How your lottery win dreams can help you understand what you want from life

I’ve always shied away from spending too much time daydreaming, as I felt that it could quite easily become an unhealthy behaviour, and I also tend to agree with Dumbledore that:

‘It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live. Remember that.’

However the last few months have really gotten me down and I’ve found myself wondering constantly about winning a large sum of money. I read story after story about lottery winners, what to do if you win a large sum of money and even began watching YouTube real estate tours of multi-million dollar mansions.

I knew that this was not a healthy behaviour to be indulging in, but I could not see a way forward in my life, so I continued. As each day passed my plans become more and more specific and detailed – it was a way to escape my real life problems.

However, something surprising happened. By giving myself free reign to image my life without constraints and boundaries or the usual run of the mill problems, it gave me a lot of insight into what I desire, where my life is lacking and what kind of person I am.

Overall I realised that I don’t need or want nearly as much money as I initially thought – I began at 9 figures and by the end I realised that around £250,000 would get me the vast majority of what I desire. It also forced me to think about what aspects of my life wouldn’t change if I won the lottery (or essentially any other kind of scenario where life’s usual problems and hurdles are absent). All in all, I’ve found my month down the rabbit hole to be quite enlightening as what kind of direction I need to be heading in. So, what did I learn about myself and my life while I was in Wonderland?

What did I learn

1. I don’t want a mansion

  • Maintenance – I grew up spending my Saturday mornings like many other teenagers – watching Cribs. Back then I saw nothing bad about the huge houses that the featured celebrities lived in. Now I’m older (and a little wiser) I was surprised to realise I didn’t lust after the mansions I was looking at. Not only did most of them look cold, empty and like it would take forever to get anywhere but I also found out that some of the mansions I was looking at cost around £20,000-£108,000 per month just to maintain. Imagine having to find that kind of money every month indefinitely just to live in your house, before you’ve bought food, gone anywhere or done anything…! One thing I found particularly interesting is that shows like Cribs sold you the dream of wanting a mansion without mentioning just how much these places cost to upkeep – it’s little wonder then that through my research I found swathes of people who had either earnt or won big money and gone on to buy multi-million dollar mansions, only to lose them or go bankrupt due to the crazy cost of upkeep!
  • Security – One thing that struck me was that living in such a large house would make it difficult to be aware of your surroundings and that many large homes have been broken into without their owners even noticing, which I would think is in part due to the sheer size of the house.
  • Cool…or not? – As I continued to watch real estate videos I couldn’t help but wonder what the point was of many features. What use was owing 21 bathrooms when even with an average sized family of four you’d struggle to need more than 2 at any one time even if everyone was home all day every day. Or let’s assume that you like to throw a party a few times a year – why not just hire a venue for one night rather than spend 365 days a year paying to maintain, heat and clean rooms that are not in use the majority of the time?
    I also found out that some uber rich people have things like a whole room dedicated just to wrapping gifts, or just to store suitcases in. It also seemed like every mansion came with its own bowling alley, tennis court, pool, theatre and so on. Another mansion had about 10 televisions in it at least which made me wonder what the point of having all that wealth was if you were just going to spend it in front of a TV – you could live that lifestyle for far less than the £5 million advertised without all the maintenance!
    Many of these homes seemed like an island unto themselves – but where’s the fun in staying in your home constantly? Whatever happened to going out and seeing the world with friends? Most of these mansions seemed geared towards a reclusive lifestyle – there’s nothing wrong with that by the way, I’m quite the recluse myself – but when it’s every single house and you have the money and potential to go anywhere in the world and do anything, I had to wonder – why?

Overall my experience of looking at mansions and mega mansions was to realise how much I crave a family home full of life, fun, love, joy and vitality rather than owning masses of empty, unused rooms for the pure sake of it.

2. I don’t want an expensive car

It seems almost a given that everyone who wins a large sum of money must want several expensive cars. I have never been particularly good at driving but luckily I do enjoy going for long walks – except when I have a lot to carry or the weather is really bad and I have to do it out of necessity – still, a car would be a great asset even if we only used it part time for bringing heavy shopping home. Yet even with my imaginary 9-figure-unlimited-spending-power I quickly realised I had zero real desire to buy an expensive fleet of cars. In fact all I dreamt of was a nice four-door car in grey, white or black. Even with driving lessons all this could probably all be achieved for less than 10% of the £250,000 many lottery winners have spent on a single car.

