May 072012

What exactly can’t you live without? What is there in life that you absolutely have to have to live on this planet? Well. We all know what the basics are…food, water, that whole air breathing thing comes in pretty handy now and then. But is there anything else? I’ve often heard people make statements like, ” I couldn’t live without my…fill in the blank with the possession/gadget/appliance of your choice”. A strange statement considering they probably lived a fine and happy life for years before the essential object they now covet was even invented. What they once never even believed could exist, they now can’t live without.

The reality is we can do just fine with nothing more than the basics. After all, life seems to have thrived pretty well over the last billion years or so without coffee makers, dish tv’s, and new cars. Despite those who cite the Flintstones as a factual documentary, our species adapted pretty good to living off the land. It’s just been in the past few hundred years where we ramped up the comfort zone with all our wonderful inventions and gadgets to make life easier that we have come to be more dependent on technology and things beyond the basics. For some people, these gadgets have become essential to life itself, at least in their minds. In reality, when it gets down to the basic biology of life, it all comes back to the whole food, water, breathing thing that truly keeps us upright and moving. But, we’ve been taught through years of incessant advertising and “expert” opinions that we need way more in life. It’s not just about survival, it’s all about having the bestest, newest, coolest, gadget on the market. A new vehicle, a big house, fancy furniture, cosmetics, appliances. The companies that make all this crap have also invented the needs to have them. And by hook or mostly by crook, through the use of tried and true techniques, they’ve convinced us that life just ain’t worth living without their products.

You’ve seen the ads, we all have. How could you miss them? Celebrity endorsements, fake doctors, scientists, or other “experts” touting the finer points of a product. The promise, real or implied, that this product will somehow make your life worth living. The opposite sex will come crawling and begging to mate with you. Average people in the street will stop and gape in awe and envy at your obvious superior choice in products. You’ll be able to defy the laws of physics, halt the aging process, and solve all of life’s petty little problems just by buying the right brand name. Eh….not really.

By the way, the most common sales tactic used is something called, features and benefits. It is the first thing anyone learns when they take a sales class. Features and benefits are literally drilled into the subconscious mind of any sales person on the planet. The concept is simple. A feature is what the product or service has, the benefit is what that feature can do for you as the consumer. For example: take the fritterisms widget up there on the top of the sidebar. The feature? Every time you refresh the page a new saying comes up. The benefit? You get a laugh or maybe you think a little bit. It’s really very simple and a very effective sales tool. It can be applied to any product or service. The next time you watch an ad or listen to sales spiel, listen for things like “It has this. Which does this!”. Or some variant of those phrases. All it means is the sales weasel is using features and benefits to create a need in your mind for the product or service in question, and by doing so, close the sale.

Now don’t get me wrong here. There are tons of things out there that come in pretty handy for staying alive. The wheel comes to mind for one. Whoever came up with that one was the Apple Inc. of their day. And speaking of which, how about my little mini Apple store I got in my bag of tricks. I couldn’t blog, write, work on apps, or do a lot of things without my iPhone/iPad/MacAir. They all contribute to making life a bit easier. But dependent on those products to survive? I lived for over 50 years without them. I suspect if I had too, I could handle another 50 years without them again. It’s really all a matter of comfort levels and other things beyond the basics of life itself.

While the idea of just roaming about the land nekkid and living off twigs and berries does have a certain appeal sometimes, we’ve managed to create a more complicated lifestyle for our species. And we’ve gotten used to some of the comforts that lifestyle has created. But still, the constant barrage of advertising. The insistence that life simply cannot be lived without having this or that. It’s really gotten out of hand.

I like to think that I’ve managed to get out of the line of fire of all that essentials crap. I’ve been on both sides of the fence around the consumerist cow pasture. For years I stood knee deep in the side of the fence where the cow patties drop with regularity. Like others on that side of the fence, I’d freely reach down and grab a big bite of whatever fresh pattie dropped within my reach. Now, I like to think I’m on the other side of the fence. I can still smell the pattie side but now I can scrap all those essentials off my shoes and walk around in some fresh clean, minimalist grass for a change. Sure, once in a while a stray pattie makes it over the fence, but I am better equipped to avoid it now. And the further I can get away from the fence, the fewer patties come my way.

So what cow patties, er…life essentials have I rid myself of and yet still live today, defying the odds? Quite a bit actually. Here are some of the more “essential” things…

A house or property. I sold my last property 10 years ago and I have no desire to ever own another house or property again, be it a tiny house or whatever. Had I kept my original house I purchased back in 1989 it would be worth less today than what I bought it for. Factor in mortgage interest, constant upkeep and improvements and that $45,000 house would be $200,000 in the hole right now. Literally, I could go back now and buy back that place for less than what I paid for it 34 years ago. They say a house is the best investment you could ever make. Yeah, how is that working out these days?

