I stumbled across this article by Steven Heighton a few weeks ago, and it’s been dancing around in my head ever since.
As the world starts to burn down around us, we need to make changes—all of us who are able. And the wealthier we are, the more we need to downsize our lives. The wealthiest 1% of people in the world contribute more than twice as much CO2 than the poorest 50% combined. This isn’t fair, and we need to start to change it.
Climate change is happening now, and our world leaders are making plans as though we still have time. Let’s not wait for them. We can start to act while we demand that they step up. We can make our lives smaller.
If this sounds like grim deprivation, I’m selling it wrong. Once you’re on the path, it becomes a big, joyous adventure.
Alan and I live in a 750 square foot apartment. I love living in my little home. To me, it feels like living in a cottage. It’s all a bit ad hoc. I mean, we expanded our kitchen purely through our furniture placement. And bit by bit, we’re taming the mass-produced awfulness of the kitchen that was there. The dining room feels like it belongs in a much bigger space. We built benches along one wall (I do love a good bench) from a pair of old doors. They make it a real gathering space.
Our front room is unique, too, part workroom, part office, part sitting room. It’s cozy and individual. Our bedroom is simple and light.
I’m sure it seems different to some of our friends. Too small, maybe. Perhaps a bit poor, even. But to me, it’s HOME. The first place that’s ever felt like home to me, and I can happily slide into old ladyhood here, after a lifetime on the move.
I look at the news, and it seems like everything is awful, and yet I feel strangely calm about it. Maybe part of it is knowing that I’m already living the kind of life we’re all going to be called on to live soon if we’re to have any hope of survival. Alan and I are mostly vegan. We don’t buy much stuff, and we always try to source second-hand first when we do. We haven’t flown anywhere in nine years.
If ever this kind of lifestyle gets legislated, we’ll be well ahead of the game. And we’ll know that, far from being onerous and burdensome, this kind of life is easy. There’s a luxury to staying put, having time to linger over a meal or a period of your life that never seems to be discussed.
I encourage you to try making your life a little smaller if you can. Explore a plant-based diet. Declare a shopping fast for a month or two or twelve. Walk more if you’re able.
Digging deeper, if you’re wondering what it would feel like living in a smaller home, try closing off a room or two in the home you’re in. How does it feel? Do you even notice the change?
Practice meditation or mending. Sit and daydream awhile about what your smaller life could look like.
And if your life already feels too small and cramped, you get to take a pass on this exercise. Being able to choose what to give up and what to keep is a huge privilege that I know not everybody has.
It can feel strange, stepping back and saying no. No to ambition, to growth, to maximizing and monetizing every aspect of your life. But imagine what happens when one person stops in the middle of the rush for the edge of the cliff—one person and then maybe another and then a few more.
Saying no thank you to more and better and yet more again is a little bit revolutionary. And then one small revolution can inspire another or simply reinforce itself.
Life in the slow lane has prettier scenery and better conversations. It’s more humane and expansive. There’s room here for everyone here. I hope you’ll give it a try.
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