Alexandru Huțu: Scratch

Yesterday I noticed a scratch on the display of my shiny, three-day-old Apple Watch. Yet another physical object I have burdened myself with; I do not regret purchasing this product, though, as I went through a moderately rational decision-making process which reached the conclusion that it would help me use my phone less, help me stay healthy and active, and facilitate things like payments and navigation through my new adoptive city.

I always try not to get attached to material things, but I undoubtedly have a hard time abstaining when I spend a significant amount of money on such a beautiful and well-crafted device. Therefore, when I noticed my brand new watch was scratched and it wasn’t just a smudge as I had initially hoped, the first emotion I felt was dismay—sadness, almost. My thoughts were racing; I was already thinking of returning the watch or fixing the “broken” screen myself somehow. But then it struck me. The watch is nothing more than a lifeless object. Granted, I paid good money for it. But that doesn’t change the fact that I should not allow it to cause me suffering or make my life even marginally harder. I bought it specifically to improve my life in some measure, haven’t I?

Having come to that realization, my panic subsided. Although Apple markets it as very personal object, the Watch is nothing more than a tool. A tool for telling time, a tool for keeping your phone in your pocket for longer, a tool for payments, a tool, a tool, a tool. A beautiful object too, but–fundamentally–a tool.

It will get scratched. It won’t be shiny and new forever. But that’s the beauty of it. That’s the beauty of life. Nothing is permanent, nothing is perfect. And objects only build personality when they wear out, when they get nicked or scuffed. I’m not thrilled that my watch got scratched, but I accept it. I embrace it, even. It’s mine now. I appreciate it for what it is, and I am not going to develop feelings towards it.

Alexandru Huțu: Better?

In spite of my conscious curating of my possessions and reluctancy to buy more stuff, sometimes I end up drooling over a vintage camera or a fancy new pair of headphones. It happens. For “normal” people, it would either lead to an impulse purchase, or a mindless tap on the “Add to Wishlist” button. But since I never buy stuff without thinking it through, these lifeless objects of desire take over for a couple of days, they consume me way more than I should allow them to; thoughts go through my head – “Should I sell that camera and replace it with this amazing, better one? Oh, but maybe this one is too expensive, should I just refrain from buying it and maybe put that money into my travel fund?”

As trivial as this might sound, it often takes up hours upon hours of slow, painful decision-making that usually leads nowhere. Until something hits me. I have a lot of stuff—maybe not by everyone’s definition, but still, oftentimes I feel overwhelmed by what I own. And that’s exactly where I don’t want to end up. I already have cameras that I love (speaking of which, I haven’t even taken many pictures lately). Why, then, should I buy another one? Of course, it would be slightly better in this and that area, but the sole purpose of a camera is to take pictures. And, again, I already have amazing gear that can do that, but I’m barely using it. So, instead of spending a bunch of money on a new something just because it’s new and it might offer that temporary satisfaction of newness, I realized it would be better to cherish the cameras that I have, get them out of their drawer and use them. Abuse them. Shoot away, every day of every week. They’re tools, after all. And while I’m at it, I should also decide which ones to sell or give away. So I’m only left with the essentials—no excess.

I can buy that new camera anytime anyway, I don’t have to take that decision now.

Alexandru Huțu: Purchases

Once you go down the rabbit hole—if I may call it that—of minimalism and simple living, you invariably start thinking more consciously about all the purchases you make. And some people, myself included, tend to become more frugal at first, because saving money is a part of minimalism too, is it not?

There seems to be a conflict between minimalism as a way to enjoy the select few objects you own—yet still lead what most would call a comfortable life—and minimalism as a way to live frugally, only keeping the barest of necessities and not indulging in any luxuries. It’s not that frugality isn’t beneficial—in the end, you are left with more money to spend on valuable things, such as travel and other real-life experiences—but minimalism, at its roots, is an artistic concept, “a reaction against the gestural and autographic excesses of Abstract Expressionism”. A parallel can be drawn between this and the reaction against the excesses of consumerism that minimalism as a lifestyle embodies, and it has nothing to do with living in a cabin with only the clothes on your back. Sure, that’s an ideal for some, but you can be a minimalist without being frugal to the bone.

