By Bob Lowry
Hold on, what has happened? Haven’t I been a major proponent of downsizing, simplifying, and eliminating waste and unnecessary clutter from a satisfying retirement? Haven’t I written numerous posts in favor of simplifying one’s lifestyle? Have I suddenly undergone a change of heart?
Absolutely not. Simplesizing, or whatever term you like for matching your resources and needs with your capabilities remains a driving force in my life. What I want to draw attention to is the mistaken interpretation of a simple life being one that lacks color, vibrancy, and well, life.
Consider these representative definitions of the word simple: without additions, consisting of only one part, common, ordinary. None of those phrases or words match what I hope my life is like. My goal isn’t simple living…it is a full life lived simply.
To some, simple living can mean cutting back to the basics, maybe even a bit beyond. Like you, I have read of some folks who want to get rid of virtually every possession. They want to retain a very limited amount of clothing, live in 200 square feet or less, have no transportation (not even a bike), and give away all books, music, DVDs or whatever else may be considered entertainment. Even electricity and running water are impediments to what they view as the best way to live simply.
If you think I’m making this up, look at some of the links at the end of this post. There is a fellow who only owns 15 things….total. One of the actors on the hit TV show, Mad Men, lives without a toilet and is thinking about giving away his bed. Or, how about the family, with four kids, that has lived in a car/pop-up camper for 11 years? The last link includes a video tour of a 12×12 foot home with no electricity. I’m sorry, but to me, living like these folks (and thousands of others I didn’t list) borders on silly. It certainly isn’t a goal I aspire to. That isn’t simple living, that is fanaticism.
A full life, lived simply, is what I am striving for. I don’t want my possessions to define me or how I live. I try to avoid the siren call of Madison Avenue as much as humanly possible, though I really want a Kindle Fire! I invest my money cautiously and take few risks. Do I miss a potentially quick gain by staying away from trying to play the market? Sure. But, on the other hand I am less seriously hurt during sell-offs.
I have no mortgage because I bought my current house for cash (average U.S. mortgage debt is $175,000). I have no credit card debt (average U.S. debt is $6,500). I have $2,000 left on a car loan that will be paid in full this spring (U.S. average is $15,370). The other car was bought for cash 8 years ago. Because of this I have no real worries of foreclosure or bankruptcy. Of course, a major medical disaster could put us in a deep hole. Even with insurance I know that my health company would look for any way possible to avoid paying its share. Even though they collect almost $9,000 a year from us in premiums, that buys me nothing if they decide to stonewall me at a time of need. Even so, my financial life has been simplified.
I spend less than $600 a year on new clothes. Jeans, T-shirts, polo shirts, underwear, socks, and athletic shoes are my major clothing purchases. I gave away 10 suits and sports coats last year when I cleaned out a closet. I buy virtually no new books or movie DVDs, never buy new music, and go to a movie theater maybe 5 times a year. Even so, my life is filled with music, reading, movies, and documentaries. My clothing and entertainment life have been simplified.
I live quite well in a smallish but comfortable, warmly decorated home in a resort town. My backyard is an oasis of plants, running water and calm. I am living my passions and dreams. I have simplified my life but I don’t lead a simple life. There is a huge difference and it makes the difference between a retirement and a satisfying retirement.
How about you? Are you approaching voluntary simplicity as something to improve your life, or has it taken on a life of its own? Do you have an easy time purging, or can’t you bear to get rid of the stuff you haven’t needed for years? Are you after a simple life, or a full life lived simply? Related Articles & Information
- Owning Only 15 Things
- Actor Lives Without Even a Toilet (loads a little slowly)
- Family and Their 11 year Journey
- Living in a Tiny Home With No electricity
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Posted by Bob Lowry in January 2012