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Switching from consumerism to freedom

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A second hand clothes shop in Brussels

This week, I read an interesting article about digital nomads in the Belgian economic magazine, Trends-Tendances. In this article, an IT entrepreneur explains that he decided to work as a digital nomad, in order to break the routine, to visit other countries and discover new things that can feed your knowledge and creativity. Before to start this new life, he decided to sale all the stuff he did not need anymore. His conclusion was that such decision has a liberating effect.

In his book How to be idle, Tom Hodgkinson, a British writer and editor of “The idler”, explains that he decided one day to leave London and to live in the country in a farm, and to adopt a simpler lifestyle, avoiding consumerism.  In his book, he explains that our current society is based on consumerism, and that we spend time doing a job not always enjoyable, in order to reimburse debts.

I mention these two examples, because I experienced the same thing few months ago.  As freelance consultant and interim manager, I decided to redirect my activities in another segment of business, working for SME instead of big and multinational companies. Like any business you start, it takes time to build a portfolio of customers, and when you have the first contact with a potential customer, it takes few months before to conclude an collaboration agreement, if the customer decides to contract your services.

In order to prepare this new activity on financial level, I set up a budget. In one of the different scenarios, counting on a low level of revenue, I reviewed each line of expenses in order to cut what was not necessary. A huge expense item I cut was the car expenses. In Brussels where I live, the public transportation is the most efficient way to move. In a precedent article, I explained how I made my time profitable by using public transportation by reading books. By using public transportation modes, owning a car that most of the time was parked along the sidewalk, was expensive and totally useless. As in many cities, I can use car sharing systems too, and I have the chance too to share a car with a family member.  One of my thoughts and my feeling about such decision was too a liberating effect.

How to explain this liberating effect? In this transition period, as far as the trend is on line with my budget, I have more time to do things to prepare the future, more time to do things I like to do. I take this opportunity too to meet people in order to expand my network, to do self-training sessions to expand my knowledge. At the end of the day, I have the feeling to get more satisfaction about what I did during the day.  The result of this brainstorming is to focus on doing things I like the most. But what about the revenue generated by this new activity. Will it be the same than previously? Probably not as the available budgets in SME are not comparable with large companies and the duration of assignments will be shorter.

How to deal with this constraint? There, I come back to the two examples I mentioned to begin this article. The IT entrepreneur sold his stuff before to switch to his nomad worker career, and noticed that he did not use the three quarters of what he had in his cupboards.  Another way to say that most of the time, we buy stuff because we are influenced by ads, by modes, by marketing, by the feeling to make a good deal, but not by real necessity.  Same finding done by Tom Hodgkinson. We are buying things we don’t really need and for some purchase are made on credit, generating interests. So people are obliged to take any job they don’t like in order to reimburse debts. They are slaves of the consumerism, of a stupid consumerism. Of course, each of us we consume products and services, but there are interesting alternative to consume smartly.  Buy what you really need. Buy second hand stuffs, it is good for the planet and for your wallet.

Finally, the question is to know if consumerism is a barrier to freedom, and if yes how to switch from consumerism to freedom?  It is a difficult process but not impossible to implement. It takes time to switch from our habits to other habits. The key of the process is motivation. As we need to work to earn money, the question is do you work only to earn more and more money or do you want to have a work  you enjoy and where you can develop yourself? Is the quality of your work more important than the fact to own a big car? What is really important in your life, what bring you satisfaction and pleasure? It only depends from your own choice, it is your own decision.  The decision to become an actor, the actor of your own life, and not only a consumer, but a smarter consumer.

Written by Eric Saint-Guillain

December 17, 2018 at 08:23