Happy Herbivore Blog

August 8, 2011

Minimalist Monday: Get What You Want (Anti Consumerism)

My sister is my financial advisor. If you need to squeeze quarters out of pennies, Courtney knows how to do it. By looking at her year end account statement last year, she realized she could pay off all her student debt 6 years early by simply getting rid of cable TV for a year. She's that good. 

Anyway, my sister, during one of our... shall we say, "financial sessions," shared a terrific story with me that I think sings to the heart of minimalism: that less is more. 

The story went like this:

An American tourist marvels at the fish a fisherman in Mexico caught. The American asks how long it took and the Mexican says "not very long." The American then asks why he didn't stay longer to catch more fish. The Mexican explains that what he caught was sufficient to support his family. So then the American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" The Mexican said he slept late, played with his kids, took a siesta with his wife and in the evenings, goes into the village to see his friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing songs..." 

The American then interrupted and said, "Why don't you stay out a little longer and catch more fish and make more money?" The Mexican asks why. The American explains, "You can sell the extra fish you catch and use that money to buy a bigger boat." The Mexican says, "Okay, then what?" The American says with a bigger boat, you can catch even more fish, so you can buy more boats, and eventually, have a whole fleet." "Okay, then what?" asks the Mexican. "Once you have the big fleet you can hire people to run the business for you." The American explains. "Okay, then what?" asks the Mexican. "Then you can sell your empire and retire a millionaire!" the American says. "A Millionaire? Really? and then what?" asks the Mexican. The America perks up, smiles and says, "and then you will be able to do anything you want: sleep in, play with your kids, take a siesta with your wife, go to the village and see your friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar and sing songs..." (source credit).

I've talked about the negativity of consumerism before -- that consumerism leads us to believe that more is better and that whatever we have isn't enough. This is a prescription for disappointment. This kind of thinking leads to unhappiness. 

Courtney's story also reminded me of my post on Working to Live vs. Living to Work -- and how living abroad made me realize that Europeans don't seem have the same money-hunger that Americans do and as a result, they appear much more content with their work-life balance. It's all coming full circle for me. 

Less really is more. I have everything I need. I don't have everything I want, but I want what I have. I suppose that's a start. 

With my minimalist journey I'm finding I need even less than I think I do. It's so easy to confuse a "want" with a "need" and often our wants parade around as needs. 

My Riches consist not in the extent of my possessions but in the fewness of my wants - Joseph Brotherton. (Thx for sharing this quote with me Meridith!)

Thoughts?

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