September 23, 2013

America's Quest for Simplicity

Recently I was sent the following infograph. I thought it worth showing to you. If you look at the various statistics it is clear how far we have to go to bring our wants in line with our means.



Living With Less: America's Quest for Simplicity
Image source: www.masters-in-human-resources.org

14 comments:

  1. Why is this lesson learned so late in life for so many of us? Growing up, the quest was work harder, earn more money, buy more, consume more. At some point the realization sinks in that none of this is making us happy.

    I can't tell you at what exact point in my life that I "got it". I think it was a gradual realization. I look back at some of my spending habits and am shocked that I didn't catch on sooner. However, I am grateful that my husband and I eventually came to this understanding at about the same time, and we share the value of relationships and experiences over stuff. As the focus turned from accumulating more, to fostering relationships and enjoying experiences, our happiness has exponentially grown in leaps and bounds!

    Thanks, Bob, for another great post!

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    1. One of the reasons I love our RV is the requirement that we take so little stuff with us. When you have about less than 150 sq ft of actual living space you become very good at keeping "stuff" to a minimum. Cleanup is a snap and shopping is not an option.Everything is simplified. Time is spent outdoors or interacting with other campers.

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  2. As I work to purge ourselves of all this "stuff" we've collected so we can downsize to a smaller house, I can't BELIEVE how much money we've wasted over the years! In a weird way, I think buying "stuff" was a way to sooth our souls during the "rat race" years. I even recall thinking "We work hard and deserve to treat ourselves to this.". Now I wish all that money we wasted was in our retirement portfolio!

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    1. One of the statistics that really jumped out at me was the figure of nearly 400 hours a year the average American woman spends shopping. That explains why there are twelve women clothing stores and six women's shoe stores at our local mall but only one of each for men!

      Seriously, we have made shopping a form of entertainment and a reward instead of what it's function is intended to be: provide us with something we need. You are so right about all the money over a lifetime that is just wasted on unneeded stuff.

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  3. This infograph speaks to me. The threat of more maintenance has limited my purchasing over the years. I started out in a subsistence living and that still holds power over my spending even though there's more than enough money now. Is this a need or a want? rings in my ears each time I make a purchase. Keep one bathroom clean in a modest sized home or hire a housekeeper to keep 3 bathrooms clean? My son often quotes this line: I have to go to work to make money to buy [crap] I don't need. I know that some of this is generational but I worry about this generation of millenials that is accumulating at such a rapid rate only to downsize later on in life. And the advancement in technologies that create lineups for the next best thing when the last item is still in good working condition. Enough already.

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    1. You make several excellent points. Our economy requires that 70% of all monies spent come from consumers (us !). That model requires us to load up on stuff that is unneeded and unhelpful.

      "Enough already" should be our rallying cry. Thanks, Mona.

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  4. Something I once heard during my working years that really resonated is that we work hard to take vacations we can't afford in order to justify working so hard. (!)

    Like you Bob, we appreciate the simplicity our travel trailer forces onto us during our travels. It provides shelter, a place to cook, and some basic storage, but that's it. Our trips are by default more about where we are and what we are seeing, than on what we are doing.

    During our frequent travels we've noted the phenomenon, and yes, it's generally led by women, of focusing on buying something to commemorate being in a certain location, rather than doing something unique to the area. I don't understand it myself, but to each their own I guess.

    My aha moment came some 20 years ago when I read "Your Money or Your Life" by Vicki Robin and the now deceased Joe Dominguez. the primary theme in the book is that every single purchase we make requires life energy, both to earn the money to buy it, and then to continue earning the money necessary to maintain it.

    Which is why, in spite of practically everyone we meet while RV'ing telling us what we simply must buy next in order to make life on the road 'easier,' we ignore them and continue doing things the 'hard' way. For goodness sakes, if we wanted life to be that easy all the time, we would have stayed at home!

