Sunday, June 10, 2007

rethinking luxury

Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind
-Henry David Thoreau

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I need in life and how that fits with the type of life I want to live. What are the sorts of luxuries that hinder a peaceful existence? Do I need a car? Do I need a TV? Do I need cable? At what point do all of these things just become added stress and distractions from more meaningful connections with friends and family? How do I justify them? (And if you know me, you know I'm good at justifying things)

There's a point where I can work within the luxury. For example, I have just one phone. Sure it's my tether to work, friends and my near-daily conversations with my mother. I love that though. I have always been comfortable screening calls I don't want to take. I think it's okay to just ignore the phone for an hour or two and relax. But I also often would rather have that initial conversation - rather than play phone tag 3 more times. I'd rather quickly reply to an email on my bberry, than wait for 5 more to pass back and forth, when I may just have the answer to the question.

My car isn't a necessary part of my life. And when I live in SLU, I think I will feel even more so that way. I love walking and feeling connected with my surroundings. Exploring a neighborhood by foot is far more effective than driving from parking lot to parking lot. I can do FlexCar when the time comes.

New clothes? This is a tough one. I buy far fewer clothes than most of my peers (especially in the female, corporate world). I did have a recent splurge on some threadless t-shirts. But I stopped myself from going too crazy. I try to keep my work-wardrobe pretty simple for this very purpose. I'd rather keep to my 6-or-so pairs of slacks that I love - and my 12 or so tops. I buy everything to match black (vs navy or brown) so that I can try to keep it all a lot simpler. I could definitely stand to buy more used clothes. Especially with amazing organizations like Goodwill.

Is being frugal about saving money? Or about saving the environment? Or about telling our society what I care about? Where do I place my values when I spend?

I don't mind splurging on the occasional show (just bought my 3-day Bumbershoot pass!). I'm getting an experience. Experiences layer upon each other - creating a more complete life experience.

I'd rather have stories to tell than junk to sell.

I am vocal about going to beauty schools and massage schools for my beauty splurges. I get compliments on my $15 haircuts all the time (my experiences at the Aveda Institute have been better than salons where I've paid 4 times the price).

I try to buy more and more organic foods. I appreciate the ideologies behind terms like "organic" and "free-range" and "natural" and "hormone-free" and "antibiotic-free." I'm not perfect. I don't want to give up the foods I love. But I am willing to pay a little more for what I think is better for myself and the well-being of the world I live in.

I try to spend a portion of my time and energy "giving back" to the "community." There are plenty of ways to define what those words mean and how they take shape in one's life.

I'm not trying to sound elitist with this post. This is just something that has been all-a-buzz lately and it's been on my mind for years. When I read No Impact Man, I really see how drastic changes could be. Colin and Michelle's story really inspires me, and I love the candid, honest nature of their posts. I've been following him for awhile now, and I love seeing the press his story is getting. He isn't doing it so everyone else will too. He's making changes for himself. For his family. And to show how small steps can add up to making a huge difference.

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