Nicola Alpe: How living smaller helped me see the bigger picture


When I was in my twenties and working in marketing, my boss constantly said, “less is more Nicola, less is more.”

I couldn’t help but think back to that as I watched a pared-back performance of what is normally one of the most grandiose ceremonies in the world.

The US presidential inauguration, usually attended by 200,000 people, saw the 46th President and Vice-President take their oaths in front of about 1,000 people, and of course the many millions watching at home.

Granted, it was still a rather magnificent affair. How many other events make Lady Gaga and JLo play second fiddle?

After watching the new President place his hand upon a hulking old Bible, we got an opportunity to partake in the festivities, although would the Capitol rioters bring themselves to switch to “Clinton News Network” for the Celebrating America concert? I doubt it.

Unlike inauguration balls hidden away from curious civilians, funded and attended by major donors, interest groups and sycophants all peddling their cause later in the term, we could watch everything the guests of honour were seeing, albeit from our lounge rooms instead of the Truman Balcony.

It showed that scaling back can have just as big an impact. All the people who needed and wanted to be there were there. Living smaller doesn’t need to mean living with any less impact or feeling.

On a micro level, I have returned to living smaller and will try to stay smaller in the future. Geographical and mostly financial circumstances thrust upon me the need to live smaller in 2020. Add to that the truly useless state of online shopping, the ineptitude of NZ Post and the fact that some online stores don’t even have courier providers, and it was relatively easy to shuck off the sticky tentacles of Amazon and all the other gloriously consumer-focused retailers I was BFFs with in the US.

I perused the floor of my nearest Kmart on the weekend, asking other shoppers where the handbags were. Ironic, because we all know one of the ways Kmart keeps prices low is by not employing any staff during opening hours. I digress. As I follow some Kmart dedicated Instagram accounts, I wanted to get my hands on one of the bags of the summer, a straw tote with faux leather detail.

Upon finding the holy grail, I entered into a conversation with my inner monologue about the price and my real need for it. This might have looked baffling to passersby. A woman grappling with the decision to buy a $22 bag, all the while a genuine designer bag slung from her shoulder. In the end and with a wry smile, I put the bag back on the hook and walked away.

It won’t always be easy to live smaller and I may show my lifelong B+ credentials long term, but it’s something many of us have learned that we can do; whether it be only buying secondhand clothes like Frances Cook, Nespresso at home instead of flat whites at the local, or workout apps instead of gym memberships.

I’m pleased I listened to my inner monologue that day. I can hear it now as I check my word count. Less is more Nicola, less is more.

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