simple living guide coverSo I'm reading Janet Luhrs' The Simple Living Guide. Well, not so much reading it as being consumed by it, actually. I have hardly put it down all day. With every passing chapter I am more and more sure that my life needs major changes, and that parts of what Ms. Luhrs writes about should be speaking to me very directly.

So, I'm probably about to embark on a whole bunch of navel-gazing entries. Don't say I didn't warn you.

The first thing she's got me thinking about is money, and shopping, and why I do it and what it means. This is hardly a new subject for me, but it's one I've sort of put aside for a while recently. It's cropped back up now not only because of the book, but also because Mark and I have started really looking at houses, and this is shopping like I have never known it before. First of all, with the exception of my education, I've never bought anything on credit before (I mean, I've used my credit cards, but I've never used them much and I've never used them to finance anything major). The whole idea of it feels really weird to me. Shopping for something that not only costs more than I have, but costs more than I will have for the next x amount of years, even if I remain gainfully employed--it's just a new way of looking at things.

The more interesting thing, though, is my impatience. Stupid as it is, I want to shop for a house like I do for everything else--on impulse. We looked at ten houses today, and if it had been totally up to me, I'd probably be writing up an offer on one of them tonight (Mark, thankfully, does not have this affliction). I can hardly stand the idea that this is going to take months. Now that we have decided to buy a house, I want to do it! And I'm like that about everything. What does that say about me?

One thing it says is that I have no patience and no attention span (surprise!). I've always just thought of those things as "the way I am," but in reality they can be changed if I have the discipline and the drive to change them. What would the benefit of being a more patient, mindful person be? Would I be healthier, sleep better, feel more at peace? I've never had any patience, can I learn patience now? Do I even want to?

Another thing it says is that I am massively insecure. I want to jump on a house right now because I am afraid it won't there tomorrow, and I'm like that about everything, too. I make decisions hastily for fear that my options will disappear if I don't. Why is that? It seems like most people are either "something better might come along" people or "I'll never have this chance again" people, and I am definitely in the latter category. But what makes us like that? While on one hand I have no desire to spend my entire life waiting for something better to come along, I also should know by now the danger in settling for something just because it's what is available now. Why is it so hard not to? Where does that insecurity come from? Does it come from growing up poor? From having an absent parent? Better stop, lest I start getting Freudian here.

I'm going to start a running list of things I'd like to do, for one reason or another. It's probably not going to make much sense, but I am going to keep it here so that it will be easy to add to and will stick in my mind.

1. Buy only used clothes. There would be some exceptions to this, like underwear and shoes, but I would LOVE to stop contributing to the demand for mass-marketed clothing, and the best way to do this, besides learning to sew, would be to only buy my clothes used. I know I could do this, too, if I had the discipline. It would make a huge difference financially, obviously, but it's something that I should do for political reasons as well.

2. Save 40%-50% of my income. Sounds like a lot, but I also know that a year ago I lived on less than 50% of what I am making now, so it's possible. Why can't I seem to do it?

3. Learn to meditate. I've always wanted to be able to meditate and my attempts so far have been dismal failures. A still mind is something I can't even imagine myself having. But I should at least try.

4. Get serious about volunteering. I have been volunteering here and there and everywhere for years, but I've not made a serious long-term commitment to anything. There are several things I feel strongly enough about that I'd like to commit time every week to them, and yet I don't. Where does the fear of being over-involved come from? Is this were I, too, am guilty of always thinking something better might come along?

5. Find my spirituality. This is a quest I have been on for awhile, off and on, but I need to get back to it. There is a hole in my life where my spirituality should be--I recognize that. I also recognize that I have to look for it, because sitting here and waiting for it to find me isn't working. Trying out different places/kinds of worship and seeing if anything felt right was my plan of how to go about looking for it, and I still think it's a good plan, but so far I haven't put the time into it that I should have (I've gone to one Lutheran church once and one Unitarian Universalist church twice--that's not going to cut it). I need to make time for this, not only to go, but to think about it, to reflect on it, to try and find prayer.

All this list is at this point is ideas, obviously. I'm notorious for making lists, coming up with plans, and then not following through. It's just easier to remain the way you are. And I am, in many ways, happy with the way I am. Sometimes I'm even happy, and that could be enough. But I know there is more out there, and it's up to me to find it.

*Title courtesy of Utah Phillips.


Ummm . . . did I offend in some way with my last comment to this post? If so, I apologize!

NOt in the least! I lost all of my old comments when I switched my template. :(

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