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Use it or lose it

I spent the end of 2015 Helpxing on a couple farms in Ontario, Canada.

Both places weren’t too far outside Ottawa, and the first was on a property owned by a guy called Damita. Damita had previously only worked in IT and had 0 experience in carpentry. But he read book after book, watched videos on Youtube, and then he just, you know, built a house.

The house had paper thin walls, mismatched paint jobs, no clear theme or style, was clearly designed by an amateur and inside it looked like the architectural version of a patchwork quilt. It also had holes in walls covered up by flags. If the big, bad wolf came, he wouldn’t blow it down, but damn, homeboy would give it a good shake. It was built with the help and passion and dedication of volunteers who had been through on their journeys, each adding some hard work or some individual creative touch. And although it was freezing waking up there on those early Ontario winter mornings, damn, when there was a fire going in the living room, and there was a bunch of us sitting around with a cup of tea, just talking crap about whatever, and having a laugh, it felt like the cosiest house in Canada.

The second place I stayed in was professionally designed by an expert. A perfectly engineered mini-mansion, which the owner took pride in telling me has been tested to withstand all weather and other events and will stand for at least 100 years.

If I had to choose which one to live in, Damita’s place wins. No doubt.

The cosiest house in Canada

Dr Money Mustache lives out in Boulder, Colorado and in this podcast, there’s 3 little pieces of greatness you can take from it.

#1 is to ‘Walk, just walk.’ The power of walking to clear your head is really something. Instead of driving somewhere, doing something mega-slow like walking can really help you slow a racing mind. It also helps you think much more clearly about any problems you might be having. And put them in perspective.

*Sidenote: It also helps you have experiences you probably wouldn’t have driving. Just today I walked about 7 k’s and on the home stretch, I walked along the beach. Walking barefoot on the sand, after dark, I stumbled upon a bunch of volunteers watching a protected turtle nest, waiting for an almost ready clutch of green turtles to hatch.

#2 is one of the only quotes he thinks about. And a couple times a day.

It’s: ‘Use it or Lose it.’

He says, ‘You don’t have to be all flowery and poetic to appreciate use it or lose it.’ Which, and he makes a good point, actually applies to basically all areas of life where you want to. Stuff doesn’t just automatically stay perfect. ‘Whether it’s your brain, body, skills, relationships, friendships. Do everything you want to be good at as often as you can, and don’t fool yourself that you’re going to be able to keep doing this, unless you continue doing it regularly.’

And #3 was something to the effect of, ‘You haven’t lived until you’ve built your own house.’ Now, he doesn’t mean just a house, as if you haven’t built a house you haven’t lived. But from what he says, it’s sounds like the act of creating something so fundamental as a shelter, and a secure and permanent one, connects us to who we are, as people and hunter gatherers from the start.

And he also says it doesn’t have to be a house. It can be a shed, mancave, whatever, (it’s something Kevin Kelly, ultra-futurist and co-founder of Wired Magazine believes in too).

Once, Damita and I were sitting in the kitchen of his quirky dreamhouse, having a quiet cup of tea in the kitchen. I said, ‘Do you ever just look around and think, “I built this.”?’ He half-laughed and didn’t really give me a clear yes or no. And I couldn’t really tell if building the house made him feel more satisfied, or grounded, or maybe more connected as a human being. But then again, he’s one of the most satisfied, grounded and connected people I’ve ever met, so I’m sure it had something to do with it.

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