Today's guest post is from Tessa who is a good friend and fellow yogi. We often meet up for yoga, tea, cake and chats. Okay and sometimes Sweaty Betty mooching. Leave her some love in the comments below or find her on Instagram. - Jayne xo
I love stuff. I love my clothes, my gadgets, the furniture I fill my flat with, the jewelry I wear (and I wear a lot!) I’ve always been like this. I was brought up in a well-to-do middle class family who weren’t afraid to keep up with the Jones’s. We had a large house, a couple of cars, a playroom, a living room, another living room, big Christmas’s, lots of gifts, lots of new STUFF. Gosh it was exciting!
When I grew up I left home and moved to London, and I took my habit of collecting stuff with me. If you’ve never been I can tell you now - London is a fantastic place to buy things. Every single shop you can imagine is found in this vast city, and ideas of what you might want to buy next are everywhere. As soon as I left my house I would see the next thing I wanted to get - an ad for shoes on the side of a bus, some perfume on a billboard, tube stations were filled with inspiration. If a colleague invited me to the pub after work in the morning, by lunchtime I was on the high street buying a new outfit that I could change into later, heading to the pub with my head held high in a giddy post-purchase rush. My house was filled with matching flat-pack furniture, bags of expensive new make up, and enough shiny gadgets to make Santa’s elves jealous. Oh and this doesn't even take into account all the lovely stuff I had left at my Mum’s place after I moved out. Of course I couldn't get rid of any of it, but it didn't come with me to London because I wanted new. A new city and an exciting new life needs new stuff of course.
So I spent four years in London like this. Shopping, working, partying, collecting stuff, forgetting memories (usually thanks to the post-work pub invites)… and then suddenly, very suddenly, I burnt out. I burnt out hard! People deal with burning out in a lot of different ways, some don't deal with it at all. I chose to deal with mine by packing a rucksack, and getting on a jet-plane destined for a place far far away, New Zealand. But wait… what about my stuff? A rucksack is shockingly small when you suddenly have to get your entire life into it. I was going away to a country I had never been to before, with a working VISA and no return flight… and 99.9% of my stuff would have to stay behind. But something strange started to happen as I was faced with a house full of things that I couldn’t fit in my bag (not for a lack of trying though...) – the attachment I thought I had to a lot of my stuff began to disappear. The shiny flat-pack furniture that all matched went in a skip because that was easier than shipping it to Mum’s place. Bags and bags and bags full of clothes and shoes went to charity because there wasn't any room for them in the moving van. Things got chucked or sold, and even after this mass clear out I still put a small mountain of stuff in storage.
Then it was just my rucksack and me. One single bag I could carry on my back, that contained everything I would need to survive for an undisclosed period of time on the other side of the World. I didn't even register that I had slimmed my life down so dramatically, I don't think my brain could have coped with it if I had. I took my rucksack, got on that jet-plane and went away with it for two whole years. Two beautiful years.
In 2015 I returned to the UK, and I was greeted with the immense love (and probably relief) you only get from close family and friends. But I was also greeted by something a lot more daunting - the boxes full of things that had survived the pre-departure cull. Things that in all honestly by this point, I had completely forgotten I owned. I looked at it all slightly gobsmacked, and I suddenly realized I didn't give a crap about any of this stuff, it hadn’t helped me on the amazing journey I had just been on. It hadn’t had any bearing on the incredible experiences I had, or the beautiful people that I had met. The only stuff I gave a crap about was sat at my feet, in my rucksack. My previous obsession with this mountain of inanimate objects wasn't because I loved these things… I had had a fling with them. A whirlwind romance that hadn’t lasted the test of time. They were bought because of greed, boredom and my own silly insecurities. It wasn't love, it had just been a love affair.
So today as I sit here, and tell you I love the stuff I own now, I’m not dropping the L-bomb lightly. Of course I have a bit more than a rucksack-full since my return, it’s inevitable when you live in one place for a while, but every item I have is truly precious. I own one chest of drawers and I know every single piece of clothing that lives in it. I live in a small flat where every room gets used, every item of furniture has a story or a purpose, none of it would end up in a skip if I moved. Every gadget and appliance has been purchased after weeks (sometimes months..!) of research and debating, and its only bought when its predecessor has died with no hope of resuscitation. Everything gets mended, cared for, used and re-used, because I love them. I consume infinitely less that I did five years ago, and I am infinitely happier for it. And as the World’s population grows and our resources shrink (earlier this month we reached Earth Overshoot Day, the day where we exhaust the supplies our beautiful planet can provide for the year) I like to think Mother Nature prefers my new consumption habits too. I’m by no means perfect, but life is certainly a lot simpler and happier with a lot less stuff.
And the beloved rucksack that started my mini-revolution? Of course I still have it. Its old and semi-retired, and spends a lot of time relaxing in the corner of my room. But I meticulously re-stitch it where it is fraying, replace the buckles on it that break, and a couple of times every year it comes out on an adventure with me just like it did all those years ago. The only difference now is, when I’m deciding whether to buy a new item to join my rucksack in my modest family of things I ask the object in question - ‘Do I need you in my life? Will I LOVE you for years to come? Or will you just be a love affair?’ If it's the latter it quietly gets put back on the shop shelf.
Tessa is a photographer, film-maker, environmentalist, outdoor enthusiast, yoga addict, and wellness and wellbeing advocate. British born, she spent several years working in London before heading off to experience a completely different life in New Zealand, where she worked as a marine mammal researcher and horse trekking mountain guide. She is currently residing in Bristol, UK, making wildlife documentaries for the BBC, and planning her next adventure to Central America in 2018.