Given my recent post on how to be happy, I thought it would be a good time to look at avoiding stuff. Stuff is a drain on all our resources; stuff costs money, clutter takes mental energy, and it takes time to keep and maintain. To rephrase what I just said: having things will take up your money, your energy, and your time. In order to maximize your money available for life experiences, we have to minimize your stuff.
By stuff, I mean things. In general. I think we all know what stuff is. It’s that fourth pair of jeans, or that extra set of dishes. It’s that massive shoe holder in your garage. Stuff is the canned food that you don’t eat that is taking up room in your cupboards. Stuff is extra pillows, decor you aren’t using, and figurines you have to dust. Personally, I am a minimalist. I don’t usually struggle much with stuff overload. But I know a lot of people who do. How can we avoid wanting stuff?
What works best for me:
1. Simple spaces
I don’t have a lot of room for storage or stuff. As soon as I get new things, it is immediately obvious because my apartment looks much more full. Minimize surfaces that can get cluttered and leave cupboards empty. Not every drawer and nook and cranny needs to be filled.
2. Don’t watch TV
You must think by now that I hate TV. I also suggested not to watch TV to become healthier. I actually think TV is fine, occasionally. But we watch entirely too much. With TV comes commercials. With commercials come wants and feelings of inadequacy. If we aren’t comparing how we wear our hair to how Revlon tells us to, we’re less likely to go out and buy their mousse. This principle applies to everything. Television gives us one more place to be marketed to, and one more source of “the Joneses” to keep up with.
3. Shop when you need to, and shop with a list
Don’t ever just go “shopping”. Instead, run errands. Have a list of groceries (ideally based around you weekly meal plan — more on that another day). Have a list of the clothes you need. Don’t buy new clothes except to replace old ones. Don’t go out just to spend money and get stuff.
4. Connect with simple people
I don’t mean simple in the head. I mean simple at heart. There are many people in this world who are content with what they have and make the most of it. One of the best ways to institute a change is to surround yourself with support. If your friends don’t talk about their amazing new iPod or car, you’re less likely to feel the need to get one for yourself. On the same token, spend time with other people who seek experiences rather than things. It could very well change your life.
Photo credit goes to
baliboro of flickr.
Reading the title, you may think I’m bonkers. How can someone who is stuck in a grease pit or a cubicle, with bills to pay and family to feed, be just as satisfied with their life as someone who can lounge by their private pool? Isn’t the modern dream to be rich and successful? Well, it turns out that after a certain level of annual income, there is very little difference in overall happiness and feelings of success. This line, for the United States, is right around $35,000 per year.
Why does doubling your income not double your happiness past this line? Well, the studies don’t necessarily show that, but I think we can speculate. For one thing, consider that expenses increase as income increases. Somehow, your spending grows to fit what you make. For most of the US right now, it grows to be more than we make. Hence the debt. Consider also that studies have shown that we derive more happiness from money if we use it for an experience rather than an object or expense. This is especially true if the experience is a social one. Let’s say, for example, that you got a bonus of $200. Studies indicate that you’ll get more happiness from that money if you use it to skydive or take an art class or take friends out to dinner than if you upgrade your car or get a new pair of shoes. This seems so obvious, and yet I doubt it is something we think about much. It just seems easier to buy that new pair of slacks then to schedule a personal guide for a rock climbing trip.
So how can we get the most happiness for our money? I’m certainly not advocating using all of your money for outings and experiences. Bills still need to be paid, and a retirement fund is a must. I will always encourage people to save as much as they can. However, there is always room in a budget for some kind of entertainment. Even if your entertainment budget is $20 for the week, try something new. Rather than seeing two movies, save for two months and do something fantastic. Something you will remember for the rest of your life.
I have excellent news, too. There are a lot of experiences that are practically free. If you already own a bike, a mountain bike trip is just the cost of your energy and maybe a parking permit. If you don’t own a bike, they can be rented for a decent price. I would also encourage checking with friends.
So what is the goal here? How can you be the happiest your money can buy? Pay for experiences, not entertainment or objects. Let me say that again.
Pay for experiences, not entertainment.
