So everyone already thinks I’m a little out there. I have dreamed of buying an RV and hitting the road fulltime, which graduated to a desire to build my own tiny house as my dreams evolved. I might still buy an RV, don’t get me wrong, but as I continued to evolve I realized that I really, really do want to create a home. And even moreso, I want to build my own home where I get to pick everything and have a lot of say. Such a control freak.
But the point is, I’m comfortable with people thinking I’m crazy. Revolutionaries often are. And a lot of things that were once seen as complete and utter craziness have begun to be embraced by the mainstream — even these things I’m talking about today. I’m no longer some lunatic ranting about slowing down, buying less, and connecting more. There are a lot of people talking about the same things.
Somehow, though, I feel like we still consider these “fringe” ideas even as we embrace them. Look, I don’t think you should run out and join a commune, but I’d like to see less eyes roll when I say that I can see the appeal of the extended family element on Sister Wives.
Let’s get a little crazy!
Extended families and intentional communities.
Full disclosure: I grew up in an extended family. My parents divorced when I was young, and my mother moved us back to live with her parents. Because she made that choice, which couldn’t have been easy, my entire life was different than it would have been if she’d struggled to make it on her own with a small child who had absolutely no concept of money and how it worked. (Even more full disclosure, I’m still really bad with money.) My grandparents were a central and vital part of my upbringing.
And guess what? It’s the same way for a lot of people I know. First, because lots of mothers have had to make the same hard choices my mom did, but also because in a lot of cultures, this isn’t a choice to make. This is just how it goes. Family helps family; family sticks together; there’s never a question about whether or not to live on your own. You stay with your family because joining together makes everyone stronger.
“Intentional communities” are what new generation hippies call communes. Sometimes, you still see legit communes — people pooling resources and sharing space, sharing a home. But what we see developing around the country (as a reaction to all the ways that pretending we don’t need each other failed) is the development of these new communities — where people live together on purpose. Share their lives on purpose. Join together on purpose. Again, because joining together makes everyone stronger.
This may or may not be your cup of tea, but at least let me clarify for you that there is an enormous variety in the way these communities operate. The Fellowship for International Community provides a directory where you can “shop” for your dream society — do you want cohousing or no? Shared finances? Partially shared finances? NO shared finances? How are decisions made? How often do you eat together? Are there spiritual overtones? And there are intentional communities that occupy every inch of this sliding scale, with more forming every day.
People like to live together. Like I say in the book, we’re community creatures — we crave connection.
That impulse is not wrong.
Urban homesteading and sustainable cities –
permaculture, placemaking, and people.
Hipsters have really jumped on board here. Backyard chickens and beekeeping have taken off like no one could have predicted just a few years ago. Urban homesteading is a Google search that will direct you to a bajillion blogs, how-to sites, and books on Kindle. For the record, I follow a lot of them, have seen most of them, and own several of them respectively. I’m not unbiased here at all, and I’d never claim to be. I think Urban homesteading is an important movement, and I’d like to see the day when everybody’s lawns are replaced with kale. I do, however, caution everybody that as this movement booms and we see such amazing benefit, we do not become urban homesteading assholes. Seriously, if you connect with homesteading at all and plan to click any link in this whole post, make it that one.
What you hear a lot less about unless you’re specifically looking for it are all the ways we’re making cities better. Permaculture is booming, allowing “us to creatively re-design our environment and our behavior in a world of less energy and resources” (according to this beautiful website). Permaculture is all about creating relationships between people and nature, and living in sync with more natural rhythms. It’s a beautiful, accessible way to bring more green space into our lives.
Permaculture is also an element of placemaking, which “is a multi-layered process within which citizens foster active, engaged relationships to the spaces which they inhabit, the landscapes of their lives, and shape those spaces in a way which creates a sense of communal stewardship and lived connection” according to City Repair‘s Intro to Placemaking. This is a very wordy way of saying that people are starting to take back urban areas. They want to be able to walk down the street and not hate the environment. And they want to be able to stop a minute and connect with their fellow citizens. Placemaking “reframes how residents and visitors experience neighborhoods.” It’s all about communities creating nice places to interact and to be. So you know, I’m just insane for the idea.
You don’t have to be, but I really think you should.
So I first learned all about minimalism from a guy named Dave Bruno, who started this thing called the 100 Things Challenge. This small thing that he decided to do in his own life, and talk about to the world at large, became a giant movement. I don’t know if you’ve heard of it or not, but counting what you own became a huge internet phenomenon and if you head over to Google, you’ll be able to locate a ton of blogs based on this simplicity challenge (although Dave Bruno no longer posts on his own 100 Things Challenge).
Basically, minimalism is the belief that if you get rid of the shit you don’t need, your life will be better. It’s a testament to not buying what you don’t need and checking out of consumer culture. Becoming minimalist is not as easy as it sounds for a lot of people. We have a deep attachment to our stuff. So it’s important not to jump on this bandwagon and just throw out all your shit. I think this article explains it best.
