Giving it all away, he received more of what matters

Uplifting news! This true life inspiring tale contains an excellent account of synchronicity and the selfless goodness of humanity.

With a doctor’s prediction of under a year to live, terminal cancer patient, Kallio, had decided to give away his possessions to people who could use them. Giving it all away is, I believe, a very healthy way to deal with the passing of ones physical body from this existence. Giving it all away can help to lighten ones worries, since it’s about tying up loose ends rather than leaving everything undone and unresolved. It would help to mentally transition toward accepting ones own death.

Meanwhile though, in this instance, Kallio was living without a flushing toilet or operable lights in his home. They had stopped working but he didn’t feel up to bothering people about it. However, when someone came to pick up some of the items he was giving away, she discovered his situation and asked if she could involve the community. Within 20 minutes, there were people at his home beginning the repairs. Also, over 6 thousand dollars have been raised to help with his medical and daily living expenses.

Grasch found Kallio’s concern for others inspiring. “To be on borrowed time and yet care so much about the community — to make sure people have his clothes because they can’t afford them,” she said.

It’s not that we strategically give so that we can receive, but it’s really cool when by giving it all away, Kallio received more than he ever imagined. He didn’t need more stuff, but he needed a hand with some repairs and some care about his wellbeing. He needed some support and attention.

When we let things go that we don’t even need or use at all, it’s nice to imagine that just maybe, some of that stuff gets to help people who are having a really hard time and it makes their lives a smidgen more happy. Volunteering is exactly that kind of situation, where you can make a noticeable difference in the world.

In this case, Kallio’s new friends pitched in and gave him a hand at just the right time. It wouldn’t have happened though, if Kallio hadn’t decided to give it all away in the first place. By asking for nothing, and by giving freely, he got exactly what he needed most.

Yay! I love it!!!

Alone in the Wilderness Review

Alone in the Wilderness is a inspirational documentary about Richard (Dick) Proenneke during his self-reliant adventures in the Alaskan wilderness. It’s an awesome account of his exploration of the simple life.

5.5 millions views on YouTube show how intriguing and enticing the simple life can be. “With a score of 9 out of 10 from the aggregation of nearly 2000 votes at the Internet Movie Database, the documentary is one of the highest rated of all time.”- Wikipedia

Here is part one:

Beginning in 1968, Dick Proenneke spent 30 years in Twin Lakes, Alaska while documenting his progress through film and journals. Every evening he made a journal entry in a 6″ x 9″ notebook and over 30 years he accumulated 60 pounds of journal notebooks! He wrote some enlightening thoughts on simplicity,

“Needs- I guess that’s what bothers so many folks. They keep expanding their needs until they are too dependent on too many things and too many other people. I wonder how many things in the average American home could be eliminated, if the question were asked, ‘Must I really have this?’ Funny thing about comfort. Most people don’t work hard enough physically anymore and comfort is not easy to find. It is surprising how comfortable a hard bunk can be after you’ve come down off a mountain.” -Richard Proenneke

No doubt he slept soundly every night. He carried a pedometer for one whole year and learned that he had walked 3,081 miles!

Spending so much time in nature, he caught some wonderful footage of local wildlife including caribou, moose, grizzly bear, hare and badgers. He said, “I’d sooner pack a roll of film than a gun”, although he did hunt for food while living alone in the wilderness.

At age 51, he dared to test himself to see if he could handle the bone-chilling cold of winter, the isolation and silence. The challenge of building a cabin, planting crops and hunting while living alone in the remote bush was thorough self-examination. He asked himself, “What was I capable of that I did not know of yet? What about my limits? Could I truly enjoy my own company for an entire year?”

He was an extremely skilled woodworker, felling all of the timber and lugging it onto the site, then building a log cabin all by himself. Not only that, he also build the furniture as well as a very tall cache to keep his food safe from hungry predators.

Clearly he was a tenaciously hard working guy and a truly inspirational character. He constructed everything by hand and thrived on his own with no electricity or running water. He enjoyed canoeing, snowshoeing and feeding wild birds from the palm of his hand. I love that he decided not to bring a motor for his boat. He agrees that, “A motors’ noise stills the sounds of the wilderness.”

Here is part two:

Richard had a wide range of talents and experiences. He had been a carpenter in the US navy in WWII, a diesel mechanic, a welder, a heavy equipment operator, a well driller, fished commercially, tended sheep, and originally went to Alaska to start a cattle ranch. His varied skills were put to the test during his time alone in the wilderness.

For most people, it is impossible to even imagine doing what Richard Proenneke did. He was very skilled, brave and definitely a risk taker, however, eventually age and ill health caused him to move to California to stay with his brother, where he died in 2003 at the age of 87.

He wrote, “I have found that some of the simplest things have given me the most pleasure. It didn’t cost me a lot of money either. The world is full of such things.”

Preparing for the Simple Life

After writing the article about the film, “My Stuff”, I realized that I had left out some really important parts of my experience while living simply on a tiny island in British Columbia for 3 years.

