The HomeFix Show | 5 JUL 2014
SPECIAL SHOW: Simple Living- a verbal thought from Joe.
Today’s program is going to be quite different than any other HomeFix Show you have heard. For quite a few years now, I personally along with my wife Vicki have been heading down a path of greater simplicity. Some call this Volunteer Simplicity, some Simple Living or living simply. It doesn’t matter what you call it, the danger is putting a label on it.
The danger is that by calling it something, it assumes that you are trying to fit into a mold of others doing the same thing and that there is a step by step method to success. I do not believe this is true. Success is not the goal. Sounds contradictory but we are all too different to try to end up in the same place.
There are a lot of books, DVD’s, guest speakers, Sunday school classes, and neighborhood small groups highly active in discussing this topic right now. However it is not new. Tough times bring people to this and well as maturity or necessity. I try to learn from others. I have come to realize that I have been influenced to be where I am and some of it has not been good.
I have been reading articles and books on this subject. My wife reads 20 books for every one I do. No way I could keep up with her. I have observed that here is no shortage of opinion or interpretation of the issue that I define as simply Excess or Deficiency. I need to make it clear right now that this is not all about getting rid of things. It is more about balance, and as I bring it up with people, I am surprised how many have not considered this as the source of much of their frustrations. More on that later.
When I get in casual conversation with someone, maybe someone I just met, I have started asking, “What is your passion?” Talk about getting strange looks. I explain that it is not what you do or did, but what you love to do. Later I found this same question in a book and knew I was on the right track. People light up when they talk about their passions. Passion is what keeps us going and is what we look forward to do or be more of. The other side of this is what we SHOULD do because of commitments or responsibilities that allow us to pursue our passions. It is said, What we are passionate about is what we want to be more than what we actually are. What are you passionate about?
Today’s show will be a little preachy, a little opinionated, and a lot of personal revelation. I sincerely hope that you will be able to listen in and search for something that will have meaning for you, and perhaps help you in some way. I am in no way saying that where you are, how you feel, what you do, or anything even like that is wrong. I would never say that, because that is part of what I have come to understand better.
I must also say that some of what we will be going over is not new. Not even close. You may be doing much of this already as part of your personal culture. Grandma may have told you about some of these things years ago. This has been around a long time, and at one point it was normal. The problem is that we have gotten away from Normal.
We have been subjected to influence since the moment we were born. We have been told all too much that more makes you happier. That to feel better, you have to buy something. It is a lie. More on that later also.
Listening now, what are you expecting of this? There are usually several things that come out of these discussions. One is that we want affirmation that what we are already doing is right. Another is that we are feeling out of sync and we are looking for a change. Or, someone else is driving you crazy and you are looking for a solution to help them and thereby yourself.
The end game is to determine the Critical Factors behind the issues. What is really at the heart of the success or failure. Somehow, throughout all of this it pretty much all has to do with excess and deficiency. Those are big categories.
Excess can mean a lot of different things. Same for Deficiency. It is also hard to zero in on because they both are influenced and affected by many forces, individually and combined. Chronological Time has to also be included in our examinations. Our past history and our plans for the future all set up who we are at this moment and only this moment. We can’t do much about the past, so why worry about it, just learn from it. The future can be what we want it to.
When we are put our efforts into Things rather than people, including ourselves, are we being the people or the person we really want to be? That person of passion. Talk to anyone late in life and ask if there were any regrets. How many wish they had more time with someone or for their passion?
I would like to say that all of these points I am bringing up are uniquely my own. Far from it. Some are, but the majority are from an assortment of sources. A very interesting recent read for me was by Joshua Millburn titled Everything That Remains. You can read about it and him more at www.theminimalists.com/. In the book, Joshua finds himself in a situation. His mother has died and he is cleaning out her apartment. He determines that The U-haul he reserved is not going to be big enough. She was a hoarder by his definition. He spent days going through things and ended up reserving a larger U-haul to bring it all back and put it in storage. It was going to cost him $1500 per year to store things he didn’t want or need. Joshua was successful by common financial definitions and could afford it so that was not the problem. He had one of everything that marketing and advertising said he needed. Plus Mom’s stuff now. His life was already set. Now he had the stuff of another life. It took him 12 days but he sold, donated, or recycled it all. He canceled the truck and his life began to change.
