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Self-Sufficiency Turns Back The Hands Of Time
Take a Trip Back in Time with Me
I’m going to use my own family as an example in this article. I suspect that what you are about to learn about my family will sound quite familiar to many of you.
My father came home to Iowa after World War 2, married my mother and they moved to the state of Washington. There they rented an apartment for several years until they saved up enough money to make a down payment on their first home. They lived in that new home for two years when they decided to upgrade and buy a nicer home; so in 1953 they once again moved, this time into a three bedroom with a nicer yard in a nicer neighborhood.
The economy was doing well and new innovations were being offered to consumers. It wasn’t long before we had a bigger refrigerator, a color television and a new dishwasher. My mother, who once rode the bus to work, decided that a car would be more convenient, so we were suddenly a two-car family. For Christmas presents my parents would take out a yearly loan and then spend the next year paying off that loan.
My parents found that by working more overtime they could buy more conveniences, so they worked longer hours and that of course meant they had less time to work around the home. Repair jobs my dad once did himself were then turned over to mechanics and repairmen because hell, who has time to do that stuff when there is money to be made and bills to be paid.
And the Madness Is Passed On
My parents only son (that would be me) was raised to believe in the wonders of capitalism, and he was sent off to college to learn the ways of the business world, and he came out of college with a diploma and the knowledge necessary to make more money and buy more things, and he dove headfirst into the capitalistic waters and swam like a man possessed.
And that possessed man eventually made a six-figure income and bought all the toys he deserved, and moved from one house to a larger house to a larger house, and he was constantly one step ahead of the creditors, playing the game for all he was worth but enjoying it less and less.
And then one day he woke up….and smelled the decay….and he was shocked and saddened.
And that son of that World War 2 veteran sat back and reflected on the lessons learned and the mistakes made, and he began to make sense of it all. He recalled lessons learned long ago, in simpler times, lessons about happiness having nothing to do with possessions or money, and lessons about the joy associated with taking care of needs using the old ways of self-sufficiency, and he vowed to change his lifestyle and return to those simpler times.
Kicking Over-consumption to the Curb
The madness begins with over-consumption. I mentioned in an earlier article that in 1950 the average size of an American home was 953 square feet. In 2010 the average home was 2,430 square feet. At the same time, the average American family shrunk in size from 2.9 people to 2.6 people.
What are our basic needs? Most would say food, shelter and clothing….possibly health care could also be included in that list. Once we have met those needs we begin moving into the gray area of over-consumption, and in fact, in the example given about the size of home and family, we quite obviously practice over-consumption even regarding our basic needs. Why does a family of three need 2,430 square feet of living space when 953 square feet is adequate? Well the obvious answer to that question is that they do not need it….they want it.
Those who are embracing self-sufficiency are looking at this madness and realizing it will never get better until a philosophical change is made regarding their lifestyle.
Where did it all go wrong with my parents? My parents were products of the Great Depression, a time so horrible that it forever left an imprint on their minds. Work harder, earn more, and on and on they went, believing, as millions did, that hard work would protect one from another Great Depression, and hard work deserved rewards, and possessions were those rewards, and on and on and on and on…..
They failed to see….they failed to understand…that the exact opposite was true.
If you want to protect yourself from an economic depression, turn away from consumerism and embrace self-sufficiency. Protection comes from being able to provide for yourself no matter what the market does. Protection comes from being able to meet your needs completely independent of the vagaries of the economic system.
Think About This for a Moment
The less that you want the less you have to work.
Try to find holes in that logic. Go ahead, I’ll wait.
The less that you want the less you have to work.
Once you make enough money to handle your needs….food, clothing, shelter…then you don’t “need” to work any longer. It’s really pretty damn simple when you break it all down to the basics, isn’t it? Let’s put it another way: the more you are able to provide for yourself, the less you will have to earn to meet your needs. The more of your own food that you can grow, the less you will have to spend on groceries. The more repairs that you can do, the less you will have to spend on repairs. This is so simple in theory that I really wonder why more people are not embracing it.
But then reality hits me in the face….and that reality is that we live in a convenience society and self-sufficiency is not about convenience. It takes time and effort to grow a garden. It takes time and effort to repair your own car or washing machine, and now we are into the Catch-22 of this whole situation: people can’t find the time or the effort to live a self-sufficient lifestyle because they are working so hard and so long to provide the lifestyle they are currently “enjoying.”
It is an endless cycle and it will only end when one makes the commitment to change.
So Some of Us Are Changing
God bless my parents. They did the best they could with the knowledge and experience that they had. They just didn’t see the fallacies in their thinking. They got so wrapped up in chasing the American Dream that they got lost along the way. They knew how to provide for themselves. Hell, my dad rode the rails in search of odd jobs during the Great Depression, so he obviously understood the value of hard work and making do with what you have. He could fix anything. My mother came from Iowa corn farmers, so growing her own food was a lesson learned at an early age. Mending clothes and doing without conveniences was something she knew quite well. But somewhere along the way they discarded those early lessons and embraced a convenience lifestyle.
And I did the same…for a time. The only difference between my parents and their son is that their son finally woke up to the insanity of consumerism. He finally realized that possessions are not what life is all about. He finally came to his senses and realized that the old ways of self-sufficiency were wise and admirable.
I have had readers tell me that they could never do what I have done. I question that quite frankly. I suspect it is more accurate to say they are not willing to do what I have done.
Today my life is wonderful. My needs are met. I owe nothing. My wife and I are taking steps to provide for ourselves and to spend less on meaningless fluff. We changed our priorities and we have never been happier.
And it is all because we turned back the hands of time.
2014 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)