Why I believe animals deserve a higher place in modern society

This is a subject that usually causes a riot when discussed. A lot of people are against this idea, because it’s their believe that animals don’t have feelings and are put on this earth for humans to dominate and use them and to rule over their lives. Most humans believe they are at the top of the food chain.

However, there are also those who do believe in this statement. I’m one of those people and I strongly believe animals should have a higher place in modern society.

First of all, I don’t believe people even have a higher place in society than animals. We’re an arrogant specie, entitling ourselves to be superior over other species and dumbing animals down, claiming they don’t have feelings and are worthless to society, other than providing food and needs for humans. I always wonder why humans believe they are at the top of the food chain. We’re not faster or stronger than a great deal of animals. Yes, we humans have a great deal of intelligence at our disposal. But then again we’re also the only species who are bent on killing the very planet that sustains all life. Intelligence is relative.

Also, animals don’t have a voice to speak up for themselves, so I believe humans should do that for them. Do I think animals should rule human society? No, I don’t. But that doesn’t mean it’s okay to kill, abuse, starve, torture and slaughter other living creatures. It’s illegal to kill another human being, but somehow it’s okay to kill and harm animals, as if that’s any less worse. It’s an illusion that our treatment of animals has no moral significance.

Finally, animals are not ours, animals are not things. They are living creatures, just like humans. Animals actually do have feelings. By not responding on the torture that’s going on, we actually do respond. We are equally responsible for what we don’t do. To me, it’s not about if animals can reason or talk, but about the question “Can they suffer?”.

I want to believe in Leonardo da Vinci’s wish: that one day the time will come when men will look upon the murder and harm of animals as they now look upon the murder of men. And if slaughterhouses and factory farms would have glass walls, would you still be able to look an animals in the eyes and say you can’t see the pain we humans are causing? Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.

When spending less money becomes a need

Spending less can be a fun challenge and even a great lifestyle change. However, when spending less becomes a necessity instead of something you just do because you want to, it become a whole lot less fun to do.

When I started this blog my goal was to spend less money, to consume less stuff and to be happier this way. And for me it worked! I was able to kick my shopping addiction to the curb and even had some money on my savings account. I wanted to do this, so I could be happier. And that’s what I got: I got happier by spending and owning less stuff.

But now spending less is no longer something I just want, but it became something I need to do if I want to be able to pay my rent at the end of the month. And when something becomes a need instead of a want, it all of a sudden becomes a bit stressful and not so much fun anymore.

As some of you may or may not know, at the beginning of September I went back to college, for the first time in years. Before, there were an awful lot of reasons why I wasn’t able to study, but that’s a story for another time. So, I’m a college student now and as we all know, college is expensive. I’m okay with that, I study something I truly love and which will give me a better future. But that doesn’t take the fact away that there’s even less money left at the end of the month.

Somewhere around mid-September one of my cats, Tijger, got seriously ill and I had to take him to the vet. Luckily he’s okay now and I thank God for that, but can you say “ka-ching!”? He also needs to stay on a special diet for the rest of his life, which I’m more than happy to provide because I love my cats more than anything, but, once again, it leaves even less money at the end of the month than there already was (or wasn’t) before.

As you can see there are multiple cost that got bigger and bigger over the past few months. Cost I’m willing to pay because they are worth it. But because of these extra costs, me wanting to spend less money became me needing to spend less money. So how do you deal with that? Here are some tips to help you deal with money stress.

Appreciate what you already have

This might sounds like an obvious tip, but a lot of people don’t really see how lucky they already are. When money is tight, the thought about what you can’t buy can quickly become overwhelming. This is a very negative mindset. It might help you out if you start to think about what you already do own and to realise that that’s enough (here’s the minimalistic thought again). I don’t have a lot of money, in fact, at the end of my money there’s still some month left. But that’s okay. I can provide the basic needs (food and shelter), I can take care of my two cats and sometimes there’s even some money left for a new pair of jeans or whatever. Look inside you closet, look around you, and ask yourself: Do I really need that new dress or is it just something I want and why?

