Less is more

Gofaone Nina Tladi

When I was a child, my friend and I played a game where we would fantasise about our lives in the future, “This is going to be my house, this is going to be my car and my family!” We would fight over who would have the house or whatever else was on a certain page and so we agreed that going forward, as we sat next to each other, the page in front of you and its contents were yours.
Fortunately, we took turns having not so awesome things on the page- that was the rule and we stuck to it. We slowly realized that certain magazines had more happy things to aspire to on both sides of the pages. Joy and I had the solution to conflict resolution at the tender age of six. Growing up it was engrained in me that I would go to school, get good grades, get a high paying job and have all the other sides- a big, fancy house, car and a place where I could see all my money, a closet full of designer clothes, jewellery and perfumes. Americans call it the American Dream and I think the American culture of excess is so engrained in us, we have adopted it as our own. We want the big house, the fancy car, the killer wardrobe and Instagram worthy vacations, because, how else will the “haters” know that you are winning in life? Four of my friends have in the past 3 weeks been in Paris, Spain, Italy, America, Dubai and Abu Dhabi. I would like to think of myself as happy for others but like my friends’ four-year-old daughter would tell you, “I just got so emotional, I tried but my emotions got the better of me.” I stayed fixed on my friends’ Instagram pages, filling their comments sections with heart eyed emojis and amidst the “Yes, Moghel, live your best life!” I felt an ache to go on vacation, anywhere with a beach.
The slow demise into jealousy was brought to a screeching halt by my YouTube recommendations list, which is filled almost exclusively with getting out of debt, budgeting, saving and establishing good money habits videos, as ke ipaakanyetsa botshelo. YouTube introduced me to Brian Nicodemus and Joshua Fields, The Minimalists. I even watched their documentary on Netflix. I heard story after story of people with very high paying jobs and all the stuff we aspire to have, quit their jobs, sell majority of their belongings and began to live a more meaningful life with less stuff thus enabling them to do the things they had always wanted to do as opposed to amassing more stuff.
I finished watching the documentary and silently scoffed at them because they clearly had it all and could take such a leap. I immediately watched a standup comedy and put it at the back of my mind. A few days later I got a notification on my phone. I get these random notifications from my photo gallery of pictures side by side that I took a year apart. The picture that came up was of me in a dressing room trying on a very pretty yellow dress. I looked so pretty and visibly happy in this new dress, a dress I just had to have. It stung me because this dress that I had bought for nearly a thousand pula had only been worn less than a handful of times in a year. I immediately realised that I was constantly buying stuff to make me feel better, dresses galore and lipstick. My colleague who sells Avon would tell you that I am her best customer. I remember buying eight lipsticks at a time because I “needed” all of them. I get upset at my mother for taking my lipsticks, but the truth is I only realise it’s not with the rest when I see it in her bag.
I made the decision then to adopt minimalism and declutter my life. I took all of my clothes and was honest with myself about how often I wore each item. There were dresses I had bought on sale because I would lose weight and look fierce in and clothes I had had great memories in and wanted to keep. It was so hard for me, but I did it and decided to give everything I hadn’t worn away to someone who would use these things which had been in storage for months. I decided then and there to be more mindful about the stuff I had spent so much money on and how I believed I couldn’t live without. In my journey to financial freedom, I have come to the conclusion that money exposes who you really are, whether you struggle for it or have a lot of it. You cannot deal with money issues without dealing with internal issues like trust, pride, identity and plain old not feeling good enough. I have since vowed to not purchase any new clothes until December for my friend’s wedding. I went to close my store account, which allowed me credit in excess of P12 000, since I was such a great “payer”. I cut ties with my Avon connect and entrusted my credit card to my friend who may or may not have cut it up as she refuses to give it up.
As I spend less and less time shopping for another white blouse, or in restaurants and going out, it is very lonely but it has allowed me to introspect and truly realise how little I need to make me happy: coffee, my work and the love and support of friends and family. I am happier with less, from clutter to clarity. There is a lot of money invested in keeping us hooked on the high of the purchase, which slowly undermines the decision to change your life. Minimalism is hard, it’s lonely and you stay out of style but it is worth it, learn how to be content. I now spend less time obsessing about what to wear thus saving my first good decision of the day towards something more meaningful and I have made small, significant steps to my own financial freedom which also includes unfollowing pages that make me feel like I am failing at life.
The late Kofi Annan said, “To live is to choose. But to choose well, you must know who you are and what you stand for, where you want to go and why you want to get there.” I stand for a financially free Botswana, where we are not owned by stuff, suffocated by debt, pressured to look happy and seem rich to others but to be genuinely happy, content and wealthy- for generations to come.
PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent.