I have had the weirdest weekend. As an MA student I get emails inviting me to all sorts of things and I try to go to as many as possible. I’m stretching my comfort zone and meeting new people.
This weekend was the RADMIN convention. Set up by a local arts cinema with a varied bunch of delegates, Radical Admin looked like it might be useful for me. I liked the idea of approaching admin with a creative mind instead of the panic and dread it usually brings. I hate admin so much that I pay the very brilliant Ihelm Enterprises to do my credit control. Instead of the hour a month where I’d send off my invoices feeling physically sick, with my stomach clenched, barely able to breath, the lovely Arianna does it all for me and she is worth every penny. Even though, in my day job, my clients know how much I charge, we have agreed a price and they are expecting an invoice, it made me feel physically sick asking for the money I had earned. The idea of applying a creative solution to this, possibly gamifying admin and taking the dread away really appealed to me.
The blurb asked “what can artists do for business” and said:
“RADMIN is a summit in which we will reconsider the ‘dull’ spaces of administration, managing, trading and maintenance, not as a set of largely hostile impediments which invade or co-opt arts practice but as sites for critical and creative enquiry, radical histories, experiments, politics, wild imaginaries and meaningful work.
The Gala Dinner
The gala dinner was just up the road from college and for £25 for the whole weekend of events I felt it was going to be worth the money. Also, I love eating out! I was sat at a table with people from Glasgow, the Netherlands and the other side of Bristol. I chatted to people from Wales and Switzerland. The food was amazing and they thoughtfully provided take away containers for leftovers which is a genius idea!
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Money in the ladies
All through the meal there were speakers, which were a little hard to hear over the eating noises but I got the jist of most of them. What I missed was something about money in the ladies so when I went to the loo and came across a bucket full of money I freaked out.
My first reaction was what it could do for us. I didn’t know the amount then but I could tell it was enough to replace my dying computer and get the puncture on my car sorted out, probably with a bit spare to go towards the roof fund. (Victorian houses suck money away). I walked away from it with my heart racing and asked the compere to tell me what was going on.
The money was the cost of the ingredients for the delicious food. It was £780, given back to the event by the caterers. It was there as an art experiment and we could ‘interact with it in any way we saw fit’. There would be no checking up on what happened to the money.
Shock, is probably the best description of my emotional reaction. A part of me thought, how lovely, all these honest, well to do people who can afford to be at an event like this with nice food and wine will probably add to it, then possibly we can decide as a community what good cause it should go to. It felt abstract and a bit like an old text adventure game. “You are in a small bathroom with a bucket full of money. There is a bucket here with money in it”.
What would you do faced with a bucket of money?
I asked about it in the less stuff Facebook group, and unanimously we were confused. Were there cameras, what was the catch, should it be taken from the people who gave it…..
I ran a little poll about what we would do with it and here are the results:
- Leave it – 25
- Take some to give away – 15
- Take it to give back to where it came from – 6
- Count it and organise it – 6
- Take some to keep – 4
I went back to the loo with my camera and found a few people talking around the bucket. I spent a bit of time explaining to someone that it is immoral to burn money. Why? because that money can buy food for them. “Can’t you just give them food?” was her response. I started to despair at the human race.
Interacting with the money
In the interests of stretching my comfort zone and interacting with the money I organised it.
It’s not easy with the new plastic money but with help I piled it up, held it, fanned it out, tried to control it because that plastic money wants to do it’s own thing.
Then I gave it to someone else who flipped it all over the place like you see in the movies. That was fun, exciting, daring and made a big mess. Which I cleared up and put back in the bucket. I didn’t feel good about taking any of it.
The end of the night
At some point in the evening the money started to be taken. Someone had stuck it with water to the mirrors in the bathroom, someone had added a kind of receipt, which started with a choir subscription cost. I could not understand how someone who could afford to be in a choir that required any payment, felt ok about taking money. I started to get really upset about this. That money could have done some serious good, especially if donated by someone who pays tax because of the gift aid that could be added to it. I saw the money as going to greedy people who didn’t actually need it.
People are mostly horrible
Thank you to Claire of www.thefrugalfamily.co.uk for flagging this video up.
