My View of Christmas
(This month I’m going to be doing posts on how our society got so addicted to stuff as evidenced in Black Friday and Christmas shopping in general. I’ll offer explanations and suggestions about what we can do about it including alternative ways to celebrate Christmas without the orgy of greed. This is going to make some of you angry and I’m very sorry about that. The most common reaction is going to be that, “I live in a house and buy gifts but I’m not like what you describe!” Let me acknowledge I’m not describing every single American, I know that. But I believe the message is so important, and our ears are so closed to it, I must use exaggeration to get through to our hearts and heads. At least I know that’s the way it was for me, only extremely difficult circumstances could break through the magical spell of material possessions.
Let me use the analogy of how you boil a frog; you can’t just drop it in a pot of boiling water, it’ll simply jump out. So instead you put it in cool water and slowly turn up the heat. It slowly adjusts to the temperature until it’s too late to jump out. That’s exactly what’s happened to our society. The heat of consumerism started slowly and pleasantly but now it’s just on the edge of being too hot for us to jump out and killing us. We’re like addicts who say “I can stop anytime I want” but then when circumstances force us to stop, we realize just how addicted we are. Those circumstances are here, and the time to stop is NOW! I believe this is an unpleasant, but critically important message and it’s worth the risk of offending some of you with some hard words and even exaggeration.)
It’s December, the time of the year when most Americans turn the majority of their time and attention to the idea of buying each other gifts of more and better stuff. Of course it has a much longer background as a religious and spiritual Holiday, but the honest truth is that for most of us, that has been long since been lost. Instead it’s turned into a massive orgy of shopping, buying and accumulating possessions. We give lip-service to “peace on earth and good will toward men” but when we head out for our Black Friday shopping, we see the truth. The pushing, shoving and fighting reveal what’s really important to us: more and better material goods. We may hide it under the pretense of giving “gifts” to others, but the honest truth is if we exchange a list, and agree to buy each other what’s on the list, we’re buying more stuff for ourselves and meerly convincing ourselves it’s for them
For vandwellers, this is an important topic because more than most people we’re extremely aware of the power and hold that “stuff” has over us. When the day came to reduce our precious belongings so we could fit all of it in a van, most of us were amazed at how difficult it was (if you’re in an RV, this applies to you as well, you just got to keep a little more of your precious stuff). As we agonized over whether to keep each thing, we discovered just how much we loved and treasured our stuff; we often found it had a power and hold over us that is so mesmerizing we can barely break free. If we’re honest, most of us came to the point where we wondered if we could do it and if vandwelling was worth the sacrifice.
But we decided it was and we finally got moved into our vans only to discover we still had way too much junk! It was piled everywhere in the van and we had to keep moving it around constantly to find what we needed at the moment. Necessity forced us to reduce it down even more. As time went on we discovered that much of what we had brought was not really useful; it was doing us more harm than it did us good. That was a life-changing lesson!
- We worked at a job we hated with people we didn’t like, to buy more stuff we didn’t really want. Why did we have to keep buying more and more? Because it never satisfied us! In fact all it ever did was make us want more! We had an insatiable craving for MORE!
- We had no choice but stay at that miserable job just to pay for a place to store all that crap. Of course as we got more stuff we had to buy a bigger place so we had to work even harder at a job we hated. So we sucked up to our miserable boss to get a raise or promotion–we simply had to have a bigger house for more stuff! Eventually the house or apartment became a prison that ensnared us. Most of our time and energy went to paying for it, not for our happiness or well-being.
- We heated and cooled that place so our Master, our stuff, would be safe and happy.
- We cleaned and washed the house and our stuff and did anything necessary to take care of it. We gave away the only thing that we had in this world that is truly ours to it, our time and life-energy.
- We locked and barred every door and window and trembled in fear behind them for fear that people would come and steal our precious stuff. Our stuff was so much more important to us than other people that we bought guns and were ready to kill for our stuff just like we were sure they were ready to kill us to take it.
None of that is normal or healthy behavior for human beings!! It’s a sickness of our civilization in the twenty-first century. Today, our highest value revolves around the accumulation of stuff for ourselves, but it was not always so.
For most of human history our highest value was on generosity and caring for the tribe. For a million years no member of any tribe went hungry if another member had food; that idea was unthinkable. Each member of the tribe knew his life depended on every other member, and if my neighbor was hungry, and I didn’t feed him, I was going to suffer in the long run too. The day would come when I needed him to save me from a tiger, or when he had food and I didn’t. “Good-will toward all” wasn’t a slogan we spouted once a year, it was a deeply lived way of human life. That’s our genetic inheritance, and not the love of things.
Beyond our need for each other, for nearly all of our history, most humans were nomads and when it came time to move having more stuff was not a blessing, it was a curse because they had to carry all that crap! And often you had to carry it a very long ways and at high speed. Rather than allow it to control their lives, they simply discarded everything that wasn’t essential, then, when they got to the new location, they simply made new things to use in their daily life. In that way, things and stuff had no value to us, in fact it was viewed as a hindrance to survival and happiness. We used and owned things, they didn’t use and own us. That too is our genetic inheritance, it’s written into our DNA code.