Of course, if you’re no longer able to provide the basic needs, you can appreciate all you want, but that appreciation won’t be able to give you food and shelter. If this is the case, please seek contact with your local authorities for help.

Regain control over your financial situation

Make sure you know exactly how much money you earn and spend each and every month. This way you won’t have to stress out when you’re buying groceries or whatever, because you know exactly how much you have to spend. Make a feasible budget and stick to it.

Try to stay out of debt

If you’re already in debt, seek the help of a professional to help you out. If you’re not in debt, do your best to stay that way! Debts bring stress with them and when money is already tight, debt-related stress is the last thing you’ll need. And yes, sometimes you have to maintain an extremely sober lifestyle in order to stay out of trouble, but so be it. When money is tight and there’s nothing more you can do to change that, you sometimes have to realise that for now you won’t be able to go to the cinema, to eat out or to go clubbing with your friends. This is not the end of the world. There are a lot of fun activities you can do at home, without it costing you a single penny. For instance, watch a movie at home with your friends, do yoga, go running, go to the local petting zoo, go on a hike through nature, write, take pictures etcetera.

Choose to build a wealthy future

Use your money to create a secure financial future instead of spending it on material possessions. This way you’ll get a feeling of freedom and peace, something spending money you don’t have on all the expensive toys in the world will never give you. The first step to a less materialistic future is realising that money won’t buy you happiness. And yes, that is a cliché, but clichés are clichés because they are true. Of course, you need money to provide the basic needs, such as food, shelter and clothing. But when money, or rather spending money, start to take over your life, it’s time to take a real hard look at what’s really going on. Are you trying to fill a hole by buying stuff you don’t really need? Because that’s what I did. I felt so much sadness and I was really lonely, that I kept buying things just to feel a spark of happiness, even if it was for just a few seconds. Or maybe, there’s another reason why you’re so caught up in materialistic possessions. If you feel you can’t deal with the underlying issue by yourself, I highly recommend seeking the help of a professional, there’s not shame in that!

Do what works for you

Try to find a way of spending less that works for you in the long run. Maybe that’s by quitting materialism cold turkey or maybe by bringing your budget for clothing down just a little bit. Try to make your changes last, to create new habits that will help you and feel good to you even years from now. For me that was seeking the help of a professional to help me with my psychological issues, to create a healthier lifestyle for myself and to realise how blessed I already am, and that that has nothing to do with stuff.

Miss Minimalist

Ladies and gentlemen,

This is a bit of a late announcement, but Upgrading Your Life With Less got featured on Miss Minimalist!

Click here for the original post

So here’s what I wrote:

Minimalism… Until about a year ago I never even heard of it. I mean, I knew about minimalistic art and design and found it to be utterly boring. I like colors, bold prints, wonderful fabrics! So, how did I fall in love with minimalism then? It’s a funny story really. Or, well, not really. But it has a very bright silver lining to it though! So stick with me.

About 2 years ago, I collapsed at work. Just dropped on the floor, totally blacked out for a moment. Turned out I was overworked. And not just overworked in the way that I needed a few days off to sleep a bit, regain some strength. Overworked as in the way of not being able to sleep at night, because all I could think about was my job and what would happen if I failed at it, overworked as in the way of not seeing my friends and family anymore, because all I did was work and after that I was too tired to do anything else. Overworked as in the way of yelling and screaming at my beloved boyfriend and my sweet feline friends about every little thing, because I was so tired and stressed out all of the time. Overworked as in not eating well anymore, because I had no time and energy to prepare meals. Overworked as in feeling like the only way I could make myself feel worthy and not like a total failure was by buying stuff, lots and lots of stuff…

So, that’s what I did, I bought stuff, and some more stuff, and some more. Shopping was like a drug to me. I would feel good for just a moment, but after that I would feel even worse than before. I’m pretty sure I was addicted to it. Until one day. It was about a year after I collapsed. I left my job after that horrible day, stayed home for a whole year, just to get a grip on reality again, to regain some energy, spirit and strength. After that year I felt ready. I didn’t knew for what, but I was ready for whatever would come my way. As I was browsing the Internet, I came across a weblog, called the Zen Habits. I started reading and a light went on. This was what I needed! To regain clarity of mind I needed to clear out my life!

