Sunday, 31 July 2016

The fantasy becomes a goal (sort of)

Remember a couple of posts ago when I indulged in a country living fantasy? Well, it could be closer to reality than I expected. Luke and I have talked about it before in fairly hypothetical terms on visits to the country - would you want to live near the mountains or the coast, that sort of thing - but now we've started looking at houses and talking about how to go about actually moving to the country (or back to the country in my case).

In a quiet moment at work I looked up country houses to buy on a real estate website. I was surprised what you can get for the same amount of money you'd spend on a small inner city apartment. I mentioned this to Luke and we now spend time most nights scrolling properties to buy. Looking at houses for sale has become my new looking at shoes and dresses to buy!

I think we're serious. Or we're seriously considering it anyway. We've talked about where we'd like to move and how to go about it - jobs would need to come before a house, and it would be wise to rent first just in case we decide 'tree changing' isn't for us after all. 

It's hard to believe because, as I said in the previous post, I never, ever imagined myself going back to the country - leaving my beloved Melbourne - after coming here as a 19 year old to go to university. I seriously love Melbourne, I love living close to the city and being in the thick of it. 

But I've been building on my fantasy, imaging us walking our greyhound along bush tracks, ruddy-cheeked and gumboot-shod (us, not the dog); enjoying breathtaking mountain views from the loungeroom of our quaint little cottage, as we sit in front of our wood heater; growing and preserving our own vegies... But before I get carried away, we need to really to consider the pros and cons, and think long and hard about whether we really are suited to country life.

I read an old article this morning that claimed most tree-changers regret the move because country living doesn't turn out to be as peaceful and idyllic as they expected . Although the article mentions only two per cent of them did any research on where they were relocating to (duh!), this has given me pause. I hope that living on a farm and then in a very small town until the age of 19 gives me greater insight into the differences between city and country living, but I'm aware I just might be romanticising it.

So what is our current thinking? We have no particular place in mind we'd like to move to, but somewhere on the eastern side of Melbourne is preferable so we aren't too far from Luke's family. I'd like to be within two hours from Melbourne and fairly close to a large regional centre. We don't want to live on a hobby farm, but we also don't want to live cheek-by-jowl with our neighbours because we can do that in suburbia.    

Somewhere that attracts wine-and-foodie day trippers from Melbourne would be good because there'd be greater likelihood of being able to get good coffee (for Luke) and gluten-free food (for me), and maybe some other tree-changers so we aren't the only former city slickers in the village. 

Ultimately, our destination would mostly be determined by where we can both get jobs that would allow us a reasonable standard of living.

Anyway, some pros and cons...

  • Cheaper real estate. Owning a house in the city is almost pure fantasy for us but in the country it could be a reality.   
  • A slower pace of life. We don't exactly lead a fast-paced life in the city (I can't remember the last time we went out on Saturday night) so it's not as if the change of tempo would come as a shock.
  • Living closer to nature. Trees! Fresh air! Wildlife! Greenery!  
  • Less traffic
  • A decent sized yard (anything is bigger than we have now, which is no yard). We could have a vegie garden, or a lot more space for one than we'd ever have in the city.
  • We could have pets (usually not allowed in city rentals)

  • I will probably need to buy a car as public transport will be non-existent or very limited. 
  • Petrol and food can be more expensive (we'd use a lot more petrol, but could grow some of our vegies).
  • We'd both be earning less (or I certainly would because legal secretaries in the CBD are much better paid than even their suburban counterparts).
  • Fewer job opportunities. I'm guessing there won't even be many jobs for legal secretaries. I'm not too precious about what I'd do for a living, but I don't have the same breadth of experience that Luke does.
  • We'll have to travel greater distances to work (possibly), to shop (even for groceries), to visit family and friends
  • I won't be close to my doctors.  I currently visit my neurologist every three months and my integrated medicine GP every month or two. It's unlikely I could find these specialists close to me in the country.
  • Medical services in general are relatively limited. Hospitals and ambulances are further away. This will be more important as we get older. 
  • Having a yard and a garden takes work. I'm pretty lazy and chronically low on energy. Am I really going to make the effort?
  • Internet and mobile phone reception might not be as reliable or fast. 
  • Country people can be...less than welcoming and...not very sophisticated (as an example - One Nation didn't get enough votes to win a Senate seat for Victoria, but the  electorates where it polled best were all in the country.)   
  • Luke and I are both a bit snobby and enjoy gently mocking country people (I feel like I'm allowed to since I was one once!). We can keep our snobbery to ourselves, but could we develop genuine, rewarding friendships with them (if they would let us!)?
  • I'll probably have to get rid of my purple quiff so I'm not the town freak.
  • Greatly reduced (or non-existent) opportunities for cultural enrichment, but then it's not like we take full advantage of the cultural smorgasbord available to us now, due to laziness, lack of energy and advancing homebodiness.
  • If we do decide to return, we wouldn't be able to afford a house in Melbourne with the proceeds of selling a house in the country.  

