Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Need Less


When I was courting my wife, I noticed that she had a bumper sticker on her old car that said, “Need Less”.  I knew that this was the girl for me.  I’m kind of a make do person.  I take what I can get and make the best of it.  So is she.  That’s what makes it work.  In an age of material entitlement, deficit spending and instant gratification, we are the outliers, the under achievers, the slackers.  We make do.

We have a friend who lives on 300 dollars a month, in a small house with the mortgage paid that is decorated with old skis and bikes, floor to ceiling.  He lives alone because ‘women cost money’.  When I tell him that ‘It takes money to make money’, he shoots back that it ‘takes money to lose money’.  He eats carrots and sweet potatoes on the chair lift and when I asked him how many days did he ski last year he said ‘all of them’ and rides his bike on all the other days.  He has an old car that he never drives but takes the bus or rides his bike everywhere he goes.  He won a national road biking championship for his age group a few years ago and he lapped the field.  His time is his own and he seems to have enough of it.  He is my role model .

We thought about redoing our kitchen last year and the price started really adding up.  Then we thought twice.  A new  kitchen would be nice but did we really need it.  What would we really like, a new kitchen or to retire another year early.  If we replaced our kitchen, the old one would go in the dump.  Then in five or ten years when we sell this house the new owners will want their own kitchen and throw the old new one in the dump.  So there would be two kitchens in the dump.  What a waste. 
We drive around in old cars and trucks with a couple of hundred thousand miles on them.  A new car would be nice but do we really need it.  It is only transportation after all.  Who needs GIS maps and computers, climate control and phones in a car when it’s just driving.  What do we want, a new car or a few months in Europe.  Money is time. Squared.
We recently visited some friends down south at their new desert, second or third home that was replete with swimming pools and spas, rainbow laminar fountains and flaming lava beds.  The home was very smart with angulated modern design, switches, lights, videos and sound systems in every room with windows, floor to ceiling that hinged seamlessly at the corners and extended to the infinite horizon of the pool and the red rock landscape.  It was all breathtaking and opulent, over the top in every way, but I could not forget an admonishment I read last month that said that we should all have our first homes before people had second homes.  I felt a little less comfortable in the plush accommodations.  Too much.

Back home a corporate giant executed a hostile takeover of the local ski resort and adopted the name of our town for their resort.  They have great plans to grow and improve our town into one of the major destination resorts in the world.  But what about the sprawl and density, water and energy, traffic and parking, affordability and accessibility, locals and lifestyle.  People moved here to embrace a simpler, alternative lifestyle, away from corporate controls and bottom lines.  Our town is, by definition, about more than money and profits, it is about the unquantifiable things corporations can’t legally consider or justify to their shareholders.  Sometimes more ain’t better.  Less is more.

Then on the first snowy day of the winter this year I went out to snow-blow the driveway.  My 30 year old snow-blower refused to work so I tinkered a bit with it, I kicked it and thought about getting a new one.  But then I thought that would be such a waste and I spent three hours tuning and fixing it in a blizzard until it roared to life like it has 30 more years to go.  I went out and did my driveway and all my neighbors.  Then I fixed the old truck and cleaned the dated kitchen and went skiing.  Need Less.

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