So how have our most basic and fundamental values as a human beings been totally reversed in less than 10,000 years? Through systematic brain-washing.
Every society since civilization began has created its own morals and values and devised ways to persuade its members to fully adopt those standards and beliefs. The highest value in Twenty-First century America is to get all the stuff you can for yourself and not think of anybody else while you’re doing it.
Before you deny that, consider that more than a Billion people are starving to death right now on this planet and 16% of Americans don’t have enough to eat. How many Americans ever give that a thought? Very few! How many Americans are constantly thinking about the newest and latest gadget and how they can get it for themselves? Nearly all!
How many Americans give a thought to or take any real action about the incredible environmental damage we are doing to our eco-system? How many are willing to give up any of their stuff or luxuries for the sake of future generation’s health on this planet. Almost none! No, we are much too concerned with ourselves and our stuff to sacrifice anything for any reason.
The message of this website is that there is an alternative way to live that breaks free of the orgy of greed and is good for us as humans and for our environment: the minimalist, nomadic life. The remarkable thing about it is, you will be healthier and happier if you choose it. So follow along was we take this ride together.
Tell it like it is Brother Bob.
Thanks. This year I made the decision not to buy anyone any stuff. In fact, I’m giving away my “treasures”. It’s been the least stressful Christmas for me in a long time and I feel absolutely unburdened because of it.
You’ve made some wise decisions Lightfoot. I think they will just continue to improve your life.
Thanks again, Bob. I don’t know if you remember the book or saw the movie “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” but some of those Black Friday scenes remind me of Jonathan watching in horror as all the seagulls fight and squabble over trashy scraps and wondering “Is this all there is?” By searching for his own true self first he’s ostracized and driven from the tribe and then he discovers a natural world far beyond his dreams and easily catches his dinner of insects as he’s soaring above his former petty tribe. I still have a ways to go, but I do hope that I’ll soon be soaring with him!
Thanks Lightfoot, that’s an excellent analogy.
Soar away my friend!
So true. Reminds me of a routine that George Carlin did about “stuff”.
JimS, I’ve seen that!! Fantastic stuff!
I spent the “Black Friday” (really Thurs evening AND Friday) this year ‘watching’ what was going on.
It was the same ‘stuff’ that was there before it was just offered at much lower prices during those time frames.
I saw a lot of flat screen TVs (how many vandwellers have one?) going out the door. I saw toys for children going out the door, none of these things were unusual they were just a lot cheaper than normal.
What vandweller does not want to save some money?
The time of the year… A winter festival has long been part of the European culture, to have a Christian holiday at the ‘usual time’ is not unusual in my book.
Giving gifts is another thing that is not unusual in humans and is not specific to one region, culture or peoples.
The massive scale that we see today is (I think) related to the sheer number of people we have today, the intrusion of corporate media into all facets of our every day lives and the proven profits to be made.
All facets of our lives? Amazon is a big corporation and it’s sitting here big as day in the cheapliving world. Not a bad thing, it’s a hell of a great tool but it’s here.
Take a look at the Chinese New Year Holiday (Spring Festival), big spending going on. China is about a as far from European traditions you can get and we still have the same ‘spend’ mentality during a traditional holiday period.
I suspect the base of all this is just part of being a human.
Being a vandweller, a nomad, is different from the mainstream society. The size of the dwelling is the obvious first thing noticed. Part of that is you just don’t have the room for stuff. There is little need to save 50% on something you don’t have a place to put and does not fit into your lifestyle so why bother fighting with the others for that savings?
It all might be different if they were having a 50% sale on 300w solar kits with Trojan T-105 batteries, 12v refrigerators, front seat swivels and 20″ 12v flat screen TVs. But they didn’t.
I might wonder how many nomads actually braved the crowds this year? They might have done it for a ‘deal’ on a tablet, laptop or other electronic device that they would have done without if it wasn’t half off the price?
Earlier I mentioned the flat screen TVs going out the door on the Thurs/Fri sales… these were usually the BIG ones. There is no place to put a 32″ TV ‘here’ let alone a 50 or 60 inch.
When we adopted the nomadic lifestyle getting rid of the ‘stuff’ was the hardest part. Selling ‘stuff’ is what keeps the corporations going.
Rob, I agree and I disagree. Since most of us are on a tight budget, I think most of us are looking for good deals. And, since we radically changed our lives we had to go out and buy many new things, you cited many good examples.
I’m using Black Friday as a symbol of a much bigger problem of our obsession with stuff. There’s nothing wrong with the stuff, we all have it, we all need it, we all want to find a deal on it. I’m pointing out our obsession with it.
I totally disagree that it is part of being human, it is not. Sharing everything you have with the tribe is part of being human. Fighting others to get everything you can for yourself is not. It’s inhuman.
Before I went mobile I lived in a 100 yr old house with a closet in each bedroom big enough to accommodate maybe three pairs of shoes and a couple changes of clothes. That’s the way it was and that’s probably what most people had.