3. I don’t want designer clothes

Along with the huge house, fleet of cars comes the expected expensive wardrobe, but when I started looking at what kind of clothes are sold for thousands of pounds a piece I was unimpressed to say the least. The vast majority of these ‘designer’ outfits I would pay thousands not to wear! I honestly felt as though if the tag was for a low-cost brand no one would even dream of buying these hideous outfits, but because it had a designer label on it suddenly it was desirable and worth paying thousands for! I also felt that once you got past a certain price point it became less about quality and more about paying for a specific label.
Over the years I’ve typically bought from supermarket clothing ranges and Primark, having looked at designer wardrobes and labels I now think that I’d like to splash out a couple of hundred for a nice pair of boots but otherwise I’d quite content to shop at NEXT.

4. I don’t want to go to 5 star hotels

I thought back to when we once went to a 5 star hotel how out of place we both felt. Although I wanted to relax I felt like I had to dress up and wear makeup and even then I still felt awkward. When you feel out of place you aren’t comfortable and feel like you cannot be yourself – that’s not exactly how I’d want financial freedom to feel.

So, what do I want?

When you take out all of these big ticket items what is there left to do with a significant win? Well I didn’t just learn about what I didn’t want – and therefore stop thinking about wanting it – I also learnt a lot about what I really do want. My overall conclusion is that I actually want a rather ordinary life, and that although right now things feel totally hopeless and out of reach, nothing I want is anywhere close to being 9-figures out of reach. Perhaps surprisingly the vast majority of the things I wanted came down to a few basic things repeated over until a pattern emerged (and therefore later, a plan):

  • A home – I crave a secure and stable base – having been homeless once as a child, again as an adult and then almost again a third time as a student before ending up in low-end unsafe rentals and always being left to wonder if we would become homeless, a home was top of my list. A modest house I could decorate, furnish and make into a warm, loving space for gathering family and friends, work from home and relax in is number one on my list. I also aspire a lot to remove the technology from the bedroom – having lived in a spare bedroom or in tiny flats for a long time, I’m really sick of not having a designated space just for sleep and relaxing that isn’t full of papers, books, laptops, computers and so on.
  • Health – The second thing that came up over and over was spending on health related matters – whether that was muscle massage, sauna, private therapy, dental treatment or an updated eye test – over and over again I saw that many things came back to wanting to better my physical and emotional well-being.
  • Writing room – Another thing that kept coming up again and again was a strong desire for a designated space for writing – a room I could decorate to inspire my writing and shut the rest of the world out while I got to work.
  • Freedom from the pressure to work – Having been in poor health for a while I would love to know that I could provide for myself and my family long-term without the pressures of working while ill or fear I will become too ill to even push through the day. Another alternative that came up was the desire to work from home, preferably at writing.
  • Outdoors – I’ve always dreamt of having my own garden with a vegetable patch, greenhouse and orchard and this dream really came to the forefront when I was imagining what I would do with £119 million!
  • Charity – Helping others was also high on my list with dreams of doing a huge food bank shop at a supermarket, or going to Toys R Us to shop for charities like Toys for Tots. Other ideas were to help friends get on the property ladder or donating to Shelter Scotland – the thought of being able to help others even more got me genuinely excited! We already help as much as we can but with our own precarious situation there comes limits as to how much we can help – a large win would remove that restraint. I truly believe that there is greater joy in gifting presents to others than to receive!

So there you have it – I learnt a lot by ‘wasting’ my time dreaming and it’s definitely given me food for thought about how I might go about actually achieving this kind of life. I really believe that by imagining my dream life without constraints, boundaries or problems has given me great insight into the steps that I need to take next to begin that journey in 2018. In fact I’ve already scoped out many solutions to taking those first steps. I also felt reassured that everything I want is not nearly as far out of reach as I had previously been feeling.

