The Circle of Simplicity
Sooner or later each of us must confront exactly what the financial losses brought about during this depressing Recession mean in our lives. It is unpleasant and there is nothing that I would rather ignore more than facing reality at the moment. My beloved husband forced me to sit down and write down every penny that we owe. Like swallowing Castor oil or eating spoiled cheese. But it was the first step in banging out a long-range plan. Now that our old plan doesn't work - because we've lost about two-thirds of our nest egg - we need a completely fresh goal.
One of the good things that can result from this uncomfortable time is a simplification of our life. Author Cecile Andrews wrote a book called The Circle of Simplicity wherein she shares that what she wants to feel more than anything else is gratitude. With the "good life" slipping away, how do you keep a sense of gratitude going? Maybe the secret, as Andrews hints, is in appreciating what you have at the moment. " To feel gratitude is to look at everything in your life and appreciate it, be aware of it, pay attention to it. Our lifestyle, of course, engenders discontent and resentment. Because more is always better you can never be satisfied with what you have. Because commercials are constantly showing up ecstatically happy people with lots of stuff, we always feel that we're just not quite making it. Then, when we see how much money rich people have, we feel envious. All of these feelings make you discontent with your life, causing you to fail to be grateful for what you do have."
And if we were a nation of whiners before, what will we become as more and more challenge is hurled at the middle class resulting in additional losses? The only way to avoid misery is to grasp onto one or two positives in your life. It may just get down to a handful of fresh flowers. It may be the fact that you actually like your husband or wife that keeps you afloat. It could be that you are blessed with healthy children. One thing I know for sure: Your contentment definitely will not be related to how much you own. In the days of our grand-parents and great-grandparents immigrants came to America with the desire to labor hard. It was generally the result of unrelenting work on the part of the entire family that earned them a home. Somewhere along the line, as the New Urbanist James Howard Kunstler writes, we shifted from thinking of home ownership as something we should work very hard for to something we are entitled to as Americans.
Those devoted to the simple lifestyle carefully rearrange their lives to reduce their dependence on "stuff" and thereby change how much money they must have to remain comfortable. One car instead of two. Mommy stays home and saves the cost of child care or a housekeeper. She prepares fresh and healthy food for her family at a fraction of the cost of fast restaurant food. Use of re-purposed furnishings saves money as does growing some of your own food. Simplicity demands that you wear things out and only replace when you cannot repair. We cannot have everything and still remain balanced, healthy and happy. The only way to live within your means is to create a new plan. It has taken me a long, long time to realize this. Read. Study. Count. Plan. Change. Sell. Conserve. Look for a simpler way to live in this complicated time.