of that fact.
Here’s why: Putting other people’s needs ahead of your own leaves you ill-equipped to serve the world. Until your own needs are fully met in as many ways as possible, you cannot live up to your potential. As I put it in the previous post, you are best prepared to live in and serve the world when you put yourself first.
Creating for yourself a healthy and productive life simply comes first. Sorting out your own issues clears the plate for you to serve others if that’s what you want to do. Since you’re as good as any other person on the planet, you deserve to pay enough attention to yourself to make sure your needs are fully met.
Those who put themselves first are able to give away parts of themselves whenever they choose without resentment or sacrificing their own good life. That means they can choose to put the needs of a spouse, child or friend ahead of their own — momentarily — when it serves everyone involved for them to do that.
Once you’re committed to putting yourself first, the other people in the world fall neatly into place. Obviously, the needs of those to whom you are committed come second. That’s the proper place for husbands, wives, partners, children, close friends and the other people in your life with whom you have share close connections.
All the other real people in the world fall into place after those.
I hope this all makes perfect sense so far. Does it?
People Always Come Before Systems
After all the people in the world come the systems that attempt to organize aspects of life.
While you come first, those close to you come second and everyone else comes third, the systems in which you voluntarily participate come next. That means fulfilling your obligation to any real person in the world surely comes before a commitment to a church, civic organization or workplace social group.
Finally, deservedly low on the list of obligations should be your commitments to the big systems in life in which your participation isn’t completely voluntary. This includes taxing systems, monopoly electric companies and large corporations like Walmart which may serve you but to whom you owe no allegiance.
It makes sense to put real people ahead of these unreal systems but we often get our priorities mixed up, I think.
For example, we might choose to pay a credit card bill before we repay a financial obligation to a friend because the credit card company imposes more severe penalties. While it might be financially prudent to pay the card first, it makes more sense to first fulfill obligations to real people who are present in your life, doesn’t it?
Arranging Your Obligations
I accept that some of your will never agree with putting yourself ahead of other people. You’ll always put others ahead of yourself.
Putting organizations, corporations and so-called authorities ahead of yourself and the real people of the world isn’t acceptable, however. I simply can’t accept that, and I can’t imagine any system of religion, spirituality or practicality that could promote such a practice.
People come first. And I’ve made it clear which person I think comes first of all. What do you think?
I should have mentioned it sooner, I suppose, but this series of posts is in no particular order. Discovering thrift stores opened up a world of savings, business opportunities and fun to me that so many other people are missing.
If this list was in order of occurrence or order of important, this post about thrift stores would have been near the top.
Embracing thrift stores is among the best decisions I’ve made on my trek toward a simpler life, but I discovered second-hand shops, charities shops or resale stores — whatever you want to call them — long before I got serious about simplifying my life.
This post, the ninth in a series of 10 posts about my best decisions along life’s simpler path, is all about used merchandise stores and how they can change your life — if you understand them.
How I Discovered Thrift Stores
My online used bookselling business — now nearly folded — supported me for half a decade or more. It was great fun while it lasted, however, and much of that fun came from tearing through thrift stores (and used bookstores) looking for books good enough and worth enough to resell. I found tens of thousands.
No, that’s not an exaggeration. I’ve handled well over 20,000 books during my bookselling career, almost all of which came from used merchandise stores of one kind or another.
Some people mistakenly think buying things to resell from thrift stores is dishonest or unethical, but it’s actually a smart business decision that serves many people very well.
The store gets the full price it was asking for the merchandise, and if I’m lucky and careful, I make a nice profit. Even better, many thrift stores use the money they make to provide clients with food and necessities (like the Salvation Army, a conservative Christian service organization) or jobs and job training (like Goodwill, a secular charity).
As I explained in my post Making Thrift Store Clothing Your Own last July, charity thrift stores aren’t necessarily places where the underprivileged shop, as many people believe. They’re most often places that sell things to raise money to help those in need. Many other thrift stores are for-profit companies with no charitable connections or that donate only a small percentage of profits to charity.
The Role Of Thrift Stores In My Life
Many thrift stores now sell their highest quality merchandise on eBay or other online sales venues themselves, limiting the opportunity to use them as an inventory source for a business of your own. Some opportunities still exist, however, and I take advantage when I notice one.
In addition, almost all of my clothing is from thrift stores. I don’t buy shoes, socks or underwear at these places, but all of my other clothing comes from thrift stores. Some items cost me less than a dollar; others cost me as much as $8 each. I recently bought two pairs of jeans at a local thrift store for $7.99 each. That’s more than they should be charging, I think, but it’s substantially less than retail, so why should I complain?
