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A personal dilemma - Arvind Narayanan's journal [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

A personal dilemma [Sep. 11th, 2007|01:36 am]
Arvind Narayanan
[Current Mood |tiredtired]

A little over a year ago I made this comment somewhere on lj (I paraphrase; lj is utterly useless at finding old stuff):
Although I gave up Hinduism, and although I'm more or less Americanized in most things, my Hindu upbringing has definitely left its mark on me. I adhere to a somewhat Spartan lifestyle, as opposed to one that I perceive as materialistic or even at times hedonistic -- I own very little, and in particular no furniture, which I rent it along with the apartment. I believe I can pack all my belongings into three suitcases.
Since then, I've accrued a significant quantity of crap without realizing it (especially electronics. I have no idea why I need four power strips and a half dozen ethernet cables. And nine pairs of footwear? Any more and I'd be competing with women.) Last week I bought a bunch of furniture. This was the last straw -- moving takes on an entirely different meaning when you own furniture. I can no longer imagine myself a nomad, a free spirit, with no physical ties to anyplace.

The Spartan lifestyle, or whatever you want to call it, is something I've always strongly believed in. On the other hand, I must admit that the things I own now have made the mundane labors of daily life far less painful. (In particular, without my ergonomic chair and computer desk, I'm sure my carpal tunnel symptoms would rapidly get worse.)

This puts me in a crisis. Passively accept that I'm too weak to live my beliefs, or try to fight it? If the latter, how?

Have you faced a similar crisis? How did you handle it?

[User Picture]From: annamaryse
2007-09-11 07:10 am (UTC)
It may seem like a rationalization, but it seems that accrual of STUFF is part and parcel (no pun intended) of being part of this culture, and it is unrealistic to not be where you are... BE HERE NOW... so to speak.

BF and I realized that all of a sudden he owned 10 pairs of pants! We pride ourselves in having a simple and serviceable car in a culture that enjoys excess in that department, and we both care about avoiding excess in general, yet we end up facing the fact that it is so easy to become a pack rat.

To say, "Well, this might be useful some day." I think the trick for me is to know that when I am saying that to myself, that's the day I know this item would be useful to SOMEONE ELSE right now and then I pack it up and take it to donate it.

We just bagged and boxed up a metric tonne of stuff (so it felt!) over this past weekend. Routinely, I clean, fold, and donate clothes to the Goodwill. I need new stuff to keep my position at work, when things are no longer new but still serviceable, I donate them and pass them on.

I have a rule now: if I didn't use it last year and it's still here and still looks useful, it can go. I read craigslist's wanted column and whenever I see someone asking for something I know I have and no longer need, I answer them and tell them to come and get it.

We've given away computers and stereo equipment and right now have two scanners and a retired G4 Tower in the hallway to give away. I do the same thing with those bottles one can recycle for change - I leave them on the balcony until it looks like a car load and then I advertise on craigs for someone to come take them away.

As for furniture, we found most of it on the street or bought it used for pennies on the dollar, so when we move, it's easier to let it go as well.
When we make a big move like we did last time, craigslist again, was our friend. And indeed, when we needed a new fridge Craigslist was there for us too... and the fridge we live with today came to us free for the pickup/taking of it... at a time when we could not have afforded one to save a life.

So... let it in, let it back out again, and just remember to remain bemused.

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[User Picture]From: annamaryse
2007-09-11 07:18 am (UTC)
P.S. BF offers the following strategy:

"My life became much easier when I simply accepted that I'd sold out."

P.S.S. And we bought him an 11th pair of pants tonight.
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[User Picture]From: arvindn
2007-09-11 03:29 pm (UTC)
That was really helpful!

Thanks for taking the time to post that.
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