Buy Nothing New Month

I wrote a post today posing a challenge to the author of a blog I read. That blog is very different than this one and most others I read. The author is a local fellow who has vastly different interests. And that’s okay. I like reading about the happenings of his life and the film reviews he occasionally writes. I am sure he likes people reading it.

The author enjoys shopping. From his writing, I’d say it is one of his hobbies. He writes a lot about shopping with his mother. Buying various things. Making a day of journeying to malls. That’s his thing. It’s not for me. I have strong views on what I think this sort of consumerism is doing to the planet and people. But those things aside, the challenge I gave him was meant with a light-heart.

I challenged him to a month of buying nothing new. I have tossed up the idea myself and will, one day, give it a go. Perhaps if this fellow took up the challenge I would have joined him. We could have both written about it from very different perspectives. We all go on about trying something new.

I alerted the bloke to the challenge via Twitter – the realm of conversation – and was met with a less than expected response. To his wishes I have taken the post down. He saw my act as one of sabotage. As mean-spirited, it would seem. As an outlet through which I aimed to change him to his detriment.

This wasn’t the case at all.

Could you go a month without buying anything new? (You’re allowed to buy new food of course. In fact, I recommend you do!)

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Dear Down to Earthers

Hello to all my new readers who found me via Down to Earth. I’m very excited that ya’ll stopped by.

Say, if you have a blog that you would like to share with me, write a comment against this post sharing it. I’m always keen to read other peoples stories. It is how I got here. It is people like Rhonda that have inspired me to take a different road in life – than the road well-travelled. My other heroes are people like Richard Telford, Nick Ritar and Kirsten Bradley, Tammy Strobel, Laura LaVoie, and David Dalton – some of these names may be familiar.

Also, if you’re on Twitter, feel free to follow me: @adesirableworld. I tweet about all things – the desirable world, this world, work, homesteading, permaculture, sustainability and the environment, Australian politics (yeah, sorry!) and cycling.

5 Things I Hate About Renting

I have rented all my life. I have gone through phases where I thought it was time to buy some ol’ house so I could be like my friends. But then I thought better of it. The idea of $400k mortgage doesn’t sit well with me at all – as you have probably gathered from other posts on this blog. And now, through inspiration, I have realised there is a way around that – I don’t need nor want a fancy house in the inner suburbs, where I can host yuppie soirees for people I don’t really like. Nope, I have my sight set on something much better than that, my tiny house in the country.

Being a renter I know all the cons of renting. The pros exist but are fewer. So, for a bit of fun, I thought I’d share the top 5 things I hate strongly dislikes about renting.

The houses. A lot of houses are bought with the sole purpose of being rented out. Some are rented out as is and others are renovated beforehand, like the place I currently live in. You can tell it has been renovated for the sake of an investment – so many features haven’t been thought through, it’s almost as though the owner forgot that people are actually going to be functioning in the house. Take my bathroom tiles for example – never have I experienced a slipperier tile. Not ideal for a bathroom, no? You know, with the water and the walking and the feet? The windows in this place may as well not even be there. They provide no insulation against the weather or noise. I can hear conversations on the footpath outside as clearly inside as I could if I were on the other side of the wall.

I guess I am pretty fortunate to live in a place that is reasonably safe and well presented. Not so, for some of my friends. The houses they call home should be condemned. But through apathy and a slight fear of being homeless they don’t raise things as concerns. Property managers and landlords take advantage of this.

Lazy property managers. Ceiling light, exposed wires. Quite a hazard? 3 months and counting to have it repaired. But rest assured, the property manager is “working at it as hard as they can”. Yeah right.

Property managers are like temping agencies. They demand huge fees and once they have assigned the temp, or in this case tenants, they are rarely seen again. Oh, other than at their quarterly inspection. But they are usually not seen then – they come when you’re at work and leave a condescending piece of paper on the kitchen bench.

Arbitrary rules. “No, you cannot put a raised garden bed on the lawn! However, please make sure you maintain the lawn that we planted – water it, fertilise it, waste your time and money on it…”

Taking $16k a year and putting it in the bin. This is a bit of an exaggeration, I know. For that money I am getting a pretty decent roof over my head. However, at the end of the day I have nothing to show for it. This is the obvious downer for most renters and the reason why they buy – they want to feel as though they own the place in which they live. Even if they won’t for many many decades, and even if they have to pay for the value of their house twice – if you take into account interest rates.