For me, thrift stores are many things. First, they’re a business opportunity — although one that’s very limited now. They’re also an inexpensive source of clothing — although one that’s getting more expensive. Even better, however, they’re endlessly entertaining. I hate shopping in regular stores, but I like digging through bins and mismatched racks at thrift stores.
An Important Caveat
It’s not often I use the word “caveat”, but it’s just the one I need here.
Whether you use thrift stores for the resale opportunities they present, the endless supply of inexpensive clothing and home goods they offer or the sheer fun of the process, a bit of care is needed.
Clutter is the enemy of a simple, deliberate life, and thrift store shopping is a great way to increase the clutter in your home if you do it wrong. Buying clothes without trying them on is guaranteed to result in a pile of ill-fitting items on which you wasted your money. You can also seriously derail your life buying knickknacks and other uselessness from thrift stores.
Think about it: There’s a reason someone got rid of that collection of porcelain cats. It’s not the sort of thing you want to see more than once or twice. Admire these pieces in the store, then let someone else deal with dusting, arranging and protecting them for their rest of their days.
Even the tightest budgets can probably afford dozens of pieces of thrift-store junk.
Where do thrift store fit into your simple, deliberate life? No matter how much money you have or what misconceptions you may have had about thrift store, they can have a place in your life.
Because thrift stores promote reusing, recycling and re-imagining, they’re good things to have in your life. Never mind all the money you can save.
Maybe we got bogged down in the details when I wrote about this before, but I think it’s silly to pay for things that are free. In fact, one of the best decisions I’ve made on my journey toward a simpler, more responsible life is making every effort not to pay for things that are available at no cost.
This is the eighth in a series of 10 posts detailing the best decisions I’ve made on my journey toward a simple life. By revisiting these topics, I hope new readers as well as established ones will benefit from some of the lessons I’ve learned and am learning.
What do you think about spending your money on things that some people get for free?
It’s About The Silliness
The silliness of paying for things that are free is more about the silliness, perhaps, than about getting things for free.
I think there is something very seriously wrong with the values of someone who pays for things that are available without cost, don’t you think? This kind of lapse in judgment is a symptom of a bigger problem — a symptom of a life so out of control that simple decisions aren’t all that simple anymore.
We got bogged down in the details of what kinds of things are available for free last time we talked about this. That was in a post called The Silliness Of Paying For Things That Are Free on April 11, 2011.
We discussed how bottled water is silly because water by the glass costs most people nearly nothing or is completely free. Paying a dollar or two for something that comes with your home or is available by the hundreds of gallons for the same money just doesn’t make sense.
It doesn’t make sense to pay for a checking account in the United States either when there are still free options — although there are fewer free choices than there once were.
It also doesn’t make sense to pay for having your tires rotated when some tire chains do this for free, sometimes even if you didn’t but the tires from them because they want you to buy your next tires there.
If you think about it, the conversation actually extends far beyond the things we discussed before. I’ve paid to have an electrician change a light switch and to have a technician change the oil in my riding lawnmower. I feel silly about that now. I’ll no longer pay for those services because I’ve learned to do those things for myself — despite my general ineptitude with electrical and mechanical things.
But none of this is really the point of this discussion.
The point is this: It’s silly to make bad decisions. If you’re paying for things you could be getting free, your life is very likely in need of some careful attention. I think you really need to assess where you stand, then shift your feet a bit until your toes feel solid ground.
Eliminating as much of life’s silliness as possible is one of my best decisions. Have you made this really good decision yet?
But Let’s Have Both Discussions
Maybe we missed the point a bit when we discussed paying for free things last year, but let’s explore both parts of the discussion now. Do you get my point about the ridiculousness of shelling out for things that people and companies are willing to give you at no charge or that have been included in something for which you have already paid?
This is a very similar point to the one I made in my recent post about eliminating trash service, and I’m sorry to say that I’m not sure I fully made my point on this topic then or now.
In any case, the other part of the discussion is about the ways we manage to find free options in cases where others may be paying. What are you getting for free? I hope your bank account and your tire rotations are free, but what else are you getting for nothing?
If you think there’s no such thing as free lunch, stick around. Someone, I’m sure, will tell you how to get one.
As always, the comments section is open, and I’m expecting to learn a lot about getting something for nothing from you today. I’m also expecting you to tell me that my campaign against silliness is, well, silly, but it’s my lifelong crusade nonetheless.
