Friday, March 10, 2023



A pointless relic from the past

Christopher Nyerges

 [Christopher Nyerges is the author of Urban Survival Guide, How to Survive Anywhere, Extreme Simplicity, Foraging California and other books. He can also be reached via School of Self-Reliance, Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or] 

Yes, it’s that time of year again!  Our lawmakers, in their infinite wisdom, continue to tinker with time.  Manipulate the clocks and we can trick the people into supposedly saving energy.  And twice a year, we’re all subject to the changes and inconveniences that occur as a result of the springing forward or falling back.  We have to quickly adjust.  It is part of our annual ritual, our relic from the past, where we go back to standard time from  daylight savings time. 

 But why do we do this? Where did this come from?

 Daylight savings time is a manipulation of the basic solar time within each time zone’s standard.  It was said to be an idea of Benjamin Franklin, and was begun in the United States during world wars one and two, and eventually became “official” in all but two states. That right!  At least two states have said “No, thanks, we’ll stick to standard time.” And now a few states are saying, “We’re sick of changing our clocks twice a year – we want to keep daylight savings time (or standard time) all year.”

 Daylight savings time is a quaint tradition of a bygone era that refuses to die.  It is a pointless habit with little recognizable merit.  Michael Downing, author of “Spring Forward: The Annual Madness of Daylight Savings Time,” demonstrates that the clock-change saves energy in theory only, but not in practice.

 David Letterman once asked the question to his audience during his monologue: “Why do we practice daylight savings time?  It’s so the farmers have more light,” he laughed, answering his own question.  “But how does that give the plants more light?”  That’s a Letterman joke for you, but there is a truth hidden under his humor.  Most people queried on the street don’t know why we have daylight savings time, and fewer still experience any tangible benefits from it, except perhaps the pleasantness of a later sunset time in the summer.

 There are two often-cited reasons for the use of daylight savings time.  One is so that the children can have more light going to school in the morning.  But consider:  the  children have an hour more of morning light in late October, when the clock is set back (“fall back”) to standard time.  That is, it is the very use of daylight savings time which creates a darker morning as the days get shorter and shorter.  The “falling back” an hour merely puts us back in sync with the local time zone.  It is the use of daylight savings time that created the problem of less light in the morning, and only in that sense can you say that the “falling back” to regular time gives children that extra hour of light.  In other words, this is a problem caused by daylight savings time.  This is not a bonafide benefit from daylight savings time.

 My grandfather, and all my uncles on my mother’s side were farmers.  I have some knowledge of the schedule of farmers.  There is not one that I know who does not arise at the crack of dawn, if not sooner.  There is no other way to function as a farmer.  You then proceed to work as long as needed, and as long as you are able, daylight savings time or standard time.  The manipulation of clocks in no way affected how much work they got done, or not done. 

 I have talked to many people about daylight savings time. Some like it, some do not. Some are annoyed by it, some find the long afternoons of summer very enjoyable.  Everyone has arrived late (or early) on the first Sunday (even Monday in some cases) after the changing of the clocks.  Daylight savings time thus gives millions of people a quasi-valid excuse for lateness at least once a year.

 Let’s end daylight savings time entirely and adopt a year-round standard time.  If I were asked to choose between daylight savings time all year, or standard time all year, I would definitely choose standard time. Why? Simple! Standard time is the closest approximately of actual solar time. It more closely represents the real world than does the manipulation of daylight savings time.

 Those who wish to start school or go to work earlier can do so!  Such voluntary time alterations are fine if those individuals and schools and businesses choose to do so. It may even make the freeways less crowded at rush hours.  But let’s keep the standard time year-round.

 Yes, this is a small thing in the context of a world always at war, with hate and suspicion in all political camps, with pandemics, and endless economic hardships all over the world.  In that big-picture sense, this is just a little issue.  But this is still an issue that causes headaches and freeway crashes at least twice a year.  Let’s  resolve it!   I love the sun. Let the sun dictate our abstraction of time, not politicians.

 Since daylight savings time is a state-by-state decision, we can begin with California. Write to our Governor and ask to implement year-round standard time. You can write to Office of the Governor, State Capitol, Sacramento, CA 95814, or phone at 916) 445-2841, or on-line at  (if you live in another state, write to your governor if you agree).

