Let’s try this again: Balance in simple living and environmentalism

Our moral theorists seem never content with the normal. Why must it always be a contest between fornication, obesity and laziness, and celibacy, fasting and hard labor?
~Martin H. Fischer

Lesson learned: one should not assume that people are going to be familiar with your blog when writing. That’s not something I can completely avoid, if I want to refrain from restating the same damn thing every week. And I’m not going to talk down, because that’s just not my style. But with a blog this small, it’s hard to not automatically write for the people who actually are regular readers. So let’s see if I can remain from digressing this time.

I don’t live in Portland. I’ve never actually been to Portland, although I have been to Seattle. I live in Texas, and not even Austin. The town I live in you probably haven’t ever heard of. I don’t have the luxury of being surrounded by a community of people who live like me and think like me, even remotely (and I’m 100% positive not everyone in Portland thinks and lives alike, either). The nearest Whole Foods is in Houston. There is a little natural food store in town, along with a farmer’s market, and a double handful of bicycles, mostly owned by students and minorities, although there’s a growing population of non-student white people on bikes.

I live a “normal life,” surrounded by “normal” people. You know, people who don’t subscribe to simple living, minimalism, or environmentalism. And you know what? Most of them aren’t interested in signing up for a life lived with less than 100 things. Hell, I’m not interested, either. Going extremist isn’t going to appeal to these people, who, believe it or not, actually constitute most of the American population.

I do believe that most people I know would benefit from, and would be interested in, a simpler life. A simpler life. They don’t want to sell everything and move into an RV (although my parents do live in theirs at the moment), nor are they really all that interested in reducing their carbon footprint via drastic lifestyle changes. However, the idea of paring down to what you really want and letting go what you don’t is something that almost everyone can get behind to their own extent.

But if simple living wants to become widely accepted, it needs to tone it down. Cut the crap about the 50s, using only one bowl for every meal, and living in a studio apartment, and focus on something a little less extreme and a little more applicable to the non-alternative portion of society. Balance isn’t achieved by switching to the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s achieved by realizing that going to either extreme is unhealthy and that ultimately, everyone’s going to fall somewhere in between when it comes to how simple they want their life to be.

For example, my parents, who live for months at a time in their RV (downsized from a HUGE house), also cook much of their own food, and can and make their own jellies and jams. But suggest they ditch the fridge and they’ll laugh like you’ve lost your mind. They’re willing to go simple, and have, but eventually they’re going to draw the line. And they’re going to draw it long before I do, and I draw it long before the extreme simple livers and minimalists do. The environment is more important to me than ditching my paper books for a Kindle. Yes, I am saying that a Kindle isn’t green.

Now, like I said earlier, going to an extreme to push yourself into realizing how little you really do need has its merits. But it’s merely a tool and nothing more. Once the tool has been used, it may need to be discarded until a future date. Extreme minimalism is a nice place to visit, but I’m so not living there.

So instead of trying to play How Minimalist/Simple Can You Go? try playing What Level of Living Gives Me the Most Happiness and Comfort? The answer may surprise you. And yes, you can still inspire people while living at a moderate level of minimalism.

On Monday we will return to our regularly scheduled broadcast of Posts Not About Balance.

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7 Responses to “Let’s try this again: Balance in simple living and environmentalism”

  1. “and I’m 100% positive not everyone in Portland thinks and lives alike, either”

    Nope. There’s a running joke that Portland is the whitest city in the U.S., but that just covers up the ugly reality that it’s only the gentrified parts that so many people think of as “Portland proper”.

    Thanks for the clarification posts; hopefully they’ll add context to what you’ve been writing about all along.

  2. > But suggest they ditch the fridge and they’ll laugh like you’ve lost your mind.
    Does anyone really suggest this with any seriousness? Are they mad?

    • Tammy Strobel of Rowdy Kittens, one of THE foremost simple living blogs, got rid of hers, well, mostly…she apparently has a cooler for her creamer and cheese. Check it out:

      http://rowdykittens.com/2011/01/the-no-refrigerator-challenge/

      I, for one, couldn’t live without a fridge. I batch cook and eat leftovers for days…I’m not into cooking every damn day. I don’t know how she does it, really. Nor do I care to find out.

      • Unless you’re a master at food preservation, getting rid of the fridge would be really tough. I agree a lot of people let food go to waste with or without one, but it also seems like that kind of decision would be something else to possibly alienate ye average person from taking on a simpler life.

  3. “What Level of Living Gives Me the Most Happiness and Comfort?”

    This reminds me of the underlying message of Affluenza. Something to remember, rather than trying to do simple living as a contest to see who can do without the most stuff.

    • I admit, I still haven’t read Affluenza. D: One day, one day. When the library gets it in. :P

      • I don’y know if your current simplicity includes a Netflix account, but I believe you can still watch the documentary on the instant.

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