If we are trying to put on some sort of persona by driving or wearing, or living in what we cannot afford, we are getting into our own way.
Ever since I had an acquaintance of mine tell me that she “can’t live a simple life because she likes nice things” – I got to thinking. I like nice things too, yet I live a simple life. One day I want to grow my own food and have a compost pile, but I’ll still wear Brooks Brothers to work. Maybe living simply has gotten a bad rap somehow. I started to think back to how I even got started on this path of sustainable living. Then I realized that at first I some negative perceptions of simple living as well. In the beginning, I thought simple living meant that I had to wear bergunstocks and that I had to give up my sky high Jimmy Choos. I had to drive a prius over my dream vehicle, Range Rover HSE , or that I had to dye my hair with henna or use baking soda instead of a regular deodorant. Now I see things differently.
I assure you that I do not own a pair of Bergunstocks, I still dye my hair and one day I will own a very nice HSE, I have still made the deliberate decision to live simply. I realize now more than ever that as a consumer I have a ton of power and voting with your wallet is something that is done everyday. I wear Brooks Brother suits because they are superiorly crafted and will last forever, making the price per wear practically nil. Same for my sky high Jimmy Choos, the living simply part comes from my no longer needing to own a hundred of each. When I buy an HSE, it will be taken care of, paid off, and driven until it can’t be driven anymore – just like my current jeep. The point of simple living is just that – simple. You can have whatever you want, you just don’t need so much of it. Sustainability is using consumer powers to support companies that make quality products, fairly, and that can be used long term whereby giving you most bang for your buck.
So what does it look like if I preach all kinds of simplicity but drive a $75,000 car? Well, for starters, if I can’t afford that car and I am constantly only paying half of my electric bill to make the note every month, or if I have to get a second job in my already crammed schedule to afford it, then that car is anything but simple. Now, if I can put $15,000 down, and am not sacrificing my well being in terms of food and shelter, and can afford to pay it off in under 5 years, then why not buy the HSE? It’s what I desire, it’s a well made car, it holds its value, I need an SUV, it is safe, and has the best chance of still being in use in 10 years. We get into trouble when we are not willing to wait for things. If we are trying to put on some sort of persona by driving or wearing, or living in what we cannot afford, we are getting into our own way.
My simplistic life began in a very simple way, I was broke. I had absolutely no choice but to stop spending and re-think why all of a sudden I was relying on shopping to make me happy – even if it was fleeting. For a short period of time, I forgot all of my common sense and started to rely on the accumulation of “stuff” to physically show my worth. After I stopped spending, I started to edit all that I have accumulated. Some I sold, other things I donated, others I recycled in some way. Seeing physical open space was akin to opening space in my mind, and it felt so great. My bank account began to come into the black and my debt diminished. I began to feel better spending 100 dollars on a black pair of well made pants that will last forever, then spending 300 and leaving with half of a store of unflattering clothes. From there, I began to pay attention to the companies and the manufacturers that I was “paying” when I spent money on a product. Most of the time I ended up not agreeing with how they did business. So this lead me to do more business with local retailers where I knew for sure that my money was doing good for a family, and not a CEO that treated employees badly.
Naturally, doing business with smaller business meant there would be less of a selection, which forced me to pare down and think about my purchases and only buying what I need. It came full circle because it meant that I had more money to spend on a few quality items rather than a ton of substandard options. Funny how that works!
This simple living began to transcend into my entertainment and nightlife too. Becoming single again, I was eager to get involved with nightlife. While I fully believe in sowing some oats, after a year of not knowing, or remembering what 100 dollars paid for at nameless club 1, 2, or 3, it got very old to me. Now my simple is staying in and playing cocktail card games with close friends, and going out to really expensive and exclusive venues every now and again. I like to spend my money on experiences. To me, investing in having a good time making memories with my loved ones doing memorable things like camping or a weekends away is a better value. I still hit happy hours, but a cup of coffee and a conversation that I will remember the next day is a better alternative. Living this way enables me to buy all that I need, and thankfully, I am never without. Even when I went through some pretty lean times.
My aforementioned acquaintance feels that when I talk about simple living, I am trying to make everyone’s life look like mine, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. No one’s simple has to look alike, you can make your simple life any way that you want to. Just as long as it’s anything that lets you pare down, de-clutter both mind and living space. Anything that lets you breathe and think about the things in life that matter most; God, love, family, the environment, friends, the betterment of you and your life – that is simple living.
© 2011 Jenna Salacuse