I didn’t want to go back
I made myself go back the next day, although all through a night of restless sleep I worried about the bucket and got super judgey about the people who took it. The next day of meetings and activities started with a bit of a debrief about the bucket of money. At some point someone took £100 of it, then someone else worked out that it was about a tenner each divided up. Some people did put money in but it was taken out again by other delegates. Some of the people who took it felt guilty. The day after we were told that the artist behind the experiment was herself surprised by the result, but that was part of the artwork.
What did I learn?
I didn’t take any. I couldn’t have lived with myself. Even if I took it and gave it away, I would have felt like it belonged with the original donator. I was fuzzy about the rules of this game. I felt like I didn’t have enough information to make an informed decision and that meant that I couldn’t take any.
I also learned that although I would never take money from someone I felt had earned it, I constantly take money from myself by working for free, ‘forgetting’ to put the timer on and doing jobs for mates without charging anything at all. So I devalue myself hugely even when people are really happy to pay for my work.
When Arianna from Ihelm took over my invoicing she tracked back a year and did what I couldn’t – asked for money. There was over a thousand pounds of money that wasn’t paid to me, purely through accident. My clients didn’t get the original invoice, it went to spam or they thought they had paid it. They were all more than happy to pay what was owed.
Thinking about money differently
I got chatting/ranting to Tim Malnick from Different Space. He had done a workshop on the Friday morning involving movement. Seeing strangers embody the stance of a business person versus that of an artist was a bit like walking in on your parents having sex and I couldn’t stand the embarrassment so I had walked out. I liked the idea behind what he was doing though and I will try it in the privacy of my own home. I know that doing my own invoices had made me almost physically ill and as I was talking/ranting about the bucket of money he made me notice that I was breathing higher up and my stomach was tight. He had some half hour slots to chat about peoples relationship with money on the Saturday. That half hour made me realise an awful lot. There were tears. Eventually he asked me how you say ‘give me money’ in Maltese (My grandfather was Maltese) and actually gave me some when I asked for it. (I felt tricked but ultimately grateful if uncomfortable). We discussed my feelings about the people who took the money, which were strong. I felt they were greedy and selfish. I’ve got a lot to process but I left feeling like it was ok to be greedy and selfish and I’m toying with the idea of having ‘greedy days’, where I will contact prospective sponsors for less-stuff.
Tim’s workshop later on was about selling art work and slowing down the transaction until it felt right. We had time to chat among ourselves and everyone felt physically tight somewhere, when the idea of asking for money was brought up.
Generally, when I write a post I know where it is heading. With this one I just had to get the words out. It has been a really weird weekend. I still feel pretty judgy about the people who took the money. I’m still glad my moral high horse needs a double extendable ladder to get to, and I didn’t take any.
In the interests of further experimentation with money and really getting out of my comfort zone. I’m going to ask for some. How much is up to you. If you want a guideline you could divide the number of houses on your street by the number of cups of tea you have had today, divide it by 3, plus or minus 50%. (Thank you to Tim Malnick for the pricing inspiration). Really I suspect what matters is that I feel valued in some way and I can promise you that I am so uncomfortable doing this that has to be worth a quid at least! If you don’t want to give me any money, simply sharing this post would be helpful – the more page visits I get, the more attractive I am to potential company sponsors.
What do I earn
I had a strong suspicion I was on the lowest income out of the group. Like the beggar in the video, I didn’t feel needy enough to take any money. I spoke to a lady who made a pay what you feel subscription box and she sent out a receipt of her costs, including her time. I don’t check the time I spend running less-stuff but here are the actual £££ costs, which are mixed up in my design work too much to extract. These figures don’t include a percentage of my home office costs, (I’ll add that at tax return time)
The total money that came in from less-stuff for January 2019 was £158.45.
money in website design work 745.46
money in book sales 17.45
money in sponsored posts 60
money in donations 78
money in amazon affiliate bounty 3
money out expenses 500.91
How do you feel about it all?
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I'm Lisa Cole. I'm a designer and writer who lives in Bristol. Less-stuff is about my journey to live a more organised life. I document little things I can change to live more sustainably. I'm not a minimalist!