Monday, December 14, 2009

changing priorities

as you know, i've been doing a lot of thinking about how to simplify our life. it's partially because i don't want a high-powered office-politics game-playing type job anymore and that means that we'll have less money to frivolously throw away every month. and it's partially because i no longer want to frivolously throw away money every month on crap that i don't really need and which has been produced in a way that doesn't respect our planet. and although i love collecting and stashing, i don't want so much clutter in my life (and my brain) anymore. but mostly, with all of the talk about climate change here in the lead-up to the COP15 meeting, i have realized that i want to live in a more sustainable way. i want to throw less away and waste less. i want to make the purchases i make in a more deliberate, less impulsive manner (good luck with that aries girl).

so over the past week, i've been trying to put myself into the simplicity mindset when i'm out and about. and what struck me is that it makes me feel poor. and i realized that i don't like that. but now i know that's the main notion and feeling that i need to work on. because while spending less money would be a nice side effect of this endeavor, it's not actually the main goal. the main goal is living a more deliberate, meaningful life that's better in balance and harmony with the world around me. because i want there to be a clean, healthy planet for sabin to inherit.

but i think i'm so conditioned to consume that not consuming makes me feel strange.

i want to do this, but i don't want to feel poor or like i'm withdrawing from society at large or living a hermetic existence, but i think it's a bit of a balancing act. because i want there to be shops and restaurants and bakeries and butchers and fishmongers in my community. which means i have to support them by being a customer. but how do i transition to being a more responsible customer? and if i end up having a shop of my own, how can i be a responsible shop owner?

i don't have all the answers, but these are the questions i'm struggling with as we get ready to embark on a year of mindful consumption.

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p.s. i haven't forgotten about picking my favorite comment from the voice post, it's just a bit more difficult than i thought it would be because there were some very interesting thoughts. but a result is coming soon! maybe even later today...


will said...

When I look at small homes with sparse square footage I also wonder what people do in these houses besides sleeping and eating. As in how do they use free time. I think it would be difficult living in simplicity and be isolated from like minded neighbors and friends, from cities with museums, libraries and such.

800 - 900 sq. ft. is small and possessions would need to be at minimum. What happens when a relative dies and in their will they ask you to preserve family furniture from the past?

I think there's a fair amount work required to remain in simplicity.

d smith kaich jones said...

Good luck on all this, but may I suggest you avoid buying anything like the silent meditation room featured in your previous post? :) I'm sure you weren't planning on it, anyway, but I must tell you how much it made me laugh and reminded me of a letter to the editor in a Buddhism magazine I used to have a subscription to - someone had noticed all the "meditation supplies" for sale in ads throughout the magazine and wrote "meditation supplies forsooth!" and talked about how all one really needed was a place to sit. Even silence is unnecessary.

And re: your question about how to support businesses but buy less? You can't. You really can't, and that's the truth of the matter. There is no balance there. A commenter to your previous post re: climate change laws, restrictions, taxes, said she understood that such things would result in poverty for some and a lowered quality of life, but that this was okay. Perhaps your local businesses and shopowners will be happy to be those for whom this means a lower quality of life or poverty - I know you don't believe that and I guarantee you that they don't, but these are your choices.

Again, good luck with all this.


Bonnie Zieman, M.Ed. said...

As we change priorities and make changes, we will always feel a little strange. The transitional feelings will pass if you persist. It's like the uncomfortable feeling we get when we try to give up an old, comfortable habit. What is it they say, it takes about 3 weeks (21 days) for the body mind to adjust to a new situation or way of doing things. All of us who initiate a new, pared down lifestyle will experience this - temporarily.

Zuzana said...

I think the transition you talk about doesn't happen over night. So do not despair, if you find it difficult. To me it sounds though like you are on the right track.:)

Barb said...

Hubby and I have also talked about living a more simplified life. But, boy, is it hard with 3 boys! I applaud your efforts. We have decided to start with food next year. We've joined a cooperative garden and are going to try to cut out as much processed food as possible (also not easy with 3 boys!). Good luck.

The Redhead Riter said...

I used to shop all the time. Somewhere along the way, I quit. Cold turkey. I purchased the items we needed, not everything we wanted. It was hard because shopping filled an emptiness that I wasn't coping with in my life. I eventually "fixed" the emptiness and remained frugal. I'm happy now. I don't care how big or lavish anyone else lives. To each their own. I am happy, however, in my small home, with fewer possessions and an older car. My next step I believe will be to generate my own electricity and dig a well for my own water. Good luck with whatever path you choose.

Lori said...

Your post was very thought provoking for me, but not in the way I initially thought it would "carry my thoughts." My thinking directionality changed when you used the word "conditioned." And that is when it came sharply into focus that we have been "conditioned," but that that is really a nice word for BRAINWASHED. And while I know you're not in the U.S., I'm sure you all have had your fair share of the advertisement deluge too.

Because we have been so INDOCTRINATED to consume, consume, consume, to begin to step back a bit from that feels foreign and uncomfortable. I think our minds will even try to convince us it's wrong, and that we NEED to consume MORE. I simply don't believe that is true. I think we've basically developed an "addict mentality."

There will always be people who grossly and irresponsibly consume. Okay, hopefully not ALWAYS, but probably for a very long time still. Does that mean that we should shy away from our own convictions to NOT do so with such frivolity? I don't think so. And frankly...I'm not worried that the private store owner down the street will suffer for it. I don't believe that. Perhaps if he feels the crunch enough, however, he will begin to look at WHAT he's selling and switch to things that support a more sustainable existence, rather than things that feed the consumerism machine. Maybe. Just maybe.

