“No, no writing accomplished last weekend, you may scold me accordingly. I came home from the march feeling like absolute crap and went to bed early and slept through the night and a chunk of Sunday as well. I’m fighting something, I think.”
– C. and Katarina
“Our pleasures are not material pleasures, but symbols of pleasure – attractively packaged but inferior in content.”
― Alan W. Watts
When our friends were in town the other week it was an amazing chance to catch up. One half of the pair, Chris, and I have been friends since freshmen year of university. In fact he, Jeff, and I were all in an assigned cohort for freshmen students and it’s kind of funny to think about how life has turned out for us in the past 12 years. I absolutely adore his wife, who I’ve known almost as long, and having the ability to see friends from the States is such a rare pleasure for us.
In talking all things work, life, and adulthood related we got on the the subject of upgrading. They live in California and bought a house there. Since then they’ve been working on all kinds of DIY projects to improve their home and add value to it, and seem to be enjoying the process. But in spite of being able to do these improvements on a tight budget and by themselves, we quickly found we were dealing with a similar issue even though we live in a rented apartment.
The famous saying is mo’ money, mo’ problems. Add mo’ space, mo’ spending to the mix.
We started comparing notes on how that as soon as we’d either moved into a house or a larger apartment, we found our “stuff” multiplying. Closets full of items they rarely used on their end, furniture we’ve never previously owned on ours. More empty space that we feel compelled to fill for us, a garage for them to store stuff, which means they’re holding on to things that they’ve never accumulated before.
Chris told me of a piece of motorcycle equipment that he doesn’t use anymore, but is loathe to give away or even sell because 1) it cost him a pretty penny to get in the first place and, 2) what if he needs it again in the future? We now have a second bedroom (currently being used primarily as storage) which is where, if an item doesn’t really have a home yet, there it goes! A quick, sheepish scan of the contents this morning revealed a number of older cords and electronics I should probably recycle and a bag of linens and stuff that I’ve been meaning to drop off for donation since we moved in. Oops. Having space clearly does something to our mental relationship with stuff!
In our old flat, we didn’t have room for much…and so we didn’t have much. When we moved to a twice as large apartment in October, we suddenly had twice the space to fill. Plus we gave up landlord-provided furniture as part of a negotiation for lower rent and so had to buy furniture for the first time since living in London. Our old apartment barely held a loveseat, but suddenly we needed a sofa to fill a living room. In our old apartment, that loveseat and a desk chair were the only places we had to sit down in, in our new apartment we had a breakfast bar but we now needed stools to sit at it. We have two bathrooms and so needed two bathmats. We have more than one cupboard now and have somehow acquired a mug collection. Oops again.
Like water, people, their money habits, and their stuff seem to expand to fit their containers. Ours certainly have. When we have made more money, we have historically spent more money…even after living quite comfortably on less! Before moving to a larger apartment, our expenses didn’t necessarily change, but we found our habits did. Both we and the handful of friends I have unscientifically surveyed for this post have also found their ability to accumulate and retain stuff grow significantly due to moving into a house for the first time, a bigger apartment, or a first home all to one’s self after leaving the sharing economy that is living with roommates. Call it the curse of comfort! Part of the reason I don’t want a big house anymore is because I don’t want to have to pay to outfit it, keep up a yard, and take care of the whole thing. I’d rather have a much smaller home with fewer, nicer things, and spend my money on other priorities.
On the other hand, I do think there is a correlation between generally being in a position to make more money, and it having more places to go. If you are working full time, you are likely to be an adult with either rent or mortgage to pay. If you’re living in certain areas, you are more likely to require a car. Past a certain age you are statistically more likely to have a partner or children, leading to different kinds of costs. Life gets more expensive the longer it goes on.
As I’m working to limit my consumption, I’m starting to think a portion of that mindset long term will come from limiting my space, both physical and metaphoric. What else will I have to resize besides a “dream home?”
Have you found this same correlation between space and stuff? Those of you who have up- or downgraded at some point in your lives, I’m doubly curious to hear from you.
“I love how we are both so very quick to over-analyze silence. As if [agent’s] lack of check in email = so many rejections that she threw herself off the empire state building rather than even look at my email address again.”
“Wagner should have written some kind of opera about our writing emotional cycles.”
“DISSOLVE THE WORLD IN ASHES, I HAVE RECEIVED NO CALLS.”
“[sent gif below]”
“I am sipping red wine”
– Katarina and C.
“I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you enjoy something, you just enjoy it. No sense feeling guilty about it.”
― Cristina Moracho
Tell truths, minions, what is your guilty spending pleasure? Some friends I know always buy fresh flowers for their house, one loves going to the movies and is willing to splurge on weekly theatre tickets, a colleague I once had gets a professional blowdry a couple of times a month, one friend makes it a priority to go on a nice date with her partner every week. Mine is magazines. I don’t buy them every month, but when I’m feeling the need for some beauty therapy, a Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, or Tatler will do the trick.