As we go through today’s show I will try to give you some resources that you can explore more if you choose. If you say that you are too busy to do this, or you so not have enough time, or you can’t afford it. You have to listen to the rest of this program.
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If you are just joining todays program, you are going to be wondering what is going on. I have to say to give it a few minutes and just jump in with us. We are talking about the things around us, the amount, the choices we make, and our own happiness and place in the world. The show is about Independence and freedom.
I have talked before and written on a Swedish word: Lagom. This word was shared with me by my wife who read about it in a book of short stories about living simpler, more appreciative lives. The Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation“, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Whereas words like “sufficient” and “average” suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation of appropriateness, although not necessarily perfection.
It is an interesting word. You have things in your life that are lagom. Others that are not lagom. What is lagom for you, may not be for someone else. That is OK and
part of the understanding of the balance present in all things. For example, if you are having trouble hearing this, the volume of your radio or computer is not lagom for you. If it is just right, not too loud or not too quiet, it is lagom. This word can be applied to just about everything. If you are driving too fast or too slow, not lagom. If your peanut butter sandwich is the best one you ever had it is lagom. We all try to do this by making what is around and in our lives just right. Including our relationships with other people. So, if you were to take a moment and look at yourself, what do you have that is Lagom? What is not? Does it not make sense to try to bring into balance the things that are out of balance? Because if not, the out of balance things are what takes your attention and your life energy to maintain or interact with. If a wheel on your car is out of balance you fix it or it will wear out the tire and bearings. Lagom in mechanical action. I challenge you to find a couple things that are lagom in your life as well as not. If you are like me, the things that are in Lagom involve people and those things not lagom involve material things.
Before we build some foundation and define in greater detail the elements of living a simpler lifestyle, It is easier for me to understand by defining the opposite, because those are the issues we are trying to deal with. Here are some words that are Anti-Simple: Complicated. Chaos. Stress. Anger. Frustration. Clutter. Emptiness. Dangerous.
The title of Simple Living or Voluntary Simplicity can be defined very differently depending who you read or listen to. You will hear in what I am about to read very different definitions. Listen for perhaps one of them that may be your position. I have pieced these together from many sources and I can’t say where each came from. Listen though for some key words to pop up.
“Simple living, is a way of life that rejects the high-consumption, materialistic lifestyles of consumer cultures and affirms what is often just called ‘the simple life’ or ‘downshifting.’”
“The rejection of consumerism arises from the recognition that ordinary Western-style consumption habits are degrading the planet; that lives of high consumption are unethical in a world of great human need; and that the meaning of life does not and cannot consist in the consumption or accumulation of material things.”
“The affirmation of simplicity arises from the recognition that very little is needed to live well – that abundance is a state of mind, not a quantity of consumer products or attainable through them.”
“Voluntary simplicity does not mean living in poverty, becoming an ascetic monk, or indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not involve regressing to a primitive state or becoming a self-righteous puritan. And it is not some escapist fad reserved for saints, hippies, or eccentric outsiders. Simplicity suggests that by examining our relationships with money, material possessions, the planet, ourselves and each other, ‘the simple life’ is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much is truly ‘enough.”
And on the other side;
“Technology has created a barrier of not being able to live simply without a dozen pieces of technology beeping or buzzing off at the same time, where you take time in your day to enjoy nature, to just experience life with people the way we all used to. Technology has created this void where people are incapable of stopping the urgency and hectic lifestyle that has been placed on us. Technology is a distraction to us. People need to replace their addiction of technology, meaning any source of electronic device or tools that can be connected to the
web, with filling their lives with simplicity. Simplicity depends on the art of loving others and having genuine, personal care for one another.