Personally, I don’t own a lot. I don’t find it necessary to count the things I do own, and I don’t think you should become so passionate about this topic that you jump headfirst into debates about whether your sofa counts on your 100 Things list. There’s no point in all that, it’s just another way to distract yourself. Focus on what’s important to you, what you want to spend your time and life energy on, and try to reduce your consumption.
Don’t buy what you don’t need. And start thinking about what you need. Oh yeah, and be mindful about how you talk about this, too. You don’t want to be a minimalist asshole, either. For a lot of people, not having a lot of stuff isn’t up to the luxury of choice.
The slow movement.
The slow movement isn’t just about food. “Slow food” is a buzzword that has been around for almost three decades, and it’s going stronger than ever as it has joined hands with a lot of the other movements on this list — these days, it’s all about slow and local and growing your own and doing for yourself. At least in a lot more circles than in previous years. I don’t know if you heard, but back in 2008 there was a little bit of a financial crisis. That financial crisis forced a lot of people’s hands. Now lots of people have no choice but to be slow.
I don’t think that’s a bad thing. And Carl Honoré agrees. He even wrote a book about it, and says that “The Slow philosophy is not about doing everything at a snail’s pace. It’s about seeking to do everything at the right speed. Savoring the hours and minutes rather than just counting them. Doing everything as well as possible, instead of as fast as possible. It’s about quality over quantity in everything from work to food to parenting.”
Slowing down is about creating the good life. There are so many branches to the tree of the slow movement that it’s hard to get into each one, but at the root it’s all about taking time where time is needed. I still like my driving fast, and I like my internet connection fast, and I like my service fast at restaurants. But I stumbled into slowing down by accident, and I really liked it.
My educated guess is that this movement is growing so fast because a lot of other people are in the same boat. Forced to slow down, we discovered we liked it better that way. It’s nice to be able to breathe.
The local movement.
The local movement isn’t just about food, either. This particular movement is very important to me — I’ve decided to only tour and sell copies of my books in local, independent businesses (and yes, Amazon too — no, they’re not independent, but they’re very supportive of indie authors, including providing the publishing service that even made my book possible!). I want to encourage as many people to buy local as possible.
You may think this is not possible. There are probably some things you want that you can’t get locally, depending on where you live. But a study showed that “if each household simply redirected just $100 of planned holiday spending from chain stores to locally owned merchants, the local economic impact would reach approximately $10 million.” Specific to my concern, “A study in Austin, Texas found that $100 spent at a local bookstore produced $45 worth of local economic activity, and $100 at the chain store Borders brought back only $13.” (Obviously, this study is a little old, since Borders no longer exists.)
The benefits are many and varied. Not only does more money stay in the economy, but local businesses are the more green solution. Local businesses are usually in downtown areas and not on the outskirts of town, so they contribute less to pollution, congestion, habitat loss and urban sprawl. There’s a great post here that gets right to the point and breaks it down for you about why to buy local. Note that it’s written for New Orleans, but obviously I want you to shop local in your local community.
It’s worth it to go out of your way to boost your own community.
Tim Ferriss’s concept of Dreamlining changed my life. The entire book is worth every penny — it’s marked and highlighted all to hell and I re-read it constantly. But right in the beginning, a fairly simple exercise, is Dreamlining. He breaks it down for you so that you can see how accessible what you want can be. And he taps into the idea that you can want whatever you want, so just go ahead and drop the guilt about it. He says that it’s not worth writing down things you don’t really want because you feel like that’s what you “should” want. It’s worthless it you’re going after things that don’t really light you up.
However, Chris Guillebeau’s outlook was the one that resonated most strongly with me. He brought up the point that while a lot of people go crazy for lifestyle design because it means they don’t have to “work,” it’s not work that’s the problem. In fact, you feel better when you’re working — as long as you’re working on something meaningful and fulfilling. Chris Guillebeau made me feel like I could help change the world, Tim Ferriss gave a nuts and bolts sort of approach and taught me that not everything has to be for others. It’s totally legit to do things for yourself, too. Without feeling guilty or selfish. (And we all know that I took that concept and ran with it — I have a whole chapter in my book called Selfish is Spiritual.)
I am very, very passionate about lifestyle design. But the truth is, there are some pitfalls and it’s not all daises and unicorns. You have to keep your eye on what you want to do. You have to let your passion fuel your life. You have to do it the right way.
Intuition is guiding most of my life choices right now, and trust in the universe. Danielle LaPorte and her amazing Desire Map have been a great bedrock for my forward motion. Her Core Desired Feelings are worth looking into.
These ideas aren’t just crazy enough that they might work, they are working. Look into what resonates with you.