I don't have the answers either, I'm just thinking out loud here. But when I boil it down to the bottom line in my mind...the most clear thing is, that I must live by my OWN convictions and what my own heart and mind are telling me is the best direction. Usually if I don't have internal PEACE about something, then I haven't arrived at the correct solution for myself yet.

Great post! Wow...thinking before coffee. hurts. ;)

kristine said...

yes, it is a tricky concundrum. I had a lecturer during my masters degree who (during a debate on climate issues) said that what is needed for anything to actually change, is a " massive and fundamental shift in the paradigm of our thinking, on a par with the Enlightenment". I have that in quotes because I have always remembered what he said word for word, it made such an impression on. The Enlightenment was enormous. Can we move away from thinking about consumerism in the same way??

I do think that there is a case to be made for trying to keep the local butcher and bookshop and baker, while avoiding chain supermarkets and big mall-chains. But again, it requires spending more.....but we LOVE our local baker, dont we?

Graciel said...

My resonance came when you mentioned not wanting the high-powered, game-playing job. Struck a major chord with me, as I am contemplating the same, although my job is not high-powered, but life-draining. My first thoughts are, how can I live with less? What do I need to stock pile to feel safe enough to give myself the gift of more time and less stress? More cooking, less junk-laden, lazy food comes to mind. Oh, so very much to think of as the new year comes. Wonderful post!!

xo, Graciel

p.s. do you know, I just found your comment about being in Istanbul at the time as me? The ferries were among my most favorite parts of the experience! Will yo go back again? I will!

Char said...

oh, now i'm intimidated by the length of the above comments. i think it's very cool that you've come to realize these things - just like i think more and more people are waking up to it too.

Glenn Kachmar said...

Hi Julie, another great read, of course. My life has been tuned to simplicity for a while, but I was thinking you could have a weekly post called "Things I Didn't Buy" and even reflect a bit on why you realized you didn't need them, if appropriate. Just a thought. Like the $12 bookmark I saw in a big chain store and all it had on it was the word "simplicity" (in quotes on the bookmark and it was credited to Thoreau. I suspect he was turning over in his grave when they made that bookmark.

Polly said...

very interesting post, and look how many lenghty comments it's generated.

I'm quite surprised with the feeling poor concept. when I manage to overcome my urge to buy things that I don't exactly need or things that have name tags I feel very good about myself and even - don't judge me :-) - better than others who don't manage to avoid consumerism. for the past year I've done my best to only buy things that I either really need or, like in case of Nikon, things that I want, but I also know I'll be able to put it them good use. this decluttering never made me feel poor but definitely happier about my life

I think small shops are good and I think the same principle applies. it's better to shop in small shops for fewer but better quality things than going to supermarket and stocking up on things that are seemingly cheaper

the whole simplifying business is definitely difficult but the more you talk about it the more I'm with you on it :-)

Kim: said...

I can so relate to this!

Currently, the plan is for my husband to quit his job sometime next year. I'm totally in favor of this -- he hates it and has other things he wants to do, better for all of us to not always be so hectic, etc. But I find myself now being even more impulsive with buying "stuff" because I know I might not be able to in a few months. I can tell myself again and again how silly this is, but these habits are so hard to break. I look forward to seeing how you tackle it.

spudballoo said...

I don't know. I've barely got the questions never mind the answers. There's such a balance between living more responsibily and thoughtfully and living to support what you believe in. Because the latter does, to an extend, involve spending.

In the end the money in your account will dictate what you can spend, and then you get to choose what you spend it on. And you get to choose what NOT to spend it on.

There's no perfect way forward here, just choices. And baby steps.

Unknown said...

I can really relate to this post a lot. Of course simplifying was thrust upon me out of necessity but I strove to meet it head on, nevertheless. And although I did feel poor, mostly because I actually am, I started to get to the heart of things. It took awhile...a long while, actually...but I started to understand the WHYS of all the elements of simplicity. It's one thing to know them in theory and quite another to know empirically.

I also think you mentioned a very big part of simplifying your spending habits when you mentioned supporting your local businesses. A good rule of thumb is to just buy whatever you need locally. If you don't need it, you don't have to buy it. And Bills comment about simplicity getting complicated is something to think about as well. Simplicity became very complicated for me...the logistics of cooking every meal and planting seeds and canning and running a home consumed all my time. So much that now that I have a job, I'm lost and my whole simplicity system is falling apart. I can't do both. I imagine the challenges would be different for each household.

Anyway...I've been so busy and haven't been blog stalking lately but I'm so glad I stumbled upon this one today. It's a good reminder and of course I always enjoy the subject.

paris parfait said...

I have been buying less and giving away more things; other things I'm preparing to sell. All this in preparation for the next big move (early 2011) and the desire to live surrounded by less stuff. For instance, I'm selling my entire collection of white ironstone and a set of Limoges, because, while I adore these things, I don't really have room for them. And I want to have room for new/old passions that interest me more. But it's hard letting go of these things. And like you, I fight the "feeling poor" thing, if I see something I like, but don't buy it. We're conditioned to feel that way, after years and years of reading fashion magazines and watching advertisements on television and movies. I think it's about being more responsible, as consumers and realising the impact of our footprint on the planet. You're one of the most conservation-minded people I know! (And doesn't living in Europe help, particularly in places like Denmark and Holland?) xoxox