The anxiety. The way property managers make you feel is terrible. Those quarterly inspections. Where they, common people themselves, come into your home and critique the way you live. If only they were there to inspect wear and tear on the place. Oh no, I have heard horror stories about them critiquing the way in which the floor was vacuumed and the like. I’d love to see my property managers house. She looks like the type where the carpet in front of the couch would be covered in chip crumbs.

Adapt to your situation

I am going to post a comment here that I wrote on the forum at Permaculture News. It concerns some topics I have discussed here before – especially with regards to transportation, the ability to adapt and becoming a part of a community. Here t’is:

I wish to move to woop woop and set up a permaculture property for myself. At present I am an environmentally-conscious city slicker. I don’t drive – never have, never intend to. Many people see this as a huge challenge, straight up. I don’t. I see it as an opportunity. Doing my groceries is straight forward – my criteria for land requires that I be no further than 25km from a town that has a supermarket and is near to a public transport link. I can cycle to the shops (I am quite use to cycling 50km in a day) or catch the bus (many pass through the town in one direction in the morning and return in the afternoon; ideal). So let’s for a second say that running basic errands is viable. But what about transporting big items: hardware, plants, and so on? Why wouldn’t I ask the store if they deliver? If they don’t, why wouldn’t I ask somebody whether they could take an hour out of their day, for a crisp $50 note, say, to make the delivery for me?

I’ve been thinking about conventional transportation a lot of late and it seems to be a source of inalienable independence for many people. These people in the city are the ones that refuse to catch public transport, ride a bike or walk to work, even when it is a viable if not more practical option. In the country these people may be the ones that simply haven’t considered the alternative.

I guess I come from the virtue of a position where I have had to make things work. I have never had the “independence” that a car apparently brings. Nor have I been a freeloader on others that have. I see myself as adaptable – I adapt to my situation. Also as a good decision maker – if I don’t drive why would I live somewhere that required me to; or if I required a particular service, why would I exclude myself from it?

The post to which I responded was about a couple that live on an acreage that need some help. They are considering building a second dwelling on the property with the view of providing somebody (or a couple) with reduced rent in exchange for their help. Says Frosty, the poster:

Our idea is that we built one of those barn houses as an addition to our house and find a suitable person or preferably a couple to occupy it in a sort of rental/ share arrangement. We need some rent to pay for the loan to build the “house”, but can also offer some small wage for about 5 or 6 hours respite care while hubby has a day off. (No qualifications needed basically it’s just someone to stay with me and get my lunch. The ladies now clean and sometimes cook muffins etc it could also be doing a bit of light gardening )

My initial impression from their plan is that this person (people) are not afraid to think outside the box. I think people are too quick to dismiss an idea – “Nah. Nobody would want to be ‘part of that”. Like my colleague that I mentioned  a while back, the one who is renovating. She can’t conceive of the idea of person that would see value in the stuff that she is ripping out of her house. Her natural response: “Nobody would want to buy, let alone take for free, our old kitchen”. It’s a really narrow view.

As I also said in my comment to Frosty, “It’s this sort of sensible, forward-thinking that gives me faith in the human species.” It’s true. I thrive off people like this.

Rain Water Catchment – How The Cities Have it All Wrong

We in the city should be ashamed of some of our practices. On my lunch break the other day – rather than going to a nearby cafe for something to eat – I took a walk around the suburbs surrounding the industrial area I work in. The area is fairly dense with residential houses with the odd commercial premise dotted here and there. Most – around 90% – of these premises had something in common – water catchment was piped directly out onto the street.

How this is allowed I do not know. Considering Australia has faced water restrictions in the past due to drought and low

Here is an example of the sort of drains I saw on my wander the other day. Most houses had something like this, directly from their roof.

