That was the closing line in Mr. Hill’s recent Op-Ed piece.
And the entire article (see link below) resonated with me. After accumulating a ridiculous amount of STUFF by the time I was fifty, I have spent the last eighteen years simplifying my life. When I was fifty, I had just left a senior executive position with Ralph Lauren making a hefty sum of money—which I had managed to spend in the accumulation of all that stuff.
Like Mr. Hill says in his article, stuff doesn’t bring happiness. But it does bring stress. I thought of that article yesterday when the cashier at the Big Y asked me to put my email address on my receipt and enter the raffle for a chance to win a free iPad. I thought about it for a second and realized that I don’t need an iPad. I have enough electronic devices (iPhone 5 and MacBook Pro) that work perfectly well. A third would just complicate things.
I am reminded of the old adage, “If you have only one pair of glasses, you always know where they are. If you have four pair, you never know where any of them are.” So what about Mr. Hill, the founder of TreeHugger.com and a few other highly successful ventures? He seems to have discovered the secret. Although a multimillionaire, his article began:
I LIVE in a 420-square-foot studio. I sleep in a bed that folds down from the wall. I have six dress shirts. I have 10 shallow bowls that I use for salads and main dishes. When people come over for dinner, I pull out my extendable dining room table. I don’t have a single CD or DVD and I have 10 percent of the books I once did.
I have come a long way from the life I had in the late ’90s, when, flush with cash from an Internet start-up sale, I had a giant house crammed with stuff — electronics and cars and appliances and gadgets.
Somehow this stuff ended up running my life, or a lot of it; the things I consumed ended up consuming me. My circumstances are unusual (not everyone gets an Internet windfall before turning 30), but my relationship with material things isn’t.
I know exactly what he is talking about, and I always think of the famous quote by Henry David Thoreau, “Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify. Simplify.” Not only does all that stuff take over your life and cause you stress, it greatly reduces the amount of time and energy that you could be devoting to something meaningful—with Earth shattering results.
In my case, if I had continued the multiple homes, globe trotting lifestyle of my past, I would never have found time to discover my life’s major definite purpose, invest 10,000 learning about it, writing a book and publishing almost 800 blogs in the past two years. I would’ve spent my senior years seeking leisure, trying to extend my health and figuring out ways to save taxes on the money that I would leave to my heirs.
In short, I would’ve taken care of myself but would have done absolutely nothing when it comes to helping to ensure the long-term sustainability of the human species. As I have written before, there are three things about us humans that threaten our future as a species:
- Our numbers. In a mere blink of history, we’ve gone from one billion humans in 1804 to seven billion today and continue to add 200,000 to our population every 24 hours—about 8,000 per hour. Well on our way to ten billion.
- The way we live. Big houses, large lots, spread out subdivisions in the boonies, too much pavement, importing food and “stuff” from thousands of miles away, too much stuff and too much waste.
- The way we eat. Our western diet requires at least ten times as much land, water and energy to support the same number of people—as compared to a whole foods, plant-based diet. It’s also killing us and the resultant cost of “disease care” is bankrupting our nations.
The Bottom Line. All three of the above are a huge problems standing between our species and living in harmony with nature and our fellow Earthlings. And all three will take a long time to correct.
But I would argue that #3 would be the easiest and the quickest change of the three. The first two will take multiple decades, if not centuries to correct; whereas the third one could change dramatically in less than a decade. All we need is powerful leadership and a few billion dollars to spread the word.
Graham Hill’s article focused on #2—the way we live and all the “stuff” that goes along with it. And even though we all seem to want more stuff, it really is not what gives us joy. As Hill mentioned:
Intuitively, we know that the best stuff in life isn’t stuff at all, and that relationships, experiences and meaningful work are the staples of a happy life.
My focus is on #3, The Way We Eat, and that focus is bringing me great satisfaction that comes with making a difference. That meaningful work has already led to rare experiences and relationships that have also added to my overall quality of life. Like Mr. Hill, My space is small. My life is big.
11-19-14 Update. Six months after posting this article in early 2013, I further simplified my life, got rid of more stuff and moved to a super efficient (and enjoyable) high density, planned re-development community just outside New York City in Stamford, CT. Now I hardly even need a car as I can walk to almost everything, including frequent express trains to NYC or Boston. You can see my fifth floor patio in this photo—with the finest supermarket in North America in the foreground.
- Source article. Living With Less. A Lot Less. – NYTimes.com.
- Earlier blog about Graham Hill. It’s sad when the “greenest” leaders on Earth still eat meat.
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Six-Pack from Hicks—for health, hope & harmony on planet Earth
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- A life changer for millions, including James Cameron. Forks Over Knives DVD
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell; the primary book that influenced Bill Clinton to adopt a whole food, plant-based diet.
- What have we done to our planet? Full Planet, Empty Plates by Lester Brown
- A horrifying wake-up call for leaders. TEN BILLION by Dr. Stephen Emmott
- Food choices are the primary cause of our environmental problems, yet our world leaders, scientists & experts are Comfortably Unaware, by Richard Oppenlander.
Why should we be eating mostly plants? The “big picture” in 4 minutes.
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