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Tag Archives: Lifestyle
I was reading through my Lone Wolf & Cub manga the other day and I thought about a sentence in one of the books that goes along the lines of:
Poor man, half a mat, one bowl of rice a day.
Rich man, half a mat, one bowl of rice a day.
(By the way, Lone Wolf & Cub is one of the best samurai series I’ve ever read, if you’re into comic books.
It made such an impression on me as a kid of 10 reading them for the first time, that I credit them to having made me long to live up to those kinds of values: justice, equality, indifference to opinions, and staying true to what I believe in among other things)
It wasn’t until about the time that I eventually turned into becoming a selective minimalist, that it finally sunk in and made me realize what it meant and how I could use it for my own life.
Being richer just means you can afford to sleep in a fancy bed rather than on a cardboard mat on top of a warm grate on the streets.
Being richer, just means you eat higher quality food and can afford to buy organic.
Rich or poor, we all basically use the same amount of space to sleep on, and basically eat the same amount of food (you can’t eat more than what your stomach will hold, I’ve tried..!)
But how much space do we REALLY need?
Photograph I took of crammed together apartments in Macau
HOME BUYERS IN NORTH AMERICA SEEM TO BE IN NEED OF REALITY CHECKS
I’ve always gravitated towards watching Home and Garden Television (loving HGTV for me, started at a very young age) and over the years, I have wondered what is going on in the heads of people who say things like:
“3000 square feet? That is WAY too small for us [2 people and a dog]. We need at least 3 bathrooms and 5 bedrooms.”
“I DEFINITELY need a game room, an office for each of us, and a wine cellar, his and her walk in closets, his and her sinks, with a playroom for the kids, and a full guest house…”
“OMG look at how tiny this bedroom is! You can barely fit a California King-sized bed and all my furniture in here!”
[Reality check: The bedroom was the size of my studio apartment where I lived with BF, which was around 600 square feet]
My face during all of this: O_o
NOT FAULTING PEOPLE WHO CAN AFFORD THIS AND WANT IT
To be clear, I don’t really care if you want to spend 90% of your paycheque on a house you can’t really afford without the interest rates staying so low, and without that 20% down payment that you should really save up for before buying a home.
It’s your money, not mine.
(It’s also to your financial ruin, not mine.)
Did you know that the average long-term mortgage rate is 8.69%?
If you can’t afford a home that has an interest rate higher than current rates around 3.88% – 4%+, then you can’t afford that home.
Just look at the historical rates (we humans have short memories!)!
~30 years ago in 1983: 11.45% – 12.71% as a mortgage interest rate
Today’s numbers are positively shocking, considering how low they are.
If you know all of the above, and you are STILL able to afford that huge house even at an 8.69% interest rate over a period of 30 years, and you’re still able to save 25% of your income into retirement, by all means, go ahead!
BUYING THE HOME TO FIT THEIR FURNITURE
Another thing that made me snort in disbelief is when people say things like:
“This house has GOTTA fit my 60-inch wide screen TV!”
“This bedroom is NOT going to fit all of our furniture”
It makes me laugh because it seems like they’re buying a house to fit the furniture and their things, not the other way around.
It amuses me to no end.
IN SOME PARTS, A NORTH AMERICAN BEDROOM IS THE SIZE OF A HOME
In New York City, space is a premium — we rented a 500 square foot apartment for $5000 a month about a block away from Central Park.
That’s $10 per square foot in renting alone. Can you imagine BUYING it?
To put that into perspective, we stayed in a very nice area of Montreal in a 600 square foot apartment, paying $700 a month. That’s $1.17 per square foot, or about 9X less than in NYC.
Of course, true New Yorkers put up with either a long commute or a closet to call their home because they want to live in the “greatest city on Earth”.
(For the record, I didn’t enjoy living in NYC as much as I thought I would. It was exciting for the first few months but then became just like any other city, just with more places to spend your money (shops & restaurants), ill-maintained cabs with squealing brakes and trying to sidestep the constant rush of gawking tourists standing in your way when you’re trying to get to work.)