The cons certainly outweigh the pros in quantity...but qualitatively? I don't know...More research, critical thought and discussion required. 

Sunday, 10 July 2016

I'm not a sanctimonious anti-consumer...but I am a bit of a hypocrite

This appeared in my Instagram feed during the week and I had to use all my willpower to resist posting a scathing response. Everyone else seemed to be in hearty agreement with it, and I didn't want to be that person...even though I am! Yes, I know it's meant to be a joke, but I don't find it amusing; I find it sad. 

And it's not because I'm more than five weeks into a shopping ban and have turned into a sanctimonious anti-consumer, like a pack-a-day smoker who gives up and becomes the most fervent and annoying anti-smoking advocate ever (not yet anyway). No. I would have found this sad and ridiculous before I gave up shopping for shoes and clothes. Really. Because as much as I love(d) buying new clothes and shoes, I never believed it had the power to make me happy - or unhappy. (Debt, on the other hand...)

The image was posted by a skincare and cosmetics retailer, and it's no surprise they want people to part with their money, but it's not really that that bothers me. It bothers me because...what sort of life do you lead if not buying somethinga lipstick!is what you regret most in life? Either a bloody charmed one, or a very shallow and meaningless one. Perhaps it's time to get off Instagram and go out and live a little and take some risks and maybe come to regret something that's actually worth regretting?  

It probably seems as if I'm making a mountain out of a molehill, and based on this image alone, I admit that I would be, but it's not just this Instagram post that's got to me.  When I first joined Instagram, I followed a bunch of fashion typespredominantly lovers of pin-up and retro style. I also followed some of them on Facebook and subscribed to the blogs of a few and devoured their archives in a few sittings because I couldn't get enough of their gorgeous dresses and stunning hair and make-up. 

I loved looking at their outfit-of-the-day photos and reading their blogs posts with photoshoots of new purchases...until eventually I started to think, "But do you really need another new dress? How do you manage to wear the 267 dresses you already own, let alone add one to the rotation?"  

This is one of the reasons I decided to stop buying clothesbecause I already have enough and I want to enjoy wearing what I have, not feel bad about all the stuff I'm neglecting because I want to wear the new dress I just bought...and then the next new dress and the next one. There are only seven days in a week after all. Even a bargain isn't a bargain if you wear it once and never again.      

There was one hardcore pin-up fashionista I followed on Instagram and FB, and I subscribed to her blog. I loved her style and she's gorgeous, but when she returned from one shopping trip with sixSIX!new cardigans to add to her already extensive cardigan collection, I couldn't hack it anymore. The conspicuous consumption eventually turned me off more than the gorgeous dresses thrilled me (and this was before my shopping ban). I've unfollowed her on all platforms, and most of the others as well. 

So that's why the "nothing haunts us like the things we didn't buy" post on Instagram annoyed me so much. I do feel a bit of a hypocrite given I've obviously been quite the conspicuous consumer myself in the past. I suppose I saw part of myself reflected in these women and I didn't like what I saw. But now I'm reformed! Or reforming.  

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

It's my birthday and I'll have a present if I want to

It's my birthday in a few days and I told Luke I didn't want a present - I just wanted to do something fun. I honestly didn't want anything. I wasn't just saying it, like those pesky people who tell you not to get them a gift, all the while expecting you will, and then getting huffy when you don't.  