Have you ever dreamed of winning the lottery? What would you do? Do you think that imagining a life without constraints might help you envisage the path you need to take to be happier and more fulfilled in life? Share with me in the comments below! And Happy New Year!

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Using it up: Going zero waste beyond packaging

I wanted to talk about something today regarding going zero waste. The focus of the zero waste movement so far has been about making no rubbish which has to go to landfill as well as producing fewer items for recycling. But recently I have been thinking about expanding the meaning of zero waste in my life.

The Chain of Waste

If I purchase a book, that book will have arrived at the bookstore in a large cardboard box along with either paper filler, bubble wrap, or plastic fillers to prevent damage; sometimes plastic wrap is also used. If I purchase an item of clothing in a store it will have arrived in store shrink wrapped in plastic which is removed before the item goes out on sale. If I purchase loose fruit and vegetables the trays used to transport that to a supermarket are still covered with large plastic liners. Whenever we purchase anything there is a whole trail of waste created right from the raw materials being mined, logged or manufactured all the way through to how that item reaches the store in order for us to purchase that item.

Therefore in order to further the zero waste lifestyle I feel that we must look at not only how much packaging we take home with us, but also consider how much waste was likely created for its production – after all, if we follow zero (home) waste, then we could purchase 100 items of clothing and recycle all 100 cardboard price tickets, and call this an ecological act.

I think when we consider the amount of waste created in order for a product to reach us, then we owe it to our wallets and to the environment to make sure that we use the items we purchase. After all if we buy 100 items but only use 2 then the resources and money required for those other items are being wasted.

A Culture of Hauls and Stashes

Being in many groups on Facebook for various hobbies over the years I have seen the rise in doing hauls, stashes and excessive buying grow in increasing popularity. There’s nothing wrong with a haul now and then but often I saw people buying far more of one particular type of item than what I could see them feasibly using in a lifetime – and that’s if they even decide to keep doing that same hobby for the next fifty or more years!
I used to be jealous, but now I reflected and I wonder how can you be jealous of people who buy things they will never use? If we don’t use something, what is the point in owning it? I don’t believe there is any joy to be gained in items that just sit and gather dust year after year, if anything the need to clean those items, maintain them, arrange them and so on just makes me long for the simple life! I’ve also seen a really ungrateful attitude with some people doing hauls – in one I watched as the poster opened box after box throwing the contents carelessly to one side!

My challenge to you

If you’re reading this blog I’m guessing it’s because you have either an interest in zero waste or minimalism, so here is my challenge to you for the following year – please let me know how you get on, I would love to hear your stories!

How many of us have books, DVD’s, clothes, various hobby paraphernalia lying around at home which never sees the light of day? I think everyone does to some degree so I’m challenging you to look around your home and ask yourself what you can prevent be wasted in your home. What books haven’t you read? What movies have you bought and never watched? Could you finish an old project you began? If you no longer have the same enthusiasm for a hobby anymore, could you pass on the related items on while they are still in good condition to prevent them being wasted? If you still enjoy your hobby what would it be like to have only one project at a time and stick with it until completion? Here’s a couple of key questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you have items in your home being wasted through lack of use?
  • Could you make a commitment to using those items up before purchasing new ones?
  • If you no longer wish to use the item, can you donate it to a charity or friend who will use it?

My commitment

Of course I am not going to challenge you to something I am not prepared to do myself so here’s a couple of plans I have for 2018 with regards to not wasting items.

  • For a while now I have seen my interest in sewing decline with no renewal so I am planning to keep only the threads I need to finish my 2 current projects and selling the rest to someone who will use them.
  • I also have a pile of maybe 15 books which are currently unread so in 2018 I will be working my way through the pile and donating the books afterwards.
  • For several months I have been working my way through my stack of notebooks and paper and am pleased to say I’ve finish several since I stopped buying. I’m hoping to get down to owning only 1 notebook in 2018 instead of 20 half-finished ones! (As a small side note I recycle all the paper I use.)

Let me know how you get on in the comments below!