I really like this one;
“Everything we possess that is not necessary for life or happiness becomes a burden, and scarcely a day passes that we do not add to it.” -Robert Brault
Charles Swindoll says in his book “Intimacy with the Almighty.” That it is a book of his description and personal reflections on how he, and others, can become closer to God. Throughout the book he referred to simple living and how living a life of simplicity requires much discipline. His choice of words and story redirects our thoughts to decluttering our lives so that we may have a better chance at becoming still with God.
Swindoll writes, “It is essential that we reorder our private lives. And that requires us to slow our pace as well as stop the envy, two tough assignments no one else can do for us.
Envy was something I had a real problem with.
Swindoll also comments that if you choose to make corrections, they have to be slow and sustaining. I agree, quick reactions do not last or become permanent behavior. It is like loosing 50 pounds. Do it fast and you will gain it back. Take your time and do it the right way and you will stick there.
Next up is much more fun. Now we get to talk about the why, and not the what.
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When you think of people that live a simple life, what comes to mind? Some will say a rural lifestyle, some will say it is poor people, some will say radical hippies, some will say Democrats. When I first heard it I thought of religious groups like the Shakers or Amish people. It is just interesting how we come up with images of words.
There are those questions that are asked that we all know the answer to yet we try to come up with exceptions to the answer we know is right. This is one of them. Does more make you happier? It has been proven that it does not. Measurable curves have been charted that show that it is a non-sustainable expectation to believe that consumption can lead to happiness. And, it is also proven that the more you have, the more you worry about it- whether paying for it, storing it, taking care of it or protecting it. This analytical measurement exercise was done by John DeGraaf in the PBS Documentary “Affluenza”. In the Amazon.com listing for the book (also a DVD) it defines affluenza as: A Noun. A painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more. The notes on the movie say “We tried to warn you! The 2008 economic collapse proved how resilient and dangerous affluenza can be. Now in its third edition, this book can safely be called prophetic in showing how problems ranging from loneliness, endless working hours, and family conflict to rising debt, environmental pollution, and rampant commercialism are all symptoms of this global plague.
It is a definite must see or read as you explore this subject.
I was a student in a Dale Carnegie class taught by Bob Sabino 20+ years ago. In a class on dealing with worry and stress a quote was shared that has stuck on the inside of my skull ever since. I am paraphrasing but it said something like “You will worry less what others think of you, when you realize how infrequently they actually do”.
We add a lot of our own stress. We create it and heap it upon ourselves all in the good intent
to impress. Those we try to impress are not as important in our life as we think. And why is it we want to impress people we do not even know? Why should we care what they think? This adds stress on us and influences our decisions. Marketing and advertising plays on this and often gets us to buy at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.
Dealing more with the WHY and not the WHAT, why is it that we have expectations for certain levels of image? You hear me talking about that all the time on this show. What this has to do with is the ability to personally accept that Good is good enough. You have to be the one to define what is good however. There are standards we all set for ourselves. Designer name brands and labels, certain logos, colors and styles change and it is amazing how what was “in” yesterday is “out” today. What forces are at work here to cause us to forget the actual thing, and focus on the image of the thing and how it makes us look? If the label was cut off your jeans, would you still value them as much?
I would like to explore WHY a little more and this one could hurt some feelings. It is my opinion that there are a lot of Dual working households that work themselves to death to try and afford things that they never seem to have enough time to enjoy. They justify this as providing for the kids or each other although they seem not to have any time for the kids or to get away and play with the toys because they are always working.
I also think that here is a loss of connection to family because of daycare. People are working for their stuff and not for the life they desire. Many students of this situation ask if these people, who seem to have everything but happiness and contentment: Could they live smaller and perhaps happier with less? Are they working to provide certain things for the children while sacrificing the time they spend personally with them? What does that set the kids up for as far as how to be a parent? What lesson is that teaching?
