Americans tend to enjoy supersizing everything from food to vehicles to the very homes we live in. Our acquisitions trumpet our successes, or so it would seem.
SYMBOL OF SUCCESS
"We all struggle with the internal dialogue, 'Am I good enough?' The big house and yard answer those questions in our society's symbol of success," says marriage and family therapist Kristi Fowler.
"Our collective desire to appear as people who have had success is a continuation of learned childhood mores - to gain the approval of others somehow equates to 'love.' That is, 'love' in the sense of acceptance, approval and an understanding of where you rank in societal structures," says Ms. Fowler.
"It is so deep within us and has been so rewarded through childhood activities, that we carry that deep-hearted belief into adulthood - except the stakes only get higher."
BEHIND THE PRETTY FACADES: BINGING ON STUFF
Dr. Ramani Durvasula has a lot to say about "the so called 'American Way of Life' and the soul sapping consumerism that is rampant in our culture."
The Professor of Psychology and licensed clinical psychologist explains, "Just like people binge on food, they can also binge on size, stuff, and status. There are lots of broken lives behind lots of pretty facades, fancy handbags, and BIG houses. I think the culture of narcissism that is rampant in U.S. culture, and increasingly the world, means that people look OUTSIDE of themselves to get feedback on what they 'should' be, rather than listening to themselves.
"This results in a lot of emptiness, and a lot of time and money spent procuring things and status to fill this emptiness," says Dr. Durvasula. "Unfortunately, a lot of people leave behind a wake of wrecked relationships and wrecked finances in this pursuit. When you look at how American houses, cars, and closets have super sized in the last few decades, it's a lot like looking at obesity trends. And at the same time, people do report feeling less connected and more empty."
Whether it's the struggling economy or the realization that more things and bigger things simply don't live up to expectations, there is a growing interest in downsizing. For some, it's about more than simply downsizing or decluttering living space. It's about pulling back on accumulating unnecessary consumer goods, saving on energy and other resources, and streamlining their lives. It's about making time and space for the simpler and more rewarding aspects of life.
CONSUMING LESS AND LIVING MORE
Comedian and actor Dan Nainan tells Natural Choice Directory he sold his three-story home in favor of a 750 square foot apartment. "I realize that one doesn't have to have 10 towels, 30 knives, forks, spoons, and all manner of things that are unnecessary and waste resources to boot. I'm much happier with a lot less clutter, without having to mow a lawn and worry about landscaping, and I know that I'm consuming a lot less."
Calling it a "palate cleanser," Joanne Cleaver and her husband downsized from a 3,000 square foot "beautiful money pit," to a 1,400 square foot apartment. "We love it! It has re-set our expectations for our final retirement home, whenever that decision finally firms up."
Joshua Becker and his family downsized their home and fully embraced a minimalist lifestyle. "People just don't notice how much of their life is being taken away from them because of their possessions. We have found more time, energy, and finances for the things in life that matter most - family, friends, and faith. It has provided us the opportunity to fully pursue our greatest passions with all our heart." The author of Simplify and Inside-Out Simplicity, Mr. Becker works to inspire others along the minimalist path.
SIMPLICITY PLUS ECO-FRIENDLY DESIGN: IT'S THE BEGINNING OF A BEAUTIFUL RELATIONSHIP
For a closer look at serious downsizing combined with eco-friendly design, we turned to designer Ann Raab of GreenpodTM Development.
GreenpodsTM are custom-built modular homes designed for a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. Most GreenpodTM homes are between 300 and 800 square feet and are structured to make the most out of natural views and green technology.
Inside and out, great care is taken to eliminate waste and save energy. Working with the existing environment, these homes can incorporate easy composting systems or route wastewater to drip into beautiful garden walls. Interiors feature amazing space and energy-saving ideas such as beds that store in the ceiling, solar power, steam cooking, stacking tables, sliding doors, and movable walls.
The result is a low maintenance lifestyle that offers owners a sense of freedom. Sometimes, less really is more.
"Each pod is as unique as its owners," says Ms. Raab. "I love when they share their energy bills and I know it is working. It's all about making life easier and living lighter."
The innovative GreenpodsTM are garnering attention from all around the world, and the company plans to expand beyond its Washington home base in the near future.
TRADING STUFF FOR THE STUFF OF LIFE
Certainly there are degrees of downsizing. Perhaps the better word is "rightsizing." If the goal is to simplify your life, you first have to decide what is right for you and your family. It's a process, so allow yourself time to think things through and adjust.
The interest in downsizing may be a passing fancy for some, but for others, it morphs into a lifestyle. Stuff takes space. Stuff takes work. Stuff takes time and there is far too little of that to begin with. Less stuff to take care of just may free us up for the stuff of life.
Photo copyright: GreenpodTM Development LLC
Ann Pietrangelo is the author of "No More Secs! Living, Laughing & Loving Despite Multiple Sclerosis." She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors and writes for sites around the web.