Why I wouldn’t want to be (super) rich

Recently the EuroMillions Lottery jackpot reached a colossal £119 million which would have made the winner one of the top 1000 richest people in the UK. Since I don’t have the disposable income to play year-round at every game, I usually only play when the jackpot is unusually big for a bit of entertainment (and the desire to quit minimum-wage work but, I digress). I began playing about 2 weeks ago when the jackpot was around £80 million or so until it was won last night by a player in Switzerland.

For the couple of weeks I played it gave me a lot of time to read about what actually happens when you win the lottery, and think about what would really happen if I did win. It gave me a lot to reflect upon so here’s my list of why I wouldn’t want to win such a large amount of money.

  1. Being set for life is a myth – In the USA it’s reported that around 70% of big lottery winners either spend or lose all their winnings within 5 years and many even go bankrupt. Like many others I believed that a lottery win would set you up for life and that only the odd person mismanaged their winnings and ended up worse off – so I was surprised to see that this isn’t the case for the majority of winners.
  2. You would need a whole team of advisors – When you win really big it’s advisable to get a team of people around you who can help you such as a financial adviser, accountant and so on. I don’t know about you but I enjoy managing my own money and budget, and the thought of suddenly having to find others to help me manage my wealth would be stressful! How would I know who was worth their salt and who to trust?
  3. You might be at an increased risk of burglary – As part of my research I spent a lot of time looking at how large the homes of the rich are – and it’s difficult to see how you could be aware of such a large space. When you live in a relatively small-medium house it’s easier to hear unusual noises, the breaking of glass and so on that would indicate if someone entered your home without your knowledge. Sure, you can hire security but that hasn’t stopped many high-profile celebrities from being broken in to and burgled including Simon Cowell, Kanye West, Rihanna and Mariah Carey – all people I would expect to have security you can’t get past.
  4. You will be at increased risk of kidnapping and murder – I read online (Sorry I can’t find the source again) that those who win large sums of money are statistically 2-3 times more likely to be murdered. Other lottery winners have reported seeing strangers in their gardens watching their children for unknown purposes.
  5. The fear of losing it all – The higher we fly the higher we have to fall, and especially if we go from one extreme to another the challenges of adjustment would be very difficult, whether that’s poor to rich or rich to poor, or even poor to rich to poor again. Even if you win a large sum of money you might still spent time worrying – about what you would do if you became one of those 70% of people who lose all their money.
  6. You might be hated by a lot of people – As income inequality rises and more and more people are using food banks in the UK, criticism of the super rich has grown. Some super rich people now fear revolution or an uprising due to the increasing gap and dissatisfaction felt by those who go hungry while others have gold toilet seats.
  7. You will be expected to buy and do particular things because you are rich – It’s kind of considered a given that if any of us were to win a significant amount of money that we would buy ourselves a designer wardrobe, luxury cars and so on. But for those of us who have never dreamed of having a designer wardrobe the expectation that we should want those things might be difficult to reconcile. Although I’ve occasionally seen a designer item which has caught my eye, by and large I don’t lust after that all-designer wardrobe with $20,000 handbags. If I could afford to shop at NEXT I would be a very happy! As for spending a quarter of a million dollars on a car? No chance, I’m not sure what car I would buy since they are of little interest to me, but I most likely wouldn’t want to spend beyond £10-20,000 if I won the lottery – as long as it had four doors, heating and was a reasonable colour I’d be happy! Those who opt not to purchase luxury goods are sometimes criticised as wasting their opportunity to do so and told they should give that money to someone else who will go buy those designer items since ‘you don’t know how to spend it’.