Now this may be an unpopular opinion on your blog but…competition keeps prices down for everything we need ( meaning van / RV living ) from gas to food and foul weather gear.
So we should embrace the consumer society and the sweaty, screaming, mouth breathers wrestling in the aisles at Walmart over the last Extra, Extra Large Christmas sweater with the word Peace spelled out in glitter.
…Sorry I got a little carried away there.
Ha! That last paragraph was a gem!
No question about it, you are totally right Openspaceman, we need them to keep going to work and keep charging up their credit cards. But can we really in good conscience wish that nightmare on them for our own benefit?
Fortunately, like you said, there’s no risk of them giving up the “good life” as they see it so we’ll never have to make a decision.
Accurate observations, right on the mark.
Many years ago we were in a grocery line at Christmas time and some woman asked my 4 y/o son what he got for Christmas. He replied that he got a really neat book about mushrooms (the kids got one book each for Christmas, usually one on a topic they were interested in). She looked aghast and asked “But didn’t you want a Transformer?” I’d never heard of Transformers but he didn’t miss a beat: “My mother would never buy me something people stand in line and kill each other to buy.” Querying him afterward I learned he’d heard of them at his preschool (we didn’t have TV), and of some adult fight over them where someone was killed, and drawn his own (correct) conclusions. Woman never said another word to him but I’ve since wondered whether she ever even really “got” what he was saying. Said kid now middle-aged, walks or rides bike or bus where he wants to get, lives with what he needs as opposed to being subject to wants. Far happier than most, but definitely considered “weird” by some around him. You are most correct to point out that consumerism for the sake of consumption solves no problems.
You were a very wise mother Sarah, and you’re son was very lucky!
Facing their vapid existence is really too difficult for most people. So they continue the charade. It eases the pain. Examining ones life is no easy task and often results in depression. Hence, there’s constant avoidance.
I agree totally Cae. One hallmark of every recorded civilization is it provided it’s members some kind of mass distraction so they don’t have to face their lives. Our society is probably the saddest most depressed ever so we require much more distraction than any other society than any other. Sad but true.
I had some family things happen several years ago causing a somewhat epiphanic moment when I realized what Christmas was really like. I couldn’t believe it. For years I just went along with it because that’s what everyone did. But when I actually thought about it, it made no sense. I couldn’t see the correlation between Jesus and gifting. Unless Jesus was a super-materialistic dude. I’ve read the bible and never got that vibe, though.
Kind of like when I became an adult and recited Pop Goes the Weasel after not having thought of that in years. It really makes no sense, but I sang it as a kid because that is what kids are supposed to do whether it makes sense or not.
Not celebrating Christmas was awkward at first because it was different and other people thought it was weird. Some people ask if I’m a Jehovah’s Witness. Nope. I can’t write what my comical yet vulgar response sometimes is, but suffice to say I’m not a religious person. Now it doesn’t bother me to tell people I don’t celebrate. I give gifts back if they are given to me. That costs me friends, but I don’t like people forcing their beliefs and ideals on me especially when it’s to my detriment.
What I’ve found is that having more stuff also means we have to spend more time taking care of it and trying to keep people from stealing it. That is quite an investment of time, money, and emotion. Especially emotion. Christmas makes it that much worse. I wonder if storage rental units increase after the holidays?
On a side note, my landlady (soon to be ex-landlady- lol), needed to upgrade the cable boxes to fully digital ones. She asked me when I was going to be home so that the cable guy could hook it up. I told her I didn’t have a TV. She responded, “Well, how do you watch TV then?” Lol. Some stuff in our society is so ingrained that it is hard to think otherwise.
If I had to accept a gift, I like the idea of memberships that help people. Like a membership to a 10th Amendment organization, an animal rescue organization, providing information to possibly sign up to be a bone marrow donor, a schedule and paperwork to volunteer at a rescue mission, or whatever organization or entity that helps another. Not everyone is amenable to a subscription to the NRA, though! Lol.
Canine, very well said! Thanks you.
They tried to bring Black Friday into Canada but we have Boxing Day Sales which is our thing. To be honest, I haven’t stepped into a mall to do my Xmas shopping in years. I find what I want at Artisan Markets, Craft fairs and other artist run venues. I like to support our talent and usually find beautiful and unusual things. Christmas has never been about the gifts, it is a religious holiday and is a time to spend with your loved ones. The things I like about Christmas transcend “stuff”. Maybe it is an American thing but in Canada I believe most people just want the time off to enjoy their families and friends and go skiing, skating and have some fun and a well earned rest.
Lyn, whatever we Americans do, we do it an extreme. More is always better than enough.
If all people think like Bob, the world will not turn.
The fact that the masses don’t think like Bob assures that I can continue to fly under the radar…living in my van. Van living will never even register as a percentage of the population…so we’re not a threat to the corporate machine.
I agree Openspaceman, any message opposing greed and self-centeredness is going nowhere in this country. Unless it involves killing for God and country. We’ll sacrifice anything for that.