On the flip side, what’s your guilty FREE pleasure? One of my brothers has managed, through birthday and holiday gifts to have a running subscription to XBox Live that he has never had to drop a dime on. One of my friends has an uncanny knack for finding left behind magazines and newspapers on the Tube that she reads instead of buying them (a trick I need to learn!), and yet another–a fitness and wellness queen–forgoes the gym to work out in London’s many parks. I give myself a manicure once a week, something I personally would never pay for, which helps me keep from picking at my nails and helps me feel more put together for the week.
What are yours? Spill!
“What I say is that, if a man really likes potatoes, he must be a pretty decent sort of fellow.”
― A.A. Milne
On the Carrer de Parlament is a delightfully hipster sort of joint that is worth checking out. Let me introduce Crum.
The menu is in Catalan, but they do have English versions for those of us whose European languages veer a bit more northern. True, embarrassing story about how French functions as my default language pretty much all of the time and I had to bite my tongue all week to avoid saying “bonjour” when I meant “buenos dias,” and uttered “trois” instead of “tres” to a bemused waitress at one point before finally deciding to keep my mouth shut and let my more Spanish competent compatriots do the majority of the ordering. Setting self-consciousness aside, this place does one thing and one thing only: potatoes.
Whoops, I lie. It does potatoes and sauces; you essentially order the type of spud preparation that tickles your fancy and the sauce that you want to accompany it. There are handy suggestions but you are mostly given free reign–though the staff will voice their alternative opinions if you ask for feedback.
We pushed the boat right out and ordered one of nearly everything. Patatas bravas is a local dish of thickly chopped potatoes, roasted, and served with a spicy sauce that any tapas bar in the city worth its salt will offer…but this was an exemplary specimen. And it’s a good thing we got a bunch of things as it turned out we were more than a little hungry.
Pardon the dreadful photo quality but I had to move fast you see, because…
…approximately seven seconds later.
“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
― George Bernard Shaw,
When discussing what we wanted to do on our holiday with friends in Barcelona, we narrowed it down to three major priorities: 1) eat, 2) hang out with them, and 3) precious little else. Tapas, traditional Spanish and Catalan food, seafood, random weirdness–we wanted to try as much as we possibly could.
We were beautifully situated for local dining as we were in a residential neighborhood that had about a million bakeries and coffee shops, gastro pubs and tapas joints, and even a massive produce and meat market about two minutes away from the flat. We were spoiled, no question about it. But again, thanks to Kelsey’s boss travel prep skills, she had already mapped the gastronomic system of the city and we knew we had some spots that simply had to be hit, but we also knew where playing it by ear would most likely pay off in a fantastically good meal.
Welcome to Barcelona Food Week on SDS!
Carrer de Blai
This is a street full of almost exclusively tapas restaurants where a mini food culture or trend seems to have originated. All the food is bite sized and served on slices of bread, held together with a skewer. You can eat as much or as little as you want as you pay based on unit and your skewers are tallied at the end of your meal–prices can be indicated by different colored sticks–and you can either call it a night…or head to the next joint to see what they have on offer. Guess which choice we made?
It turned out to be prescient as we also discovered a bodega specializing in empanadas and indulged in those as well.
Barraca on the beach
We wanted paella and we wanted it in the most appropriate setting: seaside. My photo quality may be lacking, but the food was not! Traditional dishes like gazpacho and seafood, expertly done.
I wasn’t blown away by this place, in spite of a plethora of good reviews, but I was also the lone group member to not have a burger and so my review may be suspect. The ambiance and style, however, were great!
There is so much good and cheap food in this city that it’s almost unbelievable. On every street corner we saw sellers roasting sweet potatoes and chestnuts, to be wrapped in newspaper and taken to eat on the go. And on every street there seems to be a place where you can get an excellent cut of meat grilled or roasted up for your pleasure. Meanwhile there is no end to the tapas options, and you can wander into the vast markets and come away with cones of traditional cured Spanish meats and cheeses. I repeat, handfuls of meat and cheese. Nirvana exists, kids.
And finally: pudding! I shan’t overdo this one expect to say that there is a traditional dessert somewhat similar to creme brulee called crema catalana, and that your life is incomplete if you have not yet partaken of it.
” You need to change [sentence] to the past tense and change ‘principle’ to ‘principal.'”
“GAH. PRINCIPAL. I swear that twigged something in my brain but it was my last edit of the night and I needed to go to bed. Shoot me.”
“Still not as good as the fundraiser typo that shall live with me until the day I die (I fixed it, but still): ‘Volunteers are the heroes in our toolboxes!’ became ‘Volunteers are the herpes in our toolboxes!’ Brilliant.”
– Katarina and C.
Being a writer is fraught. You never know who you may accidentally kill or infect.
Friends save lives.