  8. The need to have a continuous stable income in order to support your new lifestyle – Once you start living an expensive lifestyle there is pressure to continue finding the income to do so, and whilst a big lottery win can give you a lavish lifestyle even lottery winnings have their limits, particularly when they are only spent and never used to generate future income whether via education or investment. Take for example the standard desire of wanting a mansion – even if that alone only took up a small amount of your winnings, the costs of running that mansion could soon eat up the rest of your winnings – some of the huge houses I looked at were costing their owners $74,000 a month just to run them and maintain them. That’s three quarters of a million a year just on housing costs, before you’ve even factored in the rest of your lifestyle costs. Similarly for those who work their way up, people can feel pressured to continue maintaining a particular lifestyle or keep up with peers even if it doesn’t make them happy.
  9. People will want money from you – Lottery winners who go public have reported receiving thousands of letters begging for money and no longer been able to visit local places they used to love because of people hounding them for money. Of course you could try to only tell a few close friends but the more people you tell the greater the risk of someone letting the cat out of the bag, which is what happened to one man who planned to stay anonymous – until his girlfriend let it slip. People wanting money from lottery winners has been the cause of many a relationship, whether friends, family or romantic to come to an end.
  10. You might lose sight of who you are – Although I try hard to be a good person and generally think I wouldn’t become a raging jerk if I succeeded financially or won the lottery, there’s no telling until you get there. What if one day I found myself uttering ‘Don’t you know who I am?’ or what if I became a control freak like the woman who dropped her blueberries over a balcony and made a team of hotel staff spend hours searching for them? Until we get that kind of money there’s really no telling.
  11. You might lose your ability to connect and sympathise with others – Sure rich people still have problems but if they are careful with their money there is a whole host of things that they never have to worry about that the rest of us do – how will they stay warm, eat, bathe or live in general from day to day. When something goes wrong you have the bank balance to fall back on and what could be a major problem for someone with very little income like their car breaking down would be a mere inconvenience for the rich. This can lead to people being totally out of touch with the lives of those less fortunate and then hateful towards those people, but the good news is this isn’t always the case and there are rich people out there who manage to maintain an understanding and sympathy towards those less fortunate.
  12. Privacy – In many states in the USA you have no choice but to go public with your winnings. And in the UK if you go public or someone else lets that secret out for you then you might find yourself and your choices in the national papers as many other lottery winners have done in the past. Your past might also be scrutinised a lot more carefully than if you hadn’t won, so if you plan to play this is something to take into consideration.
  13. You might feel like your life is meaningless – I’ve seen some people whose businesses and careers took off only to see them endlessly talking about what they bought, what products they liked, what they are decluttering and it strikes me that their whole life and purpose seems to revolve around… shopping. Don’t get me wrong there’s nothing wrong with shopping, almost all of us enjoy it, but when your whole life revolves around buying new stuff I imagine it must be difficult to feel any long-term deep satisfaction with your life and connection with your life’s purpose. There’s more to life than just… stuff.
    This does in part depend upon the kind of person you are – if you focus on buying items with your money and winnings you are probably more likely to feel dissatisfied than if you focused on what money can do for you in terms of experiences, education, adventures and enterprises. Many lottery winners, high-earners and celebrities have fallen into a depression over their feelings of life being meaningless for them. The good news is that your wealth can give you the opportunity to explore what a meaningful life would look like to you – and chase it.
  14. It probably won’t make you happy – Statistically it’s been shown that an income of around £70,000 a year is the peak point for happiness and well-being in terms of wealth and that after that people don’t get any happier. As a society where money is concerned we tend to think that we can’t have enough of it and the more money we have, the happier we will be. Clearly this isn’t the case – perhaps we should all be dreaming of 70k a year jobs instead of lottery numbers?

