We have all one time or another felt the stark reality of the saying “you don’t know what you got ’til its gone”; whether it’s through loss of money, lost of belongings or loss of loved ones. But how many of us have had things taken away, only to feel a refreshing sense of relief, freedom or, perhaps more curiously, indifference?
So many of us live in a world which encourages gains not losses. Our achievements as humans are focused on progression, improvement, growth. Naturally much of this involves the acquisition of the new. We look toward new cars, new homes, new clothes and new trendy restaurants to both renew and define us. We are literally consumed by consumerism.
Only, when these things are taken away, the world – and our purposeful place in it – does not crumble as we expected. We don’t take a step back to an older self; nor do we lose legitimacy in a grander scheme of human ambition. Quite the opposite in fact. We discover hidden aspirations and talents we didn’t know we had. We take pleasure in the subtleties of life which are already on offer; regardless of your profession, your bank balance or the size of your TV.
I mean, here I am with practically nothing. I have no home of my own (I’m staying in my mums spare room), I have no job (though I’m working on it) and I have minus £50 in my bank. My personal belongings are drastically smaller, following my massive pre travel cull to reduce storage in my mums garage, and make those last few tenners at the car boot sale to fund a couple extra train rides in India. In comparison to some, I have nothing.
But the thing is, to me I have everything. I have freedom to choose the next step in my career. I have literally cut the chains which tied me to the materialism you naturally get with owning or renting your own home. Money isn’t an option for those bored Sunday afternoons or when I have convinced myself I “need” something. I am free from being consumed by consumerism and it’s actually pretty damn liberating!
In fact, as I sat here yesterday scratching my head and frantically mustering up some inspiration for my first Zero Waste Week blog (I mean, I’ve only known about this for about a year…) I revisited my pledge to use up what I have during my transition from Australia back to the UK. Only, when I look at what I do have, I realise it will be easier than I thought.
The thing is, as many of us may have noticed, to live zero waste is just as much about decluttering your life than any fancy recycling techniques or inventive leftovers recipe.
It’s a very simple equation: the less we have, the less we throw away.
And the great thing is, we actually begin to feel happier and empowered the more we let go of the things we think we need.
So my challenge this week has shifted a little. Whilst I will continue to declutter my life while I still have the time and headspace to see clearly what I have held onto, I will also look beyond what I own and look at ways I can avoid building up stuff in the future.
So when I do get that job, my own home home, and watch my bank balance smile again, I won’t find myself once again consumed by consumerism.