So, I started right away. Not only did I deleted all phone numbers of people who were toxic to me, I also dropped all beauty products I needed to value myself. After that I went to my closet. Armed with a dozen trash bags I tackled all the clothing that I had that made me feel uncomfortable and/or didn’t fit my body or my personality. I felt so relieved, so… light! So my journey continued. I was reading every blog I could find about minimalism, including the wonderful Miss Minimalist, and I became more and more enthusiastic.

It has been a year now, and I feel better than ever. I don’t have to worry about stuff anymore and I regained my self-worth by realizing that I am not my stuff. I still feel like I’m on a journey when it comes to minimizing my lifestyle and belongings, but isn’t the journey part of the fun? I think it is!

Looking back at before I made the chance that might have saved my life, I felt like the wheel was turning, but the hamster was long dead. I think I knew all along that my way of living wouldn’t make me happy, and I’m so thankful for discovering minimalism. It gave me back my life.

Couch potatoes, zombies and sore calves

For a while now, I’ve been trying my best to get myself to a healthier lifestyle. Changing the things I eat has been hard (but worth it!), but starting to exercise has been even harder! Fact is, I don’t like exercise. I don’t like to get all sweaty and warm with my heart pounding out of my chest. But change doesn’t happens when you stay in your comfort zone, so I’ve started running.

First thing I tried was the running program ‘Start to run’ (it’s a Dutch program). It was okay, but I didn’t like the fact that you can’t pick your own music. After that, I went on to ‘Zombies, run!’ which is great fun (you’re being chased by zombies, I mean, what’s not to like, right?!), but I don’t like how little you run and the exercises that are combined with the running program are not my thing. So on I went to something I’ve been hearing a lot of lately; Couch to 5K. I’ve downloaded the app, put in on my iPod Touch and gave it a spin! Yesterday I’ve finished my first round and I must say that I’m very pleased with myself at the moment. It was a whole lot easier than I thought it would be, there was a decent amount of running to be done and I like the fact that you can pick out a drill sergeant to motivate you (you can also go for some of the other motivational speakers if you don’t like a man shouting ‘RUN!’ in your ears). The goal is to be able to run 5K in 9 weeks by training 3 times a week.

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The shoes I’m running in are the Vibram Five Fingers. I’ve been writing about those before (The minimalistic shoe) and I even love them more than I did back then. Obviously, I was expecting a bit of muscle aching the day after my run, since it was my first run since a long time. And not only that. I’ve also changed from my regular running method (landing with the heel of my foot) to running with the Chi method (which uses, among other things (for more information I recommend searching online for ‘Chi running’) a midfoot strike instead of a heel strike).

First time run + Vibram Five Fingers + Chi running = Not being able to walk down the stairs the next morning. My calves are stiff and when walking a little bit too enthusiastic (read: Walking in any other way than gliding over the floor like I’m an ice skater) my body goes into protest and I look like freaking Gollum (can we all say “My Precious”?). But I’m pretty sure it will all be worth it when in 9 weeks, I’m running my first 5K ever!

Here are some tips for when you first start running:

Health

  • Always do a warming up before you start running and a cooling down after. This prevents injuries. When using a running program (like ‘Zombies, Run!’ or ‘Couch to 5K’) it usually features a warming up you can use.
  • Have a resting day in between your runs to let your body heal.
  • Start slowly. Don’t over-do it, it might do more harm than good to your body.
  • Listen to your body. If something doesn’t feel good and you’re really worried, check with your physician.
  • Sore, tired muscles are normal; bone, joint, or soft-tissue pain is a sign of injury Contact your doctor to get it checked out.