And with all that said, I wouldn’t mind my current situation to improve a bit but I think having £100+ million would potentially be more stress than it’s worth! What do you think? Is there an amount of money where you would be happy and comfortable and any more just wouldn’t have any effect or would actually have the opposite effect? Share with me in the comments below!

Sources

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2016/01/why_do_70_percent_of_lottery_w.html

https://www.ft.com/content/208627f2-d1d0-11e6-9341-7393bb2e1b51

https://www.thedailybeast.com/lotto-death-curse

Reflecting on two years smoke-free

I first began smoking out of curiosity.

When I was growing up my grandma was in poor health but when I reached my mid-teens she became housebound. She developed emphysema, then COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), and then one day I walked into her bedroom and her medical notes were pasted to the wall where they read ‘lung failure’.

About ten years ago she was admitted to hospital on Christmas Eve and we were told to say our goodbyes. We had a priest come and bless her. I was awake for more than 24 hours and finally went home on Christmas Day, completely exhausted physically, mentally and emotionally. After that I thought she would never smoke again. She lived for another five years after this and continued to smoke through many, many more similar hospital admissions.

I don’t know why she continued to smoke – they say it wouldn’t have cured the damage she had already done but to me that’s like saying you’ve got one broken leg so why not have two? They are probably right that her condition wouldn’t have improved – but it could have stabilised and been managed at emphysema instead of lung failure. Instead she continued to decline and struggle to breathe for the remaining five years of her life, and yes, it was horrific to watch.

So I was curious – what could possibly make someone want to continue smoking when it was making you so ill? I can only imagine that not being able to breathe is terrifying, but not being able to breathe for years? Unimaginable.

When I tried my first cigarettes I was totally unimpressed. I thought it was pretty disgusting and nothing to be addicted to. I didn’t get it at all. Later I tried again with menthols and found something I could smoke. So I smoked menthols for a few years, putting up with the headaches, sickness, nausea, feeling out of breath, shaky, and general feeling of unwell-ness that came with being a smoker. Then I met my partner and he didn’t like me smoking, so I quit. After that I only smoked on and off – when I stressed, upset or abroad where cigarettes were very cheap compared to the now skyrocketing prices of the UK due to laws designed to deter smokers (they work). But I didn’t really quit altogether per say, I always liked to know it was there – if I wanted it, but mostly I didn’t bother. I guess it just kind of tapered off until recently I was wondering how long it had been since I had smoked and realised that it was coming up to two years.

I only really gained an understanding when after many, many years of being eating disordered I desperately wanted to quit and to change but found myself unable no matter how I came at the problem. Finally, I understood how you could continue to smoke whilst being unable to breathe – and then I gained a greater sense of compassion, empathy and understanding – a sort of closeness to her, if you like.

Do I miss it? Yes and no. Some days I really crave it, whilst others I can’t imagine ever craving a cigarette ever again. Mostly when I walk behind smokers and breathe in that second-hand smoke – and it’s not cheating – I feel nostalgia for memories of people and a time now long gone.

The simplicity of one project

I know I’m not alone in having had many, many hobbies over the years, and for each of those hobbies I had multiple projects on the go all at the same time. At one point I remember counting over 40 sewing projects. Unsurprisingly it took me four years to complete one medium sized piece of work and the rest I ended up gifting to fellow stitches. Since finding minimalism I’ve reduced drastically the number of hobbies I have to only those I find really important or interesting at this particular point in my life, this has meant letting lots of past hobbies go that I had outgrown. Additionally I’ve also limited myself to having only one project, per hobby at a time. There were multiple reasons for this, so I thought I would share why you should consider having just one project too.

Time – We live in a busy world and we are busy people which means that our free time can often be limited and we must choose how we spend it wisely.
Completion – When I had 100 projects on the go at the same time, I rarely ever finished anything and when I did it was usually after several years and or tended to be a smaller project. This can lead not only to clutter but also to a feeling of failure as we never manage to complete any of the projects we are working on. Of course with hobbies it is by and large about the process, but give yourself a chance to see how it feels when your passion drives you to complete something wonderful.
Clutter – As mentioned above, multiple projects on the go at once mean several times the clutter.
Focus – Having one project allows us to remain focused and reduce time spent trying to catch up and remember where we were the last time we were working on a particular project.
Changing tastes – Over time our tastes change and if we are taking multiple years to complete a project by the time we find some free leisure time to work on a project it might have been so long that our tastes have completely changed, leaving us with a lot of time, money and resources spent on something our hearts are no longer in.
Learning – We can learn a lot from hobbies and interests, but we restrict our ability to learn when we only complete the beginning stages of a project, leaving us with no experience of the finishing stages or of the more complex challenges hobbies can bring.
Choice – Having only one project in the era of having thousands of ideas pinned on Pinterest forces us to choose what we really love and let our passion guide us to the projects we feel we cannot live without trying.
Immersion – When we have only one project to channel our passion into it allows us to become fully immersed in the process.
Memory – Having so many projects leaves us liable to forget them and then things we have spent our time and money on just get shoved to the back of a draw, taking up space.

How do you feel about the prospect of having only one project at time? Have your reduced your hobbies and projects? Share with me in the comments below.