People worry about money. There is nothing wrong with that. Where it goes wrong is when it becomes an unhealthy obsession and a genuine fear. Not to worry is easy to say for someone that has no concern where food is coming from tomorrow or that the rent is paid. When first exposed to some of this simple living stuff, I was distressed that it seemed like all those telling me what to do had gone very high up the economic and social ladder, peered out from the top and determined that they had too much. They backed down their life and now had all the secrets. But what about those who need to live small just to survive? The question to really ask of yourself is would living smaller, with less, get you to a place of financial content to where you could worry less and channel your energy into your passions? Looking around you, Where is there financial waste that could be eliminated?
Said by a lot of people, “Do you own your stuff or does your stuff own you? We find ourselves not able to do things we want to do because of things we have to take care of. When does the line get crossed from enjoyment of something to becoming a chore? I call these Anchors, like on a boat. We drag them around behind us and wonder why we can’t go forward faster.
I saw a news report last year from the scene of a horribly destructive tornado. The same situation happen when there are wild fires, or floods. There was a woman totally in tears saying how she has lost everything and how they would never be able to replace everything they have worked so hard for. She said her life was in that house. The next woman was also in tears but had her arms around her family and said it was only stuff. What a polar opposite way of dealing with something. Which person would you rather be? If all your stuff was wiped off the face of the earth, would you replace it all? Or would you look at it as a blessing and an opportunity?
“Grandma Guilt” is a term I think my wife and I created. How much stuff do you have boxed up that you have not interacted with in the last year or two? Or three… Getting rid of the things can make you feel guilty. We wonder if we are getting rid of part of the person or memory if we no longer have the thing in front of us. We want to hang on to the memories and
feel that this must be done through the items connected to them. Can technology replace the actual item? Photos, scans, digital conversions could be an option. One way to deal with the guilt is to convert the item. Sell it and donate the money to a cause or place that Grandma would have approved of. The guilt will go away because of the people the item helped.
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We pay for storage of items we do not have room for. Our footprint can exceed the space that at one time seemed to be plenty adequate. We also worry about things when they are in storage. Beyond the Monthly costs, items are perishable and subject to deterioration. Out of site but not out of mind. Could you liquidate to the space you have around you? Transitional storage may be a different thing, but it is too easy to forget about it and far exceed the value of what is in storage in the fees to store it. What does it say about us that many new neighborhoods being built have a storage center within two miles?
Have you seen all the self help books and storage systems out there for Organizing and Decluttering? Decluttering is a bad word because it is too romantic and sounds like organizing will fix everything. The TV shows and infomercials want you to compact it, or have fun sorting and separating. Organizing just hides the real problem. Letting go of it and clearing out space it the hard thing to do. Sell it. Conversion of the asset to cash is a possibility. What would you do with the extra money? Donations to a user in need could be another way. Random gifts. Appreciate the space that is empty- lack of distraction. Less to clean! Take down the shelves so they can’t be filled up again.
Decluttering deals with the WHAT, not the Why. Organizing provides opportunity for more problems, not less.
Colin Wright (exilelifestyle.com) is a Minimalist. He says: So when you think of Minimalism, you likely think of getting rid of stuff, not buying anything new, and living in a small white room with no furniture or pictures on the wall. This COULD be true, but in most cases it’s not. It’s important to understand that the reduction of physical possessions is often a RESULT of Minimalism, not Minimalism itself. Just giving away a bunch of things doesn’t make you a Minimalist, any more than buying a statue of Buddha makes you a Buddhist or doing yoga makes you healthy. It’s one aspect of the whole, for sure, but you needn’t partake if that’s not where your priorities happen to be. There are always other options. And that’s what’s important to establish here: priorities. What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff – the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities – that don’t bring value to your life. You should be able to say with absolute certainty ‘This is important to me.” Baseball Cards are my life and being involved with them is what makes me want to get up in the morning,’ you should invest more time and effort into your collection. When they really start to think about it, though, most people realize that the physical things they own are not the most important parts of their lives.
Again, organizing is not the answer. It is still almost hoarding. Just with labels and bins.
