Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Voluntary simplicity

When I first heard about Tumbleweed Homes, I found these tiny, fully-equipped, portable homes hugely appealing (as well as adorable, let's be honest), but I had no idea that these tiny dwellings were part of a growing Small House Movement. At the same time that I was stumbling across one inspiring article or blog after another, I was reading The Story of Stuff (a must-read for all, describing how we must take our blinders off and recognize the full costs of all of those low-cost things we feel we "need") and I was realizing just how loudly this idea of living simply speaks to me. And how it can be a very good answer to a lot of our environmental, financial, and social problems.

"As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude; poverty will not be poverty; nor weakness, weakness." — Henry David Thoreau

We all long to slow down, stop the carousel, don't we? I've been feeling this urge strongly. I think after living out of a backpack for 6 months I will have a better sense of how little I need to live, and will simplify even more. I definitely want to make some changes when I get back, that's for sure.

However, I'm not sure if the notion of living simply could ever really catch on, until we make some other, more radical changes. Living simply is completely counter to our capitalist economic model that demands endless growth and requires consumption to function. But guess what, a capitalist economy does not work on a planet with finite resources. I watched a documentary that said we are consuming the earth's resources at a rate of one and a half earths. I'm no mathematician, but that doesn't seem sustainable.

Consumerism seems to have become a core value of being a good citizen. What's up with that? We're all encouraged to have a little "retail therapy" when we're down, bored, or happy. I am so tired of all the ads peddling stuff I don't need or want. And I'm in the advertising industry. Oh, brother.

From The Story of Stuff: "Today we are running out of resources, while our population continues to grow. Yet our productive technologies have not kept up with this reality. We are still using processes that consume and waste huge amounts of energy and materials, acting as though both the supply of resources and the planet's ability to assimilate waste and pollution are endless. We're still celebrating economic activity that undermines the planet's very ability to support life. We have to figure out how to transform our production systems yet again: to make far less Stuff and far better Stuff."

Our consumption is consuming us. But stuff doesn't make us happier. We know this. It has been proven time and again in numerous studies. And yet we buy, buy, buy. As a nation we're more depressed, over-medicated, over-worked, stressed, tired, unhealthy, and unfit than ever.

Imagine this scenario: instead of a McMansion, you aspire to live in a house small enough to meet your needs. You would have fewer spaces to put things, so you would buy less stuff. Less stuff and a smaller house would take a lot less time to maintain. Not to mention you would be mortgage-free sooner, leaving more flexibility to work less, giving you more time for leisure, and more time with friends, family, and community, which would make us happier. Or you could work the same number of hours, but have more money for travel, or to donate. Think of how this simpler life would leave less of an impact on the earth.

It's something I'm working on. Trying to figure out how I want to live (not how ads or society expects me to), and what impact my life (and the things/resources I consume) has on the earth. I was positively giddy recently when I realized when my local natural bulk store allows you to bring your own containers — I had a zero packaging grocery trip! 

We all share this planet, and I don't want my way of living to be negatively impacting someone else. The fact that we're flying to Asia makes me crazy, since flying is the worst thing you can do environmentally. No matter what other low-impact things I might do, one flight cancels them all out, and then some. It's hard to reconcile.

No comments:

Post a Comment