This is the first in a blog post series titled, “Live Small, Stand Tall: You Don’t Have to Be Flush to Live Free”.
The idea is to share ideas–not tips for those looking to “live small”, in that cute Real Simple magazine way, where you buy two or three pricey doodads to “simplify” your life, but practical suggestions for those who are living small because they have no choice…but would still would like to get some of the good out of life.
Don’t get me wrong; I applaud any and all efforts to downsize and refocus, and I totally get the “Mo Money Mo Problems” angst that the upper middle class faces about consumerism and getting caught in the material stuff trap. I think that expensive gadgets that streamline household tasks are great! Taking time to smell the heritage roses you’ve composted with the used straw from your artisan chicken coop is important!
But here’s the thing…folks who can afford things to help them simplify have a sh*t ton of resources at their fingertips. Those who are already…downsized…due to forces beyond their control might not be able to download back issues of Real Simple (I promise, I’m not picking on them, their name just lends itself to this dialogue in a seriously poetic way) or hire a professional organizer to tell them to get rid of everything that doesn’t speak to them when they hold it in their hand.
These are the ideas for you, my humble friends. (My not-so-humble friends and readers are welcome to take whatever bits of encouragement from these posts that they can, as well.)
Here’s the first bit of “encouragement” (I hope you all realize that this is going to be somewhat practical, but also farcical. There’s only so much I can do for you if you’re poor, you know that, right?)
You’re Helping the Immediate Economy When You Shop Local. Even If You Have No Choice.
There are a plethora of other things I would rather be doing. Say…well, really, anything.
I’d love to be out eating dinner at a lovely restaurant, paddleboarding around Lake Hefner (or in the Pacific Ocean, if we’re dreaming big), or even just sitting on my apartment floor watching back episodes of The Good Wife on my laptop. (I swore I was done with them when they killed off Will, but…they brought in Matthew Goode. It’s almost like they hired a consultant, to see what on earth would get me to watch it again. Because I know that was heavy on their hearts.)
But laundry needs doing, and the washer and dryer in my complex is reliably unreliable. So, more often that I’d like, the kids and I load up and head over to the local laundry. It’s just across a couple of streets, we could walk if we had to, and it’s reasonably priced. (I had a…misunderstanding…with the elderly Vietnamese owner once upon a time, over drying prices, but it’s worked out now. What a great feeling, to resolve issues with your neighbors!)
Celebrating diversity is one of the blessings of having a relationship with your community. (If…your community is diverse, that is. It’s nice to celebrate your neighbors even if you all look the same, too, though, I guess. Let’s celebrate everyone!)
Also, you build bonds with community merchants, when you shop local. Unless…
But if you don’t need change or to use the restroom, you can just sit, relax, and listen to the birds.
It’s probably all sterile and organized, too. Poor you. (I want you to notice the sign that says, “Free Clothes”. You sure as hell better get your sh*t out of these machines when your time is up, or you’re going to see that old Foghat t-shirt you love so much on the lady who works at the car wash one of these days.)
Yes, I’m being a little wry. No, it wasn’t my first choice to spend my Saturday night doing laundry (not to mention transporting that laundry back and forth, in Wuthering Heights level wind), but something happened as I watched my clothes get agitated.
I got less so.
In fact, watching clothes wash through a window is pretty zen. So is looking at the place you’re forced to be as the place you get to be.
Wendell Berry says that without prosperous local economies, the people have no voice. I would love to have a washer and dryer. And, very soon, I will. (From my mouth to God’s ears.) And I won’t take it for granted again.
But for people in this area who don’t have that luxury, or the folks who find themselves temporarily in need of a dryer when theirs takes a hit, this place provides a valuable service. And a calming atmosphere. (Talking about the birds. The clutter makes me blink, but it can double as immersion therapy for my OCD, so…win win.)
They may not be excited about serving us. We may not be thrilled to be there.
But we can find the beauty in it, because it’s definitely there.
And we need each other.
So, if you find yourself shopping local because you have no choice, take heart…you’re still doing a good thing, and you’re engaged in a paradigm that keeps us all going. Just savor the moment you’re in, and appreciate what is.
“If we spend all our time just thinking about our future successes, we completely miss out on life, because life can only be found in the present moment.” ~Thich Nhat Hanh, “Peace Is Every Breath“