During my yearlong decluttering and simplifying push in 2010, I discovered that much of the clutter in my home was paper in some form or another.
Maybe you collect little dolls from South America or McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, but my natural tendency is to collect paper. It’s a tendency I’m overcoming every day, however.
I’ve always tended toward keeping things simple rather than complicating them, but when I took the time to examine my life, I found that many areas of it were out of control. This is the seventh in a 10-part series of post about the best decisions I’ve made since deciding to simplify and declutter my life.
It’s easy to let the paper in your life get out of control and crowd you out of the simple, deliberate life for which you are intended.
Reducing Paper Usage
I decided to simplify my life because I felt it was out of control — not because I’m an environmental activist. My aversion to all of the paper in our lives isn’t about saving trees.
While I like to be a responsible citizen of the world, I’ve never been particularly concerned with the size of my environmental footprint. Even at my most out of control, my footprint was smaller than most Americans, and I’m proud of that.
Like many people, however, I have a little bit of a thing about paper.
I keep notes, article ideas and other vital pieces of information on little pieces of paper — and I have a collection of my newspaper clips, certificates and other papers that show a bit about the work I’ve done since I came to this planet nearly 40 years ago.
If I didn’t know better, I wouldn’t mind keeping programs to remind me of the events I’ve attended and papers that show how I’ve been marginally involved in the success of others.
I’m also a bit addicted to free newsweeklies and magazines. The journalist in me wants to know what’s going on and how well a publication is doing. I like to find grammar and design errors in supposedly professional publications.
And then there are the bills and other junk that come to my home despite my best efforts. In my March 1, 2011 post The Startling Silliness of Paper Statements, I wrote in strange words and with lots of strikethroughs and attempts at humor about the campaign I’d like to wage against announcements, statements and especially paper bills that arrive by mail. All of these things, I suggested, could be better handled electronically.
Never mind the paper plates, packaging and other pieces of paper that come into our homes describing how to use the new toaster or reminding us not to tie our trash bags around the head of any passing child.
Why Waging War On Paper Makes Sense
As I told you last March, I’m a pacifist, so even using the word “war” makes me cringe. I don’t like to use violent terms to describe my intentional avoidance of paper, but describing my opposition to all this printed material ruining our lives in militaristic terms seems appropriate.
Paper becomes our clutter, distracts us from our lives and makes us feel overwhelmed. It is easy to disorganize, hard to get under control and difficult to dispose of properly in many areas.
A couple of decades ago, large quantities of paper were necessary to live a safe, informed and comfortable life. Newspapers provided information, paper diplomas and transcripts proved we had been educated and paper warranties protected us in case something went wrong. These things aren’t necessary anymore, however, and almost every use for paper has been replaced by a better, safer and more convenient electronic version.
Simply put, paper is the enemy of a simple, intelligent and deliberate life, and I suggest eliminating as much of it as possible from your life.
I still have my problems with it, but I try to limit the involvement of paper in my life. I really do. Do you?
You may find this hard to believe, but some people pay other people to haul away trash for them. Doesn’t that seem ridiculous?
If you’ve taken a few minutes to think about how you deal with your rubbish, that certainly sound silly to you. If you live in an apartment complex or in an area where trash service is included with your other bills or free, you may not need to consider how you dispose of your trash.
I just hope you’re making an effort to reduce your trash output no matter how you deal with disposing of it.
For years I paid for “curbside” trash service (we have no curb), eventually paying almost $40 a month to have a couple of bags hauled away each week. Then, I took stock of my life and kicked the trash man to the curb. (Again, I have no curb, and no garbage collectors were harmed on my property.)
This is the sixth in a 10-part series of posts about my best decisions since starting this blog and getting serious about a simple life. In previous posts in this series, I’ve revisited creating totally clean countertops, accepting only high-quality experiences, ditching the dishwasher, simplifying my cell phone service and maintaining minimalist hairstyles.
Today, let’s get trashy.
We’ve talked trash on So Much More Life several times. The last time we talked seriously about the issue was just over a year ago. In my March 18, 2011 post called Trash Talking: Two Weeks (And Counting…) Without Trash Service, I told you about my decision to cancel trash service to save money. In that post, I also linked to previous discussions about composting, recycling and my lofty goal of generating very little trash each week. (I haven’t yet met that goal.)
Of course, the biggest drawback to eliminating trash service but still generating trash is deciding what to do with the trash. I discussed that a bit in the original post and in its comments.