If all people thought like ME or YOU, the world wouldn’t turn…
That’s our only hope Patrick.
Thanks Bob… great post ! I enjoy your posts, thoughts and photography so much… hoping to join you on the road one day in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, I give back to you and the tribe a song by one of my all-time favorites, Tim Minchin, which expresses my feelings much better than I could. Peace, Marcia
I am excited for this series of posts coming up, I agree with the greed problem in America 100%, you have put it in words I could never manage.
Becky who blogs at interstellar orchard had a great line about “black Friday”. She forgot and was approaching a Walmart when she remembered and diverted her drive. She wrote that she “almost accidently went shopping”.
Humor is very important.
It’s laugh or cry John, laughing is probably better!
Becky who blogs at interstellar orchard had been driving on “Black Friday” and mistakenly headed for a Walmart before realizing her situation, she wrote that she “almost accidently went shopping”.
Humor is very important.
I have a flat screen TV! It’s a whole 7″ across. 😉
Beautifully put, Bob. I admit to being a kind of armchair shopper in the holiday sales, which is to say I look things over but don’t buy anything. I used to love going Christmas shopping because I could imagine making my friends and family happy. But online shopping and finding out postage is twice the cost of the gifts has taken much of the fun out of it. And so has the massive commercialization.
I like gifts like sponsored animals at the zoo and public TV sponsorships. No footprint, helps someone, etc.I think we really have strayed far from the path.
Linda, I must admit I love to shop also. In fact if I din’t ahve the physical limitation of living in a tiny space, I would be as bad as anyone else about collecting stuff. It’s a constant battle with the lust for MORE!
We have strayed far from the path, hopefully we can slowly come back on course.
Excellent, as always, Bob.
Here’s my take on materialism.
My dear, belated parents were children of the Great Depression. They didn’t give a rip about “keeping up with the Joneses,” but because of their experience during the Depression, once they had the financial resources they hoarded lots of useful and not-so-useful “stuff.” I now am responsible for going through all of that to determine what needs to be saved for sentimental reasons (photos, my mom’s beautiful paintings, etc.), stuff worth keeping, selling, etc. I have no idea how long this will take. Add to that, I’m trying to get rid of my own extraneous belongings – and I don’t care about the Joneses, either! I’m definitely drowning in a sea of materialism.
My parents never would have intentionally put this on me – they just didn’t think about their own mortality and who would have to do all this.
Peace on Earth.
I was fortunate that my Dad downsized considerably several years before he died. It’s an awful burden to leave all that stuff to someone else to deal with. That’s why this year I made the decision to give away most of my things (especially the “precious” ones). I’m only 53, but when my family and friends started receiving these items many of them wondered if I had some sort of terminal disease. 🙂 I don’t. What I have is a detachment from the stuff that’s burdening me from living a free life. And I would never want to burden my child with having to deal with it, just as your parents wouldn’t have wanted that for you. It was wonderful, to see them open up gifts that had meaning to them though, not just the usual trinkets one receives from the store. That was more than enough of a gift to me.
Lightfoot, That’s great that you’re doing that! I don’t have kids or any younger relatives. I just want to be rid of it all. 🙂
Lightfoot, you had the opposite of a terminal disease, you had a “life-enriching” epiphany! I just hope it’s contagious!
hey naomi do what i did. i walked through the house and picked up what i wanted. boom. them i hired some friends to go through it. called a dealer and they sold some it. boom. i had a 9 yard dumpster out front. the rest went there. kaaa booommm. it was done. my parents know exactly what would be happening, they were pre-warned.
my guess is that you enjoy this. i didn’t so i went else where. the family i hired enjoyed it to. they were getting $25. bucks apiece. yep they did.
ice cream raz
Good idea, Raz. No, I don’t enjoy it, but I feel the need to go through it. For me, it’s part of the mourning process, I guess (my mom died this past June). It’s just overwhelming. 🙂
Naomi, it’s such a cliche but totally true, you can’t take it with you! I’m sure you have many treasured memories of them, but this is not going to be one of them.
Bob, this has been my year to unladen myself of the stuff that was consuming me. It had been an overpowering feeling of entrapment. I’ve been free now for almost 6 months, and couldn’t be more satisfied with my new life. I’m once again mobile with home being wherever I’m parked. If I own it, it’s with me. By the way, I stopped in to say hi and chat a spell yesterday. Unfortunately you were gone, but I had a very nice conversation with the two ladies camped nearest you. My few days at the Grand Canyon last year with the group was my epiphany moment. I knew what I had to do, and I did it. It was the right choice.
Curtis, I’m very glad to hear that! Sorry I missed you, I had just run into town. Stop by anytime, I’m usually here.
Another interesting and insightful post, Bob. I don’t do Black Friday or Cyber Monday, but I do admit to buying Christmas gifts for my wife and son. (Being autistic, he sometimes gets focused, even obssessed with specific things, sometimes expensive, which makes him a Madison Avenue dream. I try to explain things to him, including the fact that things don’t make you happy. I know; I tried. Then I try to mitigate the damage by being more low-key in the gifts to my wife. And vice versa.) I also admit that I like buying gifts for the reactions, but we seldom buy big ticket items.