In addition, having traveled to Europe and Asia, and having stayed in what they called a “bedroom” because there was a tiny window in the 120-square foot hotel room, it makes you realize just how distorted our view of how large a home should be these days.
Note: These tiny hotel rooms were formerly APARTMENTS. Actual APARTMENTS of 120 square feet. They had a second level I think (loft), with a ladder.
Even a nice apartment in Paris with about 800 square feet of space came at a premium, not unlike NYC.
We may have all heard the statistics but it bears repeating again:
Homes have increased exponentially in the past, and in the 1950s, an average of 1100 square feet.
Today, an average home size is about 2349 square feet.
Can you imagine if you’re poor and living in the slums?
Whole families live in 400-square foot abodes, which includes a counter for the “kitchen” and a space in the corner for a “bathroom”.
Privacy? You can has none.
Beijing China: A photograph I took of someone working outside of her home.
Her restaurant is literally on the street. Note the menu to the left, and the water to the right.
SO HOW MUCH SPACE DO WE REALLY NEED?
Obviously my opinion doesn’t matter when it comes to how much space YOU think you need for yourself, but I reviewed my own needs and came up with this number as a guess from the way we’ve been living for the past while:
600 square feet for 2 people (quite a comfortable size in a studio apartment with a separate kitchen and bathroom).
Perhaps 800 square feet if we had 2 kids, which would include at least one separate bedroom for us (the kids can sleep in the living room and learn how to share).
Maximum: 1000 square feet if we want to get fancy and give 2 kids a room each.
(Right, like THAT is happening… Just kidding.)
This doesn’t sound like a lot of space to many, but it’s more than enough.
1000 square feet would do it.
I mean, it was certainly enough for folks in the 1950s!
WAIT, BUT YOU’RE AN ECCENTRIC MINIMALIST, SO THIS ISN’T A FAIR COMPARISON TO NORMAL PEOPLE!
I’ve stayed in plenty of homes and visited plenty of friends’ homes who have had about 1000 square feet for their entire family.
It felt rather spacious and “just enough space” rather than too much.
To further prove my point, my parents’ have a home that’s about 1500 square feet (er… perhaps more now that I think about it, closer to 2000 square feet, but let’s just say 1500 because I don’t know for certain other than the room sizes themselves), and they are definitely “normal”, with the emphasis on “normal” being that they’re certified border-line HOARDERS.
Note: This doesn’t include the garage, front yard or the backyard but no one lives there, because it’s part of the lot size.
From what I can see, at least half of it goes unused in terms of regular living purposes. The rest of the space is just storage for all their JUNK.
I’ve been casually observing their habits over the past few years, and came to this conclusion:
- Kitchen/Dining Area: 375 square feet
- Master Bedroom: 145 square feet
- Bathroom: 120 square feet
TOTAL USED SPACE: 640 square feet
The Kitchen/Dining Area is the hub of the house. My parents have an office in there, and basically spend about 80% of their waking hours in that room, doing work, eating, watching TV, etc.
( I too, spend 80% of my waking hours in the kitchen, because it’s near all the food and cooking going on, but that’s neither here nor there )
But let’s say that my parents use another room just to escape from each other once in a while, or maybe that room is for guests or an office space.
- Escape Bedroom / Office Space / Guest Room: 120 square feet
TOTAL USED SPACE WITH BONUS BREATHING ROOM: 760 square feet
About 750 square feet should do it nicely for a family with 2 kids, or a couple like my parents who need a little extra space to avoid having to bite each other when they’re feeling snarly.
Not including the hallways which probably add another 240 square feet.
Beijing China: A photograph I took of a family’s dining room on the street.
They live just inside that alley but there isn’t enough space to eat inside.
YOU’RE PAYING FOR THAT EXTRA SPACE, YOU KNOW..
That means that they’re paying about double the amount of room that they need (1500 square feet) to house their junk, when they only use about half, or 760-1000 square feet to live.
If you consider the price of houses these days around the $500,000 mark reasonably close to downtown Toronto (e.g. a half hour away), that’s $250,000 for storing your junk, and $250,000 to live.
