There's room for the middle way, too, because ultimately you need a new coat or computer, and that's the Passage's beat: the intersection of value, aesthetics and ethics, or at least a purchase you can live with.
When I want inspiration, I head not to the loot blogs, but to the examples of simple-living, and one of the best is right within my extended family.
The gypsy caravan
|Mike and Nika about to roll out on the maiden voyage|
A recently-married couple, Nika and Mike, are members of my son's partner's family. They have built their own gypsy caravan, which is their home. You can read about the design and construction process at their inspiring blog, Mikeandnikamakeahome.
They have not sacrificed beauty for simple-living; every detail pleases the eye. They've been helped by many friends, a heartening version of the old barn-raising.
They write, in their post "Why We Do What We Do" (June 4, 2013):
"We are eliminating as many “things” from our lives as we can (especially the ones that cost money) to lower our cost of living. If I decide that I would like something, I weigh how much I desire that thing with how it will change my life (how much money will it cost and will I have to earn more money?, where to store it?, will it need to be maintained through its life and what does that involve?, etc.). I find this in contrast to the way I observe most of American culture as wanting the biggest house/bank account/steak or the most vacation homes/cars/trophies."
When I was their age, I was interested in those trophies; a "he who dies with the most toys wins" ethos prevailed. I knew dedicated homesteaders and commune-dwellers, but somewhere along the way the Whole Earth Catalogue got replaced by Crate & Barrel's.
I didn't inherit my material desires from my Depression-era parents; in fact, I wondered why they didn't buy more. They invariably repied, "Why? We don't need it." The elevation of bulky-living was amplified by decades of middle-class wage gains and a distortion of American ambition and enthusiasm.
Years passed before I began to question, then curb, bulk. Many young adults are not like I was; like Mike and Nika, they are consciously creating lives of self-sufficiency and low consumption.
My generation are now reappraising, asking, as Marina did, what is enough. The reckoning must have started before the last recession, but 2009 ruptured reflexive buying habits, especially in the over-50 cohort, who have never regained their level of employment or income.
Simple-living is far more than tiring of stacks of crammed boxes or realizing you don't need an expensive bag.
Nika and Mike on the larger implications of choice:
"There is a serious addiction to consumption and we have two choices:
1. Continue on our path of consumption, CO2 and radioactive waste generation, and genetic biodiversity destruction (plant and animal) which will make life on this planet much more challenging, if possible at all, for our children and grandchildren, or
2. Learn to live in a way that is not destructive to the life-cycles of our planet.
This second option requires a good deal of trail-blazing or remembering how our ancestors once lived. It is an interesting time to be alive to say the least.
I do not believe that most people within consumptive culture are doing anything wrong, but don’t realize what is happening or are in too deep to know how to get out of the rat race. They are probably so busy and tired while trying to earn enough money to pay the bills. It is actually a luxury to be able to slow down, take it all in and figure out an alternative."
Le Duc and I are unlikely to build a caravan, but we can learn much from this resourceful couple and other young adults. And they from us, perhaps, as they watch us shed a glut of goods. Friends and acquaintances have grown more discerning, socially-conscious and debt-averse.
I'm eager to hear about your experiments in simple-living, and those of your children or friends.