Here is an example of the sort of drains I saw on my wander the other day. Most houses had something like this, directly from their roof.

water storage levels, it seems utterly irresponsible that we are still allowed to continue to treat clean, safe rain water as waste; something to be disposed of down the drain. Only to have it piped back in from a different source so we can turn on our taps and be guaranteed something will come out.

Kirsten, over at Milkwood, wrote a blog this morning about rooftop farming, a phenomenon that seems to be gaining traction in cities across the world. The article was about chickens still being of importance in such a system. I agree. But my mind turned to the rooftops of buildings here in Australia. Consider your local Bunnings Warehouse (Australia’s answer to Home Depot, to my American readers). Look at the size of the place. I did some crude measurements of my local store, using Google Maps, and the catchment area is a massive 7000 square metres (almost 2 acres!). According to my water catchment calculations, that would see a yield of around 3,850,000 litres per year, based on local average rainfall. That’s enough water to satisfy the average needs of 35 people! I can only imagine how much water is wasted by residential and commercial premises that just pipe it down the drain. This is a large scale problem, one that councils and government encourage.
As I said in my comment to Kirsten, this must make rural folk like her, who prey for and respect every last drop they receive, cringe.

This World and Relationships

I am in a “long-term” relationship. I have been with my partner for almost 3 years. We have been quite happy together but have gotten to a stage where we fight often – not screaming matches, or anything like that; but stubborn duels that end in regret – and easily frustrate each other. I don’t think we will be embarking on this journey together.

I believe that my personality has been significantly impacted by the unhappy situation I have found myself in. This rubs off on him. He resents me for it.

I have hope, in a better situation, away from all that negatively affects our lives, there is a chance things can work out. However, he doesn’t want the life that could potentially lead to that.

He has taken the default position. He believes the life that we live currently, that he wishes to continue, is normal. Any deviation from the norm is criticised with implications of selfishness. Compromise can only happen if I move closer to the norm – the thing I most want to get away from.

He is all or nothing. The idea of him travelling between houses – sustaining a long-distance relationship if you will – isn’t worth it, he says. It may as well just end. Due to the features of my ideal, I cannot be the one that does the travel.

I try to talk about it. It depresses him. We get no where. This is the stumbling block.

The People; They Call

I walk through the leafy suburb to work. 20s Bungalows line the streets. I can see them at their windows willing me in. “Come in, Pavel. Join us. It’s safe and easy.” My pace increases.

The people I refer to, of course, live the Australian Dream ‘Strong’. They have the 1/4 acre, Hills Hoist and 2.5 kids. And then some. Professional careers. Housekeepers. Private schooling for their children. Visits to the hardware store on weekends – with the obligatory sausage sizzle. Renovations. Overseas holidays. BBQs to show off their new retaining wall to their friends. My pace becomes a slow, anxious jog.

I tell them what I really think. How I invisage the good life. They are shocked. By my salary, the way I dress, where I live and the wine I drink they conclude that I am one of them. Or aspire to be. Their curiousity heightens. Their mission now is to convert me to their church. Capitalism is their God. I sprint.

In their heart of hearts they realise their obey a tyrant. “Why must we suffer?” they question as they struggle to balance their debts and slave into the night at their inner city offices. A good God would allow them to spend time with their children rather than spend on their children. But they remain faithful, in the knowledge that someday it will get better. Retirement is only 30 years away.

They are passionately against other deities. “Thou shalt have no other gods before me”. Socialism is theft. It is what multiculturalism is to nationalism. It is out to take away the freedoms they enjoy. To distriute the spoils of their hard work to those that haven’t earned it. Not exactly food from their childrens mouth, but the a ski holiday from their winter. It’s a war on ideas; a war on Gods. Nobody shall take thou God away.

They continue to prothelatise. My idea of the good life is unsustainable, fanciful, unrealistic; the thing of fairy tales. I should obey they God, get into heaven and be done with it. Better is to come on death. I should be patient and wait. I can’t have it all now. That’s so Gen Y of me. Verilance isn’t for enjoying. It is a means to an end. And end that should be filled with Prados and Jaycos and trips to the North, where it’s hot, where we can amble about under our decaying vessels.

I disagree. They tell me to get out. To return to the street. I am radical. A hippy. A bludger. I run for the hills and never see them again.