Guest Writer: Rae-Anne

Friday, July 15, 2016

Rae-Anne Sinka

Rae-Anne is a writer, coach, speaker and free spirit. She is currently in Bali writing a book by the name of “How I learnt to love my bum and other lessons from Africa”.
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I recently wrote this piece on my blog about the issue of people dealing with their “stuff” by “donating” it to charity. As you’ll see in that piece, millions of dollars are spent every year by charities dealing with the enormous issue of our over consumption and it’s become their biggest problem.

I was asked to write a piece for this blog on my view on non-consumer living and how it was I came to this lifestyle. I came to the simple way of life from a different angle; my story begins in Ghana, West Africa.

In 2010 my husband and I were moving to Ghana to spend a year in his country, and when we packed to leave, I arranged for three large tea chest sized boxes of what I considered important things to be sent via air cargo. Items such as extra clothes, shoes, kitchen utensils, personal items and things I can’t quite recall now. By the time our goods arrived and we were able to clear them through customs (that’s a whole other story, dealing with any kind of import in a corrupt country defies description, maybe I’ll tell that one another day) three weeks had passed.

In those three weeks I’d begun to settle into life in Ghana and was still experiencing massive culture shock. I’d expected to see poverty, in fact Ghana by African standards is a “middle class” country. However seeing people not knowing from one day to the next, where their next meal is coming from and living with less than what we would consider essentials in their home, changed everything for me.

My mother in law lived in a two room place, slept on a roll out plastic mat on the floor, had no kitchen, a barely functioning bathroom, one two seater couch and a fridge. She lived entirely on the money that was provided to her by her children living abroad, my husband included. There’s no such thing as social security in Africa, or most developing countries for that matter. Even with the little she had, she had a young girl from the community and her son living with her and an elderly man living in another part of her room.

Her story was not uncommon; in fact there were people who lived with far less, with an entire family in one tiny room. When I saw her bedroom for the first time, I wasn’t prepared for the total lack of personal possessions. Her entire life fitted into one tiny two-door wardrobe, with room to spare. That was it. A woman in her mid 60’s who owned absolutely nothing of what we would consider to be value. However she was rich. In family, in community, in connection, in laughter, in life.

By the time our boxes arrived, and after spending a lot of money and time getting them from the airport, I eagerly anticipated opening them and seeing my things again. The anticipation was short lived as I found myself feeling embarrassed that I’d even felt the need to have these items sent. As I cut open one box after another, I turned to my husband and said sadly “what do we need this stuff for?” I wound up giving most of it away. I kept a few items that we didn’t have for our kitchen, but the rest, I saw no need to keep.

I was reminded of camping when I was younger. Some of the best memories I have are of those trips, and what do we have with us when we go camping? Hardly anything right? A few clothes, some things to prepare food, maybe a book or two, but that’s pretty well it. Even now as I write this, I am living in a one room villa in Ubud, Indonesia. It has a bed, wardrobe, bathroom, an outdoor kitchen and I have only what could fit in my suitcase. I need nothing more and I could not be happier than I am right at this moment.

When we returned home to Australia, I culled whatever possessions I felt were excessive, except for my books. My books are my world and I’ll never part with them. Now, we choose to live simply. We have a gorgeous very small home that is ample for the two of us. We have a second bedroom that is our home office which doubles as a spare room for grandchildren and visitors from far and wide. We have all that two people could ever want or need. Housework and gardening are quick and simple which leaves more time for us to enjoy life. Less stuff, less work = more living.

What is important to me now is community, connection, family, friends, freedom, time and travel. As long as I have my passport and laptop I’m happy and free. I live for experiences rather than things and I’ve never felt richer in my life.

Life is here and life is now. May you always be free to enjoy it.

Rae-Anne xx

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