More humanity. Less stuff.

We need more humanity

Last week I was interviewed on the radio, which was weird/fun.

The host and I were chatting about minimalism and simple living when a text came through from a listener.

The host read it on air, and the text simply said, “You want to know what it is to live simply? Go visit Nepal and see how little they live with.”

And I couldn’t agree more. That one, simple message neatly summed up a complex issue I really struggle with: the privileged position from which I can write.

“Oh look, a [relatively] affluent woman talking about all the stuff we don’t need. There she is, surrounded by all the things many people would literally die to give their families. Clean water. An abundance of food. Good health. Access to doctors, hospitals, medicine. Security. Safety. A support network. The ability to vote. The freedom to have a different opinion and not fear for her life.”

Sometimes, I admit, I feel like I have no right to be talking about simplicity.

Sometimes I feel like a ridiculous idealist. It’s not hard when life is so easy.

Sometimes I feel like a jerk, tossing about ideas of living with less, when a majority of the world’s population don’t call that ‘minimalism’, they call that ‘life’.

But then I realise that those of us with the most (and, yes, if you’re reading this on a computer, with electricity, in a building or a place of relative safety, then I am talking to you) are the ones in a position to make the biggest changes.

Most of us would agree we need far less than we currently have.

So what would happen if we all shed that excess and became content with having less?

  • Our focus could shift further away from stuff.
  • The world’s over-stretched resources could spread further.
  • We could help more people.

That’s what I really want to see in the world. Focus less on stuff and more on humanity.

The difficulty – and I understand this as much as the next person – is in getting to that point. It’s all well and good to talk about it, but when the reality is of an over-stuffed garage and a wardrobe full of clothes and nothing to wear, moving from theory to practice is difficult.

This year I have been part of a 12-month program called A Simple Year. Each month members have received a module of work tackling different elements of simplifying life – from work to money, travel to how to maintain simplicity once you achieve it. The modules include comprehensive reading materials, guidebooks, projects and homework, as well as live calls where students are able to ask any questions they may have.

It’s been a massive success this year, with many of the participants telling us that life has changed in dramatic and positive ways. So we’re doing it again in 2015.

The program was created by Courtney Carver of Be More With Less, and I am so happy to co-present alongside her and the following simplicity advocates:

If you’re interested in finding out more about the course, early- bird regstration is open until 14th November. Check out all the details and course specifics at simpleyear.co

6 Responses to More humanity. Less stuff.

  1. Yes, we are the ones in a position to make change, thank you!

    I really hate it when someone pulls out the most extreme example of any idea, and compares you to it. It’s not a competition! Small acts by many add up, it’s where you get into community actions rather than single actions. If everyone in the US or Europe or China did one tiny thing a week (say took a bike rather than a car) it would result in a major change.

  2. Yes, the simplicity movement fits often appear to have a huge lack of self awareness with regard to how the movement is specifically targeted at the affluent (I’m not even talking extremes of global South poverty here; if I read another article about How We Could All Just Stop Buying Lattes Every Day And Be Rich I will scream.)

    However, I don’t think individual acts of simplicity will solve a global problem; certainly while minimalism is such a niche movement it lacks the power to solve anything at all, except for ourselves. And the problem is, there are huge emerging markets in the BRIC countries of people who now have the earning power to start acquiring the trappings of success, and an abundance of western-owned advertisers working very hard to talk them into doing exactly that.

    Also, if you believe in capitalism, if people stop buying large numbers of things then the whole system falls over and we just end up with poverty for all. And sadly we don’t (yet) have a new political and economic system waiting in the wings that meets people’s needs better.

  3. Only in the land-of-the-overstuffed do we have this “problem” of too many things and too much food.
    Your observations are spot on.

  4. Thank you Brooke for your thought provoking piece. It is far too easy to overlook how utterly privileged we are.

  5. You can stop any “first world problem” discussion dead with a reference to the third world, but that doesn’t really help anyone, not even the people in the third world. We’d all have too much of an attachment to things we don’t need – it’s deciding where “need” begins and “want” should stop that is trickiest… x

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