And then there is the Legacy. Family traditions and pass downs. What is important to you, may not be to others in the family. That can be hard to accept. Generational changes come into play and situations and lifestyle. You may love to hunt while all the kids are vegetarians. Think they will want your guns? How did your parents deal with this and what did they teach
you. Preserving history and family tradition is not to be diminished, but discussed with family. Hard to evaluate by yourself, do it as a family. Are you saving some things for a person who really does not want them? Are you making it their problem? Is it a wanted gift or will guilt be passed on or generated? Discuss in advance and could it be given in advance so you can see them enjoying it. If they will enjoy it then, why not give it now?
Stress has been directly tied to health. We as Americans work longer hours, take less vacations, take more medication, and have higher divorce and lower happiness ratings than any other country. Is this the good life? .
Joe Dominguez and Vicky Robin wrote a book, Your Money or your Life. In the book you work your way through an actual calculation of what an hour of your life is worth. The hour is a trade. For your “Life’s Energy” what do you get? They say that everything you do or consume uses your energy so what is an hour of your time worth? If you divided everything you bought into either what you earn or live off, would it change how you looked at shopping? Knowing those shoes were an exchange for 5.3 hours of your life’s energy, would you consider something else? Just as good, but perhaps without the logo or latest color.
I have heard of parents giving their kids $40 towards shoes because good ones can be found for that. If they want the $120 pair, they need to come up with the other $80.
Time can also be simplified. We tend to put a lot of time pressures on ourselves by lack of planning or preparation. Procrastination can cause additional stress. Some say they work better under pressure. Really? Not for long. Time management will identify time wasters. If you can track each day what you do, see how much of that day involves what you really enjoy. We should all make it a priority like Joshua Millburn says to dedicate part of each day for what we are passionate about. It is the reason we do the other things.
Can you say no? It is hard for some people and they can become over committed. We all tend to want to make others happy but sometimes it is at the expense of our own health and well being. You do not have to make excuses or explain your self. You can simply decline. It takes practice, but being selective is your choice.
Another thing a lot of people wish they could do more of is give. To charity, their church, or to friends and neighbors. By reducing consumption, you should have more to give from. And if we are overloaded with stuff now, could something be sold and the money given to something you are passionate about? It is a rationalization that one thing can be converted into something more useful for the greater good.
Joshua Becker (another Joshua) in his website Becoming Minimalist (http://www.becomingminimalist.com/) says “There is more joy and fulfillment in pursuing less than can be found in pursuing more. Since the moment we are born we have been told the opposite. We have been told every day of our lives, through every advertisement- the three thousand ads we see every day on television, radio, magazines, billboard and on the internet- that we should pursue more, and that we’ll be more happy, more content, once we achieve more. We have been told to work hard, to earn good money so we can buy bigger and nicer homes, so we can buy new cars and the cutest fashions and the most popular toys or the latest technology, and somehow when we begin accumulation all these things our lives will be better. Life will somehow be more joyful. But we all know that isn’t true. We all know that possessions do not equal happiness. It’s just that we’ve been told this lie for so long that we start to believe it, our heats start to buy into it, and it begins to affect the way we live our lives.”
Discontent comes from several places- Not happy with your financial situation. Paycheck
to paycheck and the chance of being in serious trouble with just one issue. And looking back on it each month, are you proud of where what you had was spent? Could this be improved? Track what you spend and you may be surprised what your priorities are. Also, is your energy going to support stuff rather than people in your life?
http://bemorewithless.com/ is a site by Courtney Carver and her Project 333 that talks about how much clothing we have. She discusses editing your wardrobe for simplicity. 33 items for 3 months. She says It works and takes away a lot of stress you did not know you even had. I am about to find out. This weekend’s project has been the remodeling of our bedroom closet. I am in the process of building the shelves and I am going to see if I can do this Project 333 and see if it works for me. You’ll have to stay tuned on that one.
So here is another challenge that has been tempting me… Back to Millburn’s book, he asks “What if you removed one, just one, material possession from your life each day for a month. What do you think would happen? I started doing this a week ago. Or perhaps it really started at last months yard sale. My wife just finished the book and now I see whay she was going through all the deep dark corners of the house.