But then I changed my mind! I decided I would finally like to own an e-reader to make it easier to carry books around with me day-to-day, and also when travelling. It is a thing - a new possession -  but it replaces 'real' books that take up a lot more space, and it's a possession that facilitates experiences. I think it will also help me achieve my plan of reading more. 

We'll still do something fun, of course. We're going for a drive up to Woods Point - a wee township about three hours from home - to have lunch at the pub and explore. I'm currently in love with that part of Victoria (the high country and the Yarra Valley/Yarra Ranges, which we'll drive through to get there). 

I grew up in the country (south-west of Melbourne), but I've lived in Melbourne since moving here for university about 24 years ago. (Ack!). Until recently, I thought I would never, ever want to go back and live in the country, but now I can see myself returning one day, perhaps when I retire, possibly sooner. It would be the proverbial tree change (tree regression? I'd definitely be a tree changer, not a sea changer, although I'd want to be able to day trip to the coast).

Mostly it's the lack of shops that had me thinking the country is nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there again. Of course, now I've gone all minimalist and non-spendy, that ceases to be an issue, doesn't it? (I might not get much of a chance to wear all the nice dresses and heels I already own though...)

Country life does evoke images of simplicity, of wholesome, ruddy-cheeked pursuits in the great outdoors with its fresh air and nature, with cows grazing in the background, away from the crowded, noisy, busy city and its superficial cares, like whether you can get a table at the hot new restaurant or if your watch or car or suburb is cool*. 

We could cultivate a garden with flowers and vegies, and we could have a lemon tree, and an open fire. And we could own pets (I want a 'blue' cat and a greyhound), and we'd be part of a community (provided we weren't shunned on account of my purple quiff). We would marvel every day at how bucolic it all is. 

I think I want to move there tomorrow. 

* not things I've ever cared about anyway...

Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Planting the seed of something bigger

I'm just over a month into my ban on buying clothes and shoes and so far it's easy peasy! Wooh! This challenge is going to be easier than I expected. A doddle, even!  

I don't miss shopping at all, either online or in 'real' stores. I don't even think about itwell, I almost never think about itand I genuinely feel as if my desire to acquire is ebbing away. Not wanting things is nice. I feel more content already. After only four weeks! 

When I first decided to stop shopping and even after I told everyonemy boyfriend, work colleagues, social media friendsI wasn't buying any shoes, clothes and accessories for the rest of the whole entire year, I didn't feel confident I could do it. 

But now I'm not only confident I can achieve what I've set out to do, I think this ban is going to be the seed of something bigger, something hopefully life-changing; not simply a temporary period of cheapskatery that swells my bank balance. I want it to be the seed of something bigger and life-changing. 

When I decided to break my shopping habit, I threw a few more of my bad habits into the challenge as welloversleeping, mindless internet scrolling and my bedtime phone fixationbecause, combined, these bad habits suck up a lot of time, attention and money. They're a distraction from things that really matter or they work against me achieving goals (e.g. overseas holidays, improving my health).  

So this thing has been about more than than just not buying stuff from the start, but I want to make it into something even broader, about how I live my lifewhat I want out of lifenot just how I spend my money and my spare time.  

This is partly prompted by a funeral I went to recently. As often happens on these occasions, I got to thinking about how I live my life and what people will say at my funeral. When the end is nigh, I want to feel as if I really lived, not just existed. I am not just going to pay bills and die. 

Not that I'm veering off onto a completely different path here; over the years I have given quite a bit of thought to how I live my life, with a focus on what makes me happy (I started Gleeful to get out of a slump, and I did), but in the last couple of years, I've been been distracted from that focus...partly by all the pictures of gorgeous dresses and amazing shoes on Pinterest, which lead to the discovery of a gazillion online shops selling stuff I loved and itched to own, and fashion blogs with women prancing about in stuff I loved and itched to own. I'm still a big fan of Pinterest, but there is a strong undercurrent of consumerism and wanting, if you cultivate a fashion-heavy timeline as I did. (My timeline is much lighter on fashion now.) 