 Take a poll of your friends and acquaintances before you write to the Governor.  See if you can find anyone who derives tangible benefits from daylight savings time. Of course, if you like Daylight Savings Time, you will likely just continue with your life. Secondly, there is always the initiative process where a Proposition can be put on the ballot to be voted on by the people.  This is a process that would take an organized effort and cost at least a million dollars, and probably more.  




Wednesday, November 30, 2022


ON STUFF    [La versión en español está debajo de la versión en inglés.]

Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges is the author of 22 books and the co-founder of School of Self-Reliance.  Among other things, he teaches his students how to do more with less, and how frugality is a fulfilling lifestyle. He has authored "Extreme Simplicity," "Self-Sufficient Home," "Urban Survival Guide," and other books. More information at]

Yesterday in Highland Park there was a sweep of a homeless area, where they all had to move their tents and stuff, and the sanitation department’s large crew filled trucks with junk and cleaned the sidewalk.  Before their work, you could smell the area from 200 feet away.  At least 15 police officers stood by because some of the homeless camped there got angry. At least a few shouted violent accusations towards the officers.  When it was nearly over, I walked right through the thick of it to see the stuff that homeless people collect.  My eyes saw some useful daily life objects, but mostly junk and trinkets.  My mind was spinning.

Then, I could not help but contemplate the vast amounts of worthless material stuff that so many people accumulate.  The difference is that housed people can hide their stuff in garages, back rooms, and rental units.

We all accumulate these things, thinking they are valuable, and we keep these objects, believing that they will impart something special, or that they will appreciate in dollar value, or even in some spiritual or esoteric way. But it is all material stuff. 

Here are a few reasons why I have become very minimalist in my approach to the collection of physical stuff.

First, when I began getting interested in survival skills, I realized the great value of storing enough food at your home that will get you through an emergency.  Like maybe a few weeks, even a few months’ worth of food.  That’s not especially what I call hoarding.  One of my initial purchases of wheat was so large that I had an entire wall in a back room full of buckets of wheat.  A year later I realized I rarely eat wheat, and slowly gave away and sold most of them. 

Then I considered being prepared for blackouts and other emergencies, and realized the great value of having certain extra clothing, blankets, manual tools, knives, those sorts of things.  Yes, you could say I was starting to collect.  And from there, it just goes on an on.

Should you store all the wood you find so that you can have a fire in the fireplace every night for the next year?  Should you collect all tools and lumber you find so you can build a shed or chicken coop in your back yard without going to the lumber yard?  And should you collect all that lumber even if you’re not actually making such a shed or chicken coop? That’s how you get into the collection of stuff.

It's all really good useful stuff that you might use in an emergency. Before you know it, you’re at yard sales and thrift stores, buying things at ridiculously low prices that you know you might use one day. Or, you tell yourself, you could sell it to make extra cash.  But you don’t sell it, because the retail price for your object – despite its inherent usefulness – is little more than you originally paid for it.

I’ve gotten to this point. I had plenty of stuff to survive the next apocalypse, but I wasn’t really using most of it.  And I had to have shed after shed after paid storage unit to store all these really good things.  Before you know it, your living space is crammed full of stuff that you never use, but which is –you’ve convinced yourself –  very very valuable.

It’s a big trap.  In the past 20+ years, I moved a few times, and carefully looked at all the very good material things that I collected.  I realized that much of it I never used.  Never.  So I decided to “bite the bullet” and clean house.  I was not willing to move truckloads of stuff to my new place.  My criteria was that if I had not actually used the object – despite my having determined that it was “very valuable” – in the last 10 years, then I got rid of it.  I gave dozens of boxes of goods to a Boy Scout leader to give outdoor gear to low-income scouts. I gave a truckload of wood and bone and rock and other natural materials to native American friends to use in art projects.  I made many boxload donations to Salvation Army and Goodwill.  And I filled my blue recycling bin about a dozen times, and filled the black trash can many times as well.  Yes, I sold some things, but selling takes time, and you rarely get back what you paid, especially not when you have a time crunch.