Here in rural Texas, there are plenty of people who burn their trash, but I don’t get along well with fire, so I won’t be doing that. It’s perfectly legal here and in many rural areas unless there’s a burn ban because of dry conditions.
If you ever get a chance to visit this area, you’ll also see that many people don’t deal with their trash very well. They pile it in the yard, stuff it into abandoned cars on their property or worst of all, simply live with it piling up in their homes.
For me, however, the easiest solution has been to recycle more and use someone else’s trash service.
We recycle all of our paper now, and we’re looking for a place to drop off some of our plastics. Dropping a bag or two of trash in a friend’s polycart or in the dumpster at a relative’s apartment complex is a good solution for everything else. It may not exactly be a self-sufficient way of handling the issue, but I promote simplicity, not self-sufficiency.
Like I said, there’s no reason for you to confront this issue if you live in a place where trash service is provided to you for free or as part of a package you have to pay for anyway.
If that’s the case for you, please make a mental substitution. There’s probably something else you’re paying for every month that you could eliminate to make your life simpler and more responsible while saving you money.
For example, many minimalist living gurus promote eliminating cable television or satellite service, but I won’t be including that among my best decisions. That’s because I’ve never paid for television service in the first place.
You see, I’m making two points today. The first is about the silliness of paying someone to haul away your junk. The second is about the silliness of living an unexamined life.
There’s always something you could be doing to make your life simpler, better and more responsible. And this is a good time to make one or more changes to improve your life.
I hope that seems like a good idea to you. If not, print out this post, wad it up and throw it away. Maybe that will make you feel better. Just be sure to think about what will happen to that wadded up piece of paper when you do.
Is trash service one of things you shouldn’t be paying for?
Learning to cut my own hair with some cheap discount-store electric clippers is one of the best decisions I’ve made since adopting a minimalist lifestyle, but I almost didn’t include this topic in my “best decisions” collection.
That’s because we seem to have talked it to death in the comments section the last time I brought it up.
Apparently, not everyone thinks that a minimalist hairstyle is necessary to live a hypocrisy-free minimalist lifestyle. Simply put, it seems that you either accept that hair isn’t a big deal and figure out how to do it with very little effort — or you don’t.
This is the fifth post in a 10-part series highlighting the best decisions I’ve made on my journey toward a simpler, more deliberate life. But maybe “highlighting” is a bad choice of words in this case. Highlighting your hair is one of those bits of silliness that doesn’t really belong in a simple life.
I originally wrote about minimalist hairstyles on February 15, 2011 in a post called Minimalist Musings On Doin’ Your Do … Or, Hairstyles Of The Poor And Satisfied. (It seems I was still in my long-titles phase then.)
In that post, I refused to accept that women and men might have different ideas on this topic since there are women with clipper cuts and men with long hair (I was once one of the latter), but the comments told me that women care much more about this topic than men do.
In any case, I made three bold statements in the original post that I want to reaffirm. That’s a lot of boldness in one little post, but it’s there nonetheless. In case you don’t plan to check out that post today, here are the three bold statements:
1. “There’s no place in a simple, deliberate life for a complicated hairstyle.”
2. “A complicated hairstyle is a symptoms of a life out of control.”
3. “While there’s more than one kind of hairstyle that can reflect your simple, minimalist values, choosing one that’s too complicated can make you look like a hypocrite.”
I really believe those things. Do you?
I made a few other points in that previous post too. Among them is the idea that you don’t have to look the same every day and that hair dye and hair products are silly (although I use a little gel when I haven’t trimmed my hair in a while to keep it all pointing in the same general direction).
Proof Of Independence
Adopting a minimalist hairstyle was important to me for several reasons. Most importantly, it showed me that I can handle my own personal requirements without depending on others – and that I can do it without spending a lot of money.
I stopped turning to others to handle this grooming task shortly after I shaved my head for the first time. While I soon found out that shaving your head is complicated to get right, isn’t fun and takes lots of time, it was important to me to try it. My hair had thinned a bit and I was proving to myself that it didn’t matter to me at all if it thinned or I went bald.
As it turns out, it’s been several years now since I first shaved my head, and my hair hasn’t fallen out. If it ever does, however, I don’t care. It would be one less thing to worry about. I thought I might care, but I proved to myself by taking matters into my own hands that I really don’t care — at all. That was important to me.
A Final Thought From Someone Named Jo
Someone named “Jo H.” used to comment here frequently, and she offered a comment on my original “doin’ your do” post. Some of us, she said, are more “natural beauties than others of us and can afford to buzz cut, go grey, air-dry, self-trim, or even use pinking shears on our locks”. Jo, on the other hand, suggested that her face “needs more help” from hair than some others.