A vehicle. I’ll admit, I miss the jeep. But not in the way you think. That jeep I had was a fun vehicle to drive. I loved the look of it, it was fun to bang around in, but then, I’ve always been a fan of jeeps. I owned three of them over the years. This last one I owned for 5 years and it was by far the best vehicle I ever owned. But miss it in terms of money? No. I don’t miss vehicle ownership. The insurance, the fuel costs, the license, the traffic, the over bearing law enforcement. I won’t say I’ll never own another vehicle, but as long as I’m living on an island, it’s not an essential item. I’m quite happy without it. No worries about where to park, corrosion, vandalism, or having it stolen.  The cost of fuel has very little importance to me right now.  The trade off of the convenience factor is more than worth the monetary expenditures. I also never want to have to deal with a car dealership ever again in my life. They are the lowest of the low. If you want to get a feel for how a car dealership actually functions go find the movie, “Suckers“. Forget the Hollywood ending, this movie is scary accurate in how it portrays a car dealership. Watch it and you may never buy another vehicle again.

Television. It’s been 6 years since I owned a tv. I still shudder when I think of how many years I wasted sitting in front of that damn thing. I spent hundreds of dollars on satellite dishes, subscriptions and more and what do I have to show for it, nothing. I’ve railed on the evils of tv in the past. Infantile programming that insults the intelligence of all who watch it. Unimaginative reality shows, formula cops and robbers, formula doctor and lawyers shows, and the constant barrage of advertising. In your face, no apologies, blatant lying advertising. The only thing I watch now is football and I can go to a local watering hole for that. And even then, I’m reminded as to why I don’t own a tv any more and never will.

Credit card. A little over a year ago I paid off my last credit card and closed the account. I’ve had no use for one since. I use a debit card and while it has some restrictions I do know that when I swipe the card and enter my pin number, the transaction is done. No bill will come in next month. No low monthly payments. No predatory interest rates. I may well need to get a credit card again someday but I doubt it. This last one left a very pungent cow pattie taste in my mouth that I still detect a year later.

Furniture. When I moved into the apartment I currently reside in I had no furniture. The apartment had a table and two resin chairs, plus a desk. I went out and bought a thin mattress for a bed and left it at that. Two months later some neighbor threw out a perfectly good futon frame and mattress. I now have a bed. This past weekend somebody threw out a perfectly good usable office chair. I now have a chair. Cost…$0.00.

Appliances… Like the table and desk, the apartment came with a fridge, microwave, and toaster oven. If they break I’ll replace them. When I leave, they stay behind.

Soap and shampoos. I stopped using soap and shampoo last fall. When I shower it’s all just clean water. My hair looks and feels ten time better and I’ve noticed no difference in how my skin looks. That whole cosmetics industry is one of the biggest scams out there.

Beer and booze. I quit drinking in 1998. I’ve had no desire to drink again. When I was drinking there was not one single time where I met any of the beautiful wimmen depicted in the beer commercials. I want my money back.

So as you can see, I’ve managed to live without quite a few of the essential things that our society demands we need to survive.  Despite the dire warnings of the advertisers I’m still out there dodging the cow patties and living just fine thank you.   As I’ve said in the past, the more things I got rid of, the more I found I could function better without them. I doubt I’ll ever get back to completely living off the land without anything but I’ve sure made a dent in those things I don’t need.  It’s been a very cleansing experience.

How about you? What are you finding that you can live without these days? Quite a bit I bet. You would be surprised at just how much more you don’t need to survive. All you have to do is rid yourself of those things and see for yourself.

Capt. Fritter

The feature of this post was to point out those things you don’t need to live with.

The benefit is you now know you don’t need those things to live with.

Less is more.

  One Response to “Living without the “essentials”…”

  1. Our current apartment came unfurnished and, because we were moving into it from a motorhome, we didn’t own any furniture. We went to IKEA and bought two comfy chairs and an end table to hold our books and beverages, a kitchen tables and chairs, a desk to hold all our office stuff because the table we bought is too small to double as a desk, a bed because I cannot get up from the floor, and a dresser because the closet shelves are too high for me to store my clothes there. We live here just fine, thank you very much.

    I don’t need a TV. Lived without one for a long time. My husband, however, loves movies so he bought a big screen TV to watch his movies on. I’m OK with that because it adds to his perceived quality of life.