The Joys of Owning Less “Stuff”

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Bought a couple new computer games a few days ago.  So I have been spending my time trying to figure those out.  I bought those games as online downloads.  So I don’t need actual CDs for the games anymore.  With as fast as new Windows programs come out anymore, I’ve been burned a few times when my old games wouldn’t run on my newer programs.  I’ve decided I’m just going to subscribe to online gaming forums and just buy my games as downloads and let the forums do the dirty work.  Seems to me that eventually I may not have to own much of anything besides some furniture, some clothes, a couple computers, a smart phone, etc.  I am definitely looking forward to when driverless cars go mainstream and I don’t even need to own a car anymore.  Seems to me that by the time I get to be in my late 60s (my parents age) I just won’t have to own much of anything if everything keeps getting digitized.  I can dream, can’t I?

I’m still trying to simplify my life.  I have pretty well adapted to minimalism.  But sometimes I still hold onto books even though 80 percent of what I read anymore is online articles and audiobooks.  Even these I’ll probably give away if I end up moving. Ideally I’d like to get down to where I could throw everything I own into my car and be on the move within an afternoon if need be.  As far as a bed or shelves are concerned, I can pick up different ones for cheap at Wal Mart or Salvation Army.  I have never been nostalgic about furniture or most of my possessions.

I really don’t mind not owning much.  I could never be a hoarder.  And from what I’ve seen, more and more people my age and younger are becoming like this all the time.  I imagine some people are worried about the Millennial generations being chronic renters and that it might be bad for the economy.  But, who wants to sign a 30 year mortgage on a house when a job could be outsourced or automated at a moment’s notice?  My brother owns a cool house in a good neighborhood, but he’d be in trouble if he got laid off from his company and had to sell his house, take his four kids out of school, and drag the entire family across country to find a similar job.  Even my friends and relatives that have kids have fewer kids than their parents and grandparents had.  My generation may not be putting down physical community roots as much as previous generations.  But humans have traditionally been a nomadic species, going wherever there was better hunting or farmland.  I don’t expect this to change.  But thanks to the boom in communications tech, it is so much easier to stay in touch even if you are on the other side of the planet.

It’s amazing just in my own life how much “stuff” I don’t have to own now compared to fifteen years ago.  I used to own over one hundred music CDs, dozens of DVDs, several shelves of books, etc.  Now I have access to a much larger stash of music for 10 dollars a month through Spotify.  I have a larger book collection now even though over 90 percent of my books are now e files that I got for free.  I have access to pretty much every movie I could ever want through Netflix, amazon, youtube, etc.  I don’t need an address book as long as I have a Facebook account.  I buy most of my clothing online anymore.  Even though it costs a little more this way, I can find exactly what I want as long as I’m willing to look.  I’m no longer at the mercy of Wal Mart, K Mart, JC Penney, etc.  I literally haven’t been to Wal Mart since last fall because I can shop from home on my computer anymore.  And I love it.  About the only things I don’t buy online now are groceries, gas for my car, and my prescription medications.  Even with my medications, the only time I actually deal with a human is when I go to physically pick my stuff up.  Who knows what the next fifteen years will bring?  I can hardly wait to find out.

How The Internet Made My Mental Illness More Manageable

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Even though I haven’t gotten out of my hometown all winter I have still managed to keep in contact with friends and family.  Thanks to the internet I keep in contact with my old friends via Facebook.  And I’ve made several new acquaintances that would be friends if only we lived in the same town through the forums and groups I participate in.  I’m involved in a few futurists’ pages as well as some science pages.  I guess I really don’t interact much with other writers or bloggers, not as much as I should.  I used to belong to the Nebraska Writers’ Guild but I let that membership lapse as there weren’t many guild members living near me and few of the guild members were my age or younger.  I guess even mentally ill people like to spend time with people similar to them.

With my Wal Mart special smart phone I keep in contact with family members a couple times a week.  If my dad happens to be in town, he will send me a text message asking if I want to have lunch with him or mom will ask me if I want her to pick up something from Wal Mart.

Speaking of shopping, I don’t really buy that much in traditional stores.  I still go to the all night supermarket to get groceries every couple weeks.  But even there I find out about their sales and specials through the store’s web page.  I still get my psychiatric meds through a traditional pharmacy.  But even there I get automated reminders that tell me when I’m due for refills.  The only time I actually deal with another person is when I go to the pharmacy to physically retrieve my refills.  Even that may become a thing of the past in a few years if automated pharmacies and delivery drones pick up traction.

Most of what I buy anymore outside of groceries, fuel for my car, and basic home items, I now buy online.  When I buy books, it’s online.  When I buy computer games, it’s online.  When I buy movies or tv shows, it’s through amazon’s digital service.  I get all my music online through spotify.  Most of my tv watching is done via youtube or netflix.  Many of my computer games now have online support and updates.  I now buy most of my clothes online as I do have rare sizes.  Sure it is a little more expensive, but I can find exactly what I want as long as I’m willing to look.  As much as I appreciate second hand stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army, even they can be a roll of the dice in terms of finding what I need.

Comparing what I spend now to what I spent several years ago on my living expenses, I’m now actually spending less than I was ten years ago.  With my social security disability pension being what it is, I make less than fifteen thousand dollars per year.  Even though that puts me below the poverty line, at least by American standards, I don’t feel poor.  I have access to treasure troves of music that would put any music collection of twenty years ago to shame.  Thanks to wikipedia I’ll never have to buy an encyclopedia set.  Thanks to online clothing stores, I don’t need to settle for clothing that doesn’t really fit or doesn’t look good on me as long as I keep my measurements up to date.  Thanks to online news and entertainment, I really don’t need cable tv.  The only thing I use cable tv for anymore is live sporting events.  Even at that I watched some college football games online last year.  So I really don’t need to buy a ticket, navigate a crowded stadium, and sit in the freezing cold to watch Nebraska Huskers football anymore.  I can sit on my own couch, grill my own meats, and not worry about anyone blocking my view or having to go down several flights of stairs to get to the restroom.  I’ll keep watching sporting events online even if I really have little interest of seeing them in person.  Unless, of course, the Colorado Rockies ever got back to the World Series or if the U.S. ever hosted the World Cup soccer tournament again.

I can get even medical advice online anymore, thanks to services like WebMD.  I can type in my symptoms and see if what ails me is serious enough to go to the doctor or not.  So I don’t usually have to go to the doctor unless I’m really sick or my mental illness problems are really out of line.  I haven’t had to go to the psych hospital in over three years but it is good that the option is still there.  Since I spend so much time online, I have developed some friendships with people I’ll no doubt never meet.  And I get to post about mental illness and it’s ups and downs in a forum that didn’t exist even twenty years ago.  Twenty years ago I would have had the same thoughts, but no means of recording them for a public audience.  I would have had to suffer in silence if I had these problems as recently as the 1980s instead of the 2000s and 2010s.  We are living in a totally different world than the one I grew up in during the 1980s and early 1990s.  And I’m completely glad for it.  I can hardly wait to see what other cool stuff and finding come out in the next twenty five years.  Thanks to the internet, I can watch this new world unfold and take root from the comfort of my own living room and not even leave my small home town.