Image based on an original (under CC-license) by mikebaird @ Flickr
The aim of this week was to ‘divest’ myself of unnecessary things. It wasn’t so much a move to live more cheaply or simply, but to establish a flow. Let me explain.
Take, for example, books. I tend to buy quite a few, usually when I see them on offer or at a second-hand bookshop. I’ve a huge number of books I’m yet to read, but what of those that I have read and don’t love enough to buy in hardback? Previously, the languished on my shelves, taking up space just in case I ever wanted to read them again.
Now I’ve got a flow. Books come in as they did before. Those that I love are bought in hardback. But those that previously languished now move on. To be sure, there will some that I’ll re-buy. But that’s worth freeing up a large amount of space for!
Now that we’re back in Northumberland I’m closer to Barter Books in Alnwick. They have a ‘two carrier bag per week’ limit on taking books for which you can gain credit. I took about half of the ones I want to get rid of the other day and managed to gain enough credit to get a rather nice three-volume boxed set of the Domesday Book (yes, that one – I’m a History teacher!)
I’ve kept about 15 DVDs. Most of those I haven’t seen, with only a few that I’m likely to want to keep on watching on a regular basis – North By Northwest, Monty Python & The Holy Grail to name buy two. I’ve decided to get rid of all of my CDs. Even the limited edition ones. The future is in services such as Spotify almost every track under the sun to wireless devices. I shall be investing the proceeds of my CD collection in buying a year’s Premium membership of Spotify.
I’m delighted that I’m now running almost all Open Source and free software on my Macbook Pro – I’ve no pirated stuff on there at all. I’m not checking email for the first hour after waking up and not looking at screens for the hour before sleeping. That’s going quite well. The expected revolt over my change in blog design hasn’t happened, thankfully. 🙂
Last but not least is the small matter of the competition winners of the domains http://edte.ch and http://elearnr.org. I’ll no doubt get accused of bias, especially given Richie Laurence’s impressive entry, but I’ve decided to go for the following:
edte.ch – Tom Barrett
elearnr.org – Dave Stacey
Why? Because I know the domains will be used in a fantastic way. Whilst I was very tempted to name Richie as the winner of edte.ch, Tom’s been talking about moving his site away from Edublogs for so long that I thought he needed some stimulus to do so! 😉
Many thanks to those who entered and for the kind comments about the existing content at http://elearnr.org. Additional thanks to those who have joined me on my journey this week. That word – ‘journey’ – is used all too often these days to make things sound more interesting than they are. Perhaps that’s the case here! But for me, this has been a truly important week in my life. A time when decisions were made, stuck to and carried through to their logical conclusion.
If you’re reading this in a feed reader, you might want to click through or click on the images below.
A short post, this one. I’ve been working on-and-off for the past few weeks on a new blog theme courtesy of an excellent WordPress plugin by the name of Theme Test Drive. This allows administrators (i.e. me) see a different theme when they visit this blog than non-logged in visitors (i.e. you).
Some may say they prefer the old one. It’s certainly more ‘visual’. But I didn’t like the font and the amount of time it took to load. Serif fonts are much more pleasing on the eye and it’s certainly faster loading. Readers don’t have to click through to read the most recent post, and I don’t have to write a summary and crop pictures down to 90×90 to go next to that summary.
I read Dave Eggers’ book They Shall Know Our Velocity a few months back. In it, one of the main characters talks about the ‘slow suffocation of accumulation’ and seeks to give away a large amount of money. I’ve been feeling that suffocation recently, as I explained in the introduction to this week’s focus on ‘divesting’.
Way back in the sands of time (OK, less than 10 years ago) I was an undergraduate student in Sheffield I and I used to work part-time for HMV. I didn’t actually take home that much money as most of it was invested in DVDs and CDs. I even got 40% off the Sale stuff! I say ‘invested’ as I funded a large chunk of my living expenses whilst I was doing my MA at Durham University by selling part of my collection. Although not to the same extent, I did similar working at various bookshops both before and after university.
And therein lies the rub. I’ve been lulled into a belief that one should own a physical collection of DVDs, CDs and books. As though having a personal library somehow defines you, makes you look more intellectual, or even constitutes some kind of artistic statement. I’ve realised that’s not the case.
As I commented in my introduction to this series [link] I’ve been prompted recently into reflecting on my relationship to ‘stuff’. I’ve realised that, having moved house twice within 18 months, I’ve spent a great deal of time and physical labour moving things I will not watch, listen to or read for a very long time. Yet I’m responsible for it. I’d be upset if it were stolen or I lost it for some reason. Why?
So I’ve decided that it’s going. “What, all of it?” I hear you ask. As far as I see it, there are two approaches I could take:
The over-the-top, ‘throw the baby out with the bathwater’ approach.
