What buying nothing is teaching me about giving…

herman the germanPIN ITBo and I are moving out of our place this week, we are moving into transitional accommodation as we continue to challenge societal norms and satisfy my need for freedom… I’m so excited it’s a bit ridiculous. Bo won’t stop asking if we can go to the farm NOW (in hindsight I may have told her about our exciting adventure a little early). I’m dreaming of days where we are surrounded by fresh air and mandarin orchards instead of a background soundtrack of ABC2 feeling suffocated/distracted by stuff that really isn’t serving us well.

A big part of this first six months of the nothing new project has been to focus on downsizing and creating a freedom from the connection to things. It’s been really hard at times, to take a long hard look at some of the stuff in our home and realise that holding on to things because maybe we might need them is crazy when someone else who needs them could be using them right now. A while ago we had a Pay What you Want garage sale, which was aweosme and fun and we even made a bit of cash, which was cool… but as I’ve been packing I’ve realised (with great horror) that we have so much stuff that I didn’t even remember that we had. Stuff that we don’t need. Stuff we can’t take with us. Good quality, practical useful stuff that we don’t have any use for. So instead of selling it I just started giving it all away. One by one things have left our house, cot mattresses, furniture, clothes, nappies, heaters… have all gone to homes where they will be loved and used and needed.

I’ve been wondering a lot about our connection with things, why we create such connections to things and why we seem to put such high monetary value on things that we sell second hand. I’ve got a box of letters and notes and photographs that are in someways useless, they are notes from my ten year old best friends some of which I still have lots of contact with, others are no longer alive… I have old love letters written by old boyfriends and little plastic trinkets that I acquired at important events in my life. I hang on to these things because in some way they are proof that those stages in my life ever happened, even if only to myself. When I pick up that plastic, half chewed little yellow duck, I am instantly back in the pit, 15 and free, dancing to the beats of a favourite DJ at an underground rave… When I hold the tiny note from grade seven with a picture of Silverchair on one side and on the other the words “hey milney, did you know that the spice girls are gonna break up? and silverchair rules… hanson sucks… i love youuuu” I’m sitting on those little plastic chairs next to my gorgeous friend who died a few short years later. For me that note reminds me that she existed, that our friendship existed, it reminds me of all the things she taught me and all the stories that we shared. It’s a scrap of blue card covered in sticky tape. But it holds so many meanings deep within it.

These things that I have, these material possessions that could be sold for money or traded for something else of value… to me, they don’t hold the same value as a little square of blue card and whilst so many people would argue that money makes the world go ’round… I’m really hoping to prove, if only to myself, that it doesn’t have to. That the value of giving to other people, with absolutely no expectation of anything in return, is far more powerful than money. We are not rolling in cash, by any means, I’m a single mum living on a part time wage and part of a government parenting pension… But we also don’t need lots of money. We are doing just fine with out it. What would we need it for? What we need is people, and surrounding ourselves with kind, community minded people is transforming the way I see the world, it’s transforming the way I feel! Stuff is just stuff, it has no purpose if it is not being used. There are far too many people out there in the world who have little needs, and if we can meet them?

Shouldn’t we?

That cake in the top photo is a Herman the German Apple cake… it’s like the ultimate community cake. It’s made to be shared and to be handed around the community, cared for,  fed, loved and eaten with friends. Herman is a friendship cake, it’s a sourdough cake starter that takes 10 days to create and then on day 10 you split it into four and share three with your friends and so the starter continues, and has been continuing within our community for a few months now. I know whenever I need a little Herman in my life all i have to do is put my hand up and a starter will be made available. Sharing is a beautiful thing, it builds community…

Without community what do we have? Not a lot at all. 

pearmufifnPIN IT

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  • June 30, 2014 - 5:37 am

    cath - Hope you don’t mind that I had to share this on my facebook. I threw out a lot of those letters when I moved overseas, and I regret it so much – a lot of those friends are now coming back into my life after a hiatus, and I miss the little notes and random trinkets.
    I didn’t lose the photos though :) they are sitting in a box upstairs, waiting to be sorted into albums, or scanned and shared.ReplyCancel

  • July 2, 2014 - 9:32 pm

    Sonia Lear - Wow Sash. What an amazing new adventure. You’ve expressed so many of the thoughts I have about life and possessions. I bought a caravan to get away from all the stuff and to meet new people and have a life adventure, but somehow I’ve gotten sucked back in. I’m currently living in a house where I feel overwhelmed by stuff. My kids throw things on the floor, I spend so much time picking it up that I can’t get around to de-cluttering and I’m finding myself so crazily overwhelmed by stuff. And I don’t even buy that much, so I’m perplexed as to where it keeps coming from! I just want to give it all away, grab the one bag of things we each all need and get out of here. But alas I find myself with a partner juggling a new business who doesn’t have the same need to be rid of it all. Not the same desire for a community of like-minded people. So I find myself overwhelmed and trapped and desperate to make the break you have . We did it as a family a year ago and had 3 months of freedom until our caravan broke down. Now I’ve just got to figure out how to do it again!!!! XxReplyCancel

  • July 3, 2014 - 6:17 am

    Katie - The story of that cake is brilliant (and it came with the bonus of reminding me of a friendship cake we made back in primary school). It so neatly sums up everything society isn’t: it takes ages and to make (and enjoy) it, you actually need to be in physical contact with people, instead of peering in on their lives via facebook or something. I love it.

    We’re about to de-clutter our house up a bit and your words will definitely be in my mind as I do it. There’s no point on hanging onto things because of ‘what ifs’. Someone else’s now matters much more than our maybe at some point….

    I came here via House of Humble, because I’m intrigued to know more about your Nothing New project and to follow along with your adventures.ReplyCancel

  • July 7, 2014 - 8:39 pm

    Kerstin - Oh my- a Hermann Kuchen. I can vividly see the dough sitting on our kitchen bench in southern Germany….raising and resting for days, while all we kids could think about was cake!ReplyCancel

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