We often ignore experiences, like vacations or trips or outings, because we assume they are too expensive. When you look at the math, though, it is probably not as much as you think. Would you rather have cable TV for a month or hang glide? If you honestly prefer T.V. and new shoes, then that is fine. Do what makes you happy. For most of use, though, this isn’t the case. I know it isn’t for me.
Let’s break this down into a plan. 1. What have you always wanted to do?Write down an experience you want. Personally, I want to skydive, and go on a caving trip again, and hike a waterfall. Consider having a couple options. An easy one, like going to dinner with your whole family, and a harder one, like learning how to sail.
2. How much will this cost?Do some research. If you can, talk to someone who has done what you want to do. Find out what you will need, and how you can get it, and how much it will all cost.
3. Fund it.Figure out where you have room in your budget to make room for these expenses. Can you give up delivery pizza or your cable bill? This step will vary greatly based on the level of expense the experience requires. If you need $35 to paint pottery with your kids, this will be easier to get than the $500 for the season of personal snow boarding lessons.
4. Do it. As soon as you have the money, do it. Don’t let life get in the way or make excuses. If this is something you really want to do, you can’t afford not to do it. We only live once, after all.
——————Photo borrowed from .sudesh. of flickr. My internet is currently back up, so I’ll be doing my best go get the posts I’ve written up onto the web over the next couple of days.
Just as an update, my internet is struggling right now. I will try and get to the computer lab and do posts as soon as I can. Or, maybe life will have mercy and give me my internet back. We’ll see.
All my best,Your bloggee
Note that the title is not “how to lose weight”. I dislike the insinuation that everyone should strive to be slimmer than they are. First, a little back story on why I am so opinionated about this:
I started college two years ago. There are always jokes about the “Freshman 15″. I saw many people gain a freshman 15. Some even gained a freshman 50. I didn’t gain anything. In fact, for a good part of the year I weighed less than I did my senior year. Living in the dorms, I ate a lot of pasta and salad. But I didn’t eat much at any one time. Last year marked a lot of changes. My relationship with my first boyfriend was ending, slowly and painfully. My major changed several times. My family was going through an extremely rough patch. My forever friend, Dita, had recently passed away. I didn’t know who I was, what I was doing, where I was going, and who would be with me when I got there. Needless to say, I didn’t often have much of an appetite.
This year, I moved into my own apartment. Life was getting back on track, a bit. Fall, things were still very much in turmoil. I got back together with the ex. I broke up with the ex. I changed my major, again, and for good. I started work at the writing center. I met and started dating one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met: Nick, my boyfriend. I joined and then left a sorority. By winter term, things were much calmer. I finally had a chance to institute all of the dietary things I’d read about for so many years. I did what I’ve always wanted, and started eating closer to the earth. Beans, veggies, rice, other whole grains. I switched to real butter instead of margarine. The result? I gained weight. I went from the 119lbs (ish) I had been for most of the last 5 years to 131lbs. I freaked out. I had squish on my body. I could see fat for once. I hated my own body so much it hurt. Media everywhere (and some people, too…) showed me I needed to slim back down.
And then came an epiphany. If I’m eating healthier than I have my entire life, and still exercising, how is it possible to be an unhealthy weight (with no medical condition)? Keep in mind, I’m 5′9″. 113lbs is still on the low end of healthy. I had just always been underweight. I placed some of my identity on being that tiny, tiny size I was. In my reading, I had come across several times the idea of s “set point”. It had also been taught in my health class required for all freshmen. Basically, the idea is this: everyone has an ideal weight, based upon height, genetics, and several other factors. If you eat well, eat the right amounts, and exercise enough, you will tend toward your set point. This is exactly what I had done.
I decided to do my best to ignore what culture was telling me; it was simply making me feel horrible about myself. I have embraced this new set point weight. More importantly, I’ve stayed here. And I know I’ve made the right choice. I’ve had friends ask me what’s changed. They tell me I look vivacious, or healthier, or stronger. Sure, there are still certain people who make me feel bad about how I look. And sure, I still see ‘new’ exercise routines and want to go overboard. But generally, and most of the time, I’m happy now.
