Less is More

Story by Amber Woods (& her friends)
I’ve recently been pondering why some of my favorite people are those looking for ways to live with less. Many of them are incredibly successful, and others have a bevy of wealth.
I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not coincidence.
In fact, I think sometimes once you’ve had it all (so to speak) you realize you really don’t need much.
Which brings me to my next point: there are a million shades of living “off the grid.”
As most readers know, there are those who are living off the grid at heart, but haven’t quite found the means to cut the “umbilical cord” just yet.
Others are charging up their solar computer batteries in their tree houses and tents just to read this column. You know who you are.
And then there are people like me.
We are those people who get sucked into the idea by those around us.
If all of these brilliant and fascinating and talented people are doing it, there must be some great appeal, right?
Someone very close to me spent over a year trying to convince me to quit my job, sell off most of my belongings and set sail on a lifetime of boating with him.
To some people I know that sounds like a dream come true.
No worries. Docking on the shores of wherever life washes you up from week to week, essentially without the “frills” of modern America.
Even after some pretty convincing arguments for “living aboard,” I didn’t move onto the vessel.
I’m still hanging out on the shoreline, paying Baltimore Gas & Electric far too much money for energy (re: my last column.)
But he wasn’t the only masterful mind who ever made me think about ditching the grid.
My best friend Rachael is a nomad of sorts. Though she currently lives in London, she’s been all over the world. And she spends the majority of her time in the midst of some adventure. She’s either hiking and backpacking or staying with friends, acquaintances, business partners or people she just met.
She owns, Tilt Studio, Inc., a branding company for food related organizations and organic restaurants. She’s a total new-age hippie (and I mean that in a positive way) and she’s always looking for new ways to protect our natural resources.
As part of that, she’s also into low-impact living.
She’s not “off-the-grid” by any stretch of the imagination, but as she recently explained to me, she can fit her entire life into one box at her mother’s house and a safe deposit box at the post office.
Other than sentimental collections of art she’s garnered from her travels, she is basically stuff-free.
She’s become a minimalist.
And isn’t that a key factor when you consider changing your life? Be it one step closer to the wilderness lifestyle you dream of, or just a sidestep from the hustle and bustle of your current life?
Another friend and his family are considering a green family compound. And I use the term “compound” loosely. It’s my understanding that he and his mother and brother are considering the purchase of a medium-sized piece of land for the East Coast, on which to build their own energy efficient green homes in close proximity to one another.
Since this friend isn’t the type to have a lot of “stuff” to begin with, I doubt he or any of his family members will have to take closets of clothing to the salvation army before their venture into low-impact compound life.
All three of the people I mentioned above are vastly different and yet somehow all the same.
They believe in that old adage: less is more.
And that adage holds true after the civilization of the United States and the many modern “miracles” and advancements throughout the ages.
My Grandmother was a minimalist, in part because of poverty but also because she was a stickler for keeping things clean and the less she owned, the less she had to clean.
I remember her saying, “Why do you need a lot? You can’t take any of it with you when you die.”
She passed away last year at the age of 84 and it took us less than five hours to clean out her lifetime of belongings.
It seems a simple enough concept: the less you own, the less you have to care and pay for.
And the best part is, the less resources required to support your lifestyle.
So if you’re a fence-straddler like me, I suggest you start your venture by revolting against the little things.
Clutter, for instance.
Clean out your closets. Give away what you don’t need. Sell your damn junk.
Though I haven’t boarded a boat or begun sketching my green dream house yet, at least now I’m saying “yet.”
I’m fairly certain if I par down my life to a cardboard box and a safe deposit box, it’s inevitable that I’ll also have less impact on the environment.
And then? Who needs the grid?

8 Responses

  1. That’s where you start…by cutting down on possessions. One way or another we’ll all be moving on to the green living way of life. Don’t believe me? If you read the UN’s Agenda 21 you’ll find that you’ll be green or die. So someone already has a plan for you and I. The question is,”Are you going to give them authority over your life, or be responsible for your own future?”

  2. Along with “off-grid” living, is getting OUT of the USSA, with more and more gov’t. controls & taxes and continued debasement of the Dollar ! The U.S. is BROKE ! Join a group of savvy Canadians, Americans & Europe in our private island ‘Cocomo Village’ in Vava’u, Tonga, in the beautiful. unspoiled & inexpensive So. Pacific – experience true freedom !

  3. I find paring down my personal possessions a useful exercise in clearing my head – as if each object takes up a part of my brain to remember where it is. Anything I don’t use in one year is prety safe to get rid off, I reckon.
    Sure if you need to move around a lot then possessions are a drag. But there is a strong argument for hanging on to stuff that might be useful.
    We are just about to move onto 39 acres of land and live in a mobile home there. Whilst not currently off-grid, we intend to be off-grid capable, and self-sufficient, and that will involve lots of making things: water wheels, chicken arks etc. So the mountain of tools and materials we accumulated in our basement (it took 2 weeks to pack our stuff) will be put to good use in the huge barn we’ll soon be able to use. OK the old VHS tapes and pointless trinkets went to charity shops, but hang on to anything that can be re-used, it may save you a lot of cash!

  4. Nick makes some very good points. Pronably most of us reading this agree that we really should ditch the clutter – although for some it is a kind of comfort blanket. For me too – one time primary teacher – everything has a possible future use, and I can often cobble together something useful without going to the shops.
    One thing I would add to the idea of swanning off all over the world – or indeed anything which removes you “far from the madding crowd” is that this is fine as long as you have your health. With increasing age comes the possibility of illness; and at the very least infirmity and a decrease in stamina. I guess that what I need is for some kindly young off-grid folk to take me in LOL. At least I could contribute a lifetimes exerience…

  5. A boat is the last place I would want to try to live off the grid on as bad weather, ie, hurricanes,lightening heavy rains. All just make it more of a challange to survive..Plus it is a very sick feeling knowing that your house can sink..Been there done that..Been a sailor most of my life..Smart move Amber..No thanks.

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