Are you part of the 'pay-as-you-live' generation?
Books, CDs, a car. It's amazing what you don't need. One writer reveals why she said goodbye to ‘stuff’ and embraced the new 'lightweight living'
One day in 2011 I stood in my flat, surrounded by stacks of shoes, books, CDs and tangles of phone chargers, and felt utterly paralysed. I was 30, I’d just got married, and my husband and I were about to spend 12 months working in New Zealand, simply to do something a bit different with our first year together.
It was a gloriously free-spirited idea, but at that moment I felt the opposite of free. I couldn’t imagine escaping the flat. It wasn’t worth shipping all our things across the world for such a short time, and storage would run to the thousands – it seemed crazy to spend money not to use them. I was suffocated by my own stuff – and, until we found a solution, we couldn’t leave. The words of Tyler Durden, the nihilistic protagonist of Chuck Palahniuk’s 1996 novel Fight Club, resounded in my head: “The things you own end up owning you.”
It was a pivotal moment for me, an ardent lover of nice things, a maximalist, a bargain-seeker, a sentimental hoarder of ancient gig tickets, postcards and notebooks. I realised that if I wanted the freedom to make sudden life-changing decisions such as this – to work abroad for a year, or to take a risk on a job across the country – I needed to re-evaluate my relationship with stuff. Because no retro sideboard, no matter how lovely, should get in the way of an opportunity.