Lifestyle

Materialism vs. Minimalism

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Many people today, particularly those living in OECD countries, live in what you could call a ‘consumerist society’. Cultures driven by self-indulgence and materialism – the more material items you own, the higher your perceived status. But does the possession of material items really increase happiness? Research suggests otherwise. In fact, studies have found that it is experience that leads to greater happiness rather than the amount of “stuff” one owns.

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I worked a part-time job and spent every single dime I earned on material items – new clothes, jewellery, shoes and so forth. I would buy a new party dress every other week, sometimes only to wear the dress once and never again. The idea of materialism was a social ideal that had been projected onto me and engrained within my mentality from a very young age – the bigger the house, the bigger the garden, the more ‘things’ someone owned, the better. It wasn’t until I began working overseas, had to pack up my life into one suitcase and keep only the necessary and essential items, that I began to ponder over the topic of minimalism.

While I may not be the utmost dedicated minimalist, the past three years, I have definitely adopted a more minimalistic lifestyle. Being a student, I don’t really have any other choice. What I have learned, is that I actually prefer this lifestyle. I like knowing exactly what items I own and that I could easily pack up my life into one suitcase if I needed to, I like not having clutter. This lifestyle has also changed the way I consume – when I go shopping I no longer feel the urge to splurge on material items. For instance, if I see a jumper I like, instead of impulsively going ahead and purchasing it, I stop and ask myself “I already own four jumpers, they all serve the purpose of keeping me warm, so do I really need another one?”. The same applies to jewellery, I have two pairs of earrings, one necklace, and two rings, all of which come to under $30NZD. I don’t feel as though I need any more than this. I was actually watching a video a few days ago on a vloggers ‘room tour’ and was quite astounded at what I saw – fifteen draws stacked full of jewellery, twenty handbags, eight pairs of jeans, twenty different nail varnishes. I just didn’t understand it, all these items serve the same function, so why would someone need so many versions of it?

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Embracing minimalism has also allowed me to analyse and apply this concept to other areas of life. One thing I have learned over the past few years, is that human beings tend to passively go through life without questioning what it is they are doing and why. Here, I will provide three examples of this – engagement, weddings and homes. Unfortunately there is the social ideal that the more money one spends on an engagement ring, the more moral value it possesses. Personally, I find this to be an absolutely absurd concept. A man that can only afford to spend $200 on a ring, could love their partner just as much as someone who were to spend $20,000 on a ring. At the end of the day, the amount of money a person spends on a tiny circular object that sits on your finger does not represent how much you love that person or how committed you are to them. The same applies to weddings. To break it down, the average human lives 788,400 hours, and the average wedding lasts four hours and costs $35,000 NZD. Therefore, the average person spends $35,000 on an event that lasts 0.0005% of their life. When you really think about it, this is utterly disgusting. While this might sound cliché, there are millions of people in the world that struggle to afford food and shelter, every single day of their lives. To spend $35,000 on an event that lasts 0.0005% of a life would surely seem unfathomable to these people. Furthermore, another interesting finding is that in many OECD countries home sizes have dramatically increased over the past decade, despite family sizes becoming smaller. One study found that on average, a family that owns a large home (approx 2000 square feet) will make use of only 68% of the space, with some rooms going almost completely unused. It seems like many of us need a complete re-evaluation of our lifestyles.

I suppose the main point of this post, is to encourage you to think beyond the social ideals and to question everything you do. Could your money be spent on something of more personal and moral value rather than purely material value? Ask yourself – when you come to the end of your life, would you feel more fulfilled reminiscing over all the material items you owned, or how you used your finances on something more meaningful/on someway to give back to the community and contribute to the world? Research has found that splurging on material items leads to only temporary satisfaction, so instead, why not splurge on purposeful and meaningful experiences that will leave you with lifelong fulfillment.

Life in Brisbane: the pros and cons

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Brisbane is a really beautiful city, a place where you can live a nice, simple life. I have lived in Brisbane five months now, and struggled to think of any legitimate cons to the lifestyle here. Anyway, below are what I believe to be the many pros and several cons to living in Brisbane:

Pros:

  • The weather (excluding the dreaded heat in summer). The weather in Brisbane is amazing. You get non-stop sunny weather which will probably prompt you into wanting to go outside rather than staying in all day. Personally, I’ve found that the weather here really affects my mood in a positive way. It’s lovely to wake up every morning to clear blue skies. Another bonus, is that you get seasons, meaning you won’t get habituated to the same season and weather each month. In winter it can get a bit chilly and in summer you get thunderstorms. Most days are clear and sunny. But you also get a bit of variety which is nice.
  • The architecture. Tax here is high, but you can see where the money goes. There is so much beautiful and interesting architecture in Brisbane. I live in South Bank where there is a man made beach, a ferris wheel, flower tunnels, statues etc. The architecture in Brisbane really adds to the overall look and feel of the place.
  • There is enough to do. What I mean by this, is that Brisbane isn’t an overwhelming place like Hong Kong, but it also isn’t as dull as life in say, Auckland. You get a really good balance here. There is always something to do and see – there are various parks, a man made beach, the markets, boat rides, cafes and restaurants, shopping malls etc. You can also explore places a bit further out, e.g. the Gold Coast or Stradbroke island (which is breathtaking).
  • The wildlife and nature. There is a lot of greenery in Brisbane – the flowers, the tree’s the parks and grasslands. The wildlife is also really interesting; at night bats and possums come out. And during the day you get to see a whole range of different bird species, as well as lizards. If you travel out of Brisbane, for instance to Stradbroke Island, there you will be able to see kangaroo’s, stingray, dolphin and turtles.
  • The people are very friendly. In South Bank, I often feel as though I’m experiencing a scene from the Truman show. There are people riding bikes, everyone is walking around happy and smiling, children are running around playing. There is definitely a happy, friendly and positive vibe to Brisbane.

Cons:

  • The dogs. For me this is the biggest con to living in Brisbane because I am terrified of big dogs. However, this point comes down to personal preference, if you are a dog-lover then this is probably more of a pro. There are a lot of dog owners in Brisbane, particularly owners of dogs that resemble pit bulls. So it can sometimes be a bit of a daunting place if you are afraid of dogs and have to encounter them on a daily basis.
  • The public transport. I would say the train system here is reliable, however, it is very slow. You can’t really compare it to the MTR in Hong Kong. And I would not even bother with the bus system. 75% of the time the busses are significantly late, and 25% of the time they merely just don’t show up. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve been on the phone trying to find out if my bus is actually coming or not. On the plus side though, there is the City Hopper, a little red boat that is not only a good way to see Brisbane, but its free too.
  • The swooping birds. There is a “swooping birds” season here in Brisbane, where birds become quite aggressive in order to protect their offspring. Be prepared to duck and run during this season. The first time it happened to me, a bird ran straight up to me (which at first I found quite funny), but then it started swooping at my head. A rather traumatic experience.
  • Sometimes Brisbane can be a little bogan. Probably don’t need to expand on this point as it’s rather self-explanatory.

Overall, Brisbane is great. It’s a place I would be glad to call home, and I am quite sad to be leaving. The pros to life here, far outweigh the cons. If you’re thinking of moving to Brisbane, I would say, go for it!