My mantra for the life of this blog has been stay where you are.
It's been our houses are homes, not ATMs.
It's been about defining the "American Dream" not as a pursuit of wealth, but as the pursuit of independence, and in my definition, that independence comes from being self-sufficient - that is, being able to take care of one's self with regard to basic human needs: food, water, and shelter.
It was with great interest that I read this article entitled Real Homes: Small, Frugal and Green and is about the growing trend toward shrinking - the size of our homes and the overall size of our footprints on the earth.
What I loved best about the article is that it was a validation of all of the things I've been saying for so many years, in particular, that we've been fed a pack of lies, and we've eaten those lies like little Edmund eating Turkish Delight with no less the avaricious appetite or willingness to betray than he showed.
The main points of the article are that the economic downturn has forced people to downsize their living quarters. The result of the housing bubble burst has been that McMansions are out and Tiny Houses are In.
And we're starting to better evaluate need versus want.
So many people have been negatively affected by the last few years, and I have no desire to minimize the difficulty they are experiencing, but if the ultimate result is that we start to live more simply with a more realistic ideal of what will make us happy, then I'm thinking it might not be such a bad thing.
Many years ago, I read this article on Mother Earth News entitled Live on Less and Love It!. The author, his wife, and their son have a smaller - per person - annual income than the average American spends on Starbucks coffee per year - which was, in 2005, less than $4500, and no, I did not leave off a zero.
It wasn't his list of 75 things that were important to me. What struck me, and what stuck with me, was the income on which they lived, which is one-third the income that a person making minimum wage for 40 hours a week would earn, and we spend so much time, in this country, talking about the need for a higher living wage ... and here is this man, and his family - three of them - living on a third of the income on which so many people struggle to just survive. His article is not about surviving, but rather a thriving - without money.
What's interesting, also, is that none of the things he mentions as "money-saving tips" are terribly imaginative or would be difficult for the average person. Amy Dacyczyn, the Frugal Zealot, has a lot of other, less-intuitive, money-saving ideas, and hers often require a much larger commitment - both in time and in habit-breaking.
But mostly, the best advice that anyone can give, the single piece of advice that we're all offering, is that the way to financial freedom and "happiness" is to be shelter-secure, which means:
1. downsizing our homes to something that's manageable, both in the size and cost of the structure; and
2. redefining our houses as "homes" and not as "investments."
I don't read paid economist reports, and I pay even less attention to the news articles that declare we're coming out of this recession. In fact, I've said for years that we're just in the beginning of a major economic DEpression, and it's not that I think I know more than people who analyze financial data and trends for a living, but rather that from my objective viewpoint and as a student of the 1930's Depression, what I'm seeing doesn't look like recovery, but rather like a slow slide.
I don't pay a lot of attention to the American news media, but I do read a lot of writers online (who are not financially benefitting from writing their opinions about world events), and for the past five years, they have mostly been correct about where our world is headed - especially when their thoughts contradict the news media (which does financially benefit from saying what people want to hear - rather than reporting the reality of what's happening).
They say that collapse is here, that we're in the firm grip of resource depletion, and any hopes of mitigating the ill effects of catastrophic climate change were dashed several years ago.
It's not a pretty picture, for sure, and while we may not save the world, there is hope that we can make a better life for ourselves where we are. As Roosevelt is quoted as saying do what you can with what you have where you are - and that is the Thrivalist motto.
For me, it's not been about having for a very long time. Rather, for me, it's about doing, and my ultimate goal is to live - happily, healthily and harmoniously - on one-third of the income most people consider inadequate to satisfy their basic needs.
I'd rather go there voluntarily, while we still have other options, but whether by choice or by force, chances are really good most of us will find ourselves there ... probably sooner than we thought possible.