Preparing for the simple life was a challenge and an adventure in itself. The first step was to reduce our stuff dramatically before leaving the city. We got rid of almost everything. It felt very liberating and exciting.

The life we lived in the city was very different from what we were headed toward. We owned a 3 unit house that we’d renovated. We lived in one unit and rented out the other 2 apartments. That meant we had all sorts of items that were weighing us down. We sold the house on Craigslist. Huge burden lifted.

I gave away all of the furniture and even items like cutlery. My mom looked at me, very concerned, and asked if I planned to kill myself! Moms always worry. That seems to be a big part of the job. But that reflected how important she thought these things were to me. But no – I felt more alive than ever while losing those chains.

I left with 4 Rubbermaid bins; 2 containing personal items (such as clothes, mementos, and important papers) and 2 containing kitchen and bathroom stuff. My partner reduced to 11 bins, mainly containing construction/renovation tools. These were the only things that were truly important to us.

Since we didn’t have a specific destination in mind, (other than coastal BC) we planned to camp in our tent and scope out the various locations until we found the perfect spot.

Once we found our new home, we lived without furniture for the majority of our time there. We began with two hammocks, which we used as chairs, couches, swings, and beds. A couple of years later we were given a coffee table and we made shelves with wooden boxes that also served as display cases at craft shows.

It was necessary to buy a few new things. The garden required the most equipment; hoses, rakes, shovels, wheelbarrow, etc. Since the power could go out for 2 weeks at a time, we also invested in some extra batteries for flashlights, fuel for our camp stove, as well as candles and lanterns. Luckily the house had a wood stove, so we could always chop wood for heat, and there was a well to throw a bucket into, even when the pump had no power running. It felt good to be prepared and able to handle such challenging conditions when the need arose.

Preparing for the simple life was exciting. Living it was an adventure that I cherish, and I am likely to do it again.

Review of “My Stuff”

My Stuff” (or “Tavarataivas”) is a documentary film about a guy doing an extreme experiment in minimalism. It was so quirky and heartwarming and I have thought of this film so many times since I first watched it, that I watched it again!

Petri Luukainen was having a difficult time deciding what was relevant in his life and what would make him happy. So he removed absolutely everything and put it all in a storage facility.

He didn’t just pack up and move out, he started completely naked, in Helsinki, Finland in winter! (Egads!) He also made a rule that he could not buy any new or used stuff.

Over the course of a year, he allowed himself to choose only one item per day to take out of storage. In this way he discovered the stuff that was most useful and important to him. Using this process he finds a sense of balance and moderation that was previously missing in his life.

He learned that without stuff, the people in his life took on greater importance. For example, without a clock, he relied on his brother to wake him for work. There are very touching moments in the film when he consults his kind, wise and inspirational grandma and his insightful young cousin. His grandma reminds him that everything will eventually be left behind when we die anyway.

By conducting this experiment, he resolved the question for himself, rather than constantly wondering in a never ending loop. He made full use of this opportunity to re-evaluate his belongings and his life.

Once he retrieved between 100-150 items, he began to worry he’d get to the cluttered distracted state he was in before. “Just one item closer to the mess of having too much.” Without all of that stuff, he felt so much energy and freedom. There was no stress, no facebook, no mobile phone. It was liberating with lots of free time.

Three years earlier, he had been racking up debt on his credit card to fill his apartment with unnecessary items. When he had been so focused on his belongings he wasn’t happy with his life. “My stuff began to define who I am.” “My flat is now full, but I still feel empty. I need room to think why I am not happy.”

His wise grandma said, “Your things aren’t a measure of your happiness, and your life isn’t made of your things. You need to get that somewhere else.”

At the end of the experiment, he uses a couple of hundred items and the storage space remains about half full. He says, “Possessing is a responsibility, and things are a burden. However I decide myself what kind of a burden I want.”

Now, looking back, he admits that he was buying stuff to make himself feel better. He had thought if he bought more things, it would make his life easier, but actually acquiring a lot of stuff takes a lot of energy.

A car is a perfect example of this. First you have to earn the money to buy the car, then pay for the insurance, parking, tickets, gasoline, cleaning, maintenance …etc. It’s one item that takes so much attention. Now he borrows / shares a car with a friend.

“You don’t own your stuff, your stuff owns you. If you live with radically less stuff, it will reflect in every part of life, in how you eat and travel.” Petri is clearly working toward a more sustainable lifestyle that not only helps to improve his own life, but that of the entire planet and everything on it.

How do you think you’d do it if you locked away everything you own? What do you think would be the first item you’d choose to retrieve? It would make you question what you value most of all, and see so clearly the things that provide comfort and utility in your life. What are your ultimate essentials?

“My Stuff” is a wonderful documentary about discovering the value of material objects and contemplating what’s really important in life.

I conducted a similar experiment of simple living, starting with little more than a map, a car and a tent. When things get overwhelming, it’s nice to know that we can hit the reset button on life.