And I never regretted shedding my life of the material baggage.  I found that the world still had lots of hardware stores and grocery stores and art supply stores, and that if I was actually doing and using a product, I could just go get it.  And if it was truly unavailable, I realized it would not be the end of the world. I could do without. I learned to be rich in the degree to which I could do without stuff.

That’s not to say that I have no supplies or boxes of stuff.  I do.  But I regularly check what I have and give away what I do not need.  I do not wait for Christmas or birthdays – I just give away when I realize I have been serving the object and not the other way around.

I had a dream that helped me to realize the wisdom of this choice.  At a time when my wife and I decided to live separately, I moved out.  But because I had so much stuff in the place we’d been living for nearly 20 years, it took a while for me to clean it out.  In my dream, I was dead, and I was looking into the window of my old office.  My wife was there with helpers and they were discarding most of my stuff. I was horrified at first, but then realized that the stuff they were throwing away had little or no monetary value, and no sentimental value to them. It had some value to me only because it was something I collected, or used in a class, or used for research.  And I helplessly watched the junk that I thought was valuable – but after I was dead, it wasn’t!  I never forgot that dream, telling me that maybe, just maybe, all the junk that I have collected really is of little to no value to anyone!

Of course, stuff is useful in life.  We use stuff all the time, for all our activities.  But it is SO easy to get inundated in stuff and miss what life is all about. We forget that our feeling of accomplishment and fulfilment is an interior something, not a thing that is the result of accumulation.

What then must we do? That is, what must we do if we wish to alter this stuff-accumulation pattern.  (If you don’t think it’s a problem, you don’t have to do a thing).

How about not buying something in the first place?  You know what I mean – you’re standing there salivating about some piece of clothing or art piece or knife or whatever, and you know you don’t really need it, but you want it, and you’re slowly convincing yourself that it’s a great bargain!  You probably don’t need it, and your life will go on quite well without it.   Remember, do your very best to separate need from want in your life.  If you already have a lot of the item, and it’s sitting in your garage or cluttering up your living space, or worse, you’re paying for a storage unit, then, YOU DO NOT NEED IT!  Don’t buy it.  That’s the simple part, if you can do it.  Just don’t buy the stuff in the first place.

OK, so, perhaps that’s not the option.   You’re going to make a purchase.  Find one that will not cost you more money as time goes on.  You know what I mean, a product that uses odd-size batteries that are not cheap.  Or those coffee makers that require you to buy the little cups that fill up landfills.   You can always choose a long-lasting ecological product, more or less.  If you really work at it, you can make your buying choices support the products that we should all be using, and not junk that clutters up your life.

I also ask myself when I obtain something new: Can I ever sell this for even close to what I paid for it?  Or, can I sell it for more than I paid?  Will it appreciate in value?  Or is it something that no one in their right mind would pay anything for next month?

I also ask myself if the product will materially improve my life, and make me a better person, and more self-reliant.  Most stuff will not do that, let’s be real.  But sometimes a product can be life enhancing, and it’s really great to have.

Anyway, you get the idea.  Your life will be better without junk.  You are rich in the degree that you can do without something. Get rid of your clutter.





Christopher Nyerges

[Nyerges es autor de 22 libros y cofundador de School of Self-Reliance. Entre otras cosas, enseña a sus alumnos cómo hacer más con menos y cómo la frugalidad es un estilo de vida gratificante. Es autor de "Simplicidad extrema", "Hogar autosuficiente", "Guía de supervivencia urbana" y otros libros. Más información en]


 Ayer en Highland Park hubo un barrido de un área para personas sin hogar, donde todos tuvieron que mover sus tiendas de campaña y esas cosas, y el gran equipo del departamento de saneamiento llenó camiones con basura y limpió la acera. Antes de su trabajo, se podía oler el área a 200 pies de distancia. Al menos 15 policías se quedaron al margen porque algunas de las personas sin hogar que acampaban allí se enfadaron. Al menos algunos gritaron violentas acusaciones hacia los oficiales.

Cuando casi había terminado, caminé a través de él para ver las cosas que coleccionan las personas sin hogar. Mis ojos vieron algunos objetos útiles de la vida diaria, pero sobre todo chatarra y baratijas. Mi mente estaba dando vueltas.