She doesn’t have a gravatar beside her name and she never mentioned having a blog. I’ve never actually seen Jo, but I know she’s wrong on this point. She’s completely wrong. She looks just fine without a fancy haircut, a toxic dye job and wasting hours in front a mirror. She’s fine just as she is — simply and naturally.
I’m no looker either. And that’s okay with me. I really don’t care anymore — at all. Part of my transition to a simpler life is putting aside the silliness of trying to squeeze my appearance into a box built by someone else.
I’m a tall, awkward guy who wears thrift-store clothes and cuts his own hair. I’m also more amazing than you can imagine. Do you have a problem with that?
MetroPCS should be paying me for promoting them, but they’re not. I’m paying them for my no-contract prepaid cell phone.
I’m not paying them very much, but I’m getting everything I need and more.
I really believe that the days of signing a cell phone contract are over — at least for people willing to seek out smart alternatives. Depending on your needs and where you live, the alternatives can be plentiful and very inexpensive.
This is the fourth post in a 10-part series explaining the best decisions I’ve made since seriously starting on the path toward a simpler, minimalist lifestyle a couple of years ago. And this post is all about my MetroPCS cell phone.
My Simple Cell Phone Solution
I’m constantly reassessing my obligations to the world’s big companies — the entities with which I don’t enjoy dealing — and I do everything I can to limit my obligations to them. That means never signing a contact when there’s an alternative, especially when that alternative comes at a better price than signing up for a long-term commitment.
When I switched to MetroPCS last year, I wrote about the change in a post on March 15, 2011 called A New Cell Phone Is More Than A Money-Saver, It’s An Obligation-Reducer. (I really need to work on making my headlines shorter.)
In that post, I told you how excited I was to find that MetroPCS offers all the services I need from a cell phone (voice service and simple Internet) for $40 a month. That was a big savings over what I had been paying with Nextel.
In a later update, however, I told you that I had discovered the MetroPCS By The Minute plan. With it, I get everything I need for just $20 a month. The only catch is that I have to buy refill cards, and those cards are only available at Walmart.
The plan includes 500 minutes per month. Calls are billed at four cents per minute against the $20, and leftover money rolls over if you renew at least one day before the due date. Text messages are free. Internet usage is supposed to be taken out of the $20 per month at a very tiny rate based on the amount of data transferred, but they don’t seem to bother with this. You can renew early if you run out of funds, something that has never happened to me.
I’ve stuck with my $20-per-month cell phone, and I have everything I need plus I can check the mobile version of Facebook and other simple sites when I’m away from home and have a few minutes to spare.
The refills cards have been so popular that they are often out of stock at local Walmart stores, so I’ve had to carefully choose where I stop to pick one up each month. The company says that the cards are now becoming available at other locations, but I haven’t seen any yet. There is also supposed to be a $10-per-month option now, but I haven’t seen those cards yet. With the leftover balance I have on my phone, a $10 card might be plenty for me some months.
The only drawback I’ve noticed with the service is that text message short codes aren’t allowed, so you can’t sign up for text-message coupons from your favorite restaurants or text Google for personalized search results, but those things aren’t worth paying double or more per month.
The Internet service on my phone is a bit slow and on a somewhat small screen, but that’s more because of my $25 phone than the plan itself. I’m still using the phone I chose when I started the MetroPCS service, and it still works fine for me.
MetroPCS is only available in the United States, I think, and there are still places in the U.S. that the company doesn’t serve or where coverage is spotty. If it’s available in your next of the woods, however, it could be the right choice for you.
Get What You Pay For
Long-term commitments are one of the ways that companies get by with offering poor customer service. Since you’ve sign up and can’t change to a more responsive company, you have no choice but to deal with their stalls, non-answers and long wait times.
Here’s one of my secrets to a happy life: I don’t care about customer service.
In fact, MetroPCS doesn’t have very good customer service, especially not with the By The Minute plan. Many of their store and telephone representatives don’t even know the plan exists. But I get service that appropriately equals the rate I pay, and I’m happy with that. It seems fair. I’m not paying a premium for helpfulness and friendliness that I never get.
Fairness in my transactions is all I want. And while some of you might think my MetroPCS cell phone is only a fair phone from a fair company, I think it fits my needs fairly well.
In fact, I think I’m getting a bargain.
Do you have the best possible deal on your cell phone? Or have you arranged your life in a way that makes one unnecessary?