Down to the content:How to find your healthy weight1) Eat wellStop following diets, and fads, and ideas, and whatever else. Forget what you have been taught and rely on common sense. Does it make sense that a highly processed “cookie” that is low-calorie is healthier for you than a big ol bowl of rice and beans? Yes, the cookie is lower calorie. But it is a cookie. If you must have a “system”, look to Michael Pollan. In his wonderful book “in defense of food” he says, “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants“. In this case, food means something easily identified as a food. Like cabbage or a potato. Not something you need a brand name or list to describe. Not too much refers to quantity. Mostly plants means that we should eat largely “vegan”. That is, mostly in the grains, beans, vegetables, and fruits portion of the food spectrum. And more the last two than the first. 2) Drink waterFor many people, there is a point at which the chemicals the signal thirst and the chemicals the signal hunger are indistinguishable. This tends to be when we first feel thirsty. And guess which one most people assume it is? If you guessed hunger, you’re right. Try drinking a glass of water and waiting to see if you’re hungry. If you’re still hungry about 5 minutes later, then you are actually feeling hunger.
Personally, this is the one I struggle the most with. For some reason, I don’t feel thirst virtually at all until I am very, very thirsty. This means that unless I remember to drink water, I forget to drink at all. I also don’t drink coffee or tea often, and I only drink milk once a day at most. I have several ways I try and cope with this. One, I always have something to drink with meals. Another way is having my boyfriend remind me to have a drink. I also carry a water bottle with me to classes, and I sip water to stay awake throughout my class. This helps a lot.
3) Get out and moveI’m not going to tell you to go to a gym or to exercise. I just want you to get out and move. My personal favorite? Walks. As I’ve mentioned before, I walk a lot. I love walks. Most days I get in at least 4 miles. Many days I get up to 8. I would recommend doing other activities, too. Resistance training (like weight lifting) can be hugely helpful for boosting metabolism. Flexibility is important for preventing injuries and bouncing back from any pulls or strains. Core strength is important for balance and digestive health. And all of these have great exercises for them, and you can find endless information online. But more than anything, it is important to just get out and move.
4) SleepWake up the same time every day. Get more than 8 hours every night. For me, I need more than 9 hours every night. In high school I got a lot less sleep and thought I was fine. But I was also stressed far more, and sick more often. Sleep is, in my opinion, one of the biggest gifts you can give yourself. I’m not sure if there is a direct connection between sleep and a healthy weight. But I do know that all the things needed so that a healthy weight is reached and maintained is easier with a lot of sleep. You won’t feel like cooking or walking if all you want to do is lay down in front of the TV.
5) Stop watching TVOkay, please don’t yell for this one. Without TV, you’ll find other things to spend your time on. More useful things. And possibly even healthy things. I also think less TV is good for the soul as well as the body, but that is another post entirely.
————–This is another post with the possible new focus of this blog. Please give feedback, especially as it pertains to the blog as a whole, in addition to the contents of this post specifically. If you liked this post, please share it with other. I’d appreciate it. Photo credit to kiwiiiiiii at flickr.
Cutest thing ever can be found HERE. This makes me laugh so hard. And I am actually very tempted to get one.
We live in a health conscious age. With so much information about dietetics and nutrition around, we should all be thin and healthy with no problems. But as Michael Pollan pointed out, all this nutritionism (breaking food down for classification into its nutrients and pieces) has led to confusion. Butter is good! Butter is bad. Avoid eggs. Eat flax seeds! Rice is good. Everything white is bad!
I think its a clear sign of this confusion that a book titled “eat this, not that” has been a best-seller. So I’ve decided it is time to chime in my piece, and tell you the things you may think are healthy, but really aren’t.
1) YogurtNot all yogurt is bad. Just most of it. I know a lot of commercials lately have been sharing the “amazing health benefits” of probiotics. The problem? Most store-bought yogurts are low on the beneficial bacteria and high in the sugars. The vast majority have high fructose corn syrup (HFCS: that’ll have to be another post all in itself) and those that avoid this often use aspartame. Anyone who has had real yogurt (that is, fresh made yogurt, by a person, not a store) knows that it is fairly bitter and a little bit nasty. It also goes bad very, very quickly. To avoid this, companies have to use all sorts of things.
