Financial Dieting

Yesterday I wrote about how we have become a nation of spenders and how our economy is now based on our buying stuff we don’t necessarily need.

Over the weekend, I read an interesting article in The Denver Post by David Wann, co-author of the book, Affluenza.  Wann starts off the article by asking the following questions:

If so many are willing to die for our country, why are we afraid to live for it, moderately and unselfishly? Why do we place a higher value on convenience, size, and speed than the well being of living things (including ourselves)?

Good questions.  Wann suggests we will have to fundamentally change how we live.  It will no longer work to think that using CFLs, carrying cloth bags to the grocery store, driving plug-in hybrid cars, or erecting huge windfarms will solve our collective problems.

We are in need of bold leadership that will provide “value-directed policies that reward efficiency and durability and penalize over-consumption.”  As automobile efficiency increased, we demanded heavier and larger vehicles, negating any gains from higher fuel standards.  Similarly, as household appliances became more efficient, we continued using more electricity with our HDTVs, computers, and other high tech gadgets.  Believe it or not, our consumption of bottled water has increased more than 2,000 percent since 1975 and we are now in danger of having large sections of our water supply privatized by Coca-Cola and other water bottlers.

I don’t know if Arnold Toynbee got it right on this but:

{He} observed that civilizations that ultimately succeed follow a “law of progressive simplification,” in which they become culturally richer but materially leaner.{…}

As I age I am continually downsizing.  We live in a 900 square foot ranch with a full basement.  There are 2 bedrooms and 1 bath on the main floor and we have an attached 2 car garage.  We have a large backyard that could contain a good-sized garden (if we had enough water, that is).  We have everything we could possibly need.

Two years ago my depression-era mother died and I was forced to go through years and years of yellowed, clipped newspaper articles, stacks and stacks of magazines and catalogs, piles of saved rubber bands that had become brittle, margarine tubs that filled an entire shelf of a closet, a drawer filled with broken watches, and so much more.  She lived through the depression and wasn’t going to rid herself of anything she thought might be useful.

Upon returning home I started going through all my nooks and crannies.  I took a carload of perfectly good “stuff” to the Goodwill.  Then I discovered craigslist and began selling things I hadn’t used since moving here 9 years ago.  So far I’ve sold about $1,500 work of “stuff.”  I like that my closets are now spacious and that there is less clutter.  I am also pleased that when I’m gone, someone else won’t have to wade through mounds of detritus to get to the good stuff.


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