Entonces, no pude evitar contemplar la gran cantidad de material sin valor que tantas personas acumulan. La diferencia es que las personas alojadas pueden esconder sus cosas en garajes, cuartos traseros y unidades de alquiler. Todos acumulamos estas cosas, pensando que son valiosas, y guardamos estos objetos, creyendo que impartirán algo especial, o que se apreciarán en valor en dólares, o incluso de alguna manera espiritual o esotérica. Pero todo son cosas materiales.

Aquí hay algunas razones por las que me he vuelto muy minimalista en mi enfoque de la colección de cosas físicas.

Primero, cuando comencé a interesarme en las habilidades de supervivencia, me di cuenta del gran valor de almacenar suficientes alimentos en su hogar que lo ayudarán a superar una emergencia. Como quizás unas pocas semanas, incluso algunos meses de comida. Eso no es especialmente lo que yo llamo acaparamiento. Una de mis compras iniciales de trigo fue tan grande que tenía una pared entera en una habitación trasera llena de cubos de trigo.

Un año más tarde, me di cuenta de que rara vez comía trigo, y lentamente regalé y vendí la mayoría. Luego consideré estar preparado para apagones y otras emergencias, y me di cuenta del gran valor de tener cierta ropa extra, mantas, herramientas manuales, cuchillos, ese tipo de cosas. Sí, se podría decir que estaba empezando a coleccionar. Y a partir de ahí, sigue y sigue.

¿Deberías almacenar toda la leña que encuentres para poder tener un fuego en la chimenea todas las noches durante el próximo año? ¿Debería recolectar todas las herramientas y la madera que encuentre para poder construir un cobertizo o un gallinero en su patio trasero sin tener que ir al depósito de madera? ¿Y debería recolectar toda esa madera incluso si en realidad no está haciendo un cobertizo o un gallinero?

Así es como entras en la colección de cosas. Son todas cosas realmente buenas y útiles que podrías usar en una emergencia. Antes de que te des cuenta, estás en ventas de garaje y tiendas de segunda mano, comprando cosas a precios ridículamente bajos que sabes que podrías usar algún día. O, te dices a ti mismo, podrías venderlo para ganar dinero extra. Pero no lo vende, porque el precio minorista de su objeto, a pesar de su utilidad inherente, es poco más de lo que pagó originalmente por él. He llegado a este punto.

Tenía muchas cosas para sobrevivir al próximo apocalipsis, pero en realidad no estaba usando la mayor parte. Y tuve que tener cobertizo tras cobertizo tras unidad de almacenamiento paga para almacenar todas estas cosas realmente buenas. Antes de que te des cuenta, tu espacio vital está repleto de cosas que nunca usas, pero que son, te has convencido a ti mismo, muy, muy valiosas. Es una gran trampa. En los últimos más de 20 años, me mudé varias veces y miré cuidadosamente todas las cosas materiales muy buenas que coleccioné. Me di cuenta de que mucho de eso nunca lo usé. Nunca. Así que decidí "morder la bala" y limpiar la casa. No estaba dispuesto a mover camiones llenos de cosas a mi nuevo lugar. Mi criterio fue que si no había usado el objeto -a pesar de haber determinado que era "muy valioso"- en los últimos 10 años, entonces me deshacía de él. Le di docenas de cajas de productos a un líder de Boy Scouts para que les diera equipo para actividades al aire libre a los exploradores de bajos ingresos. Entregué un camión lleno de madera, huesos, rocas y otros materiales naturales a amigos nativos americanos para que los usaran en proyectos de arte. Hice muchas donaciones de cajas al Ejército de Salvación y Goodwill. Y llené mi contenedor de reciclaje azul una docena de veces, y también llené el bote de basura negro muchas veces.

Sí, vendí algunas cosas, pero vender lleva tiempo y rara vez recuperas lo que pagaste, especialmente cuando tienes poco tiempo. Y nunca me arrepentí de haber despojado de mi vida el equipaje material. Descubrí que en el mundo todavía había muchas ferreterías, tiendas de abarrotes y tiendas de artículos de arte, y que si realmente estaba haciendo y usando un producto, podía ir a buscarlo.

