Thursday, July 06, 2017

A weird chat with my hairdresser

I've been going to the same suburban Canberra hairdressing salon for about fifteen years. The staff are lovely (and know me by name), they know how I like my hair done, they don't try to sell me unwanted products and their prices are reasonable. (Much better value than in the Canberra CBD.)

Anyway, y'know how small talk is obligatory while having one's hair done? Earlier this week I had my hair cut and the hairdresser mentioned that she'd recently had her jewellery cleaned (free of charge) at a local jeweller's shop. She asked me whether I did the same and I rather sheepishly replied that I don't own much jewellery. Indeed, that I'm not a fan of 'stuff'. The conversation became a bit odd after that. Something like this:

Hairdresser: You don't want jewellery? Don't tell your partner that!
Me: Oh, he knows. He doesn't like accumulating clutter either. We haven't given each other tangible gifts in years. [We do give each other e-book vouchers and take fancy-pants holidays together.]
Hairdresser: What about clothes?
Me: I try not to buy more than twelve items of outerwear (including footwear) each year.
Hairdresser: What?! We need to go shopping!
Me: Noooooo ... I'd rather have one great item of clothing than a hundred crappy items.
Hairdresser: But you could have a hundred great items!
Me: No. I don't want to clutter my house with unnecessary stuff.
Hairdresser: [No words. Just a puzzled expression.]

Hairdresser: What about when you need new furniture?
Me: Well, we've owned most of our furniture for decades. It meets our needs so we probably won't ever need to buy more.
Hairdresser: [Simply looked horrified.]

The exchange reminded me that not everyone lives the way we do. People tend to think of minimalism and frugality as denying oneself pleasure, or being cheap or stingy. That's not what those things mean to me. Minimalism means being absolutely conscious about what we acquire. I don't buy things on whim, or to cheer myself up. I don't buy things because they're on special or in fashion. Everything I own has a place and a purpose. Being frugal doesn't make me a cheapskate or ungenerous; it allows me to live in a tiny house (you don't need heaps of storage if you don't have heaps of stuff) and to save money for more important and enjoyable things. Like supporting good causes, travelling to exotic locales, and retiring sooner rather than later.

Anyway, while I was still pondering the question: am I weird? and realising the answer is probably yes, I stumbled across an apt article in today's Sydney Morning Herald. Entitled The Seven Secrets to Happiness from the Dismal Science, the article notes that 'the past decade has seen an explosion in economic research designed to uncover what truly makes us happy'. The seven 'secrets' listed are:

  1. Have a high income
  2. Be in control of your finances
  3. Spend money on experiences
  4. Buy yourself time
  5. Spend money on others
  6. Nurture strong relationships
  7. Have a sense of purpose

Most of these tie in nicely with frugality and minimalism. Maybe I'm not so weird after all.

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