Becoming more minimal doesn’t have to involve a compromise. You are not a “better minimalist” if you get by with $20 a week or you own a single spoon. And since you no longer feel an urge to buy three matching sets of kitchenware from the discount bin that will undoubtedly break after a few months, you can actually invest a bit more money in higher quality items. Apart from being more satisfying to use, products of good workmanship also tend to last longer, so you won’t have to replace them as frequently (or at all)—a small success in your defiance of our consumption-driven society and also a means of adorning your home and your environment.

To wrap up, paying attention to your expenses is of great importance, but you don’t have to be stingy about it. Buy what makes you happy, as long as impulses don’t trump your judgement, and your list of possessions is not overflowing with gratuitous abundance. Curate, don’t fall into extremes, and most importantly, be rational in your purchases.

 

Alexandru Huțu: Extremes

My lifestyle principles are constantly changing and developing into fuller, more complex concepts, but most of them circle around anti-consumerism and simple living. This consistent evolution is a never-ending journey and the only way to tangible growth, but it is extremely easy to derail or get lost in the details.

While trying to own the bare minimum that would allow me to live comfortably, I found that sometimes I go too far—I might feel bad about purchasing an item that would actually bring improvements to my life or, at the other end of the spectrum, I might end up relapsing and look for things to add to my Amazon wish list or binge-browse my Instagram feed. Going into extremes could cause harm; mainly, it might make you feel as if you’ve failed in your quest to a zen-like zero-distraction life. But you have to use these outbursts—if they can be called that—to your advantage. Find out what leads you into these extremes and, slowly but surely, you will be able to avoid making the same mistakes.

No one can become a minimalist in the blink of an eye. This drastic lifestyle change requires you to gradually rebuild your mindset from the ground up and it most certainly is a lengthy process. Approaching it calmly and in small doses might be the best action plan to ensure that your new lifestyle will be feasible in the long run and hitting a couple of slumps every now and then will only improve your resilience and ability to strengthen some vital principles you will need throughout your journey.

Alexandru Huțu: Curating

Many people, minimalists and full-on consumerists alike, enjoy collecting various items. Some like collecting stamps, others have huge numismatic collections, and the more select bunch have rock collections. I, for example, collect vinyl records, fountain pens and old cameras. Having a minimalist collection is entirely possible, as being a minimalist does not mean throwing out all but 100 objects you own, it means throwing out the unnecessary to be able to focus on what’s important and to have a clearer mind.

There are people who collect stuff just for the sake of collecting, and that I consider to be borderline hoarding. You should only keep collections if you are very passionate about the subject and/or you use the items on a regular basis.

If you decide you have room in your life for a collection, then you need to curate it unforgivingly. Otherwise, you’ll end up having countless paraphernalia that will become a burden. Apply to your collections the same mentality you use when deciding which objects are worth keeping when decluttering a desk drawer or a cupboard in your kitchen.

Having a well-curated collection will only make the items you are collecting more appealing, as they will stand out, free of clutter or distractions.

Alexandru Huțu: Experience Life

At the beginning of this year, one of the goals I’ve set for myself was to carefully track and manage all my expenses. Every penny I spend now goes into an app on my phone; this has truly been a great incentive to spend less.

When I go to the supermarket or the corner shop, I have a shopping list with me and I stick to that most of the time. I only buy what I need and nothing more. In short, I’ve become quite frugal—parsimonious, if you will.