Y si realmente no estaba disponible, me di cuenta de que no sería el fin del mundo. Podría prescindir. Aprendí a ser rico en la medida en que podía prescindir de cosas. Eso no quiere decir que no tenga provisiones o cajas de cosas. Hago. Pero reviso regularmente lo que tengo y regalo lo que no necesito. No espero la Navidad o los cumpleaños, solo regalo cuando me doy cuenta de que he estado sirviendo al objeto y no al revés.

Tuve un sueño que me ayudó a darme cuenta de la sabiduría de esta elección. En un momento en que mi esposa y yo decidimos vivir separados, me mudé.

Tuve un sueño que me ayudó a darme cuenta de la sabiduría de esta elección. En un momento en que mi esposa y yo decidimos vivir separados, me mudé.


Pero como tenía tantas cosas en el lugar en el que habíamos vivido durante casi 20 años, me tomó un tiempo limpiarlo. En mi sueño, estaba muerto y miraba por la ventana de mi antigua oficina. Mi esposa estaba allí con ayudantes y estaban desechando la mayoría de mis cosas. Al principio me horroricé, pero luego me di cuenta de que las cosas que tiraban tenían poco o ningún valor monetario y ningún valor sentimental para ellos. Tenía algún valor para mí solo porque era algo que coleccionaba, usaba en una clase o usaba para la investigación. Y observé con impotencia la basura que pensé que era valiosa, ¡pero después de mi muerte, no lo era! ¡Nunca olvidé ese sueño, diciéndome que tal vez, solo tal vez, toda la basura que he recolectado realmente tiene poco o ningún valor para nadie!


Por supuesto, las cosas son útiles en la vida. Usamos cosas todo el tiempo, para todas nuestras actividades. Pero es TAN fácil saturarse de cosas y perderse de qué se trata la vida. Olvidamos que nuestro sentido de logro y realización es algo interno, no algo que sea el resultado de la acumulación. Entonces, ¿qué debemos hacer? Es decir, qué debemos hacer si deseamos alterar este patrón de acumulación de cosas. (Si no crees que es un problema, no tienes que hacer nada). ¿Qué tal no comprar algo en primer lugar? Sabes a lo que me refiero: estás parado ahí salivando por una prenda de vestir, una obra de arte, un cuchillo o lo que sea, y sabes que en realidad no lo necesitas, pero lo quieres, y poco a poco te convences de que es una gran ganga!


Probablemente no lo necesite, y su vida seguirá bastante bien sin él. Recuerde, haga todo lo posible para separar la necesidad de la carencia en su vida. Si ya tiene una gran cantidad del artículo y está en su garaje o abarrotando su espacio vital, o peor aún, está pagando por una unidad de almacenamiento, entonces, ¡NO LO NECESITA! No lo compre.


Esa es la parte simple, si puedes hacerlo. Simplemente no compre las cosas en primer lugar. Bien, quizás esa no sea la opción. Vas a hacer una compra. Encuentre uno que no le cueste más dinero a medida que pasa el tiempo. Sabes a lo que me refiero, un producto que usa baterías de tamaño extraño que no son baratas. O esas cafeteras que requieren que compres las tacitas que llenan los vertederos. Siempre puedes elegir un producto ecológico de larga duración, más o menos.


Si realmente trabaja en ello, puede hacer que sus elecciones de compra respalden los productos que todos deberíamos usar, y no la basura que satura nuestra vida. También me pregunto cuando obtengo algo nuevo: ¿puedo vender esto por casi lo que pagué por él? O, ¿puedo venderlo por más de lo que pagué? ¿Se apreciará en valor? ¿O es algo por lo que nadie en su sano juicio pagaría nada por el próximo mes?


También me pregunto si el producto mejorará materialmente mi vida, me hará una mejor persona y más autosuficiente. La mayoría de las cosas no harán eso, seamos realistas. Pero a veces un producto puede mejorar la vida, y es realmente genial tenerlo.


De todos modos, entiendes la idea. Tu vida será mejor sin basura. Eres rico en la medida en que puedes prescindir de algo. Deshazte de tu desorden.