“Keep your accounts on your thumbnail,” said Thoreau. Sage advice.
Accounts form an area of clutter causing anxiety and mental unrest to a considerable number of people.
Sometimes the concern is overspending and debt – this is the problematic aspect receiving most media attention – people afraid of what the post will bring, not knowing where to turn because of mounting bills and insufficient income. Living in radical simplicity addresses this magnificently.
For older people (this is not usually a young person’s issue) the problem can be an investment portfolio too complex to understand or keep track of. There is a drivenness here – “But I have to do it like this or I won’t get such good returns on my capital.” One sympathises, but simplicity will probably return a better quality of life if not a better financial return.
A possible course of action is to estimate my needs for living simply and responsibly, figure out how much income I need to achieve them, and then call that amount enough.
I personally like to have a margin, a buffer zone. I am continually borrowing off myself. I prefer not to borrow from banks if I can avoid it.
I am much intrigued and challenged by the resources available at the present time about living without money. Charles Eisentein’s rather longwinded but very illuminating talk here explains the essential nature of money – interest-bearing debt – and looks into the questionable morality of the whole money system. He makes the point that the money system is essentially dependent on economic growth, and as we are now coming to an end of unexploited material for product or market, the days of the money system are inevitable numbered. So sooner or later an alternative to the money system underpinning our society will have to be found.
Mark Boyle offers a less rational but likeable and interesting personal journey as food for thought in his book The Moneyless Man. He is on YouTube too, here and here (haven't watched those yet - only just came across them).
Personally, I am not finding myself accumulating money as I continue to simplify; I can find a use for any money that comes my way! But I am finding myself able to give more away as my own needs gradually dwindle.
A saving I have been very pleased with recently is my transition from shampoo to bicarbonate of soda and cider vinegar for keeping my hair clean. It works perfectly. I changed from buying shampoo in plastic bottles from the store a while ago because it is so expensive and the packaging so earth-unfriendly. I went on to shampoo bars from Lush which have no packaging. The only problem was there is no Lush store near me – and mail-order adds p&p expenses and of course generates packaging again. This prodded me into moving onto the bicarb and vinegar. It’s as cheap as can be, and it turns out you can clean just about everything in the known universe with one or another combination of bicarb, borax, vinegar and lemon juice. This gives me a sense of peace and quiet satisfaction.
I have also been able to obtain, from an office where the staff have a spring water dispenser, a large number of 15-litre plastic bottles. In the recent rainstorms, our water butt filled to overflowing every night, allowing us to fill these 15-litre bottles with rainwater, keeping one in each bathroom, one by the kitchen sink and one by the indoor flower trough – so we can wash, wash up, flush the loo and water the houseplants with rainwater conveniently to hand. This saves on chemicalising water and piping it from distant locations, and saves us money we would otherwise owe the water board. The bottles not dotted round the house are useful for augmenting the waterbutts we have out in the garden, in readiness for the drier days of summer. Of course, stored water is quickly used up – but even some stored is better than all of it flowing down the drain; and most of the year in England rain falls often enough to cover most needs with rainwater, if we are frugal and treat it as precious.
And, these days in our home we eat mostly vegetables, fruit, pulses, grains, herbs, spices and oils (olive and sunflower). We have eggs too, in recycled boxes from free-to-roam hens rescued from battery farms. As our fruit and veg come mostly from local greengrocers they are brought home in paper bags not the plastic boxes supermarkets need to use. Our soya milk comes in tetra-packs which can’t recycle because they are foil and cardboard with plastic spouts. So when they are empty we take off the spouts and put them with the plastic recycling, use the cartons as kindling and rake out the metal residue from the ashes, sending only that to landfill.
It rejoices my heart that these simplicity choices turn out to be life-enhancing. They are not deprivation, they are the luxurious option. The houseplants do better with rainwater, the clothes are softer rinsed in rainwater, the vegetables and simple grains that form the basis of our daily diet make us feel so well and alert, my hair feels softer and looks nicer than it did with shampoo.
It makes everything easier, cheaper and more straightforward, at the same time as being a kindness to Mother Earth and radically reducing packaging. Thumbnail housekeeping as well as thumbnail accounting. I feel sure Thoreau would have approved.
These bits and bobs also came with my camera and they haven’t been used any more than the battery case was. So out they go!