A couple of weeks ago, some friends were going out and they asked me to join them. At first, I thought that I shouldn’t go, because I would end up spending quite a lot of money on who knows what—drinks, ticket to go ice-skating, cab ride if I’m too lazy to take the bus. Ten minutes after messaging them with some lame excuse for not going, something hit me. The whole point of saving and not buying crap is to be able to afford experiences. I was going to miss out on a great time with my friends just because I figured I would spend too much. In the end, it turned out to be a great night and I barely spent any money.

In truth, I have acquired the self-control needed to abstain from unnecessary expenses. Thus, my travel fund is growing at a much faster rate and I always have the comfort of knowing I have some money put aside for whatever might come my way.

There are a plethora of places I want to visit and I would never be able to do that if I would buy every new iteration of every device or video game that catches my eye. On top of that, those material purchases would only bring me temporary, “false” happiness and fulfilment, while an experience such as travel or a fun night with my friends would create exciting memories that I could hold on to for a long time.

Alexandru Huțu: Disconnect

Sometimes, every one of us needs to disconnect. To turn off the devices that take over our lives without us even noticing.

Smartphones are amazing little pieces of technology, supercomputers in your pocket, ready to snap a photo, chat with a stranger, slay some zombies or check the weather forecast within a maximum of two taps. I am by no means writing off their usefulness in this busy world we’re living in, but we have to contain our addiction. You see people walking down the street staring at their phones, instead of looking around and taking in the surroundings, no matter how mundane. You are part of this world, so act like it. Look around, maybe you’ll notice something interesting or run into an old friend. I think that this video explains it best.

For the longest time, I’ve been guilty of doing this myself. I used to have dozens of apps that I thought were amazing eating through all my free time. I was even obsessed with the way my phone’s home screen was arranged and I used to watch an excessive amount of videos on topics surrounding apps and things to waste my precious time on. But one day, I’d had enough. It got so bad that I picked up my phone the second I woke up just to check for messages. It was the first thing I reached for. So I decided I needed a change.

I went online and ordered the cheapest Nokia “dumbphone” I could find. I took the SIM card out of my iPhone and stuck it into the Nokia. Suddenly, I stopped picking up my phone every 5 minutes and only used it a couple of times a day when I needed to make a call or write an important text. I had used the dumbphone for a bit over a week and everything was peachy. I was happy with it, although I needed to carry an additional iPod if I wanted to listen to some music on the bus and I couldn’t take any photos.

I had stopped using an incredibly useful device just because I couldn’t control myself to use it appropriately. The ability to listen to music, to take a few photos here and there (I’ve been into photography for years) or even to write something down when an idea strikes make a smartphone invaluable. I was at a dead end.

I proceeded to delete all the apps on my iPhone but a few essential ones (such as Google Maps, Kindle and Day One). This way, it was difficult for me to procrastinate with the handful of apps that I had left and I could use my smartphone as the amazingly useful tool it is. However, every now and then, I get the urge to download some app and, along the way, I start to spend more and more time on my smartphone once again. Therefore, whenever I feel like I’m using it too much, I switch to the dumbphone for a few days to disconnect.

This might not be the best strategy, but it works for me. You could try and do the same if you lack the self-control and find yourself using your smartphone excessively.

Additional reading material:

Article about making your iPhone “distraction-free”;

Follow-up on the aforementioned article;

My Reddit post on this topic, with over one hundred comments.

 

Alexandru Huțu: Losing Everything

When asked to choose a handful of items that they would save if their house caught fire, the vast majority of people would have an incredibly hard time coming up with a list. That is because people are emotionally attached to their belongings, most of which can, in fact, be replaced quite easily. One of my goals in the last year or so, after reading a book on Buddhism, was to be able to control my attachment to the things I own before they started owning me.

The only things I would actually miss are photographs of special moments in my life and pieces of my own work as an amateur photographer. Some might argue that the events captured in photographs are less important than the actual memories you have of those events, but I value my photographs too much to let them go. Since these are all securely backed up, there’s no reason for me to feel any sort of attachment towards my computer, phone or camera collection; to my apartment as a whole. All my physical belongings can be replaced if need be.

