Every now and again I bring up the subject of leaving the city and moving to the country. It usually coincides with a time when I’m under a lot of stress and decide that the only way to fix it is to leave everything behind.
But then again I’ve always been more flight than fight. So it follows that in times of stress I always imagine the grass to be greener on the other side.
When I think it through I realise all the upheaval of moving from the city to the country would bring change, but not necessarily happiness.
I realise I love my neighbourhood. Even though it’s in the middle of a big city, it’s familiar and cosy. We know everyone in our street and the kids roam from house to house just like we did back in the day. We have great friends, great work contacts and everything we need at our fingertips.
So this time I’m staying to fight. To water the grass I have so that it is greener. To make some changes that bring the country lifestyle I want for the city lifestyle I already have.
What’s changed this time is a book by James Wallman called Stuffocation. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but for me, this book put into words everything I’d been trying to sort out in my head.
The book encourages people to declutter, reprioritise and focus on collecting experiences instead of stuff.
It made me realise I don’t need more stuff. I don’t need the big, beautiful house to put all that stuff in. And I certainly don’t need the debt, or the job I’d have to hold down to make it all possible.
What I need – what I want – are memories and experiences. So what I need is to change my focus from what I have, to what I do. What I need is Experientialism.
In Wallman’s book, he explains that Experientialism is about minimising how much you spend on stuff so that you have more to spend on experiences that create memories and allow you to spend time with the people you care most about. Because he argues, memories last longer than things.
It’s an idea that appeals to me for three reasons:
- Experiences are a great leveller. If one person has a brand new BMW and another has an 11-year-old Honda it’s pretty easy to see who has the “better” car. But if one family goes to an expensive restaurant for dinner and the other goes for fish and chips on the beach, it’s harder to say who has had the better experience.
- Experientialism might be about owning less stuff, but it isn’t necessarily about spending less money. Experientialists do spend, but they choose to spend in different ways. One experience our family is having this year is skiing. It’s meant having to buy some stuff in the form of ski gear (albeit second hand and only because in the long term it’s cheaper than renting), but it’s also meant buying ski passes, paying for petrol and renting accommodation. Yes, it’s not the cheapest experience we could be having, but it’s been affordable because of some of the other life or debt decisions we’ve made along the way.
- It’s an accessible lifestyle choice regardless of where you live or what you earn. Sure, if you earn a lot you can afford to spend more – but when it comes to experiences, more expensive doesn’t necessarily mean better. This year I’ll be skiing on a pair of $50 ex-rental, bought-on-sale skis, but I’ll be on the same slopes and having the same experience as someone who has invested thousands in the latest, state-of-the-art gear.
It’s nothing more than a change of mindset and priorities – choosing to use whatever resources you have at your disposal get out, enjoy life and collect moments, not things.