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Hello everyone,
My new year's resolution for 2010 is that I am going to practice Voluntary Simplicity, vowing to make little enough money that I don't have to pay taxes toward war (so about $9,350 for the year), and so that every lifestyle choice I make is carefully thought out and in line with my values. I have started this blog to record experiences I have, share tips that I stumble upon, and learn from your tips as well.

I had an interesting experience a few days ago. I decided to take a walk and explore the bit of forest behind Lakeway Fred Meyer's, where I have heard there is a homeless encampment. I walked on a well-worn human trail through a young little forest, mixed evergreen and deciduous trees, with a creek running through it, and listened to the birds and the squirrels going about their business. There were several makeshift human shelters in there, made from tarps and other bits of "one man's trash, another man's treasure." There was also garbage strewn throughout the woods--food cans, clothing, plastic bags, kids' toys, and some rather large piles of bags of garbage (like, a heap 10 feet in diameter).

At first I was disheartened and disgusted that people would have so little respect for the forest home as to dump their daily trash all over it. Then I had another realization-- the people who live here live on very little money, whether that is by choice or by circumstance. If the same people who live here had "good jobs" and made a "descent living" (note the judgmental words so intrinsic to our language about money), these trees would have been clear-cut, the creek filled in, with houses built on it, and the rest paved over for their cars, with maybe a few tidy little lawns (the most environmentally destructive excuse for plant life). The forest would be gone, all the trees, the birds, the squirrels, the insects, the fish, anything downstream that was watered by that creek, the fresh air created by those trees, the leaf mulch composting, the microbes and worms regenerating healthy soil-- all gone.

Every house we live in, including mine, replaced a living forest when it was built. The more money we make and spend, the bigger we grow, the more houses and pavement we create, the more of nature we are destroying. Suddenly a pile of trash in an otherwise still-intact forest doesn't look as disrespectful of nature as my own lifestyle.

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Comment by Heather K on January 12, 2010 at 2:42am
Honestly Chris, this is simply the best good news post that is currently on this site! I am thrilled for your commitment! You will have so much fun because simplicity creates freedom & peace!

For many years of my single life, I was able to live on under $5,000 year. At that time I learned that renting a shelter & owning a car were the most expensivie I found ways to step outside of those expectations...and mostly spent my time & my earnings with things that nourished me physically & spiritually.

I am blessed with living with a spouse now. Although we did find that the complexities of our life dramatically increased once we became caretakers (& taxpayers) of land, and when we increased our attention to family members with special needs. It is worth paying the tax & mortagage to protect the land from being over-developed or abused, but I sure miss the freedom & simplicy I experienced without that responsibility!

One of the greatest ways to gain confidence on living close to the earth & reducing our consumption of resources is to learn to camp & backpack....When I am outdoors in the wildness of creation, my soul seems to expand to the stars, and my basic needs of safety, rest, warmth, food, & companionship are experienced with a timeless sense of peace & joy!
Comment by christy in Bham on January 11, 2010 at 12:47pm
Hi Chris, thanks for sharing and reminding us to live more simply. I am a fan of Duane Elgin and remember the year when I wrote down every cent I spent and was able to quit my job and live off very little for half a year. This is inspiring. Now, I need to re-apply it to my life! Thanks again!
Comment by Jean Kroll on January 11, 2010 at 11:17am
Hi Chris,
Best of luck to you on your journey toward greater "Voluntary Simplicity!" I have been fine-tuning my voluntarily simplistic life -- and I am amazed at how comfortably I can live on very little money! Some ideas that have worked well for me: (1) grow as much of your own food as you can, learn how to preserve and (2) start a pantry and root cellar! I never buy food at full-price anymore. Instead, I stock up on foods that are on sale, discounted by coupon or in-season produce. In addition to the convenience of having a "general store" in my basement, it is also reassuring to have enough food to weather a short-term crisis.
Comment by David Culver on January 11, 2010 at 9:00am
Thank you Chris and Rob,
You are walking the riding the ride? I hope in the future to ride my bike a lot. I can't put enough energy into it at the moment because I am too embroiled in my house construction project. But someday I will start to ride more and more. Thanks Rob for the inspiration about biking.
Comment by Rob Olason on January 10, 2010 at 9:57pm
Chris, thanks for this posting. I wish you well in this project, admire your initiative and hope you can be a shining light for the rest of us.

I have tried a similar project where I sought to replace my commuting miles in a car with the ancient technology of a human-powered peddle bike. In 2007 when I started this experiment, I rode an incredible 670 miles on my bicycle. The following year I bought some rain gear and battery-powered lights and rode a total of 1300 miles. As this year drew to a close I was so close to a new milestone, I went crazy and rode 2100 plus miles. I rode on ice and in rain, my hands froze, my nose ran, and looking back on the year, I felt wonderful with every mile I peddled.

Now when I drive my car, I am amazed. It is so pleasant, easy, and non-sweaty, that it feels like the ultimate luxury. And I realize that that is what it is: a luxury. I am grateful for the benefit that it gives me, but I am also "guilty" for the privilege and choose to use it sparingly.

Now when I ride my bike on my daily errands, getting passed by a giant "dual cab" single occupant trucks that are driving on the bike lane dividing line, I'm a bit upset; especially when the driver is obviously chatting on a cell phone while more-or-less operating an extremely over sized low-mileage vehicle with minimal concentration. But then I think, "Hey, I have an alternative vehicle that I know how to operate when we have the next impending fuel crisis, while the driver who narrowly avoided turning me into a road pancake will be sitting on the side of the road with an empty gas tank wondering how they are going to get home."

Thanks for doing this, inspiring the rest of us, and most importantly of all: Keep doing what you do!
Comment by Chris Wolf on January 9, 2010 at 5:42pm
So here is one fun thing I did to save money/re-use things. Every year I buy a new day planner to keep my life organized; usually spending $20-$25. This year I had took a bunch of books I have read down to Henderson's Used Books, and traded them in for credit. With the credit I bought a blank 1999 Hobbit-themed day planner (all the days for 1999 are the same as 2010). I cut out some beautiful nature pictures and glued them over all the gory illustrations of orcs and trolls. So now I have a beautiful, one-of-a-kind calendar for the year-- for free!

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