Friday, October 23, 2009

Less is More?

I am watching Oprah's show from yesterday entitled "Oprah on Location: The Happiest People on Earth". She traveled around the world to find the people who were most happy in their lives. This show truly intrigued me.

While in Copehagen, Denmark one of the men said "Less space, less things, more life!" One of the ladies stated that "Success is not measured by your social class but by your values and how you balance your work and family life". I love the idea of this. I feel like it would be very freeing to be able to adopt this lifestyle. Taxes can go up to 60% in Denmark but as a "socialist" country all of their needs such as healthcare are taken care of- and there is NO homelessness and very, very little crime.

In Dubai UAE, it is very traditional to live surrounded by family. In addition to having that family support system, they also have outside help from housemaids, to chefs to drivers. In Dubai there is no income tax- but water, electric, healthcare and unemployment are all completely taken care of by the government. Homelessness is also not an issue in Dubai. Family takes care of family and in the case of the woman interviewed (who incidentally was a doctor) her mother-in-law retains a chef who makes enough food in the enormous "central kitchen" for the entire family three meals a day. The support system in the family was amazing!

In Rio de Janiro, Brazil we saw both the "rich" side of Rio and the "slums" but it was interesting to see that even in the slums though the apartments were tiny and not in the best condition, the woman said that she felt very safe there with her children as there is no drug trade in her area. Though there is not that issue- violence IS an issue in Rio.
In Rio there is not a big mortgage industry. People save until they can afford a home- and if they cannot afford it- they rent. There is none of the 30 years of debt, foreclosures and the mess we are in in the US.

Next up was Istanbul. I have lived in Incirlik Turkey but we never made it east to Istanbul so I was intrigued to see how that would differ from my experience. In Istanbul education is paramount- but at 32 (on average) women quit their jobs to stay home and raise their families. What I saw was much more urban living than what we experienced. Because they are considered to be both in Europe and Asia it is a more sophisticated life than we saw out in the country.

In Tokyo, Japan though the mothers stay home with their children, single women do work outside the home. Work days are very long. Unlike in Denmark when the work day ends at 4- in Tokyo it is not unusual to work late late hours. The homes, like Denmark, are very small but the level of technology is much more relied on.

It was very interesting to see the differences and what was the same with all of these cultures. Having lived in the Phillippines and Turkey, I was very aware of how blessed we are to have all of the "things" that we have but this made me wonder how my life would be if we really, really scaled back.

The problem for me is that I wouldn't know where to begin. I am a saver. I have clothes in 3 different sizes (now, 1 up and 1 down)in my closet, I have literally boxes of Salt and Pepper shakers that I collected when I was a child and that my grandmother collected as well and I received when she passed. I have a bunch of snow globes- I love snow globes. I have a whole china cabinet of Harry Potter stuff because I collected that as well. We have knick-knacks, furniture, books, books and more books. I would have a tough time even knowing which to give up first.

I just keep going back to what the couple from Denmark said both about having less of everything meaning they have more time to really live and that success is measured by your values and balance between work and family. I can see how they correlate. If you have less "stuff" to worry about (and care for) you have more time to spend doing things you love with people that you love. I am just not sure how to get there- or if I can bring my hubby around to that thinking! :-)

Well, it is definitely something to think about this weekend. But now I am off to work and have to put this aside for now.


MissDazey said...

I didn't see that show, thanks for the recap. I did see Oprah Thursday in her sexy jeans.

RA Guy said...

A little over a year ago, I saw an Oprah show about a couple who had gathered so much stuff that their house was literally full from floor to ceiling. (I don't know if it's the same episode that you referenced in an earlier post.)

Since then - even though I was no where even close - I made it my goal to reduce the clutter in my house. This wasn't a weekend or month-long project, instead I took my time. It took a little over a year.

The results are amazing. I feel like I can breath better in my house. My nicer items now have a place where they stand out and shine, instead of being stored away or obscured by clutter.

My final project, which I shared recently on my blog, was my home office/library. This required me to clean out the storage room in order to move a couple of furniture pieces into that room.

I enjoyed your post today. I currently reside in one of the poorest countries in South America, where malnutrition and childbirth deaths remain high.

When I cleared out my storage room a couple of weeks ago, I ended up with a huge stack of cardboard boxes that I decided to get rid of (no recycling where I live).

I undid the boxes, loaded up the back of my taxi driver's station wagon, and drove a few blocks to the neighborhood dumpster. As we approached, there were a few people rummaging around the trash - nothing out of the ordinary, unfortunately.

When an older lady saw me unloading a huge stack of cardboard, she started screaming out with happiness. It was such a moving moment for me. I've heard often than one person's trash is another person's treasure...but cardboard?

The taxi driver told me that she was going to collect the cardboard and take it to a place that purchases scrap...she'd probably make a little bit of money...enough for a couple of meals, probably.

All of us really have much more than we need. I haven't earned a paycheck in more than a year...but I look around me, and see how I still have so much. I can't complain.

So yes, less is definitely is more. (Plus, it's good for the environment.)

Jules said...

Miss Dazey- I really enjoy Oprah's shows. I admire what she has made of herself and all of her good works and I try not to miss them. Though I really wish she would do a show on RA or even invisible illness if RA is too closed a scope.

RA Guy- thank you so very much for your post. I am so glad I read it yesterday while I was at work. I have that "flaw" in my personality that makes me jump right into things like this without thinking it through- and then get very overwhelmed.

Having read what you did makes me feel like the right way is for me to slow down and take my time and do baby steps!