Tuesday, March 3, 2009


The concept,simplicity,is an interesting one in that it is so open to interpretation, it becomes complex. I have been interested in simplifying my life for some decades now, ever since I started studying Mennonites, Quakers, essential Christianity and communal living. At one point I sold and gave away all I owned except for what I could fit in three suitcases and one small box, which was mostly photos. I can hear some saying, "Sure, when I was 22 I fit all my worldly goods in a backpack" and so on. I was 56 at the time. The only reason I needed three suitcases was because I am 6'3" and my clothes and shoes are so damn big. Now, I will grant that you have to have more stuff than that to live, you have to cook and you have to sleep on something, but how much do we need? www.Treehugger.com posed the question the other day; "if you had to leave your home forever, what ten things would you take?"
I found this a challenging and difficult question. It would require more info to be able to make appropriate decisions. Are you fleeing as a refugee concerned for survival? Or are you a middle-class, employed, fully insured person? Obviously you would make different choices based on the situation.
The December issue of Yes! magazine had a great article about Dee Williams who built an 84 square foot house on wheels. She spent ten thousand dollars, but much of that was for her solar panel set-up. The wee house has a sleeping loft and a hobbit sized porch. She pays five dollars a month in utility bills and keeps her possessions down to three hundred things(or less).
I might be able to live in 84 sq feet with 300 things, but not without land to garden and a workshop and food storage of some sort. Dee lives alone in her friend's back yard and, one assumes, has access to said friend's bathroom. There is a video of Dee and her house at Youtube which for some reason I can't embed here.
Let's consider. If we lived in a commune, where we had a common kitchen and dining room, a separate bathroom and some work and play areas, how much room would we need? How many personal possessions would we need? Smaller than 10' x 10'? Fewer than 300 things?
Maybe this is trying too hard to quantify a complex concept. Simplicity also resides somewhere in our heart or head. Are we content with a few things, simple food and simple pleasures? And then what does that all mean for you? I once read an article about monks who had taken a vow of poverty and one of them said, when you own almost nothing, you may become fiercely possessive of your pen or personal coffee mug. Is that a simple attitude?
Simple living has implications for the environment, the economy but most of all, it seems to me, it has profound implications for our emotional and spiritual well-being.


Margaret's Ramblings said...

Just found you from Peter's blog. Just read todays entry on possessions. Definately food for thought. Will be back for a return visit. Margaret

Fr. Peter Doodes said...

Sadly Big Bear, most only reach your standard of wisdom regarding possesions when they are about to depart this life.

A roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, food on the table and those we love to share it with, nothing else is needed for a happy life.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Welcome Margaret and thanks for introducing yourself.

equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Hm, always hard to think of myself as wise, Fr Peter, but thanks. It has just made sense to me for so long. I really think Jesus' teachings should have led us to form sharing communes rather than institutional churches. At the very least, His teachings should lead followers to the simplest of lives.