This weekend I read "Living with Less. A Lot Less" by Graham Hill in The New York Times. A very interesting guy. A wealthy entrepreneur who has started some very cool businesses and used to own a lot of things -- a house in Seattle and a place in New York City. All sorts of gadgets and devices that are "necessary" in this information age that we live in. Stereo equipment, cars, clothes and whatever else he thought he needed.
The key words here are "thought he needed." We all think we need things and depending on our income they could be a new Prada bag or a purse from Marshall's that looks like a Prada but costs "only" $89. A bigger house, a new car, new skis, more clothes, jewelry, a bigger flat screen TV.
Now I never really got into shopping. I never had enough money and when I did have some extra cash or was willing to pull out the credit card, I'd rather spend my money on a vacation than a new sofa. Someone once accused me of being unpatriotic because I didn't shop enough. I needed to shop more to help the U.S. economy get out of the recession, they said.
All my furniture was hand-me-downs. My husband and I have only bought three brand new pieces of furniture during the 22 years we've been married -- a TV armoire, a sectional sofa from Bob's Furniture and a recliner where my husband sat each night as lord of the manor. Our bed was even a throw away from a customer my husband had done some painting for. We did buy a new mattress. We're not that bad! Although now I am sleeping on a "like new" king size mattress here in Florida. A lovely, very comfortable pillow top Stearns & Foster. Maybe I am that bad. But I can tell you, I've been sleeping like a baby. No more 3:00 a.m. tossing and turning.
I am the woman in HomeGoods filling up the carriage with everything that strikes her fancy. Oh, I need this plate shaped like a palm tree. I love this picture of the tropical island. My bath towels are getting old. Would my daughter like this pot with the silk orchid for her room? Then I retrace my steps back through the store returning everything to it's rightful place. What would I do with this palm tree plate that I couldn't do with the plates I already have? I have pictures of tropical islands I've actually taken myself and framed. The bath towels are old but they're not fraying yet. My daughter is a teenager and she hates everything I buy her. Nine times out of ten I leave the store empty handed.
So now I am living in Florida with two chairs in my living room. I did have four chairs, but I moved the two folding beach chairs out to the patio. My office has a desk and file cabinet and my bedroom has the king size bed and two night tables. I eat at my desk or standing at the kitchen counter. Everything except the mattress was acquired from a generous man my friend knew who was moving back to Manhattan and getting rid of everything in his condo that wasn't gone yet. I brought the beach chairs with me.
I have two lamps, a frying pan, a sauce pan, plastic spoons and plates and two large coffee mugs that I can also eat soup or cereal in or scramble eggs. I realize this is subsistence living. My husband is bringing some of our things with him, the Portmeirion dinnerware, the recliner (seriously he won't give it up, even though the cat scratched it), more lamps, some pans and a dresser. But he better not be bringing a lot because I like this stripped down living. He's known as a serious hoarder but that's a blog for another day. I've heard rumors he still has my old record albums which I told him to bring to the vintage record shop in Portsmouth before I left.
I've also scaled back on the bills. I only have an Internet connection right now. No TV. We'll see how long that lasts once my husband gets here. After all, there's all that golf and those Westerns and Matt Damon movies to watch from the recliner. I think I'll tell him they don't have the John Wayne and Matt Damon/Jason Bourne channels here in Florida. I am envisioning walks on the beach and day trips exploring new places around our new home.
I've always lived by the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson when he was speaking about his good friend Henry David Thoreau, "He chose to be rich by making his wants few." That's my goal, to be rich with lots of time not necessarily money. To be able to pursue my dream of writing. To visit my daughters in Colorado or where ever they may roam. Time for me to roam too; take more road trips, go back to Europe, see the places I haven't been yet.
Graham Hill does have a lot more money than me. That makes things easier. I don't care what anyone says, it just does. But I also know I have a lot more of what I need right now, time to write, time to walk the beach and time to be with friends and family. I am enforcing my own personal sequester and spending less money on things I don't really need. The only difference between me and the federal government is I am choosing wisely and fairly. If my husband really needs the TV, we will get the cable hookup. By scaling back and living with less, I am hoping I can work part-time or maybe just write. As Hill says, "My space is small. My life is big." I do wish I had his pocketbook though. It doesn't have to be a Prada, it could be the knock-off.