The Pragmatic approach.
Pragmatism is a philosophical approach and method that I’m applying in my Ed.D. thesis. To summarise very briefly and in relation to what I’m talking about here, it holds that for something to make a difference, it has to make a difference in practice. For example, a book may have had a profound impact on my way of conceiving the world and my development as a person. That doesn’t mean it has to sit on my shelf. I may really, really, love a particular album. That doesn’t mean I have to own the physical CD as opposed to a digital version. The same goes for DVDs.
But I need to be careful or I could end up trading one problem for another. In divesting myself of physical clutter I could gain, as it were, ‘digital clutter.’ This is something I shall be discussing and wrestling with later in the week.
What’s my plan, then, to deal with physical media? It’s a fairly straightforward 4-step process:
Anything I can, and feel should, replace with a non-physical version (e.g. CDs, DVDs) I shall do.
Any book I haven’t yet read or DVD I haven’t watched stays until I have done so.
Those physical objects that are collectors items, worth more than a nominal value and fit into one box I shall keep as they are likely to gain in value. I can then sell these when Ben is older to add to his trust fund.
I can’t seem to find the exact clip I want online, but there’s an episode of the Simpsons where Homer eats a chilli pepper and hallucinates. He eats it at the Springfield fair where Otto has hippy-like booth encouraging people to “Simplify, man…”
It’s amusing because we’ve all come across the stereotype of the zealot who wants everyone else to live their lifestyle. They sing its praises and assume that as it’s a lifestyle they enjoy and value that it’s both more appropriate and morally superior to others. In the Simpsons clip it’s a lifestyle defined by the mantra ‘simplify.’ What I’m interested in this blog post – and, in fact, this week – is not merely the ambiguous call to simplify one’s lifestyle, although what I’m going to do could be seen to be a constituent part of that. I’m going to spend a week divesting.
The best definition of ‘divest’ that I’ve found comes from Wiktionary:
To strip, deprive or dispossess oneself of something (such as a right, passion, privilege or prejudice).
What prompted this?
I subscribe to a number of podcasts that I listen to whilst driving. One of these is a Radio 4 programme called Beyond Belief. I caught the end of it when it was broadcast live and then listened to the podcast on my way to the National Christian Football Festival the weekend before last. This particular programme was about poverty and whether or not, especially in this time of recession, it could be seen as a good thing. I was particularly struck by what the Jainist monk had to say.
As my wife will attest I have, at several times during our marriage, talked of ‘getting rid of everything’ as I felt it was weighing me down. The Jainist spoke about this directly, and mentioned a poem [find poem] about a prisoner locked in a cage. This prisoner pleaded to his captors now and again. However, his pleading was not to be released from the cage, but simply to have a newer and shinier one. The Jainist likened this to being in the thrall of collecting material objects and wealth.
After the programme, and unusually for me as I like my music, I spent the rest of the journey in silence, contemplating. I reflected upon my new job, my Dad being half-way across the world, and my wife’s accusative statement the other day that all my son sees me do is ‘go on the computer.’ I realised that there’s stuff getting in the way of that which is important. I need to get rid of that stuff.
Why are you telling me this?
It would, of course, be quite possible to ‘divest’ quietly and with only my immediate family knowing about it. After all, as Jesus said, we should not let our left hand know what our right hand is doing. Am I showing off or attempting to garner praise?
Not at all. There’s three reasons why I want to document my actions and the thoughts behind them:
Sharing what I’m thinking and what I’m up to comes naturally to me.
I’m human and therefore weak. I may not actually go through with it unless I’m accountable to someone or something.
Perhaps you or someone you know wants to do something similar. This may give you ideas or lend support.
This week, therefore, I’ll be writing blog posts focusing on the following:
The final blog post of the week will be my reflections on whether it’s all gone to plan!
Are you weird?
I expect some of you reading this will assume that I’ve had some kind of re-religious conversion, especially given the references above. That’s not the case. This is purely a secular decision to reclaim some mental and physical space.
Some might think that I’ve turned into a Luddite. Far from it! It’s hardly likely given my new official job title is ‘Director of E-Learning.’ There’s a difference between recognising the appropriate use of technology and being the equivalent of a dog chasing shiny cars.
Others may consider that this is simply a fancy way of saying I’ve got too much stuff in my house and it’s time for a clear-out. Actually, the opposite is true, actually. We’ve moved house recently to a larger property. Compared to others, our house looks quite spartan.
Have you gone through or thought about something similar to this? If so, I’d like to hear about your experiences. Again, I’d like to point out that I’m not doing this for the back-slapping or to be praised. It, like many things I do, is an experiment. I hope it pays off!