Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Why I Don't Donate Money To Charity

I often get asked the question whether I donate money to charity. Many people seem to view this simple act as a sign or as proof that someone is a generous, loving person. If you don't donate to charity, people may label you as greedy, selfish or stingy. But there are several reasons why I, and many others with me, don't donate money to charity and none of them have anything to do with being an ungenerous person.

Here are some of my reasons. 

It is unclear where the money goes
When you make a donation to your favorite charity, it is often unclear what the money will be used for, especially if you are donating to a large organization. I don't like these vague structures, because then you never know if you made any difference and what kind of difference you made. You don't get any direct feedback. Therefore it can give you a -possibly false- sense of accomplishment when you made a relatively big donation, or a misguided sense of insignificance when you could only afford to donate a relatively small amount.
If, on the other hand, you donate your time, energy and skills to a particular cause instead of donating money (and not just in an organized sense but also in your daily lifestyle), then the results of your efforts are a lot more transparent. Often you see exactly what you have accomplished, which is a tangible reward for your efforts and a very important part of the 'exchange'. It is also what motivates most people to keep on giving, or something that can help you discover your giving nature if you haven't already. 

The use of money can have detrimental side-effects
A more recent additional reason for me not to donate money to charity is of course the moneyless lifestyle, as I am not spending any money on anything at the moment (with only a few exceptions). This new way of life has also given me a lot of insights. I no longer feel that I need money to make a big difference; in fact, there is more progress to be made by not paying for certain things. The only difference anyone can make is with their personal choices, in everything they do (including financial matters): the things we do and the things we choose not to do. All you need is an open mind and awareness to find out what is right for you in each situation.
Unfortunately, money can easily get in the way of this process of self-discovery. It can contribute to two of the most obstructive mindsets in the quest for freedom: entitlement and obligation. Entitlement can lead to destruction because you feel you have more right to something than others, and obligation can lead to destruction because you believe that you have no say in the choices you make and you have to do certain things just because others tell you to, or because others do the same things, or because someone thinks they have more right to make a decision about something than you do. Both mind-traps are equally dangerous, and these two mental constructs tend to go together in societies that are founded on principles of ownership. Unfortunately, this concept also seeps through in our personal relationships.

Money in itself is not a solution - Taking positive action is 
In the end, what any cause needs most is more people to support and live by its principles. No cause needs more money. Endangered species do not need our money. They need their habitats and they need to be left alone. They need to be protected from hunters who kill for profit. In order to have clean drinking water, we don't need more money. We need to consume less so that we pollute less. And we need to get back to nature so that we use water more sparingly and regain our appreciation of natural resources instead of taking them for granted.
I am not saying money is inherently bad; money is neither good nor bad. And I am sure that sometimes big things can be achieved with fundraising campaigns and collective financial efforts. But even then, in the end what matters most is the efforts and intentions of the individuals to set the goals and make them happen. I aspire to be one of those first and foremost. 

I am not saying that donating money to charity is a bad thing in and of itself and I might even start doing it myself someday. What I am saying is that your individual actions are your biggest contributions. The best way to change the world we live in is to start there. Become aware of what you are supporting with your spending habits, what you are contributing to through your lifestyle choices, and even what the consequences are of the beliefs and ideas you have about the world and other beings. This is where we can all make the biggest impact.

Wednesday, 10 February 2016

7 Reasons Why Tiny Homes Are The Best

As most of you already know, I recently moved into a tiny house on a farm’s property, and it has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. It also helps that the people I live with are totally on board with my plans, goals and dreams, and very supportive of my lifestyle. Not only do they allow me to live there for free; they will also teach me all the skills I need for my upcoming nomadic journey and for building an eco-community later on. I will get to learn all about organic farming, animal care and many, many other things.

By moving into the tiny house, I also got to achieve several sub-challenges I had set for myself for this year. One of my goals for this year was to reduce my water consumption and the time I spend online, and I accomplished both goals instantly and easily when I moved into the tiny home.

As I discovered that tiny house life has so many benefits, I decided to write a post about the most important reasons why tiny homes are the best.

1. You have to keep it tidy.
Obviously there is not much space in a tiny home. That means you will be forced to stay organized, or it won’t take long before you will not be able to get from your bed to your dinner table anymore. When I was living in a two bedroom apartment (before I started the moneyless challenge), I had the tendency to save sorting things out for later. I would put things out of sight, thereby hoarding a lot of stuff over time. Now, with limited space, I have to clean and clear the place regularly of unnecessary  clutter. I am also much more mindful of what I really need and have downsized even more since the move (I had already downsized quite a bit with my first free home). And it feels great! Everything I need, which isn’t much, is always within reach. 

2. Less need for electricity.
It requires much less electricity to keep temperatures at a comfortable level and to keep everything else running as and when needed. Again it helps that I have far less stuff now and so I don’t require so much electricity anymore. I could even live without it entirely. The only thing I would need electricity for is charging my phone and my laptop, but I could move on to free sources for that, and I may build a system for that while I am living here.

3. Less use of water.
Convenience was a big factor for my (over)use of water. I became even more aware of how much water I used when I first moved into the tiny home, because it doesn’t have any tap inside and I was surprised by how often I wanted to wash my hands or rinse something. Not having easy access to running water means I have to plan ahead, and it also means I have become very mindful of when I use water and what I use it for. Turns out I needed it almost constantly in the beginning and now not so much. So what happened? I adjusted. The convenience of just mindlessly turning on the tap was no longer an option, so I found ways to further reduce my need for water.

4. It is very cozy.
There is something magical about living in a tiny home and having everything you need in such a small space. It feels safe, cozy and uncomplicated. No million-dollar home could ever give me the same satisfaction that living in the tiny home does. It felt like home instantly. It also comes with a great view and the ability to easily change it if you want to (especially if the house has wheels, like mine does).

This is my current view

5. Limited access to the internet.
Most people I know would not consider this a plus, including me up until not that long ago. But now that I have adjusted to less internet I actually really love it! Of course there are tiny homes that do have the possibility of connecting to the internet, but it is really good to know and experience that life goes on even without internet. In fact, you may realize how much time really went into it in the first place. It can be a continuous distractor, especially if you have a phone that constantly gives you updates for practically everything.

6. You have more time.
Because it takes so much less time to stay organized and keep up-to-date with chores, you have a lot more time for other stuff. And as mentioned above, having limited access to the internet also saves a lot of time. This means you can finally get to do all those things you have always wanted to do: meditate more, do yoga, try out qi gong, etc. It makes your life much more relaxed and easygoing.

7. You are more mobile.
Moving is no longer a hassle, because all your things are easy to pack and move. And if your tiny home has wheels, moving becomes even easier because you can just move your entire home to a new location. So if you need a change of scenery, you just move your entire house to a new spot.

If you want to know more about living in a tiny home, don't hesitate to ask me questions. Or if you want to experience the tiny-house-life for yourself and you are in the area (Trondheim, Norway), find me on couchsurfing. If I have time (and you have some references) I would be happy to host you or give you a tour of the home.