(by Philip Raphael, South Delta Leader)
The recent Boxing Day sales were a big test for Ladner’s Diane Pearson. Could the 41-year-old single mom resist the urge to capitalize on that sure-fire, hot deal being offered in just about every store she saw in the mall?
For someone who has pledged to live the next 12 months without buying any unnecessary items—while also ridding her life and home of extraneous goods—the lure of the consumer bargain-fest was a good measure of her resolve. She lasted the “shopping” trip without buying a single thing. And when the calendar rolled over to the new year, her “Stripper Project” was in full gear. “The biggest thing for me is probably to simplify everything in my world,” Pearson says. “You get to a spot where there’s a lot of stress and chaos in your life and we all do better when that’s not around us.” While she thought the concept may sound corny to some, she’s convinced that having less will simplify and reduce the stress in her life. “There’s so much excess. There’s so much stuff,” she says. “I think that’s one of the biggest downfalls in our society. I see people in that mindset of accumulate, accumulate. Spend your money.
“We’ve lost the concept of what enough is.” To regain that sense of balance in her life, Pearson asked herself some simple questions as she looked around her home. “Do I need five whisks and 12 pots and pans for three of us? No, we don’t. And there’s plenty of other people who could use them. So, to the thrift store they went.” Also on the “good riddance” list were many items in the floor-to-ceiling packed front hall closet which was emptied of shoes her boys had long ago outgrown. Unneeded clothes from her closet were next.
The long-term goal? “In nine years when I turn 50, I want to travel. My kids will be 23 and 24. I want to be able to essentially walk away and not be tied down by things,” Pearson says. “I want to be able to go for a year and see the world. And this is a step in the process of getting there.” Looking back and examining what played a role in prompting the move was the passing of her mother about a year ago. Pearson was tasked with clearing out her home. “My mom, she wasn’t a hoarder, but she was on the extreme end of someone who keeps a lot of things.” It took months to go through the four bedroom house. “I don’t want to leave that for my kids,” Pearson says. “I don’t want them to grow up thinking that’s where their value lies.” But in a society conditioned to think having more is better, are we surrendering a form of happiness if we live a minimal life?
It doesn’t have to be that way, says SFU psychologist Dr. Joti Samra, co-host of OWN’s (Oprah Winfrey Network Canada) reality TV series Million Dollar Neighbourhood.
“There are certain things we all need. And people can tend to confound our needs with our wants,” Samra says. “And sometimes that can be a band-aid solution to issues we’re not addressing.” And if getting rid of unneeded items can help provide a keener focus on improving those more meaningful issues it can indirectly increase a person’s happiness, Samra adds. But when we are constantly bombarded by the latest “must haves” in our lives, how do we stay the course and live a life to the minimum? “You need to stop and actually write it down—the needs and wants in your life, given the values you have and the long and short-term dreams you want to achieve,” Samra says. “When those are not clear in your head, it’s easy to use money for the unnecessary needs.”
While a Spartan existence is being sought, there will be basic things Pearson will need to acquire. But she vows to go about it differently by first sourcing second-hand goods rather than making for the closest mall for some recreational consumerism. With the “Stripper Project” passing the first month marker, Pearson says she is doing fine. “I want get to the point where I’m okay with things and just chill,” she says. “And that means being able to identify things that mean something to you, rather than just having a quantity of stuff.”