Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I who have nothing....the great experiment

Until a few months ago I had spend my entire life collecting things. As a young boy I collected rocks, stamps and coins. As an adult my collecting of things intensified. I was no longer limited to a room with a mother telling me to tidy it. I had a house of my own and disposable income for the first time. Fish tanks began sprouting up everywhere as did cacti and electric guitars amongst the pizza boxes and empty beer cans.

As a landlord I have also had many people come and go throughout the years and I also seem to have accumulated all of their unwanted possessions too.

After doing some travelling in Cuba and also the Far East I was intrigued by how happy these people who had so little were. These people suffered often in very bad conditions with poor diets and a lack of education and health care. But they seemed generally happier. Was this merely a cultural difference or was there something more too it? The concept of being happy without having a lot was very alien to me. I decided to do some research. It soon became clear to me that my ideas of the way the world worked were very wrong. The poor don't sit around miserable because they are poor and the rich aren't all enjoying their wealth. What I saw with my own eyes contradicted my internal model for happiness.

I decided a countries suicide rate was a fair enough measure of happiness in any given society not 100% accurate - but the figures are freely available. After some investigation I noticed that people tend to commit suicide more frequently the further from the equator they were. This probably had to do with exposure to sunlight and S.A.D (Seasonal Affective Disorder)

Using wikipedia (I know its not the most accurate of resources) I looked into income by country to see whether there was a correlation of any kind to suicide rates .

In the Americas there does seem to be an inversely proportional correlation to income and suicide rates. This also seems to hold true across most of Europe and Australasia with the only exception being China (that however, is a big exception).

After giving it much thought I decided the primary difference between them and I was that I was happy having whereas they were happy being. But how do you change your mindset so that you are happy being when all your life you have been happy having? I decided it was time to purge myself of my possessions.

I have two houses full of possessions, some mine, some just left by ex tenants - and the immediate solution to getting rid of most of this was two trips, one to the charity shop and another to the dump. That done, all that remained were the valuable items which I intend to sell at a boot sale. As I sorted through a lifetimes worth of possessions almost every object I picked up I wanted to keep. I found it difficult to let go. However, once they were all gone, I didn't even miss them.

So now I have two empty houses. I am aware that to really have no possessions I should also sell them - but the housing market isn't right at the moment - so I am just going to rent them out and enjoy the small income that they make for me. After all, this is just an experiment. I also have maintained a bag of toiletries and clothes, a suit for weddings and funerals, my guitar (a constant source of joy in my life) and my laptop (without which I could not work).

So over the coming months expect me to detail the aspects of what I enjoy and what I miss about my new possession free lifestyle....

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