    I've been decluttering for several years now, and trust me when I saw I wasn't that cluttered to begin with. I've made some money via craigslist, which I've generally put back into our travel fund. Once you get the basic things in place to live a comfortable life, I'll take experiences over things any day.

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    1. I read that book, too, several years ago. It makes the true cost of purchases obvious.

      It is time for me to declutter a bookshelf again. Some of the books were a little on the expensive side so I am thinking of selling them through Amazon, something I have never done before. Any money goes to the RV/vacation fund! Our trip next summer is now up to 11 weeks...we will need a little boost in cash flow.

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  5. I'm guilty of some of this. It's just me and a cat in 1352 square feet of space. Turned the third bedroom into the cat/dispose of room. We'll be downsizing in 7 years or less. In the meantime, I am slowly editing my "stuff" and cutting back on buying more "stuff" UNLESS it's a necessity like the new roof I'll be purchasing soon. Don't need or want a new IPhone or MePhone or UsPhone. No Ipads in my home or big screen TVs. I do just fine with the 32inch flat screen...tip is to make the screen bigger not get a bigger TV. I drive a 2005 car that I bought used putting 1/3 down with a payment less than $200 per month. That will be paid off early. I have just three debts: Car, house and credit card debt (I saw the light). On my way to being debt free.

    Good article and love the graphics. Gail (had problems with the Name/URL)

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    1. Keep up the journey to debt free land: few things in life feel as good. You sound like you are certainly on the right track. Keep it up, Gail.

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  6. Steve in Los AngelesMon Sep 23, 08:21:00 PM MST

    I started to simplify my life in July 2004 when I sold my Los Angeles suburban house (over 2300 square feet with four bedrooms and two bathrooms) with a huge profit and moved to a one-bedroom and one-bath apartment in another part of Los Angeles. I rented the apartment during the years that the real estate market collapsed. I now have a two-bedroom and two-bath condominium (located in another suburb of Los Angeles), which I purchased in October 2008. The condominium has approximately 849 square feet. Over the years, I eliminated a lot of clutter. Within four years, I will be out of debt completely and will enjoy a very comfortable retirement. There are too many people with too much stuff. I will be among those people who will have relatively little stuff.

    I also want to add that I drive my car very little and use public transportation extensively.

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  7. Very interesting graphic. Fortunately, I don't see myself personally in there,but I do see a lot of my present and former friends and co-workers. I was raised by a frugal mother, and I've never been much of a clothes hound or stuff collector. I'm taking Dave Ramsey's course, Financial Peace University, and his lesson last week on debt was very interesting, with statistics on how much in debt Americans really are. To me, that's the main negative of "too much stuff" - using credit gets us in debt and in trouble financially.

    When I stay in the mini-cabins at Texas state parks, I'm always reminded of how little stuff I really need to survive. Most only have a microwave and mini-fridge, if that, a bunk bed, and table and chairs. Downsizing my living space is not financially feasible since I have a very low payment, but I'm still tempted sometimes.

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    1. Since your bog (once you retire!) will be about travel behind the steering wheel I imagine you have some great experiences at the Texas State Parks. There is a KOA campground in Flagstaff where you can stay in a Teepee...with just a bed, nightstand, chair, and lamp! When we are in the RV Betty and I are constantly reminded that very little space is needed to live a great life.

      By the way, you might find a new blog I just started a few days ago interesting. It features pictures inside RVs. All Rvers are always looking for new decorating ideas and how to save space. I thought it would be a fun project. Take a look when you have a chance: www.insidemyrv.com

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    2. Cari in North TexasMon Sep 30, 03:54:00 PM MST

      Yes, I have definitely had some great times at the Texas state parks - it's been great to get out away from the 'concrete jungle' and spend some time in nature. The campground you mentioned with the teepee accommodations sounds really fun!

      I saw your Facebook post that you had started a new blog - I'll go visit it in the next few days. Unfortunately, my RV buying has been put on hold for financial reasons, but I can still rent!

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