Interesting, don’t you think?
I came to about the same space needs as a minimalist, versus my parents the Hoarders, the only difference is that I could be flexible and live with less space than 750-800 square feet (if I needed to, not that I might choose to do so), whereas they have too much junk to do that.
I think this is a pretty interesting exercise to go through, to see which rooms in the house you use, and how much space that is (if you’re anything like me, you should measure it and not eyeball the space..)
HOW MUCH SPACE DO YOU REALLY NEED?
Hong Kong is not exactly a Third World country, but it is not a country full of excesses like what I’ve been used to in North America even as a minimalist.
Traveling is one of the best educations a person can have, and I daresay it is far more valuable than going to college especially if you can’t make a decent living after all that student debt.
You don’t even need a lot of money to travel if you’re willing to stay in hostels and eat on the cheap.
(I have a whole rant on college building up in my head as we speak)
So far, this is what I’ve observed in Hong Kong in terms of necessity:
THEY DON’T OVER EAT OR EAT IN EXCESS
Being fat or obese here is a rarity, and it’s no small thanks to all the stairways, the tight spaces, public transportation that moves quite fast, and that people are not used to all-you-can-eat buffets.
They buy their food twice a day so that it is as fresh as possible for their lunch and their dinner, and they don’t really buy a lot of junk food.
A photograph I took in Hong Kong (2012) of a butcher in one of their outside wet markets
I do find the meat being outside, and not refrigerated being a health issue, but I guess if they haven’t died yet, it must be all right for a few hours….
The younger generation eats badly (I can see in their their pimpled, makeup-slathered faces), but I don’t see it as much in the older generation. They stick to their customs of boiled, steamed or fairly low fat foods.
There are old men here who are working past their 60s, with rock-hard abs and nary an ounce of fat in sight.
There is also a greater emphasis on tofu, vegetables, healthy soups in the morning (yuck, herbal soups make me gag), drinking teas and soy milk rather than soda.
They don’t eat unnecessarily, it seems. Or at the very least, they sure burn it off.
THE AVERAGE INCOME IS $1700 USD/MONTH
If you are willing to live far away from Hong Kong Island (or perhaps just across in Kowloon), you can grab a closet for about $300 – $500 USD / month.
If you want to live on the island (much like the island of Manhattan), it’ll run you about $2000 – $3000 USD / month.
What do we really need in a home, after all?
Due to necessity, they can’t really have a sprawling mansion, unless you are a millionaire many times over who can afford to live on The Peak.
SMALL, TIGHT SPACES ARE THE NORM
A photograph I took in Hong Kong just last week of some small apartments (2012)
For one thing, the hotel room I am in is 11 square meters. Yes. 11 square meters or 120 square feet.
Imagine walking in about 3 steps, and your bed is right there. No real space to manoeuvre.
Not even big enough for what some North Americans might call a decent-sized walk-in closet.
This hotel was a former apartment building, to be sure.
The ceilings are far too high, and we think that there used to be a ladder and a loft-space where you’d sleep up top, and a very small kitchen and living area where we now sleep.
I think it may have been apartments for singletons (the view is incredible), but I wouldn’t put it past the Chinese to live as a whole family in a space like this.
It made me think of how much space we’re all used to. When I watched HGTV, I would listen to people wrinkle their noses at a 2000 square feet, saying it was too small. They have NO IDEA what small is.
Even this is luxurious compared to how people in Japan live at times (hotel capsules, anyone?)
YOU DON’T CARE OR USE AS MUCH AS YOU THINK
As a traveler, you really start to realize that you just don’t care about how people see you. Out of necessity and for comfort, you simply don’t care.
Yes, I look like some crazy hobo, but I am making sure I don’t burn, and my feet don’t blister and hurt after 5 weeks of touring.
You also don’t use as much of what you packed as you think.
This is of course, what started my minimalism, but it’s so true.
I am currently living for 5 weeks on 3 tops, 2 bottoms, 1 pair of shoes and 2 pairs of socks (I rotate and wash nightly).
I’m thinking of cutting back on a top next time.
