Friday, October 15, 2010

Does Money Buy Happiness?

I sent this New York Times article to my friends and colleagues a few weeks ago. It must have struck a nerve; virtually everyone I sent it to replied with a thoughtful response.

Most of my friends are around the same stage in life: 20 or so years of accumulated stuff, kids off to school, retirement no longer an abstract concept. The idea of chucking it all, living simply and with little burden of possessions, is alluring to me and, and apparently, to my friends.

I have extra reasons for this article to hit home. First is the matter of an enormous box sitting in a storage facility in Texas. When we moved to London in early 1999, we didn't expect to be gone for very long, so we put most everything in storage when we moved over. Nearly 12 years later, this box has become a time capsule waiting for us (although to Sooz, I think it's more of a time bomb instead). At this point, I can only remember a few of the things left behind. Eventually, we'll have to open it, and I'm sure most of our life from the previous millenium will go either into the trash or on eBay. That really proves the point of the article; do without most of your posessions, and it's surprising how little of it you miss!

Another reason of course, is our stuga. Because our house is small, there's not a lot of room to fill with things in the first place. Even more important is the logistical cost of getting something out to the island. Carrying a big load of groceries on the bus from Gustavsberg, or a piece of furniture uphill from the Waxholms dock, gets old pretty quickly. I find myself thinking very closely about anything I might want to bring out to the house, because to get it there, I'll have to take it on a plane, a train, a bus, a boat, and a wheelbarrow. That's great motivation to cut back!

Which brings us back to the point of having a summer stuga—to live more basically, to have less stuff around you, to be closer to the rhythms and pleasures of daily life. If I don't yet have the nerve to leave it all behind and do it permanently, the simple life sure is nice for a few weeks out of the year.

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