Running gear

  • Make sure you have some good running shoes. They might be a bit pricy, but they’ll be worth it. Good running shoes will help you prevent injuries and make your runs more enjoyable.
  • You don’t have to spend a small fortune on running clothing. Most big clothing stores (like H&M) sell sport clothing for a very reasonable price.
  • Make sure that the clothing and shoes you’re wearing fit comfortably without anything chafing against your skin.

Awareness 

  • Always carry your address and other important information with you in case of an emergency.
  • Always make sure someone knows you’re out running, especially if you live in a remote area.
  • If you feel unsafe while running, get out! Turn around and go home, if you carry a cell phone with you call someone or if there’s a diner or anything nearby go there and call someone to pick you up.

Disclaimer: Always check with your physician first before starting any form of exercise

Modern society: What I don’t have and don’t want

Modern society has many benefits which I enjoy, but also many things that stress me out and make me feel uncomfortable. And although I’m really thankful for some things that modern society has brought me, light, heaters, clean water, hot showers, washing machine and a wonderful house, there are also things that I don’t want to be a part of.

Smart phone

  • I used to have a smart phone, but it drove me insane! I don’t like to be “connected” to the world 24/7. I don’t want people to see whether I’m online or not. I don’t want to get meaningless messages that are getting send out of boredom. I could go on, but that would make this a really negative post.

Post-paid mobile service

  • I have a pre-paid mobile phone and never had a post-paid one in my life. I don’t want to pay for something I don’t even use and I like the freedom of pre-paid. When money is a bit tight, I can just choose not to pay for using my mobile phone.

Games (on- and offline)

  • I’m not a big gamer. Darling Boyfriend tried to explain World of Warcraft to me a few times, but it’s just not for me. I do like board games though, but I don’t play them that often.

Creditcard

  • Never had one, and never want one. I don’t need one and I don’t like the concept of it.

Car

  • Cars cost a lot of money and that’s money I rather save or spend on something more useful to me. I use public transportation, my bike and my scooter to get anywhere.

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Our modern society is engaged in polishing and decorating the cage in which man is kept imprisoned.  -Swami Nirmalananda

Of course, there are also modern things I do have and don’t want to get rid of

Laptop

  • I love my laptop! I use it pretty much every day. I use it for fun, but also for administration stuff. I wouldn’t want to go without it.

Internet

  • From my point of view, one of the greatest inventions in years is the Internet. I use it pretty much every day. I really like how I can use it to look up pretty much every thing I want to.

E-reader

  • I love reading, but carrying around books all the time can be a bit hard. I use my E-reader a lot and I consider it to be the best buy I had in many years. For more about my experience with the E-reader, see my blog post: It’s a kind of magic!

Mobile phone

  • I have a very simple mobile phone which I got for free from a friend. I like to have it with me in case of an emergency and to seek out for contact when I’m on the road. I don’t have a landline, so I use my mobile phone to keep in touch with family and friends.

TV

  • I have a small and cheap TV which works great. I rarely watch TV, but I do like to have one in the house to watch the few shows I really like.

Small cable package

  • I have the cheapest cable package available in the Netherlands (besides not having a cable package at all, which, of course, is free). It’s € 12,50 a month (that’s 16,29 USD/10,78 GBP) and it has the 26 most popular channels in it. I love it! I rarely watch TV, so this cable package suits me.

Twitter

  • Well, I don’t have Twitter, but my weblog does. I use it to share new posts with the people who would like to read them.

There are also some other things I don’t have and don’t want, like a big house (I would love to be part of the tiny house movement) and debts (although I don’t think anyone really wants debts), but I wouldn’t call those thing modern (after all, even in the Middle Ages people had big houses and/or debts).

I don’t judge anyone who does have or wants these things. They are just not for me.