While reading Walden: Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau, I must admit that life in 1854 was dramatically different from life today, and I would never want to return to those bare-bone days. I do like those once thought of luxuries that have become necessities in my life – automobile, electricity, indoor plumbing, heating/air-conditioning, electronics, internet… to name a few. No, I do not wish to experience Thoreau’s life, but there are similarities in our views about dissatisfaction, disorganization and discomfort.
Trappings of lifestyle
Today’s lifestyle propels us to face abundant, yet difficult choices, and some of those choices enslave us to our possessions pushing us deeper into debt. We fill our environment with more than we need while searching for ways to stave off debt. In essence, we live paycheck to paycheck because we confuse the necessities of life with the luxuries that are available.
“It is desirable that a man live so compactly and preparedly that, if an enemy takes the town, he can walk out the gate empty-handed without anxiety.”
~Henry David Thoreau
How many of us in an emergency situation could just get up and walk out the door empty handed without anxiety? We would find it difficult to determine what things of value or necessity we would grab if we were forced to vacate our homes and offices. Consider taking a simple backpack and stuffing it with those necessities of life that you could grab-and-go in an emergency situation. A good practice to ensure that when an emergency arises you will have what you absolutely need.
Do you have what you need? Do you need what you have?
Can you do without?
We have been told that the necessities of life are food, shelter, clothing and fuel. Thoreau expands on this concept when he stated, “Humans are bound to things beyond the necessities when these items become so important that we never attempt to do without.”
For peace of mind, organization and stress-less living, it is imperative to know the difference between a necessity and a luxury. Discerning what is truly needed will move you towards a simpler, debt-free life. Our purchasing power and available options are so much greater than in Thoreau’s time thanks to online shopping and Amazon. The mass of choices has definitely obscured the line between needs and wants.
I’ve written this before, but I am compelled to repeat it because it gives you the opportunity to ponder the importance of investing in a life rather than buying a lifestyle. So again, consider the following:
- We need to eat, but we don’t need Filet Mignon.
- We need to be clothed, but we don’t need overflowing closets and drawers.
- We need shelter and domestic comfort, but we may not need a 4,000 sq. foot home filled to capacity.
- We need a means of transportation to get to work, but we don’t need a Mercedes.
Consider Thoreau’s words carefully.
“While civilization has been improving our houses, it has not equally improved the men [and women] who are to inhabit them.”
Less is Best Challenge
I challenge you to consider what is truly a necessity and shy away from lifestyle trappings and the consequence of debt. Take time to recognize that less is best. Less household clutter means less time needed to clean and maintain, and less time for searching when you are looking for something. Do as Thoreau did — he threw out the pieces of limestone on his desk that required daily dusting. All he really wanted to do was sit in the open air, for “no dust gathers on the grass!”