Life Is Better When You Step Off The Treadmill Warning: The title of this article might startle those of you who know me because I’m so health conscious. But the treadmill I'm referring to is the one forces us to spend the best years of our lives chasing "stuff", material goods. Prior to the 1950’s it was common for the average person to save for months to buy quality stuff that would last a lifetime and if it broke down it would be repaired, not thrown away. It's a different world now and those days are long gone.
Today most manufacturing in the United States has been shipped overseas so companies can take advantage of cheap foreign labor. The products are then shipped back to us and these cheap goods fill our store shelves. This cheaply made stuff is engineered to break down in a short amount of time, this is called engineered obsolescence. This means in a few years we have to, again, spend more hard earned money on new stuff to replace the stuff that breaks. Many times we really can't afford to buy new stuff so we buy it on credit so the true cost is much larger over time. We've been conditioned to accept this way of life but many are waking up and realizing that it isn't. This continuous cycle of consumerism is a treadmill that keeps many of us broke, working more than we should, distracted from our pursuit of happiness, and has put our planet in peril.
I stumbled onto a hobby when I was in my late twenties, purely by accident. In 2004 I started collecting vintage American watches from the teen's to the 1940's. My favorite watch is a 1918 Elgin trench watch from World War I. Even though it's 96 years old, it still keeps perfect time and looks almost brand new. I was fascinated by these timepieces. To have one of these works of art ticking away your wrist is a true joy. They were built by craftsmen who honed their skills for many years to do one thing for their entire working lives. This hobby of collecting vintage watches made me realize that there was once a day when things were very different.
This epiphany off a wonderful chain reaction in my life. I began to evaluate the true cost and value of the material possessions I owned and set out on a mission to retool my life. I quickly discovered that quality didn’t always translate into something being more expensive. For example, I discovered I was spending nearly $20 per month on razor blades. For a total of $40 I replaced my multi-blade disposable razor with a Merkur safety razor and bought a box of 200 blades. Three years later I’m still using that original box of blades. This one simple change has already saved me over $650.
I've discovered that there are certain instances when I simply can’t afford new items of the level of quality I desire. This is when I applied a lesson learned from watch collecting, vintage goods can be an amazing value. I recently bought an English made 1958 Raleigh 3-speed bike on Craigslist for $130. It’s heavy (and a tad Pee Wee Herman-ish) but solid and impressively, at over 50 years old, everything still works. Each part of the Raleigh bike is made to be repaired, even the pedals. The only bikes I’ve seen that come close to this quality are made by Dutch companies or Shinola in Detroit and cost 500 to 1000 times (yes, 1000 times!) what I paid for the Raleigh.
Surrounding myself with quality is just a means to an end and that end is freedom. Breaking this cycle of runaway consumerism frees up more time and money than you can even imagine. As I settle into middle age, I'm realizing how much I still want to do and my intention is to fulfill every wish, every dream. My wife and I are shedding a lot of our excess possessions and will soon downsize our residence. We may never own a home again, if we do, it will likely be a tiny home.
My goal is to keep writing, see the world, experience life, and make lots more memories. My idea of an ideal life is not working my fingers to the bone for the rest of my years inside the framework of an unnatural and toxic system that has been designed to make wealthy and power corporations wealthier and even more powerful. We're not alone, more people are awakening to this fact every single day. It’s true that we can’t change the speed in which the hands of time move forward and we can’t change the past but sometimes all it takes is a little shift in perspective to find your own true path to happiness. Believe me, it's worth every effort. Maybe, just maybe, if enough of us retool our lives in the process we will also retool America.
~Eric Vance Walton~