The topics of simple living, voluntary simplicity, frugality, and decluttering are of great interest to many of us. In a couple of posts last month I quickly discovered this was an important subject area for Satisfying Retirement readers.
In those previous posts I provided information about some of the better known blogs and web sites that focus on those topics. In case you missed them, links can be found at the end of this post.
This time around I am personalizing the subject. I'm going to detail some of the steps my family have taken over the years that made us proponents of simple living before it had a name. We weren't trying to start a trend, this was just they way we decided to live.
Most of the things on this list I have been doing for decades. There are a few recent additions as I have become more sensitive to the negative impact an overly-consumptive lifestyle has on the planet and my own happiness. I hope you will compare this list to your efforts in this area. Then, I would very much appreciate your ideas and steps you may have taken (or want to take) to simplify your life. This is a great topic to learn from each other.
A video talk I saw on TED by economist Tim Jackson contained the perfect quote to start me off. He was talking about the direction of our society in terms of its relationship to buying stuff. He said, "People are being persuaded to spend money we don't have, on things we don't need, to create impressions that won't last, on people we don't care about." That sets the stage for my list.
I don't enjoy shopping so I don't buy much. I shop when I must for what I need. To some people, shopping is a form of entertainment or relaxation. To me it is a chore to be completed as quickly as possible. That saves me money and clutter. Maybe this is a guy thing, but I avoid malls.
Clothing covers me and keeps me warm or cool. That's it. For me clothing is not a fashion statement or an indicator of my economic status. If it performs its function, is within my budget, and I need it I buy it.
A car is transportation. It takes me from point A to Point B with a minimum amount of fuss. It must be dependable, relatively safe, and have good air conditioning (this is Phoenix after all). Its year, make and model, even its color are not terribly important (ask my wife about the baby blue Mustang I had in 1976).
I use it up, wear it out. Only then do I replace it. If something does what I need it to I don't feel the need for a replacement that does it 2 seconds faster, or is in a different color. I don't even require it to have all its parts as long as it still works.
We repaint, re-purpose, reuse. My wife is amazingly creative in looking at something and finding a whole new use for it. We find it much more satisfying to do that than simply throw something away that can be used in another way.
I buy very few books or new music. I read books constantly and listen to lots of music. I just don't feel the need to own most of them. That's what libraries are for. That's what the Internet offers. Part of that belief came during my radio days. I was given thousands of free CDs (I still have most of them). So, I got out of the practice of buying music and never regained the habit.
Of the books I did own, I got rid of 80% of them. I realized I would never re-read them. All they did was take up space and get dusty. Someone else might enjoy them. So, I took many of them to a used bookstore for credit, and donated the rest to charity. Then my wife re-purposed the bookcases!
Use our own photos and painting to decorate. My wife and I like to take photographs and she is a painter and mixed media artist. Why buy someone else's work to decorate our home? We have the photos blown up and framed, or printed on canvas. Her paintings grace several walls in the home. It is much more satisfying to be surrounded by something you created.
Simplify lawn and yard work. Within the last two years I have cut back considerably on the number of potted plants I maintain. It was getting to be a chore, not a pleasure. We converted most of our bushes and shrubs to low water, low maintenance varieties. This saves time and money.
Cook enough at once for two meals. It is very unusual for us to make a dinner that doesn't produce enough leftovers for next week. And, if an ingredient is required for a meal we find another recipe that requires the same stuff so it doesn't go to waste.
Family above all else. Can't get much simpler than that.
So, what steps have you taken to simplify or declutter or save money? Anything on my list spur your creative juices?
Living a Simple Living - 9 Places to Start
Helping You Live a Simpler Life -10 More Blogs