The joy of less

17 January 2020

Sometime in June last year, I found myself looking around at the stuff that my husband and I have amassed over a 20-year period and wondered how on earth we were going to pack up our lives and start fresh in New Zealand.

The stuff

There was the garage; full of all the random stuff that over the years I had tactfully suggested didn’t belong in the house – like the fishing rods, the tools, brewery equipment, spare Land Rover tyres, extra beds etc. It was filled wall to wall. Three cars, an off-road camping trailer, a standard trailer, and a food truck. And a 2-person kayak, and a 2-person inflatable kayak. And the bicycles, and gym equipment!

Let’s not forget the additional storage unit we rented, as well as the other storage room underneath the stairs where we stored all the other stuff. A five-bedroom house filled with more stuff than we could possibly use. All of which had to be sorted into stay, go, or give away piles.

After we had filled up a 20ft container with all our worldly possessions, we started giving stuff away. From full grocery cupboards full of food and two chest freezers full of meat to kitchen stuff, linen and clothes. Oh my gosh…bags and bags full of clothes were given away.

I cannot begin to think of the cost and wasted money that we have spent over the course of two decades.

You see, we are those people who want to camp in luxury and always invite newbies along, so “don’t worry, we have an extra tent, and stretchers and sleeping bags”. And we are the entertainers that can easily accommodate 25 guests without having to borrow additional cutlery.

I would also diligently buy the household groceries once a month, regardless of whether or not we still had a whole freezer full of meat, enough toiletries for a year and spices for a village. I was being ‘budget conscious’.

A fresh start

We arrived in Wellington with a suitcase each. We rented a home, and we needed some basic items to tide us over until our container arrived 6 weeks later.

We borrowed 2 lonely single foam mattresses from a friend, and off we went to the Sallies.  What an amazing place! We bought 4 plates, 4 glasses, 2 couches, 1 double bed, 2 camp chairs and felt like kings.

I bought a few kitchen and bedding basics from Kmart and we were set. We rented a TV and washing machine from Mr Rental, and my boss gifted us a few bedside tables and chest of drawers.

We were playing house in our new house!

I was enjoying the absolute serenity of not having a lot of stuff. For the first time in my adult life, I felt like I could breathe in my own home. And I never realised that I felt stifled by the sheer volume of tangible goods. Because I thought that I had applied judgement whenever I bought anything new.   

And then the container arrived

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All of my previous crap was back, it had followed us! From the sentimental items and family heirlooms, to boxes and boxes of clothes and kitchen items.

But I’ve learnt the joy of less. Of the 6 boxes of clothes that were mine, I donated 3 to Sallies. Of the 24 wine glasses and dessert bowls, I kept only 6. If any item of furniture looked like it was going to take up space without being used, we donated it.

I no longer do grocery shopping on a schedule. I only buy what we need, and whilst I’m aware of the budgetary pitfalls that may cause, I manage most days to stick to the list (apart from a random pack of Tim Tams that mysteriously appear in my trolley).

I’ve acknowledged that I definitely use retail therapy as a reward or to brighten my mood. Even if my mood is bright already. As an example, Pandora launched a Harry Potter collection of charms last year, and I decided I needed All. Of. Them.

Luckily, my budget didn’t stretch quite that far... 


New decade, new me

The new 2020 me has changed her approach. If I reach my monthly savings goal (and not dip back to it sometime during the month) I may reward myself with one new charm at the end of the period.

I love how New Zealanders aren’t status conscious. Before, I was privileged to drive beautiful cars, but the debt was killing me. Now, I drive a 2006 Mom van, and we bought it with cash. It’s such a relief not to have finance payments.

I also have no debt. No credit cards, no store-cards, no cell phone contracts. We still have various financial commitments in our previous country, which means we need to balance two budgets, but we manage.

For the first time ever, we have been able to save and we diligently stick to it. There is peace that comes from the knowledge that you have a bit of breathing room.

As a treat, we still go out as a family, but we make more conscientious choices. For example, as our boys are teenagers, we’ve realized that they actually don’t enjoy going out with Mom and Dad to restaurants anymore, so now we do different activities with them. It’s more about spending quality time together – e.g. watch a Phoenix match, and we can save eating out for Dad and me.

My life lessons

Moving countries isn’t for the faint hearted! It takes time to adjust to your new home. But it’s been liberating in many ways. The key things I’ve learnt from this process:

  1. Declutter and donate
  2. Delay gratification – depending on the item, make yourself wait at least two weeks before buying anything
  3. Set savings goals for every pay period – with a little carrot for reaching them!
  4. Identify suitable treats for your family that promotes quality over quantity.
  5. If you are considering liquidating any of your assets, speak to a Financial Adviser about options of where to invest your new-found cash
Michelle Author

By Michelle Calitz

Michelle is the Senior Commercial Manager at Booster. She loves exploring Wellington surrounds with her husband and 2 boys, and weekend afternoon naps are non-negotiable, as well as squeezing in at least one fictional novel a week.