How Much is Too Much DIY?

Self Reliance is a good thing. Ask any committed Burner. Radical Self Reliance, one of the 10 Guiding Principles of Burning Man, means that you can take care of yourself and your basic needs. It’s a practice that requires a lot of DIY. If something breaks, you fix it. If you don’t have what you need, you make it. It’s a great way to be when on the Playa, where services to help others are gifted within the community. But does it work in the real world? How much is too much DIY?

As an avidly self reliant DIY enthusiast, and shoestring budget maven, I do a lot of things for myself. I tailor my own clothes, cut and color my own hair, cook most of my own meals from scratch and even shape my own eyebrows when I’m away from home and my regular salon.

To be honest, it’s that last one that got me thinking about how much is too much DIY. I have no problem making my own cleaning products, because I know that my deference to chemically laden artificially scented cleaners with slick marketing campaigns isn’t going to really hurt anyone directly. But, while at home, with access to my regular salon, I know that if I choose to pluck my own eyebrows, I’m taking money away from an individual who not only has always a given me great service, but who also depends on repeat customers like me to keep her business open.

I like being self reliant. I like finding new ways to save money with cleverness and remedies long forgotten. I like baking my own bread, the many wonders and uses of Dawn dishwashing detergent, and using vinegar as a primary ingredient for my cleaning endeavors. But I also like supporting small businesses and people who provide skilled services to make their living.

So, to answer my original question, for me, the answer is yes. There is such a thing as too much DIY. It’s great to have all these skills and knowlege, but it is equally great to support other’s skills when I can. Knowing how to take care of myself is comforting and empowering, but being willing to support the skills of others is equally rewarding. In fact it’s just as important as being able to do it myself.

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Filed under DIY, Philosophy

Need, Want and Desire

“You’re everything I need, want and desire.”

It's not rocket science. Needs, Wants and Desires can be easily met.What a romantic phrase. Perhaps it’s been uttered beyond romance novels as pillow talk, but I’m betting it’s not commonly deconstructed to find a path to simple living. Be prepared, because knowing what you need, want and desire can actually lead to a better life.

Needs are actually pretty basic. We need food and water. We need clothing and shelter. And, we need the means to acquire these things. There are also emotional and intellectual needs, but we are going to silo those for the moment. The needs I speak of are the bare bone basics.

Kind of jarring isn’t it? It’s meant to be. I like to think of basic needs as a foundation. Notice they don’t include a lot of what might be considered comfort items, like soap for instance. This leads us to the Wants category.

When thinking of the things we Want, our first thought might be comfort. We don’t necessarily need to be clean for example, but it is definitely more comfortable to be. We don’t need entertainment but extra stimulation can provide diversions that bring us mental comfort.

Things we want for the sake of comfort are worth the extra effort it takes to have them.  But identifying comfort also requires a large amount of personal honesty. Some would swear that comfort comes with extravagance. It doesn’t.  It is true that adequate shoes may keep our feet comfortable for example, but they needn’t cost thousands of dollars.

Comfort should be judged by the absence of discomfort, and discomfort is identified by our own tolerance and personal fortitude. Seeking comfort is normal. Seeking comfort with absolute honesty takes some practice. I tend to ask myself, “Can I make do with what I have?” More often than not, the answer is yes, and that affirmation can go a long way. It feels good to be satisfied with what I have.

Once needs and wants are identified, we can start to consider Desires.  After all it’s nice to have nice things.

Desires can meet needs and wants, but they go beyond that. Desires provide emotional satisfaction, often on a temporary basis. Desires that go beyond needs, beyond the comfort of wants, tend to gain a life of their own. Sure you may want a toaster, and desire a Hello Kitty toaster, but if that desire gets away from you, you might find your entire kitchen profits Sanrio. When considering things you desire consider how long that emotional satisfaction will last.

This means when you acquire things that go beyond needs and wants, be sure you know why you really desire them. It’s okay to meet an emotional need with a desire. What’s not ok, is to use desires as a primary source for personal satisfaction.

Excess in any form may not necessarily fill Wants and Desires. Wanting more than you need, and desiring more than you actually want creates more Want and Desire. But, knowing what will bring you genuine comfort and what will meet your needs can help to curate life that is truly satisfactory. Who doesn’t want that?

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Filed under asides, Philosophy, Simple Life

Doing More With Less

In spite of my status as a Vet, with an Honorable Discharge, I often think of myself as a bad American. Why? It’s because I’m not a rampant consumer. I seldom pay retail for anything, enjoy buying things second hand, or simply just make do with what I have. I love the concept of “Doing More With Less.” Consider it a lifestyle choice.

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Doing more with less can mean a lot of things: using things till they wear out, having fewer belongings, or rejecting the disposable. For me the idea is to simplify by using less, spending less, thereby having to work less, and thus decreasing stress.

 The ironic part about all of this is that a lot of the things I currently reject, are intended to make life convenient. For some, products such as pre-moistened disposable cleaning towelettes are more convenient. But, in my mind, all I see is something wasted, something that has to be constantly replenished, something that is just creating more trash that I have to deal with. Prepared food might also seem like a great convenience. But believe it or not, most of my home cooked meals take less than 30 minutes to make, taste better, and don’t leave me feeling dissatisfied with what I ate.

Ultimately, all I really want is comfort, something that can be bought. Comfort comes from peace of mind, and for me that comes from worrying less about things I don’t have, and truly cherishing all that I do have. Comfort comes from taking control of my expectations by not allowing advertising to tell me what is wrong with me and why my life is incomplete. Comfort is gained with genuine understanding of what my needs are and finding a way to fulfill them.

I’m really looking forward to curating this life. I already have some of the basics: two amazing smart and snarky kids, a wonderful and loving partner and furry companions. Most importantly, what I have is a vision of the life I want, and what it takes to get there. With a good bit of planning, some innovation, improvisation and diligence, it could happen. Hey, maybe I’m not such a bad American after all.

Happy New Year!
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Filed under Downsizing, Simple Life