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Want to live a simpler life? Here’s some inspiration for you.

August 26, 2010
Lone Flower in Bali, Indonesia

Lone Flower in Bali, Indonesia

Want some insipiration for living a simpler life and getting out of the cycle of consuming?  Try this quote, from one of my favorite authors, Rolf Potts: (source)

In March of 1989, the Exxon Valdez struck a reef off the coast of Alaska, resulting in the largest oil spill in U.S. history. Initially viewed as an ecological disaster, this catastrophe did wonders to raise environmental awareness among average Americans. As television images of oil-choked sea otters and dying shore birds were beamed across the country, pop-environmentalism grew into a national craze.

Instead of conserving more and consuming less, however, many Americans sought to save the earth by purchasing “environmental” products. Energy-efficient home appliances flew off the shelves, health food sales boomed, and reusable canvas shopping bags became vogue in strip malls from Jacksonville to Jackson Hole. Credit card companies began to earmark a small percentage of profits for conservation groups, thus encouraging consumers to “help the environment” by striking off on idealistic shopping binges.

Such shopping sprees and health food purchases did absolutely nothing to improve the state of the planet, of course — but most people managed to feel a little better about the situation without having to make any serious lifestyle changes.

This notion — that material investment is somehow more important to life than personal investment — is exactly what leads so many of us to believe we could never afford to go vagabonding. The more our life options get paraded around as consumer options, the more we forget that there’s a difference between the two. Thus, having convinced ourselves that buying things is the only way to play an active role in the world, we fatalistically conclude that we’ll never be rich enough to purchase a long-term travel experience.

He’s specifically talking about how consumerism can stop us from doing long-term travel (he calls it vagabonding), but this can easily be expanded to howconsumerism can keep us from life goals in general.

Maybe your goals are to donate more to charity or simply spend more time with your family.  Or perhaps you want to start a business of your own, but feel like you don’t have enough time or initial capital to get it started.  Sometimes it’s just the goal of working less. (and who doesn’t want to do that?)

Now, look around at all of the stuff you have around you.  Think about how much of it you really need.  Which is more important to you, your stuff or your other life goals?  And if you really want to dig deep, think about why you bought all of your stuff, and if it’s helping you achieve those goals.

Now, I’m not implying that you should go live in a cave and deprive yourself of all belongings.  That’s a little drastic.  But I do think it’s important to be conscious of how you spend your time and your money – be aware of how they really affect your life.  Be aware of the choices you are making, and if they help you live a better life.

I bet at this point you can think of one thing, one simple thing, that can help you save money or time.  Try it. Does it bring you closer to your bigger goals? Then stick with it.  The next week, you might think of one more little thing.  So do that, too.  And keep doing it, week after week, month after month, one small step at a time.

Before you know it, you’ll be living a simpler life and on your way to living your dreams.

What is one way you can simplify your life and bring you closer to your goals?

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