Recently, I’ve been looking around our nearly 2,000 square foot home (small by American standards, I guess) and feeling like the place has become cavernous and full of stuff I don’t want or need. (Purging is next, I hope.) You’re a bad influence, Bob 😀
Thought provoking post Bob. A wise old gentleman once told me “you don’t own a house, a house owns you” it took me years to be brave enough to hit that “delete” key on possessions. Just wish your message could get out to those who really need to hear it.
You’re a wise woman Pam! I think you’re right, I’m preaching mostly to the choir. Oh well, I try to get the message out wherever I can.
Hopefully more people will become wise like you and hit the delete key on possessions.
Sorry about that Walt! I’m making you discontent with your life! The truth is our individual actions really don’t make much difference. As far as the environment goes, it’s generally acknowledged that the time when we could have much impact on the damage individually has passed. Now only major and drastic government intervention can even begin to change the disaster that’s headed our way.
But I still think we all should try to do what we can, but much more important the simpler we make our lives the happier we will be. I think that’s a good direction for you to head.
No need to be sorry. I was just giving you a little bit of a hard time. 🙂 I think that, philosophically, my wife and I are in general agreem with much of what you say here, and we have started trying to get rid of something when we add something so as to at least not make things worse. We have also begun purging our house of books we know we’ll never read. So the process has begun. Progress is just slow. I’d like to think I could speed things up on my end if I knew I would be able to hit the road next week or next month, but perhaps I’m simply being optimistic.
Walt, I think just about everyone I know says the clearing-out-stuff phase was long and hard. We become deeply attached to some thing and letting go can be very hard. Starting early is a very good idea!
I agree with your statement that collecting stuff resembles an addiction. Also, as others pointed out, it serves the same purpose as addictions by diverting people’s attention away from their emotional, spiritual, and moral problems. Like any other addiction, it also increases those problems, but oh well.
I stopped “doing” Christmas at the age of 15. I grew up very poor, and Christmas as performed by charities is even worse to my view than ordinary American Christmas. So I stopped participating. People got used to it. I encounter people who claim the “have to” do that stuff, but I’m living proof they don’t. My family members love me as much as they ever did, and I’m one unit less of stress for their Christmas “celebration.”
I lightened my load long ago and never regretted it. Now I fit the definition of “homeless,” and one of my major problems is that people give me things I neither want nor need. Ordinary people I simlpy refuse unless I can actually use the object. Refusing things becomes an issue with those who give me a place to stay. Refusing it in some way they will understand is even more difficult than getting rid of it somehow, which is still easier than storing it. All the same, my load is far lighter than those of most Americans. For that I’m grateful.
I’m with you there Calvin, stuff is much more a burden than a blessing. Problem is very few people in this country see it that way which creates a conflict. Oh well, we each get through life the best we can.
Well done Bob!
I worked as a dept head for big box Wal-Mart for 21 years. I think back to that as…such a huge waste of time. I thought I was doing the best thing to provide for my family. Mistake…worked too many hours..stressed all the time…etc. I had to work every single black friday…all those years. It always impressed me as the most stupid event ever created.
While my family does do gift giving, I always strive to hand craft gifts I give. This year I made all the guys a pair of crocheted finger less gloves. I dubbed them..’Designer Appalachian Mountain Men Gloves’….a must have for the fashion conscious guy! I try not to judge the current ‘ways’ some live, that seem quite frivolous to me, but try to set an example of the joys of simpler living.
Thanks Joy, it’s people like you who give me hope!
good morning, Bob!
I agree, we really are hardwired to help each other, to help the tribe. And funny, every religious code has an equivalent of the Golden Rule, do onto others as you would have them do onto you, love your neighbor as yourself. I know I have been the grateful recipient of that help myself over the years, and try to pay it forward.
Thanks PJ, I agree, kindness toward others is the normal human condition. I’m glad you are living it out in your life!
hey bob nothing personal but tl;dr. i quit when i read “orgy”. makes me happy. i’m a old freak. we have love ins. my wives like to. yaba yaba doo.
i will not stand in line for money. if some rube gives me something i give it to ladies at the mission in delong. they think that is a capital idea. no orgies there.
ice cream raz
Very interesting raz!
Sounds like the States are a little different from Canada but wherever the US goes, Canada soon follows. My family is very laid back about Christmas…sometimes we give each other gifts if we can afford it that year, but often we don’t bother. If we do, it’s almost always something that has been handmade by somebody I know or by myself. As somebody who relies on people spending money in order to make a living, I’m torn between supporting consumerism and disliking it. I feel that pinch more in the summer when our beautiful part of the world is descended upon by tourists…I like their money but I don’t at all like the rest of it. Anyway, most of the people I know are fellow artists and craftspeople who earn their living by selling their work at craft markets and fairs. We’ve noticed a drop in sales over the years and speculate that it’s because of people shopping more for technology products rather than handmade.
