Monday, June 23

Voluntary Simplicity

A few weeks ago, I participated in an eight (8) week discussion group: "Voluntary Simplicity". This is the one created by the Northwest Earth Institute. While there was certainly too much information to cover in a single blog entry, suffice it to say that it reinforced many of the things I've taken to heart in the past several years: reduction of clutter; efficient time planning; being green; and the Evils of American Society.

Okay, so I made up that last one .. at least, renamed it. That's because the terms used in the reading material sugar-coated the phenomenon: egregious American consumerism, where we're trained to be lifetime gluttons about most everything. So many people fall into the lifetime trap of buying/buying/buying stuff they don't need to impress people they barely know. And guess what - many of us that are the potential impressees come away with the opposite impression: that you're an IDIOT when you live above your means and buy Stuff just to have More Stuff.

I've seen truly amazing (read: disgusting) examples. One friend-of-a-friend lived in a ~5000 square foot house which was not only packed wall-to-wall with Stuff but also floor-to-ceiling. There were precarious paths leading from room to room, and I felt as if I was in an Antique Mall that was designed to pack items so close together that the patrons couldn't avoid breaking something (ca-ching!).

Some families have 5+ children (gag) and need an SUV to transport them, but many don't .. and have large, wasteful vehicles that are used for everything. Those families each need a Smart car, or a Honda Fit, or something equally gas-friendly for 98% of their trips. I've never bought the argument that Big Vehicles Make You Safe, since my theory is that they make you into a Sloppy driver who takes excessive risks because You're The Big Dog and who cares if I crush The Little Dog?
Noteworthy-but-unrelated: as I've driven around the past few weeks, I notice that few drivers are bothering to slow down to conserve fuel. Many of them are either incapable of changing their leadfoot habits, or have the same moronic attitude I saw with snow/ice drivers here - the idea that if you drive faster, you'll get through the ordeal faster. As a rule, the larger the vehicle, the more likely it is to be going 20+ miles over the limit. Dallas remains The Place To Be if you want to speed anytime and never be pulled over - enforcement here is a joke.
To be sure, even I (gasp!) have room to improve, but I'm trying. Example: my CD rack hasn't been touched in a couple years, ever since I dumped everything to the iPod. My book collection's still massive and I'm coming to grips with the concept of giving away books (to a charity such as a local Veterans Administration hospital) rather than let them languish on the shelf, never to be re-read. I no longer buy trinkets of any sort, since those are destined to be dust collectors. Yes, I take lots of photos, but carefully organize them on my home network -- without taking up more physical space (I almost never get prints - aside from samples I printed years ago so my walls wouldn't be blank).

Via the local Freecycle group, I've given away some specific things but surely need to advertise Stuff I'm no longer using. The alternative is a Garage Sale, but I don't need the hassle involved with that, since my goal is merely to get rid of excess Stuff. You know, to Simplify.

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