Why did we move abroad? Clean air. More space. More sun & outdoor activities. Less need to buy things, to follow trends. Everything in Belgium became a design object and nothing was essential.
At some point we made a decision: we move! And then came the reality check: All the same cleaning & beauty products, jeans brands & Instagram hypes found their way South too. Slices of cheese & veggie burgers in plastic, tins and PET bottles were piling up (Portugal doesn’t recycle). An average household has 300.000 things in its house. I shrugged but then I started counting: plates, bags, books, shoes, sheets, flowerpots, t-shirts, kitchen tools, pens, magazines, sculptures, frames, accessories, carpets, towels, toiletry, ski gear, climbing gear, volleyball gear, motor gear, garden tools,…. And the only thing I did was moving or cleaning it once and a while. Money & stuff bring joy, I get it. But only to a certain limit where you exceed your basic needs. The rest comes from family, friends, health & values such as trust, respect, loyalty, sharing,… I am quite sure that’s where real fortune is coming from. I believe that when basic needs are fulfilled, one has to choose consciously for these values but society learns him that all he needs can be fulfilled with things. What you are is what you possess, not what you stand for. So we keep on working hard and we tolerate fine dust, give our children processed food & continue to have a chronic lack of time. So moving to Portugal was choosing a different lifestyle, for luck. Looking at my garbage, I felt such a hypocrite.
Small happiness is big happiness
After falling comes, getting up. Slowly I began to change small things: no more shampoos & expensive body lotions. More and more research shows that they harm the upper layer of our skin. In the public market of Ovar there is this guy with curly hair who sells homemade soap and since one month I shower with only bars of soap. I bought a menstruation cup (bye bye smelly tampons, hello odourless cup!), toothbrush in bamboo, vegetables from a granny with a vegetable garden,… I fill my glass bottles with legumes, flour,… Hamburgers & dough I prepare myself. And this week I started cleaning my closet (project 333). I am tired of that pile of clothes & shoes. From now on I only wear favourites. One pair of Havaianas, pumps, & leather boots or two… Okay, maybe three. The rest goes out!
Yes, it does relieve to let all that stuff go or to see the refrigerator full of fresh food. It’s a lot less plastic to (not) recycle. It asks some effort, you have to fight for your freedom but once you found your routine, it costs less time than facing traffic and gives more satisfaction than an evening Netflix in the coach. The mental process for me started already in Belgium some years ago so if you want to change your lifestyle just start with one thing at a time. E.g. a docu on Netflix.
Financial versus personal success
Christoph Niemann, graphic designer and a super cool guy says that it is dangerous to focus on one thing- earning money- because it prevents you to ask yourself relevant questions such as: “ I want to be successful, okay, but is that thing that I am doing, what I want to be successful in?” Financial success isn’t the key. It leads to the opposite: loneliness & fetishes such as getting whipped up in a darkroom by your weekly mistress.
Clean air, a relaxed community, being (mentally) healthy and realizing that you actually are a unique being with an own mind is what counts. Because seriously, is that espresso machine a reflexion of who I am? Or that Levis jeans, golden cover on my smartphone, Austin Martin, vintage chairs, ecological soap dispenser… There we go again… In the last decades, technology (Facebook for free? Think again) managed to extract our deepest desires & fears that can be compensated with material objects. Smartphones & tablets influence children before the age of one to desire for toys which they are tired of after one week. Neurologic research points out the devastating consequences. It becomes more and more difficult to be actually happy with what you have and who you are. Collective uncertainty. But hey, shop and you’ll feel better. Plus, it’s not only our neurologic system that goes in alarm, our natural resources are rapidly disappearing. And for what? Disposable stuff that needs to fill the hole in our heart that was never there in the first place. Within 500 years humankind will think of us as a bunch of medieval morons with reptile brains.
The key to getting lucky
People easily think that one holds a grudge against them or that one tries to be elitist but we are trying to find a key to help people to get a grip on their life again, without making them feel insulted or restless, or thinking that I am a naïve vegetable lover. Alternative. This isn’t about changing the world, being highbrow or woolly. This is about being in charge again of actions & desires. About collaborating. Controlling.
In the meantime, we are in search of a territory with a water source, & state-of-the-art technology to go off-grid, we are finding out how to do most of the stuff ourselves (with advice from others), and am I putting my closet on a diet. I want to go back to the essence. That is where the truthful key to success, happiness or whatever, must be; knowing & doing what you want.