Millburn found that part way into the 30 days he accelerated his pace and got rid of more than 30 items. Way more. He looked forward to it and it became a thrill for him. I am sure the items have to be of some significance. I am starting small and going to see how long I can keep up the pace. It has not been a problem so far. 30 days.
We have all heard of Reduce- Reuse- Recycle- and I’d like to add to that add Refuse- Responsibility- Repair. I think that we can refuse certain things, especially the trash we generate. I get odd looks at Subway when I refuse the plastic bag. The paper wrapper is just fine especially if I am going 12 feet to the table. One less bag in the landfill. I know, there are a lot of starfish on the beach. For that moment. I feel I helped a bit.
I also am having fun with reusing things for something other than what they were intended for. I try to get extra mileage out of jars and boxes, pieces of hardware, and broken things disassembled into components that can be used for other things. This is definatley not new. I really enjoy my garage time just puttering with things and creating something out of leftovers.
Repairing can be very rewarding. Not only is there a feeling of accomplishment but there is also the educational benefit of the process. I get a lot of satisfaction knowing I put something back into service that ordinarily would have been trashed. If it lasts another year or two, hey, that is a year or two longer!
You have heard me talk here about my opinion that I would rather have Quality over quantity. I think most people would agree. I suggest this when we buy houses. I think it is better to live smaller with good quality around us than large with junk. Disposable goods aren’t good and if thought through, are only cheap the first time. I have learned this with tools. Buy quality and you do not have to replace them as often and you complain a lot less. They are usually safer too. Is it realistic that you could be happier with less, if it was a good quality?
There are a lot of the same issues that show up in many different positions and places in peoples stance on how the world should be and operate. Lines converge at causes and issues even though the people involved may have very different circumstances that brought them to the same place. Some of this gets very political and I have to cringe when I here certain statements made with supposed facts that I do not accept or agree with. Baby with the bathwater. I try to be patient. IF you are looking for some summer viewing or reading, Please take some time and get these from the library and watch or read:
“Bag It” http://www.bagitmovie.com/about_issues.html This one has to do with the one time use, disposable plastic bag. It is very funny and entertaining, but also amazing in how the host of the show gets to his position on what he views as a significant problem.
“Tapped” http://www.tappedthemovie.com/ talks about bottled water. The bottles, the water, the fuel used to truck it from one side of the country to the other. Where the bottles come from and where they go.
“Affluenza” http://www.pbs.org/kcts/affluenza/ we talked about earlier. It is very funny to watch and disturbing at the same time.
“Garbageland” http://www.amazon.com/Garbage-Land-Secret-Trail-Trash/dp/031615461X This book is about a lady that wants to know where everything she throws away, where does it end up. Where is away when we throw it away.
“A Place at the Table” http://www.magpictures.com/aplaceatthetable/. This one made me do a 180 on a couple issues. It documents several families trying to get by and their usage of food stamps. It also parallels the minimum wage issue and how they tie together. No mater your political or religious stance on this, it is an eye opener.
ALL OF THIS HAS TO DEAL WITH LIVING A SIMPLER LIFE- for some.
Advertising and Marketing’s mission is to sell you something! We know this. We know how it works, yet we like to believe that we are not influenced. I have become skeptical as to what I am buying and what influenced me to do so. Every purchase is a vote to a company or product. What am I supporting? Cheap is not inexpensive on a global level, I get this. Yet I find myself lured to a lower price not thinking who is making it possible. Who suffers from me buying low cost, one time use, disposable, non-reparable products? Lots of social justice issues here and it is a lot easier to just not think about them. But now I do. Or try to. It has definitely reduced my consumption quantity and increased the quality.
So if you have heard something here today that has interested you, What is holding you back? What can you do right now? Do you even want to? No is a fine answer. But if you do want to make a change, How do you think you will you feel?
Who or what is in your way?
What is your passion and are you doing it?
THIS IS NOT THE END. There is no end. This keeps going.