Peggy, it’s a complex world with everything so interconnected every action can have all kinds of results. So I try to prioritize and I think the single most important issue facing every human on the planet is the environment. It has to take priority ever everything else.
Holiday shopping is one of the most detrimental things every invented for the environment. If we would just outlaw it, our great-grand-childrens live would be much better.
Don’t over-romanticize the tribe, Bob. Tribes also kicked out or killed members they didn’t like, who didn’t conform, who didn’t agree.
As for “stuff,” it has also become a form of validation, a sign of success. “Look at me, I can afford a bunch of stuff because I make good money. I’m not a loser. I’m not poor.” Never mind you’re in deep debt for stuff the truly wealthy can buy with sofa change. It’s the illusion that matters.
Those are good points Al.
Bravo Bob. Well said …with a few personal observations to add.
OK. Last time I posted I mentioned my wife said…”Tis time to settle once again after eight years on the road.” We spent the past 13 years roaming the world with the last eight years in an small RV, working part of the time in the Middle East. We knew at some point, one of us would say, “time to settle down again at least for half the year.” I didn’t argue as we have had a blast in our 20 years of retirement (approaching age 80 with two years to go). I’ts been great fun to share these experiences with a loving partner.
So…in our need to buy new stuff to furnish our new but cozy apt (1100 sq ft vs 200 sq ft for the RV), we participated in our first Black Friday event in Eugene, OR. We had spotted some stuff we needed the day before at a rate that was 30-50% off on BF. So…we joined the small crowds in the rain at 5:15 AM, entered Home Depot and scooped up a few bargains (needed a real vacuum cleaner). It was actually fun as we kept saying to ourselves, “Crazy, Crazy, Crazy.” But the truth is by hitting various stores on our list, we saved about $300. That translates into 30 hours at $10 an hour working time. (We both worked for Amazon Fernley, NV warehouse last Christmas season getting up at 4 AM, so getting up at 5 AM was no big deal.) Everyone was courteous to us and the salespeople were very helpful.
Last night we went to a Christmas Concert at the Hult Center, put on by various choral groups including local high schools, the University of Oregon, and several prominent musicians who now reside here. It was the finest Christmas event I have ever attended. There was hardly a dry eye in the house such was the quality of voices and song.
So…moral of the story. I loved RVing and I have the opportunity of loving this new lifestyle. Neither one is necessarily better than another…just different. I’d prefer to be in Arizona this month boondocking in the southland as the rains pour down here to refresh the greenery in this lovely state, but…I also love having a great partner. The trick is to live in the moment and enjoy every minute while we have the time left to love it all. “Keep on trucking” as they say. It’s all part of life!
David, nothing wrong with stuff or trying to find a deal on stuff. I do it all the time. There is something wrong with our prevalent attitude in this country toward stuff and our refusal to consider that stuffs affect on the environment or it’s affect on the workers/slaves who make cheap stuff possible. Or even it’s affect on our own mental and emotional well-being.
boy I guess u got a lot of response to this blog overall. Christmas is bs I always disliked it all the lies about some guy that lived a long time ago so we celebrate some Elvis kind of guy it silly to the max I do not waste time on goofy stuff I do not believe in god or gods any way I was born real and I will die real any Bob u always tell like it is thanks for being real about such a stupid holiday take er easy buddy
Well Joe, I don’t agree at all with you and I certainly mean no attack on anyone’s religion. I’m not a Christian but I take no pleasure in deriding people because they are. Although I must admit I take no pleasure in having them tell me I’m going to hell either!
Live and let live is my policy. And I think most Christians are open to hearing about how very anti-spiritual Christmas has become. In opposing the consumerism of Christmas I don’t see that as a comment on a religion.
Bob, I am what I like to think of as post-Christian. A very wise Jesuit priest/philosopher that my wife is fond of once quoted or paraphrased an old Hindu saying that there are many paths to the mountaintop, which I interpret as meaning that there are many ways to God.
An author who has helped clarify my own beliefs on God and spirituality is Neale Donald Walsch. I think you might find some common spiritual ground with him.
Walt, I’ve read Neale Walsch and enjoyed him very much. I agree whole heartedly with the idea of many paths, one goal.
I remember telling my parents years ago that I was no longer going to get caught up in the consumerism aspect of Christmas. They seemed to respect that and I appreciate that of them. We even enjoyed a consumer-free Christmas together when they visited me in West Virginia a few years ago. But, I know not doing a gift exchange was a bit hard for them.
We did some of our family traditions (had Christmas dinner, took turns reading aloud the Birds’ Christmas Carol and watched a Christmas movie). It ended up being quite enjoyable actually. I prefer it just to be a low key, meditative day just spending time with friends and or family without the pressure of presents. Quite nice indeed!
Gloria, that’s a good plan! I’ve tried to do the same with my mom with mixed results. Sometimes in life you just have to compromise.
I find most people consider history started when they were born, or when the can remember things.
I found this very good story of the History of Christmas, at of all places a economics blog
A little taste of the text:
(In early America, there was no Christmas gift giving. In fact, the Puritans greatly disapproved of celebrating the holiday, and in some areas the celebration of Christmas was actually banned by law.
