Plain and Simple

5 Oct 2006

I was thinking today how priviledged most of us are to be able to decide whether we will try to live more simply or not when so many people in the world are struggling to live at all. We are priviledged to be able to decide to cut back on our food to lose a few inches around our waistlines when many people don't know where their next meal is coming from. Often our ability to make these decisions is based purely on which country or part of that country we were lucky enough to be born in.

Two years ago I purchased all my Christmas gifts for our siblings and their families and our parents from the Oxfam catalogue. I tried not to feel pious about it, I just wanted any money I spent to go to people who really needed it if possible. Last year I wanted to buy virtual gifts eg. buy some hens for a family in India and let that be my brother's present. My husband and children felt that these gif
ts wouldn't be appreciated by my siblings so I didn't do it. Partly I didn't go through with it because I really enjoy receiving presents for Christmas and while I would receive a real gift in my hands from them, my siblings and parents wouldn't. It would be more appropriate to give myself a virtual present. What I will do this year I don't know. As a family we don't buy much through the year, we save treats and gifts for Christmas and birthdays. Perhaps we should buy ourselves, as a family, a virtual gift and still receive real gifts too. What do you think?

After reading Plain and Simple's latest post it has reaffirmed my conviction that we all have a moral obligation to lead a thrifty life so that there is more of everything to go around: more clean air, more clean water,
more fresh food grown locally so that far away places don't have to sacrifice their arable land to grow cash crops to keep us happy, they can grow food to keep their own families healthy and happy.

But don't just think of it in boring sombre tones , a frugal lifestyle is an adventure that can teach you so much.

"Be selective. Adopt frugality and you cut out unhealthy foods; shoddy products are replaced by durable, functioal items and serviceable clothes replace fashion trends and fads. Frugality is anti-materialism. It cuts out the middleman. It cuts out excess. It cuts out waste. Living frugally is a new way of looking at the world and makes a lot of its artifice transparent. Lack of luxuries may turn out to be a "non-loss". After your needs are
met, the gains will be in living a cultured, intelligent, busy life, full of innovation and satisfaction. Be frugal. Your life may be outwardly simple, but it will be inwardly rich."

"Don't feel overwhelmed, don't feel guilty, don't feel you need perfect knowledge, a lot of money or heaps of time. All that does is compound the problem and stops you from feeling empowered. Your actions will not save the world. Who cares, it was never the goal. It's about doing the things that are within your power to do. That's all you can do. Don't think of it as an obligation, think of it as an adventure."

"Learn to enjoy things without owning them.Owning things is an obssession in our culture. If we own it, we feel we can control it, we feel it will give us more pleasure. The idea is an illusion. Many things in life can be enjoyed without possessing or controlling them. Share things. Enjoy the beach without feeling you have to buy a piece of it. Enjoy public parks and libraries."

I would add enjoy your partner and children, your family and friends. Enjoy your good fortune in being able to choose how you will live your life.

9 Responses to “Plain and Simple”

  1. Last year we did hand-made-by-you or previously-owned gifts. This satisfied the crafty types and the thrifty types. We didn't follow the rules completely for the kids. I liked it but, my mom had a hard time. I think she likes the ease of shopping. But, I say, yuck! I don't need more stuff to find a home for.

  2. Great post...I think of this often. Did you know lowering you heater by 1˚ saves 3% of you heating bill...we all must live simply so others may simply live.

  3. Hi Jenny
    Thank you for the kind mention. I too considered "virtual" Christmas gifts last year...but chickened out, for the same reasons you mentioned! I really enjoyed reading the quotes you included in your post...more books to add to my reading list.

  4. Great post....last year we did hand-made gifts. It was a great pleasure for my daughters..

  5. Wonderfully, thought-provoking post, Jenny. Sometimes the problems seem overwhelming, yet every little effort helps.

  6. Thank you for saying that a simple lifestyle does not boaring and sombre. It is adventure. Clarice

  7. wonderful post ! Often times my husband and I go shopping together, look at greeting cards and pick ones out we would love to give one another, we read them in the store, feel blessed by the words to each other and put them right back, never buying them, sort of a virtual greeting card experience.

  8. This 'owning' business is such a trap. Why do we have to own so many DVDs, CDs, books, clothes, utensils? All it means is too much choice, and not enough room to store everything :-) I'm thinking about virtual gifts for some friends this year too. My sister and I have already decided to just buy each other a nominated book instead of a lavish gift (well, I guess the book can be lavish!) I'm enjoying your blog very much.

  9. Jenny, I always enjoy your posts on living a simpler lifestyle. Right now my goal is to pare down our belongings as I think we have way too much. Please continue to share these ideas! Debbie


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