Monday, September 15, 2008

The Joys of Living Simply...

It's been amazing this year watching the US economy and financial institutions sort of self-destruct; it's been kind of like watching someone live the last seven years on speed, eventually they are going to crash and crash hard.

It can shake a person up, that worry of money, of "enough," of getting by, of "how will this affect me?" I think artists thrive in this times because well, many times we don't have a lot to lose.

When the banks shut down, no one will be coming to my house to repossess my boat, my Porsche, my condo on Cabo, my designer wardrobe (unless Goodwill & consignment shops make housecalls.) There will be no jumping from a skyscraper (I'd have to travel by ferry to find one) or no tears because I've lost my job (I'm self-employed).

I don't have a lot in material things, but a lot of what I find valuable--my family or pets, my garden in the back yard, my books, my friendships, my writing. I am not woven into the financial market and do have to come undone every time someone drops a stitch. Yes, we have retirement funds, but thankfully, that's future so there's always hope that things will improve enough by then. But if not, I have learned I can be happy with the smallest of luxuries-- being warm, being fed, being loved.

Once when I looked back at video of myself with my husband (then boyfriend), together in a house with no furniture, balloons taped to the wall for a birthday, my 23rd birthday, still sort of living on Ramen, on what they sold at Bartell Drugs because it could be bought with a credit card, before grocery stores took credit cards, and I saw how happy I was with so little. Even just getting by, I was happy, strangely dressed, but happy.

It's amazing when you really think about what you *really* need to survive. We have built our country on the false belief that more is better, that you need to buy something to have happiness--that if you don't have this (insert important appliance, car, or material item here), you are not this (insert keyword: successful, happy, important, loved, wealthy).

It took me a long time to figure this out, my mid-twenties took me away from being happy. I strived for the business card, for the 401K fund, for the designer suit and expense reports. I didn't realize I should strive for happiness not money, that $ didn't equal happiness, I had always been told it had, that having a good job would make me/happy. I wanted a line break there, because that's the thing-- I thought a good job would make me. I thought a good job would make me happy. (Actually, I thought just having a "real job" would make me happy.) I was wrong.

And now I realize we really can be all of these things (successful, happy, important, loved, wealthy) without a lot of things.

Remember that if the world begins to self-destruct, if our country seems as if it was build on quicksand because we were rushing that day and decided to build a house without taking the time to make sure we had a solid foundation. I hope you're not in the quicksand. I hope you have your art to save you, to walk towards away from the quicksand.

I'm taking a walk up to my neighbor's house to see if he has any more cucumbers on his "Free" table and I'm having salad (lettuce, spinach, and arugula) from my garden for lunch, and a boiled egg from the dozen eggs my friend gave me last night from her chickens. Wealth doesn't have to have a designer label, sometimes it's right outside your kitchen door.


  1. I like to garden and yet am glad I can still buy items at the store. I'm not seasoned enough of a gardener to feed my family yet. =-)

    We're all connected in so many ways. Even if we live a life in which we don't need money, we usually still have rent or a mortgage to pay.

    When we age, we need people to be willing to care for us when we're back in diapers or stuck in bed or a wheelchair, etc.

    I love your points and yet I still am a bit worried. =-)

  2. Hi Deb,

    I'm worried too, but I guess less than I would have been years ago because I realize how much of this is out of my hands.

    I think it's scarier when you have kids too. I think the main thing is to create a life where you need less.

    If you can make a back-up plan, make one. Avoid spending when you don't need to. Make sure your investments are covered and you have some reserve cash if possible.

    I optimistically hope we'll get through this. Don't get me wrong, it is scary when all our overspending catches up to us like one big giant credit card bill.

    I think I just wanted to remind myself ultimately what's important. I don't want to seem in the rose-colored glasses while the world is falling apart, but sometimes, I put them on sometime just to see things from another view.

    Thanks for your note. I do understand and hope I didn't come off to "good for me, bad for you..." It wasn't my intent. We also have a mortgage... ;-)


  3. Great post. I am moving soon, and we have more stuff than we did last time we moved. It is really annoying because a lot of it we really don't need and but at least I am learning an important lesson for the next time I want to buy something I don't actually need.

  4. Thanks, Valerie. I constantly have to ask myself "do I really need this?" Or better, "Do I really want to buy this then take care of it (dust it, find a place for it, feel bad if it breaks--I have cats!, care for it, etc.) Most of the time, it's easiest just to say no.

    ;-) thanks for your note. Moving definitely makes one look at all that has been acquired. !!


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