May 25, 2013

UPDATE: The Price of Happiness

In June of 2012, I began to experiment with a more simple lifestyle. I gave up my car, the television, a land line and air conditioning. I moved into a small condo in an inexpensive neighbourhood. The plan was to live on $20 a day, eating frugally and using mass transit and my bike to get around.

I'm not going to say it was easy sailing - that would be a tad optimistic, even for me. There are still days when I long for the convenience of a car, and once or twice I found myself wanting "that moment" at day's end when I would plop myself down in front of the Food Network and just stare blankly at the screen, comforted by the clatter and chatter. In the hottest heat of last summer, sitting dripping in a tank top, I questioned my sanity about the "no air conditioner" rule. I miss being a spontaneous traveler, too, and went the entire year without a proper adventure.

Of course I had to watch my spending. That was an eye opener. I went from not looking at prices at all to charging straight for the sale bin like a bag lady and rooting around for bargains. This resulted in a lot of bad meals, and I quickly realized I needed another strategy. With bread at $4 a loaf and bell peppers over $1 each (ridiculous), I began to eat smaller portions and make healthier choices. Now, a year later, I've cut out all meat and adopted a more Asian way of eating. I like it! My next move might be from coffee to tea, as my favourite coffee has disappeared off the shelves (darn you, Van Houtte) and all coffee is going up in price.

I'm happy to report, though, that getting around by public transit is very easy in this city. I can bike to the Atwater Market in exactly five minutes. I'm only 30 minutes away from my parents' home by metro and bus, which is as long as it would take me to drive anyway. Friends and family have been very generous with offers to take me shopping or pick me up to attend events. Instead of buying books, I borrow from the library. I get out more - Montreal has a ton of things to do that are affordable and fun. And I watch Netflix videos off my laptop, for $8 a month.

I haven't bought anything new, beyond some clothes to refresh my wardrobe - and even then, I'm not a clothes gal. I'm happy with one pair of sneakers, one pair of boots, and sensible underwear. Anything black over that, and I'm dressed. I'm cutting my own hair (to save money on salons) and doing my own pedicures and manicures. Instead of joining a gym, I get down on my rug every night and do exercises. I'm reading more, I'm walking a lot, and I feel more energetic.

The best part of it, though, is this wonderful feeling that my life is so manageable. It's hard to describe. I walk into my home and I know exactly where everything is. I know the inventory of my home, from the back of my kitchen cupboards to the top of my closets. I sift through everything on a regular basis and decide - Do I need it? Do I want it? And if the answer is no, I give it to someone who does. I'm keeping only things that I need and truly want. There is a peacefulness about it all that feels right. Simplicity works - for me. For now.

5 comments:

  1. Inspiring stuff Lorrie! I am doing some of this: the public transport, the living cheaply, would love to do more. Looking forward to stepping more completely into freelance work in the future myself.

    As far as missing the car goes, you really should check out Communauto. There are no costs when you are not renting a car, but it gives you the convenience of having access to a car (cheaply too) when you need one. Ask me for more info.

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  2. Inspiring stuff Lorrie! I am doing some of this: the public transport, the living cheaply, would love to do more. Looking forward to stepping more completely into freelance work in the future myself.

    As far as missing the car goes, you really should check out Communauto. There are no costs when you are not renting a car, but it gives you the convenience of having access to a car (cheaply too) when you need one. Ask me for more info.

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  3. I had been thinking along the same lines as you have, Lorrie.
    You are city girl, but I've been thinking of wider vistas...
    Living on $5 a day in Khyber Pass should be easy.
    The air is fresh and clean and you don't have to worry about traffic lights.
    Too hot? No Stetsons here.
    Just wrap a bedsheet around your head and you are ready to go.
    Still, I would have to make do without CNN.
    And not knowing who is the American hero at any one particular moment.
    That one would bother me a lot.
    Or when will the latest iteration of the iPhone be announced to the world.
    Don't forget the apps - you have to keep up to date or you will embarrass
    your life-long friends. Some may even disown you.
    Anyway, these are the things that would keep me up, counting the stars under the bright, silvery moon.

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  4. Great post, Lorrie, truly inspiring! I've been carless and cultivating second-hand chic for years, but I still feel the weight of wasteful clutter. You remind me that there's still work to do. :)

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  5. Wow so much courage and wise words Lorrie love it ...good heart at the right place...and so funny me too ill may be get rid of my car and i have a pretty one lol a mustang so imagine but i preferd to have a low life style then having the one over the budget and over my standar for environnement not done yet but i am thinking of it ...i preferd too having a vegetarian diet so flavorfull i dont miss the meat at all people should know better so much good recipies carnivor dont miss ...lol ty for sharing your toughts xoxo

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