Stuffocation

I have a history of having a restless desire to re-invent things – our living space, my career, my lifestyle, even small changes to my appearance (at the moment, I’m considering dyeing my hair plum or purple, which I’ve only done briefly with very sedate colours as a teen). I worry a lot that this points to some neurotic dissatisfaction with life in general. More often than not, though, it is because I enjoy being challenged in some way – to make something different, to try new skills, to change my approach when something isn’t working.

Bookshelf Flower

New ideas, books, websites, suck me in whilst I evaluate them and decide whether or not they are worth consideration. I think this is why, though I haven’t used my degree in an official way, that I loved the challenge of studying. Yes, education is expensive and sometimes I wince at how all my savings went into my MA, but ultimately, for me, education was all about challenge, novelty and that unquenchable thirst for ideas, deeper thinking, the analysis of the world around us. You can get a similar effect from self-study, from applying your knowledge in research projects, and adopting a critical mindset towards the materials you are analysing.

So, in the past few months, I’ve been considering a number of different ideas. The first one is inspired by the book Stuffocation: Living More With Less by James Wallman. Interestingly, the message of the book is not what I was expecting – I was expecting it to be more about decluttering and ‘living with less’ – but it is instead about the shift to experientialism, the idea that we are moving away from ‘stuff’ as the route to happiness and instead towards ‘experiences’ as a marker of a happier and more fulfilling life. He doesn’t discount that sometimes, ‘things’ can be the gateway into experiences, such as books, films, games and media, but that general ‘stuff’ can clog up our lives and make us feel overwhelmed and stressed (not to mention having a drastic effect on the environment).

deskcandle

The goal here is not to get rid of everything you own, but to choose wisely and spend more of our time and money doing things that we love to do, that we’ve always wanted to try, and that we are passionate about. That might mean drastic changes, or it might mean a few simple changes – choosing an experience over a new ‘thing’, for example. I don’t think he means to say that if you need to replace something, you shouldn’t, more that it’s about the value something gives to your life, and at times you need to choose one over the other.

The good news is that making these choices is something you can fit in with who you are and what you enjoy, and what you like doing with your friends and family. Obviously things like travel and some experiences are expensive, but there’s no reason why you can’t adopt a mindset of saving for certain things, or trying budget options. I think of a trip to the cinema as an ‘experience’ now, more than a regular thing, simply because of how expensive it is, but that means I’m more likely to choose to see films that I really want to see.

It also means being creative, when you don’t have as much money as you’d like. For example, having a home-made movie night, or meeting people in public meeting places (like the Royal Festival Hall in London) where there is less pressure to spend money. Experiences don’t need to be a big, overblown affair – they can be the simple things in life, appreciated more fully. I’ve found that appreciating things – some intangible, like a sunset or rain, or a hug or good conversation, or tangible, like the first coffee of the day, or reading a book – is one route to contentment and gratitude, especially when the more expensive, harder to achieve things seem out of reach.

hotchocolate

Some objects we already have are full of meaning or have stories, whilst some are simply attractive or useful. I’m not sure what the right balance is for everyone – we all have certain points at which we feel crowded and overwhelmed by ‘stuff’. For me, especially, I have a lot of books, but have been using my Kindle far more often over the past two years. There is nothing like having books though. When I look at them, I’m reminded of stories and adventures, and re-reading is always a possibility. I’ve discovered that everything having a place is the most important thing, and occasional clear-outs – maybe twice a year – help me feel a little more in control. I’m not as sentimental as I used to be – if something is that important, I’ll find a way to make a memento of it, or take a photo.

If anything, the sadnesses of this year have taught me a lot about what is most important to me. I’m still working on filling my life with new projects, experiences, and different ways of living my values. You could say that my thirtieth year hasn’t been the happiest, but in the end, I still have hope and optimism. It’s a long term thing, making a life, not something that can be resolved in a season or even a year. You adopt the habits that are most meaningful and work for you, rather than follow what other people think is best.

‘If our culture is to evolve and find the answer to Stuffocation, we will need to build a new value system. This new system will have to cast light on all the dark sides that came with materialism – like overconsumption, pollution, anxiety, and stress. It should also take advantage of all the opportunities available today – like the technologies that give us the benefits of access without the downsides of physical ownership.’ – James Wallman, Stuffocation.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. speakglitter says:

    Hot chocolate looks AMAZING!

    Like

  2. Lauren says:

    thanks for telling us about this book, I like the ideas that you have presented from it and you wrote very well. I am glad to be following such an educated well written blogger.

    Like

  3. cardamone5 says:

    Interesting, Liz, and sort of on the same wave length as my recent thoughts: how fear-based my approach to anything is. I am teaching myself Microsoft Office because I need these skills for the jobs I am applying for, but come to find out, I need these skills in self-initiated projects like my memoir. I just figured out how to create a table of contents, and feel very foolish that I never dared to learn this before, esp. with how explicit everything is. I am trying to spread this adventurousness (for me, normal for most people) to every area of my life. I don’t think I will ever be completely fear-free because it’s part of my basic make-up (my go to response will always be fear), but consciously, I can inject more curiosity into my worldview.

    Wishing you happiness, and fulfillment.

    Fondly,
    Elizabeth

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Patricia says:

    I find you to be fascinating! You seem to get more out of life than those who chose the rut route. I hated school when I was young but loved it when I went back as an older adult. I found Economics which most people hated to be interesting. My blog has been helpful to me in that I can share my excitement over new discoveries as my family and friends just roll their eyes as if to say, “Here she goes again.”

    Like

  5. Well said. I feel like my 30th (and now 31st) hasn’t been the happiest either, but I’m definitely learning to find what makes me happy. I want to look back and think “I had a lot of good experiences”, not “I had a lot of things”. I’ll have to check out the book. Sounds like a good read. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. You are one of the very few English blogs I follow, as I write in Afrikaans. It was a lovely surprise to see you quoted in the Daily Post on why you blog!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Liz Ward says:

      Ah, thank you! It was very last minute being asked so I hope my advice was useful 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Kaz's Art says:

    Sounds like an interesting book, will have to look for this for a Christmas treat, sound like my kind of book, really love your style of writing, looking forward to reading more of your articles thank for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Enjoyed this well written post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. simply me says:

    I love your blogs. I am new at blogging can you please follow me

    Like

  10. soooo yummy !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s