Wednesday, March 31, 2010

On Simplifying...

One of the things I like to do as I work to simplify our lives is to read the blogs of like-minded people, no matter where they are in the simplification journey. I love to read about the triumphs and the stumbling blocks along the way. More than that, it keeps me inspired to know I'm not the only one questioning the way we live and making the deliberate decision to swim against the current.

To that end, there are some blogs that really make me thing. Rowdy Kittens is one of them. This blog is written by a young married couple, Tammy and Logan, who have recently moved to Portland and have simplified their lives down to the point of being able to count their belongings. They have made very deliberate choices to get them off the merry-go-round of modern life.

A few months ago, they wrote a post about their move to Portland and their appreciation for the help they received moving. They talked candidly about their dependence on others to accomplish this move. It caused me to pause. Since their lives are so different than mine, their post(s) have caused me to have some fundamental questions about simplification, the goals of simplification, and quality of life issues. Their decision to live without a car required them to use their parents' truck, as well as the vehicles of others, to make this move. That caused me to ask, "Does simplifying create of dependency?" and, "If you have nothing, how do you contribute meaningfully to society?" Fortunately, when I posed those questions to Rowdy Kittens, they didn't take offense, as I meant none. I am truly trying to figure this all out.

Please read the original post at Rowdy Kitten and let me know your thoughts.

This was my comment to their original post.

I love that you feel gratitude for the help you’ve gotten along the way and I agree that it is the secret to successfully designing your life. I have a questions, that is not meant to sound disrespectful in any way, it is truly a sincere question. If everyone has a life of minimalism, then how would you move? I am struggling with creating an acceptable level of simplicity for myself and my almost grown children, so I recognize that I’m at a completely different place in life, but it seems to me that you’ve designed a life in which you depend on others to have the resources you don’t care to care for yourself. Does that make sense? As parents, I wonder how difficult it would be if our children couldn’t count on us. I’m not sure I’m communicating my dilemma, but it seems to me that the minimalism practiced by some requires access to the belongings of others who have made the decision to own and care for more.

Tammy responded:

@Erin – I think I understand your dilemma and you are right to a certain extent. For me the whole point of minimalism and/or small living means seeking out community. For example, I don’t own a car. So if I need one I either rent a vehicle or ask friends/family for help. If I ask my community for help, then I can repay them with kindness at a later date. (Like making them a yummy dinner, sending them on a trip, etc.)

For me I think it’s about the larger questions of how we’ve structured our society. There is a notion that you have to do everything yourself and I think that’s wrong. It leads to isolation and the overuse of resources.

Why can’t we share resources within families and our larger community? Does everyone truly “need” a car? Or a 5 bedroom home? I think the answer is no. We need community too truly connect with. We need to build meaningful relationships with friend and family members. We don’t need more stuff or cars.

If everyone lived a life a minimalism, then I would envision more “sharing” services, like zipcar. And the creation of additional community car-sharing programs, investments in public transit, etc.

As a side note, you can always move by bike. :)

Does that help? :)

Logan responded:

Hi Erin N.,

Its definitely a paradigm shift to transition to a minimalist lifestyle. We used to have your same fears until we watched a video interview of Dee Williams where she mentioned that by living with less she was able to contribute more. More money, more time with family, and more community volunteering. Everyone’s level of enough is different, however our hope is our friends won’t discount us due to our lack of possessions. Necessity always brings invention and our goal is to contribute to community, and barter for needs and services in alternative forms. The last thing we want to do is mooch off of folks with more stuff and fail to show reciprocity and gratitude. :)

First off, I am so grateful to Tammy and Logan for taking the time to answer my questions. I have been thinking of this dialogue ever since we initially had it. I've bored my friends and family with discussions about this topic until I think they're ready to throttle me. The conclusion of the 40-ish-year old group that makes up my peers is that a life led consciously ends up with all of us owning and sharing different resources and contributing various strengths to our community. Deliberately creating a life where your major contributions are cerebral might have value, but will still eventually require material contribution .

So, what do you think? Is this what simplifying is all about? Do I not understand? Is it possible to successfully have a large community where all the resources are jointly owned? Am I insane for spending so much time thinking about this? What are your thoughts?

P.S. Tammy just wrote an amazing post on the art of saying "no". You should head over and read it.


Andrea said...

Great post! I definitely feel as though I am swimming against the current many days.
Hugs, andrea

Andrea @the thrain to crazy said...

For me, the appeal of simple living would be to cast off what isn't truly needed, allowing for less ties to a world that is not permanent. it allows for more freedom, less weight. I'm also a big proponent on spending less so that you can give more. I think the idea of giving must be more prevalant than taking, for lack of a better word. Otherwise you're just a cheap mooch. Now, a prearranged agreement to share (what's yours is mine, and mine is yours) is an issue I see less as a simple living virtue but rather an intense desire to truly and deeply connect with others in a symbiotic way. Like marriage.

So, no, I don't think going without in such a way that actually causes burdens can be called simple. It's something else, not necessarily bad something, just something.

But I don't have a truck and when I move I hire one or borrow one and that is way simpler than buying one. So it is situational. It would be a burden not to have a car where I live. I wouldn't consider it simpler. I'd own less stuff though...

Muthering Heights said...

Hmmmm, interesting!!