I am starting to see what I do and don’t use, which is helpful for packing the next time.
WHAT ELSE IS UNNECESSARY IN LIFE?
It started making me think about what else in my life was not really that necessary.
If people can live in 11 square meters (120 square feet) of space, and if I can live with just a few pieces of clothing (albeit a bit unhappily), we are certainly living with too much.
There is a lot of marketing noise about what to buy and how to live.
The worst I think, is the marketing of CLEAN.
These marketers would have you believe that you need anti-bacterial everythings, from towelettes to air fresheners just to live in this dirty, filthy world.
So why are all of the kids these days popping up with more and more allergies to everything under the sun?
Maybe it’s because we were ill-informed as to what an allergy really was, but I have a sneaking suspicion we are too clean as a society.
We need special, disposable, anti-bacterial towelettes to wipe down counters now, not some plain ol’ soap and warm water, which is in my (and many medical professionals) opinions that it is still THE BEST way to clean something.
Think about it — you wipe a counter with a towelette, that anti-bacterial stuff dries on it, your kid puts a sandwich on the counter afterwards (because children can be little piglets, as I once was) and ends up eating the chemicals from that towelette.
I find the following unnecessary for my life:
- Air fresheners — I do not need my home to smell like a basket of fruits exploded in a forest or that I am traipsing through a lavender field
- Detergents — I don’t use it 99% of the time; a little hot/warm water and agitation is enough
- Dryer sheets — My clothes aren’t full of static and I was once told that they use pig fat to give that nice, soft feeling
- Body washes — They really dry out my skin (I have eczema), so I use little shampoo if need be
- Antibacterial sanitizers — Kills 99.9% of germs, but not all germs are bad for you
- Cleaning agents — White vinegar, soap and warm water pretty much cures everything that ails
- Most face things — Under eye & wrinkle creams, I am a realist who doesn’t believe that stuff works
- A bed — I tried sleeping in a bed and felt uncomfortably high off the ground; I much prefer a Japanese futon
- Boxed and canned foods — It’s a luxury to be able to buy fresh food, let alone organic stuff
It’s kind of weird. I don’t buy ‘normal’ things that most North Americans buy, but I have electronic equipment up the wazoo.
WHAT DON’T YOU NEED IN YOUR LIFE?
Normally, I LOVE ordinary millionaire/rags-to-riches, stories on Dr. Stanley’s blog, but this entitled “Big House only after Big Wealth” made absolutely no sense to me.
….We paid off our first home ($165,000) within the first three years of our marriage…. Our goal? To be financially secure, have the home of our dreams and never have to worry about money again.
Each week our grocery shopping began at the 50% off rack and we basically learned to eat and appreciate what was on sale.
Should we even admit that one of us even keeps a teabag on a trivet to be used for exactly one week?
….[We[ live in a 1.8 million dollar home which we paid cash for. We have no credit card debt and have enviable cars also paid for in cash.
I think you get the idea of how frugal they are.
These people basically ate food that was almost rotten, and drank weak tea for 6 days to be able to save to buy a fancy mansion in a fancy neighbourhood, and to have the pleasure of driving a fancy car.
Sorry (okay I’m not really THAT sorry), but this doesn’t really make any sense to me.
Look, I applaud the whole saving bit — I think it’s fantastic that they’ve ‘made it’ and paid it all off in cash.
But why would you want to live like a pauper by cutting back on something as essential as food, or the simple pleasures of having a good strong cup of tea daily (it’s not even that expensive!!), just so you can live in some fancy million-dollar mansion and drive fancy cars?
Yes, I know. I love eating, and I especially have an affinity for delectable teas (loose leaf only, none of this teabag Red Rose junk), but STILL!
How is this life any different from someone doing it on credit? They too, eat junk and crap food, but look like they’re a million bucks.
Nice home, nice cars. What’s the point of all that? It’s just stuff.
I’d rather eat good (real) fresh food, have a real cup of tea that isn’t diluted 6 times over, and live in a modest home, driving a modest car, than to be that kind of millionaire who is showing off in the most conventional way possible, only having achieved it at the sacrifice of eating and drinking cheap crap for 20 years (or for 7300 days, if anyone is counting).
