Friday 12 October 2018

The Art of Frugal Hedonism

I plucked this book off the library shelves a few months ago when I was cruising (somewhat uncharacteristically) in the Business section! I'd never heard of The Art of Frugal Hedonism, but was captivated by the title and cover. I shoved it in a pile of other books and brought it home. I've borrowed it several times since that day. And read it cover to cover. 

I started reading it one day when at a bit of a loose end, and was immediately pulled in right from the Foreward by Clive Hamilton. It's all really well written as well as being interesting. It's fun and funny, and not at all stodgy.

Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb really know their subject as the book was born out of their beliefs and experiences. In 2016 they were living on $105 each per week (including bills, but excluding rent/mortgage payments) compared to the Australian average of $440 (artificially low because it is including adults and children alike). The Art of Frugal Hedonism is a manifesto of sorts of how to value-add your life without actually paying for it. It teaches us that if we consume less, we have don't have to earn as much to live the same life, we can work less and live more- and it's better for the environment.  
As we grew older, dear reader, your authors noticed that a lot of people in our unbelievably affluent society were struggling to thoroughly enjoy life, despite having it so good. 
The book is 51 chapters full of anecdotes, tips and advice on how to live this life, but with an added dash of philosophy. I particularly enjoyed a new 3 Rs. Relish, Recalibrate and Revel in Resourcefulness. Chapter 2 is simply called Relish, and it advises us to use our own nerve endings to our advantage. They offer rather unconventional advice such as
Stroke your dog's ear between thumb and forefinger and marvel at its silkiness. Snuggle into your bed on a cold night and actually grin about how good it is... Enjoy the rocking movement of a train... Call it mindfulness, call it living in the moment, call it relishing- it's recommended by psychiatrists, hedonists, Buddhist monks and cheapskates alike. 
Stroking my dogs ears has long been one of my favourite activities. It's glorious. And obviously free (well apart from the dog food and vet bills). 

Chapter 6, Recalibrate your Senses suggests a way for us to really appreciate what can be everyday treats for us. 
The basic blueprint for modern first-world living is normalised hyper-abundance and hyper-stimulation, punctuated by desperate attempt at escape when the fallout becomes too distressing. These attempts usually take the form of bouts of restraint (like diets), or of collapse (like illness, or 'lie-by-a-pool-for-two-weeks-getting-drunk' holidays). Frugal Hedonism inverts this pattern by normalising an elegant sufficiency of consumption, and then artfully dotting it with intensely relished abundance.
They point out how good a cold beer tastes after a sweaty day of working in the garden with a friend. How good a hot shower feels after a week or camping (I do know how that feels but fervently hope never to experience it again, I can Relish my daily shower without having to Recalibrate by camping).

Reveling in Resourcefulness, Chapter 17, reminds us how good it feels to problem solve, to fix something that otherwise may be no longer used, or thrown out. I've taken up mending things this year, which does not seem all that big a deal I suppose, but I was so proud of my efforts mending a hole in my flanelette sheet that I took pictures and sent it to friends! Those sheets have lasted out the winter just fine (and indeed are still on the bed, winter isn't quite finished where I live), and I didn't need to buy new sheets this winter. And it seriously was rather quick. Previously I would have consigned them to dog blankets long ago. 
Everyday life used to provide people with ample opportunity to experience the satisfaction of being canny, constructive, and creative to achieve an end via the constant necessity of making things and repairing or repurposing them. Apparently, this feeling is so pleasurable that as those necessary activities which supplied it dwindled, we have invented leisure activities to supply it in their place- cutting up brand new fabric to use for recreational quilting, finding 'shed' projects to tinker on, building model aeroplanes, doing puzzles, gaming. 

Perhaps I would rename Chapter 20- Indulge Your Curiosity, to Remain Curious, to fit with my R theme. I've already recognised the need to remain curious as an important principal in my own life. Curiosity may have killed the cat but it certainly brings great joy to humans. Annie and Adam suggest that knowledge can function in lieu of material goods, and that it is "deep hedonism".
As your understandings amass, you begin to sense the world around you as a dense and majestic cathedral of thrumming, interconnected functions and stories. 
I loved this book so much, I suspect that I'll buy my own copy at some stage. And I'll definitely be searching out their other book The Weed Forager's Handbook and most definitely try to do an Edible Weed Walk on my next visit to Melbourne.

If I'd been paying attention I would have noticed Lisa's review at ANZLitLovers last year.

Or heard the RN Lifematters interview with Annie Raser-Rowland.

I'm not exactly sure if this book qualifies for the Australian Women Writers Challenge, as the second author is a man, but will list it anyway as I'm sure more people would love it too. And I hope they will tell me if it doesn't. Actually I'll ask on twitter.


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I say it counts.! I’m finding a copy asap. It looks like something that is just my cuppa.

Brona said...

I’ve been eyeing this one off at work as it seems to fit in with the slow philosophy I’m trying to get back to. You’ve just tipped me over the edge - although perhaps I should borrow it from the library rather than buy it - Relish, Recalibrate and Revel in Resourcefulness - love it! My new mantra!

Brona said...

And yes it counts for AWW if one of the authors is a woman.

Louise said...

Oh, I think you'd both love it. Deb, it's from a small publisher and I think only available from the website. I hope you can get a copy. Brona, it's perfect for a slow life philosophy- and thanks for the AWW advice, I've just added my review.

Paula said...

Very nice blog you have heree