This is insanely liberating. My apartment could blow up while I’m at school tomorrow and I wouldn’t mind all that much. I don’t live in constant fear of losing or breaking some of my possessions, because they are not what is important for me. This was my choice. I chose to let go, to not develop irrational feelings towards lifeless objects, and it makes life a lot better. I suggest you try and do the same.

Losing everything you own would not the end of the world. If something, it would be a fresh start most of us truly require.

Note: Check out this website to see what people would save from a burning house. Also, this is the Reddit post that inspired me to write this blog article.

Alexandru Huțu: Putting an End to Wanting Stuff

Ever since I was a little child, I always wanted stuff. Be that a new toy car, a fancy new hoodie, a new Bluetooth-enabled cameraphone or the latest and greatest Apple computer, I wanted it. I thought I needed it. I almost felt like my life depended on owning that item. That piece of processed metal, intricate circuitry, or molded plastic was the centre of my thoughts.

In my early teens, my room was filled with things I had acquired over the years. Toys, souvenirs, magazines, I kept everything. I even had a rock collection—a few dozen rocks picked up on the street and stashed into a shoebox. The 11-year-old me did not do that as a result of a complex thought process that made me realise those things brought something into my life (because, in fact, they didn’t). No. I did it because that is the norm in our society. People who own a lot of stuff are often looked up to, admired by their peers. Buying new things is what many people seem to live for, instead of looking for joy elsewhere.

I have reached a point at which, if someone asks me if I want them to get me something from wherever they are, I have the strength to simply refuse, telling them I have everything I need.

However, I’m not going to lie and say that I do not get satisfaction from purchasing stuff I’ve craved for for months. I simply choose to only crave for items that I have a well-defined use for, items that I know will improve my life. This stops me from being a hoarder, while at the same time fulfilling my shameful craving for buying something new. Maybe one day I will be able to free myself from this pseudo-need that unnecessarily burdens my life. On this note, I leave you with E.H. Gombrich’s interpretation of Buddha’s Enlightenment, from his book A Little History of the World:

If you are sad because you can’t have something you want – maybe a book or a toy – you can do one of two things: you can do your best to get it, or you can stop wanting it.

Alexandru Huțu: Detaching Yourself from Consumerism

We all buy heaps of stuff to satisfy our never-ending wants. These things we trade for our hard-earned cash give us nothing more than shallow, temporary happiness. I’ve heard the following statement many times: Look at this new iPhone I got, it’s ten percent faster than the one I bought last October and it makes my life sooo much better! I might be paraphrasing a little, but the main point is still there. We live in a society where people are so far beyond satisfying their basic survival needs that they can only get gratification from buying as many things as they can fit inside their house, and then some.

As the main character in Fight Club said:

“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”

People are so blindfolded that they truly believe they need all these things; however, they end up being owned by their possessions. One of my favourite writers on this topic, Colin Wright, came up with these wise words:

“Possessing is a responsibility, and things are a burden.”

Keeping up with the Joneses shouldn’t be your life goal. You should rid yourself of this unnecessary responsibility of owning more than you actually need. I’m not telling you to become a monk and live the rest of your life in a forest with only the clothes on your back, but just think about downsizing, about decluttering your life for a moment. Try going through a drawer and throw away whatever little item you haven’t used in years and don’t see yourself needing anytime soon. If you’re comfortable with that, you can then try to refrain from buying something just because it’s a nice-to-have the next time you go to the mall.

If you can see the benefits of a simpler lifestyle and choose to follow one, you are infinitely more likely to experience the true joys of life and find happiness where it actually matters.



all posts



2016
September
29Scratch
May
30Better?


2015
December
14Purchases
June
19Extremes
January
18Curating
15Experience Life


2014
December
14Disconnect
November
18Losing Everything
17Putting an End to Wanting Stuff
10Detaching Yourself from Consumerism