To me, they’ve lived a poor life, not a rich one.
(Although even poor people in countries like Portugal eat better than they do.)
BF pointed out last night that the taxes must kill them too.
2% (estimate) of $1.8M = $36,000 a YEAR in property taxes.
Not to mention the higher cost of utilities, maintenance to keep it looking pristine… it’s just a money suck that they may not be able to reasonably afford considering their jobs, and the fact that they really don’t have millions sitting around in the bank — it’s all in the house and cars.
Normally those ordinary millionaires on Dr. Stanley’s blog, are reasonable folk to me.
This one threw me for a loop.
I grew up middle-class, and didn’t want for the necessities, but I certainly wasn’t flying around in private jets with my friends or walking into a walk-in closet the size of most of apartments (flip through this Tumblr blog: The Rich Kids of Instagram shared by the lovely Bridget of Money after Graduation).
All of their wealth is just mind boggling.
I’m naturally (and humanly) envious of course (who wouldn’t be?) at the weekly massages, private jets, wonderful vacations and a general feeling of luxuriousness in their lifestyles.
…but then I started musing out loud to BF about their life, and I came to this conclusion:
It’d be boring to do nothing and shop all day.
I obviously can’t test these theories out, but I have experienced a small chunk of it with lifestyle inflation, where I start getting used to little luxuries and I can’t go back to to the lower quality or lesser frequency of whatever I had treated myself to before.
So having all this money, being able to buy whatever you want.. this is all great if you grew up with absolutely nothing and appreciate the littlest of things, but if you have grown up with always having everything without having anything to want for, it makes life become boring.
By boring I mean: Bland. Unchallenging. Too easy.
Want a ride in a helicopter?
Yawn. I could buy that 15-minute ride with my pocket money. Hell, why don’t I just take dad’s helicopter out for a spin?
WOULD I WANT TO WORK IF I WAS RICH?
With all of this money that you could fill a swimming pool and swim in, why would anyone want to be challenged to work?
Now, I know that the super-elite mentioned above DO work to some degree (I think the Kardashians for instance, work a hell of a lot even if it seems like fluff), but when you read comments from the Ecclestone sisters where they seem to have half-heartedly tried to get a university degree (or not at all), it makes you wonder if all that wealth is wasted.
(A side note on the Kardashians, Kim Kardashian works like crazy to build her brand and business. I remember watching an episode with her stepsister who wanted to be a model but didn’t want to put the work into learning how to catwalk properly. In the episode, Kim said out of frustration: You have to work hard. REALLY hard. That raised my impression of her.)
Just like how youth is wasted on the young, wealth is wasted on the rich.
But the others? They could do so much more for themselves and to challenge their minds, aside from what they really DO accomplish, such as raising millions for charities.
I am not saying all rich kids are like this, but I wonder if I’d be just like them.
I would not only take everything for granted, but I wouldn’t WANT to work and to not be challenged. I’d want to sit around and just stare at my clothes all day.
COULD A FACTOR BE THAT IT ISN’T MONEY THAT THEY EARNED, THEMSELVES?
It’s just so easy to spend other people’s money, but a lot harder to make and save your own, although it gives a greater sense of satisfaction.
It gives me and many people a great sense of accomplishment to have reached such heights on our own (of course, there’s always support from society and family), but everything we have, we have it because we saw it as a goal and achieved it.
..AND TO KNOW THERE IS A SAFETY NET?
Then again, I know a lot of rich kids who grew up to work as hard as anyone alive, starting their own businesses with their own money and making it on their own.
The only thing is that they are probably still not as hungry. They know their parents would save them if things got really, REALLY bad.
People without parents who have the means, don’t have that comforting safety net, so they hustle harder.
DOES HAVING LESS, BUILD CHARACTER?
..or is it just based on the person?
I am sure on the flip side, there are poor people who are lazy as hell, just as there are rich people who work like maniacs.
Still, food for thought about what I’d do if I were filthy rich. I’m curious as to what kind of person I’d be.