Tag Archives: minimalism

Back to basics

Talking about the disastrous effects of our Western lifestyle, our eating, shopping and holiday habits on the planet is never fun. People don’t like to be made felt bad about their choices. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was a student but for same reason I’m certainly not one of those veggies who tells you off about the ‘dead animal on your plate’ in the middle of a restaurant. But by now we’ve reached a point with climate and environmental issues that I’m wondering if maybe we should. Is it really OK when friends announce their fifth mini hols a year by plane? And is it OK to just reply asking if they had a good time and what the weather was like?

I remember earning a lot of money each month as a lawyer and I sometimes I hadn’t got a clue how to spend it. I think many fulltime workers who go clothes shopping on a Saturday often don’t. It seems more of a cultural habit. Sometimes I randomly bought shoes, and then I just threw them in some closet if I didn’t want to wear them, and went to buy a new pair I didn’t really need. It gave me a very empty feeling.

Sometime after quitting this job I left to Ireland with my guitar and ended up on a farm in the wild West. My main concerns were to light the fire in the mornings, to collect drinking water from a well in the mountains (rural area’s often still don’t have access to public water schemes), to do repairs after power cuts and some more very basic life tasks, like baking fresh bread in the morning. Strangely this largely improved my mood and feeling of happiness about life in general.  It felt like for the first time in my life – in my twenties – I lived and worked for what really matters, staying alive, keeping warm and being as self sufficient as possible doing so and spend my little savings on local activities that felt like “really earned”.

Of course I wouldn’t want to project my own experience on society in general. But could I assume that our general Western lifestyle has drifted so far off from a basic self sufficient experience, that knowing ‘what really counts in life’ is just as hard a notion to grasp as knowing ‘what we are doing wrong’ ? Is that why it’s so hard to admit that maybe that 5th mini break away or buying that car to bring the kids to school wasn’t really necessary? Because we really don’t feel anymore what is truly valuable? Because our lives are built around an existence in which we study hard to earn digital abstract credits to buy stuff from, striving for more and more, overlooking if we do really add the same amount of value in return with our work? What is an experience really “earned”? It would be good to leave the notion of money out of this equation now when we judge our own behaviour and what we really deserve….

See you on Friday for the Climate Strike in The Hague!

 

Living on a budget

A friend of mine once told me I should start giving courses on ‘living on a budget’, because I always seem to be able to save money, even while on a lower budget. All people who work independently know that these tighter periods exist!! So, here we are! I’m sure many of you will have thought about the financial consequences of quitting a fulltime job to start your own business, to follow your passion, to go travelling or just to take a break from the rat race. Don’t think too much, just do it! As a lawyer who turned songwriter I have found out quite a bit about this, so let me share some tips and tricks…

So, I think the biggest challenge is to find a house that is affordable: in the form of alternative housing, house sharing or rent allowance. As soon as that is sorted, the remaining budget really depends on choices for other fixed costs. Apart from health insurance, do we really need insurances for all kinds of unlikely events? Is it possible to share Wifi with the neighbours? Do we need a TV? I love watching movies and series online! Can we get a cheap phone contract? Can we use public transport instead of owning a car, or maybe sharing one? Can we walk or cycle instead of driving? You will give yourself a free workout….plus it’s all better for the environment anyway!

You will see that you will then have quite a bit of money leftover after deduction of very limited fixed costs. I tend to spend it mostly on healthy food. I don’t go out much for drinks and food, as I find it’s usually better healthier quality when I cook myself. And I enjoy cooking. Of course I do have coffees now and then with friends, that is definitely a choice. I find it can be even more fun and relaxing to invite people at home, or bring a thermos flask and food while going for a walk or while taking a train. And again….it’s better for the environment saving all these plastic cups!

Another category is sports and hobbies: Pick a hobby that you only buy gear for once, and that is free afterwards, like surfing, skating, sea swimming, running, cycling. For myself: I love inline skating and I have a cheap contract at the gym.

Being sustainable when it comes to clothing is something I wrote about before. I loving buying affordable quality that will usually last for years! I love fashion and I have a big dress collection but I only add items like maybe twice a year because there is just plenty there anyway. Or try second hand stores. And again: better for the environment.

So do I sit at home all the time? Well I love spending time at home, as I’m a very homely person, but I travel aswell. Trick is to take advantage of offers, for public transport or otherwise. I don’t really want to promote it (not good for the environment at all, this one), but I bought flight tickets within Europe for as little as 20 return. I stayed at budget locations, holiday homes that I could rent of friends for little, and I made deals with 4 star hotels for free accomodation in return for gigs! To combine travels with paid gigs or other paid jobs is another good way to reduce costs ofcourse.

And I love spending time in our own little country. To go for hikes in the woods in the East of The Netherlands, to go to Maastricht for a day, and of course exploring all of nature The Hague has to offer. Saves a lot of hassle travelling. And should I say it again? Better for the enviroment!

Strangely I found that when I was working fulltime I felt a stronger urge to go spend all my money in the weekends, even on things I really didn’t need. I remember coming home with shoes I never wore and then just buying another pair. Such a waste! I still haven’t found out the psychology behind it, maybe it’s some form of happiness compensation? I don’t miss it anyway!

So what do you do to keep your budgetary costs low, to allow a lifestyle with more freedom? Have you even considered it at all? I’m excited to hear from you. For me this all has become so natural that it doesn’t feel restrictive at all. Quite the opposite in fact! I hope this whole story will make you a bit more aware next time you’re about to buy something you don’t really need! Enjoy the freedom you will get in return!

 

Minimalism 

The past week my house has been renovated. A big operation for which I needed to pack up all my stuff. It really reminded me of moving houses, something which I have done 16 times in my life already. I think you would all agree moving houses always feels like a big hassle that causes a lot of stress. So it does for me. As a creative my head is so full of ideas already that I very much dislike things around me also being out of place.

What’s the stress about though? Mainly about our belongings. I have been hiding this week at my parents’ house in the middle of the woods. I only brought my guitar and a small rucksack and quickly I started to relax, and just letting go off the renovation situation in my house in The Hague.

Back in 2007 when I left to Ireland after quitting my lawyer job, I moved all my belongings to a storage space. I only lived out of three suitcases for those three years in Ireland, in several furnished houses. When I came back to The Netherlands I decided to throw out as much as I could from the storage since I hadn’t missed these things anyway.

Since then I have had a natural dislike to buying things, especially big things like a piano or a surfboard! If you have ever travelled you know big things mean more weight to carry along in your backpack…or in your life….

I never chose to live a minimalistic lifestyle but it just somehow happened naturally this way. Living from a lower budget I started making more conscious decisions on buying things and not just throwing out things that are still very well usable. My current stage outfit for the castle tour (pictured below) is a dress I bought at the age of 17 for the highschool prom, that still fits perfectly at 35!!

I mean it when I say I really don’t miss anything. I don’t think I dress that badly either and people often compliment me with the cozy interior of my house. Wouldn’t living from a lower budget be good for all of us? I think it’s much more in line with our real ‘earthly budget’ anyway! Do you think of your footprint and sustainability when buying things?