Bill Totten's Weblog

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Think you need more stuff? Just say baaah

by Craig Wilson

USA Today (February 22 2005)

By now, most New Year's resolutions have bitten the dust. Lose weight. Stop smoking. Get a new wife. All just memories.

But one remains for me: to simplify my life.

It's an ongoing quest, not so much a new resolution. I've written about it before. Buy less, play with the dogs more, let the Type A's zoom by in their BMWs on their way to their McMansions. I'll just be content with what I have.

Easier done, of course, when you have enough. Money, that is. But how much is enough? The March issue of O magazine asks that question.

Since I had written about the same topic not that long ago, I was curious to see what Oprah's take was. She invited a number of "writers, thinkers and financial experts" to share their thoughts.

One said materialistic people were more likely to be depressed and anxious. Never having been a big consumer, that made me happy.

One said Europeans have the right idea by using more time to play than work. Never having been a European, that made me sad.

And another said the first question everyone should always ask about a purchase is this: Is it a need or a want? It's almost always a want. Put it back on the shelf.

But what I thought were the most interesting comments came from George Kinder, founder of the Kinder Institute of Life Planning, who says we earn three times as much as our grandparents did, yet we're not any happier.

He then asked two simple questions:

If you had only 24 hours left, who did you not get to be? What did you not get to do?

I found the questions almost cruel. He says they hit bedrock because what they really ask is: What's profoundly meaningful to you? Have you been wasting your life making money, when important things such as your family, your community, your "spirit" have been ignored?

Most of us don't think about our "spirit" on a daily basis. Sad but true, we always use the excuse that we don't have the time. We're too busy making money, making deadlines and making sure the kids are wearing matching shoes, the groceries are bought, the bills paid, the bed made.

We always seem late for an important date.

We are also fools.

One of my Christmas presents this year was a little toy lamb that stands on four spindly black legs. On its white and curly side is written but one word: Simplify.

I put it on the windowsill above the kitchen sink so I could see it every day. And there it stands, spreading its message morning, noon and night. It's the loudest lamb I've ever heard. It seems to know when I'm about to do something stupid, buy something I don't need, keep something I'll never use.


It has become a daily mantra.

It follows some advice a reader shared with me. She attached it to her e-mail, as if an afterthought: If it doesn't breathe, it doesn't matter.

Contributing: E-mail .

Copyright 2007 USA TODAY, a division of Gannett Company Inc.

Bill Totten


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