“There are millions and millions of these people who are deprived of all those things, which for the Solomons and I are the only blessings in life and who nevertheless find tremendous happiness in life…What happened [as I observed this] was that the life of our class, the rich and the learned, became not only distasteful to me, but lost all meaning…I realized that there was no meaning to be found here.
I renounced the life of our class, having recognized that it is not life but only a semblance of life, and that the conditions of luxury in which we live deprive us of the possibility of understanding life.” - Leo Tolstoy
“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a [person] than a secure future.
God has placed [Joy] all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.” - Christopher McCandless
“Life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” - Jesus
“If we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.” - Paul
“No longer to be poisoned by civilization [they flee], and [walk] alone upon the land to become lost in the wild.” - Alexander Supertramp
We’re moving. After three years gradually working up from a dorm room, to a two bedroom apartment, to a sizable two bedroom townhome, to living the last three years in my grandparent’s huge house, we are downsizing. We’re reversing the trend. We’ve begun shedding possessions, expunging our lives of things that are completely unnecessary, and we’re moving into a 440 square foot apartment. It is the first move towards total downsizing when we will work our way into a 200 square foot shipping crate with a wood stove, composting toilet, alternate energy, and livable vegetable patch (and maybe some goats).
At present, I own a few pairs of socks and underwear, three pairs of pants, one pair of shorts, a pair of running tights, eight t-shirts, two sweaters, a puffy sweater, a puffy coat, a rain layer, a hat, and three pairs of shoes. It all fits into a 2 x 3 box.
My wife owns a mere fraction of what the average woman owns in the clothes and shoes department (though a sizable amount than I do) and has been scaling down her massive clothing collection for five years. She’s given away over fifteen huge bags of clothing and four more of shoes.
We only have four pans, a stock pot, an appropriate number of dishes and flatware, and some other kitchen oddities (like the food chopper…I CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT THAT THING).
We’ve given away all of our furniture but our posh bedset and a couple rocking chairs (and if I was by myself, those would have been gone long ago).
We just sold and gave away over 3500 books of our 4000 book collection (though I did keep some valuable primary sources, all of my Calvin and Hobbes, Tolkien, Roald Dahl, and Longfellow, and a few interesting secondary sources and, yes, Doc Fish, I did keep Mounce, Wallace, and BDAG).
Perhaps the only things we continue to accumulate are camera gear and adventure gear, but those things make us “money” at present, so I begrudgingly allow them to grow if necessary. Also, baby clothes and our cloth diaper collection (and I have been told those things are NOT being downsized!)
In September, we’re cutting our cellphones and moving to a single landline. We may or may not have internet in our new apartment. I’m backing off of costly cloud storage.
Guess what? WE’RE STILL ALIVE. In fact, we could cut half of the above mentioned and still be fine. We could cut ALL of the above mentioned AND STILL BE FINE (except for maybe the baby clothes).
Why are we doing this?
Because the American way of life is unsustainable. As our things grow, our stress level grows. We stop communing with God in nature (or, depending on your worldview, “communing with nature”). We stop having time to read. We stop having time to think. We stop having money to spend on anything but our things or collecting new things. We stop being able to pay our rents and mortgages. In a profoundly Tolstoyian sense, we stop being able to live. Americans are not living. How can anyone live in this mess? If we continue to depend on this system that enslaves us to live, we shall not live. This is simply unsustainable.
Why are we doing this?
Because the American way of life is unjust. As I write this I feel extremely uncomfortable. My computer was produced by state-sanctioned corruption in American corporate bossism, the greatest monopolistic facade for “freedom” and “prosperity” ever imagined or created by humans. The desk it sits on was produced by wage slavery. The chair I’m sitting in was probably put together by a starving child in China or Thailand; did it “give the kid a job”? Yes, but not a future. We thrive on injustice amongst the lowest classes of society. This is not good.
Why are we doing this?
Because, ultimately, the American way of life is unnecessary. Who NEEDS twenty (or two) pairs of pants? Who NEEDS five (or one) suits? Who NEEDS eighty (or two) pairs of shoes? We are swamped with things we do…not…need. We do not NEED the TV. We do not NEED a cellphone (and as a fairly successful entrepreneur and world traveler, I say this with confidence because I work without one all the time). We do not NEED so much food we throw the extra away. We do not NEED variety. Variety is for the spoiled rich middle class. We do not NEED more bedrooms, and more workrooms, and more playrooms, and bigger yards, and more cars. We do not NEED an iPod, or new speakers, or an iPad. We do not NEED a newer, bigger, better, bed. This life we live, where we consume endlessly in the name of need, is unnecessary and immoral.
So hear our family’s manifesto moving forward (and bear in mind that it doesn’t have to be your manifesto, it’s just food for thought. Also, it’s OUR manifesto that we have labored over, thought through, and painfully worked out, so you can pretty much keep your thoughts about it to yourself):
- We will continue to downsize as often and as small as possible (even if it eventually means living out of a tent and using an open fire to cook).
- We will not gain anymore things. If we must gain something, it will be gained by trade or thrift or repurposing (unless it’s a climbing rope, in which case, life is, in fact, on the line by using a traded, thrifted, or repurposed climbing rope :-))
- We will not be fooled into believing that more and harder work to obtain more and better things at the loss of more and better life somehow equals responsibility and “proper Christian family life.” This is a lie, a prevalent lie, but a lie nonetheless.
- We will begin to create our own opportunities as free people, free from state sanctioned corporate bossism and imaginary fiat currencies.
- We will try to live all of this in the name of Jesus, our possessionless exemplar and impoverished savior, in order to have a greater impact on the world with the gospel and in order to reach the lower classes and the poverty stricken (whom greater Evangelicalism conveniently ignores and tells to “get a job”).
In sum: We reject life in the American middle and upper class in no uncertain terms.