“You pay for things with hours of your life.”
A few years ago someone spoke these words to me.
It has haunted me for life.
Just like that, I was never the same again. Every time I tried to order a new dress online for $59.99, my brain would start quickly doing the math… roughly three hours working at the retail store I worked at… was this dress worth three hours of my life? I’d usually decide the time wasn’t worth the purchase and abandon it.
I can appreciate beautiful clothes and appreciate people who love buying clothes, I love make-up, I love girls who love makeup (and femmes and boys who love makeup.) I just don’t have the inclination to spend hours each day a) thinking about it and b) working to earn the money to have the best of it.
When I looked at my full closet I didn’t feel inspired. I felt grief. I saw a bunch of clothes and shit bought with hours of life I could never get back, all squished together on hangers. It felt like a morgue.
I realized buying and owning stuff was not as important to me as other stuff, such as having the time to surf or write. If three hours of work equalled purchasing a new dress, I decided I’d rather skip the whole charade and just have three raw hours to do with as I pleased. Fuck the dress.
Here’s the thing. It’s so easy to say ‘I don’t own much’ or ‘I don’t need much to be happy.’ Anyone can understand that concept. But in practice, or the reality of what it actually means to own little, is usually very different. For example, people have this hard-on for the ‘bohemian lifestyle’. But what is that aesthetic? A bunch of flowing skirts and dresses, bangles piled up on arms, bohemian interior design and fairy lights and sarongs and sari’s and lanterns and…
“The things you own, end up owning you.” – Tyler Durden, Fight Club
It’s not like that.
In the last two years I have gone from owning much to owning little. Slowly it was my clothes. Then it was my car. Then I was handing back the keys to my room in the apartment I rented and flying to a small surf village on the other side of the world.
Now this is what I actually currently own.
- 1 yellowing surfboard.
- About 20 items of clothes.
- A laptop.
- A phone.
- 3 notebooks.
- 1 hairtie (I guess that’s not abnormal. No matter how many times a girl buys new hairties, there will always end up only being that single, lone hairtie)
- 1/2 block of mint soap I bought from a local lady in my village that has left me unable to go thirty seconds without smelling my hair.
- A handful of empty Oreo wrappers stashed at the bottom of my backpack.
That’s… pretty much it.
In the last two years I’ve learnt to repurpose some of my clothes.
A ripped dress can be cut into a shirt. An old bikini strap can be cut into smaller hair ties. I found a pair of mens jeans at a second-hand store and cut them into shorts. Here, in the surf town I live in El Salvador, no one really gives a shit what you wear. Most of the time everyone is in transit to or from the surf, so being barefoot, half-dressed and covered in salt is the norm. You can wear the same shirt three days in a row and no one bats an eyelid, and it means nothing about you.
But who am I when I return home to Australia visit my friends and want to attend things that I simply don’t have the clothes for anymore? Any bar has a bare-minimum dress code; smart shoes, no flip-flops allowed. I don’t even own smart shoes anymore. Most of my make-up is cracked and obsolete by now. It’s so simple but for that reason alone, I am outside the societal norm of having a bedroom, an apartment, or even a house full of stuff at this point. There’s ramifications for that. Feeling grubby, irresponsible, flighty or cheap.
But this is the part where I want to tell you all that I have gained.
The time to get the taste of the Spanish language on my tongue. To get the memory of paddling for a wave burned into my muscles so now it is an automatic motion. The time to write. To explore. The time to sit in boredom and not have to fill it with entertainment. Sure, I still work for money, and I work hard. But only to the point that it covers my basic needs. My rent, my food, my Oreos. And not a minute over that.
A small voice rises in my every now and then ‘but, don’t you want to own a house? Don’t you want to own a car?’
And my answer is this; maybe- but not right now. My word, my theme, my inspiration right now is not to ‘own.’
It is simply to be alive, and to experience all that I am experiencing.
The point is this.
At this point I own less than I ever have in my life
And I feel richer than I ever have in my life.
And if you’re feeling like you’re kind of over the never-ending hamster wheel of earn, buy, earn buy, you can decide to jump the fuck off.
Feature Image: Tim Swallow Photographer