As I continue reading "Walden" 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 days of hardship and sacrifice, no matter how simple it appears. However, I have discovered that there is a similarity in our views about dissatisfaction, disorganization and discomfort.
As with those that have gone before us, we make difficult choices; some of them made simply by habit and others that end up enslaving 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 creditors. In essence, we are in debt because we confuse the necessities of life with the luxuries that are available.
Thoreau stated, "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."
How many of us in an emergency situation could just get up and walk out empty-handed without anxiety? Many of us would find it difficult to determine what things of value or necessity we should grab if we were forced to vacate our homes and offices.
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."
Even more so today, it is imperative to know the difference between a necessity and a luxury if we are really seeking a debt-free, simple life. Our purchasing power and available options are so much greater than in Thoreau's time. Those abundant choices have 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 do not need filet mignon.
– We need to be clothed, but we do not need overflowing closets and drawers.
– We need shelter and domestic comfort, but we may not need a 4,000 sq. foot home.
– We need a means of transportation to get to work, but we do not need a Mercedes.
Consider the words of Thoreau carefully. "While civilization has been improving our homes, it has not even improved the men who are to inhabit them."
I challenge you to consider what is truly a necessity and shy away from lifestyle trappings and the consequences of debt. Take time to recognize that less is best. Less household clutter means less time to clean and less to search through when you are looking for something. Do as Thoreau did: He thread 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 cats on the grass!"