In the city where I used to live, there was a wonderful program called Living Better on Less. The program was offered through a non-profit in a church basement and funded through grants. It was designed to help people live on a lower income, consuming less, and getting more joy from life. It was a wonderful program where participants met weekly to talk about different topics around living with less.
At first I assumed that it was a program that was targeted at lower income folks, showing them how to live comfortably with less money. I realize now how a) presumptuous that was and b) how incredibly wrong it was. Mostly because people on low income already know how to live with less. It’s people who are over consuming – people with disposable income – that tend to equate quality of life with volume of material possessions.
I never took part and I regret not taking the time out of life. I remember thinking that I had young children and life was too busy, but I think I would have really benefited from the program looking back. But I was fortunate to work with a few non-profit organizations whose ideals focused on the same message to learn some of the similar concepts and skills.
Living better with less encompasses the idea that getting rid of excess material consumption can actually give you a richer, more fulfilling life. By streamlining the way we spend our time and money and finding what we truly enjoy, we don’t have to focus as much on earning more money to buy things that we don’t really need. Other than personal well being, there’s a whole host of additional benefits to both consuming less stuff and needing to work less to support financial habits. The planet benefits from less resource extraction, less material production, less junk in the landfills. Your family benefits from more time together and less stress from overwork. By working less and buying less, we also contribute less to oppressive capitalist systems. We break ourselves out of that jail, but also contribute less to continuing to jail others.
Some folks counter to a minimalist lifestyle by saying that you have to make sacrifices to personal contentment and comfort. Maybe that’s a bit true, but from as far as I’ve come, these changes don’t feel like sacrifices and I don’t feel uncomfortable. It’s a matter of figuring out where the excess is and trimming it out. It’s about getting rid of the things that we do programmatically that don’t bring a net positive in our lives. And the more that we trim, the more we discover what we really need, allowing us to remove more and more excess. That excess is going to be different for each person based on what their passions are, so I can’t tell you what to remove from your life. But I can tell you that there’s always more to pare back, to streamline, to reconsider. And by removing that excess, it’s easier to see what truly brings you joy.