2) SaladOkay, I lied. Salad is good. But how we eat salad? Bad. If you have a chance, look on the back of a salad dressing bottle. Serving sizes are usually 1-2 Tbs. And this is the most we’re supposed to use on an entire salad. We actually tend to use more like 1/4 or 1/3 cup. Now, I am weird and like fresh bitter greens oftentimes. But most people? Salad is gross without tons of dressing. So skip the fatty topping, and eat something like stir-fry instead. That way, you can keep the veggies but slim out the additions.
3) Wheat BreadStay with me on this one. There are two main reasons wheat bread isn’t as healthy as it should be. First, most wheat breads are not actually whole grain wheat. 100% wheat is not the same as whole grain wheat is not the same as standard wheat. Wheat bread can even be as little as 10% wheat flour, and the rest bleached. This merely makes it not as good as we thought, rather than bad. Which brings us to the second point: most breads have a lot of questionable stuff. Since when do I want citric acid (which is a corn derivative usually, and not citrus, fyi) in my bread? Or HFCS? And why on earth would I want to eat something that can sit on my counter for two months before it molds? Those things aside, many breads are high in oils and sodium, putting them in the realm of bad. I want to post a bread recipe soon, and show you that homemade bread is not something that was left in the 50s. It has advanced, along with everything else, and with very little time and cooking skills is totally possible.
4) SoyThis one will possibly get me yelled at. It took me a lot of research before I took a stance on this particular issues. I don’t want to delve into all of the nitty-gritty scientifics here, but in short: soy can mess us up in several ways. There is the whole “imitates estrogen” thing, there is the “low levels of testosterone” and the “causes various cancers”. Then there is the various acids it releases and changes within your body, which essentially create poisons. I do, however, differentiate between fermented and unfermented soy products. Tempeh? Fermented, doesn’t do the same acid stuff, in moderation, I’m okay with it. Tofu and soy milk? Unfermented. Does all the aforementioned bad stuff.
5) Almost any drink but waterPeople hate this, but only because they know it is true. Americans drink 60% of our calories. And we need to stop. The soda, the “juice”, the “teas” and “coffees”. Tea and coffee without a ton of stuff added are fine. That is what all those studies cover linking coffee with lower risks of heart disease, and tea with elevated mood chemicals. Add a ton of milk and sugar and who knows what else? Suddenly, you are drinking the adult version of candy. Feel free to do so, just don’t lie to yourself about it. Incidentally, switching to mainly water is one of the best ways to save money and completely help your health, with no personal risk or harm. On the topic of juice, all I have to say is “don’t”. Fruit is good because of the fiber. If you’re not eating it, its just sugar. And don’t even get me started on fad superfoods. Yes, there are foods that will help your health. But all things in moderation. Seriously people.
6) BeansOkay, only the canned ones. And moreover, only the canned ones with sodium. If you look at a standard can of s&w black beans (my favorite if I must used canned) the can contains a whopping 70% of your daily sodium. The healthy alternative? Use a crockpot and make a batch of beans with very little work. All this requires is knowing the night before that you’ll use beans the next day. I’ll do a “how-to” post on this later.
————-This is a sample of where my blog could go/ a blog that could spin off from this one. Please give feedback on how you feel this fits in with the “grand scheme of things”. Also, image isn’t mine. From VeganSteve over at flikr.
And a song from her new album:I can’t wait to buy this ablbum.
I am considering shifting the focus of my blog somewhat. Currently, I tend to write about whatever I want, whenever I want, and hope that some of it interests someone. I am contemplating turning this into a bit more of a “how-to” sort of blog. How-tos on finances, cooking, gardening, animal care, and life hacks are all things I’m considering. It is my hope that a change like this would shift this from being fairly livejournal/diary oriented to something with reader driven content that would hopefully be an asset, rather than simply entertainment.
I would love to hear your thoughts. Suggestions? Concerns? Do you love my blog as it is now and would hate to see a change? Let me know, I’d appreciate it!
Kindly ignore the last post. It is the last of the series of hoops technorati had me jump through to claim my blog. It seems that when they do site maintenance, it is me who suffers. On the positive side, it seems that my claim went through properly and I have claimed this site properly and thoroughly as my own. =)