For example, if you were caught celebrating Christmas in the state of Massachusetts from 1659 to 1681 you could be fined five shillings…)
for more of the story go to …http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/christmas-become-festival-greed
Well, Jesus the Christ, the holidays namesake celebrates his “birthday”, but I seriously doubt that 12/25 was actually his birthday. We don’t really know anyway, I’ve never seen anything to say it was.
Douglas, the Bible gives us enough information so that there is just about certainty that it was not 12-25. That date is probably from pagan celebrations of the Solstice which is 12-21. The church took a lot of pagan holidays and made them into Christian holidays.
It’s very strange, other than the manger and the songs, virtually nothing about our celebration of Christmas is in any way Christian.
Preach it brother! I think even though most of us here are striving to do better, be better, it’s still a struggle because every form of media we’re surrounded by is preaching that greed is good.
I agree Doug, everything in our society is geared toward making us crave more and more stuff. Even if you break free, it’s right there to try to suck you back in. I have to admit, I am constantly fighting, and sometmes losing, the battle.
When someone asks me what I want for Christmas. I have a basic response and then a bigger response. That Jesus gave us the ultimate gift. And also if they insist on giving gifts give it to those who are in need or make it something useful like food, fuel or the like. I like the idea of books as gifts, that way people learn.
Thanks Douglas, giving to those in need is always a good idea.
I have spoken with people that are afraid to go back to the 18th century technology wise because this and that will happen, like and emp and I could keep going . I think that it’s because there will be less stuff and they are afraid because they have been distracted so long from what is actually important
I agree Douglas.
Golden words, Bob. Exactly my view.
Just one thing regarding the last sentences. For all those not prepared to adopt the “minimalist, nomadic life“ there are indeed lots of opportunities to implement your very sound views downsizing to a far more frugal way of life without having to leave their less nomadic style. Living in a modest dwelling, a nice little cabin somewhere in nature, for example, or in a small flat/house in the right area, hasn’t to be more expensive than a nomadic way of life.
Having said that, I’d love to live the kind of life you and your friends do, it’s just a matter of time 😉
Very true Claudio! While it might be possible to live as off-grid as cheaply in a house, it isn’t possible to live in an on-grid house as cheaply. More importantly, it isn’t possible to live in that house without doing dramatically more damage to the environment and causing great harm to future generations.
Of course, Bob. Off-grid is the way to go to have the most economic way. No doubt about that.
And I love nature, and I love the aspect to be near/in nature. And I LOVE the nomadic aspect, i FEEL that I am a nomad through and through.
You should see me naked (with shorts, of course), I’m the typical hunter and gatherer 😉
I just happen to know several nomadic living people (in Europe) who spend about double (sometimes way more) as much per year as I am spending on a „regular“ home life, so, everything should be differentiated accordingly. People have to work on their basic attitude towards spending and „polluting“, independently from off- or on-grid.
Off-grid is superior, of course, you are very lucky, in the USA, to have those wide open spaces still available. I think you have something like one hundredth of the European population density, so that is FANTASTIC…FEEL BLESSED, American vandwellers, and don’t get me started about your incredible starry skies each night…;-)
If someone has to find the MOST economic way, off-grid would be the obvious answer. I have seen small beautiful (off-grid-) cabins in the Alps, with solar panels, own drinking water spring, wood and all… They spend less per year than most nomads I know…They have some cows, drink and sell their milk, make cheese, eat it and sell it. They spend VERY little, it’s just health insurance, some other fixed expenses and that’s it. Those expenses are covered by the milk and cheese they do not drink/eat themselves and sell.
BUT the nomad in me would desperately cry just after 6 months of that 😉
Claudio I think the environemnt is the greatest issue facing us today, but I also know most people just tune you out when you start talkig about it so I seldom make it the emphasis of the blog.
Instead I constantly tell people how cheap they can live and how incredibly HAPPY they can be by living wild and free!!
But I don’t need to tell you, you’ve already found that for yourself!!! You are a great example of the good nomadic life even if you can’t do it all the time! Thank you!
Yes, Bob, yours is a beautiful, sensible and urgent message indeed. Led by its „super-intelligence“ and never ending greed humanity is running straight into desaster, digging its own grave and will probably be soon nothing more than a tiny chapter of what we call „cosmos“ or „universe“, not having really much of a clue what it is all about. Mother Earth will not miss us very much at all, except for those ecologically and naturalistically orientated people, last but not least you vandwellers, 😉
I can’t even describe what I feel every time I return to „civilisation“ after a blessed week spent in (wild) nature, how terrible I find the direction we are heading to and I really, really hope that your message will find its way and spread as much as possible.
Thanks Claudio. I agree totally, we are digging our own grave, and we are digging as fast as we can!
I would just like to set some numbers straight. The one hundredth I remembered was related to Canada, not the USA.
Here are some examples representing the population density of some exemplar countries expressed in inhabitants per square kilometer.
