Abby’s got it made.
Every day she eats her favourite food and sleeps in a heated home, rent-free. She is healthy, happy and has endless energy to burn.
Her every health need is covered. She spends plenty of time outdoors and has access to free transportation. She runs just for the fun of it.
Maria is a twenty-four year old woman from Guatemala.
She dropped out of school after sixth grade because her mom started selling tortillas and needed help. Now Maria cleans houses for a living.
She makes 5$ a day.
While many factors can explain the sharp differences between them, one of them stands out.
Abby is a dog.
Now, Abby and Maria are real. I know Maria makes $5 a day because she told me so herself.
And although I don’t know if Abby’s owners actually spend $5 a day on her, that’s what the average first-time pet owner in the US will spend on their dog for the first year.
We so easily forget that nearly half the world population lives on less than $2.50 US dollars a day. I know this makes you uncomfortable. It makes me uncomfortable, too.
But I think it’s important to acknowledge that, so that we don’t romanticize the hardships faced by the billions of people for whom living simply is not a choice.
We’re fortunate. We’re privileged. Because of that, we have the opportunity to contribute to society in a more equitable way, one in which our consumption is as proportionate as possible to our actual needs.
With that in mind, here are 4 tips for embracing sustainable simple living.
- Check in before checking outSimple living can be about more than decluttering, reducing wardrobes, white everything. I’m all for simplifying our homes. But if your capsule wardrobe costs more than your rent, you may want to think long and hard about your intentions. The take-away: If the how doesn’t align with the why, ditch it.
- Just say noExtreme inequality is still the defining issue of our time. Are there simple solutions to such a complicated problem? No. Do you have to participate in extreme consumerism? No. I may be stating the obvious here, but global economic inequality won’t go away if people keep consuming so much stuff. Simple living isn’t perfect, but I see it as a positive response to hyper-consumerism.The take-away: Change starts here, with those of us who live in relative abundance.
- It’s the peopleI’ve definitely noticed a trend towards self-sufficiency in minimalist, simple living and homesteading circles. But no one is an island… In fact, most societies worldwide are built around the value of community. I think leaning into community is a surefire way to expand compassion and mutual understanding.The take-away: Find your tribe. Build your community.
- It doesn’t need to be complicatedThere are as many expressions of simplicity as there are people opting for a simpler life. Each one of us knows what complicates our lives, and what doesn’t. If simplicity is not imposed, if your days don’t revolve around a struggle for subsistence, then you have the privilege of uncomplicating your life – and the power to do so, too.The take-away: If you’re lucky enough to be eating cake, trim off the excess icing.
I ran into Maria a few weeks ago, on the street. She was on her way back from church and her two-year-old son was hiding in the folds of her skirt. Night had already settled in.
When I asked how she was doing, she smiled broadly.
“Good. Life is good. My little one has started school, and my husband is back from working in the capital.”
“And the stars are still shining,” I said.
We laughed. And the two of us walked down the street together for a while, chitchatting about potty training, and the size of classrooms, and how time has flown, all the while talking and laughing, temporarily rich in each other’s presence, spending nothing but time.