When I first ran away from real life and came to my seaside apartment I was a broken man. The thought of friendships and relationships made me feel physically ill. I also began to relearn who I really was. The true Jack Collier cannot abide clutter, untidiness, dust, dirt, and mess. Neither physical, mental, and emotional muddle sit well with me.
Nor do I seem to be particularly acquisitive. The pleasures of collecting things; pictures, ornaments, and the like, largely passes me by. Although I have been, and still am, guilty of having far too many books and too much recorded music, (in its multifarious forms), than can be good for one person.
Fashion does not particularly interest me. My sheepskin ‘flying’ jacket is more than 20 years old, and I am still wearing dress shoes almost as old as that. ~ but then I’m a man.
Without any planning or conscious thought I began the process of decluttering my life.
Some of this was easier than you would think, because there are only three little rules;
- Do not buy anything that does not have an immediate and specific purpose in your life.
- If you have things which do not have a specific purpose in your life, then either sell them, give them away, or dump them in the trash.
- Never, ever, leave anything out in the open, cluttering up table-tops, counter tops, bedside cabinets, dressers, sinks, the sides of the bath… If you are not actually using something right now, then always put everything away. If there’s nowhere to keep whatever it is ~ say clothes you haven’t worn for years, then follow rule #2.
What I did not realise until very recently is that living attracts clutter like a dog attracts fleas. Decluttering your life is not a one-off event, it’s an ongoing process which requires vigilance and effort. Consequently I am still selling stuff through eBay and Amazon, I am still a regular visitor to my local thrift / charity / goodwill stores, and I still find myself tossing things into the trash.
Worst of all, I still sometimes buy things I don’t really need, or even want. And, like all men, I am terrible at returning things to the store.
I want to tell you about the alternative lifestyle I have today. Before I do that, I thought it may be a good idea to tell you something about who I used to be, what happened, where that changed me, and how all that made me into who I am now. My story may give you an idea why I live the way I do now. I will be brutally honest, except where to share some confidences may hurt or embarrass others.
Back in the day I was a Banker specialising in International Treasury Management. My salary and bonuses were much more than generous. When I travelled I flew at the front of the aircraft, where the champagne is given away free. When I was in New York I stayed at the Plaza on 5th. I never used public transport or ordinary taxicabs, (excepting in London where everyone uses the black cabs). I only ever ate at the best places, where they serve the best food and the finest wines. I only drank in the exclusive bars.
I worked at least a 60 hour week. If travel time is included I sometimes worked 3 or 4 days without a break. I once visited Paris, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Brussels, Copenhagen, Olso, and San Francisco, in a single week.
My major vices were booze, carnal women, a long-term affair, and the over-use of power. I have never had a one night-stand with a woman, nor have I ever smoked or taken anything other than prescription medication. I did not abuse either over-the-counter or prescription medication. The dose of Prozac I was prescribed was bad enough on it’s own.
Regular exercise was a thing of the past. I had no hobbies left. Sometimes, if I could find the time, I would walk around the block near my hotel, and that was about the extent of my aerobic work. Consequently I was overweight and I was always out of breath. I had high blood pressure, an irregular heartbeat, and an uncertain temper. My marriage was on the rocks. I was sporadically attending meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous.
My career was killing me.
It came to a head on Madison in New York, when I was in the boardroom of an advertising conglomerate. I was attempting to tell the chief financial officer that what he wanted could not be done, not with the state of banking technology at the time. The guy would not listen to me, kept interrupting and contradicting me. Out of the blue I found myself thinking; ‘if you don’t shut up I will walk around this table and smack you in the mouth.’
It is never a good idea to hit a client. In any event this guy was built like a professonal football player, (American Football), and I’m a small chap. Afterwards, I realised I was in the middle of a breakdown ~ (nerveous breakdown, psychological breakdown, who knows?).
Right in that meeting I decided it was time for me to get out of the banking business. However, I must have impressed a little because we all signed a ‘heads of agreement’, and I collected a fat cheque as an upfront payment. Then I flew back to the City of London, walked into see my Director, and promptly resigned. Which went down like a bag of vomit. After all, I had the Midas touch.
It didn’t turn out so well for King Midas either.
I never once went back into the banking business. I have done a lot of other crazy stuff before I got here, but I will tell you some of that next week.