It's time to get back my pre-Pinterest focus on more meaningful things, which seems to be a common theme among people who come over all non-spendy like me (not the Pinterest part of it). Focusing on acquiring less stuff often leads to a desire to downsize one's existing mountain of possessions, which leads to the embrace of minimalism. But minimalism isn't just about buying and owning less. It's not about a spartan life of denial: it's about livingmaking the most of the life that opens up to you when you jump off the consumer treadmill. In simple terms, it's about happiness

Now, it's highly unlikely downright impossible that I'm going to  end up as one of those people who chucks out all of their clothes except for two pairs of trousers and three shirts, all in beige or charcoal. NO. WAY.  I love my 83 skirts and 230 pairs of shoes (I exaggerate). They bring me joylike wearable works of artand I'm not going to get rid of stuff that brings me joy. No. I'll happily downsize other stuff though. 

It's the other aspects of minimalism I want to bring into my life, or develop more. Mindfulness. Better use of my time. Simplicity. Fewer distractions. Doing more of what I love. Freedom. 


Adventuring and exploring: Life should be an adventure, even if the adventure is just walking down a street in your suburb you've never been in before or taking a different route home from work. Adventure leads to happy discoveries, like cats to pat, amazing street art, splendid ghost signs (if you're into that sort of thing, as I am) or amazing architecture. I love to explore locally and to go to new places.

Connection: I'm lousy at staying in touch with people. I need to make more of an effort at this. Quality relationships are a hugely important part of what makes people happy.

Curiosity: It won't kill you. It expands the mind. Expanding your mind is good. 

Compassion: For others, for myself. Less judgement, more understanding.

Conscious consumption: Even when my shopping ban officially ends on 31 December 2016, I plan to continue to be far more discerning in what I spend money on, with a focus on accumulating experiences, not possessions (apart from possessions that are also experiences, like books and music).

Creativity: I want to create a blog for my ghost sign discoveries and publish a photo book and make a found-object robot and give Gleeful a make-over and all sorts of things. 

Exercise: I always feel better when I'm getting more exercise. It's good for so many things that having nothing to do with fitness and weight loss, like better sleep and stress relief. 

Fun: Fun alone is a perfectly good reason for doing something. 

Gratitude: A good way to not care about all the things you aren't buying because you feel so lucky for everything (and everyone) you have in your life already. 

Helping others: I'm looking into volunteer opportunities. I want to help less fortunate kids with their education, a cause I already support by sponsoring a child through The Smith Family's Learning for Life program. Education is everything.

Humour: Life always goes better with humour. I love making people laugh. Laughing is good for your physical and mental health.

Kindness: It's free and it makes people happy, and making people happy makes me happy. 

Learning: I have a list of (pretty random) stuff I want to learn: juggling (which I used to be able to do in my youth), speaking some Icelandic for when I visit one day, using my camera more effectively, how to make a decent floral arrangement (I would love to be a florist).

Mindfulness: Keeping my head in the moment. Being aware of my surroundings. Noticing the small things. 

Music: Self-explanatory.

Nature: Being in nature makes me happy - the sights, the smells, the sounds, the fresh air, the trees, the fungus! You've never seen someone get so excited about seeing a mushroom before. 

Nourishment: I have to stop sabotaging my health by eating things that I know don't contribute to my wellbeing (gluten, this means you!) and I have to eat more of what does. 

Love: Underpins everything. 

Play: Less seriousness, (even) more silliness. 

Reading: I've been reading a lot less over the past couple of years (I blame the internet), but this is going to change. 

Rest: Actually, I probably need less of this, given my excessive napping habits, but resting when I need to is important given my chronic lack of energy (which I'm working on overcoming). 

Simplicity: My life is already pretty simple and I like it that way. Complexity = stress, and I like to keep my stress levels low. 

Single-tasking: Multi-tasking was the thing a few years ago, but not so much anymore. It's the enemy of mindfulness and flow. No more watching TV and scrolling Facebook. No more keeping one eye on my phone while Luke is talking to me. 

Writing: I'm really enjoying getting back into blogging, with Gleeful and this blog. I shall do more of it!