Great Britain 255
I should add that in Northern America a big part of the population tends more than in Europe to be concentrated on few big metropolitan areas/agglomerations, which leaves so many wide, wild, open spaces of completely free nature most Europeans can only dream of, far less light (and other) pollution, generally far more beautiful lights and colors, and so many more stars to be seen at night…
These far higher densities lead to more problems than in the USA/Canada for vandwellers/RVs in Europe, especially for those who try to camp for free, but also for others, prepared to pay (generally more than in the USA) for often completely packed and tight campgrounds (not comparable to yours over the ocean AT ALL, oftentimes it’s not easy to find a free spot left and you would feel like sardines there…), because there is far less space in general AND because some of those vandwellers/RVs do not behave properly (discharge their black/gray waters on properties where they shouldn’t, for example), which leads to a growing dislike and antipathy for RVs in general, more and more locations, where just until a few years ago it was possible to spend the night in one’s rig, are putting NO CAMPING/NO RV and the like signs. It’s kind of epidemic right now, especially in touristic areas. Hopefully this tendency will stop.
And don’t get me started about gasoline prices and the far less RV-friendly roads and infrastructures here (roads, parking lots and so on are very narrow and tight compared to what you are used over there…)
So boondocking/vandwelling and living a minimalistic nomad life in general is possible here, but more difficult and by far less inspiring (my humble opinion) than in your areas.
Claudio, it sounds like I’m going to be staying right here in the good ole USA!
This is also about Christmas, so here is my take on religion in general (as always, to anyone who is interested, feel free to ignore everything .. :-).
There are/have been so many different religions it would be really hard to list them all. Just look it up in a dictionary and you’ll find a very long list of official religions, add to that the wind, sun, fire, water, ocean, moon, stars and whatever people all over our planet may have believed in since the beginnings of mankind (and before that, by the way? Did „belief“ exist? Why should it exist now, then?).
I see religion as nothing more than an artificial construction created by humans to find courage, meaning, comfort, hope, consolation, support, security and the like, to make life easier, to give it some kind of structure.
No problem with that, everyone can choose to do adopt such a kind of belief, if it helps them, but without harming others. Unfortunately religion can turn to fanatism, there have been and are enough sad examples…
It doesn’t work for me. I find consolation in having accepted my enormous (not only temporal) limitation and try to live every day in a way that in spite of the very, very many things I do not like at all on our planet, at the end I will able to say that it was worth it, to be here.
Having said that, beyond any religious consideration and all this crazy Christmas thing in general (it’s completely beyond me how the very poor conditions in which Jesus was born and lived could have anything to do with the crazy consumerism associated with Christmas nowadays), the only thing I like about that is that I see it as an opportunity to sit together with my loved ones and be happy of beeing there, with them, still having and loving one another.
Claudio, we all have our religious beliefs and of course, we are all entitled to them.
Sorry for the typos, this half-spaghetti must reread more carefully BEFORE publishing 😉
No problem Claudio!
Well said, aptly written.
Cheers from Europe
Thank you DJ!
Ha I have 18 bins of Christmas Crap I pulled outa the attic. I am downsizing this last 6 months and Hope to be free is 2 years. So I filled bins of Christmas crap and dropped then on kids and Grandkids door steps. I have half left. Next year I will have half of that left. I had fun doing it.I spent years collecting stuff I am so happy now to give away.
Linda, I totally understand how easy it is to collect a whole lot of stuff. I envy how cheerfully you are giving it away. For some of us that’s a hard thing to do.
“Claudio, it sounds like I’m going to be staying right here in the good ole USA!”
Jes Sir, perfect decision ;-), and that’s why I can feel in a particulary DEEP way your message, I can see much more intensely and directly than most of your lucky friends out there where this crazy civilization is heading to… Let’s hope for the best and be prepared for the worst, as they say…
I’m a lifelong minimalist, so it’s never been a problem for me. However, my husband has always been a bit of a packrat, so it’s always been my job to rein him in. I think he’s finally ready to get rid of it all. It “only” took me 30 years to get him to this point. We’ve been dreaming of living and traveling full time in an RV since we got together. Now’s the time. Loved the documentary. I saw it on budgetsaresexy.com. Now I’m loving this site, too! Thanks for being here! 🙂
Kay, you’re fortunate that your genetics naturally overpowered societal training, your husband is more typical of our culture. It sounds like a case of opposites attracting and in this case it worked out very well!
It sounds like your love and patience are finally going to pay off and you are both going to have a great life. If there is anything we can do to help, feel free to ask.
P.S. Glad you liked the documentary!
As it relates to skills, the old saying is true, the more we know, the less we need. I’ve been studying bush craft (boy scout skills) for years. Although I’m giving up valuable tools and supplies, I know that with a few essential tools, one can make much of what they need to be comfortable. The pioneers only brought a few essentials and managed to scrape out a living. We can afford to be minimalists if we choose our tools and develop skills. I’ll try to carry what I can of the essentials. I believe it pays to be prepared…
BTW, absolutely loved the No Bounds video. Thank you.
Thanks Rogue, becoming a generalist instead of a specialist is a very, very good thing.